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December 1, 2006

When You’ve Lost Your Blog Voice

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There are more than 57 million blogs occupying the blogosphere at this very moment, but chances are you don’t read all of them. You read the ones that specifically appeal to you, most likely because you’ve formed some kind of connection with the author.

My favorite blog out there is Dooce, a general-purpose, often hysterical, typically adorable blog written by naughty Mormon Heather B. Armstrong. I read it religiously (pardon the pun), typically before or after my daily Ze Frank indulgence. But why am I so addicted?

It’s not for its search engine optimization know-how (there isn’t any). It doesn’t give me link strategy tips or show me how to do competitive keyword research for my SEO campaign. I read it because I’ve made a connection with Heather. She writes in a way that I seem to gravitate to, so much in fact, that when she doesn’t post for a day or two, I can feel myself getting a little antsy. But I silence those feelings because, as a blogger, I realize that some days you’re just not feeling the blog juice.

But what happens when a blogger loses their voice? Do they stop blogging until their muse returns or do they keep up the entries even though they’re not passionate about what they’re writing?

Charlene Li, whom we haven’t heard from in awhile, brought up that very topic after going through it herself. She writes:

"I lost my internal blogging voice as well. Sapped of energy and health, I could just barely get my work done and care for my family. But that’s only part of the story — I have a dozen half-written blog posts in draft stage, all waiting to see the light of day."

Now, I’m not on the blogging level of Charlene Li, but I have been giving you my humble opinion in this blog for about 10 months now. And though I really do believe I have the coolest job on the planet, some days my head is elsewhere or I just don’t have anything to say. It’s those days that I look at Susan blankly and ask, now what?

She generally ignores me, leaving me with the question, do I not blog today or do I write, knowing I may be letting readers down with my lack of spirit and voice?

I generally conclude that I need to keep blogging.

A lot of people hold to the rule that you shouldn’t blog when you’re sad. Knowing that blog popularity is less about what you write, and more about how you write it, I get that. You don’t want to depress your audience just because you’re having a bad day, but at the same time, there are ways to mask it. Not every blog post has to be Rand Fishkin linkbait worthy.

Or, you can opt not to mask your true feelings. You’re human and it’s okay for your readers to see that. They may even appreciate it.

I also happen to believe that if you’ve lost your blog voice, you’re not going to find it by sitting back and staying quiet. You need to keep yourself out there and remain in the conversation. It’s important that your blog be consistent. It helps readers establish that important connection with you and it helps you keep posting.

Charlene Li stated that after a short blogging dry spell, she realized she just had to follow Nike’s mantra and "just do it". She had to keep writing.

I completely agree.

Keep writing about the things you are passionate about, even if they’re slightly off topic. These often make for the best blog posts. It’s important to keep the conversation going and to keep users engaged. It will also keep your mind thinking so that when your blog juice starts flowing again, you’re ready to tackle them.

Figure out why you can’t find your voice. Have you put too much pressure on yourself? Are you thinking too "in the box"? Has someone outed your abilities and made you feel insecure about your right to blog in the first place? Do you feel like no one is reading? Have you forgotten how to be useful?

If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, stop and remember why you started blogging. There was a reason. Rekindle it.

You may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging as often as usual lately, and there’s a reason for that (buy me a drink in Chicago and I’ll tell you all about it), but I’m lucky enough that I had Susan to pick up my slack while I took time to find my voice again (thank you, by the way). It may be that you need to solicit a guest author for your blog while you take a mental holiday. Do it, but keep writing somewhere else so that when you do find your voice and your passion, you’ll be able to explore all those pent up ideas you stored in your brain.

Even if you feel like you’ve lost your voice, don’t stop sharing your thoughts. We missed Charlene while she was away. I feel hurt when Kathy Sierra lets a few days go by without giving us another gem, and I live for the rare goodies we get from In Search of Stuff. I have formed a connection with these blogs and it’s important to me that they keep blogging.

When it comes to blogging, just do it. Your blogging muse will come back.

Oh, and don’t worry about me, I’m working on getting my voice back.

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