A Foolish Consistency Is The Hobgoblin Of Little Bloggers?

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Much has been said and written over the last year or so about the importance of being a consistent blogger.

And, I’ve added to the discussion with my own thoughts, posts and ideas.

By consistent, I mean:

A few months back, Maki wrote a great post over at DoshDosh.com about the power of patterning your readers with editorial calendars and creating an expectation of consistency that provides comfort and fuels loyalty.

Based on everything I’ve read in the blogosphere and observed on this blog, I’ve eased myself into a more regular posting pattern and narrowed the topics I write about over the last few months. And, I’ve allocated articles that fall squarely outside those topics to others’ blogs, where they find a better fit. By and large, it’s lead to more consistent conversation and growth.

But, I have to admit to something, with a few exceptions…

My most popular posts have been the ones I never planned to write.

They’re the ones where I wake up, possessed by a feeling, a rant, a subject matter, an emotion, an event or a point that just needs to be immediately cleared out of my head and shared for discussion…regardless or timing or topic.

And, what I’ve discovered is that, while consistency as a general rule is a good thing, a rigid, almost dogmatic adherence to the rule would’ve often ended up squashing some of the greatest conversations that have unfolded on the this blog. Because they were spurred on by posts that, were consistency the rule, never would’ve been posted. Or, at the very least, should not have been put up when they were.

So, sure, rules are good. Consistency is good.

But, even better, is knowing when and then having the courage to break the rules…then letting the chips fall where they may.

Because, that’s where the juicy stuff happens. Because a “foolish” consistency really may be the hobgoblin of little blogging minds.

So, what do you think? Agree? Disagree?

Does this extend beyond blogging?

What am I missing?

Let’s discuss…

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25 responses

25 responses to “A Foolish Consistency Is The Hobgoblin Of Little Bloggers?”

  1. It seems to me that people become successful and then write articles about how they did it. But this is just rationalizing. They don’t actually KNOW how they did it. If they did, anyone could repeat the process and become successful. But everyone is different, every situation is different and everyone has to find their own way through.

  2. Well, now I don’t feel at all guilty about waxing poetic about “Mamma Mia” and ABBA today.

  3. The only thing consistent about me is my inconsistency! But I must be doing something right. Consistency is easy to teach, easy to preach, but the truth is that life and messier than that–and that means so is success.

  4. Sandra says:

    I think the key here is not so much adhering or sticking to the rules, but being passionate about what you are blogging. If you woke up ranting/full of emotion/feeling strongly about something, it comes through. As a reader, this resonates more with me than consistency.

  5. Jess says:

    I completely agree; a routine of posting is good in some ways, but variety, unexpectedness is also good, and there’s a need for a balance between the two..
    Great post! I love the title (drew me in 😉 )

  6. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Michael Miles – I agree in part, there is a definitely a highly nebulous process that often really hard to elicit, then share, but certain tools, like NLP based modeling (done right, and very few peoples do it right), can be amazingly powerful ways to distill processes that people aren’t even aware they engage in into documented, teachable systems. But, it’s not easy task.

    @ Hayden – sorry, what’d you say, I was out walking my Big Black Cow!

    @ Michael Martine – way easier to preach than to do. And, yup, often it’s the outliers that make like..and blogs…really interesting

    @ Sandra – now doubt, passion is a huge factor

    @ Jess – Yeah, in the end, you’re right, it’s all about balance, but sometimes I think you need to create and live with the rules long enough to understand how to break them intelligently.

  7. I agree with Sandra. Readers can sense enthusiasm – if I’m fired up about a topic it comes through in my writing and even in the headline. Those articles get more clicks.

    If I was “fired up” 20 times every week I doubt people would respond well (hello Techcrunch?) but posting once or twice per week on something really helpful or inspiring is a nice pace for me anyway.

    Another aspect of consistency that’s important is visual presentation. Jonathan – you do a nice job with the photos you use as headers. They are eye-catching, attractive and consistent.

  8. James says:

    Great music is the result of dissonance. Twelve Bar Blues is very consistent in its structure but, through the blue notes (dissonance), and interpretation a great sound is created.

    For me it comes down to passion, “the juicy stuff.” And passion creates dissonance. When I read passion in a blog post, it can be emotional or it can be intellectual, I’m interested and will keep coming back. Consistent posting is great for Google but not that important to me as a reader.


  9. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Scott – No doubt passion seems to something we all keep coming back to. And, thanks for noticing the attention to the visuals I use. I actually pay for every image and edit each one, which is funny, because I see them showing up on other peoples’ blogs and websites from time to time and know they were taken from this blog, because the originals look different and are cropped differently.

    @ James – Love the blues analogy, especially as someone who’s a massive blues guitar fan (and hack blues guitarist, too)

  10. Writing about a topic that fires you up is far more important than sticking to your plan.Since this doesn’t happen everyday you can always return to your consistent plan in between enthusiastic bursts.

    My favorite posts are the ones that grow out of the blogger’s recent experiences or observations that have a lesson that will appeal to the readers.

    I agree with James, consistent posting may be great for Google, but is not enough to hold the interest of a discerning reader.

  11. I totally agree. In fact, even though I rarely post over the weekend, I had an inspiring idea for a post last weekend and sat down to write it. The feeling was wonderful and it got good responses.

    The only “consistency” I follow is posting my weekly interviews (Wed) and my gratitude posts (Fri). Everything else comes “whenever.”

