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You’re doing everything you’re supposed to do.
You’re writing posts readers seem to enjoy. Your traffic is increasing. A popular blogger has noticed you and tweeted one of your posts.
You’re putting in the time day after day and week after week to make your blog successful. And, little by little, you’re seeing results.
So why do you feel empty?
Why is apathy overtaking you and your blog? Why did the joy you felt from blogging just a few weeks or months ago dissipate? Where did your enthusiasm go?
It’s not supposed to feel this way. Right?
Discipline Without Direction is Drudgery
There are many reasons blogs fail.
Some bloggers set unrealistic expectations for themselves. Some are lazy and don’t put forth the necessary work. Some just aren’t good at it.
However, it’s my belief most blogs fail due to lack of direction and purpose. And without these, a blogger is doomed.
Author Donald S. Whitney once wrote of a six-year-old boy named Kevin, who was taking guitar lessons.
Though initially he was excited about guitar lessons, lately Kevin wished he was outside playing baseball with his friends. Strumming “Home on the Range” on his guitar day after day long ago lost its appeal to Kevin.
Then an angel appeared before him. He showed Kevin a vision. The angel showed him a man playing beautiful music at Carnegie Hall. “Wow,” is the only word young Kevin could utter.
“Kevin,” the angel said. “The wonderful musician you saw is you in a few years.”
The angel then pointed to Kevin’s guitar and instructed, “But you must practice!”
Kevin now had direction. He had a goal. He had a purpose.
Before the angel’s visit, did young Kevin have discipline? Sure. He was practicing his guitar every day. He may have been doing it reluctantly, but he was doing it.
But here’s the thing: discipline without direction is drudgery.
It’s not fun. It’s not joyful. It’s a chore.
And, eventually, drudgery chokes the life out of discipline.
Why Are You Blogging?
Do you know? Do you really know?
Most bloggers will respond to such a question with a “sure I do” and follow it up with something like “I want to make money,” “I want to get lots of readers,” or “I want to be famous.”
Yes, technically these are goals. But so is “I want to sing.”
Do you see a problem with this goal? You should.
It’s not specific.
Belting two notes of a random song accomplishes this goal. Having a long musical career culminating in induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame accomplishes the goal, too.
See the problem?
An unspecific goal is a goal which leads the holder of it to a path filled with disillusionment and failure.
I should know…
Why My First Blog Failed
Let me tell you a story about a different Kevin.
I started blogging in 2005, and by 2006 I had a growing and thriving blog. I didn’t realize (or appreciate) it at the time, but it was quite successful.
It was a featured blog on AllTop’s homepage. The traffic was impressive. I even received multiple marriage proposal emails from female readers.
(This was partly due to my having a “Want to ask a question or propose marriage” message in my footer, but I digress.)
I wanted the blog to be “really popular,” and I worked hard to make this unspecific goal a reality. I tweaked and perfected my blog design until it was just right. I wrote several posts a week. My writing kept getting better and better.
It worked. My blog became “popular.” And I enjoyed the fruits of my labor… for about one week.
When you don’t have a clear direction for your blog, you eventually lose interest. That’s what happened to me. Even though my blog was popular, writing for it soon began to feel like a chore.
Once my “goal” was met, I should have started a new one. I should have aimed for bigger and better things. But I didn’t. And because of this I missed out on some golden opportunities.
I never monetized my blog.
I failed to leverage my blog’s popularity into Twitter, Google Plus, or Facebook followers.
I never started a mailing list.
I never responded to the marriage proposals sent to me by Leelee Sobieski and Rachael Leigh Cook.
That last one doesn’t bother me because I married someone a million times better, but those other lost opportunities haunt me.
Why Are You Really Blogging?
Your reasons for blogging need to be crystal clear. Your goals need to be specific.
Goals give you direction. They give purpose to your actions. Without purpose, you’re just going through the motions.
Six-year-old Kevin in the story likely would have quit guitar lessons had the angel never visited him. There is only so long before drudgery defeats discipline.
But after seeing his future, Kevin had a clear goal in mind. From that point forward, his guitar lessons had a purpose. He was no longer simply “learning to play the guitar.” He was taking steps towards Carnegie Hall.
I wish I knew then what I know today.
Today, my goal is to blog for a living so I can work from home and spend more time with my wife. My former blog could have accomplished this goal – if I had bothered to define it as one.
Would I still have had down days? Days where I didn’t feel like blogging? Of course. But those days would never have overtaken me. Not as long as kept my goal in mind.
What is Your Carnegie Hall?
Having clearly-defined goals will give meaning to every action you take with your blog.
Every comment you make, every tweet you send, and every blog post you write will have a purpose.
Then toss away “I want to make money” and swap it with “I want my blog to replace my income so I can quit my job.”
Say no to “I want lots of readers” and say yes to “I want 50,000 monthly visitors by this time next year.”
Roundhouse kick “I want to be famous” and give a bear hug to “I want 100,000 Twitter followers.”
Whatever goal you make, make it specific. Tell it to a friend. Write it down. And if you reach your goal, for goodness sake, make a new one.
Don’t make the same mistake I made.
Discipline, when combined with direction, is an unstoppable force.
The alternative is drudgery, and a blog which will one day be abandoned and forgotten, like so many blogs before it.
But that’s not going to happen to you and your blog.
Originally published on October 15, 2014. It’s been updated. Creative Commons Image via Lloyd Morgan (adapted).