It's tough to remember you have a blog to maintain and grow when everything breaks around you – and you wind up broken, too.
From depression to illness to a loss, when the world breaks loose inside or outside of you it can become very difficult to write a blog post your readers can relate to and learn from. Your mind is elsewhere, there's no drive to get to your desk and write, and everything seems dull and not worth the effort.
Been there, done that, several times in my life.
If you are curious – yes, even now, I am facing illness and a mild depression as I write this post. But that is what drives me to give this post my best – I know that I can help you because I'm going through it myself.
How can you cope with the hardships of life and still be able to write an outstanding blog post?
Here is a list of my coping strategies you can put into use when everything works against your blogging efforts in your life.
1. Use those times in the day when your mind is awake
For me it's mornings, until noon.
After 1 PM I get mild anxiety attacks or fight against depressing moods, up to 5 PM, so I'm pretty much useless in between. So, I work in the mornings and, if I still have blogging tasks to do, I'll do them in the evenings, but after 5 PM.
It's important to observe how your mind works during the day, how your energy levels change and when you feel more active and creative. This is true for all times, but it's even more important when you go through a hard time or you are ill.
Write when you are active, positive and energetic and use the low times to relax, watch a good movie and heal.
- Use a reminder: Set up your alarm clock to ring when it's time to start writing and when you need to stop writing and relax. You can use your phone or any clock that has a built-in alarm. As an alternative, there are free online services that allow you to do the same, like MetaClock.
2. Write a little bit, go out for a walk, then write some more
Instead of forcing yourself to stay seated at your desk for long hours, reduce your writing time to no more than one or two hours chunks, then get up and go out for a walk or do a short workout session or even just open your window and look outside for a few minutes, breathing in the fresh air.
The change helps your mind find new strength and the connection with nature is also healing, so it will benefit both your writing and your mental health. If you have a laptop and it's a warm day, you can consider staying outside and writing from your local park or a café.
Don't make writing yet another hardship you need to face and endure. Writing is your passion, it's your friend, it's your connection to other human beings who need your help through the content you produce.
- The Pomodoro Technique: Manage your writing time with this tool to remind yourself when it's time to write and when to stop. See advice and tools given in Way #1.
- Healing images: Load up Pixabay and search for images of nature, flowers or trees, puppies, planets, or babies. Look at these images when you want to relax.
3. Ask bloggers in your network for help
Don't go it alone. Ask your immediate blogging network – that is, the bloggers you are in a closer relationship with – to help you with blog updates in this time of need.
Maybe they will be happy to write a guest post, give you interesting names to interview or to get interviewed themselves so you don't have to write much of your own. You could always exchange favors later.
Take anything relevant that they can offer, because your priority now is to rest and recover your energies when illness or depression drained you or you have an emergency.
- The MyBlogU network: This site allows you to find interviewees and collaborate with other bloggers to write interesting, sourced content.
- The Kingged community: You can read and comment on posts by community members and private message them to ask for a short email interviews about topics you have in common.
- HARO: Helps journalists and bloggers find sources to interview by simply submitting a query. Read through the guidelines before you send a query.
4. ‘Hide' blogging between other activities
Sometimes writing can feel like a chore when you just want to shut down and ‘mourn', but you know you can't just shut down your blog while you work hard to solve issues in your life and face your demons.
What you can do is write a little bit between other things you do in your day, like housework or TV. It will help you continue blogging without thinking about blogging too much.
Make sure to let yourself go during these short writing sessions. Write freely, in a relaxed mood; you can edit later.
- A to-do list: Write a to-do list of your daily housework and other things, then find spots you can use to write; for example, if you have a dentist visit scheduled for that day, you can take your notebook or laptop along and write while you are in the waiting room. You can use online to-do/task management software like Todoist and HiTask.
5. Ask a friend to review your work
It's easy to switch tone or style, or to get your mood swings into your posts, so you are not well equipped to proofread and edit your work when your mind is not in its best shape.
