BLOG

5 Ways to Develop Consistency in Writing & Blogging

Friday, January 14, 2011

One of the biggest problems that many writers and bloggers have is the failure to be consistent.

Recently, a number of writer friends have either landed agents or acquired book contracts. As I evaluated these friends, one common ingredient I noticed among them is their consistency in their writing and social media endeavors.

What is consistency? The definition of the word “consistent” by Merriam-Webster is: regularity or steady continuity.

In other words, someone is classified as consistent when they regularly and steadily continue to work no matter what else is going on around them, even when they feel like giving up, and especially when the initial newness and fun has worn off.

My son got a Wii Fit for Christmas. The first week after he got it, he “exercised” with the game every spare moment he had. He was sore but had a lot of fun. However, as the days wore on, he began to do it less. And I couldn’t help wondering, would he eventually get tired of it and stop altogether?

Many writers start out full of energy and zeal. But as the weeks and months pass, they begin to write less, and eventually they’re sporadic and perhaps even stop. The same is true of social media—particularly blogging. I’ve seen many writers jump into blogging with enthusiasm, work hard at gaining a following, only to slowly lose momentum, until they’re irregular or hardly blogging at all.

For those writing with the end goal of publication, consistency is an essential ingredient. But why is it so hard for many of us to remain consistent with writing or blogging? There could be any number of reasons: busyness of life, discouragement, waning passion, etc. In fact, the very culture we live in breeds inconsistency—we’re taught to expect quick results, and so we become impatient when we don’t experience immediate gratification.

Perhaps the better question to ask is this: What can help a person develop the quality of being consistent? As I look at the lives of people I know who exhibit consistency, here’s what I see:

1. Long term vision: Seeing beyond the present. Looking to the future. Knowing that the choices of today effect the success of tomorrow.

2. Deep inner convictions: Having a certainty of one’s calling, gifts, talents. Believing strongly in the rightness of what one is doing.

3. Strong self-discipline: Making conscious decisions and sticking to them. Committing not only to the task, but also to seeing it to completion.

4. Realistic pacing: Determining one’s ability and speed, and setting realistic goals accordingly.

5. Passion: Enjoying the process of putting words together, weaving stories, and sharing with others through the written word.

All of the ingredients above working together help a person develop consistency. It’s really hard for a person to be consistent when they’re missing one. For example, I may have long term vision, but if I lack self-discipline, then I’ll likely be sporadic. And if I have only passion, but am missing realistic pacing, I could end up burning out.

My list of ingredients for consistency may not be perfect or complete, but I think it’s a good place for us to start. We can begin by examining our weaknesses and asking ourselves a few questions:

• Are we striving after immediate results? Or have we gained a long term vision for our writing careers? Where do we see ourselves in a year, two years, or five?

• Do we waver with our commitment to our writing? Or do we know that it’s something we need to be doing, even at the sacrifice of other things in our lives?

• Are we relying on whim or feelings for determining our writing schedules? Or are we making conscious decisions and plans?

• Are we comparing ourselves to others and trying to keep up? Or are we deciding what works best for our unique schedules?

• Are we truly in love with writing for the sake of writing? Would we do it anyway, even we never receive any accolades?

Agents and publishers are looking for writers who display consistency too. Agent Wendy Lawton (of Books & Such Literary Agency), in a recent post about what she’s looking for in potential clients, said this: “I also look for a writer who is realistic and prepared for the long-haul. . . knowing that they are going to have to pay their dues, possibly with very little return in terms of attention and money for the first few years . . . Writing is like any other business, the commitment needs to be there.”

We need to cultivate consistency in all areas of our writing careers—in our daily writing habits, editing, marketing strategies, and our use of social media.

In what areas do you struggle to be consistent? Do you agree that it’s a key quality in reaching publication? Or do you think there are other qualities that are more critical?

49 comments:

  1. I think consistency is one of those top-rung qualities, along with patience and perseverance. It seems that so many of the qualities that make for a good writer are intertwined. We can't truly be successful if we aren't willing to put in the time and effort to develop those qualities.

    Of course, everyone's definition of successful will vary. If I can write 100 words a day, I'm feeling pretty good about life. The key is to keep doing it until I get where I want to go.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a great opportunity to leave another comment! ^^ Consistency is one of my main focus right now. I admire those who are able to do something in a very consistent way, but in no way I prefer regularity to passion - it can show through the writing, especially, if one is blogging for the sake of having another post up. Consistency can be associated to quantity, and it is well known that quantity is important to form quality but are not always synonyms of something good.

