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The deadly “shoulds” of blogging

Live a life free of the deadly “shoulds.”


Does blogging stress you out?

I’m a writer who loves nothing more than settling in at the keyboard, but sometimes blogging stresses me out.


What stresses me out most about blogging is the long, tired list of “shoulds” that plague my blogger’s conscience.

I *should* write more frequently.

I *should* write more regularly.

I *should* focus more on SEO.

I *should* pick a #@^$! niche and stick to it.

I *should* publish more list posts.

I *should* labor over my headlines.

I *should* seek out some guest post opportunities.

I *should* reorganize my categories and tags.

… and so on (and on, and on)


All these “shoulds” weigh heavy on my mind and heart.

They leave me feeling like I’m doing it wrong, like I don’t deserve blogging success.

I look at the blogs of other branding/marketing/writing folks that I admire, and I think, “Wow. They really have it together. How can I compete? I’ll never be like them.”

Have you done that, too?

Stop. Right. There.


As Jon Stewart says, “Meet me at camera 1.”

Hi. Let’s chat. Whether you’re a newbie  afraid to start blogging or an old hack feeling beaten down by years of less-than-stellar blogging results, I’d like to invite you to kick all your blogging shoulds to the curb. Seriously. They aren’t doing you any favors and you’ll be way better off without them.

The trouble with shoulds is that they suck all the joy out of a thing. They turn it from an adventure into an obligation. They kill your creative impulse and leave you with nothing but a husk of something that used to be a good idea but is now just you going through the motions.

Shoulds spring from the muck of comparison. Just think – if you weren’t comparing yourself to another person or some universal standard, would you have any idea what you “should” do? Nope. You wouldn’t. You’d just have to figure things out on your own – experiment, moodle, PLAY.

Playing is a good thing.

Strategy is a good thing, too; but play is better.

The myth of best practices tells us that there is only one way to do something right. It tells us how we should do a thing in order to do it correctly. But, the truth is that there are no best practices. What works for one person may not work for another. And what works for you today may not work for you tomorrow.

If blogging is stressing you out, find a way to make it fun again. Try something different. Forget the so-called rules. Stop trying to be someone else. Do what feels right to you. Relax. Play. Give yourself a break.

Ditch the shoulds and try out some “want to’s” instead. What do you want to do? How do you want to feel? What do you want to say? How do you want to say it?

Go with that and let me know how you make out.



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Finally – fall. Beach season is here.


In a Marketing Rut? Stop Taking Yourself for Granted.


  1. I replace every “should do” in my or my client’s vocabulary with “will do”. I also have people create “will do” lists, not ‘to do’ lists, because to-do lists never get tuh-dun! Cheers! Kaarina

    • I think I remember seeing your blog post on the topic. It’s an excellent approach and delivers a powerful mindshift.

      Here’s to getting all the things we WANT to do tuh-dun.

      TKS for stopping by!

  2. I love this post, Jamie. I often succumb to the ‘shoulds,’ and when I do I find myself fussing over tiny details in posts, futzing and rearranging til I want to go mad with the tedium of it. Then I think, “I am blocked on this one – I am done with it.” I (try to) get it to a not-embarrassing state, hit “publish,” and move on. Sometimes it takes a couple of those niggly posts to get me through my ‘shoulds’ block (I should write more about this topic, or I should share more photographs, or I should stop talking about myself, or I should talk more about myself) and then I’m free again.

    I took a workshop this past weekend called “Writing for the Joy of it,” and just its title has inspired me, when I get to the shoulds, to to say ‘Screw it, I don’t care. This is what I want to write about. It’s fun. I love it. If it bombs, so be it. I’ll just keep writing. I’ll just keep writing for the joy of writing.”

    • The funny thing is that I often find the posts where I’ve said, “Screw it, I don’t care. This is what I want to write about. It’s fun. I love it.” … are the ones that end up getting the most traction.

