Why Do 95% Of Bloggers Give Up?

Posted by on Jan 26, 2013 in Blogging, Storytelling | 76 Comments

Despair

What’s the point of blogging at all?

Most bloggers – maybe even 95% of bloggers – have no idea what they’re doing.

That’s not meant as a criticism or a judgement. It’s not even terribly original to say. It’s a situation that has little to do with writing talent or online savvy. It’s not a dividing line between amateur and professional, or hobbyist and Serious Blogger. There are bloggers doing toe-wigglingly terrific work on a daily basis who, by their own admission, barely know where they’re going with it all.

But they are far, far outweighed by people not doing great work because they don’t know where they’re going.

The modern world is ravenous for guidance. This is why self-help exploded. People want to be assured that they’re on the right track, heading towards the life they want, in business and outside it. Want confirmation? Read the average blog. Not your favorite pen-ninjas making things that get your heart racing and your loins throbbingly girded with inspiration. Not The Oatmeal or The Bloggess. The average blog.

(Yuck. “Average”. Hate that word. Technically it means “median” or “mean”. Colloquially? It means “mediocre”, which is a pompous label to sling at a stranger. Take it to mean “median” instead).

Most bloggers struggle. They open a blog, post enthusiastically for a while, and then they either find a particular way to express themselves and/or a niche to fit into – or they lose heart and walk away. In 2009, this New York Times article cited data suggesting that 95% of blogs are derelicts. Their owners abandoned them, presumably because they never worked out what to do with them.

In other words, 95% of bloggers give up.

And today, 4 years later? I suspect it’s even worse.

I recently had the honour of doing a trial period of work with the super-talented team at WordPress.com. One of my duties was trawling through the millions of WordPress.com blogs, looking for quality content. What struck me – and struck me hard – was that the most common type of post went something like this:

Sorry I haven’t posted for AGES.

Don’t know what to say.

(LOL.)

It affected me so deeply because that’s how I spent my first 5 years of blogging. It’s astonishing I still have a blog. Back when I first opened Fevered Mutterings v.1  in 2004 (on a now-defunct platform called 20six) I was driven not by a plan but by a compulsion. I knew I wanted to write. I knew blogging was This Cool Thing Everyone Was Doing. And I knew it was an amazing way to reach an audience. So I wrote about what I’d had for lunch, what books were precariously stacked on my bedside table, what I thought about the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica, and so on. It was a truly average blog. I had no clue where I was going with it all.

And this went on for 5 fracking years.

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A common justification for aimless, blundering-around blogging is that it’s “personal”, ie. reflecting someone’s life in progress. There’s a lot of truth there. Life is chaotic and doesn’t run on rails. However, as Andrew Evans explains so succinctly in the third of these videos, when you’re doing your best to convey what you really see, without the benefit of 20/20-hindsight, and if you do so with a very clear idea about what you want to be writing, unedited reality can be as compelling as a well-crafted story. In fact, it can be a good story. That’s the essence of quality non-fiction.

It’s not that life is too chaotic to turn into a blog that its author & audience will stick with. It’s something else.

For people using blogs as a business tool, it’s easier. Success is measured by your bank balance, your conversion rate, your readership stats. Business blogs have special stories called Business Plans, urging them ever onward. However, if you’re of the majority of folk who blog without ever intending to make money from your words, it’s trickier. Same goes for people who make money indirectly from their blogs (hi there).

There are brilliant resources out there for building a successful blogging business – this guy is super-smart – but they’re all about the How. Finding your Why and creating a How to back it up is how you make a successful blog. The problem is how you’re going to get through that process, because it’s usually a long, long haul. Your Why needs to be rock-solid and continually self-affirming and well signposted. You need guidance. You need an inner voice, reminding you why the hell you’re doing all this. . .

And this is where stories come in.

More on that another time.

Images: fakelvis and minhimalism.
  • cj

    It was the thought that someone, somewhere, who I didn’t even know, would read my writing – WHEN THEY DIDN’T ACTUALLY HAVE TO. Sorry about the shouting, but I couldn’t find how to do italics.
    That opportunity to make a brief connection with someone else, a random someone else, was a mind-blowing thought. I don’t know how the likes of JK Rowling survive with the knowledge that hundreds and thousands of people have read/will read/are almost certainly reading now something they wrote, without having to go and lie down.
    My blogs have mostly fizzled because nobody (or almost nobody – sorry!) did read them. Added to which, there was also the fear that if they did, I would be under some sort of obligation to make everything I wrote *good*, and that would not do at all. That is scary. I mean, what if Belle de Jour settled down, got monogamously married and started concerning herself less with kinky sex and more with which supermarket had the lowest petrol prices? How long would her readership stay faithful?
    Who needs that kind of pressure?
    So I was of course doomed to failure from the start. I comfort myself with the thought that I pretty much knew that I was. Still, you have to give these things a go, don’t you?

    • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

      I’d agree with some of this, and the rest of it I wouldn’t agree at all with. :) Remember I’ve read your blogging and I liked it…

      >>” I mean, what if Belle de Jour settled down, got monogamously married and started concerning herself less with kinky sex and more with which supermarket had the lowest petrol prices? How long would her readership stay faithful?
      Who needs that kind of pressure?”

      Interesting point. If a blog is built around a journey and that journey ends, would people want to stick around? What are the compelling reasons you can give them for doing so? And how can you hook them? This is all stuff that interests me greatly, and I have a few theories, which I’ll be explaining soon.

      If you found a compelling journey for your blog, can you see yourself starting up again, cj?

      • cj

        Just because I’ve not posted since August doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped. Haven’t posted for a while, is all. I never decide to stop, I just don’t post again.

        If I’m completely honest, I think one of the reasons for my several abandoned blogs is that although each is started with the best of intentions, I realise at some point that actually, I’m just attention seeking and I don’t like that, so I fizzle out. My motives have never been honest enough, otherwise surely I’d write with no thought of who – if anyone – was reading. I think.

