February 17, 2004

Serious Blogging and Recharging Batteries

Since he requested that nobody write letters, I shan't (though I'll send him a pointer to this post) but Steven Den Beste's feeling a bit burned out and is taking a break and his output will cease until his batteries recharge.

This is a problem that I've thought about in the past and have a few answers to. But first, let's define the question.

For the vast majority of bloggers, figuring out what to do when it stops being fun is very simple. You just walk away. Your blog isn't there to make money. Your blog is there to have a conversation with your friends and family and maybe work out a bit of frustration along the way.

But for the distinct minority who wants to do this seriously to become a personality, to make a name for themselves, to make money at it, stopping is a problem. No updates means your circulation drops, and it drops pretty fast.

For linkers, there isn't much you can do about this, but for thinkers, those who create original content there is an option, evergreens. This term comes from a newspaper practice of assigning reporters to, when there is nothing else to do, write up stories that have no timeliness. These stories can run in the next day's paper or ten years later and they would still inform just as much. A story on the history of the local town's founding is an example of an evergreen.

You could write up your thoughts on Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, for example, and set your software to publish it at a particular date and time so that even though you aren't commenting on the events of the day, your blog has new content up while you are recharging your batteries. This does nothing for your writers' block except, perhaps, it would relieve the guilt and stress of not putting up content and knowing you're losing readership every day you don't post.

A very disciplined webcomic artist by the name of Howard Taylor is my inspiration on the subject of keeping the content flowing no matter what. His comic, Schlock Mercenary, comes out daily. He doesn't miss a day, and the reason for it is that he has a buffer that he fills as the mood strikes him and which drops out a new comic daily. Since his day job is at Novell, the buffer metaphor works perfectly for him.

Now the webcomic business is a bit different because it generally isn't topical so the buffer system wouldn't work exactly the same way for a blog. But not all thinkers are topical either. Certainly Steven Den Beste isn't always commenting on time sensitive matters. He could create a buffer of 5 anime DVD reviews, 6 talks on various engineering topics, and take two weeks off without anybody noticing unless they wrote and didn't get their usual polite reply.

For myself, I'm still working on creating such a buffer of evergreen articles. It's something of a different type of writing process. I suspect I'll need to take a break at some point, though not anytime soon.

Unlike SDB, I wouldn't mind suggestions for topics.

Posted by TMLutas at February 17, 2004 10:15 PM