Woo hoo! This blog has been running for seven years 🙂 Not bad for something that was just a random idea that I had in April 2013 and didn’t expect to last for two years, let alone seven.
It has been a hell of a journey, from a blog that posted articles about writing, book reviews and daily art to… a blog that now posts articles about writing, book reviews and daily art again (with occasional detours involving art-based articles, game reviews, film reviews etc… along the way).
So, like with previous anniversaries (eg: 2014 [part one, part two], 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019), I thought that I’d share some of the lessons that I’ve learnt from running this blog for the past seven years.
1) USE your “buffer” when you need to!: Pretty much every year, I’ve stressed the importance of building up a “buffer” of pre-written articles before you start blogging and adding to it whenever you get the chance. Well, it can actually come in handy.
For the first six years or so of writing this blog, I added to my buffer diligently, gradually building up the delay between preparing and actually posting an article from a few days to about eleven months. Then, due to being busy with other things, various life stuff, occasional hot weather, various distractions etc… I suddenly realised that there was no way that I could keep up with preparing one article or book review per day without completely burning myself out. I eventually moved to a much more relaxed routine where I’d prepare a new article or review every 2-5 days, freeing up much-needed time and energy 🙂
Yet, as you have probably noticed, articles still appear here daily at the moment. This is all thanks to my article buffer (which, at the time of writing, contained nine months’ worth of pre-written articles. Hello from July 2019 🙂 Edit: In April 2020, it’s down to about six months but I’m still adding to it 🙂 ). This has really helped a lot. So, although building up a large buffer might seem like a pointless exercise, it really does come in handy. And, if you start to feel burnt out or overwhelmed, then don’t be afraid to actually use it to give yourself a break or ease your writing schedule slightly. It is there for a reason. Your sanity comes first!
2) Streamlining: Following up from my earlier point, don’t be afraid to streamline your blog if it starts to become unmanageable. There is only a certain amount of stuff that you, one person, can do. If you try to do too much, then you’ll end up burning yourself out.
For example, as many of you have probably noticed, my webcomic has gone on something of a hiatus recently (with only one filler comic being posted per month). This was mostly because I didn’t have the spare time, energy and creativity to both plan and create 4-6 comics every month on top of the reading/preparation for my book reviews, writing projects I was experimenting with at the time etc… In short, I was juggling about five different things, compared to -say- the two or three I was in 2017.
So, I had to look for what was expendable and, unfortunately, this was the webcomic. This freed up time and imagination which helped immensely with the other stuff I was doing 🙂 Of course, streamlining doesn’t always mean that you have to get rid of things entirely – for example, I’m currently still posting a quick filler comic every month [Edit: However, the comic will eventually go on a proper full hiatus later this summer. Sorry about this] and, since I want to keep up with my daily art practice, I’ve also been experimenting more with digital art (you’ll see more of it in the next couple of months), given the amount of time it frees up on days when I either can’t wait for paint to dry or don’t want the hassle of making/editing a full painting.
Like with the previous point on this list, remember that your sanity comes first. Getting burnt out by doing too much stuff for your blog helps no-one. So, don’t be afraid to streamline your blog when you need to.
3) Follow your passion, not your stats: Unless you plan to turn blogging into a career, don’t pay too much attention to the “stats” page. Although a sudden boost in viewership stats might give you a much-needed confidence boost during the earlier days of your blog, don’t rely on it too much for motivation. If you’re writing articles regularly, then the only type of motivation you can truly rely on is intrinsic motivation. This is what makes you search for ideas when you’ve got writer’s block, this is what keeps you coming back to your blog to add more to it.
In other words, you need to blog about something that matters to you, something that interests you and something that you care about. If you have these things, then people will be interested in what you write about. Yes, there might be less of them than if you’re blogging about “popular” subjects – but it is very much a “quality vs quantity” thing. Not to mention that, if you’re doing it properly, then the number on the “stats” counter shouldn’t matter to you because you’re having too much fun coming up with new stuff for your blog to care 🙂
For example, in the year or so after I got back into posting book reviews every 2-5 days – mostly as a way to motivate myself to get back into reading books again – my average daily viewing stats dropped a bit for a while. Yet, I kept writing book reviews because it is something that I really enjoy doing and it is something that kept me reading too. It was something that I had intrinsic motivation to do, which also results in higher-quality articles (since I can also learn lessons about writing from the novels I read, which I can use for my writing-based articles) than if I’d just abandoned books because they aren’t as “popular” as films, TV or videogames.
So, follow your passion, not your stats.
4) Experiment, but know yourself: Between preparing last year’s anniversary article and the time of writing this article, I got a new (well, refurbished) computer. After about twelve years of using computers that would probably be considered slightly “low end” back in 2004-6, I found myself with a second-hand computer that was probably low-mid range back in 2013 🙂 Suddenly, all of my many complaints about the “sky-high” system requirements of modern indie games or the slow, creeping planned obsolescence of Windows XP didn’t matter any more. I was finally living in the future. Or, at least, the relatively recent past.
Of course, with a new computer, my first thought was gaming. And, for a while, game reviews started appearing here relatively regularly again. Although, as you’ve probably noticed, not that many of them have appeared over the past month or two. Because I always thought that reviews of modern games were something that “cool people” wrote, I was initially really overjoyed at the prospect of reviewing games that were less than a decade old.
Then, due to a combination of things, such as gaming starting to distract me from my reading, waiting ages for various games to go on sale and the fact that it usually takes longer to complete a game than to read a book, I eventually started to drift away from game reviews slightly.
Edit: Initially, my move away from posting game reviews quite as regularly was because I was more interested in reading books. But, in the time between preparing the first draft of this article and eventually posting it, I’ve found myself going through phases where I preferred reviewing films instead of books, phases where I reviewed slightly more “Doom II” levels than usual, phases when I’ve reviewed a few games, phases when I returned to reviewing books and phases when I didn’t really feel like reviewing stuff at all.
So, the lesson here is to experiment with new things if they interest you, but also to know yourself. There are more important things than being “cool” or “modern”.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂 Thanks for reading 🙂 I still can’t believe that this blog is seven 🙂