        I’ll be very surprised if I don’t start blogging again fairly soon.

        • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

          I’d argue all writers are attention seekers – nothing wrong with that, if you have something you really want people to read. If it’s the attention craved rather than the being-understoodness (that’s not a word, no), then I’d agree it’s easy to start feeling bad about it all. But your writing always had something to say, which is why I enjoyed reading…

          What do you find yourself most wanting to talk about these days? If you had a bigger audience, what would you most want to talk to them about?

          • cj

            This is interesting because you have asked another question, inviting another response, and that has actually made me quite uncomfortable. I have already written here twice, and have no wish to seem pushy, and yet if I don’t reply again I am being rude by ignoring your question. I have visions of your other commenters rolling their eyes and thinking “her again!” I would not have guessed that I would react in that way, and it is …. interesting.

            “Being-understoodness” I like neologisms that provide shortcuts to understanding. That’s a good one.

            “What do you find yourself most wanting to talk about these days? If you had a bigger audience, what would you most want to talk to them about?” – that’s a heck of a question. About five instant answers jumped into my head when I read it, but after a few seconds’ thought I realised that I don’t have “the” answer at all. I don’t have a topic in the way that you have travel writing, so really whatever I write has to be about myself.
            That raises conflicts, because like most people I was taught as a child to be self-effacing, which of course left behind resentment that even my own family didn’t want to listen to me.

            I think I should probably go away and think about this!

            To answer your question in a lighter way, I would love to be able to write about my experiences in a way that makes people smile. Not necessarily laugh, I’m not looking to be a comedian, but to be able to write about things with humour. That would be lovely. Also fairly unlikely at present as I spend 98% of my time at home and 80% of it alone. Hard to have experiences at all under those circumstances, let alone amusing ones.

  • http://thefutureisred.com Leigh

    I don’t know about other people, but one of the reasons I am still in my “sorry I haven’t blogged in so long” phase is that after all this time, it still scares the crap out of me every time I published. I’ve long since stopped the actual apologizing, except to myself.

    I also remember when you posted and made a clear outward intention to put your time into full time writing and blogging. Then you did it. I’ve always loved your point-of-view and your sense of humor in particular, and it’s pretty damn inspirational to see that you said it and then you DID it.

    I’m still trying to figure things out, but I think I’m getting there.

    • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

      Being scared of publishing is a good sign. Someone (might have been Chuck Wendig) said that if you’re not nervous when you hit Publish or Send, you haven’t written hard enough.

      What do you think your readers specifically expect from you – the thing that you feel bad about when you don’t deliver it for so long?

      • http://thefutureisred.com Leigh

        It’s not so much I feel guilty or bad because of the audience but because of myself. The reality is, an audience will go elsewhere. There’s so much to see and read online.

        I worked on my blog for years and when it was starting to become more widely read, I backed down. Partly because I didn’t really like what I was writing. I also wasn’t sure why (see that?) I was writing it. I also struggled to a certain extent with the audience drawn to my writing.

        I actually remember the moment I decided I did not want to turn blog into professional. It wasn’t for me, and I wasn’t willing to do the work necessary. I wanted to go back to teaching. Now, a few years later, I’m back to blogging precisely because I started teaching again, and now I actually have something to say. Something I want to say.

        Now the question is how to take those experiences and turn them into a crisp, clean blog that offers a more targeted experience for readers. (Ie the part I don’t like that much).

        • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

          I’m very interested to see what you have planned with that. :)

          When you say targeted, would you like it to be a blog that teaches? An extension of your teaching work / thoughts? So, a kind of informal or loosely-designed (or even tightly-designed) course?

          • http://thefutureisred.com Leigh

            You ask excellent questions, Mr Sowden.

            I suppose you can say it’s an extension of the classroom.

            We’re in the process of applying for some programs with the hope that we’ll be able to expand Cloudhead internationally and via social media. I have much research, reading and work to do first, though, so it’s a bit early to be any more concrete.

            In the meantime, I’m slowly building up my blog again and, of course, reading others’ blogs as well.

  • http://www.theherocomplex.com Aaron

    I started blogging because I saw a void and thought that things I am good at/interested in filled that void. I try to post once a week, but if I don’t get to it I never apologize about it. I like writing, I like interacting with readers who find my content happy. However, if I become one of the 95% who eventually give up, I won’t think twice about it. It’s fun, but not a calling, at least for me.

    • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

      Thanks for your thoughts, Aaron…

      What particular things did you want to get off your chest when you first opened your blog? I see you’re a medical student, and from your posts you’re trying to show how other people might go through the journey you’ve gone through. You said in one of your recent posts…

      “I should have been more proactive with this blog and not let studying get in the way of updating The Hero Complex.”

      What things in particular do you wish you’d focused on? What specific message (or messages) do you want to convey to your readers?

  • http://world-flavor.com Rachel

    I started my food and travel blog to document my travels and have a record of them, for myself and for my friends and family. I’ve done that before but in the oops-I-forgot-to-post-again way. This time, I just decided to take it seriously and challenge myself to keep up with it. I’ve now been writing on it regularly for about a year and a half. And it is always great to see that some people, somewhere, actually do read it, even if it’s not a huge amount of people.

    • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

      Cheers, Rachel!

      When you say “take it seriously”, what was your definition? What did you specifically want to be happeningin your blog? In other words – what would “this is the result of taking it seriously” look like for you?

  • http://www.withalittlemoxie.com Meriah

    I feel sometimes that people who keep truckin’ along are people who kept journals as kids. They are already in the habit and don’t need a lot of approval or back patting to keep going.

    That’s part of my reason, but I also reached a point in my life in which what I had to say and the stories that made up my life became so big, it all spilled over and needed a way out.

