Blogger Burnout: Finding an Answer in the Problem

by Grace Bonney

Last week I got an email from my station manager at Heritage Radio asking me what I thought of the “big blogger burnout” story in the New York Times. I hadn’t seen the story, so I immediately clicked over to see what all the fuss was about. Before I could get to the bottom of the page I had a handful of other emails, Tweets and Facebook messages about the article sitting in my inbox asking whether or not I thought it was a) accurate b) fair and c) a finished story. The article revolves around the bloggers from Young House Love, John and Sherry Petersik, and their decision to take an indefinite break from blogging. John and Sherry declined to comment for the story (they are, after all, taking a break), but their blogging hiatus was the inspiration for what feels like the beginning of a much bigger story, rather than a full examination of an interesting (at least for those of us who read and write blogs) evolution happening within the blogging community at-large. It’s an evolution I’ve been feeling and trying to process for the past year or so, and something about this story made it all finally crystalize and make sense for me.

Click through for the full post after the jump…


Is the first generation of design bloggers aging out of the blogosphere? Or is this just a new twist on an old business story, updated for the Internet age?

This was the question the author, Steven Kurutz, posed mid-way through his article. And after reading that line, all of the struggles I’d been dealing with – alongside my blogging counterparts – made sense.

This wasn’t a new thing any of us were dealing with – it was just new to us. All of the surges in readership and success our community had been fortunate enough to experience were happening as our friends and colleagues in print publishing were feeling like our new blogging platform was making their jobs more demanding. Most of us were too busy or caught up in the fun and excitement of it all to notice that people working in newspapers and magazines were having to create more content and deal with things like social media and blogs that weren’t part of their work load before. All of their struggles were the same struggles we now face as the Internet and design community as a whole embraces social media and other platforms that mean more content, faster content and more varied types of content. In a nutshell, the current trend of readership these days seems to be moving ever forward toward more, more, MORE.

But what does that mean for those of us blogging and reading? Does it mean that we have to fade out into the sunset? Or does it mean that we have to work double-triple overtime (but for less money) to keep up with the demand to provide content for our blogs, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube and everything else that pops up and demands our attention and just one more post?

I think it means a little bit of both. But what it means in the bigger picture is that blogging doesn’t have to change – we do. Our expectations of blogging – and the people who read blogs – have to be flexible and change with time.

The common course of work these days (especially work online) is for someone young to start something that involves a high pace of work, high rate of content production and an overall high energy level. But at a certain point, that rate and pace and energy level become hard to keep up. People get married, have children, move, or just decide that they want to make more time for family, friends or other outside activities. Does that mean our voices are irrelevant or too “old?” No. But does it mean that blogging has to bend to suit our new and changes needs and desires? No.

For me, all of these blogging changes are about embracing the natural course of life and being excited to see all of the newer, younger bloggers who will pop up to take over where some of us will leave off – or to help out with areas that are no longer easy or fun for us to handle. I know I struggle with how to produce, for example, videos in a way that works for today’s demands. It can take me a week to produce something for Youtube but it might take today’s 14-year-old a few hours. It doesn’t mean both voices aren’t important, but it means that it’s okay to accept that areas requiring the sort of skills and understanding that come easily to someone younger no longer come easily to me. I will still always continue to learn and challenge myself, but the days of trying to force myself to be something I’m not are over.

But that doesn’t mean blogging has to stop. It just means it has to evolve. As the avenues that used to support us (advertising, mainly) dry up or change in a way that makes it harder to focus just on writing, it means we’re forced to use our creative minds to come up with different ways to support ourselves that use the skills that come naturally to us and take advantage of the places we are in our lives right now. I may not be able to teach anyone how to make an amazing DIY video overnight, but I can teach someone about weathering the ups and downs of managing a team and publication for a decade and how to deal with the feedback that comes from working in a very public place. That experience is still valuable and an important part of our overall community.

So, instead of being terrified of how much work is required of us and how hard it can seem to keep up with the Joneses of the new blogging world, I think it’s time that we try to embrace these changes, our new neighbors (#welcomeJoneses!) and take a second to appreciate what we’ve done and see what makes sense for us to do going forward.

