How to Be a Book Blogger and a Fabulous Grad Student

by Kim on April 24, 2010 · 23 comments

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A few weeks ago I eavesdropped on a Twitter conversation between Nymeth (@Nymeth) and Aarti (@aartichapati) where both were concerned about how they’d fit blogging into their schedules after they start grad school in the fall.

I started my blog just after I graduated from college and immediately started grad school in the fall, so in the almost two years I’ve been blogging I’ve been a student pretty much the whole time. I started thinking about how I’ve managed to do it, and came up with these tips about how to make it work.

1. Set limits for yourself.
I generally have a limit of three posts per week – one book review, one personal reading post (usually The Sunday Salon), and one “other” post. The most helpful limit for me is the one review a week because with school I don’t read enough to post a review more often than that. Knowing that I’m only “obligated” for one review a week lowers the pressure I feel to read and review as many books as possible.

2. Plan ahead.
I like to know at the beginning of the week what blog posts I’m going to try to write. This helps me think through my week, plan when I might write them, and know I won’t have gone too long between updates.

3. Write in batches, or blog as a mental warm-up.
I tend to write my blog posts all at the same time because I get my brain into blog-mode and find it’s easier. I also will sometimes write drafts of blog posts as a warm up for when I need to write papers for class. I always go back and edit those warm-up posts before putting them online, but usually they’re pretty good.

4. Stop messing with your template.
The biggest blogging time-suck for me is getting bogged down messing with my template, changing my color scheme, or something equally annoying. Avoid wasting time on background blog projects and instead focus on content – changing the banner or creating a new review archive can wait until you have vacation.

As a bonus tip, keep yourself away from social media like Twitter when you’re trying to work. Twitter is probably the biggest time-suck because seeing I have new tweets to read pulls me out of whatever school-zone my brain was in and I struggle to get back. Trust me — there isn’t anything happening on Twitter that’s so important that you can’t catch up on later.

5. Set time to respond to comments (and leave comments).
I try to respond to all the comments left on my blog, but with school it sometimes takes a few days. I tend to respond to comments in batches to keep the task from distracting me during busy times. Knowing I’ll get to it when I can rather than feeling like I have to respond right away helps me.

I also tend to read blogs in batches. I have a few folders in Google Reader that I try to check every day, and others I check more randomly. This sometimes gets me behind and I comment on posts a few days old, but hopefully no one minds. And I guess if they do, too bad for them.

6. Give yourself a break.
How busy you are as a student tends to come in waves, and there will be weeks when blogging just isn’t in the cards (midterms, finals, other times at random). When those weeks come, just take a break. I’ll sometimes post a note that I’m on hiatus, other times I just let the blog rest for a bit. Either way, your dedicated readers will understand. When you get back, don’t spend time apologizing for being gone, just get straight back into it.

So what’s the bottom line? Blogging and being a student can be a challenge, but I wouldn’t give up one to have done the other, and with a little work it’s possible (and most definitely worth it) to work at fitting blogging into an otherwise crowded student schedule.

If you have any other tips, suggestions, or questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Photo Credit: Cayusa via Flickr

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Nymeth April 24, 2010 at 9:41 am

Thank you for this post, Kim! I already do 3, 4 and 5, so you’ve got me thinking that maybe adjusting won’t be as hard as I feared it would.

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Kim April 27, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Nymeth: I don’t think it’ll be as hard as you think it will. Certainly, you’ll be reading for pleasure less and you’ll have to adjust blogging to account for that, but otherwise I think it’s possible to balance things out. And you have so many dedicated readers, I don’t think a change in your blogging habits or frequency will chase them away :)

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bermudaonion (Kathy) April 24, 2010 at 10:04 am

These are great tips for everyone!

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Kim April 27, 2010 at 8:34 pm

bermudaonion: Thanks :)

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Vasilly April 24, 2010 at 10:12 am

This is a great post! I can substitute the word “grad” in the title with “college”. I never thought to write my posts in batches. I think that would really help since I sometimes feel guilty about not writing my more posts. I’m going to bookmark this post so I can keep coming back to it.

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Kim April 27, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Vasilly: “Grad” and “College” are probably interchangeable. I sometimes think I was more busy in college than grad school, grad school is just a different kind of busy.

I love writing (and commenting) in batches. I tend to get in a blogging mode and it’s easy to keep my brain doing that to write a second post or another review. And having a backlog of finished posts keeps my stress level down because I feel like I’ve got something to post even if I get super busy for a few days.

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Aarti April 24, 2010 at 10:58 am

Great post, Kim! I have recently changed my template and now am quite happy with it and think it will last me a while. And yes- I definitely plan to do #1. There’s no way for me not to!

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Kim April 27, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Aarti: Setting limits has probably been the biggest help. For awhile I felt guilty that I didn’t review enough or that I’d reviewed all the books I’d read and didn’t know when I’d finish another book.