      I think it comes down to the truth that when we are passionate about something, we will do it more justice than if we’re just going through the motions.

      I had a half dozen posts in mind for today, but when it came down to it, none of them did it for me. They were just lying there on the table – limp and sad.

      I said “screw it” and wrote about what was really on my mind. IT was fun, and I’m happy with the results. The post is far from perfect, but it’s from the heart.

      Thanks so much for coming by. Always a pleasure. :)

  3. Oh yes, Jamie! You KNOW I love this post :) Shoulds paralyze us, as does comparison-itis.

    I write what I am compelled to write. I am a writer, for goodness sake–that’s just what I do! No formulas. Not much strategy. And to hell with *best practices* and niches. I have a voice, and that’s what I use–and know how to do–that’ my personal best practice.

    • That sounds like a very sane personal practice. I love your outspoken style and can tell that you are writing from the heart. Stepping away from the shoulds frees us up to dance with our muse. Always a good thing.

      TKS for coming by!

  4. Jeevan Jacob John

    ” What works for one person may not work for another. And what works for you today may not work for you tomorrow”

    “Try something different. Forget the so-called rules. Stop trying to be someone else.”

    Love these lines 😀

    I had a problem with the list of shoulds with my first blog – I think I still do, to an extent.

    I confronted it through my second blog (I changed my tagline to “Break the rules”, focused my blog on doing things against the ordinary, or what the masses would tell you to do). And that did help him, a lot.

    Blogging became more of an adventure, I learned more in the 6-8 of blogging with my second blog than with the 3 years of blogging with my first blog :)

    Thank you for reminding those times, Jamie :) I certainly needed this! I need to forget once more about what I should do, and do it my way – experiment with my blog :)

    • Excellent, Jeevan. I’m so glad you’re back to experimenting and “feeling your way.” As I said, strategy is a good thing … but it’ll only take you so far. You need the inspiration of play to discover the things that make you different and so special.

      Thanks for sharing your story. Always nice to “see” you here.

  5. Hey Jamie,

    I think you know how I feel about going out and doing it Your Way. I would also advise people to reconsider if they are not having at least some fun. Sure there is drudgery – there always is – but man, considering all the great work you give away for free (that is what all beginning bloggers do) you have to have at least an ounce of passion for it or you’ll soon be fried to a crisp 😉

    • I think I DO know how you feel about that. 😉

      I agree wholeheartedly re: having fun.
      There will be drudgery and admin and boring bits, but those should be only a small part of the experience.

      Blogging should be a creative outlet that is invigorating, not draining.

      I’ve been at this blogging gig via multiple venues and steadily since 2007. There have been days when I wanted to just give up, but mostly I still thrill at the prospect of reaching even one person and making a connection – to an idea, a hope, a conversation. These are amazing tools we have at our disposal and I’m definitely gonna keep using them!

      Thanks for visiting. Always great to have you here.

  6. The one that gets me most is ‘I should be blogging, not watching TV.’ Seen that too many times to count. Play time like a hike or walking a dog, that’s acceptable.. even a movie once in a while, but TV.. oh the horrors.

    ITA w/ you Jaime – you have to have goals, strategies, some point and purpose to the blogging. You also have to have fun, have to get something more out of it than a few RTs and email leads. So yes.. make it will do, make it about want to do, find ways to turn those obligations into something more rewarding, and the blogging might just work itself out. FWIW.

  7. I should measure my data and take action when necessary

    I should include (great) audio (like in this post)

    I should let people subscribe to the great audio in the post :=)

    Always love what you do. :=)

    • Jon,
      You make me laugh.

      You know that I’m always on the cusp of becoming a “real” podcaster. I swear, I’ll get there … these warm ups are fun for the moment (though I’m sure I’ll look back with horror later).

      I loved your show with Randy Cantrell. Finally had the chance to listen yesterday and it was both entertaining and inspiring. I love the blend of art and science that you tend to bring to your work.

