Everyone likes to give advice. Some people, like me, even like to get advice. But unless you’re a person who can magically change your habits and personality overnight, advice can be very hard to implement.
Example: A Writing Advice Road Not Taken
The advice: Get to bed and rise early to do your best writing.
I have been a night owl all my life. I remember being just 9 years old and staying up late on a school night watching completely inappropriate prime-time soap operas like Dallas, to be replaced soon after by Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place. Or I tucked my rainbow phone under my shoulder and talked to my friends while hiding under my comforter until well after midnight. My parents periodically stomped into my room and told me to go to sleep. I pretended to and then a few minutes later I pulled out my notebook and scribbled away.
Basically, despite the fact that I had to be up before 7:00 am, even when I was young, I could not go to sleep early. This has followed me into adulthood, although now I stay up until at least 1:00 am every night writing and reading, and that is what I would call an early night. Then I spend the rest of the night thinking about writing or stressing about something.
No matter how hard I try (and believe me at several points in my life I really have tried), I cannot break this habit. I have learned to accept I am a night owl and as great as the advice is to get up and write early, I am never going to be a day owl, to the relief of owls everywhere.
Great Blogging Advice That is Inadvisable for Me
Like with writing advice, I’ve found there are several blogging tips I likely I will never be able to implement in my life. Here are some examples.
1. Have a consistent theme.
OK, whoever came up with this advice has a special place in… To be fair, it makes sense. Your blog and theme should be consistent. But that’s difficult for me. On any given day my blog feels like a schizophrenic mess. When I have a thought or idea, I write about it. I try to stick to books and writing, but that doesn’t always work.
Sometimes I really want to write about how the Handmaid’s Tale TV show is so depressing I want to jump off a cliff after watching it. So I do. That’s not really “on theme,” but it’s what flows out of me on that day and part of me feels I need to honor the emotion driving my blogs. Because, if I’m being honest, emotion is where all my writing comes from and without it, writing is just writing.
2. Be yourself.
OK, I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I’m still figuring out what it means to “be myself.” It feels as if I’m chasing my sense of self and never actually catching it, like a really annoying shadow.
And, honestly, I don’t think “self” is a constant, nor do I want it to be. I want to change and grow for the better. I don’t want to stagnate. So often what I consider my “self” and my understanding of “self” changes. That can make it hard to follow the “be yourself” and “be consistent” advice.
3. Don’t care what other people think.
Are there really people who do not care at all, even a little bit, what other people think of them? If those unicorns exist, please send some magical dust my way. Unfortunately, as much as I hypocritically tell my daughter not to care what other people think of her, I do care what other people think of me. I’d love to be the kind of person who doesn’t. But instead I’m the kind of person who does this:
Co-worker: I’m not sure the client likes you.
Me: I will MAKE the client like me. She will be my best friend!
Client gets on phone: Hey. [Flat tone, sounds like she’s being forced to sit through a marathon of Barney & Friends.]
Me (in my bubbliest, happiest voice): Hi, client, how are you? So, what’s your family like? What do you like to do? How can I help you? (Ray of sunshine beams through the phone.)
TWO WEEKS LATER & MULTIPLE SIMILAR CONVERSATIONS LATER
Client gets on phone: Hey K!!!! How are you doing? I read that book you recommended, it was so great. And thank you so much for working so hard on that project!
Me: [Beaming with pride and secretly thinking, I made her like me!] You’re welcome!
I am not a lunatic, at least not for this, I do understand not everyone is going to like me. It’s part of life. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care and won’t try to change said people’s minds. So the concept of just not caring what people think about my blog, it’s advice I’m not great at taking.
4. Plan your blog content.
Most people think this should be easy for me. They look at my life and think “she’s a planner.” Those people would also be shocked to know, they’re wrong. I am not. It’s an illusion I’ve created out of necessity, not an innate skill.
When getting ready for my wedding, yes I planned. I planned the SH*! out of that wedding with lists and timelines personalized for every single person. But I did it because if I didn’t, I knew I’d be miserable the day of, worrying if the caterer remembered to put my gluten-free portion of the cake out or if someone would keep crazy Aunt Tottie away from the bar.
I plan when I have to. When it’s necessary. I’m good at it. I can do it, but my natural state is “wing it.” I’m perfectly happy going on a trip to Europe with no plans other than hotels stays. I don’t NEED to plan. It’s something other people need me to do, so I do it.
Thus why it’s so difficult for me to take this advice. No one other than me needs me to plan out my blog posts. Without the external pressure, I just don’t do it. Could I? Yes. I might even for a while. But like my attempts to rise early to write, eventually, I’d do it less and less and find myself “winging it” again.
My Blogging Advice to Add to the Large Lists Already Out There
I’ve been blogging for well over a year and I have written about what I’ve learned through blogging before, but I’ve stopped short of giving blogging advice. Advice is tricky. It doesn’t work for everyone, as evidenced by the above. Therefore, my advice below works for me. And while I don’t know I’d call myself a successful blogger, I do really enjoy it and that’s kind of important.
1. Write what feels right.
I have 45 half-written blogs in my draft folder. They’re mostly blogs that just never quite made it from the idea part of my brain to the finger-tapping written part of my brain. There is a point where I realize, even though I like a topic, I just don’t have something interesting to say about it or I can’t figure out a way to put it cohesively on “paper.”
So, what I’ve learned is that if it doesn’t flow out of me, it’s not meant to be. This doesn’t mean I just write a post and hit publish. I spend excessive amounts of time, maybe too much, editing and revising. But if the initial draft feels like I’m trying to push a cart of giant boulders through quicksand, I’ve learned it’s not the right topic for me.
2. Write something that makes your stomach twist with anxiety (and publish it)
I’ve written several blogs where I think: this is so stupid, I sound stupid. Or, I think: this topic is too controversial as is my opinion on it. Oftentimes, it turns out, those are my most popular blogs. I’ve learned if it makes me feel anxious when I hit the “publish” button, then it might be better than I think.
3. Don’t spend so much time on pictures (aka, use time wisely)
I know this goes against every other blogging advice column out there. I’m not saying don’t put pictures in your blog. People love pictures. They’re worth 1000 words and all for a reason. But don’t spend countless hours looking for or creating the perfect picture or meme or wasting excessive time on the non-writing portions of your blog.
Sometimes I’ll spend more time scouring the internet for an image I have in my head only to find it doesn’t exist. Then I have to find a not-as-good-as-what’s-in-my-head back-up image or attempt to create it using my very limited artistic skills. Suddenly I’ve spent more time on some silly image than I have writing my blog. I still fall into this trap from time to time, but I have gotten much better about it and it has helped to make the process more enjoyable.
4. Ask for help
I am lucky to have several friends who are writers/aspiring authors or who just enjoy writing. Oftentimes, I’ll reach out to them and ask them to write a guest blog. This gives me a much needed “blogging break” without having to go on a hiatus. It’s actually quite helpful for continuing to enjoy writing my blog. Because sometimes I do need a break. It’s nice to be able to take one.
Any other bloggers out there who have blogging advice that they find impossible to take?