If you write a personal blog — are you now, or have you ever been — a Burned Out Blogger? If so, how did you pull yourself from the ashes?


The signs of burning out on your intimate — not-for-profit — blog are the following:

  • Less frequent posting
  • Loss of inspiring topics
  • A dip in readership
  • Boredom with your past posts
  • You don’t have anything new to say

There’s nothing wrong with burning out. It eventually happens to every personal blog by the very nature of the beast we are exposing — the questions then become: Do you retire your blog, do something else, or do you just keep your blog on life support as it slowly dies from your self-inflicted neglect?

I get the sense most people have a year’s worth of really important personal things to share — that’s 365 blog posts — and anything beyond that is either yabbering to fill space and time or a determined change in the direction of the blog that moves it from the world of personal reflections and bounces into the larger, reflexive, world of iteration and public exposure.
Some people write those 365 blog posts in six months and burnout — others write less frequently and burnout the 365 over a few years.

This Urban Semiotic blog has had many lives. When I get to feeling tired or lost or bored, I try to go back to the concern that ignited this blog: The danger of living a human life in the city core.
It’s important to keep your eye on the fire of your inspiration, and if that light dims or changes direction, you need to be willing to move with the whim of the wind and the will of your readership.

Recently, some of my all-time favorite bloggers seem to be at the end of their candle and on the verge of entirely burning out on their blogs as they wonder what to do next — or what the next big “Thing of Expression” will be in their online life:

Zia stopped blogging for a month:

I have actually let a whole month go by without blogging. Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s longer than a month, but I’ve been focusing on the fact that my February 2008 listing in the archives will be … missing. Oh well, such is life. And life is good.

Scott-O-Rama, a delightful blog with a wild eye on life, is going on hiatus:

Yes, as the title of this post implies, I am going to take another hiatus from my blog effective immediately.

Why? Well, I’ve been having quite a bit of internal debate recently as to whether or not to retire my blog. I just haven’t felt very inspired to write much recently, and it seems my political-themed posts have gone over like a lead balloon.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the year, I have been refocusing my priorities to concentrate on areas of self-growth and self-improvement that I’ve been neglecting. Right now blogging just isn’t high on that list. The weather here in Arizona is absolutely gorgeous right now, and I want to take full advantage of that before the hot summer arrives.

Khoi Vinh — the SuperGenius who re-designed the New York Times website to make it actually readable online — is bored, and frustrated, and looking for a new challenge:

Sometimes I feel as if I could blog all day every day, and other times I feel like I couldn’t write another blog post if my life depended on it. At the moment I’m feeling a bit of the latter, as some readers might have intuited from the fact that for the first time in a long time, I blogged not once all last week.

Part of the blame for this goes to the disorderly state of my blogging software. I’m eager to move off of Movable Type and over to Expression Engine, but it’s a process that’s going to take lots of time (even though I’ve been receiving the generous help of some readers like Adam Khan in getting up to speed with the new software). In the meanwhile, it kind of pains me to continue to mess around with the existing platform.
I’m also a bit frustrated, I think, by the very form of Subtraction.com.

There is something about its presentation — the way the front page looks and the way it leads into the article page — that makes it very hard to do anything but publish articles — and therefore to blog anything that doesn’t take the form of an expository essay. To be honest, I often weary of having to hammer out the minimally well-articulated arguments that I post here (such as they are).

Even our beloved WordPress Genius Mark (aka “Podz”) is making changes to how he hopes to be viewed on the web in the future and how he now makes private what he left behind:

This blog started in it’s current form in January 2004. Between then and now my family has changed, we went through bankruptcy, my mental health went from up to down many times and has now settled somewhere closer to the norm, I have aged and now see certain things in a different light, much of my anger and frustration has waned (though it will return of that I am sure) and none of this is reinvention. It’s how things are and things change.

This domain is now wrapped around memories and choices which I made at the time and they were right at the time – but much like the haircuts we get, the clothes we wear, the foods we eat and maybe even the music we like our tastes over time change. We are no different than we were 5 years ago because we are still the same person but we are very different on the inside.

Just because it is on the net does not mean it has to stay on the net. Just because there is digital evidence at archive.org does not mean you should be able to come back to a site to see the same state. I’m not ashamed of what was here, I would defend what I said at the time, my family all know and have read whatever they wish it’s just that I will feel more comfortable without it around me – in precisely the same way that I left ‘podz’ behind.

What’s going on here?
Is the new trend in blogging not to blog — or is there a yearning to “blog different” now?
Do we writers get tired of looking at the same interface and function every single day?

Do we burn out because we’ve said everything important — or do we turn to ash because there’s too much to say and the memes of expression no longer suits the best of us?
I’ve dealt with my own Blogging Burnout here by dropping publication from 5 days a week to 7 days a week.

