Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

What to Do When You’re Drowning in a Sea of a Million Blogs

From Jeff: This is a guest post by Don McAllister. Don operates Linchpin Bloggers, a site dedicated to helping you become a better writer and blogger. You can follow him on Twitter: @Don_McAllister

What do you do when you feel like you’re drowning? When you feel like you have no more energy to stay afloat? Most people take one of two paths:

  • Panic.
  • Just keep swimming.

Right now, you may feel like you’re drowning in a sea of a million bloggers.

Drowning photo

Photo credit: Aimanness Photography (Creative Commons)

You want people to notice your blog. But despite your best efforts, you’re not seeing the results. No one is subscribing, no one is commenting, and no one is re-tweeting your posts.

And if they are sharing and subscribing, it’s at such a small scale, it doesn’t even feel significant. You may be frustrated. You may even feel tempted to throw in the towel.

Admit it: You’re in trouble

You’re letting the noise overtake you. You are drowning.

When bloggers feel like they’re drowning, they typically start to panic, flail, gasp, and yell even louder to be heard.

It’s the same knee-jerk response inexperienced swimmers take when they start to drown.

And while most of us recognize this is foolish, it’s amazing how often bloggers react this way.

How to stay afloat

Continuing the swimming analogy, let’s look at what a swimming instructor would advise.

They would:

  • Teach you a few simple swimming techniques to help you become more comfortable and confident in the water.
  • Warn you about how self-destructive it is to be so tense.
  • Advise you to stay cool, calm, and collected.
  • Focus on the basics and fundamentals of swimming.

In like manner, the blogging instructor would tell you to:

  • Learn your craft and write significantly better.
  • Stop wasting your time yelling, campaigning, kicking, and screaming. Just get to work and write every day.
  • Stay cool, calm, and collected. Relax and have fun.
  • Focus on the basics and fundamentals of writing. Avoid errors that make you look dumb.

It’s really that simple.

However, if you found yourself feeling completely sunk and on your last breath before doom, do these three things right now:

1. Continue breathing (and writing)

The body is naturally buoyant. By lifting your head out of the water and remembering to simply breathe, you’ll be able to float much better.

Translating this to the blogging world, keep writing day-in and day-out.

Don’t write to be heard.

Write because it’s like breathing. Because it’s your passion.

Because it’s fun.

2. Remember to rest

Lay on your back.

This is a great maintenance posture to have in any walk of life, especially when it comes to swimming. You breathe so much easier when on your back. You gain control of the situation.

I’m convinced bloggers need to “lay on their back” more often. Get comfortable being in the vast sea of mediocre bloggers, and don’t let it stress you out. Let it be fuel to make you an even better writer.

Be confident in yourself, too. If you don’t believe in yourself, what makes you think others will?

Don’t burn yourself out, either. Slow down and catch your breath.

Remember: Finding rest is essential to creative inspiration.

3. Just keep swimming (and shipping)

Now that you have gained control of the situation, just continue breathing normally, and start to swim.

Bloggers have to continue improving their craft. Write every day, and just keep at it.

As Dori from Finding Nemo would remind us, “Just keep swimming…”

In other words, ship. This is the most basic and fundamental technique to gaining momentum with your blog. If you don’t ship, don’t expect any loyalty.

And don’t forget: If you find yourself drowning in a sea of a million mediocre bloggers, you can “out-swim” those who are lucky and outlast those who are lazy.

Ultimately, you win.

What do you do when you feel like you’re drowning in the blogosphere? Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: Aimanness Photography (Creative Commons)

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Loved the swimming analogy and Dori’s words, “just keep swimming” are some of wisest words ever spoken. 🙂

  • Before we start a blog, we can fantasize about how great it will be. We’ll get super popular overnight, and all our dreams will come true. Once we start fleshing our blog out into reality, it never seems to meet our expectations of how things would be – or at least how things could be.
    At times like those, I have to remind myself that even the A-listers started off drowning in the sea of blogs. Everyone’s been where I am.
    I need to remember to judge myself by my faithfulness to do the best I can and not by the results. Doing the best you can implies that you’re evaluating your efforts and looking for improvements and new strategies. It’s plodding, but a very active plodding.

