Writer’s block can strike any of us and at any time. Much has been written about this mysterious malady that haunts so many of the authorialy-inclined.  Less attention has been paid, however, to a similar equally serious condition that has originated with the advent of the internet age – blogger’s burnout.

This debilitating condition presents in a wide variety of ways; symptoms may include anything from navel-gazing posts to stagnant blog homepages to full-blown blog abandonment. This exhausting disease threatens the very existence of the blogosphere itself.  Luckily, many of the cures that have proven to be successful for writer’s block also apply to blogger’s burnout.  In this two-part series, we will explore strategies for avoiding and treating blogger’s burn-out.

Make a Routine, Break a Routine

Having a blogging routine has its benefits – you will blog regularly, meet deadlines, be accountable to your readers, etc.  On a daily/weekly/monthly basis, you commit headspace to blogging.  You sit down and get to it.  You get your blogging done.

But when you start dreading the quality time you’ve devoted to your blog?  Houston, you’ve got a problem!  Nothing is more tiresome – or more likely to inspire procrastination – than a chore.

Sometimes the most productive thing you can do with your blogging routine is to break it and to make a new one. Usually blog with breakfast?  Switch it up and try blogging before bed.  You might be surprised by how energized you feel by taking on your blog at a different time of day.  And you might also find that you have way cooler post ideas on Thursdays as opposed to Tuesdays.

Remember, blogging should be fun.  When it starts to feel like too much of a grind, it’s time to find a new routine.

Find Your Zone

While your may warm, cozy couch (complete with soft, fuzzy blanket!) may seem like an ideal place to blog, it may be a bit too close to your TiVO.  Alternatively, your desk at work may be where you spend the most time online, but blogging shouldn’t feel like work in the nine-to-five sense.  And, even though your partner means well, her/his desire to pitch blog post ideas to you when you are just trying to get your latest post out before deadline is, well, detracting from your process.

Finding the correct setting for blogging can be tough.  Feeling like you are in your “room of one’s own” that is a free distraction-free zone and that has a motivating atmosphere will make a big difference in achieving your blogging goals.  Concentration is all about location, location, location.

Right now, I’m actually blogging from my local laundromat. For me, balancing a mundane task I know I will do routinely (the laundry) with something I enjoy (the blogging) makes for a great use of my time, which is something that I never seem to have enough of these days.  Plus, laundry cycles keep me on track in terms of how I am using my time.  (Time to move things into the dryer?  Better start wrapping up my post by transitioning from writing to editing!)

What environment sets you up for the most success? Will blogging be more fun – and therefore something that you do more often and with more ease – if you sit at your favorite coffee shop and indulge in a sweet treat?  Does going to the park take away the chained-to-my-desk-even-after-work blues?  Do you need the tomb-like silence of a library so you can focus all of your attention on harnessing your creative energy?

Experiment by going on a blog tour of local spots you think might work for you.  If nothing else, you will have an interesting series with a local focus for your blog.

Put Pen to Paper

Have you ever tried writing out a blog post by hand as opposed to crafting it in your favorite word processing program? While this may seem like a wildly crazy idea that creates far too much transcription work in the end, stepping away from your electronics could provide the fresh perspective you need to find novel content for your blog.  Some great inventions have come from doodles on cocktail napkins.  Grab your favorite pen and let yourself brainstorm away on paper.  It may prove to be a liberating exercise.

Limit Electronic Grazing

Nothing zaps away your blogging energy more than gorging yourself with some electronic grazing. Yes, there is power in the connectedness of your world of Facebook-Twitter-RSS Feeds-Google Alerts – but this power can be used for good or ill when it comes to blogging.  Distractions abound on the world wide web.  Sometimes a detour through the land of links will be a fruitful project that allows you to scoop a story; other times it is just a plain waste of time.  While you may tell yourself that checking your email just one more time before you get down to writing will keep you from checking it again in five minutes, that email from your friend that brings to you to Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog for the first time might kill your productivity for the day (or week – it’s addictively catchy).  The idea of signing out of email, turning off your instant messenger, or even seeking a wireless dead spot comes with a lot of anxiety for most of us (what if we miss out on the latest viral video?), but it may just be what you need to keep your blogging focus.

