Battling Burn Out (In Blogging and In Life)

I was at a beer event recently where I was talking to the brewery’s owner about beer blogging. He asked if I ever got burned out. Thinking he meant burned out on beer, I answered that there were days when all I really wanted was a glass of pinot noir or some bourbon. But he replied that he meant blogging, do I ever burn out on blogging? At the time, I answered that, because of the way Hoperatives is structured, I start working on our “This Week in Beer” posts many weeks (if not months) ahead of time and the “Tastings and Growlers Report” post start with the one from the week before so that helps. Posts for the rest of the week lately have come from information sent to us about local news and events plus our new “Local Beer Blogger Spotlight” posts. In other words, I gave him the PR answer without realizing it.

Burn out is something we fight in blogging and in life. We all know of blogs that have either been officially shut down or that haven’t had a new post in years. Starting a new blog or project is exciting and gets your heart pumping. But, after the adrenaline levels go back to normal, many people decide that the work required isn’t worth it. This is especially true if the person starting the blog sees it as a get-rich-quick scheme or a way to get free stuff. Even if you have a blog you love to work on, it can become a drag on your time after a while.

Part of the reason I re-launched this blog was to have somewhere to write about things that weren’t beer related. I’ve learned that there is a need for my little app and other tech reviews. And people like my recipe posts too and even my occasional observation posts (like this one). RadioCarla.com isn’t going to become Engadget or the Pioneer Woman, but I knew that going in this time and I take pride in how it is slowly growing its audience.

Hoperatives will be five years old on January 1, 2014. It’s grown and evolved just as the Cincinnati beer scene has. I’m pleased with our relationship with Cincinnati.com, but I really wish we could attract some advertisers. I wish people would send us more information so I didn’t have to spend so much time combing Facebook and the web for information. Then there are the time of us getting comments and emails from people shocked we didn’t have information on a beer event at their favorite beer location that was only posted at said location. Add in the time it takes to stay active on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

So, yes, I do get burned out on beer blogging. But, I soldier on and try to continue to do the best I can. I try new things. I keep what works and leave behind the things that don’t. I try joining new blog groups from time to time, but to be honest, some blogging groups are nothing but greedy people looking for free stuff or so full of infighting that the groups implode. Both of those things are just time sucks and drama that I don’t need. Enough already.

Whenever I consider why I blog, I think of Merlin Mann and John Gruber’s definition of a successful blog needing three things*: “obsession + topic + voice”. So I try to do what it takes to stay obsessed. As long as I’m a “believer in better beer (in Cincinnati and beyond)”, I’ll keep blogging at Hoperatives.

As far as battling burn out in life? Well, that’s a blog post for another day.

— Carla

Battling Burn Out

*I’ve mentioned this before, but if you missed it — Merlin Mann and Jon Gruber gave at SXSW in 2009 called “149 Surprising Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog with Credibility!” You can find more information about it at http://www.43folders.com/2009/03/25/blogs-turbocharged. I summarized the talk this way:

…a successful blog must have three things: “obsession + topic + voice”. If you have those three things, you can “become the go-to person for whatever your topic is.” Consider this: “How do you know it’s time to start a blog? Because people keep telling you to shut up.” And finally: “When CPM becomes more important than making readers happy, you’ve lost it.”

The High Cost of Selling Yourself Out: Be Careful What You Blog

In my last post The High Cost of Free Software: Be Careful What You Download, I included the following quote from Ed Bott of zdnet.com:

Basically, there’s a dilemma that software developers are in. They can either go with these monetization companies which load up their installers with “special offers” and which in turn allow them to make a frightful sum of money or they can take a day job and get out of the software business.

Lately, I’ve been thinking that this could be paraphrased to apply to bloggers:

Basically, there’s a dilemma that [BLOGGERS] are in. They can either go with these monetization companies which load up their [BLOGS] with “special offers” and which in turn allow them to make [SOME] sum of money or they can take a day job and get out of the [BLOGGING] business.

Of course, one of the main differences between software developers and bloggers is that a great number of bloggers already have day jobs (myself included). The urge to try to make the blogging a paying gig can sometimes lead to unfortunate decisions.

When you start a blog, one of the first questions you need to really ask yourself is why are you writing this blog? What content do you want to share with your readers? What unique perspective can you bring to an already large blogosphere?

Back in 2009, I wrote a post for BlogHer.com called “Why I Blog About Beer“. In the post, I mentioned that Hoperatives was actually the third blog I had started. The first one was an earlier version of this blog and didn’t have much focus. I mainly rambled about various topics and didn’t really offer anything new. The second one about our experience on a liquid diet was too focused and really was only meant to last a short time.

I also mentioned a talk that Merlin Mann and Jon Gruber gave at SXSW in 2009 called “149 Surprising Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog with Credibility!” You can find more information about it at http://www.43folders.com/2009/03/25/blogs-turbocharged. I summarized the talk this way:

…a successful blog must have three things: “obsession + topic + voice”. If you have those three things, you can “become the go-to person for whatever your topic is.” Consider this: “How do you know it’s time to start a blog? Because people keep telling you to shut up.” And finally: “When CPM becomes more important than making readers happy, you’ve lost it.”

Since blogging has become more popular and accessible, I’ve seen a growing trend of people starting a blog just because they think it is an easy way to get free stuff or make money. But it’s not. Blogging is hard work and takes a lot of time.

Is it worth going to a bloggers event if you are just going to learn about the entity hosting the event? Back when I worked in radio, we called that a press conference and it was part of my job to attend them. Since I was paid by the radio station, I attended many press conferences on topics I didn’t personally care about.

As a blogger, I only go to events directly related to what I blog about: craft beer in Cincinnati for Hoperatives and technology, theater and a few other topics here at RadioCarla.com. Any time I broke this rule and went to an event that really didn’t interest me (usually as a favor to someone), I was miserable. It was a lose-lose for both me and the hosting business.

The word “free” sounds good except it usually isn’t really true. I’ve been to many, many trade shows over the years ranging from the National Restaurant Association, the National Association of Broadcasters, EarMarked for Disney travel agents, Cruise360, BlogHer and the national Beer Bloggers Conference. At first, all the free swag is great. Then, it’s the end of the day and you’re carrying around this bag of crap. And then the bag of crap is in your home taking up space. Was it worth it?

The same idea applies to blogging. If you want to write a blog just to get free stuff, you have to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” Is it worth shilling a product you may or may not like on your Facebook page and Twitter stream? Is it worth losing readers and Facebook likes and Twitter followers for a “free” product that you could have easily bought yourself (if you really even wanted it)?

All in all, it goes back to the question of why are you blogging. What is your obsession? What is your topic? What is your voice? Your voice is really your brand in blogging. Is it worth diluting your voice for a cheap plastic spatula with some company’s name on it that you’ll just throw away the next time you move?

In my last post, I suggested that you think before you download. Now, I’m suggesting that you think long and hard before you give away your voice. Don’t pay the high cost of selling yourself out.

— Carla

plastic spatula - high cost of selling yourself out