This is just some of what your body can endure when you have a blog. Or when you attempt to write a post.
It’s so much work, and the stress can be brutal at times. So much that it makes you want to quit.
You bail on those posts sometimes. Don’t you?
You decide to tweak your about page, or look through your Twitter stream, or even clean the keys on your laptop. Anything to avoid writing that post.
Why is it so difficult?
And why do you keep putting yourself through it?
You’re not getting any more readers.
Your subscription list is in a constant two steps forward, two steps back state.
And you can’t seem to get the engagement levels that so many other bloggers have.
Maybe you’re better off on the sidelines. It’s easier being the audience, the reader.
Well, you know who else has these thoughts but pushes through them?
They have sweat. They have tears. Hair pulling and nail chewing, not so much. But they have blood, blisters and bladder issues to deal with. They have more gory issues too, but this is a family show folks, so we’ll leave it up to your imagination. And if you’ve run a marathon before, you know what I’m talking about.
So what lessons from marathoners can bloggers learn to push on when things get tough?
Besides the promise of a participants’ medal and a dry bagel at the finish line?
The following nine lessons will get you through the sometimes grueling process of blogging.
And these lessons are practical. If you’re looking for inspirational clichés or for ways to channel your writing muse, this is not the post for you.
So put your shoes on. Let’s go.
The Start Line
If you’ve never run a marathon, you may think the actual running part is what’s difficult. It is. But just getting to the start line is difficult too. And that’s not a metaphor.
Your alarm wakes you up at 4:00 am. You eat your pre-run tested breakfast. You get dressed.
Do not underestimate that last step.
I know you’ve been dressing yourself since you were a child, but it takes on a whole new dimension when dressing for a marathon. Why? One word. Chafing.
Then there’s transportation. Do you have a supportive friend who has no young children, enjoys waking up before sunrise on a weekend, and is willing to drive you an hour or more to the race?
And you won’t be your usual cheerful self on the ride there either.
No, you’ll worry – out loud – that you should have eaten the whole banana instead of the half. Or that you should have brought nine energy gels instead of seven. Plus, any digestion issues you may be having. And if you’re not having any digestion issues, just wait until mile 20, my friend.
So what can bloggers learn from this?
Well, it’s not easy to start writing a post. It’s probably the hardest part. And you have to do it several times a month, or more. When you sit down, you may not even have an idea in your head yet. But if the race starts at 7:00 am, you can’t say you’re not ready yet. You just show up and start. This is what you gotta do when it’s time to write.
And it doesn’t end there. Writing one post is just the start. You’ll also need to create a plan for promoting on social media, give a compelling reason why readers should subscribe, oh, and don’t forget to create a great freebie like a checklist or a whitepaper.
So much to do, but at least you don’t need to worry about chafing.
How do you get started? Try one of these lessons:
Lesson 1: Schedule a time in your calendar to write
Stick to it. When it’s on your calendar, it becomes a part of your day, not something you try to squeeze in if you get the chance.
Lesson 2: Get a blogging buddy
Someone you’re accountable to. Tell them you’re going to send a draft by Thursday at 2:00 pm. There’s nothing like a commitment to a friend to get you moving.
Lesson 3: Fuel your body
Good nutrition and sleep are not just important for athletes. It clears your mind and helps you focus. Make it a priority.
And away we go
A common strategy for marathoners is to divide the race into thirds. If you’re thinking about mile 22 in your first mile, it feels overwhelming and a long, long way away.
So you only think about the next eight or nine miles. It’s more manageable.
The first chunk of time, you’re seeing how things shake out. Is your hamstring feeling okay, can you sustain this pace, and should you have included that Bruno Mars song on your playlist?
When you’ve finished that first section, you can re-evaluate. You might be feeling great and can push your speed. Or it’s warmer than you expected, so you adjust your pace and drink more water.
You can do this when blogging too. Don’t think about hitting the 2000-word mark right when you start typing, or selling your e-book before you have any subscribers. Getting too far ahead of yourself will slow you down. You lose focus. You get distracted.
Focus on one thing at a time. And when you’re done, move on to the next.
Use the following ways to do so:
Lesson 4: Be specific about your goals
For each block of time you’ve set aside, just work on one thing whether it’s headlines, an email campaign, or building your profile on a social media platform.
Lesson 5: Be flexible
Maybe you’ve written the introduction for a post, and you suddenly get a great idea to include in the conclusion. I wouldn’t wait until conclusion writing day. Get it down now. Sometimes, you get a little wind at your back – so go with it.