Avoid Hyper-vigilance

You may have noticed that this post is very light on links.  And for many of you, that just seems plain wrong.  Considered one of the defining elements of the blog genre, hypertext allows an individual blog post to be hyper-textual in linking information sources to create an almost all-encompassing meta-narrative.  But achieving the “appropriate” level of linkedness can be exhausting.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that if I had allowed myself to enter into the Sisyphisian task of including a link to every relevant piece of information on the internet about blogger’s block that this post would never have been written.  I would have become discouraged that I had nothing interesting or original add to the already established conversation on this topic.  Or I would  have gotten so overwhelmed by tracking back links that I would have just given up.

When blogging, it’s important to know the historical commentary published in the blogosphere on a topic you decide to post on – you could end up embarrassing yourself by not doing your research.  At the same time, just because you have been “scooped” by another blogger who is more expert does not mean that you should give up on sharing your two cents.  Your posts do not need to read like Wikipedia entries.  Links should add color and value to your blog posts; links are not, however, in and of themselves blog posts.  Your readers stick with your blog because they appreciate your point of view, writing style, and what you share.  Don’t loose your own bloging in an attempt at hyperlink-vigilance.

More on the blogging life next month!

Imag cred

inkwellYOUR INK is a feature of GWP that brings readers’ comments and guest posts to the front page.  This edition is brought to you by Kris De Welde, an assistant professor of sociology at Florida Gulf Coast University.  Let’s give it up and spread some link love for Kris, who is fulfilling GWP’s mission to bridge feminist research and popular reality. Here’s Kris! -Elizabeth

We are in the midst of an economic crisis, that much we know.  October is national Domestic Violence awareness month, something fewer Americans know.  And, we are poised to elect a new President who will address our social and economic needs.  Are these related?  Absolutely. 

Earlier this month, my local abuse shelter and resource center, Abuse, Counseling & Treatment (ACT), did something it has never done before.  The center’s director approached the local media, pleading for donations of food and other goods.  Their shelves had gone empty by the second week of the month.  My suspicion is that they are not the only community organization in this predicament.

As the economy continues to unravel, we can expect women and children to become even more vulnerable than they are right now.  Women are more likely to live in poverty, work minimum wage jobs, work part-time, and thus receive fewer benefits despite also shouldering childcare and eldercare responsibilities.  To boot, women overall earn less than men for the same work, and Black and Latina women earn even less (Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the U.S.: 2007)…. 

Locally and globally, women and children are the most vulnerable, the ones more likely to suffer the harshest consequences of any catastrophe – caused by human error or nature’s fury, or both.  Let us never forget the images of children in New Orleans during the post-Katrina disaster, or the realities faced by their mothers, grandmothers, and sisters.  That historical moment signified the urgency of equal pay for women and wages that enable self-sufficiency, the urgency of equal access to quality education as anti-poverty policy, and the urgency of healthcare for all Americans, especially children.

Financial stress is correlated with higher levels of intimate partner violence, which disproportionately impacts women.  Homelessness goes up in economic slumps, and we know women and children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless – much of this due to their escaping violent relationships.  

As the economic crisis works its way from Wall Street to Main Street, we will see crime, violence, drug/alcohol abuse, and homelessness increase.  As citizens we have the moral responsibility to support our communities.   The needs of our local shelters, rape crisis hotlines, and women’s resource centers should be met by us with the same attention and pressure for action that our legislators turned towards the crisis on Wall Street.

Americans have a well-earned reputation of aiding distressed communities across the globe.  Why is it so difficult to turn that attention inward, to face stark inequality and social ills in our own backyard?   If our spirit of generosity is ignited by images of disaster, then we need to take a serious look around. 

October marks the final weeks of the Presidential campaigns. With the economic collapse making social and economic policy more of a priority for the candidates, we should think clearly about their records on women’s issues, poverty, and domestic violence.  For example, Senator McCain opposes equal pay for women, and opposes restoring family planning services for low-income families – key factors to reducing poverty.  Thanks to our legislators in both primary parties, it also marks a turn in unregulated banking, corporate welfare, and denial of the effects of these on ordinary citizens.  October marks the importance of understanding intimate partner violence, and upholding laws protecting victims (like Senator Biden’s Violence Against Women Act). What do these all have to do with each other?  Clearly, everything.

-Kris De Welde, Ph.D.

Kris De Welde is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Florida Gulf Coast University where she teaches courses on gender, families, and inequality, and is the advisor for the student club Gender Equality Organization (GEO).  Her research interests are diverse, ranging from violence against women/girls to women’s career paths in the sciences and engineering.

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