    We definitely need to enjoy those bursts of creativity while keeping the "base level" high too. And do things for the right reasons, all tempered with a strong dose of self-discipline as you articulately point it out.

    I struggle to be consistent in writing (not blogging per se at the moment, general writing), photographing, studying and other small gestures along my day.

    Jody, I'd love to know how long you have been consistently posting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Is there a blog where you discuss your blogging habits?

    SB

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, great point, Susie! We can definitely begin to wan on the quality of our writing and blogging if we're just slapping something together for the sake of being consistent. That regularity in writing and posting must really go hand in hand with passion. Although, I must say, that there are days when I add to my daily word count goals when I feel no passion--but I do it anyway because I want to consistently meet my goals. And in the end, what seemed like drivel at the time usually isn't too bad. :-) I think that's because when we're consistent, we keep our writing muscles strong.

    When I first started blogging I was doing it every day which was too often. I cut back to three times a week and have been doing that consistently :-) for the past year and a half. I'm not really sure if I have one post that explains my blogging habits, but I do have some that give my opinions about how to maintain a professional blog.

    And btw, thanks for jumping into the conversation!

    ReplyDelete
  4. At one point I spent more time talking about writing and dreaming about writing than actually writing. It's fun, but it won't get you very far. I see a lot of new writers making this mistake.The phrase I always come back to to motivate myself is "keep your head down."

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love your list! Right one. I would just add realistic expectations, and perseverance.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post. I jumped in blogging and realized that I just couldn't do it every single day. Many blogs gave advice and said it was important to get out there five days a week, but after praying I realized that for me, three days was enough. We can't compare ourselves to others and what they're doing. So I've stopped. I feel so relieved, and I can stay consistent in that area because it works!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Consistency is great for building numbers but may hurt you in social media if you focus on that and miss the point.

    Getting eyes on your page is an old-school marketing notion that's been infecting blogging for a long time. Consistency -- training readers to come to your site on a schedule -- draws on the idea that more is always better and if you put your stuff in front of enough people, some of them will buy it. It's based on some very old marketing ideas relating to awareness and attention.

    In social media, the grail is not numbers but relationship. It's better to have a hundred people who love your work than to have ten thousand people who know of you. Fostering that connection -- finding the people who love your stuff so much they want to share it with their friends -- that's the goal, not raw numbers. If you have the relationship, the numbers will follow. The inverse is not true.

    Comment and trackback are the key tools for casting the net -- for getting people to be aware of you. Immediacy and social presence are the tools for building relationships. It's hard to build a relationship with somebody who's not there so talking *with* your audience is much more significant than talking *to* them. Consistency is not a significant factor in either of those two efforts.

    Spending all your effort on consistency at the expense of immediacy and social presence means you miss the opportunity to build the relationship. You wind up with a platform with no foundation.

    Just my opinion. Your mileage may vary. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Those posts over at Books & Such have been fantastic.

    You summed me up in a nutshell: #2,#3 and #5.

    I struggle most in this area w/ my children.

    ~ Wendy

    ReplyDelete
  9. In my writing life, blogging is the one area where I struggle to be consistent, especially when my demanding day job takes up a lot of my time after hours with paperwork and preparation for the next day.

    I'm trying to become a better blogger, but blogging doesn't come easily to me, so it's a struggle.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Nathan, You've given me a lot to think about today. I'll be mulling over your comment! On the one hand, I agree that social media is constantly evolving and is about socializing and building relationships. But I'm not sure that everyone handles that relationship-building in the same way. For example, I don't have the time to physically respond to each comment I get on this blog (somedays that could end up being a full time job!). :-)

    Thank you for giving me some good food for thought today! Love when that happens. You may inspire the topic of a future post!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Consistency is difficult for me too. In everything. I have to say, your posts are so professional and rather than waning, I have noticed them getting stronger.

    Well done!

    I love the Posts Wendy Lawton's been doing as well.

    Thanks Jody! Have a good weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  12. When writers first decide to actually do it--write that book--they're usually flying on adrenaline. Then they think, oh, I need to get my name out there so when a publisher gives me the contract I'll be ready to promote it. Nothing wrong with either of these, but the hard reality is that there are a million other people doing the same thing. And when they realize their first book isn't going to be published, that's when consistency and vision take over.

    I don't think writers can make it if they don't write regularly--and I'm not talking about blogging--I'm talking about writing their books.

    Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I couldn't agree more, Jody. Excellent, inspiring post, my friend.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm learning that social media, making those online connections, is really important when it comes to being a newly published author that nobody has ever heard of. I'm trying to get out there without being obnoxious and I've chosen blogging as a way to make connections, establish relationship and for a community. I don't talk about my book every day, but I do write about writing and life in general. So far it seems to be going well. I hope I can be consistent - it's time consuming, especially when there are SO many blogs to follow!!
    By the way Jody, thank you for that wonderful email you sent with the marketing tips - I really appreciate it!

    ReplyDelete
  15. You're right, Jody.

    How one handles that relationship building really is a personal thing. You're doing a great job here at building the community of writers -- and as long as *you're* happy with the way that achieves your goals, that's what matters.

    You raise the point that it's important to recognize that there are different kinds of platforms for different purposes. A writer looking for representation may want big numbers where an author looking for indie or self-pub may place more emphasis on stronger relationships.

    Having BOTH is great, but it's tough to pull off.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I've really been enjoying Wendy's posts over at Books & Such. And I agree with everything you said. I scaled back my blog posts to once a week because I could sense burnout approaching at my previous pace. As cliche as it sounds, this really is a marathon, not a sprint. Thanks for a great post as always, Jody!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great tips! I think lack of consistency also comes when the vision needs to be reevaluated. I started out blogging M-F, but after a few months, I began losing steam. Instead of quitting or blogging sporadically, I tried cutting posts to three days a week and 2 of the days are regular features. That schedule works a lot better for me and I've managed to maintain consistency with it.

    The same things happen with my writing goals. When I start losing momentum, I reevaluate my goals and vision. Usually it just takes some tweaking to get back my consistency.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I have not been published (yet!) but I agree that consistency is key in so many areas of life. Building any kind of business or even relatinoship. You don't become best friends with someone over night. It requires history with one another and shared experiences. Time and effort over the long haul. Plus, faith in whatever you are focusing on that it will all be worth it in the end! Because it IS even if you don't always feel it.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I love consistency in just about everything. I'm anal that way. ;) I to saw Wendy's post and thought it was a great description of what agents are looking for. I blog 3x's a week and try to twitter and facebook when I can. My posts are always writing related. I try to keep them light and fun. On Friday's I post a writing related question. ANd I'm still at the stage where I try and reply to every comment by visiting the commenters blog. I hope that all made sense! I homeschool and have a busy family, but that doesn't stop me from writing. I've written on holiday's, after funerals, weddings, weekends, through health and illness, on the beach in Hawaii, yeah I'm crazy like that. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Consistency is very important in accomplishing anything. I spend most of my life being consistent, and sometimes it's really boring--just gotta say! I exercise 5 days a week and have been for years. I consistently have a writing project I'm working on completing, and I have for years. I consistently teach my children at home 5 days a week during the school year and have for going on ten years. And I see results in all of these things--and there other areas, like finance, where consistency has paid off, but I don't want to bore you with frighteningly consistent world.

    Being somewhat an expert in consistency and how it pays off, I don't see a lot of pay-off for blogging. It just doesn't seem worth it for the time invested. I'm not going to quit blogging, but I wonder at its effectiveness.

    I have to ask myself what I'm trying to accomplish. Is it to sell my personality? Probably not--that's not worth marketing. Some people's are; they have a special charm. Am I trying to connect with others? There are much, much easier, less time-consuming ways of doing that.

    I'm just looking at time-value, that's all. I want to get the most for my time, and I'm not sure blogging's the thing.

    But, I'm not going to stop, because once I've set a course of consistency, I rarely give it up. Don't know if that's a good or a bad thing.

    Sorry for such a long comment--no value in that, either!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I am consistent until the kids are home on Christmas break or summer vacation and then they are my focus and the blogging schedule goes out the window. If I am in the middle of a manuscript, I squeeze in twenty minutes here and there.

    I think this summer, rather than leaving my followers wondering when I am going to post, I will let them know which two days I will be consistent to blog.

    Thanks for another thought provoking post.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Fantastic post, as usual Jody!

    I love the discussion here, too. Consistency is definitely something to strive for. People like knowing what to expect (I know you've touched on branding here before, and knowing what to expect from a writer and their writing is a HUGE part of branding) from a writer. I want to be able to deliver, so that my readers want to come back for more, whether that's my blog or (Lord willing someday) my books.

    Jill Kemerer's comment really stuck with me, because I feel like it's exactly how my writing life has evolved. Consistency was not my strong suit when I was first starting out, but I've come to realize that it's incredibly important, not only for myself as a writer, but for my readers, too!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Consistency was always one of my biggest problems. I always start with a lot of passion and big plans. It's the rest that I have problems with.