I used to tell personal stories based on my experience in the urban core. Now I try to expand the personal into public commentary on matters that affect a greater concern than just my own.
I also started changing the shape of my overall blog writing experience by extending my reach into new blogs to give me a greater writing challenge by filling personal niches in a public way.

I stared the Boles University Blog as part of my Google Apps book and that blog deals with online education and distance learning issues.

WordPunk — is part of my polymathic personality to want to always keep learning something new — and so I signed up at TypePad and started writing about “Words in the Wilds.”

I then decided to take my Celebrity Semiotic domain and point it to Microsoft Spaces — and that was a giant waste of a great name on a really crummy blogging platform.
None of those other blogs have the power — or the popularity of — this blog because I don’t spend as much time in those places as I do here.

It took a solid 18 months of writing one or two articles here every single day before I received my first comment and readership started to pop.
I don’t have that overwhelming, all-consuming, fiery, dedication in my new spots that I once had here — sometimes a sustained, warm, glow is just as effective as fleeting, leaping, flames — even though the quality of the writing in those other blogs sometimes surpasses what I pass on here.

I am not disappointed the other blogs don’t get the comments or the traffic we get here because most of them are less than a year old. The quietness of those blogs is freeing because I can do and say as I wish without fearing a comments mugging.

I could’ve started all those blogs here on WordPress.com — but I needed a deeper mix of the established and the new — and so I decided to pull and stretch my experience in different backend directions to better understand the technical side of online publishing.

I have a few other interactive/meme/shaping ideas — that are concurrently simmering, boiling, and bubbling over — and those projects will be announced here as I continue to keep the personal fires alive without turning into public ash.

70 Comments

  1. David!
    Yes, I’ve run out of things to say on a blog. In this case it was my waning interest in the subjects i was writing about. i’ve also noticed the gestation period for a blog before the comments start trickling in. just as i was wrapping up the blog it was beginning to attract some interesting comments! and it had been up for just about a year or so.

  2. Hi Dananjay!
    Yes, I saw you were closing down your blog — we’re thrilled and delighted to have you here with us!
    With 70,000 new blogs being created every single day, the chances of getting hot and discovered are slimmer now than 4 years ago — unless you’re doing a cats blog or some other ridiculous effort that brings in the lowest-common-denominator.

  3. Dananjay —
    Your great insight and writing skills are appreciated here. I agree, we have a lot of people here with a wide array of experiences. It’s interesting that readership is skyrocketing while commenting is down a bit — you just go with the flow and hope things continue on the right track.
    Ugh! Don’t get me started on the lol cats thang! :mrgreen:

  4. David!
    speaking of getting thrown off mid-swing… i remember once sliding right off a swing when i was about ten or so, landing and then just as i realized what had happened i caught the wooden seat on its return smack in the back of my head… now that explains a lot of things….

  5. My personal blog has first and foremost been always exactly that – a personal blog. Whether I get no comments or a dozen – or even one or two – I write for me first and if others read it, I am just as happy as if nobody reads it.
    I write to get my thoughts out. I also write to make concrete the things that happen so if I am so inclined, I can look back and remember that I had a thought about Back to the Future continuity on a certain day. πŸ™‚

  6. I guess I’m just that lazy. It’s easier for me to say, go to gordond.livejournal.com – it’s all there than for me to say go to the site, sign up for a journal, i’ll add you as a friend, then you can see my journal – nobody wants to do that just to see a journal! also helps because journals aren’t searchable using livejournal but when they are public, they are by using google! πŸ™‚
    On a rare occasion when I have a really private thought I will make it friends only but usually I’m open to the whole world seeing it. Also I do put some entries that are change-the-world worthy – they just happen not to be every single one πŸ™‚

  7. I picked Livejournal – it was almost 6 years ago – because I happened upon an invite code and they seemed solid. The happening turned out to be a mistake – I didn’t realize back then that invite codes were one time use only, but I made up for it by giving away many more codes to the community where I got mine.
    My only concern with the sale is the status of my permanent account. A few months before the sale my mother bought me a permanent account as a birthday gift. I hope they keep it that way – permanent.

  8. Hi Gordon —
    Ah! That’s interesting. If you wanted to leave LJ and take everything with you, could you? Or are you stuck in a proprietary format?
    What do you get with a permanent account you don’t get with a free one?

