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Old School Blogging And Habit Formation

As the leaves finish turning, the days become shorter and the winter lights start to appear on our streets, our thoughts naturally turn to what we might want, or hope for, in the coming year. As I write, there’s still 18 days left in 2015 and if your calendar is anything like mine, there’s still a lot of things to do between now and New Year’s eve.

But, as I start to mark more and more dates into 2016 (and 2017), I can’t help but wonder what the coming year will be like. How much success and failure, happiness and sadness, lies in store.

Habits in popular culture

Of course, we tend to think of the coming year in terms of resolutions, commitments we try to make to get more out of the coming year. Resolutions might be driven by big life goals, but the way we articulate them sits squarely within the realm of habits, trying to increase the good ones (exercise, heathy eating, gratitude, productivity) and reducing the bad ones (slothfulness, unhealthy eating, negativity, distraction). That most new resolutions fail to stick past the first weeks of January probably shouldn’t surprise us, because it’s always hard to develop new habits and even harder to break old ones.

The public discussion of habits has really grown in recent years, sparked in part by popular books like The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business and Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life.

On a recent Unmistakable Creative podcast interview, Jim Bunch talked in depth about designing our living and working environments with a view to making good habits stick. One idea he suggested, was a kind of 90 day challenge; pick three goals then every day, for 90 days, have three concrete actions towards those goals. 180 actions towards a set of goals, in a short space of time, is a pretty solid way to make good habits stick.

How Long Does It Take To Change Habits

Over the years, I’ve hear plenty of suggestions for how long it takes to make or change a habit, 21 days, 30 days, 45 days. One recent study suggests the number is closer to 66 days. This feels about right. In my own experience, along with watching fellow creatives and folks I’ve taught and mentored along the way, it’s sometimes true that we can make a habit stick after doing it everyday for a few weeks, but it usually takes closer to 2-3 months if the change is ever going to be permanent in our lives.

That’s because changing habits isn’t a decision it’s a process. Wanting to change our habits is easy – a lifetime of failed New Year’s Resolutions teaches us this fact. Actually changing them requires a lot of work and usually, it involves making ourselves accountable to someone else for our progress. Bunch’s 90 day plan involves accountability to others who are going through the same challenge. Often, those who succeed in making habits stick, are accountable to family, loved ones, coaches, mentors, teachers or bosses.

Old School Blogging And Accountability

When we remember what blogs were like in the old days, back before 2006, it’s often the personal, confessional nature of the posts that comes to mind. But, a lot of old school bloggers were striving to be accountable for the way they lived, sharing their lives as way to reinforce a commitment to see more of the world, cook or eat better food, be more committed to their family, church or charity, or live a healthier or more active life.

Why Did Old School Blogging Die Out

The one-two punch that killed off old school blogging was the rise of “problogging” the idea that you could use blogs to make money and the advent of social media, which gave people tools that were much easier to use and in many ways better suited to the kind of sharing that happened on personal blogs. Now, most new blogs today are focussed tightly on particular topic and often a specific niche within that topic.

Maybe it’s the winter-time nostalgia, the twinkling lights and mulled wine shaping my mood a little, but I miss Old School Blogging. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Lately, I’ve seen some folks use mailing lists to share short series of day posts, usually around a month, that feel very much like old school blogs, a few photos, some quickly written thoughts and observations. Like dropping the needle on a vinyl album, after years of listening to digital recordings, this step back into old school blogging feels warm, fresh and delightful.

The Post-Traffic Mindset

Over the last few years, I’ve divided my time between photography, music and writing, with blogging taking up a big chunk of the later. It sounds like a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 split, but while I was away in New York, I noticed that these three creative pursuits were dwarfed by the amount of time I had been spending on trying to generate traffic for this site (and other projects). The world of SEO, content marketing, audience profiling, copywriting and other traffic-related activities seemed to take up an increasing amount of my time. There seemed to be a direct correlation between the way this new habit, tending my online garden so to speak, had taken over my time manifesting in a decline in creative output, from the number of photos I took every month, to the number of blogposts I wrote, together with struggles to maintain other good habits, like eating and sleeping well.

