Why you should treat blogging like going to the gym

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As a full-time writer and editor, there is something that I am constantly struggling with: Should I write a blog?

Back in the day when blogging first started, it was great for any and all aspiring writers. It gave any person the chance to become a writer through the power of the internet. Anyone could do it and, so, it seemed as if everyone did do it.

Eventually, we got to the place we are today: There are tons of people we know who are famous and popular bloggers, those who have made their living reporting on the news, writing about their anxiety, talking about their parenting woes, or posting their latest food creations online. Most of the people I know who are “popular” and making a living with blogging have been doing it for over five years.

As a professional writer, I’ve heard the question “How do I start a blog?” from many friends over the years. I would usually send them to the countless free resources they can find online and encourage them to sign up with the free WordPress.com service. If it was a closer friend, I would give them more advice on how to make their blog great, how to take good photos and what to do if they want to share their content with others. All great advice (at least I think so) but I have rarely taken it for myself.

Why? Because I consider myself a writer, not a blogger.

My career began began before the blogger boom. I went to journalism school, had six internships before graduating and promptly started working in women’s magazines. Since then, I hopped from one women’s publication to another in order to grow my career and, most recently, became a full-time freelance writer and editor.

Of course, I wasn’t immune to blogging either. When I was bored at my first job and seriously job hunting in 2009, I experimented with many blogs. I think at one point I had somewhere like six blogs… Not a good idea, clearly. I couldn’t keep up with any of them, though I did learn a lot and it led to me transitioning from print publications to digital.

After that, I had a single healthy living blog, then a Tumblr blog and finally a food blog called Healthy Latin Food. Every single time I started a new one, I thought I had found THE ONE. But I didn’t. I always changed my mind, let it go, said I didn’t have the time… Which is true, due to a heavy workload, and not true, due to me not being good about keeping up with my own personal projects.

But anyway, the point is: I’ve always been interested in blogging and have appreciated the people I know who do it, but I wasn’t one of those people.

Blogging seemed like a very serious commitment and not one that I was able to invest my time in. Plus, now, as a full-time freelancer, time is money and I didn’t feel as if I have the time to do it… especially when most of my time is taken up by paid assignments (like my PT food editor gig at Brit+Co or my contributor role at HipLatina) or looking for paid assignments (as in, pitching other publications). At the end of the day, it feels as if investing time into blogging, when it is unlikely to bring in any money, is a bad idea.

And then I realized: Maybe blogging for money isn’t the point.

Recently, my friend BJ Mendelson posted about why you should blog more.

We had recently had a conversation about this topic and he made one of the best points that I had never thought about: You should be treating your blogging like going to the gym.

To him, going to the gym is just the necessary maintenance of being a human. It’s one of those things that you may not always enjoy doing but that is important to do in order to keep your muscles flexible and strong. So when it comes to blogging, he takes the same approach: It keeps your (writing) muscles flexible and strong.

After chatting with him, he advised me to do one major thing: Delete Google Analytics from my website.

The reason that all writers should be blogging, according to him, isn’t because you might earn money with it or because it may make you famous, but because blogging is simply a good way to practice some of your writing ideas. It gives you a chance to let your personality shine, talk about some of your projects and give readers (and potential editors/publishers who want to hire you) an insight into your work.

Treating blogging like the gym, meaning that it’s simply there to flex your writing muscles, is a great idea.

To be honest, it would have never occurred to me to think of it this way—probably because I absolutely hate going to the gym. You can ask my fiancé and partner Adam: He’s been trying to get me to join him at the gym pretty much ever since we met. Although I have gone on occasion, in general, I don’t enjoy working out. It’s something that I continue to struggle with in terms of my weight loss maintenance. But anyway…

If you want to start a blog and you are a professional writer, you should do it because it is a fun way to do more writing.

I realize now that blogging isn’t about statistics, fame or money. It’s good for me simply for what it is: Blogging is a way to do some more writing because I enjoy the act of writing. As I have recently joked to Adam, writing is both my job AND my hobby—which means that it is something that I am basically thinking about 24/7. I don’t really have many other hobbies or the ones that I do (such as reading audiobooks) are very much tied to my writing, too.

So when it comes to blogging, I need to do it more.

Per BJ’s advice, I have deleted GA from this here website and plan to go to the gym more… I mean, I plan to blog more.

I don’t want blogging to get in the way of my other writing and editing, but I do want to enjoy it. I don’t want blogging to be too stressful, but I do want it to be fun. And, last but not least, I don’t want blogging to be adding an unrealistic expectation to my plate.

But I am very much hoping that it won’t be that. Instead, I want to treat blogging like going to the gym: Something that I want to do because keeping my (writing) muscles flexible and strong is important to me.

Now if only I could get myself to the real gym…

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September Writer’s Life: Hurricanes & a real vacation [#yearofwriting]

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What can I say about the month of September? To be honest, I don’t even know where to start. The truth about this month is that I almost didn’t work. First of all: I had a pre-planned vacation for a good chunk of the month.

