As someone who champions commenting as a means of growing your blog, I figured I should also point out the negative side of things. So what better way to do that than by breaking my regular habit of commenting on blogs?
After all, I’d just published this post about being consistent in my blogging duties, so there’s no better time to experiment than now.
And while it may seem like I impulsively arrived at this decision, I have to admit that I’d been pondering the practicality of this practice since the start of the New Year, especially seeing how the workflow has evolved since my humble beginnings.
In this week’s post, we’ll be exploring what’s involved in being a regular commenter, and what happens when you quit, so grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and let’s talk aabout all things commenting.
Before we move on, let me just throw out the 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle. This is the observation of how 20% of your activities contribute to 80% of your life, which is meant to be taken with a grain of salt.
Yet, I’d see this principle in action throughout my life, like the time I managed a salon, and noticed how 20% of the hairstylists were bringing in 80% of the revenue. Or during my time as a mentor, how 20% of the students asked 80% of the questions.
Why I’m bringing this up is because I want to highlight the importance of knowing our goals as writers.
What activity would you say contributes to the majority of your craft? For me, that’s writing and reading. In fact, my biggest writing goals cannot be achieved any other way, as inspiring as they can be for the craft.
That includes watching movies, seeking solitude, or exercising. And you know what else doesn’t bring me closer to my writing goals? Commenting on WordPress.
The cold, hard numbers
Want to know the least amount of time I spend commenting each day? Two hours. But that’s the bare minimum, and those days are rare.
On average, I lean towards four hours, sometimes five after I publish a post and need to handle incoming comments before I head out into the wild (that’s the Reader).
Why so long? Because I’m a slow reader, and besides the 20 new comments I put out every day, I also make sure to reply to every comment on this site, plus leave a comment on their blogs. That means I can easily reach 60 comments a day, reading excluded.
Therein lies the problem. I’m spending half a workday on comments, every day.
And while I pride myself on my work ethic, I have to put my foot down when it’s eating into my actual writing time.
And that brings me to the present day, where I’ve eschewed commenting for six days at the time of this draft. I still reply to comments (it’s only good manners), but I haven’t been browsing the Reader for new blogs, and I have to say that the initial impressions are pretty encouraging.
For one, I’ve started work on my sixth novel, one which I’ve been putting off for most of the year. Secondly, I actually get to connect better with awesome readers like you who take the time to interact with me.
But most importantly, I’m less distracted now, which is a low-key danger when you have 20 other voices and stories in your head each day.
You know how I always say that the early morning is the best time to eat your frog? Yeah, I’ve started to realise that maybe commenting shouldn’t be part of that. That’s because it’s not a good idea to bombard yourself with all that information before you’ve even woken up.
After all, isn’t that why most productivity enthusiasts recommend you not to browse social media or check your e-mail first thing in the morning?
I’d notice that on the heavy days, that I’d go through the rest of the morning in a state of fugue. It’s the exact same feeling you get from bingeing on an entire season of Friends. You just feel mentally spent at the amount of faux stimulation you’ve been receiving.
Delaying the process doesn’t help either. I could do it after lunch, but then I’d lose my evenings. Or I could do it at night and lose sleep.
At a certain point, I’m starting to realise that perhaps this information overload is doing my craft a disservice, despite the amazing growth my blog has seen over the years.
So what have I learned, then?
a. Busyness does not equal productivity
We all have our hierarchy of goals, and writing a thousand words per day might be great for me, but terrible for others.
That’s were constant self-examination comes into play. Because growing your blog on a budget might be a priority for you, and in that case, commenting on 20 posts a day would be in line with your goals.
For me though? I’ve had to take a honest look at my own goals and realise that I haven’t been writing as much fiction as I should have. Even my reading has taken a hit, since I already exert those muscles so much from reading blogs.
So it’s important that we constantly define what busyness and productivity means to us, and that we don’t mix the two.
b. Attention residue is real
One good thing about reflecting on this habit is that I’ve also learned the importance of avoiding the social media vortex.
Because distraction in the modern age has transcended the radio, television, or even Solitaire. And their effects are much more felt throughout the day too.
In fact, it’s scientifically shown that seeing a stranger travel the world (or a kitten video) then trying to focus on your task at hand makes your life just that much harder.
And rather than blame myself for being too lazy to write, I’d like to say that my drop in word count comes from the constant switching of contexts as I flit from blog to blog.
c. People change
What works for one person might not work for another. Likewise, what’s worked for me in the past might not do the same in the future.
Just like how I’d pivoted through my various careers, so too should I be willing to leave previous practices behind. The only reason why I stumbled upon writing as a career was because I was willing to make a change. Maybe this could be the start of something awesome too.
Maybe I’ll start focusing on SEO, or social media marketing. Heck, maybe I’ll finally give Pinterest a try.
d. My views dropped
Perhaps my biggest fear was losing all the momentum that I had built. But I quickly learned that wasn’t the case, because it wasn’t as if I was snowballing the numbers with each passing day.
In fact, commenting is just like cycling (I sure have been using this analogy a lot lately). Stop pedalling and you’ll come to a halt. Start pedalling and off you go again. Sure, there is some momentum involved in cycling, but you generally get immediate feedback from your actions, or lack thereof.
And while my total views have dwindled, I could probably get things rolling again by picking up where I left off, so it’s not exactly an irreversible loss.
e. The regulars stayed though
This includes awesome people like you. I’ve since realised that it’s the regulars that keep this blog (and me) going. In fact, in my previous post—during which I didn’t embark on a single comment run—I still saw a respectable comment rate, most of which consisted of returning readers.
Say what you want about traffic, but quality engagement and relationships are where it’s at. Which brings me to my final and most important point.
f. I have enough
I had 300 subscribers after blogging for six years. That was 2020. And after two years of comment runs, that figure has grown to 4,000.
Imagine 4,000 people. That is five full Airbuses. Do you know how big those Boeings are? And you know what? I’m starting to feel self-conscious, having each post read by that amount of people. Would I offend anyone? Would I do them justice? Would that number drop to 3,999?
But that’s besides the point. The point is, I’m grateful for the positive vibes I get in each post. The e-mails I receive. The chats we have. I’m grateful for you, you familiar stranger. And right now, that’s more than enough for me.
I hope this post has served its purpose thus far, and that’s to encourage any of you wanting to give comments a go. It’s a great way to grow your blog for free, provided you’re willing to pay with your time.
But I also hope that it sheds some light on the effort you need to put forth, and that you should always return to your why to see if you’re making the most out of your time.
So what’s next for me? I’m not too sure, but I’ve shortlisted a few ideas:
- Set a cut-off time each day
- Reduce quantity but increase quality
- Abandon comments entirely
- Batch comments a few days per week
- Cry in the fetal position because I have nothing figured out
What’s great is that my mornings are now dedicated to actual writing, and I’m already a few chapters deep into my latest novel. And who knows? With all this extra time, I could even up my publishing schedule to twice-a-week. Maybe that would be another solid way of growing the blog.
If you have any techniques that have worked for your blog’s growth, I’d also love to hear about it. Until then, I’ll see you next week. Same time, same place.
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