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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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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April 2017 Writer’s Life: My new blog & new gig at Romper [#yearofwriting]

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Well, here we are! It’s April in my #yearofwriting adventures and I have not one but TWO big announcements, so let me start with those…

1. I started a new blog, The Cookie Dough Life!

The first week of April was not good for me. I hadn’t slept very well and I was increasingly frustrated about, to tell you the truth, I can’t even remember what. But out of my frustration was born a new blog that I have called The Cookie Dough Life.

While you’re totally welcome to read the full story of why I started the blog (and I hope you do!), here’s the main thing you need to know: Being cookie dough is the realization that I’m not done baking yet… Meaning that I haven’t figured it all out, and maybe that’s okay. Living The Cookie Dough Life is about embracing the fact that life is constantly changing and evolving, and so am I.

And, of course, I am going to take you on that journey. Really, it’s going to replace me writing random stuff on this site, which I am keeping as more of a portfolio site going forward. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, here is my favorite post so far: A year ago, I was single, unemployed, homeless, broke, fat and drunk.

2. I’m a Lifestyle Writer at Romper as of May 1st! 

In even MORE exciting news, I am happy to (finally) announce that I am joining Romper as a PT Lifestyle Writer starting Monday, May 1st! WOO HOO!

I will be covering various topics but, for those that don’t know Romper: They are a parenting site for millennial moms and are the sister site of Bustle (which is for millennial women in general). I’ve been a huge fan and follower of both since their launch, and am absolutely thrilled to be joining the team.

I realize that’s not really an April writing thing, but I did apply, interview for and get the job in the month of April, so I think it should count. Oh, and in case you’re wondering: No, I’m not a mom (yet, in fact, I write about that here) but I know I will be someday and I have plenty of experience writing about mom topics previously. So, needless to say, I am just OH SO EXCITED!

And now on to the rest of the month…

What was published: 

Breaking into three new publications has been pretty fun this month, especially because they were all posts that were very personal to me: The first about being bisexual (even though I plan to marry a man), the second about my fertility fears (a subject near and dear to my heart) and the third about how to party sober (since I’m in recovery).

All of those stories were written last month, with the fertility fears story actually being written in January. Can you believe how long I had to wait for it to publish?! But this happens, and it was still thrilling to see the story live… FINALLY!

How much I wrote: 23,487 words

How much I made: $1750

This has been my most successful writing month BY FAR, I have to say. I basically wrote double of what I had in February and March, and made as much money as I did in January (except that two stories back then were on spec, which didn’t get picked up).

Part of the reason that I wrote so much was also because I am counting my words for The Cookie Dough Life. Maybe that’s a little bit unfair because I’m not getting paid for that so, at first glance, it seems as if I am getting paid less to write more… but that’s not the case, because this writing is personal and just for me.

Pitches sent out in April: 5
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 3
Pitch acceptances: 2 (sort of)
Pitch reply with question: 0

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 6
Pitch rejections: 1
Pitch non-replies: 5
Pitch acceptances: 0

Of course, the story gets a little bit more complicated when you look at the pitches I sent out this past month. Basically, let’s face it: they suck. I barely pitched, and most of it wasn’t until the very end of the month (last week, in fact) and that’s that.

I don’t love the way that looks, to be honest, but part of the reason is because I’ve been busy this month, my organization has recently gone to shit and I was actually doing a lot more writing than usual (as you saw above) which obviously meant a lot less time for pitching.

I don’t love this, but I will say that I wrote four brand-new-to-me freelance pieces in January, two in February, two in March and six in April. I’m pretty proud of those numbers and I guess I just have to live with the fact that in a month where you freelance more than before, are in the middle of a job application (as I was for a while) AND also start a new blog, you just won’t be able to fit everything in. And that’s okay.

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March 2017 Writer’s Life: My piece for VICE and Q1 totals [#yearofwriting]

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If you’ve been following my #yearofwriting post here for the months of January and February, then you know that I am determined to do a LOT more writing this year and I’m also determined to track everything.

This month, to be honest, hasn’t gone quite as smoothly as the rest. I had a pretty big spurt of pitching in the very beginning of the month, which was VERY exciting… and then my birthday came. Now, don’t judge, but I am one of those people who LOVES their birthdays and so of course that distracted me during the end of the month. But oh well! Moving on.

What was published: 

My proudest moment BY FAR this month was the publication of How Willow from ‘Buffy’ Helped Me Come Out on VICE. In fact, one of the coolest things that happened on the day of the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that my piece appeared on the front page of VICE and remained there all day. That’s a HUGE deal, trust me!

Otherwise, I had fun writing a couple of freelance pieces that will be published next month. It’s too bad that I can’t brag about them yet… That’s honestly the most frustrating part of being a freelance writer. Sometimes you’re waiting for weeks and sometimes even MONTHS before your stories are published.

And I’m talking about digital, where things typically move quickly. I can’t even imagine how magazine writers or book authors deal with the wait. Needless to say, I’m not the most patient person and that’s served me very well as a digital-focused freelance writer and editor. But anyway, you probably also want to know how much I got done this month, right?

How much I wrote: 12,982 words

How much I made: $1000

Funnily enough, I wrote almost 1000 words more this month than last month but made a bit less money. Primarily that’s because I wrote a couple more blog posts (which don’t cost any money, but up my total word count) and wrote a high priced story (that was the same word count as I usually do, but the pay was better). January remains my best month, and I’m sure it had a lot to do with being deep in working with my writing coach to push my career forward.

Pitches sent out in March: 28
Pitch rejections: 14
Pitch non-replies: 10
Pitch acceptances: 4
Pitch reply with question: 1

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 6
Pitch rejections: 1
Pitch non-replies: 4
Pitch acceptances: 0
Pitch reply with question: 1

Following up on old pitches is always a bit of a crap-shoot, but I might as well keep going, right? I don’t feel discouraged by my results and it’s nice to see what is happening. In fact, I wanted to total it all up…

Quarter 1 totals: 

How much I wrote: 41,495 words
How much I made: $3550*
Pitches sent out: 66
Pitch acceptances: 10**

*I wrote two pieces on spec in the month of January, and they weren’t ultimately accepted… so that’s $300 I didn’t get, but one of those stories turned into another piece that got published and the other piece I am still hopeful will get published soon as well.

**I’m not counting pitch rejections or non-replies here, because I think the math is pretty simple. Plus, some of those may still materialize… so well shall see! But, you know, I have to say: Having a 15% success rate isn’t too terrible. I’m definitely learning a lot in this process, and I feel confident that things will get better and better as I do more freelancing.

The truth really does seem to be that the more pitches you send out, the more acceptances you will get. And while I haven’t mastered everything that I hope to master in the freelance world, I’m feeling pretty good about my results so far.

Besides, when VICE puts your story on the front page… Well, that’s definitely something to be excited about!

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