My fiancé Adam and I had been planning our trip to Europe ever since I surprised him on his birthday with concert tickets to see one of his favorite artist who was going to be giving a once-in-a-lifetime concert in Tilburg, The Netherlands in September. We decided to visit Amsterdam for a week and pair that trip with two cities in Germany: Cologne and Frankfurt.

Other than that, however, Hurricane Irma struck our hometown in Southwest Florida and threatened not only our home but also our travel plans. Thankfully, our home was mainly unscathed and we made it to Europe as planned. The only problem came in that, because I was so busy and overwhelmed by hurricane prep, I had no time to do any kind of writing in the week and a half before our trip. And, of course, the two September days after we got back were primarily spent catching up on everything.

So what I am saying is this: Excuse me if this month seems less-than-ideal in terms of my #yearofwriting progress.

What was published: 

Basically, all of the pieces that were published under my name this month were all things that I wrote the month before. But that’s okay. When you’re faced with a hurricane and a two-week vacation, life happens. And it’s really important to let life happen, I think.

I did write one piece, the 12 Foods Every Cuban Grew Up Eating for HipLatina, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (which runs from September 15-October 15). Definitely proud of that one!

How much I wrote: 3,749 words

How much I made: $100

The one great thing that came out of writing this month is that, encouraged by my incredibly supportive partner and fiancé Adam, I made some real headway on my memoir, Moscow Chica. He basically forcefully encouraged me to spend Labor Day weekend on the project, which I did. Happy to report that my book proposal is close to being done. And I definitely could NOT have done it without his not-so-gentle nudging.

Pitches sent out in September: 0
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 0
Pitch reply with question: 0

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 0
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 0

Obviously, since I had NO time to write, I also had no time for pitches this month. Oh well. I think I can just shrug this one off and tackle some SERIOUS pitching in October, which will be my first full month of being back on the full-time writing horse. (Um, is that a weird thing to say?)

Quarter 3 totals: 

How much I wrote: 61,336 words
How much I made: $3716
Pitches sent out: 4
Pitch acceptances: 1

Here’s to the end of the year going MUCH better than Quarter 3!

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August Writer’s Life: New gig, letting go & mental health [#yearofwriting]

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I don’t know how to say this other than to say it: August has been a very, very difficult month for me. It’s not because I didn’t have any work and was suffering financially (thank goodness) but because there were some changes and adjustments at Romper that seriously affected my mental health.

Without going into too many details and completely acknowledging that it is nobody’s fault, my life became extremely stressful this month. Not only was Romper completely overwhelming me, but there were other things in my life that were weighing heavily on me and seriously impacting my work. Not only was my workload basically unmanageable, but my health began to suffer too.

What I am finding out is that my mental health suffers greatly when I am feeling overwhelmed by work and it leaves my general health in shambles. Whenever I am stressing out, the first thing I reach for is soda and candy… so there was a LOT of unhealthy eating this month. After much deliberation, reconnecting with my therapist and support from Adam, I decided to let go of my PT writing gig at Romper (for now?).

What was published: 

Romper, specifically: 

Clearly, I still enjoyed writing for Romper. There were so many fun articles that I got to do this month, so quitting was a difficult decision. But, as I had predicted, the minute that I did, I felt a huge relief off of my shoulders. Romper was great for my career and I loved my time there… But, ultimately, it’s important to do what’s best for me and what is best for my mental health. I’m proud of this decision.

How much I wrote: 24,237 words

How much I made: $1,545

Because I was so overwhelmed with my Romper work this month, I didn’t freelance much and I basically didn’t pitch… Except one.

Pitches sent out in August: 1*
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 1
Pitch reply with question: 0

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 0
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 0

*This editor received 8 pitches, accepted them all, and then asked me to write for them regularly, so…. Pretty good start, I think!

In other MUCH more exciting news, I managed to send one pitch out this month (or, rather, eight pitches to one editor), they were ALL accepted and I am now going to start being a regular contributor to the site in question: HipLatina!

I couldn’t possibly be more thrilled about this, to be honest. I have really missed writing personal essays during my time at Romper and I have also missed doing more cultural identity pieces, both of which are going to be very welcome at HipLatina. Hopefully, you’ve already seen some of my first pieces above—but get ready for more.

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July Writer’s Life: Why I write about alcoholism recovery [#yearofwriting]

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Well, after a very successful first six months of the year in terms of pitching, I am flailing a little bit (as you will see later). Predictably, most of my time these days is taken up by my food editor job and my PT writing gig at Romper. It’s been great the past few months, but I find myself with less and less time to do other work.

However, what made me proudest this past month is the publication of a personal essay that I wrote for Headspace. In case you haven’t heard or read my previous piece about them, Headspace is a mindful meditation app and part of the current trend in that space. Not only have I been a fan of theirs for a while, but I have also been a fan of their blog and hoping to break in there soon. And I have!

My piece on meditation and alcoholism recovery went live this month, though I actually pitched it back in March and turned it in a month later. And it’s FINALLY UP! It was a really special piece to write, and I hope you will read it. As I continue along this journey of recovery, it is important for me to share what works and what doesn’t, plus the daily struggles and the successes, with the ultimate goal of inspiring others who may be dealing with some of these issues.

