By Caryn Berardi of journey to napa
Have you ever sat down to write and told yourself you will start by reading just one article you bookmarked the other day with motivational tips for writers?
And then that post linked to a few other articles that were interesting, so you clicked through for a bit? And then you blinked and your lunch break, nap time, or power hour for creativity was over, your “new post” screen completely blank?
If so, welcome to my world!
Striving to improve your craft and taking advantage of online resources to help you is a critical (and fun!) part of blogging. But especially for new bloggers who are hungry to learn, it can also morph into information overload — as well as cleverly disguised procrastination.
As a full-time working mom of two-year-old twin boys, I know my pockets of time to write are limited. Staying focused while still building my toolbox and being active in the blogging community has been a constant struggle, but below are six tips that have helped me find a modicum of balance.
Keep it all in one place.
There are few decisions more personal than where a writer stores his/her thoughts and ideas. I can only share my story, which included a lot of trial and error. But it has all come down to my planner, which is one of those goal-setting, motivational, full of quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson type of planners. I like it because it has a lot of blank space and pages (in addition to the calendars) so I can brainstorm and then seamlessly incorporate a plan into my schedule.
I also review my ideas and lists regularly, and I find designating a specific time for this keeps me on track. Writing doesn’t come easily when I’m sitting in my office (at my job that has nothing to do with writing), so I don’t even try to utilize a free lunch hour to blog. Instead, it’s a dedicated time to check my lists, read other blogs, comment and peruse articles.
There is a reason we call it the World Wide Web. The internet is vast, ready to push you down rabbit holes and vacuum up your time like it’s a box of spilled Cheerios. I’ve found it helpful to identify a few priorities and concentrate my efforts on resources that support them.
Right now I am particularly focused on improving my personal essays, submitting my work and gaining the confidence to promote my writing. I look for articles and tools that are relevant to these areas. It doesn’t mean I am not interested in 4,217 other topics. And of course I find myself reading a variety of posts, but when time is tight, I try to ask myself if what I am about to click on is meeting my current priorities. If not, then I either save the article in a “future” folder or just stop reading. The beauty (and curse?) of the internet is that nothing goes away. I will always be able to find it — or something similar — again.[bctt tweet=”‘I ask myself if what I am about to click on is meeting my current priorities.’ @carynstat” username=”BeyondYourBlog”]
Resist the freebie!
It’s hard to turn down a free e-book or printable. Trust me, I have the folder full of Pinterest blog calendars to prove it! All you have to do is enter your email, so what’s the harm, right? But all of a sudden you are receiving 15 newsletters a week of writing tips. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t subscribe to blogs you enjoy reading (I promise fellow bloggers, I am definitely not saying that!). But when it comes to writing blogs, keep with what is most relevant for your current goals. Save the others for later.
Find a class.
If you find yourself repeatedly drawn to certain topics, consider investing your time (and yes, a little money) in an e-course on the subject. Let someone else curate and present a breadth of information all in one place, while likely providing action steps for you along the way to elicit more than just reading, but actual doing.
Look for community, not just content.
In time, you will figure out which writing sites are the most valuable to you. When I decide which blogs to follow, I look for more than just information. I like the opportunity to interact with the content leaders and followers of the site. That is why Beyond Your Blog, for example, is always priority reading for me. Not only do the posts have a direct impact on my blogging focus areas, but the ability to connect with fellow writers through its online community has perpetual benefits.
Fight the FOMO.
You will not miss out on the golden ticket of advice. None of us are just one listicle away from a book deal. Truly helpful information and proven resources will pop up over and over. The awesome article about self-publishing or negotiating your freelance fee that you fear you never saw will emerge in your search results one day when you are ready to immerse yourself in those topics. You don’t have to know everything right now.[bctt tweet=”None of us are just one listicle away from a book deal @carynstat” username=”BeyondYourBlog”]
You just have to write. Write, write, write, write. And also read for pleasure, comment on other blogs, build a community, find mentors, do your laundry and binge on House of Cards. And then write again!
When discussing creative pursuits in one of her Magic Lessons podcasts, author Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the dangers of staying on the runway when you are actually ready to take off — you will eventually run into the houses on the other side of the road. At some point, you have to just start flying, knowing you will always be learning as you go (I think this part of the advice is where the flying analogy ends as I don’t want my pilots learning in the air, but you get what I’m saying).
I recognize the irony of writing a blog post about reading too many blog posts (they say to write about what you know, right?). Feel free to move it to your “future” file. Or better yet, since you have already made it this far, share what has helped you manage all of the great information available to bloggers!
Caryn Berardi works in higher education and lives in Texas with her husband and twin toddler boys. Her writing has been seen on Huffington Post, Kveller, BlogHer and Modern Loss. She can be found on Twitter and dreaming about retirement at journey to napa.