    But I think I'm getting it right this time. Sure, it's a bit trial and error at the moment, seeing what works, adjusting the pacing and all. But I'm optimistic.

    Thanks for this post, it's really great.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Jill Domschot said: Being somewhat an expert in consistency and how it pays off, I don't see a lot of pay-off for blogging. It just doesn't seem worth it for the time invested. I'm not going to quit blogging, but I wonder at its effectiveness.

    My Answer: Jill, I think you bring up a point alot of writer-bloggers think about, but just don't say out loud. Thank you for voicing it. I'm actually going to have a post that relates to this topic next week.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I so agree with you that consistency is key to achieving our goals, no matter whether they're in writing or life in general. I leapt into blogging and have flagged, but am commiting to once a week only. This is a realistic goal for me. I really appreciate bloggers like yourself who write material that's alive with information.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I'm so happy to stumble across this discussion today. I'm new to blogging and trying to figure out realistic goals. It occurred to me today that my blog posts feel more like essays, which I am used to writing and publishing. I'm satisfied with them, yet it's hard to imagine writing such lengthy and substantial posts five days a week. So I may try some shorter ones for a week. I'm giving myself permission to be a little inconsistent at first, and just let myself learn how to blog. I have a goal of figuring out a pattern and schedule in a month or so, and sticking to it. So for me, some inconsistency works right now. But I see the advantage of eventually letting readers know what to expect and when they can expect it.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Great thoughts to contemplate, Jody. There's a difference between consistency and regularity. Consistency hints at quality; regularity suggests quantity. Nathan would have a point if you were advocating the need for blogging regularly with the goal to increase readership, but I don't think that's your point here.

    The published authors I encounter all say that perseverance was the key to their success... with an emphasis on writing constantly and producing the best quality they're capable of, while developing relationships both online and in real time. Whether writing for publication or blogs, that strikes me as the ideal focus.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Funny thing is, I'm more consistent with writing and blogging than in other areas in my life. What does that say?

    BTW: I bought your book last fall, planned to read it during the holidays. Couldn't find where I'd put it. BUT I was given a Kindle for Christmas, and so I bought it again for my Kindle. I'm loving your book! You have a very good writing style.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I'm learning to plan. I love writing and blogging, and now Twitter and Facebook:) Who knew there were so many wonderful angles to the writing life.

    My dilemma is work. A stiff 40hr a week job that sucks my passion, but faithfully pays the bills.

    You've given me a lot to chew on:)

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hello, Jody - from Norway.

    I am a Norwegian author-to-be who have recently signed with a publisher and hopefully I will be published, fall 2011. I find that the task of writing a story the first time is easy - I can use my imagination and have a good time. Easily I can dedicate most of my day to this work. This is much much harder now that I'm revising, revising and revising again... I have gotten into the habit of- allright I'll write when I've finished this and then that, washed up here and cleaned there, called this one and then updated facebook and read Jody's blog--- OMG, is it THAT late already?? Ohwell... I can always write after dinner, after tea, or, well, a few hours, or minutes before I go to bed. Or, I can rather get up early the next day to write. Love your blog Jody. BUT now--- I really need to go and WRITE!!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Carol, you raise a good point about blogging as writing practice. Honestly, it's not one I'd considered because when I want to hone my craft, I start another novel.

    You also raise a good point about this post being about writing in general and not specifically about blogging. I've read so much about blogging and consistency and platforms lately, they're all blending together. Apologies where appropriate.

    I'll confess. I'm a binge writer. I write when I have a work that needs writing. When I get grabbed, I'll write ten, twelve, fourteen hours a day, seven days a week until it's done. I'll write 8,000 or 10,000 words a day -- my record day was around 25k. Then I'll go weeks or months without writing more than a tweet or blog post.

    It worked for me in terms of producing the work. I think everybody needs permission to find their own path to success. Consistency in writing isn't mine.

    Thanks for another thoughtful post, Jody. This is why I keep you in my feed reader. :)

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thank you for this post. I have struggled with consistency and purpose. I still have a long way to go, but finally seem to feel like my writing has direction after much praying and contemplating. It's with this knowledge that I now feel I'm ready to tackle the long haul:)

    ReplyDelete
  33. I severely lack in self-discipline. In recent weeks I have become very aware of how much time I waste, so I'm working on a plan to do better.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Fail to plan and plan to fail. I agree 110% with your points. One reason many writers run out of steam is they don't plan ahead., Doing even a small amount of preparation can help make those things you listed waaaay easier.

    Thanks for your consistency, :D.

