What Do You Do When a Favorite Blog Goes South?

Filed as Editorial, Features on April 28, 2008 7:35 pm

Recently, two of my favorite blogs have gone south. In other words, they have lost their bloggy way along the blogging path. One happens to be by a friend of mine so I called her up.

“What’s going on with your blog?”

“What do you mean?”

“Your blog posts are way off topic and it doesn’t sound like you any more. Is everything okay?”

“Everything is fine. I think everything is fine. It’s fine, isn’t it?”

What do I say. Can’t she see that she’s spent the past two years blogging about a specific subject, her writing fluid and powerful, keeping me interested and jazzed about her subject matter, returning often to bask in her wisdom, and now she’s babbling and not making any sense? Her posts are all over the map, with some fire and brimstone enthusiasm thrown in for color, but it all feels forced and desperate. Like part of the fire within her creative spirit has turned to ashes.

I miss her old sincere and honest self, the blogger who exposed herself as well as her thoughts in her writing. How do I tell her she’s lost her way without hurting her feelings. It’s clear she’s not ready to hear the truth.

The other blog is a professional one, one I’ve tracked for years, but lately it’s gone way off course with off-handed posts that appear to be more second thoughts rather than firsts, spelling and grammar errors unchecked, comment spam littering the comments, it’s wilting in the wind though it continues to generate a lot of content, just not a lot of quality.

I sent a concerned email to the blogger and the response was similar to my friend. “Everything is fine. Don’t you think we’re doing okay?”

No, I don’t. And you shouldn’t either.

When Bloggers Lose Their Blogging Path

It’s easy to look on the outside and judge. But what about you? What are the clues you should look for when you lose your blogging path?

I’ve lost may way more than a few times over the past decade of blogging. So I thought I’d share a few of the clues I use to remind myself when I’m straying from the path – and use these to stop, pull out the map, and reassess if I want to continue down the familiar path or consider an alternative route.

  • I’m tired. When I say “I’m tired” more than 5 times in a single day, that’s a big a clue that something isn’t right, especially if people ask me how my work is going and that is my response. It’s a sign that my energies are being sucked away instead of stimulated by what I’m doing.
  • I’m bored. I am rarely bored, so to speak, but more frustrated with the same-old-same-old. When I write, I know I’ve written it before, so why do I bother to keep writing it. There’s nothing new to write about. It’s really the same old stuff, different day. That’s a red flag that I’ve lost my creative edge.
  • Misspelling and grammar gaffs. I love English and that challenge that comes every day to get all the pieces of the written puzzle together so my thoughts are cohesive and comprehensible. When I spot a “when” instead of “went” or “seams” instead of “seems” I know my head isn’t in my writing. I’m writing phonetically, without conscious attention to the words on the page. I need to reconnect my brain and my spirit.
  • I don’t care what I wrote. If I think “Oh, just hit publish already,” something is seriously broken because I’ve stopped caring. I have to care. I have to care about what I write. I have to care about my writing. I have to care about its quality and integrity. I have to care about my readers and their needs. I have to care – period. If I’m not, then I’m not much good to my readers, am I?
  • When it’s right, I know it. When it isn’t, do I care? When I write something good – not just “good” as in “good enough” but good as in something I’m proud of, writing that gives me a sense of accomplishment, of tackling a task and translating the issues into words that connect with my readers – it’s a high. A serious high. When was the last time I had one of those highs? If it has been too long, and I really don’t find the satisfaction in what I’m writing, it’s time to give myself and my blog a check up.
  • When distractions are more important than reactions. When the distractions are more fascinating than my reaction to the distractions, it’s time to reassess my path. Distractions can be just that – a rock in the path that makes me alter my course. But if I spend more time considering the rock and not my path, I’m focusing on the wrong thing. I’m not moving forward. I’ve lost the long term vision and am only looking at my feet.
  • I haven’t added to the conversation. To me, blogging isn’t just about what I say, but about what I contribute. I want what I say to matter, to one or many, the numbers don’t matter. The conversation matters. I want people to talk. About what I’ve written, about their opinions on the subject, about how they think all of this should be going, about themselves in relationship to all the things going on. I want their input, on my blog or theirs. I want to encourage thinking, not shut it down. If my blog posts aren’t adding to the conversations around me, they are just sitting there, wasting time, including mine.
  • My butt hurts more than my head. For me, if I spend too long at the computer, hunkered over, pounding away at the keyboard, wearing out the home keys, I know that I’m missing out on something important going on around me. I have to get out and move around. If my butt hurts more than my head from embracing new thoughts from new sources, it’s time to get off my duff and start hurting my head.

