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Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre: Changing Pace on Your Blog

Do you ever feel that you need to take a break from your own blog?

That you need to carve out a bit of breathing space for yourself?

It might be because you’re going away for a few weeks, or you know you’re going to be busy with other things, or perhaps without a wireless connection for a while.

Or maybe you’ve just got jaded with your blog and need a bit of time out, some breathing space, to help you take stock and work out which direction you want to go in when (or maybe even if) you’re ready to get going again.

The good news is you’re not alone.

I think this has happened to all of us at some time or another.

But how do you go about managing those periods of time when you need to disappear from your own blog - without losing  your readers when you go?

I was thinking about this question from Bo at Seeded Earth over the weekend:

How to keep a blog going for several weeks while your routine is off. My blog isn’t the kind to have guest visitors. It’s just a friendly, little photoblog–nothing fancy. But I have my followers and hate to just shut down for the time I’m gone.

The answer that came to mind was that old driving rote: mirror, signal, manoeuvre Always Check Your Mirrors by Ross2085 on flickr 1. Look in the Mirror

Take stock of the reasons why you need to take a break, alter your pace, or change the direction of your blog.  That will help you work out how much time you might need away, and how best to explain it to your readers.

It’ll also help you make the most of the time out, and give you the thinking time you need (if it’s creative space you’re after, rather than an enforced absence because of a holiday or lack of internet connection.)

Explore your options for covering the period when you’re away.  (This really applies to a holiday or business break rather than taking a break because you’re tired of blogging and need a rest.)

Options include:

Invite guest authors in

This is a way of offering interesting content while you’re gone, as well as opening  up your blog to a wider range of voices and ideas.

It works well if you know other bloggers who are also readers of your blog: people you can approach with confidence, partly because you know they’ll understand and respect the mood, tone, theme and feel of the place you’ve created.

Your readers will probably value the additional content that’s on offer when you’re away… though watch that you don’t overdo it.

Readers can switch off if they feel they’re losing the sense of connection and rapport with the main blogger/ editor, and are needing to adjust to a lot of different voices.

Schedule Posts

It’s perfectly feasible to cover two or three weeks of an absence with a series of scheduled posts, that you set up to be published when you’re away.

Some people blog like this anyway: writing posts in a batch for a week or two ahead. If you’re finding it hard to think of enough ideas for half a dozen or so posts at once, look for ways to make it easy on yourself.

How about some short and simple posts, perhaps some quotes on a relevant topic?  Or highlight some pieces that you’ve already written and are hiding away in your archives.

But pay attention to your mood as you prepare these.

If you find you’re starting to gather material just for the sake of having a post to fill an empty day, ask yourself if  you really need to publish, or if you’re just doing it for the sake of it. What would your readers really prefer?

A ‘just for the sake of it’ post from you, even when they can sense you’re not there (because believe me, they will), or a few days without hearing from you for a while, followed by something good on your return?

The other caveat I’d add is a bit harder to define - when I’ve scheduled a few posts when I’ve been away I’ve found myself feeling a bit detached and ‘outside’ of my own blog.

Perhaps that is inevitably so, and perhaps it’s no bad thing, but it can be a strange feeling, and can make it harder to work out how to get back into it when you’re ready to rejoin the blogging swing of things.

Do nothing

Just take the break and trust your readers will still be there when you get back.

(Don’t forget to tell them that you’re going though… see below.)

2. Signal

Before you make a change, tell your readers what you’re doing.

And tell them why: they’re your readers, followers, friends after all. Explain to them why you need to slow things down, or make a change in pace.

They’re your readers, which means chances are they’ll understand, and just look forward to the time you come back.

And if you’re worried about what they’ll think, or how they’ll react, ask yourself: how many times have you unsubscribed from a blog because the author wasn’t blogging enough?

No, I didn’t think so ;-)

3. Manoeuvre

When you’ve worked out what you’re going to do, execute the manoeuvre.

No guilt, and no apologies. Just do it… and remember: it’s your blog.

~~~

What techniques do you use when you need a few weeks or more away from your blog? What do you find has… or hasn’t… worked?

Have you seen bloggers using other tactics that you’d recommend to someone like  Bo who needed a few weeks away?

~~~

Photo Credit: Always Check your Mirrors by Ross2085 on Flickr

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Comments

  1. Iain Broome
    Twitter: iainbroome
    says:

    Interesting and apt post, this. I’ve not been able to post consistently for about six weeks now, because of un-get-outable commitments (three weddings in a month!). I have been a bit worried that it would annoy my readers, especially as it’s a relatively new blog.

    However, it doesn’t seem to have had much of an effect at all. My tactic was to be open and up front in my very first post, where I asked readers not to panic if I didn’t post something for a week or two. I think if you’re straight with people, they’ll understand and appreciate what you’re doing.

    That said, this post makes me think I should perhaps put my message in my ‘about’ page too.

    Iain Broomes last blog post..Recommended reading for writers - March 2009

  2. Brad Shorr says:

    Hi Joanna, It’s hard to argue with your advice. A very small point I might add … it might be a good idea to display a particular image to your blog, in a post or otherwise placed, that conveys the idea you are on break. When I’m off for whatever reason, I like to use a photo of a man asleep on his couch. Sometimes visual images make a stronger impression on readers than words alone.

