One problem with blogging is that you are supposed to post something even if you have nothing to say. At least that’s the consequence when the posting schedule outstrips your output—creative or otherwise. Maybe people with nothing to say are spending a lot more time saying it . . . and posting it! It is near humanly impossible to maintain the level of output seemingly demanded by the Web. And it frequently shows.
I suspect the pressures to present a endless supply of sparkling new content arises in part from the fear that were a visitor to see the same thing twice on your website they will never—heaven forbid—come back for another visit.
I have written a lot of stuff that never saw the light of day, and for good reason. Unfortunately, I have also read a lot of posted material that should not have seen daylight. Each writing effort should be dedicated to be better than your last, if only incrementally so. But the near vicious rule of ever-new content takes a toll on one’s reflective productivity. I’m not sure there’s a way to overcome that, except to avoid getting sucked into that sort of meat grinder schedule in the first place.
If you write for a discernible audience, and who would claim otherwise, there’s a good chance that if they—your discernable audience—got a whiff of bad or lazy output, they’d move on without even looking over their shoulders to say goodbye. Audiences can be fickle in a “what-have-you-done-for-me-today” sort of way, and once lost, they can be next to impossible to regain. With so many other options and alternatives available to them, why should they wait around while you seemingly dawdle? You might print this in a pleasing font and paste it above your computer screen:
That is not the same as getting entangled in the web of the production demands. You need to deliver content that serves or fulfills some purpose or need of your target audience. It is fundamental that your writing—be it a blog or other another chapter in a web-serialized book—be perceived as useful (entertaining) and have a “hot-off-the-press” freshness. Once discovered, stale content, like stale rolls, is quickly thrown out. Quality remains the key ingredient. Absent that, concerns over compliance with a schedule quickly become irrelevant.
Unfortunately, the demand for new content has become associated with a perceived need to post something new virtually on a daily basis. As one literary blogger has written: “You’ve learned it from every writing teacher. You’ve read it in every writing book. You’ve seen it on every writing blog. Write. Every. Day.”
I don’t agree with that. I think a better approach is: If you’re not writing everyday, you need to be thinking about your writing every day, and thinking about your writing is thinking about how to improve it and increase its value (usefulness) in the eyes of readers. You writing needs to have a half-life greater than the life span of a gnat.
Certainly, relevance and freshness are key ingredients to newness, but to meet such a daily demand is next to impossible. It would wear you down and you’d become just another member of the Hackneyed Writing Club. Trust me, that club needs no new members.
Writers must stop and recharge their batteries. They need to contemplate the plight of their characters, come up with new roadblocks for them to encounter and overcome, or adjust the flow and direction of their story line in accordance with newly discovered routes or encountered road blocks. They need to research and contemplate. Bloggers can quickly hit the wall and soon become just another supplier of words pumped into the ether for some imagined audience to discover. Activity becomes confused with forward movement. Content takes on the quality and appearance of look-alike highway billboards.
Quality content takes time to create and generate. It’s beyond wishful thinking to think putting fingers to a keyboard will somehow magically turn you into a writer capable of steady, prodigious high-quality daily output. Where does this idea that you must create a continuous flow of new stuff come from in the first place? It comes from fear—fear that if someone stops by your website and sees the same thing twice they won’t come back. Why not offer to send e-mail alerts of new postings, or just advertise your schedule—“New Stuff Every Tuesday!” or offer a “Tickle-Me-In” alert option. Be creative. Even if you haven’t written them yet, you can bill your upcoming topics: “Ever wonder how to assure you’re writing in the active voice?” -or- “Learn how to turn a piece of gossip into a juicy short story.”
Teaser messages have a long record of luring visitors back—to a store or a website. I’ve often wondered that if it is so important to produce, produce, produce, where is the pressure for the audience to consume, consume, consume? Perhaps the pressure to rush to publish might never have been challenged by the simple question: Why? If you are capable of delivering good content on some reasonable schedule, your audience will likely acclimate to your schedule. Rather than grab a hurried snack, they will look forward to enjoying a full-flavored dessert.
The built-in competitive nature of the Web generates the pressure for speed and the appearance of constant newness. The problem is that speed of production not in alignment with the speed of consumption creates bottlenecks and/or gaps. Too fast and you lose the contemplative; too slow and the skimmers and speed-readers might not come back. How do you find the best speed? There is no set formula, but I would start with what you are reasonably comfortable with producing. The better the content the less a factor is speed. And speed rarely produces the substance that can create a loyal relationship between producer and consumer. The message: “There’s no time to hesitate! Buy now!” does not invite a long-term relationship. It’s the language of a circus barker.
As for writing everyday, I’m not saying it may not be helpful to hone your skills, or even to potentially build a level of intimacy with your audience. It can, I suppose, but likely it can drive away potential readers who feel that they are being asked to gulp rather than savor a delicious treat. No matter how rushed the outer forces of our lives might be, most of us savor quiet contemplation. Literary content is a primary source of that. It’s not referred to as curling up with a good book for nothing. A website can offer that sense of being a safe-harbor in a speed-driven world.
Too much of anything quickly wears thin. Too much too fast is worse. It’s not called the Law of Diminishing Returns for nothing! Don’t squander your talents by trying to make them flow on demand or in accordance with a set schedule that will quickly outstrip your ability, if not your desire, to produce. Simon and Garfunkel gave writers the best advice in that regard: “Slow down, you move too fast. Gotta make the morning last . . .”
The audience you fear losing may be the audience you don’t want anyway. Just don’t let your blog bog!