    Thanks for the post – I really enjoyed it

    • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

      Thank you for reading it, Meriah. :) And I read your latest post (thanks for the mention) – the argument in the post & comments seems to be that some topics on blogs have a shelf-life, or more accurately, an arc. Once the end of the arc is reached, it has to finish or change because that topic is covered…

      It sounds like you’re finding that arc for yourself. What particular things do you want to say with your blog – what are the motivations that forced you to get serious?

  • http://www.thehairychef.com The Hairy Chef

    You know, this is something I’ve been trying to put into a post for a LONG time and it echoes everything I believe about blogging. Mine started as a “diary home” on a six month trip overseas. And now, as you say, it is more a platform for the raw unedited observations of reality that have the power to be as compelling as a well crafted novel.

    • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

      Thanks for reading, sir. :)

      Why do you feel a blog is the best place for telling your story? Ever feel like taking any of it and adapting it for another platform, or is your blog the end-game?

      • http://www.thehairychef.com The Hairy Chef

        I can´t remember how I linked to your blog, but I remember it came highly recommended!

        My blog started out as a platform for writing, but the ambition in me has learned alot this past year and I will be looking at ways of taking it to the next level. I am looking at an ebook later this year which will be launched on a website I have done some writing for since I started my own blog and really got into blogging. I hope to use that ebook as a platform for my own one which I will launch on my own…all part of the bigger broader plan.

        I like to think, like all bloggers to, that the ultimate goal….that people will come to your blog because they enjoy the content, and because there is original and engaging content on there all the time…which is what keeps me going really…but there are so many other ways of getting your name, image, style, opinions out there really, which is the coolest part about it.

        How about you Mike?

        • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

          Me? You’ll be able to see where I’m going with all this by the end of February, if not sooner.

          Yes, I’m being annoyingly mysterious. :)

  • http://www.wired2theworld.com Kristina

    I have two blogs, one which I started in 1998, and one started in 2009 so I guess I’m part of the 5%. But that notwithstanding, I can certainly relate to the 95% as there have been plenty of times where I’ve been unable to keep up. But I always go back.

    I started my travel blog in 1998 (then a static HTML “website”) as a way for family and friends to follow my husband and me on our around the world trip. I’ve kept it up, writing about our travels, albeit much shorter trips now, because I love to have the record there and people seem to like it. I started my food blog in 2009, because as a former chef, I wanted to show people that cooking doesn’t have to be intimidating.

    But I still struggle to keep up with both blogs. I think the only people who can post with frequency (4 or 5 times a week) are those without full time jobs or those for whom their blog IS their job. I can’t compete with the full time traveler who blogs about it or the stay at home mom with the recipe blog.
    I struggle to find the time to write, photograph, and edit said writing and photos into my already full schedule (full time job plus 10+ hours commute time per week). Oh, and add in to that some freelance food writing/photography/recipe development I’ve been doing and you can see how the blogs take last place. Getting paid to write will always trump blogging for “free”. At least it will while I still have a mortgage payment to make.

    I’ve yet to figure out how to make money from my blogs. The food one has been *very* successful in terms of traffic, but most people don’t realize that “traffic” does not necessarily lead to income. I don’t do sponsored posts. I don’t sell links. I don’t sell adds. I’m an Amazon affiliate and that’s about it. It’s a tricky business and frankly I don’t have the time or energy to figure it out (for me). But the monitization of blogs is a whole other post isn’t it?

    • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

      Indeed it is. Without resorting to advertising, sponsored posts or links, direct income gets trickier. The people doing really well seem to be using their blogs as platforms supporting their business, rather than running business from directly inside those blogs. Whether that’s “monetizing a blog” or not I don’t know…

      What are the things that keep you coming back to your blogs – the themes you want to explore? You seemed to mention one of them there – “I wanted to show people that cooking doesn’t have to be intimidating.” Is that the core of what your food blog is about, when you have a read through it, or do other themes thread their way through it?

      • http://www.wired2theworld.com Kristina

        Well, the things which keep me blogging are different (and some the same) for each blog.

        For the travel blog, it’s a personal record, a digital scrapbook if you will. It’s a reference, and even a solver-of-arguments between my husband and myself. I feel like I’ve kept it going for almost 15 years, I can’t stop now. The feedback is generally good too so that’s nice.

        For the food blog, yes other themes come out. I can’t help writing about food as it pertains to travel (restaurants, markets, food tours, etc). I also write about food sustainability issues, gardening and raising chickens (the chickens, on yet a 3rd blog). What keeps me going on the food blog is partially the desire to share, but also the feedback. Having someone comment and say, “this is the best marinara sauce/cheesecake/whatever I’ve ever made, thank you!!” is very rewarding. In fact, comments are the *only” reward, so unfortunately, I take it personally sometimes when I don’t get any. OTOH, I have a cheesecake recipe which has been “pinned” on Pinterest over 150,000 times so I must be doing something right. ;-)

        Finally, in terms of making money, it was the food blog which led directly to the freelance work (they contacted me which, from what I understand, is rare) so that’s another reason to keep it going I guess.

  • http://www.trainsonthebrain.com Jools Stone

    Good question Mike. Much like you, I was driven by a vague need to start writing, largely for my own amusement / to get back into practice / find my voice, after years of writing to order, as it were, whether for marketing work or freelance journo work, 2 things which are often much more closely aligned than you might think… But I soon found – as soon as I got any comments / recognition on twitter etc – that I got addicted to the ego buzz (not esp proud of this, but it’s still true to this day, it’s largely how I measure success – peer validation) of this and I also wanted to make it a bigger part of how I earnt my crust.

    Then comes the problems with the niche (that’s *nitch* if you’re American ;) ) you carve for yourself. All too easily, you lose the passion by being hemmed into one narrow subject and get frustrated being ignored by the blogoscenti, dismissed (not openly of course, just a perception) as a specialist / geek with (railway) tunnel vision, missing opps and recognition you feel is due. This is compounded once you have your own niche-specific url of course.