    As a side note, I’m not sure if you had a chance to experience rush hour driving in Chicago when you visited, but many of us drivers could apply your advice literally. We tend to maneuver first, and maybe check the mirror later (to see if anybody got hurt). :)

  3. Ulla Hennig
    Twitter: ullahe
    says:

    Joanna,
    I will be leaving Berlin for one week in June, and I thought about scheduling posts, together with telling my readership that I won’t be able to comment on the comments. I will be off to Baltic countries with a cousin of mine who is not very internet-minded. So there won’t be any visiting of Internet cafés in order to look what’s going on during my absence. Funny feeling, that!

    Ulla Hennigs last blog post..How to Combine Flickr and Blogging, Part II

  4. carla says:

    I think scheduling posts and having guest posters is a great idea. I know I need to probably do this more often - especially since I may need to take some time away from the blog.

    carlas last blog post..Eco Fashion: Consignment

  5. Miguel Wickert says:

    Joanna,

    Ye yes, I’m all about doing nothing, just kidding but I love getting out doors for long run, getting in the gym and just recently, swimming! :) My aim is for my blog is for it to be a place where blogging and living jibe. Batch processing is an effective method for me as a blogger. I’ve learned to apply it in other areas of my life.

    Warning ones readers is good thing, but surprises can be fun as well. I’m all for being transparent, when I fail, I’ll share it. :) I want to start having guest authors. Scheduling posts in advance can’t be overemphasized. A solid habit to build as a blogger. Let it pour into other aspects of your life. When we live what we write about, it carries more weight. Thanks again, for commenting at the site. Hope you had a fun, productive Monday.

    -Mig

    Miguel Wickerts last blog post..5 Blogs That Will Jump Start Your Life & Blogging

  6. --Deb says:

    It all makes perfect sense, and the analogy was spot on.

    I agree that the Signalling is absolutely vital. I don’t begrudge any of my favorite bloggers a break once in a while, but I at least like to know that they’re taking one, and approximately how long they’ll be gone … otherwise I start to worry that they’ve been hit by a bus or something.

    Enjoy your break, Joanna!

    -Debs last blog post..Internal Entertainment

  7. Tom - StandOutBlogger.com says:

    Planning for a break is the best option. I burnt out a couple of months ago and practically abandoned my blog, and am now facing a long uphill battle to bring it back to the level it was when I first stopped!

    Tom - StandOutBlogger.coms last blog post..Free Niche Blog Idea: CAKES (Traffic & Search Stats Inc)

  8. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Iain it’s tricky, the classic blogging advice is that you need to blog a lot in the early days, partly to create enough content on your site, but to be honest I think that most people reading blogs are so overloaded they are happier when people take time off and blog less than they are the other way round. There are several conundrums in there I know… but that’s pretty much the way that it is.

    Brad that particular image is very powerful - I can see it in my mind now, and I remember laughing out loud the first time I saw you posting it. I suppose my only question would be this - that kind of image works well for regular visitors, but I wonder if a different one would work better for a new or casual visitor, to try and tempt them in to rummage through your archives when you were away?

    Re Chicago driving: fortunately not. I focused all my attentions on walking across the roads without incident :-)

    Ulla it is a bit of strange feeling isn’t it, to know that people are visiting and maybe commenting when we’re not there. Actually, I think it’s the responding to comments bit that I find the hardest to switch off from. Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful break and I look forward to photos, words, paintings, poems from the trip…

    carla I think it’s one of those times when it’s good to think of our role as editor as much as writer or content producer - what can be done to manage the experience for the readers over the time when this person is away (even if that person is you!)

  9. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Mig I’m quite tempted by the do nothing option too… though also pleased to have such a great set of guest posts lined up. It’s a constant jugglig act isn’t it… sometimes I wonder if we’re a bit fearful of silence, which is why we need to keep posting and tweeting… The batch processing works well doesn’t it? I love it when I get all my posts done on a Sunday and I can then switch my brain off blogging mode for the week. Otherwise I find the ideas for drafts get in the way of other things I’m doing

    -Deb signalling works for me too… after all, the blogs we read regularly are people we’ve got to know and care about. If their voice suddenly disappears we’re going to wonder why

    Tom I’m glad you’re managing to tiptoe your way back into your blogging without abandoning it… you’re right, we do need to pace ourselves, and keep the balance right so blogging remains enjoyable and energising, not something that drags us down (though it’s easy to see how that can happen)

  10. Conor
    Twitter: ebbstachio
    says:

    Hi Joanna,

    Taking a break, changing the pace, allowing yourself to breathe….they all conjure up images of refreshment, rejuvenation and renewal.

    How could an avid reader of your blog POSSIBLY leave now? The inspiration and energy you will get on this retreat will be worth it’s weight in gold for your future posts :)

    Enjoy!

    Conor

  11. Tumblemoose says:

    Joanna,

    I like the methodology. Letting folks know in advance what’s up is really the key here. I also like “no apologies”.