    In short, concentrating on my efforts instead of on external results has helped me. Redefine your metric of success.

    • Jeff taught me this best with his writer’s manifesto. I like how you say we have to redefine our metric of success. Very smart!

      • That is so true – I realized that if my metric of success was based on sales/how much money I was making, I was going to give up before I’ve even started. Now the task is to get myself out of that “money-chasing” mindset and forget the “deadline” and follow the passion. 
        Disobey the normal plan of action + persistently put up posts and let enormous success catch up. 🙂
        Thanks Don and Loren

        • It’s a great formula for success. Thanks and all the best!

  • I started blogging as an act of obedience. 

    Then the idolatry set it. This post helps me refocus. Thanks. 

  • Unfortunately, it seems like I complain to wife most often when I feel like I’m drowning. But I suppose that’s better than overreacting on the web. Ultimately, like is mentioned above, I focus on writing more and better. Because when I think about the blogs I visit, like this one, it’s the quality that keeps me returning.

    • It must be hard to be the wife of a frustrated writer…they put up with so much of our crap.  But confidence can cure that. 

  • “you can “out-swim” those who are lucky and outlast those who are lazy.”
    I love it.  I had to realize it isn’t to make a living.  It’s to help others to live.
    If I keep writing, the right ones will see when it’s God’s time for them.
    Thanks for this post.  So helpful.

  • Misti @Oceanicwilderness.com

    Having blogged in some form since 2002, I’ve seen blogging change drastically from personal journals to money makers. My blog in the beginning was to a realm of close friends and family and a few internet friends. Then I found out about RSS, upgraded that, and now I’m where I am now, blogging for myself still but trying to at least focus it somewhat for a greater audience than friends and family. 

    I will write whether I’m making money off of it or not. Most bloggers need to understand this. Sure, I would love more subscribers and tweets, but I will write anyway. 

    • That’s the best perspective to have on this – you have to love your art and one day it may love you back. 

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  • Good post, Don.

    I felt this way in the months after I started blogging again. I had to learn to swim.

  • People never really realizes how much work needs to be done to get a successful blog out there. That’s the issue. Once the person experiences this firsthand, it’s going to be a fight-or-flight response.

    • I don’t follow. Being a nurse, fight-or-flight reminds me of a defensive mechanism. I would argue building a blog doesn’t have to invoke the sympathetic nervous system. Just have to ship your best stuff day in and day out, plus employ the three tools Jeff talks about in his new ebook, Every Writer’s Dream.”

  • This is such timely advice and goes along so well with Jeff’s Manifesto.  Where I struggle is finding the balance between being inspired by others, but not comparing myself to others. For so long I’ve wanted to achieve what others have, then I realized, I’m different and I should just be ME, because there is no other ME out there.  {totally cheesy I know}  Thanks for the lessons here, Don!  🙂

    • “I’m different and I should just be ME, because there is no other ME out there.” That’s spot on advice you gave yourself!  

  • Again, another great blog post. You inspire me. Thanks.

  • I’ve been exploring how to differentiate myself and hone my unique voice. There are so many blogs that even niche topics get drowned with everyone saying the same thing.

    When I write about myself and my own stories, it hones my voice and provides perspective that no one else can have. There’s only one me!

    • I remember struggling with this sense that it’s all been written about before, but what people are really wanting is your unique perspective on it, which you do well. It’s so important to find our writing voice, because in actuality we’re really selling our self more than or as much as our content. 

  • I love the point “Avoid errors that make you look dumb.”

    I have found that flailing and forcing the writing when  it’s really not working can make the situation worse. When you scream loud and throw up posts that aren’t well executed, you’re not taken as seriously. At the same time, we do have to keep swimming and trying new things. Most importantly, we can’t give up. All bloggers hit walls at some point. The key is finding what helps you tear down that wall, and it’s different for every blogger, I think.

    What’s really funny to me is that often times, bloggers over-think. Sometimes it’s the post that came easy that gets attention, while the ones that took way too much effort (flailing) barely gets noticed. We just have to keep chugging along. It takes time to figure it all out.

    • You make some excellent points here. I’m researching a lot about Saul Bellow right now for my upcoming ebook, and he talks about how we have to prepare ground for our internal Prompter. Writing that comes by revelation is usually much better than writing done through brute force. Love your website, by the way!

  • Anonymous

    Jeff, you really nailed the “triple lindy” on this one.
    This is one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time.
    It’s nice to know we’re not alone out there, among the millions of others!

    • I had to look that “triple lindy” up on google. Thanks!

  • I have been writing since high school and as you can see from my picture that is several years, now I find that I blog about my business, that can change people’s lives and I feel so strongly about that but I also include, snippets from my life and now also gardening, something most people do not think about these days. So your post today, Don was a great encouragement to me. thank you

  • Usually I get that feeling as I sign that I’ve been checking my stats too often!  It helps to remember that a “platform” isn’t something I stand on so I can be seen and heard.  It’s something I build with my own two hands.  One board at a time.

  • Thanks for the encouragement Don. One stroke after the other or one step in front of the other! Also reading people like yourself, Jeff, Michael Hyatt and others helps me glean from the veterans. 

    • My pleasure. You got a very nice looking website. “Freedom from being a dead superhero”..now that’s intriguing! 

  • Thank you! This was very timely and just what I needed to read.

    • Love your site’s slogan! It’s really all about enjoying the journey. Appreciate your comment!

  • This is exactly what I needed to read this afternoon! Thanks for the wisdom!

    • Visited your site. Congrats on the book deal! Looks great. 

  • I loved this, the biggest mistake a swimmer can make in a race is sticking their head up to see where everyone else is. They lose their rhythm and their focus and therefore momentum. I can see that the same is true for writers, the moment we start concerning ourselves about what everyone else is doing, we lose what makes our writing ours, and we lose the joy of telling our stories. Thanks xo

    • You make a good point regarding the swimming analogy. Looking to your left and right in a race can make you lose focus easily. Thanks!

  • Thank you Don, great insight and just what I needed to hear today!

    I am definitely one of those that need to remember to stop writing to be heard and just get to work and write every day 🙂 And ah yes, relax.  

    Currently though I may be drowning in my own waters! i.e i’d like to make some changes to my blog – from changing my blogging platform (from blogger to wordpress), re-defining my niche and hence my reach plus other small things. I think these little things can choke, bring dis-illusion..and am finding myself really working to keep focus, continuing doing what I do – which is write 🙂 as i work on these other things.

    Thanks for reminding me what’s important 🙂

  • Wow, thanks Don, this is just what I needed. I guess it just takes time to get better, find your voice and not do dumb stuff. I’m encouraged to stay afloat.

    Do you feel like you should post everyday, or just write everyday?

    • I think consistency is more important than frequency. I see benefits of posting every day, especially when you’re starting out. But perhaps your audience would like twice a week (like on zenhabits). That’s a tweak you’ll have to test. 

      And I would encourage anyone to publicly post what you write, since your writing will improve when you know other eyes will be looking at it. Art is just noise until it resonates with people, and you’ll never get that important feedback if you don’t ship your ideas to the public. 
      Do what Seth Godin encourages: “Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.”

      • Wow, ok. Where does he say that? Thanks so much!

        • Type in google “seth godin speaker block” and you’ll find it.

  • Yes. This is exactly what I’ve been mulling over this week. The thing that keeps me breathing and moving is remembering that I am first and foremost a writer. What gets posted isn’t what matters so much as what comes out of me and how often. I’ve taken to starting with the basics – a pen and paper. If it makes it to my blog, good, but writing is my goal, my purpose, my passion. 

