When you start a blog, it's all about fun. You take what you're passionate about, you write about it. Hopefully people read it. Simples, as the meerkat would say.
And then you start to get a bit blog-proud. You want a better design, a logo, maybe your own domain name. You want more readers so you start swotting up on how to get them. Before you know it you've got a Facebook page, a Twitter account, Instagram and Pinterest. You're joining forums and Facebook groups left, right, and centre, taking part in link shares, follow shares, and every share you can find. You worry whether you're posting about the right things, whether you're posting often enough, and whether your posts are good enough. And that's just the beginning.
The more you find out, the more there is to learn. You see bloggers talking in a foreign language about 'stats', 'DA', and 'Moz'. They tell you to look at Google Analytics but when you do it seems to open up a whole new can of worms. Your days seem to shorten as you try to squeeze in the sisyphean task that is blogging - flitting between doing, writing, posting, sharing, tweeting, analysing, all the time worrying that you're just not feeding the beast enough. At the same time, everyone else seems to make it look so easy. Their Instagram pictures are beautiful, they seem to have an endless run of blog posts, and their domain authority is double yours. It's easy to get overwhelmed, and to wonder how this fun thing you started has turned into an insatiable monster that you just can't sustain.
You suffer in silence for a while. Nobody likes to admit defeat. If everyone else can manage, why can't you? You mull on it for a while, and then you realise you're not actually alone. Plenty of people are struggling, and they are all sharing their handy ways of dealing with the greedy appetite of their blog.
Turns out, it's not necessarily about having more time - good job really, since that sort of flies in the face of the laws of physics. No, as much as we'd like extra hours in the day, they're not something we're going to get anytime soon. So it's a case of making the time you do have go further, using it more efficiently, being more 'blog-savvy'.
So, what can you do to feed your blogging beast? Here's a few things I've learned through my own experience plus a good few months of watching other people and getting some tips from some far better bloggers than me:-
Plan your posts
Start planning - whether it's using a digital calendar, a workflow programme, or an old-fashioned paper and pen planner. Somewhere you can plan what you're going to post when, note down ideas, and plan some kind of strategy to your posts. Of course this can change, you might have a great idea that is particularly timely or trumps your other posts, but once you've got a plan you can adapt and change it.
Try and get a few posts ahead if you can
There's nothing like that horrible feeling that you planned to post on a Monday morning and you still haven't written it on Sunday night. The manic tapping away into the small hours that makes it feel like a chore rather than something you're doing for the love of it. I've found that even just being a post or two ahead, or maybe just having one or two in the 'bank' for when life suddenly takes over, gives you that bit of breathing space and keeps your blog's appetite at bay until you've got time to feed it again.
Be realistic in the frequency of your posts
From what I've seen, consistency is key. Which means it's all well and good posting five times in one week, but not that great if you're not going to be able to keep that up. Think about your lifestyle and about how many posts you can realistically get written and published on a regular basis. If that's once a week, but it's each and every week without fail, then stick to that. Better than five times one week then none for the next three.
There's more to blogging than the writing
There's that famous philosophical question about a tree falling in a forest and whether, if nobody's around to hear it, it makes a sound. In my head, blogging is a bit like that. It's all well and good putting hours of time into your posts, but what's the point if nobody's reading them? I say this as someone who has a pretty small readership and is having to force myself to be patient about the amount of time it takes to grow a following, so I definitely haven't got all the answers. But the more I read, look at others, and chat with other bloggers, I have realised that the writing of the posts is a relatively small part of it. Getting your blog out there, telling people about it on various social media channels, building relationships with fellow bloggers, interacting in various blogging communities, they're all so important. But it's also more work, which is why you need to remember this when you're planning your blogging, looking at the realistic frequency of your posts etc.
Get into scheduling
I spent a while wondering how people managed to find time not only to post, but to tweet their blog, to update Facebook pages, to post pretty pictures on Instagram - especially in the middle of the day when we're all at our busiest. Then I learned about scheduling. Turns out there's bucketloads of tools you can use to schedule blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts. Everything. So instead of tweeting every second you can squeeze it in - while you're eating your breakfast, sitting on the loo, dashing into a meeting, playing with your kids - you can sit down and have a little blitz, then be safe in the knowledge that you're promoting your blog as much as you wanted to, with the minimum amount of stress. I've tried Hootsuite and Buffer and I'm still playing around, but there's loads out there.
Don't be scared to take time out
Yes, it's good to try and be consistent, and all the tips above should help. But sometimes life really does get in the way - someone gets ill, you move house, work gets mad, your children need you. And at these times, it's really important to remember that the world won't end if your blog goes quiet for a bit. Maybe you'll lose a few readers, maybe you won't. But sometimes there's just other stuff that's more important. So don't beat yourself up, if it's getting too much, it's okay to take a break.
Of course, there are loads more ways to maximise your time, to help you feed your blogging beast. But I'm hoping this post will be some kind of light at the end of the tunnel for people who may have found themselves in the predicament I found myself in - whose blogs had morphed from a cute little Gizmo into a scary Gremlin. Because trust me, it doesn't have to be that way.