    George

    Tumblemooses last blog post..Vanity Plate E-Book

  12. Melissa Donovan says:

    Oh yes, I know the feeling - wanting to take a break from it all. However, once I look in the rear-view mirror, that feeling usually goes away. Reading through the archives usually gives me new ideas and ignites my interest again. Sometimes, however, I will slow down my posting schedule. I’d rather do one or two solid posts a week than three to five half-baked ones.

    Melissa Donovans last blog post..One of the Best Websites for Writers

  13. Brad Shorr says:

    Joanna, In the future, I think I’d put a more serious image somewhere on the sidebar, with a short caption that I’m away and the brilliant Joanna Young will be filling in for me.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Thank You, Word Sell Commenters

  14. SueC says:

    I was planning to invite guest bloggers, I’m so glad I found your post. There are plenty of good writers with info to share, but I also don’t find any big problems with just posting infrequently. Thanks for the ideas!

    SueCs last blog post..Blogging For Money - It can be done

  15. Meryl K. Evans says:

    I’ve had times when I just feel like quitting — everyone would after nine years of blogging. I’m grateful I kept churning although I had a few dry spells (illness, injury, busy).

    I’m a one-person business. It’s a way to keep me out there, compel me to stay involved and visit online communities. I just don’t post new entries as often and I don’t pressure myself to do it either. Posting at least once a week is required (unless due to circumstances like thumb surgery) as I don’t want to become complacent.

    Building up a bunch of posts isn’t going to work either as lulls rarely happen in my life. When they do, blogging isn’t the first thing I’ll do — being with family wins.

    I love Brad’s suggestion to change the image like of a person who is sleeping.

    Ulla — sounds delightful! Ah, dreaming of a European trip…

    A friend of mine and long-time blogger (longer than me!) had an injury and didn’t blog for months. People were rude about it. It shocked me. So ask for a refund. Oh, wait. There’s no charge.

    Do let the readers know if you do plan an absence — but don’t fret or feel guilty.

    Meryl K. Evanss last blog post..Slapping around Twitter, SMS and the Internet

  16. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Conor what a wonderful thing for you to say! Thanks so much :-) Comments can = rejuvenation too sometimes… that’s the power of words for you

    George I think signalling is key too, and once you’ve done that the ‘no apologies’ becomes much easier. However much we blog with and for our readers, at the end of the day it has to work for us, or it’s just not worth doing is it?

    Melissa thanks for popping over, and congratulations again :-) Slowing down is something I often wish to do, but seem to find so hard… every time I try my mind speeds right up again! I was thinking about maybe writing something on slow blogging along the lines you discuss (and highlighted by Sonia Simone a wee while back…) might add that to the theme… Thanks

  17. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Brad ;-) Like I said to you before, if I ever need to take a long-ish break, you’d be the one I’d trust with the keys

    SueC hello, and I’m glad you found the post useful. Posting infrequently can save a lot of bother… sometimes I wish I was better at allowing myself to do that!

    Meryl ‘don’t fret or feel guilty’ is such good advice, and I’m sure that’s the key to blogging for the long term. There are always going to be times when life and work gets in the way, or we just get tired and jaded of the whole thing… I think you must have learned a lot about relationships - with words, writing, readers, creativity, yourself - from sticking with it for such a long time, through lots of ups and downs. Lots for us to learn from you about that.

    I can’t imagine why people would be rude about someone taking a blogging break… we’re all human after all, that’s what makes the blogs worth reading in the first place. Plus, like you say, it’s not like the subscription is costing more than the click of a button…

  18. Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome says:

    When I went to Canada for 3 weeks last year, I scheduled 3 weeks of posts, which given my interviews and my Lab Rat series, was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be.

    The next time I take a break, however, I’m going to get a guest blogger in - a kind of locum and offer the same to them for when they go away.

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndromes last blog post..7 Little Somedays You Didn’t Know About Me

  19. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Alex that’s an interesting idea about the locum arrangement… makes me feel a little nervous about handing over the keys completely, but at least it means you know someone is watching the whole thing for you. I’ll be interested to see how you get on.

  20. Bo says:

    Hi, Joanna. Just back from my 2 week holiday-lots of driving around the Southwest US, lots of camping in remote areas, lots of no internet service. And today I check out your blog and see you’ve featured my question as your blog post. (Thanks!)

    First, I love your “mirror, signal, maneuver” phrase. Never heard it put quite that way before. :-) I ended up posting that I’d be away from my proverbial desk for a couple of weeks, that I’d post a bit if I could, and be back soon.

    As an aside, it’s quite funny, but I realized how attached to my blog I have become. I was unable to get any sort of connection many days, and I actually missed not checking in. And I don’t mean checking in for stats, but just to see how everything was going, what was going on with the “regulars”.

    Now I ask you-what kind of blogging thing is that?

    Sometimes this blogging thing just makes me laugh.

    Bos last blog post..Yucca and Shadows

  21. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Bo good to see you back :-) I know the feeling of attachment so well… As to what it is? A mixture. Pride, affection, love for what we’ve created. Connection, community, friendship with those who share our space…

    Hard to detach yourself from it though isn’t it?!

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