    • It’s always smart to go back to the basics and fundamentals when we get overwhelmed. Thanks for sharing!

  • Mara Corsini

    This is a very helpful post. Thanks. I think I should bookmark it and read it whenever I feel like drowning! Believe in yourself. This is the most important thing.

    • You welcome! It’s very important to believe in yourself, because we all want to read confident writers. 

  • Mara Corsini

     This is a very helpful post. Thanks. I think I should bookmark it and read it whenever I feel like drowning! The 

  • This post does help me to keep my head up. I started a new blog and it’s taking a slow progress. But I want to look back in a year’s or 3 years’ time and smile with a sense of accomplishment.

    • There are other aspects beyond just shipping great content you still have to consider. You have to consider better website designs and other strategies to obtain volume (such as guest posting, giving free ebooks away, etc). I, too, hope to look back with a sense of accomplishment. If I approach it more strategically, as Jeff describes in his new ebook, I will be much better off in 2-3 years. 

    • Anonymous

      Just check out your blog and it looks great. 

  • TMZ

    It’s amazing how much a cartoon fish voiced by Ellen DeGeneres can be such a wise and apt metaphor for all facets of life. Thanks for the reminder to just keep swimming!

    • I know…same goes for a green little fellow named yoda. So much wisdom. Thanks!

  • Great post! It seems like point 4 would be the relationship aspect of social media/blogging. Others want to know you truly care about them to create trust. If others have trust in you then that will relate in more conversations wherever you post your stuff. A lot of honesty and vulnerability in that.

    Do you think if we are consistently writing and promoting those posts, that it can seem like we only care about our stuff? Or is that just part of all this? It maybe seems like there should be a break in there to check on others. Or I guess if you have time for all that everyday, then that’s awesome.

    • I’m not understanding you question completely, or enough to answer appropriately. I agree trust is a big part of the picture, and also would say there is nothing wrong with self-promoting our work consistently, but also important to promote other’s work as well (so long as it is relevant to your particular audience). Is that the break in there to check on others you are speaking about? 

      • Yes, that’s what I was talking about. My issue has just been finding the time to do all of that with writing consistently. It seems that if I’m posting almost everyday, then it’s hard to find time to check out others blogs or make discussion consistently. If that’s a problem, would you say that’s too much writing or you can’t ever write enough?

        • May I offer a thought? I post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 5 a.m.  That way all three of my readers know when something new is coming ;).

          On the other days I might revise something I’ve already drafted (I schedule my postings and like to have 3 or 4 in queue). But I’m sure to read and comment on a few other blogs each day.

          As for commenting taking time from the writing schedule, well….in my view, if I’m reading other posts thoughtfully and preparing a post that contributes something to the conversation, that’s writing. 

          • I think that’s the deal. I need a new writing schedule. I might be writing/posting too much for the time that I have, if that’s possible. Thanks!

        • I understand the time limitations. If you’re having trouble doing both, consider creating rough draft in the evening (15minutes), and then completing your post in the morning. That way you may be able to free some more time to read and comment on other blogs. I did this for a while, but not as consistently as I should.
          Bryan Allain, who wrote “31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo,” would suggest trying to comment on 5 blogs per day, and consider writing a shorter post once or twice a week. That’s a great way to free up some time and make this more intentional. Preplan who you are going to read, and if 5 is too much, take that down to 3 for a season. Hope that helps. 

          • That helps tremendously man. I’ll have to check out that book. I’m trying to figure out how to get it all done with also being intentional with the other things I work on and family time. I guess there’s seasons in life that we all have to adjust to and I’m guessing I’m not the only one that’s been through this… 🙂

      • The deal is that I only have about an hour a day to do social media/writing stuff these days.

  • Anonymous

    We will always be swimming among millions of blogs but as long as we  are doing it for the love of writing (and blogging) then there’s no danger of drowning.  For a while I tried to monetize my blogs so I could earn from them only to find out that it takes so much time and effort – you’re left with little time to write.  Now I write for the sheer fun and pleasure of it and earn my living from writing through other means.

