When I wrote the post about outgrowing our blogs, I didn't expect to hear from so many of you who are in a similar boat. Some are already in the process of refocusing, some already decided to quit, and others still feeling stuck on what to do next.
Most of you are long-time bloggers who love the medium, but have been 'blocked' by a number of things - from personal situations to professional commitments and everything else in-between.
Each one of you, I am grateful to hear from. I appreciate hearing your stories and learning where you're coming from. And, I take comfort in knowing that I'm sharing this blogging shift journey with some of you.
Thinking through it all though did make me wonder what is it about blogging for a long time that gets to us eventually? Why do we experience blocks and burnout, no matter how much we love blogging and its community?
As I try to explain and explore my own difficulties with blogging, I've come up with this list of blogging blocks, with some ideas on how to deal with them. Some of these blocks, you might identify with. Others may not be applicable. I'd be keen to know if you have anything else you can add to the list.
As I was writing this, I realised that this list doesn't just apply to bloggers, but to anyone feeling blocked creatively. That's why I re-adjusted it as such. So, if you're a painter, photographer, writer, teacher, designer, or any other type of creative - this list might be helpful to identify and overcome your own blocks too. You can replace the word 'blogging' with whatever endeavour that you wish to put there instead.
Waiting on inspiration.
Thomas Edison is quoted to have said: "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." I'm pretty sure genius is not that straightforward, but I get the gist of what he's saying. And, for the most part, I agree. Accomplishing great things require hard work - it's what makes that initial spark get all fired up.
I don't know about you, but, even though I know that hard work IS the essential element in any pursuit, I NEED that initial spark to get going. And, often, I just get stuck on that. If I'm not inspired, the work becomes long, sloppy, and miserable.
Inspired Idea: Inspiration doesn't always come, but we can always go look for it. That's the part we need to remember and put on the To Do list. That's why it's good to have a list of things that inspire you or create situations that help you to get inspired. It can be anything from listening to music and podcasts to reading books and taking classes. Figure out what works best for you and allow yourself to be constantly aware of it, so you can take action on days when you're running low on inspiration.
Blogging or creating the same way.
There's something to be said about knowing what we're doing and working with what we're comfortable with. Most of the time, we need that sense of familiarity and routine. Automaticity, for the most part, is a blessing.
But sometimes, doing the same thing can be a hindrance when we're trying to accomplish some things.
Inspired Idea: Just do ONE thing different today. One little thing that will help to break the cycle of sameness. For bloggers, it could be trying out a new blog post format (i.e., a listicle, a video, a photo essay, etc). For artists, it can be using a different medium or just a new colour. Try learning one new simple skill or buy a new product and use that in whatever you wish to do.
Trying to 'blog/create to the rules' too much.
When you're a conscientious blogger/creator, chances are, you are in the habit of constantly trying to improve yourself. You read books, watch videos, attend classes/workshops/conferences, listen to podcasts, and do whatever you can to 'learn from the masters'.
I know I have been trying to absorb as much as I can learn from various sources. I have even started developing some guidelines, and training others to follow such guidelines. Knowing the Dos and Don'ts can definitely help, especially when you're trying to come up with a professional approach. However, it can also be troublesome and limiting when it comes to growth and play.
Inspired Idea: Know the rules if you must, but learn to set it aside when creating. Approach the blogging/creative process in stages - the ideas stage, the play/exploration stage, and then the polishing up stage. Enjoy the first two stages, and then apply the guidelines only when you get to the last stage.
Over-thinking and over-complicating ideas.
No doubt about it. I'm a chronic over-thinker. I believe I've written about it a couple of times here on ShaiCoggins.com. Often, I would think of at least half a dozen blogging or creative ideas while I'm simply getting ready for the day. But, by the time I set down at my desk to get to work, I tend to dismiss all those ideas and start ignoring them. And, the more I dismiss and ignore, the less I feel like coming up with more. And, even when I DO end up starting to blog or to create, I often try to over-analyse and focus too much on the product rather than enjoy the process.