For me, it’s helpful and important to remember that most of the pressures we all feel are coming from within. I’ve had major existential panics over deciding to post less often on the site and after giving in to the need to focus on other aspects of the site – or my life – I’ve realized that not a single person has said anything. Clearly someone out there has noticed that we post four and not six times a day anymore, but not a single person has gotten angry, up in arms or disappointed enough that they’ve taken the time to write and yell at me – which is, of course, what I expected would happen. At the end of that mini self-imposed drama was a great lesson I needed to learn – and try to remember to this day – no one is expecting you to do anything but do your best. Deadlines will be missed every now and then and the world will still go on. You may forget to Pin something for a week (!) and I promise you, your readers will not abandon you overnight. But if you forget to write from your heart, slow down and take a break when you need one and give in to pressure that encourages quantity over quality,  you’re guaranteed to burn out. Will it be hard to not feel guilty or scared sometimes? Absolutely. But you’re not alone. I’ll be right here, happy to welcome both new and old friends to the blogging community at large. Because there is room for all of us here and I, for one, am excited to see how we all continue to change and evolve and find ways to keep our voices a part of the larger fabric of the blogging world.


Suggested For You


  • Grace, it’s all about quality of content, versus numbers. Authenticity versus 24hr buzz-buzz. Even if you were to produce just one post a day, we will still continue to read our favorite blog!

  • Design*Sponge continues to produce posts that are we organized and full of great content. Each member of writing team has their own point of view which creates great variety- both in style and approach. I am such a big fan of this blog and often use it as a resource for my students.
    I am always happy when a professional pulls back the curtain and let the audience see a bit of how projects and strategy are developed. Grace, you have done this so often and so well.
    I will defiantly be sharing this essay in class next week.

    One point on the NYT article – not sure if I am repeating other sentiments already mentioned: In an article that features so many women who have created a career for themselves in a format which was unexplored and uncharted am saddened to see the term “aging out” appear. The article could just as easily have been about how these people have shaped the way blogs developed or on the effect that different social media platforms have altered the meaning of blog culture. To focus on “aging out” seem to frame the blogs as out dated or happening at too fast a pace for these individual women to keep up. In most industries the pace of work changes as we grow. I think that blogs should be view through that lens- the women who are developing content should be reassessing their approach as they grow. Growth is what make people relevant, as any creative person grows ideas and process gain a focus that only experience can bring- this is evident with the content of Design*Sponge.
    A NYT article that dovetails ( I think) with the After the Jump :: Episode 88 – Compassion & Success and this discussion about “aging out”

  • Grace, Amy, Max, etc. I’ve been following designsponge since you were designspongeonline and look forward to reading each day with my morning coffee. I have noticed less posts, but also value quality over quantity. Most of what I see on Twitter and facebook is not worth my time. I rarely bother. I hope you will continue providing fabulous content on your blog, and not get sucked up in the more more more insanity of our time.
    Thanks for providing me with ten years of inspiration!

  • The decision to blog less has made the blog richer. I love the long form pieces you guys do, and I know that kind of reflective work takes time. I’d rather have fewer posts and more thoughtful pieces about how you guys are working to lead a fulfilled life.

  • Glad to read this as I was experiencing the burnout this summer. Also I like your view, we evolve, we change, things happen that require us to either take a break, relax and recharge.

    I noticed less posts, but the quality is still there even more so. The thought that goes into the articles are appreciated and always love the coverage on independent designers. Always encouraging.

  • Grace,

    I am a high school teacher. I don’t blog (I barely keep up with Facebook), but I have been following Designsponge for many years. Your blog is consistently inspiring and thoughtful.

    When I started my career, I gave 100% of myself to my students. I sponsored extracurricular activities; attended games, plays and concerts; joined committees; stayed late to help students; planned field trips, etc. I was also fairly open with my students about my personal life. For example, my husband often helped out with after-school activities, such as chaperoning dances, and many of my students knew Mr. J.