    • There is a tension artists have to make money from their work, which is completely understandable. I hope to make money from my work someday. But you have to approach it from the perspective you describe. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Such great points and valuable reminders. I have found righting daily in my niche area is so important (Write not post daily). If you stick to it and stay in your passions, the audience will come. Staying in your niche and passion is key to blogging success.

     

  • Its been interesting over the last couple of months. I have listened to the relationships around me. As Jeff says if ‘Content is King then Relationship is Queen’. I have listened to some of the conversations I have had face to face and commented ‘That would make a great blog’. 

    I have discovered that if I can make connection with the people I have around  me and tap into their ideas etc then I know that I am taping into something that others in the blogosphere would be interested in. So expect blogs on ‘Pop culture worship leaders’ and a book review about Self Harm (Cutting to be precise). As long as I focus on those closet to me then I may not drown by the enormity of the potential numbers in the room.

    thanks

    • Great point! Some of the best ideas come from conversations. Thanks!

  • Blocean. I thought I’d coined a new word denoting a sea of blogs, but then I googled it, and it exists already, albeit denoting something else. 

  • Anonymous

    This is a great post! This was exactly how I was feeling this week – drowning, not only in the amount of information out there, but in my inability to process it all into meaningful writing of my own. 
    I find it very hard to work on a novel and at the same time post something to my blog on a regular basis. I am in deep research mode for the novel, reading tons of stuff and thinking about the plot and my characters all the time. I don’t seem to be able to come up for air long enough to gather the energy necessary to focus on a shorter topic for the blog. I wonder if others also have this problem?
    Your post helped remind me that REST is key. Get enough sleep! Also, to just write, without worrying about the cleverness factor. Writing from within resonates more than writing to be heard. In the end, that’s what matters – that what you write teaches, touches, inspires, or makes someone laugh. Not that they think you’re clever.

    • Agreed. We should write to express, not impress. Thanks for sharing!

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  • Stacy Makes Cents

    Thanks for this post. I needed it. Especially the “rest” part. 🙂

  • Sometimes I try to make a point not to write with SEO in mind or to pay attention to others. It is very effective and works wonders for me.

  • Maria Margaretta Vivijanti N.

    I wrote my blogs because I love writing (but perhaps I love reading more than writing…) I came to this post because of the title…I felt that I’m drowning in a sea of a million blogs. The feeling aroused not from my lonely blog, yet from the interest in blogwalking and reading others’ blogs, which consumed my time to write my own blog. The swimming analogy or perhaps (to me) the drowning analogy gave me a bright insight into how to keep floating. I had some drowning experiences in my childhood, so I knew how it works…panicked would get me drowned, focused on swimming (even when I didn’t know how to swim yet) would help me either to float up or to reach the pool’s side. So I’ll just keep on writing, focusing the other end of the pool as my target. Resting in the other side or in the middle of the pool isn’t swimming…Thanks for this inspiring post!

    • My pleasure. Thanks for stopping by to comment. 

      • Maria Margaretta

         https://khazanahpikir.blogspot.com/2011/12/i-want-to-keep-swimming.html
        Wrote about this blog in my blog.

  • I’m kind of in that place where I’ve seen a decrease in visits, comments, retweets, all that good blogging stuff. My knee-jerk reaction was that I needed to post more links, more often to get people to check out my blog. Now I’m in a state of evaluation. I’ve been writing consistently for over a year and feel it’s time to evaluate why I’m writing, for whom, what can I change on my blog, what new thing should I do, etc. It can be an interesting struggle sometimes.

  • This is great. I have one of those mediocre blogs you’re talking about. It’s brand-spankin’ new, so that’s acceptable, right? Thanks for the advice. I’ll just keep writing, improving my craft, and practicing patience. Ew. Patience feels so unnatural.

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