    Deviate too much from your chosen topic and you look like you don’t have a focus / aren’t ‘giving the people what they want’, stick to your guns too much and you eventually burn out / lose heart / post less often etc. I can see the syndrome and have come close to giving up a number of times. Or rather like with smoking, I give up for a while…but eventually give up on giving up!

    but there’s a lot to be said for wriitng for its own sake, enjoying the process of fine tuning your ideas and words, and some blogs can be training grounds for others – or indeed other, loftier forms of writing, rather than business launch pads. It’s a slight shame that so much of the ‘blogging advice’ out there (or at least the popular, easy to find stuff) is focussed on th latter and not the former, but I am guiessing you’re here to change that trend a bit… :)

    • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

      Certainly not. Please click my affiliate links if you want to know more!

      Levity aside…agreed, there’s a cycle there. Niche = specialised = potentially limiting traffic, generalist = like everyone else out there who hasn’t narrowed down enough to have a thing they’re known for. We’ve talked about this more than a few times in person and probably will again, so I won’t flap my jaw too much here on it, but yes, agreed, there’s a common cycle there.

      What I’m, wondering is how some people manage to seemingly stay narrow in focus and yet reach a huge audience. How do they marry the two? Because there are people doing that, and it’s not just a function of throwing money at social media marketing campaigns. People can get hooked to niche sites if they’re presented in a certain way – and I think that way has a lot to do with storytelling, which is where I’m going with this and a few other upcoming posts.

      People love journeys. They love knowing they’re being taken somewhere, that there’s some kind of tension, something at stake, and that there’s an end destination that hopefully they’ll get to, as readers. And embarking on a journey, whether it’s a really good opening chapter, or a carriage clanking out of a station, is a thrill. It’s addictive. People get hooked.

      Thinking out loud here. More to come on this…

  • http://www.ieatmypigeon.com Eva

    Great post, Mike. Like you, I wanted to write… but I also had that deep, tiny, squiggly ray of hope that someday, someone out there would read what I wrote and like it. It was a way to put myself out there without really putting myself out there. And for a long time I did the “average” thing as well – recounted my breakfast, my new shoes, my extremely watered down opinions. I had a huge scare in 2005 when a girl I worked with blogged about all of us and put us – including me – in unflattering lights. It took a long time for me to feel comfortable being “real” again on the internet. Living abroad gave me the “angle” for my blog. And the rest is history.

    • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

      Indeed.

      (Wild Eva plug – everyone read this please: http://www.fodors.com/news/ten-things-not-to-do-in-italy-6313.html Kthx)

      As someone who works with fiction as well as non-fic travel writing, do you ever think about applying the techniques you use in fiction to your blog? Not in individual posts, but to your blog as a whole? To make it structured more like a novel?

      Take your About page. What if your About page worked like an insanely engaging chapter 1?

      #thinkingoutloud ;)

      • http://www.ieatmypigeon.com Eva

        Unabashedly linking to my piece – you spoil me, Mike!! :D Hooray for pitch buddies!

        And yes – I’ve often thought about using fiction techniques like pacing in a blog. Kind of like the serialized novels that were popular once upon a time – blogging is a perfect medium for it. As for my own blog, it’s become a lot less structured for various reasons so I don’t know if it would work anymore. But I really do one day hope to get a good memoir out of it; I’m planning one as we type.

  • http://GreenGlobalTravel.com Bret @ Green Global Travel

    I think you nailed it: Finding the “WHY” of starting a blog is, to me, far more crucial than the “HOW.” Why should I read your blog? Every travel destination on the planet has been visited and written about ad infinitum. What do you have to say that hasn’t been said before?

    I see so many bloggers who have a niche– “I’m a solo female traveler!” “I’m a backpacker!” “I’m an adventurer!”– but there’s otherwise no sense of purpose behind what they’re doing.

    We were very lucky in that we knew precisely the kinds of stories we wanted (nay, needed) to tell when we launched our site. Frankly, if I’d been able to find freelance outlets willing to pay me to tell those stories, GGT probably would not exist. But in retrospect, I’m really glad my hand was forced, because I think my abilities as a storyteller have improved ten-fold by the opportunities to tell the stories I want to tell, MY way.

    I wish more bloggers, newbies and veterans alike, would ask themselves the WHY more often. I think the answer gives you such a strong sense of direction that the HOW ultimately falls into place as you stumble along…

    • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

      Well said, sir.

      Agreed, having a niche isn’t enough. Even so-called specialized niches are thickly covered these days. While people get useful information from travel blogs and always appreciate excellent, informed advice, is that the only hook behind most travel blogs? I’d say not.

      One of the things I’ve struggled with as an alleged travel blogger is my own journey – because I’ve always felt that travel bloggers have to be going somewhere, physically as well as metaphorically. Not just travelling as much as they can, but having a compelling story behind that travel. Some folk manufacture these stories – take Chris Guillebeau’s aim to hit all the countries of the world, which I think he’s about to succeed at in a few months, incredibly…

      When bloggers tell stories and at the same time *are* stories, that’s when people get insanely invested in their work. They want to see what happens next. And for the blogger? Owning their own story…well, who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t want to feel they’re on their own unique journey?

      That’s the thrill of Why, for me. :) Maybe, just maybe, it unlocks everything.

  • http://www.unbravegirl.com Sally

    I originally started blogging as I ways to keep in touch with family and friends when I first moved to Japan. This was before Facebook. And I didn’t want to do the blast-everyone-with-super-long-emails-about-my-lunch thing, so instead I started writing super long blog posts about my lunch.
    When I first started, I hadn’t read any other blogs. I had no idea blogging was this thing that people took seriously. I didn’t know people could make money off of it or get book deals or, heck, even get random people off the Internet to read their stuff. I had no idea there was a “right” or “wrong” way to do it. I didn’t even know that you could find out how many people were (or were not) reading your blog.
    And thank god I didn’t as I think I would have been way too discouraged by how unpopular my blog truly was and by how totally wrong I was doing everything.
    By the time I actually started reading other blogs and getting involved in the whole blogging community thing, I had already been blogging for 3 years and had gained a small outside of audience of people who read my stuff and enjoyed it and not just because they were directly related to me. That combined with the fact that I just really enjoyed writing again kept me going.

    • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

      (It’s worrying how much the phrase “before Facebook” startles me. Because yes, Mike, there was an Internet before Facebook. See: MySpace, LiveJournal, Geocities, ICQ).

      What do you feel your reasons for blogging have evolved into, then? Is your blog still something you do primarily for the Yay of it all, with some side benefits involving community? Is there something special/unusual you’d love the chance to be able to do with your blog, something you haven’t yet done? Or is there something you have done that you’d like to take much further?

      #SoManyQuestions

      • http://www.unbravegirl.com Sally

        Is “Just keep on writing funny stories until an agent/publisher/SOMEONE PLEASE GOD SOMEONE says ‘Hey, wanna book deal?'” a valid answer?
        Probably not.
        But that’s okay. I’m cool with invalid answers.

        • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

          When you don’t have that book deal yet is a continual mystery to me. What the hell are those agents & publishers playing at? SLACKERS.

          …I think you should hurry them along somehow.

  • http://www.groundedtraveler.com Andrew

    Blogs are my creative outlet. The bubbling creative juices that flow and scream in my head need an outlet. Apparently for me, “work” is not an appropriate outlet for such things. It is not creative enough. So the blogs grew to be a way of expressing myself and expounding on what I was going through trying to fight fear and bring creativity to light. That purpose has been lost and found several times. The dazzle lights of the blog-for-business’rs gets to me sometimes too. I like blogging and being a part of the world, but I still want it to be able to stimulate the creative flow that helps me feel alive and purposeful in the world.
    Yup, got to get back to doing that. I know that this is the purpose of the blog because when I am jsut so exhausted that there is NO MORE creativity left, the blogging is impossible. Not that I don’t have the energy to write. I often do, I just don’t feel like I have anything to write about.

    • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mikeachim

      Thanks for your thoughts, Andrew…

      So do you see a general disconnect between creativity and business blogging? Are there any sites or writers that seem to you to be combining the two successfully in a way that’s professional and experimental/playful at the same time?

      Presumably when you say “creative outlet” you have a particular style in mind, or a format, or a level of informality of expression?

      I guess what I’m really asking is – how would you define “creative” as opposed to “business”?

  • http://www.carolineinthecityblog.com Caroline EUbanks

    I would say that my blog was “average” for the first 2+ years. Sure, people read it, but it didn’t have any compelling content and I had no regularity or theme to posting. But that’s what happens when you start it out of boredom.

  • http://www.bethkujawski.com Beth

    Heh. I started my blog the day that I sent around an email to a group of friends to tell them about a book I’d just read and loved and wanted them to know about and one of those friends replied with “You need a blog, woman!”

    Until that day, I thought I had to create my own web site. When Jeff told me about Blogger, I was off to the races.

    That was in 2005.

    I’ve been blathering ever since.

    I keep thinking I should monetize my blog, but all the blogs I visit that make money from advertising are so ugly and cluttered. And my traffic has always been so “meh” that it didn’t seem worth it to bug my visitors with cluttery ads.

    But I shall read this series of posts with extra interest and see what I can glean from you.

  • http://fourbackpacks.com Melissa Harris

    I have started a blog and I started the blog back in August of 2012 because my family and I had/have a dream to travel the world and this August 2013 was the year to take off. I wanted to let others know what we were doing and how we were doing it. I also wanted to reach out to other travel bloggers to learn about their experiences and meet new people that one day we might be able to hook up with. In December of 2012 we hit hard times. Our house’s foundation needed a lot of repair and with it came many plumbing issues that we are still dealing with today. We are waiting on insurance to let us know if they are going to help and the waiting has been difficult. I have lost the drive to blog as I have no idea what to blog about, as it seems we will be waiting another year before we take off. Thanks for writing this article, it has helped me to see that my blog could branch out beyond the “how to” travel and become more about general life and our life getting ready for this journey and our day to day experiences. I have some new inspiration. Looking forward to posting again soon!

  • Katherina

    I started to blog in 2010 as some sort of distraction. I was living abroad and had just ended a relationship – I was feeling lost and without knowing much about myself. I wasn’t the type of person that analyzed life’s successes and failures… But I wanted to become one. Blogging helped me (and still does) to clarify the clutter in my head and think clearer.

    The other big reason was, of course, to practice my written english – which occasionally continues to be challenging. The day I can perfectly express my thoughts in my second language without the use of a dictionary… Will be a won battle!

  • http://www.candaceroserardon.com Candace

    Thank you for being the pen-ninja that you are, my friend! This is awesome, and I’m loving all your thoughts recently about blogging and our stories-in-development as being just as compelling as a novel. Looking forward to your next instalment :)

  • http://midlifewanderlust1965.wordpress.com Steve Whitty

    My current blog is the third attempt at blogging. The reason I am sticking to this one because it is subject related. The other two were about myself. The problem I found that I would struggle to find subjects to write about. What I have found with my current blog is that I schedule time to make write regular posts. This has been useful.

  • http://www.mybeautifuladventures.com Andi of My Beautiful Adventures

    I started because I simply wanted to share my travel stories and photos with friends and family, I had no idea it would actually turn into a business! Thankfully, I’m a quick learner!!

  • http://www.blueabaya.blogspot.com Layla

    When I moved to work as a nurse in Saudi-Arabia from Finland I first started to write only to my family. That project soon became impossible to keep up, simply because my life was so hectic and there was no time to write..A few years after life had calmed down and I had gotten over the culture shock, I began again with a different purpose.
    I was also clueless about a “blogosphere” did not even know what that meant :)
    Honestly I didn’t think many people would read my stuff and I’ve been surprised to see people coming to read from all over the world..Hearing the feedback and how people have benefited from my work has given me so much motivation to keep going!