The lost miles
A time comes in every marathon when the energy and excitement of the beginning ends, but the finish line is nowhere in sight. I call these the lost miles.
This is when your mind starts playing funny tricks.
You see a tree, and there’s a glowing light surrounding it. Calling you. Telling you this is the perfect place to take a nap.
Or you wonder why you thought this race was a good idea. It’s not a good idea. It is, in fact, a bad and painful idea. You should stop.
And you think about stopping. But then what?
You’ll experience immediate relief. Then regret. Then shame.
So you keep running instead. It’s actually easier than dealing with the shame of stopping.
Then you start humming the chorus from that Bruno Mars song. You hum that same chorus, again and again, for the next five miles.
You’ll get no immediate payoff when you’re nurturing a subscription list or while you’re in the middle of writing a blog post. It may even feel like a chore. But you don’t want all of the work you’ve put in to waste away. Yet, you’re not sure where you’re going with this whole blogging thing.
It’s so much work, and you can’t even tell if it’s going to lead somewhere. Will anybody actually read it this time? Or what if you write a killer post but then never get another idea again?
So many thoughts are running through your head.
Maybe you’ll just finish writing one more post, then quit.
Yes, let’s do that.
Or, you could try this:
Lesson 6: Think about how you’ll feel if you stop
Unsatisfying, right? When marathoners feel like stopping, they tell themselves they’ll just run one more block or until the next water station. When they get to that spot, they do it again. You can finish the whole race, an entire post, or a newsletter this way.
Marathoners have a saying. They say that all of your training is for the last six miles. Yes, you’re running 26.2 miles, but it’s those last six that count.
The end is in sight, but you’ve got the most arduous miles ahead of you. You’re definitely not going to stop now. You might walk, or limp, but you’re still upright and moving forward, dammit!
You can’t decide what’s more painful. Is it your left hip, your right ankle, or your lungs? Or that once-loved Bruno Mars song? (You’ll never listen to it again.) Everything else is numb. Numb or painful. I’m not sure if I’ve emphasized the painful part enough?
And now there’s a hill. Really?
Why do the spectators look so relaxed and cheerful while holding their stupid coffee cups and wearing their stupid athletic wear? They’re not even participating in a sport. They’re just standing there. Why do you need to wear Lululemon just to stand there? Don’t they know what you’re going through?
Sorry. I’m cranky. This part’s hard. It’s a bit difficult to find perspective.
Yes, it’s the finish line. Look at all these people cheering for me. I love spectators. I can see the end. I can really see it! Here I come. Watch me fly.
I get that same unexpected burst of energy when I’m close to completing a blog post. This is really happening, I think. I’m really going to do this! The words, which were so difficult to excavate earlier, are streaming through my fingers. The keyboard on my laptop sounds like a tap dancer rather than the slow drip of a leaky faucet.
Yes! I did it! My 17 subscribers are gonna love this post!
Maybe your second wind comes when you hear from a reader who says your blog helped her learn a new skill, or when you get a bunch of new subscribers, or when you finally figured out how to add that widget to your site.
And when you get that second wind, it feels incredible. You feel powerful and forget about the struggle – you think, “That wasn’t so bad.”
Which leads me to some final lessons:
Lesson 7: Success looks different for every runner and blogger
Maybe you’re an elite runner, and you’re gunning for gold, or maybe this time last year you could barely jog around the block. If you’re new to blogging, getting a single post out every month is a success; if you’re a veteran, you may be looking to sell your book to the subscribers list you’ve been nurturing for years. Define your own success.
Lesson 8: Compete with yourself
Marathoners are competitive people who are always working for a personal best. Most are not trying to beat someone else; they’re trying to find excellence within themselves. Strive to improve something every time you sit down to write.
Lesson 9: Encourage your fellow bloggers just like a spectator cheers for a marathoner
Comment on their posts, or share them on social media. When it’s your turn to get cheered, the encouragement will help you to keep moving forward.
The Finish Line
You did it! You crossed the finish line. Whatever your finish line is – a move to full-time blogging, financial independence, or consistently writing a post.
Things were rough for a while.
But you kept up your momentum. One step at a time.
It wasn’t easy. You endured pain. And the voices in your head almost made you stop.
Think about how you feel right now. Good, right?
No, not good. Awesome! Like you can do anything you want.
Enjoy this feeling. Remember it. You earned it.
You’ll think about this feeling when things get difficult again (and they will).
But you know how to cope now — with nine solid lessons to keep you going when you want to quit.
With these lessons, you’ll look forward to new challenges. Why? Because every challenge you meet changes you for the better.
But for now – enjoy a long shower and a good meal. You deserve it.