You can call it depression, but that’s a word for a bigger problem. I’m talking about simple little clues that tell me my work is suffering and I’m off track. The clues that remind me to pay attention because something isn’t right.

So what do I do to get back on the right track?

I’ll tell you tomorrow what I do to get back on the blogging path. What are the clues you use to stay on the narrow with your blog? Do you have any?

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  1. By How Not To Write posted on April 28, 2008 at 7:42 pm
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    I’d add, “When I do more linking than writing.”

    That probably fits under the Distractions/Reactions part, but in my case it’s a very clear sign that Things Have Gone Awry.

    Great list.

    Reply

  2. By Rob O. posted on April 28, 2008 at 9:03 pm
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    From the other angle – as a blogger rather than a blog reader – it’d be nice to hope that one (or some) of my regular readers would feel comfortable and concerned enough to give me a nudge if they sense that I’ve gone off the rails. But I’m not at all confident that I’ve managed to establish that kind of close rapport with my blog readers…

    Reply

  3. By Chris Garrett posted on April 29, 2008 at 5:45 am
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    My readers tell me, sometimes even politely. Sometimes it is the absence of “ataboy” “great post” “food for thought” comments, sometimes it is the increase of the “you suck” variety, but I find my audience doesn’t let me go off course, well, not for long :)

    Reply

  4. By Greg posted on April 29, 2008 at 7:13 am
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    Re: Rob O.

    The rapport and trust with the reader/end user is the same in any service industry.

    Two examples on trust and critique:

    A lifetime ago, I managed a fast food restaurant. A family used to come in a couple times a week, they were regulars. One evening, the dad comes up to me a says “When we were here last time, the food was off. Is there a problem?” I offered his family a free dinner that night. He refused. He just wanted to make sure I knew there had been an issue. After they ate that night, I discussed the quality of the food, which, according to him was much better.

    Contrast this to when I phoned in a to-go order from a sandwich shop. The person who took my order wanted to charge me a couple dollars more than the price on the menu. I called back and talked to the manager. He refused to acknowledge the mistake. The conversation ended when he said “Look, I deal with the scum of the earth all day, do you want the food or not. I don’t have time for you s**t.”

    All of this to say, what kind of conversation do you have when someone says “You blog stinks!”? In the two examples above, the answers were “Everything is fine. I think everything is fine. It’s fine, isn’t it?” and “Everything is fine. Don’t you think we’re doing okay?” Not exactly open doors to a conversation.

    Better responses would be “Why do you ask?” “What do you think changed?” “Can you give me an example of a good post and lacking post?” In other words, is it safe and easy for the readers to initiate this discussion?

    Reply

  5. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on April 29, 2008 at 8:45 am
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    @Rob O.:

    Good point, and maybe that’s a clue you need to make a different kind of change in the way you blog – if you want that kind of rapport with your readers. Thanks!

    Reply

  6. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on April 29, 2008 at 8:50 am
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    @How Not To Write:

    EXCELLENT! I’m not a linker, but I see this in many bloggers. Good point!

    Reply

  7. By Rob O. posted on April 30, 2008 at 8:55 am
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    Lorelle, I know this is a pretty broad-based question, but are there some tips you might offer (maybe in a separate post) for building the kind of close rapport with your readers that I referred to?

    Seems like this would be simple enough, yet I really don’t quite know how to move from where I’m currently at towards that. I’m not getting as much reader interaction as I would’ve hoped for on my blog, yet I feel that I’m doing at least a few things right…

    Reply

  8. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on April 30, 2008 at 4:55 pm
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    @Rob O.:

    I’ve written about that in the past, but will try another in the future, so thanks for the recommendation. The queen of the blog conversation is Liz Strauss and she offers some fantastic insights into audience building and development. If you want to do it right and you are willing to jump, head to Chicago this weekend for SOBCon – Successful and Outstanding Bloggers Conference for a weekend with the Biz School for Bloggers and get individual attention on this very issue.

    Reply

  9. By Geoserv posted on May 9, 2008 at 6:22 am
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    STUMBLED!

    Im a new blogger so I don’t have to worry about this yet.

    VOTED for this article at:
    http://www.newsdots.com/blogging/the-blog-herald/

    Reply

  10. By Jeffro2pt0 posted on May 9, 2008 at 6:36 am
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    Some of the clues I’ve noticed myself is the lack of opening the WordPress admin panel. When writing a post, noticing that I am mispelling an awful lot of words. Forcing myself to do the post instead of writing about thing I’m interested in or can share my opinion of. Reading more than writing, but I must say, I often get right back into writing after a session of RSS reading.

    On the days where I can’t seem to write a post, I take time to go around the community and leave comments, which to me are shorter versions of blog posts.

    Reply

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