Inspired Idea: Since this is a major issue for me that I'm still working on, I'd like to refer you to Psychology Today for some ideas on how to stop us from overthinking. I have a process that I work through this issue, and I hope to be able to share that one day.
Worrying about the results.
We want comments. We want shares and visits. We want sales. And accolades. That's okay. There's nothing wrong with wanting all of these, and more.
But, sometimes, getting affected by how our work is perceived by others and making assumptions on their value based on external validation (i.e., "The blog post must be rubbish. It hardly received any comments or likes.") can definitely block us.
Inspired Idea: It's easy to say "Just stop worrying. It's fine!" But, in reality, once you're in that worry-zone, no amount of "Don't worry." sentiments will get you out of it. Huffington Post offers these scientifically-backed suggestions on how to stop worrying. My favourite practices mentioned in this list include: Writing about what worries me, practicing meditation (or prayer), and keeping my hands busy (usually, with making art or doing something else).
Comparing with others.
Every now and then, I get this horrible visitor called "comparison". And, even though I know that it's a really, really bad idea to entertain this visitor, I let it in anyway. Sometimes, I even allow it to make itself at home.
Why would anyone allow a well-known thief of joy into one's hearts and homes? Must be a sneaky git, that comparison.
It makes us think that everyone else seems better/more attractive/more put-together/more talented, etc. So silly, really. There's so much to learn and appreciate from each other. But, it can be easy to forget our own abilities and strengths when we're dazzled by someone else's.
Inspired Idea: Allow ourselves to appreciate and celebrate other people's work, without belittling our own. Often, I do this by offering support (liking, commenting on, cheering others) - instead of wondering why no one else is liking/commenting/cheering me on. Not always easy, but it certainly helps me to get over my own insecurities. Becoming Minimalist blog also has some tips to help us to compare less.
Letting fear get in the way.
When I first encountered the concept of "fear of success", I was sceptical. I understood the theory, but personally, I didn't think of it as a real fear. Instead, I thought it was more of an excuse or a coping mechanism. Recently, I realised that one of my biggest 'blocks' in blogging is precisely this. I didn't want to create a 'big blog' that attracted too much attention. I didn't want to do something that would make that much of a big wave.
I preferred my 'quiet success' - managing my business, raising a family, and doing all sorts of projects - without letting too many people know about every single detail (like how much money I'm earning, etc). Or, at least, not advertising it to the rooftops like I see many people do online. Even if I know doing so can increase my visibility and make people pay more attention.
Why? I was scared of what people might say. Last time I had a 'bigger', more public life, I encountered a lot of haters and trolls. I like the rush of working hard and achieving great things, but I feel I'm not built for the negativity that these things inevitably bring.
When you put yourself out there, you become a target. When you're seen as being 'high up', there will always be people who would try to bring you down. They call it 'crab mentality' in the Philippines and 'tall poppy syndrome' in Australia. Interesting that they have a name for it in the two countries I call 'home', huh?
But yes, I can see now how scary success can be. And, many of us get blocked by such fears.
There are many other fears too: The fear of being disliked or unpopular. The fear of making mistakes and being mediocre. The fear of offending or hurting people. The fear of not being 'good enough'. I felt them all and they've all held me back at one point or another.
Inspired Idea: The thing is, fear in and of itself is not a bad thing. Being completely unafraid is dangerous. It can make us stupid and arrogant. So, having a good dose of fear can actually be helpful. If we respond to it in the right way. It can help us to bring our 'A' game and release our best work. It can protect us from being too trusting. It can push us to do more than what we think we're capable of. There are many ways we can manage our fear, so it's probably worth exploring this more one day. For now, let me recommend one of the books that I found useful on this topic - "Art and Fear"*.
How about you? Have you identified what blocks you when it comes to blogging/creating? What is your biggest block and how do you overcome it?