A friend can help you review your work and catch mistakes that you overlooked while proofreading the piece yourself. (Good friends are good at not making you feel bad for it!)
Your friend doesn't have to be a writer, but someone who knows the language well enough to spot errors.
- Free proofreading tools: If you have no available friend to rely upon, you can use Grammarly and (my absolute favorite) the Hemingway Editor.
6. Try different writing exercises
A shocking event, a stressing blogging task or a particularly tough time in your life can trigger a writer's block.
The best advice in this case is to write. It might sound paradoxical, but there's no other way to get unblocked unless you do the thing you feel you can't do.
Exercise writing freely, forgetting deadlines, tone and style and even your audience. Write for yourself, be that a page of a diary or your personal thoughts about the topic you should write about in your post.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, I'm writing this through mild anxiety attacks and depression. My beginning was completely unreadable and too stiff because I couldn't focus too much on my reader while half of my mind was busy fighting off the anxiety and need to cry.
So I started my post again with:
It's tough to remember we are bloggers when we face anxiety or depression or an illness…
Suddenly, I was talking to my friend, the other blogger behind the screen who faced the same problems I was facing right now.
It got me in the zone, words flew out of my mind through the keyboard and I cried liberated tears.
I got unstuck.
- A generator of random writing exercises: You can use these exercises to break your block or get rid of stiffness and get back into the flow of writing.
- 20 blog post ideas for when you can't come up with your own: Lori Soard's post at WHSR is a gem, suggesting 20 headlines you can use in different situations and according to the message you want to convey to your readers. You can complement the advice with these 15 blog idea generators.
7. Let go
Postpone the publication of your post or ask for a deadline extension if it's a guest post or a collaborative post.
If you still write, do it small – a simple round-up post, Q&A, an interview. In other words, write content that you can churn out quickly without losing on quality.
The result is that your blog will keep your readers' interest alive, but you will work on smaller terms and reduce the risk of adding stress to your situation.
If you postpone and your readers are used to seeing posts come up on certain days, just make sure to let them know via social media that you will publish new content a day or two later, and to stay tuned for interesting content.
- Editorial Calendar for Wordpress: This plugin will help you schedule and RE-schedule your posts without losing momentum in your publishing rhythm.
When you are done with your immediate blogging tasks, STOP
Write in short sprints – focus your energies, write, publish or schedule. Use this publication checklist to see if you've covered it all.
Then don't plan more. Give yourself time to feel better. Your mind and body need to find a new balance before you can think to get down to writing more posts or working on more ideas.
You can take a day off if you like, but even just a relaxing night watching a movie will help.
Interviews: How Do Other Bloggers Cope?
Dealing with tough situations
Because my ways to make blogging work in tough situations are not the only ways, I asked a few bloggers to share their coping strategies with me.
Christopher Jan Benitez
Christopher Jan Benitez goes back to the roots of his motivation to blog and how blogging allows him to enjoy the happy things and people in his life:
I just go to my happy place. I think of things that make me happy – my family, friends, loved ones – and how I won't be able to enjoy them to the greatest extent if I don't do my part by blogging.
This in itself is also difficult to muster, but it helps me put things into perspective and continues to drive my every action not just as a blogger but also as a person.
Louie Luc reminds himself that not every worker enjoys the same freedom and privileges of a blogger and how blogging can be the perfect escape from all the hardships of life:
Let's face it, you may have the best job in the world, with all the freedom you need to set your own schedule, define your daily tasks and be your own boss, but there is still one thing you won't ever control:
When life gets in the way and makes you feel down, getting back to work is the last thing you want to think about.
What do I personally do when I'm having a hard time?
I think about all the other jobs out there where people are really “forced” to work by their bosses, colleagues and responsibilities.
There is no escape there.
People can't just postpone whatever they have to do to some other day.
They have to get back to work no matter what.