  • http://www.reasonstogonorth.com Alvina

    So, my late reply means that ‘it’s all been said before’. I started because I like to write. Loved to write when I was younger. Always kept journals. Went on a course and thought ‘why not try’. Subject and content..problem. Entertain? Inform? Bit of both? I had just moved back to Cumbria and am an enthusiastic, very amateur photographer, and I walk. So my blog grew from there. And it is read. Not widely but it is growing. I would like to widen my subject range but not sure if to just expand the current site or start another.

    Realised that for a short while I was becoming obsessed with the success of other bloggers with similar themes. Then I hit on the idea that my ‘age’ – 50ish… should not be a hindrance but a USP. Changed my promotion tactics a bit and now much of my readership comes via Saga, and ‘stay at home mums’ who can not get out and do the ‘stuff’ that a once single mum with grown up son in NYC can do.

  • http://ephemerratic.com Lauren, Ephemerratic

    I started to blog back in ’05-06 in order to learn HTML and CSS. I putzed around with blogger, writing about food, travel, and a little politics. But mostly banging my head against code until I won.

    Then I picked up blogging again in ’08 when heading off on a year-long RTW trip. Primarily, I blogged to practice storytelling — I’d been in the same nonprofit communications job for 4+ years and found that my voice had become dry and professional. I wanted to rediscover my personal voice and practice the surprisingly difficult craft of storytelling.

    Expected bonus was I had a way to share my stories with my friends and family back home. Unexpected bonus is I met people through the blog and social media that I then connected with in real life on the road.

    I stopped blogging for a while (more than a year) because I had fallen behind on my RTW stories, and the idea of “finishing” them was daunting. My friends would ask, “When are you going to get to the Philippines?” and I’d only think about all the other countries that came before and after that.

    Plus, I got a profitable consulting gig going strong, and was suddenly getting paid well to write. It was — and is — hard to prioritize personally gratifying writing that doesn’t pay over writing that pays me really, really well, but may be less personally rewarding.

    Add onto that that my mom isn’t well and now most of my travel is to NY to visit, and I’m more than a little distracted by all that (but don’t feel like writing about it as a subject).

    And so here I am, blogging in fits and starts as my schedule and emotional condition allows.

    I tell myself that the important thing is that I keep coming back to writing, even if I leave it for a while.

  • http://www,yourtravelwriter.blogspot.com Margaret Piton

    I’ve had this blog since 2006, but didn’t know what to do with it for a long time. I was used to getting paid for writing, and couldn’t see the point of writing for free. However, I’m finding it a lot harder now to get paid anything decent for writing, especially about travel.
    I do enjoy writing, and find the blog is good discipline. I’ve started posting to it more regularly and have been gaining viewers slowly. The topic is budget travel, similar to a column I used to write for a major daily newspaper.
    My blog is hampered by the fact that it’s not set up for Facebook, Twitter etc. Actually, I’m on all these things but my blog isn’t.
    Anyway, for the moment I’m carrying on blogging, every other day or so. It’s a way to contribute, I suppose, as much as anything.

  • http://wanderoneday.com Jen@WanderOneDay

    This is my third attempt at blogging. My previous blogs were about cooking and personal finance – both are topics I enjoy doing on my own time, but they weren’t topics that I was passionate about. I didn’t want to go through the long process of making a delicious meal and writing a post about it when I knew I still had that pile of dishes to do.

    But my current blog, WanderOneDay.com, is all about my PASSION in life: traveling. I love to see new things and explore new places (locally and internationally), and I’m enthusiastic enough about it to want to share it with everyone.

    Additionally, I can use my current blog as an outlet for my other creative pursuits as well, all while sticking to the main theme of “traveling”. I can post a sketch I drew of a tropical beach in St. Kitts, or I can write a poem about daydreaming of faraway lands while the snow falls outside my window. Neither of those examples would have fit into either of my former blogs.

    Plus, unlike the travel bloggers who are long-term round-the-world travelers, I have to spend most of my time at home, at work, etc. I use this time to plan my future adventures, which serves two purposes. It gives me topics to blog about while I’m not actively traveling, and it helps me to organize my thoughts and get feedback from global travelers so my planning process is actually easier than ever before!

  • http://holeinthedonut.com Barbara Weibel

    I can relate to this post, Mike. It took me about three years to find my way and figure out what I was doing. And I regularly have to reassess to make sure I’m on track – it’s so easy to wander.

  • http://awayfromtenerife.blogspot.com Irene

    I had pretty much the same experience as you. I started blogging in 2006 and I’ve had several blogs ever since but all of them ended one way or another. For many of them I didn’t know indeed why I was putting them together so eventually i gave them up as they didn’t really mean anthing to me. Just one of them had a “natural death”, if there’s such a thing for a blog. It was about my experiences as exchange student in Antwerp and as I really enjoyed I tried to carry on once I was back home but it didn’t make sense anymore so I just shut it down.
    Despite a few blogging failures I started my current blog las summer and this time I’m really enjoying and I think that it’s because I found the why in my blogging, just like you suggest. I don’t want to write the most informative posts, I don’t need to be featured anywhere and I don’t care that much about pageviews and comments, though appretiation is always nice. This time I blog for myself, to put some memories together, to have a nice collection of my own photographs and to share something I’m passionate about: travelling! If people read it and like it, it’s a bonus!

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    The other day I found my livejournal from high school. It was awesome.

    I think too many people go into this field thinking it’s easy to succeed. And there’s no real measure of success. Dedication? Money? Followers? It’s terribly frustrating. I don’t know how people like you aren’t the most famous on the Interwebs. I blame cats.

