You, dear one, have something worth sharing.
You might even be one of those lucky people who have lots of things worth sharing!
Lately I’ve been paying attention to all the people who share of themselves purely out of passion, generosity, or a call to service. Because they are lit from the inside, they keep doing what they do with consistency and love. Over time their work touches others who are able to feel the intensity of their passion.
Everyone wants to make a difference. It’s a basic human need – to feel needed. You want to know that what you do matters and has value. Even if your work isn’t widely recognized by others, you want to believe it has an unspoken effect.
What I know to be true… even the smallest gesture or action can make a profound difference, even if you can’t immediately see it. Is it disheartening to think that someone — even someone who is important to you — may never see the good you do? You’ll have to make the call on that, but I know this is true: Every good thing lasts.
I’ve been blogging since 2005, and I’m not one of those bloggers who claims to have perfected it yet. Blogging has its hooks in me, though, because when you’re one of those weirdos who thinks writing is fun, keeping a blog is an obvious choice. I’ve learned a few things in the last decade, mainly because I made all the mistakes successful bloggers, writers and freelancers) tell you you’ll make, and then you still go ahead and make them anyway.
I hope you’ll take this as encouragement to keep blogging. Even though you, too, will have to learn all these things the hard way, I’m rooting for you because I know inside you is some jaw-dropping awesomeness worth sharing.
The soul of your blog is found in its layers.
Have you heard of art journaling? I used to play with paint and collage in my journals. These days I am mostly writing, but there was a time when my heart wanted to incorporate color and images in my personal books. [By the way, I learned this technique from Teesha Moore, a brilliant, and very sharing artist from Portland.] I would always start with a wash of color on a page. Then I’d add more colors, lines, cutouts from magazines and books, and then more pen, ink and crayon on top of that. Finally, I’d write in the empty spaces.
These collages were so much fun to make, but they only came together after many layers… and over time. I would often find that colors painted on top of colors affected the hue or shade of the final color. I didn’t worry too much about what the final color would be; I just let the process unfold and sometimes I was even surprised by what my pages looked like in the end. A dark base covered with lighter paint always had a moody undercurrent of depth; and bright pages could always be softened with lighter, softer paints. The layers were what made them jump to life. As more and more images, colors and words were added, they became complete.
The process can take days, even months to complete. Sometimes I’m not even sure they are complete.
Yes, there were times when I added too much. You can’t take a stroke away; you can only paint over it. I was frustrated when I “ruined” a page with too much stuff or too many layers of color; but on rare occasions, the mistake was the very thing that made the final version so cool.
The same thing will happen with your blog as you continue to add to it.
When you stop focusing on the outcome, and just operate out of genuine joy — following where your heart wants to go — that’s when things start happening.
Have you ever spent time with someone who is inspiring and magnetic? I have, and they are my favorite people! Magnetism is what makes people want to subscribe to your YouTube channel or blog, or follow you on Twitter or LinkedIn. The person who is enthusiastic about their work or topic is attractive, both on and offline. We’re drawn to them partly because we want to see what they’ll do next. They reveal their big picture over time, many times unaware themselves of what they are creating.
How do you “be that person” and make stuff that’s “worth sharing?”
If you’re always worrying about what comes next, you’re not alone. Lots of bloggers and online marketers stress about their content calendar and keeping their social media channels filled up with funny, informative and emotional updates. But there’s another way to make it easy on yourself. Start providing content about stuff that comes naturally, and stop worrying if you have a unique niche or corner of the market.
Remember the layers. Only you can create the work that is your life (and blog). No one can do it the same as you, even if they try. The creation itself is what’s important. Don’t stop. Don’t give up on your work. Just keep filling in those pages (or videos, or pictures, etc.) Just keep producing whatever it is makes you happy and full.
Shareable content is natural content that stems from your real life… Yikes! It took me a long time to figure that out. I don’t know why I fought it for so long. Probably because what was dear to my heart was stuff I didn’t think anyone would be interested in, or stuff I didn’t want to share.
So I kept all that to myself and wrote ONLY about copywriting and Internet marketing because I was good at it. Never mix, never worry. Insecurity about being a good mom and wife, fear about wasting time, stress about getting everything done to a tee was wearing me thin, but who wants to write or read about that? (See Point 5.) Put my real life online? Mercy.
Even as I was advising all my clients to incorporate their real life into their blog, I wasn’t doing it myself. I was, however, creating copy and content for other people who didn’t want to do it themselves, either. (Can you see how sick that is?) This work suited me fine for years, but ultimately the separation between my life and my blog made me feel empty.
You know the tale about the two wolves who live inside you and battle it out? One is all good, benevolent, peaceful and giving, The other is fierce and demanding, controlling and nasty. Only one will survive. The wolf you feed is the wolf that wins.
I was really good at selling other people’s stuff, so I fed that wolf kittens every day. I put all my effort into gaining authority as a copywriter — and it worked! It really was my “Real Life.” I had lots of satisfied clients, and I managed to keep busily distracted from a happy and genuine life of my own. Ironic, huh? