The Ancient Greeks loved to tell the story of Procrustes, a rogue smith and bandit who would offer to host travelers, invite them to sleep in a special bed for the evening. Procrustes assured the weary travelers the bed would be perfect for any person who slept in it.
Unfortunately for them, Procrustes would take his promise quite literally. If they were too short for the bed, Procrustes would stretch them out till they fit. If they were too tall, Procrustes would chop their limbs off.
A lot of the rules, frameworks, and strategies that involve blogging act in a similar way.
There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to the art of blogging. In fact, most advice is wrong.
It’s overly simplified to the point that it becomes a creative prison for anyone who tries to faithfully reinforce it.
Learn How to Bend and Break the Rules
Whenever you sit at your desk to write your article, try to spend some time figuring out what are the creative requirements, and then decide on which rules you’re able to break.
We admire those who think outside the box, but we fall in love with those who think like there’s no box at all.
There’s an art to blogging precisely because the people who stand out have developed their own rhythm, their own way of doing things.
Be Flexible in Your Approach
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t listen to anyone, or that there’s nothing of value in the rules and strategies that are being shared.
I am saying that it all depends.
Learn from everyone, pick and choose what works for you. Ignore the rest.
A lot of bloggers become their own Procrustes. They chop off their own creative fire to fit into someone else’s “bed” — someone else’s rules, guidelines, and strategies.
Let me give you an example.
A simple rule. “Comment on 20 different articles every day.”
To me, this is nothing. And it’s easy to advertise this strategy. I’ve been doing it for eight years, I am pretty sure I can leave 20 comments in an hour or so.
But what if you can’t? What if you spend too much time being afraid of what you’re going to say? What if you spend 8 hours a day doing that?
Every rule of blogging has a price-tag attached, and before you enforce someone else’s rule, you need to properly understand the tradeoffs, otherwise, you will find yourself paying a much higher price that you were willing to pay in the first place.
It doesn’t have to be like that.
As a rule of thumb, if a rule sounds dumb, don’t use it.
If a rule forces you to write in a style that makes you feel like you’re walking on ice, don’t use it.
If enforcing a rule requires too much time and mental energy, don’t use it.
A few years ago, Kurt Vonnegut, passed down a simple list of eight rules for writing a short story, yet he did say that Flannery O’Connor broke all his rules except the first.
He was the first to admit that all great writers tend to discard even “the most sacred” of rules.
The trick, however, is to learn the rules, then break them as a creative choice, not in order to feed your rebellious nature.
In other words, someone else’s rules should act as answers to the questions you have about the art of blogging.
If a rule doesn’t answer any of your questions, ignore it.