Squidoo lensmaster Colin recently posed this question on our HQ forums:
Can you have too many lenses?
It’s a good question that really got me thinking. The short answer is “Yes, you can have too many lenses.”
Now, don’t go running off to thin the herd just yet. The long answer is important and merits your consideration. Everyone has to answer this for themselves on an on-going basis, but thankfully that’s easier than it sounds.
First, I need to remind you that it’s important to keep your lenses fresh. Even if you already know what I mean by fresh, don’t skip this next part, OK?
A lens that’s fresh has:
- Current, accurate information
- Working outbound links
- No broken images
- No missing or deleted video content
- No missing Amazon, Etsy, Ebay items
- No spam comments
- No Twitter modules showing dormant accounts or searches taken over by spam
I’ll stop there, but you get the idea. Information can go out of date, sites you’ve linked to can disappear off the web, items are discontinued and videos get taken down. When something you added to a lens is no longer adding value to the reader, it’s gotta go. If you’re able to replace the missing item or module with something else, go for it, otherwise, scrap it and get on with your day.
This is the basic “Maintenance” that a lens will need during it’s lifetime to stay fresh.
Another habit that keeps lenses fresh is ongoing edits of your written content. Over time, your writing reveals room for improvement, especially if you’re a beginning writer or new to Squidoo. Sometimes edits are small, like corrections of spelling and grammar errors, unclear phrasing or confusing sentence syntax. Ambitious edits are encouraged too: rewrite a paragraph, add content that answers the questions your readers use as search terms or overhaul an entire lens from the ground up.
You can also add new modules of any kind to expand the depth and breadth of your lens, switch out existing content for something better or cover additional points in any way you see fit.
These are the “Upgrades” you can and should do to improve a lens and keep it fresh.
As you can see from my examples, both of these larger categories contain smaller tasks, projects and opportunities for creativity. Every lens will present a unique mixture – some lenses require more time and effort to add value (like this one) and others are more low-maintenance (like this one). For most lenses quality is more important than quantity. It’s better to make a meaningful change once a month than a trivial one once a week.
In other words:
Maintenance + Upgrades = Freshness
When you’re deciding how many lenses is too many for you, you need to be honest with yourself about the types of lenses you have and how much you need to put into them to keep them looking their best. The actual number isn’t so important, the experience you’re having is. Try these steps to find the right number of lenses for you.
1. Direct your attention where it works
If you get nothing else out of this, I want it to be this: The next time you get on Squidoo to write or work on a lens and don’t know where to start, take a moment and direct your attention to where you are succeeding.
What are you the most proud of? Where do you get the most comments, visits, sales?
Is it the subject, the season or where you’ve shared it that’s working? Does it need maintenance? Upgrades?
Could you create a similar lens to address a topic you haven’t written about yet?
Check your “favorites” and keep them fresh and then strike off in a new direction – work on something similar that you know could be better. Use these lenses as jumping off-points, then improve lenses that need some love, start something new or to tackle your oldest half-finished draft. Learn from your successes and apply that knowledge on other lenses.
2. Have a gameplan
If you have a lot of different kinds of lenses and you’re not sure where you should be going, try sorting your lenses into priority groups to help direct your attention where it’s most useful.
You can use Lens Lists for this or just sort them in your head. An obvious “group” are seasonal lenses – don’t stress out if they’re going into Work in Progress because it’s out of season. Sometimes they are low priority, a few months before they come into season, bump them up again. Don’t slave over lenses you don’t enjoy working on or force yourself to work from the oldest updated lens first.
Prioritize by what makes sense for the season, what you want to write about or what you’re inspired by. If you have lots of lenses to visit and freshen up, break them into batches – check 5 today, 5 tomorrow, 5 this weekend instead of feeling like you have to get all of them today or they’re all doomed.
Be patient with yourself and be reasonable. If you find yourself with more lenses than you think you can handle, a little patience with yourself and a plan can make all the difference.
3. Streamline where it makes sense
Before you delete anything or stop writing new lenses altogether, look for the simple ways to lighten the load.
Combine multiple WIP lenses with a similar topic into one lens that’s more comprehensive. Between two lenses that need work, work on the one you feel more strongly about. Instead of creating a draft for every idea, write them down on a piece of paper for a week. At the end of the week, keep the ones you like the best. Delete or leave in WIP lenses about recent fads or events of the past (but consider resurrecting them years later to see if nostalgia draws new readers!)
I hope all this information has given you something to think about and new ways to approach your lenses, whether you have 1, 100 or even more. There’s a lot to think about whether you’re actively creating, maintaining your existing lenses or actively paring down, so do what works best for you and remember to keep it fresh and have fun.
Now it’s your turn – let me know what you think about the idea of “too many” lenses? Does it matter to you? How many lenses do you have now and what’s your plan for the future? If you already have a sizable number, how do you manage keeping them all fresh? Let me know in the comments!