  9. Permanent account means I don’t have to pay $30 a year for a paid account plus the extra user pics. With a paid account there are so many added features that it would be easier to link you to the paid account information page at livejournal. Some of my favorites are that I don’t see ads, I can create polls, and I can do voice posts – that let people listen to me babble about anything! πŸ™‚

  10. In No More Heroes, the entire game is driven by the motion sensor. You use an electric sword as your weapon and various wrestling moves and it’s all dependent on your slashing from right to left, left to right, moving the nunchuck accessory in one direction while moving the wiimote in another – sometimes hard – and plenty more!
    Super Smash Brothers is less related to the motion sensor but it’s still an excellent game. If they implemented fighting with motion sensor in that game it would have gotten exhausting as it’s a non-stop fighter! πŸ™‚

  11. It depends on the game. No More Heroes is strictly for one person. SSBB is for up to four on one one console – and it only needs one motion sensor. You can also play with people online using the Wii’s connectivity to the internet. πŸ™‚

  12. Wacky!
    You were linked to your LiveJournal blog when the new Avatar loaded.
    Are you using Gravatars? WP.com owns that service now and if you have any email accounts setup there, and you use that email here — and it isn’t your WP.com user email — your Gravatar will load instead.

  13. Your approach is wacky, Mr. Gordon!
    You’re actually able to do this magic trick because I changed moderation a bit this afternoon to make it easier for regulars to get published without my direct interaction.
    You can now submit a comment without being registered — but it won’t appear unless you have a pre-approved comment. So instead of “logging in” — your prenatal brain is kicking in and defaulting to LiveJournal instead of WordPress. πŸ˜€

  14. Gordon: YEAH! Always login! That’s the danger of having that open comments form — the regulars don’t login and we can’t see the beautiful avatars. πŸ˜€
    I just added the Meta Widget to the bottom of the Sidebar to make it easy to find a login link.

  15. I’m even luckier because of this – that’s how long until I am moving back to NY. I have a one-way ticket booked.
    I already have come up with a new project for being back in a kosher dense city. I’m going to create a new blog that will, once a week, review a different kosher pizza place. My goal will be to review every single kosher pizza place in the five boroughs. It will take awhile but I will eventually do it, G-d willing. πŸ™‚

  16. I’m taking with me :
    My Wii, PS2, a few DVDs, a few books, my computers, Dyson, Barista, Juicer, Soy Milk Maker, clothing, and the bears. Actually I’m sending most of that by FedEx Home Delivery because it’s inexpensive. Everything else goes!
    That’s one of the reasons I love the Kindle. When I have it I won’t need 99% of my books.
    Ah, Shabbos calls me. It says, get off the computer! πŸ™‚

  17. I imagine blogging could be a very lonely business! It doesn’t surprise me that the blogger you reference in your article had some mental health issues. Sounds like a breakdown of sorts!
    Happens to the best of us–
    That’s why I love your model and this site. The collaboration and diversity is the way to go!
    You can’t write in a vacuum. It will eventually catch up to you.
    I get such a good feeling when I come here. A safe place to explore some unique issues and problems of the day with some rather intelligent folks who at the same time have a warm and beating heart! This kind of writing and dialogue is exactly what we need right now with the rise in extreme views and hate.
    You’re really onto something and I truly believe you could be an important voice on the internet.
    David, you are a wonder and have surrounded yourself with genuinely talented young people.
    Again, they have alot of heart and important things to say. . .
    This site and a Tom Petty music board are the only two sites I ever read and participate on a regular basis. (That’s a strange combination, I know, Tom Petty and the Urban Semiotic!)
    I just wish I had more time to explore all of your writings. The depth and breadth of this site is quite extraordinary.
    Keep going my dear friends–

  18. dmtessi —
    I value your friendship very much and it’s is a wonder of technology that we have been brought together here under this banner.
    Your comment is important to me and I thank you for taking the time to express such kind and wonderful sentiments.
    Sometimes you don’t know if what you’re “putting out there” is being heard to reckoned with or even thought about — but you have to keep going and keep your head down and hang on the pendulum as it swings. Comments like yours confirm that effort is worthwhile.
    I do hope you’ll think about joining our writing crew — I know your mind and unique background are an excellent and necessary fit here.
    I always look forward to absorbing your comments — and while we do not always agree — we are always able to see the goodness in each other and the validity of the points we’re trying to make.

  19. It’s my pleasure and privilege to post here.
    Thank you for your kind invitation.
    I’m starting to wonder whether it was something other than chance that brought me here (as she envisions becoming the “Anna Quindlen” of the Urban Semiotic).
    But as I recall it was actually Jerry Seinfeld that brought us together. Out of all the eclectic assortment of topics you write about that’s how I got here! Oh, how I wish it was some topic of great social importance or something a tad more literary. But there it is for all the world to see . . .
    And who can forget our tangle over the baby Jesus? Or should I say babies Jesus. As you now know, we can’t get enough of Jesus here in the South. There may be no choice but to write an essay about that phenomenon this coming season!
    When you have so much talent and so many ideas, really there is no choice here for you. You must continue doing what you do. All of the things that you do with words and writing is a gift and obviously a labor of love.
    As for me, this may be my cue to do something with my writing. Venture out from the deep wooded acres of my sweet North Carolina existence into the urban core.
    I’m feeling a little Diana Ross coming on.
    What was that song she did about coming out??