  • http://sotcblog.com Britany (@britseeingstars)

    I actually started my blog as part of my grad school thesis. (That’s right, I went to art school. You can get away with starting a blog as a thesis, and also leaving the country and handing it in three months late on account of necessary travel research.) I discovered that I loved blogging and it gave me a desperately needed creative outlet when my writing “jobs” were forcing me to crank out crap. I’m now spending 6 months in South America in an attempt to take my blog to the next level, but you’re right, I’m not entirely sure what that next level is or how I’m going to get there. I’m just going to keep doing it until I don’t love it anymore and if nothing else, at least I’ll have captured my experiences with travel to reflect back on, or show my kids, or something like that…

  • http://world-traveller.me/ World Traveller

    One thing that’s really rewarding is seeing people post meaningful & interesting comments. It’s a confirmation that people are visiting, reading & engaging – it’s positive juice & energy to carry on, to make that next post. And the one after that.

    The benefit to the person posting is that they get to include one or more dofollow links to their website & chosen posts when commenting on a CommentLuv enabled post. It’s win win for both parties.

    So what are you waiting for? Check out some CommentLuv enabled websites and post a comment. Post a comment on several posts if you want – it’s all good karma and you’ve got nothing to lose.

  • http://Everything-Everywhere.com Gary Arndt

    I made a decision in December 2007, after I had been traveling for 9 months, to take my blog seriously. I spent 2 weeks in Hong Kong reading, studying travel magazines and developing a strategy for what I was going to do.

    One of the conclusions I came to was that if I just didn’t quit, I would eventually be successful. I had no particular definition of “success”, but I knew the key was not giving up. Even back in 2007, there were dozens of abandoned travel blogs. Blogs that people updated when they were on a trip and then quickly forgot about once the trip was over.

    There is a great deal of truth in the Woody Allen quote, “80 percent of success is just showing up”.

    I think the reason people give up is two fold:

    First, people expect immediate success. I’ve seen many bloggers get frustrated that they haven’t made it big after 6 months of blogging. It takes years….plural. If you can’t stick with it for several years, toiling in obscurity, you aren’t going to make it big. People give up too soon and abandon their blog.

    I’ve talked to Robert Scoble about this very issue. He uses the analogy of the man who tricked a king by asking for a reward of 1 grain of rice and then doubling the amount of rice he got every day for a month. The king agreed because it seemed like so little, but by the end of the month he had lost everything. It takes time before you start to see traction. Many blogs take 5 years before they take off.

    Building an audience takes time. Lots of time.

    The second reason people give up is discipline. Updating on a consistent basis is hard to do. I’ve gone several weeks at a time without writing a blog post. However, I have always managed to post a photo to my site every single day for over 5 years. I knew from the beginning that this would be a way for me to consistently deliver content without having to do work every day. With photography, I could front load the work, and the daily part would be easy.

    I’ve also kept up with traveling. My 2 year trip is now in its 6th year. The longer I keep traveling, the more interested people are in what I’m doing.

    Discipline and patience aren’t everything that is required to have success, but if you don’t have them, nothing else is probably going to help you.

  • http://www.eyeandpen.com Brandon Elijah Scott

    Great subject to post on mate

  • http://www.anamericaninbudapest.com Phil Done

    Thanks so much for this post! I just started blogging a couple of months ago, and will try very hard NOT to be in the 95%. Wow, I didn’t know the drop-out rate was SO high. I look forward to reading more of your posts. Many thanks, Phil Done http://www.anamericaninbudapest.com

  • http://www.wanderingchronicles.com Angela Rutherford

    I just started my blog, Wandering Chronicles, in January of this year. In my quest for something meaningful, I aim to combine my work experience with my desire to travel, my curiosity to learn and my passion to help others and make a contribution for positive change. This blog is one step in that direction. It allows me the opportunity to relive some of my favorite moments, while sharing with readers the priceless knowledge that I have gained along the way. From tips on where to stay, what to do and where to eat based on my wanderings, I also aim to promote responsible tourism. I have become more aware of environmental and humanitarian issues while wandering and hope to impart some of that wisdom…

  • http://www.vespaadventures.blogspot.co.uk/ Beth

    I started blogging because my sister told me to. I’d just moved to Ireland from the US and was complaining about the number of times I’d written the same email to family + friends back home: have a house, have a job, not dead, learned how to hold my pint, all good here.

    But she did rather rightly point out that I was doing something interesting with my life and that people wanted to know about it. So I blogged my life in a foreign country. And when I moved from that foreign country after 4 years, it was a natural close to the blog. So I stopped writing it.

    I’ve kept journals and written letters to friends for the larger part of my life, so writing and publishing wasn’t anything that ever really frightened me. Then again, my career choice requires the ability to stand up to bitter + unfair criticism daily. Blogging was more free for me, because no one could answer back. What I did, what I saw, what I experienced, it was all mine and I was merely documenting it for my future senile self.

    I miss writing. I miss having things to write about, which is why I think I turned to fiction. When life isn’t as interesting as I’d I like, I just make it up instead.

  • http://confessions-of-a-nomad.com Veronica

    My life is a little bit unusual, I do a lot of travelling and don’t have a home, so I thought it would be fun to document my life through pictures and stories. Also I was feeling a bit down at the time and thought it would be a great distraction. To try something different. Turns out it’s been great fun and such a fantastic way to channel my creative side. If not for the blog it would be pretty non-existant!
    I’m glad I found your blog, i look forward to exploring it more :).

  • http://wpsites.net Brad Dalton

    One of the reasons bloggers give up is because they become frustrated by the technical side of things and don’t like the look of their blog.

    They find customization too hard and the frustration builds to the point where they simply throw in the towel and give it.