    Bottom line? Consistency is good but not at the expense of flexibilty and divine inspiration.

  12. shelley says:

    I like that, “divine inspiration” That will translate across any field and if you are open to the vibrations of life you may just find that you have something to share on a consistent basis.

    I also identify with knowing the rules so that you are more effective when bending or breaking them. In classes ( I teach yoga) I am often heading in a direction that was unplanned; I use basic phrases to move the class along and then let inspiration dictate the mood or the waves… sometimes we have been know to bust out in a silly dance because of something “random,” like a song, will require us all to yield to the moment.

    Back to the original question- knowing the rules is good. letting the chips fall where they may, also good. Agreed.


  13. Amy says:

    I just read an article that suggests it’s best to write consistently, like 2 times a month, 2 times a week, 2 times a day, but to vary the actual day and time, thus building up anticipation and expectation in the readers.

    Admittedly, I haven’t noticed when you post, Jonathan, but after reading your blog for at least 6 months I do know that I anticipate, expect and look forward to whatever it is you have to say.

    And like Flora, I especially love it when people share personal stories and tie it into some deeper insight. Usually it results in a juicier read.

  14. Martin says:

    It isn’t just the topics that bring me back to a blog. What I want is to feel a rapport with the author and be sympathetic with what he writes. I want the author to expand my thinking. There is little use subscribing to a blog that is one dimensional. A blog should represent the author not just a topic i.e a blog should be consistent but not one dimensional .. in my opinion.

  15. Jonathon,

    I think its a balance between staying on topic and being real. If you are always on schedule you will probably come off stale.

    If you never stretch the limits of what is consider on topic you might never find the hidden gems in life.

    You just never know. Follow your heart and you will always be right.

    Brian Monahan

  16. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Flora – I don’t even think consistency is about Google, its more about what Maki alluded to as patterning your readers, especially those who thrive on regularity (never been me). But, yes, fire is what it’s really about

    @ Stephen – yeah, I follow a similar rule about posting on the weekends, generally avoiding it, but on rare occasion lightning strikes on a Saturday and when it does it’s damn hard to hold off on hitting the publish button until Monday morning.

    @ Shelley – great yoga teaching analogy, the thing that allows you to riff and go off plan is the fact that you know why the plan is the way it is in the first place. And, that gives you the freedom to diverge from it when you feel the call to do something different.

    @ Amy – I like it when people get personal, too, but only when it somehow ties in with or reinforces what the article of post is all about. I know their are some major “voyeur-driven” blog that get a ton of traffic and loyal followers, but I’ve just never found them all that engaging. The exceptions, of course are the storytellers with amazing voices and writing abilities who can make you howl with laughter or weep with tears…and sometimes swing relentlessly between the two.

    @ Martin – Agreed on the issue of rapport, too, it’s nice to see a give and take. Though, on the issue of niche or narrowly focused blogs being disinteresting, the vast majority of the Technorati top 100 blogs are tightly focused topic-wise, so while they might not grab you, they are definitely grabbing millions of others.

  17. Martin says:

    Your right Jonathan lots of narrowly focused blogs are popular and even I find some interesting. But is the number of readers the only guide to the success of a blog? People return to a blog because it is interesting. So I think the most important thing for a blog is to be consistently interesting.

  18. Ultimately it’s about engaging readers. And yes – they should be able to find something new if they come to your blog weekly (so one should publish at least weekly).
    I do think passion is key.

  19. Roy says:

    rules are good. Consistency is good.

    And sometimes breaking rules are better coz I do feel — sometimes readers love surprise.

    ** My most popular posts have been the ones I never planned to write.

    Same for me. Even I do find lot of ideas when I reply some comments. So in my case, a comment gets turned into a post, and it gets well response!

    But yeah, whenever I got an idea or in mood to write, I write it down & later make myself busy – what should I post – this one or that one 😀

    Yeah, I loved to go for XTRA.

  20. Karen Swim says:

    Consistency is fine but we should not allow rigid rules to stifle creativity. I believe the off topic posts are often most popular because they are typically pure, unplanned and honest. There is something to be said about coloring outside the lines.

  21. Stephen says:

    I tend to focus on a general topic for a while and then I’ll get the fire in me about something else and most posts will be to do with that for a week. And so on. It’s largely a pattern for me and not planed.

    For example I come in side earlier this week all twitching and shaking from my 12 minute kettlebell workout and just felt like writing about it. Now I’ve written about 4 articles regarding diet and exercise since. Soon something else will catch my attention and I’ll move on.

    Consistency? What consistence?


  22. Justin says:

    Staying consistent is important for users and SEO. I know a lot of people who jump around a lot, and their blogs simply are not enjoyable to read.

  23. Jean Gogolin says:

    It’s that Old Black Magic “passion.” When you wake up feeling strongly about something, you should absolutely write about it. The words will have juice.

  24. Glynis Smy says:

    I came here because I found you through Problogger comp. I am new to the world of blogging, I visit blogs and the routine same post different title ones don’t get a second visit. I like your style, write it as it comes, the passion and personality of the person shine through. I hope that will happen with my blog, I don’t want to have to stay on the same track I like to go off and explore and write in my own time, I don’t want to be routine,will it make my blog no man’s land with no comments? mmm I don’t know, I don’t care, I write it’s mine and if it doesn’t fit into the world others feel blogging should become, I apologise to their need of seeing something new on a Friday, it might be there Monday tho 😉 Happy Scribbling

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