  20. dmtessi!
    Right-O! I am crazy in love with Anna Quindlen — she’s a great person and a fantabulous writer. We’d be richer to have you with us! πŸ˜‰
    It never ends to fascinate me to see which articles are “popular.” When I look at our Sidebar and see the “Most Read” articles, I’m stunned by the topics that have such great staying power.
    It is the rare new article that lands there that last more than a day or two. My recent Boyd Codding ripping has taken on a life of its own there! My Jerry piece is still alive there, too! I’m so glad you found that piece to find us.
    I love discussing the Baby Jesus! My Atheist friends don’t like it when I consider the power of Christ or the reality of Mormonism or Quakerism in the modern world — but I’m open to new ideas and I respect belief systems.
    Somewhere on this blog it says we have a “liberal mindset with a conservative morality” and that is what I feel and how I work. I realize some might see a disconnect there … but I just say it is the mark of being human to hold opposite and equal ideas in your head at the same time.
    That’s why it’s so hard to predict what will be popular or not — and that’s why I tell writers to write what you want to know and not what you want others to learn — because you can’t predict taste or events or what some people might prefer to read and search.
    And so, every day, I try to come up with something that is new and fresh and at least a good read. Sometimes it works. Other times it does not. πŸ˜†
    I also refuse to monetize my online stuff. I don’t see the need to try to get those loyal to you to click on an Advertisement so you can make a few pennies.
    I prefer to offer what I do on the web for free and let others find enrichment in a “no strings attached” sharing. Many people with dark hearts do not believe that altruism and falsely accuse me of “making it up” on the backend somehow…
    We need more female voices here. We need the Carolina woods singing to us! We are ready when you and and the urban core only gets deeper when all voices are heard, explored, and celebrated — as long as they aren’t cursing or providing negative energy. πŸ˜€
    I mention that — not to you — but to the anonymous meanies reading this and readying their knives for the stabbing into our good hearts!
    I love Diana Ross, too, and I’m going to go find that song and listen to the life out of it right now!

  21. Hi David,
    I still remember the day when I came across your blog. If I am not mistaken it was late 2005 and I tried not to miss a single writing/ article after that.
    It is β€œenriching” – to say the least, this multifaceted blog acts like a prism – the more I read the more I get.
    I understand the β€œtiring” component of it and really appreciate your time and energy spent here.
    The concept of having β€œliberal mindset with a conservative morality” is definitely intriguing – balancing is the name of mankind!

  22. You are a great friend, Katha! I feel as if I’ve known you forever and each day our friendship grows even richer.
    It is hard for us all to know you are back in India right now dealing with tough issues you cannot directly control. Please know we are all here to love and support you.
    You’re right the “liberal mindset and conservative morality” is a bit of a catch — but a necessary one because they temper each other.
    Last night I saw a glimpse of the “Adult Video Awards” on the Showtime television channel — The Video Porno Awards — and the whole enterprise was just a sickening joke. That “awards ceremony” shows just how far we’ve fallen as a nation.

  23. Thanks a ton for everyone’s love and support here David!
    I treasure your friendship as one of the best things in my life.
    It’s interesting to know that there could be awards for “video pornography” too…
    Is it an outcome of “freedom of speech” or whatever?

  24. Katha!
    Yes, we are with you! We all wonder about you and often think of you.
    I guess the “Video Porn” awards are either the ultimate or the worst of “freedom of speech.” It just all makes me go “Ugh!” πŸ˜€

  25. I hate the Mets, arin, and you know that! πŸ˜†
    On Friday Janna visited Shea Stadium and had a grand tour of the place — before they tear it down — including the locker rooms and the playing field. She’s a big Mets fan. I’ll see if she can find some action here for you.

  26. Hello David!
    Long time, no see, no hear from me. I have been so busy living life and not blogging (or blog reading) much. This post of your’s managed to catch my eye though, through all the busy-ness πŸ™‚ .
    I have had the burn-out and am currently experiencing it in fact, both at my current blog and my first livejournal blog. I loved your line:

    …or do we turn to ash because there’s too much to say and the memes of expression no longer suits the best of us?

    It PERFECTLY expresses what happens to me. So much is happening and I have so much to say (and consequently very little time in which to do it), that I end up writing nothing. It’s part of my perfectionism, all-or-nothing character trait. It’s very annoying.
    I find myself dreamily constructing pieces of writing in my head, whilst life is happening and I never write it down.
    Anyway, just wanted to say hi and say I can SO relate. And that it’s nice to be here again, even though it might be for a short while.
    Natalie

  27. natzgal!
    So glad to have you back! I have missed you so. I understand what you’re saying about doing it right or just not doing it at all. That makes a lot of sense to me.
    I sure hope you’ll be less perfect and come back now and again — WE NEED YOU!