So, back in October I decided to put that stuff back in the small box it deserves – SEO matters, but not that much! The freedom from what had become a bad habit already feels wonderful – more time to take and process photos!!! Now I’m wondering what a post-traffic mindset means for this site and what I share on it. I’m not sure if going old school is the answer. But, something more personal, more everyday, like walking in the park, feels like the right path to walk, a habit I’d like to get back to.

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5 Comments
  • Javier I. Sampedro - 17th December 2015

    I have realized that this year I haven´t been really productive in relation to my blog and also have dedicated less time to taking photos, and I kind of miss that. Overall, has been a quite busy year, putting more time and effort into sports but having in mind for the coming year 2016 I would like to improve things.

    Talking about blogging, I have always had in mind the importance of SEO but when I write my posts is not always the first thing. I prefer to write the story in my own words and is because is my own blog and I can do as I wish. Recently I discussed with a friend about the using of social media during these past years, in some way has affected how people act with the blogs and have lost the original meaning of commenting / reading blogs. I wouldn´t say blog are dead but I think it´s a platform with many years of use and hoping like you and me, still have more stories to share about our passions, hobbies and thoughts.

    Also time to wish you and your family a very Happy Christmas time.

    Cheers,
    Javier

    Reply
  • fernando - 17th December 2015

    Javier – this year I have only managed 41 posts so far and only 24 in the first 8 months of the year. This is a big drop from the 150+ I used to post. I expected a drop this year, because of the effort that went into the book. But, I then didn’t pick up on writing after that. I’ve never been heavily motivated by traffic, but it’s hard not to feel a little down when the number of visitors keeps dropping.

    It seems every fellow blogger I’ve spoken to has had a funny, year, a lot of questioning about how to do it, a lot of frustration. For me, personally, I’ve decided to share a lot more about my day to day, what I’m experiencing living and working in Tokyo. It strikes me that in recent years, I’ve not put a lot of personal details into my blogposts, and I’m trying to do more of that, share what I like, what I do, what I’m learning, in a more personal way.

    Reply
    • Javier I. Sampedro - 17th December 2015

      I have noticed a drop of the numbers as well, it has been a busy year with the arrangements of the wedding, relatives visiting and attending another wedding back in Spain. Despite the low number, I still have plenty of ideas that I would like to put together for the blog and as you said, talking more about the personal things related to the daily life. Sometimes even just a photo or some action I see in the street can inspire me to write a story about it.

      I am sure that 2016 will have good things waiting for us. Having a fresh start and full of energy to face a new year in all aspects of life.

      Reply
      • fernando - 17th December 2015

        Javier – yes, this month I’ve been posting shorter posts that were quick to write. I want to do more of that. Also, I want to share more posts about Tokyo. Realise I’ve posted very few photos online of my home/studio/neighbourhood, etc.

        Anyway, thank you for your comments and support as always, hope you have a great holiday and start to 2016!

        Reply
  • Daniel - 28th December 2015

    I hadn’t thought about how social media has replaced blogging for the confessional aspects of online sharing but in retrospect I think your correct. I too miss the more friendly nature of pre-social media blogging before if became out income generation and SEO. There is a feedback loop (or game) in SEO that makes it easy to get sucked into ‘making the numbers go up’ rather than ‘making things that matter’..

    Also thanks for the Unmistakable Creative podcast, hadn’t heard of that one but I’ll check it out!

    Reply
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In his Tokyo studio Fernando combines his life-long passions for art and technology. On the road, he is always looking to take the next wrong turn, just to see what kind of images and stories might unfold. A photographer and writer, with a background in music, Fernando has lived in Chile, Australia, the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. Read More.

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