    Kristen Lamb

    ReplyDelete
  35. Wow, Nadiyya, all the way from Norway?! That's great! And it's one of the things I love so much about social media, our ability to connect with one another around the world.

    And Nathan, I can't imagine writing that much in one setting! That's amazing! I agree that we all need to find what works for us. I think many of us operate better if we write on a consistent basis and keep the writing or editing muscles strong. But, we're all different and hopefully we can all find what works for us!

    Thanks, everyone for the stimmulating discussion today! I enjoyed it very much!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Great post, Jody. I've learned that one of my issues is pacing. It's not that I set my goals too high, but that I don't set a reasonable way to manage these goals.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Your list of five "consistent" traits is revealing and gives cause to reflect.

    I find that, for #2 on the list, I still doubt my talents, but yet I know the importance of perseverance and am determined to continue growing, learning, and progressing. I agree totally with #4, too. For me, finding that realistic pace is a trial and error type thing. The right pace and time frame for goals seems to change regularly depending on life around. (But, I figure it's good as long as I keep setting those goals and meeting most of them!)

    I agree, too, with the fact that all of those traits needs to work together to create and sustain consistency.

    (I've been loving those posts from Wendy Lawton this week, too, along with so many others!)

    Yet another great post, Jody! Thank you for your knowledge and encouragement! Your posts are definitely consistently helpful. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  38. Blogging has been tough for me as I don't know that I'm the type. However, when I reactivate my blog, I believe the goal will be to blog once a week so I'm consistent.

    Social networking is proving to be a giant time sink for me. While I've connected with great people, it's a distraction that has eaten into my writing time, and I need to get it under control. I think a lot of people have this problem.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Jody; Yes, isn't it nice - Norway is just a klick on the keyboard away. Right now with heavy snowfall outside my windows. Your blog is very useful and a great read, so I will be sure to pop by, and will also make sure to read your novel. I don't know if it's translated to Norwegian yet, but I love to read in English as well. Have a great weekend Jody.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Thanks for this post, Jody. I needed to hear it. :)

    ReplyDelete
  41. Hi Jody -

    Off topic - Your book was displayed at my Christian bookstore with the cover facing out. :)

    I need to improve in the area of pacing. Your post provide so much valuable advice. I appreciate it.

    Blessings,
    Susan

    ReplyDelete
  42. Jody,
    I don't know how you post 3 times a week, and wonderful posts, and keep up with your writing and family responsiblities. I'm really struggling with that right now. You do a wonderful job and should be very proud of that.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Hey Susan, thank you for letting me know about the "turned out" factor! Takes a another writer to know exactly what a privilege it is to have a book facing out at the store!!

    And Jillian, Thanks for your encouragement. It's most definitely a struggle for me to keep up with the work load that I have, and sometimes I bend under the weight of it. So you're not alone in that feeling.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Oh and Caroline, I've loved Wendy's realistic posts this week too. I particularly liked her analogy of a writing career being like a small business. It takes time, money, and energy to get a business up and running, and it may even take years before a small business owner sees a substantial profit. Because I'm at the early stages of being a published author, I can totally relate to that!

    ReplyDelete
  45. I've found taking an "unplug" break once or twice a year for at least a week helps me - at first I was scared to do that, but it's the best thing ever . . . and that helps with my consistency by not becoming burned out.

    Great Post!

    ReplyDelete
  46. Walt M said...
    Great post, Jody. I've learned that one of my issues is pacing. It's not that I set my goals too high, but that I don't set a reasonable way to manage these goals.
    ***

    Wow, this is SO precisely me! Sometimes I feel like I must have too much on my plate, but when I take a closer look I realize I just need more organization or time management or some way to get a handle on things and I'd be able to easily take care of my responsibilities. Thanks for the post, Jody! And I love all the comments too.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I struggle with consistency in visiting blogs! Love to do it but just don't have the time.

    From what I see, your middle name should be consistency:)

    Blessings,
    Patti

    ReplyDelete
  48. I find that my consistency isn't always up to par because I'm so busy juggling other projects, volunteering, family, and trying to do it all. I know my young boys are growing quickly and before I know it they will not need me quite so often. Those bittersweet days will bring me more time to write and do all of the other projects that don't see the spotlight quite so often. For now, I feel I must be content with patience and taking that time as it comes.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Seriously, Jody, I think you wrote this entry just for me! Words I needed to hear...I mean, read! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete

© All the articles in this blog are copyrighted and may not be used without prior written consent from the author. You may quote without permission if you give proper credit and links. Thank you!