Anyway, without further ado, here is what I did this month.

What was published: 

Romper, specifically: 

As I mentioned above, my month was pretty filled with Romper writing. And that was really fun and great for my word count. Just take a look…

How much I wrote: 33,350 words

How much I made: $2,071

I wrote a lot, and that was phenomenal. But as it turns out, spending all of my days on editing and writing wasn’t good for my pitching game.

Pitches sent out in July: 3*
Pitch rejections: 2
Pitch non-replies: 1
Pitch acceptances: 0
Pitch reply with question: 0

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 0
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 0

*1 editor received 3 pitches, 1 editor received 4 pitches and 1 editor received 13 pitches… so this could also be 20 instead.

Although you could sort-of say that I send out 20 pitches, the truth is that working with the same editors all the time can be both good and bad. On the one hand, it’s great for my confidence because it (hopefully) means that I am pleasant to work with and that the editor enjoys my writing. On the other hand, it doesn’t fulfill my desire to pitch new publications and get bylines in bigger places. So, you know, both good and bad.

This month wasn’t so great for pitching, but I am hoping that things at Romper will continue to stabilize and that I will be able to make more time next month. Until then, happy writing!

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June Writer’s Life: My GLAMOUR piece and Q2/YTD totals [#yearofwriting]

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So it’s officially been 6 months since I started my #yearofwriting challenge. It’s been a really interesting road since then. At the beginning, I hired a writing coach to reach the next level of my career and ended up spending a lot of time pitching new stories. In fact, one of the biggest accomplishments I’ve achieved is that I have already been published in 17 publications this year (which was one of my top writing goals for 2017). So woo hoo!

In June in particular, I have FINALLY been published in one of my dream publications: GLAMOUR! That’s been a really huge accomplishment, really, and it’s a piece that I absolutely love (about how I got engaged with a $35 engagement ring and basically about the new trend to go away from diamonds in creative ways). Other than that, I also wanted to share my Quarter 2 totals as well as the 6-month check-in of how my writing has gone this year. It’s fun to track, so check it out below.

What was published: 

Romper, specifically: 

Look at all of that! I didn’t have quite as many freelance pieces published this month as in the past, but my Romper writing has officially increased to 3 pieces a day (3 times a week) and that’s pretty intense. I really love everything that I am writing so far, but am especially proud of the “My Body, My Choice” piece for Ravishly. It’s something that I feel very strongly about, that needed to be said, and that I have had a lot of positive feedback on.

How much I wrote: 39,077 words

How much I made: $2302

Well, and I am sure that this is because I have been doing more for Romper this month, my word count definitely increased this month. So exciting! However, I had less of an income because I didn’t put myself out there that much (in terms of pitches) in the month of May, so I had less to write this month.

Pitches sent out in June: 5*
Pitch rejections: 2
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 0
Pitch reply with question: 0

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 0
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 0

*1 editor received 4 pitches, 1 editor received 5 pitches and 1 editor received 8 pitches… so this could also be 19 instead.

Here’s the thing about pitches this month and last month, which subsequently made me make less money this month: I am okay with it. My writing coach actually warned me about this, how if I slack off on pitches one month, it is likely to affect my income the next month.

It’s true, yes, that I have had a lot less pitches going out since I started writing for Romper. It’s also true that I have made less money from those particular pieces… BUT I am also really happy with having regular work (and thus regular income) from Romper every single week. It’s now a huge chunk of my overall monthly freelance writing income, along with a little bit still from Mom.me and MamásLatinas.

In the coming months, I’d like to strike a little bit more of a balance and have some more pitches going out… but for now, I am happy to be writing tons for Romper, Mom.me, and MamásLatinas and less for other publications. After all, I already accomplished my BIG goal of having a byline in at least 17 publications this year, so that’s a huge win for the year.

That doesn’t necessarily mean I want to slack off on my pitches, but it does mean that I can take it a little easier and give myself a break because the reality is that I wouldn’t even have the time to take on too many new freelance pieces even if I tried.

Quarter 2 totals: 

How much I wrote: 91,014 words
How much I made: $6,860
Pitches sent out: 12
Pitch acceptances: 4

6-month totals: 

How much I wrote: 138,508 words
How much I made: $10,410
Pitches sent out: 78
Pitch acceptances: 14

So in looking at these Q2 totals and my YTD totals (aka the 6-month check-in), I am astounded by the fact that I have written basically two novel’s worth of work. That’s seriously CRAZY to me!

Considering that this time last year, I was writing here and there and basically haphazardly (while working full-time as an editor), this is a huge turn-around for me. I’m still working mostly as an editor, but finding the time to exercise my writing skills has really been amazing these past six months.

As you can clearly see, I definitely made more money and have written a lot more in Q2 and that’s mostly due to Romper. However, with this new job and reaching the 6-month mark of my #yearofwriting, I have decided to take a look at my writing goals for 2017 and I may be editing them some. Stay tuned…

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