  • http://pickingupastitch.blogspot.ca Sarca Sim

    I started writing my blog back in September 2012. It was about knitting. At the time I had just repaired my grandmother’s 30 year-old afghan and I wanted to document the process. I’d later document other projects I was working on, but by the end of November the conversation about what I was knitting at the time got repetative. Not to mention, my audience for a knitting blog was very very very small. So, I sort of got burned out on it. I didn’t even look at the darn thing for months.Throw forward to April 2013, and I decided to read my own material again. And then, there came inspiration. I did the “mea culpa” blog entry and said the blog is now about what I’m into now – not just knitting. “You’re welcome to follow me on my journey…” And since, blogging has gone a lot better. My audience is still very small, but I have to be me first. I’ve always kept journals growing up, and just feel I have to write what is on my mind. A wee part of me wishes for a bigger reach, but I am not going to sell my soul for it. It got me in a rut the first time.

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  • http://spinksytravelworld.com Paul

    Coincidently, I have just started a travel blog and came across this post while researching how other blogs are presented. I recently began travel writing and, while I had a couple of articles published, I thought a blog could be an alternative way to present work. At this stage I’m still learning about WordPress etc and would genuinely appreciate feeback from other bloggers. I had some trouble finding a domain name so just went with a variation of my surname, which could read like a travel agency:). spinksytravelworld.com The theme is temporary (spent two days writing one post I thought would take a couple of hours and wonder if the theme didn’t like the length of the post and the number of images). But in the end it’s the content that matters. Though, apart from friends and family, I don’t really know if it’s being read. I guess true blogging, like love, is unconditional – hey, maybe I can use that as my tagline! Thanks for your post

  • http://www.backpackingdiplomacy.com Andy

    Interesting perspective on why bloggers give up. I’d agree and say that the majority have no vision or just want to make a website, which can be fun to do informally. I think that it depends entirely on the person and the potential outcome that they seek.

  • http://gohomeandaway.wordpress.com/ Anna

    I am still figuring out the identity of my blog, but at one point I was so focused on the WHY that I spent my first year in Russia NOT blogging (despite deciding to do it before I moved) because I didnt have a good WHY, and the WHAT that I planned on producing has already been done before and by many people and well.

    The first 4 months were touch and go. The last 3 I had actually committed to an editorial calendar and (as I also dabble in fiction writing and often those story lines and characters take a life of their own), have been letting the blog find its own path while it’s still a literary infant.

    What it’s looking like so far: a hybrid expat-travel blog with a broader sociocultural component that is not always country-specific. End goal? Stanley Karnow’s ‘Paris in the 50’s.’ Well, something to aspire to, at least ;-)

  • http://israeltomorrow.blogspot.co.il/ Ami

    Blogging seems to be more about changing media (i.e. digital, virtual, personal, etc.) than anything else. Even people who have been writing for years, as into newspapers op-ed pages, are not taking up blogging. In accepting any form of new media format, there is not going to be fast or smooth acceptance. That’s probably more human nature, we want to say as we are, or as our parents were… than anything else. I guess it takes time to see it, I have been doing this for close to 10 years, and just started to notice how people behave and how their work affects them and their business. Nice article and good comments overall!

  • http://smallestminority.blogspot.com Kevin Baker

    I came to this post by a link from GoodShit.

    I started writing on the internet at a site called Themestream, which was a commercial venture and probably one of the first (and only) massively-multiplayer blogs ever. Their business model was to have people write whatever they wanted, and pay the authors by the number of hits their pieces got. Then they’d try to sell the most popular ones to print publications. Predictably, it failed.

    After it failed, I wandered around a bit on some of the message boards, and through them I discovered REAL blogging. I started blogging in May of 2003, so I’ve been at it for a bit over ten years now.

    My impetus for writing was anger and frustration. I’m an advocate. My advocacy is individual rights in general, with specific emphasis on the right to arms. I was tired of seeing lies in the media with no way to respond other than letters-to-the-editor that – even if they were printed – would be cut down to 800 or less words that didn’t say what I intended. Blogging gave me an outlet to respond.

    It also introduced me to a whole world of like-minded people I’d never have met (in both cyberspace and meatspace) otherwise.

    So after 10.5+ years of blogging, I’ve posted 6253 times, or an average of about 1.6 posts a day. There have been a few periods where I’ve taken hiatus for a few days or even a couple of weeks, but I always come back to it.

    The blog draws (according to Sitemeter) about 1000 hits a day and has for the last few years. I post because it’s cathartic. I post because I have a dedicated readership of some damned fine and intelligent people who have interesting things to say. I post, I guess, because I’m driven to. I look at what’s going on in the world and can’t NOT shout “Don’t you people see what’s going ON?”

  • http://thebritishberliner.wordpress.com Victoria

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks so much for this post. I can so relate. I originally had a travel blog for purely travel and I didn’t expect anyone but friends and family to read it. I had never heard of bloggers. I used it as a sort of travel diary. Moreover, I only updated it whenever I travelled and only then. However, when I got married it proved too difficult as I was supposed to be spending quality time with my husband and son and not spending hours writing unlike when I was still in the dating stage….

    Recently, I started a completely different blog because I like writing – a lifestyle expat blog – which enables me to write about the international city that I live in and at the same time, what I am doing. I’ve just started it. I’m only six weeks in and other bloggers have been enormously supportive, and very helpful.

  • http://www.travellingforfun.com Ross

    I didnt know the dropoff rate was so high. I am where you say though that I am blogging but havent found my niche yet. I dont intend giving up yet though!

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  • http://groundtoground.org Shane

    That is interesting, and frustrating for me, because I’m looking for bloggers that don’t want the hassle/pressure of running their own site and instead join mine as a ongoing author.

    Not guest bloggers (been there, done that), but real people that write like average and are genuinely passionate about the kinds of topics that I have on my site. You know, like gardening, eating insects, raising chickens, love of the soil, and the occasional Haiku. What else could you possibly think are better than those topics, hey?

    Nearly half a million hits in 4 years is a decent effort, hey it might even be something of interest to people visiting this fine post.

    So if there are that many ex-bloggers out there, why is it so difficult to find a few from all those millions that gave up their own sites?

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