      Thanks, as always, for stopping by. Hugs to the woofs!!

  8. I love your take on this! I’ve been struggling a lot with the word “should” lately – in a lot of areas in my life. It seems like this word is typically used in my mind to make me feel like less. I can never live up to what my brain determines I “should” be. I’m still trying to kick this awful word to the curb. I could use a lot more “adventure” rather than “obligation”, as you put it.

    • Thanks, Roni.
      You hit the nail on the head – “shoulds” are a sneaky way of undermining and demeaning ourselves. They are so sneaky, in fact, that we usually don’t even notice the damage they’re doing until it’s done.

      Here’s to seeing those nasty little “shoulds” for what they are and sending them packing!

  9. Jenn Whinnem

    YEP. Thanks Jaime for breaking it down in your rockstar way. Come see me at Camera 1.

    • Honey, I’ll join you at camera 1 any time because I know you’ll give it to me straight, with sass and good humor. 😉

      Thanks for visiting. Always so nice to “see” you!

  10. ‘Shoulds spring from the muck of comparison”. Or, as Sartre put it, “L’enfer, c’est les autres”.

    And if you do want to draw comparisons, ask yourself how many other bloggers inspire French existentialist philosophy in their comment section…

    • John!
      Hello, there! It’s been way too long.

      Thanks for being here and making me feel way smarter with your French existentialism. Not only is is “supah smaht” (as they say in Boston), but it’s also drop dead on the mark.


  11. Jamie,

    I absolutely love this post and I agree wholeheartedly. I really don’t think it matters as much as we all think it does. By it I mean the hard focus on blogging success.

    Practising writing, sharing ideas and knowledge and testing my thinking is plenty to keep me going but I may be one of the fortunate ones who doesn’t profess to run a business from a blog.

    BTW, I think its great that you still record each of your posts. Cheers.

    • Hello, Ralph!
      Yours is hands down my favorite avatar to see in my comments section. I just can’t help but grin when I see that smile. :)

      I think you’re right – we do often overemphasize the wrong things. Sometimes, the value is in the creation, not the reaction. Though I write both publicly and professionally, the biggest benefit and satisfaction I derive is from the act itself and all the exploration and discovery that lead up to that moment.

      I’m so glad you like the recordings. I am working on them bit by bit. They’re fun to do! :)

  12. I’m still a newbie – so I am still really enjoying it. I am not in it for business reasons (although is money could result, that would be great!) I was getting caught up in all the ‘shoulds’ – to gain an audience, to increase traffic, etc…and it was getting stressful. I pulled back from all that and just started to write about what I wanted – to be authentic in my voice and in my comments and interactions. If this is as far as it goes, I am still really loving it and loving writing. I do it b//c I love to write. I love people to read it, but my love affair with words is what keeps me going.

    Thanks for this post!

    • Hello, Katie. So nice to have you here. :)

      Try to keep that newbie mindset – the one that is full of enthusiasm and the “beginner’s mind” from Zen traditions. That’s the place from which you can launch your best efforts and still have a good time with it.

      You have also struck another important chord for me – knowing why you do it. In your case – because you love to write. It’s so important to hold onto that s well – to know what inspires you and stay focused on that instead of all the bright, shiny objects that the Internet may throw at you.

      Good luck & I look forward to “seeing” you again! :)

  13. Rose

    Well, I am over joyed to see that I am not alone in the shoulda rut. I thought it was because I was new at blogging, but it seems as if I am in with the best of the best. This makes me happy.

    • :) Glad you know you’re not alone.

      I think that the more experienced you get at blogging the more at risk you are to fall into the “shoulda rut,” as you call it. As you learn more, you start to worry about more, and that drags you deeper and deeper into the land of the shoulds.

      Better, as I said to Katie above, to remain in Beginner’s Mind. That’s where the good stuff – all the excitement and possibilities – live.

      Good luck & I hope to “see” you here again. :)

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