I am not blogging as much as I would like. This has been a constant over the last years and you’re probably tired of hearing me say it. Trust me, I’m even more tired of living it.
I have tons of things to write about. But I’m also stressed about “more important” things I feel I have to do before I blog (like work; or accounting). And then my post ideas turn into Big Ideas and I don’t dare start writing because I fear I’ll end up writing for hours. And then time passes, and I haven’t blogged, and the more time passes, the more I pressure myself to produce something, and the less I start writing — because blogging for me is about responding to an impulse to share.
So, this is an ongoing struggle.
Why bother? Blogging is important to me because it holds meaning. For my life, I mean. I guess it’s a bit tacky or commonplace in the era of social media (or are we post-social-media yet?) but writing in public is one of the main ways I try to contribute to the world.
Here are two ideas. I can directly link their existence to the fact I started doing Morning Pages.
The first is that I should give myself a rule. It would like something like this: “If I haven’t posted an article in the last 10 days, I will write an article about anything, just to get an article out.”
A few comments about this.
- This is what I’m doing now. For weeks, “write blog post” has been scurrying around in my task lists. But I never get around to it. I have a list of things to write about, which means I can’t decide which one to start with, adding another reason not to write. Tonight, I just thought “OMG, I just need to write something to reset the clock and remove the pressure”.
- I don’t like the idea of “filler” blogging. You see it on high-volume blogs, mainly: fluffy articles that are obviously there so that something could be published today. I’m making the bet that because my non-writing is not related to “not enough to say”, I will not fall into that trap. Another difference, I think, is that I’m “producing content” (ack) for me (to help myself blog) rather than to reach some kind of objective, or for others.
- Morning Pages have shown me that I can write about anything for three pages. I don’t suffer from writer’s block much (though… maybe this thing I’m struggling with is blogger’s block), but even so, it gives me the confidence that if I open a new blog post I will have things to write about.
The second idea is more something that I have understood about myself, while doing Morning Pages. You see, I’ve often wondered why although I see myself as somebody who has trouble working on things long-term (writing a book, fear) I am usually very good at sticking with something once I decide to do it. In that way, I am disciplined. I have been doing judo for over twenty years. Blogging for sixteen. On a smaller scale, when I start doing something I very often stick with it for quite some time. I’m not the person who signs up at the gym and goes twice.
Morning Pages is another example: I took up the exercise to see if it worked for me, but it was pretty clear I was going to be sticking with it for at least weeks (more like months) to try it out.
I realised that there is a common denominator to these activities that I stick with: they are repetitive. Small chunks of activity that I repeat again and again and again. Writing a book feels like one big activity that you need to slice up to get through it. Writing morning pages or blogging is a collection of little activities that end up coming together to become a big one.
This gave me a key: turn long-term activities or projects into a small-scale form that I can repeat regularly and stick to.
This probably sounds trivial to you. Of course the way to approach a big project is to slice it up into manageable chunks. I knew that too. But I think the missing piece is the idea to turn the objective into a habit, not just into a series of sub-objectives.
Earlier this year, Jean-Christophe Aubry gave a workshop on goal setting at eclau. I am not exaggerating by saying it was life-changing for me. I am still digesting some of the things I learned and will write about it in the future. (I actually followed the workshop a second time as Elisabeth and I invited Jean-Christophe to hold it during our career development workshop series for musicians.)
One of my first take-aways was the distinction between mastery and performance/results goals. Mastery goals are much more motivating and tend to be those that end up working. So the trick is to transform your initial goal (often performance or result) into a mastery goal. James Clear has written about similar stuff. A very rough summary would be to focus on building habits rather than setting goals.
Anyway, all this coalesced for me a few months ago. My ongoing yearly pain as a solopreneur is my accounting. Each year, I find myself with piles of unsorted receipts and expenses and a rather tight stressful deadline to get everything done for my accountant so I can avoid getting in trouble with our tax service. Each year, I vow to do things differently next year, and keep my accounting up-to-date. Each year, I fail.
I had a brainwave one morning whilst doing my Morning Pages: what if I firewalled time to work on my accounting, a little each week? I had too much stuff going on to drop everything and do my accounting for three days straight, but I could afford to set aside three hours a week to chip at the block.
But what would happen once I had caught up with the backlog? Three hours a week is way too much for accounting (even if you add on invoicing and paying bills). I’d wanted to build a habit around accounting previously, but weekly seemed too often and monthly… well, monthly is just too abstract. The rhythm in my life is weeks and seasons. Months only exist in the calendar.
I decided that I would use any leftover time in those three hours (once I was up-to-date) to work on a creative project – something I never feel like I can allow myself to do. I’m not there yet (2016 backlog now) but the idea is extremely motivating.
After this digression, about Morning Pages, habits, sticking to stuff, accounting, let’s get back to blogging. My success with accounting is encouraging me to try to convert other things to a “weekly habit”. Things like blogging. I’d like to make it daily, of course, but let’s be real. If I were writing one or two posts a week regularly I’d be a very happy blogger. And I’m pretty sure that writing more often would encourage me to write shorter posts. (Sorry. And thanks if you’re still reading me.)
So that is my second idea. I don’t have the solution yet, but I’ve been tossing ideas around (during my Morning Pages mainly). Should I blog in the morning or at the end of the workday? End seems more logical, but by the end of the day I am generally spent. Plus I often have stuff in the evenings (judo, workshops, conferences, board meetings, you name it).
I have thought of stopping work at 5pm and blogging then on the days I don’t have to leave. But today, right now, writing this blog post, I think I should follow the lead of my accounting success and firewall a 9-12 for my blog. I have a backlog of things to do like import my old Open Ears posts, cross-post my newsletters, etc. – more than enough to keep me busy for whatever time is left once I’ve finished writing. It’ll also give me a slot to catch up with my week-end newsletters if I’m running late, as I often am.
See, this is one of the reasons I blog. Like so many other long-running bloggers, I do it because it helps me think. And if in the process it can help somebody else or simply be of interest, all the better!