I've been lucky enough to able to choose the lifestyle business and one of my main tasks is to come up with new blog posts frequently.
If I want to stay in this business, I have to “force” myself to keep pushing.
So I try to clear my head as best I can and focus on what I have to do.
I start to write and keep focusing on it until I'm finished.
Do you know what happens?
I find out that getting back to work and blogging is really the best thing I do to prevent me from thinking about my problems and concerns.
Instead of looking at it as a chore during tough times, think of it as an escape.
The perfect escape:
You get your work done PLUS you clear your head for a while.
Doyan Wilfred finds strength in her kids and in doing relaxing activities:
When I'm going through hard times, and still have to blog, the old me would have just wished to curl up somewhere and never want to be seen again. But the new me does not have that luxury. Because I am responsible for my kids.
So, I try make sure I do not overburden my ‘whiny-poor-self'.
Other than [that], going out for a walk or talking to a handful of carefully selected inner circle of friends.
David Leonhardt prefers to put writing aside until the waters at home calm down:
The hardest part is to focus. When you work from home, there is no escaping when all hell breaks loose around you. I live in a house with four emotional ladies, and all hell does break loose on a shockingly frequent and unpredictable basis.
There is not much I can do at times like that, except put the writing aside. Fortunately, I have most of the daytime to myself; if I did not, I would head out to the library for peace and quiet. If there was a library closer, I think I would head there anyway, just for a change of scenery (which can always be motivational when someone is feeling a little down).
Philip Turner prioritizes his blogging tasks:
I cope by prioritizing. There are always some tasks that can be put off until another day when I feel better. If I have tasks to do on more than one blog, then I prioritize the blog that is more important to me. The most difficult is if I have a blog post to write that requires creativity. I usually put that off until another day and either write something simpler or nothing at all.
Dealing with writers' block
As for writer's block, I asked how they deal with it.
“I just stop. I don't force things if I can't write. I normally just do the things that have been preventing me from writing and get them over with. For example, if I can't write because I want to go to Reddit (damn you, Reddit), then I go to Reddit and exhaust my time on that site. After that, I no longer have any excuse to not write, ” said Christopher.
Louie says “When there's a wall between me and my writing activities I usually do several things (not necessarily all of them).”
- Don't think about what I need to write for a while and start doing other stuff.
- Read other blogger's posts about the topics that may interest me.
- Get up from my desk and walk around, just to stay away from the computer. (Funny thing: my best ideas come up when I go to the… bathroom. :P)
- Answer my emails or comments, comment [on] other people's posts, write something unrelated to my actual task.
As proof, Louie adds that in answering my question he could just “get in the rhythm of writing”. Glad to hear that, Louie!
Doyan thinks Writers' block is fear.
“Fear of the unknown. You know you must write. But then this ugly monster rears its head. A million ‘what ifs' begin to pound you down.”
- What if I am judged?
- What if people think I'm a fool?
- Who wants to listen to me?
- I dont have anything worth sharing.
Here's what Doyan did. When these destructive thoughts creep in, she reminds herself of all the people she has had the fortune to help. She reminds herself of others who need her help.
“The best defense is a good offense. Save up those ideas for a rainy day. Put them in an Excel file. Email them one by one to yourself, or create a post in WordPress for each idea. When you lack ideas, if that ever happens, you can just go to your idea bank and work from there.”
“This post was built on a rainy-day idea. So was this and this.”
“Start right now. Run through your Facebook stream or your Google Plus stream or your Twitter stream. Every motivational quote, every travel pic, every cartoon, every significant comment that anybody has left – these are all seeds of ideas, if you stop to look at each one and ask yourself, How can I build a blog post on this? What analogy does this create? What story might I tell? What experience have I had related to this?”
There is no shortage of ideas. We just have to take the time to look for them, and make the time to store them for later use on a rainy day.
How do you cope with the hardships of life when you have blogging tasks to attend? What are your coping strategies?