When I started setting limits it made me feel better — I only “had” to do a certain number of things and then I could move on. Plus, posting less often helps me respond to all comments and be better about reading other blogs. It’s been a huge, huge help.

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Iris April 24, 2010 at 11:38 am

I’m currently in grad school and have only been blogging for a few months, but I do think all of your advise is spot on. I have to admit that I find it hard to limit myself, but I hope that’s because I’m still a “newbie”. I’m still waiting for the super excited blogchecking to wear off, I guess. I’m currently in a bit of a slow period when it comes to schoolwork, but I expect it to pick up in about a week, so I’m curious how much blogging I’ll get done by then. Your advise made me stop and think about it again and even just reading it really helped. Thanks for the post!

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Kim April 27, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Iris: That’s great, I’m glad the advice rings true to you. I always worry about advice posts since blogging can be so individual.

I think the newbie thing will wear off and there will be a point when blogging seems more like work than fun. I know that’s happened to me, especially during busy school times, so I like giving myself permission to take a break.

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Meghan April 24, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I completely agree with all your points – most of my blogging was done while I was in college and grad school. I still write a bunch of posts at the same time. =) I actually found it easier to blog in school than I do now while working full time – at least then I could shift my time around and plan my days more, now it feels like I have no time ever!

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Kim April 27, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Meghan: I do think it’ll be harder to blog out of school. When I’m on a vacation of between semesters I always find it super hard to sit myself down and work on a review or respond to comments. Being in school makes blogging feel like a reward, which makes me want to do it more!

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Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) April 24, 2010 at 2:35 pm

As Kathy said, these are great tips for all of us! Thanks for this post!

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Kim April 27, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Melissa: Thanks! Glad they were helpful :)

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Lydia April 25, 2010 at 7:08 am

I think this shows a great deal of discipline on your part. It’s fabulous that you were able to do both! I, unfortunately, barely had enough time to sleep…

Great tips! I will definitely use them.

-Lydia @ The Literary Lollipop

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Kim April 27, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Lydia: I like to think I have some discipline, although recently I’ve been watching sooo much tv I’ve no idea how I’ve managed to get anything done. And I think doing a master’s is a little different than a PhD… if I were doing that, I’d be a heck of a lot busier!

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Fyrefly April 25, 2010 at 7:34 am

You hit the nail on the head with every single one of your points above… I started my blog halfway through grad school, and I’m managing to (mostly) keep it going even while writing my dissertation, so it’s definitely possible… although #6 in particular is key.

I’d add two more tips:
- Use blogging as a reward. We all blog because it’s fun; if you start feeling like blogging is something you “have to do” on top of all of the rest of your work, you’re not going to want to do it. If you treat blogging as something you “get to do” once you’ve finished whatever chunk of schoolwork, you’re much more likely to stick with it.

- Take notes! A lot of times I will have a good idea for a post or a way I want to phrase something in a review, but it always seems to happen when I don’t have the time to actually sit and work on my blog. I keep a small notebook with me so that I can jot down a sentence or two, which makes it much easier to reconstruct my train of thought later when I do have time to blog.

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Kim April 27, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Fyrefly: Yay, I’m glad these were good tips. I’m impressed with how much you blog given that you’re writing so much. I’ve obviously not doing a dissertation, but they look like a ton of work.

Those are great tips too! I absolutely agree on the blogging as a reward tip — that’s huge.

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jess April 26, 2010 at 7:24 am

Great advice. I am starting a masters program in the fall and will keep your helpful advice in mind!

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Kim April 27, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Jess: Good luck with your master’s! It’s a lot of work, but I’ve loved doing it.

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Lu April 28, 2010 at 7:49 am

This biggest one has definitely been no guilt for me. If I feel zero guilt about abandoning the blog for school, then I get more done. Um, the same sort of goes for blogging over school, but please don’t tell any of my professors that ;) Though I don’t have a set schedule, I often write three or four blog posts at once. Or I’ll sit down and write out three or four Poetry Wednesdays so I’m good for the whole month. Then I’m at least posting once a week during the slow times.

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Kim May 1, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Lu: I like the idea of doing multiple feature posts at a time. I should start doing that with Narrative Nonfiction 5, I just never have the patience for it.

I think the no guilt part is huge. I sometimes get feeling guilty over school versus blogging and just have to remind myself bogging is a hobby and should be fun :)

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Auriel Fournier July 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I totally agree, as I’ve transitioned from undergrad to grad student I’ve had to learn to work in batches. sometimes I have the freetime to write up several weeks worth of material and so I do, and then use those posts to fill the time when I’m swamped with other responsibilities.

I also using blogging as a reward when I’m working on another project. I take a 10 minute break from crunching stats or writing code and work on a post, it’s something I enjoy and is a much better use of my time then going through my facebook newsfeed once more time.

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