    Then my marriage ended. Like blogging, teaching requires that we give so much of ourselves. Every bad mood or sad day is witnessed by a class of curious teenagers. While sharing joy can be heady, grief is private. I realized the value of keeping parts of my private life private. I learned to share even happy news sparingly, because I don’t want my students to feel they have access to my private life. I give much less of myself now. I focus my time and energy on doing the important things well (such as providing good instruction). Luckily, there’s always a new crop of young, energetic teachers who want to do it all!

    During that time in my life, I was inspired by the way you handled changes in your own life with honesty and professionalism. Like other readers, I noticed when you pulled back. I believe that these changes to Designsponge reflect your character and fortitude, and because of this your blog is more compelling now than ever. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • E

      Thank you so much for such a kind and thoughtful comment. I’m so sorry to hear you went through something similar and appreciate all of your feedback and support.


  • Really, really nice essay. I have been lucky enough to have a blog that has been my livelihood since 2008 and have had some real ups and downs with it. I often feel that I can’t complain because in many ways, it’s a “cooler” job than other people have.

    For me, just knowing that others have gone through this is really powerful. Knowing when it’s time to “hold on loosely” to the blog (let there be more in what you write, even if it’s less) is a good way to keep a grip on why you got into the whole thing to begin with.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and an interesting article (I hadn’t seen it before this)!

  • Grace, as a reader who Is married, having children, and wanting to make more time for my family, friends, and life in general, I appreciate the quality over quantity. I have less time to READ blogs caring for my two year old than I did with just a dog, so if I’m going to take time to read blogs, they need to have the depth that inspires me. I actually stopped reading YHL a couple years ago because they weren’t meeting that need for me anymore. Some of your readership is advancing in these seasons of life too, and just like you have less time and energy to pump out content, some of us have less time to read it. I LOVE that you’ve grown your team, because it gives us as readers different voices to hear. My personal opinion too is that anyone who is willing to yell at a blogger for not producing enough content might need to log off the internet and go take a walk in the woods. There is inspiration everywhere you look, NOT just at the computer screen!

  • I heartily agree with you and also the one you are commenting about. Truly – how many times can a home or a room be “revealed”? Perhaps blogs could live through a few more lives if they would redo certain rooms of others homes (maybe as a pay if forward approach)…. I give a full and free open invitation for anyone to come here and do any part or rather all of my interior rooms in my home and I can assure you it is a “barn find”… all original – we have only done one bathroom in 20 years! Lazy? No – quite the opposite… to care for our son who needs 24/7 is beyond words…. and now for 20+ years… just my two cents… I love to do RAK (random acts of kindness) when I can – however small they are…. I think this is a huge way of keeping interest in the blog world (or not)….

  • I think we should view blogging liken to that of being a parent; there is only so much that you can do. Now, where is the Easter bunny or do I mean send in the clowns…

  • grace, i am in awe that you post even 4x per day. i can imagine you’ve experienced the burnout several times through your career, especially being one of the early influencers and bloggers of the interweb world! so true, the teens are coming full force, with great talent and energy! just the other day i said to my husband – “i’m an old lady blogger!!!” you’ve given so much to design sponge, and it truly is such a resource – biz ladies RULES. looking forward to seeing how it changes, morphs, grows in the way that suits your own life changes. (i’ve seen my blog change too, through burnouts, depression, new baby… life happens!) xoxo

  • Grace, your last paragraph really hit the nail on the head. I appreciate thoughtful, intelligent content more than quantity. My favorite bloggers are those that post infrequently, but with interesting content. I am a still a reader of Design Sponge, but I did recently remove you from my Feedly, only because I was overwhelmed by the amount of daily posts (even though you mentioned that there was a decrease; I didn’t even notice!). What I did notice was that the content wasn’t as interesting, though that is just my opinion and I wonder if I felt that way just from the pure amount of posting. I can imagine that you were feeling burnt-out putting it together, if I was feeling burnt out by reading it.

    I’m happy that this feeling of being burnt-out is getting some attention. Long-time readers are definitely aware of when the blogging just doesn’t seem fun anymore. Wishing you the best.

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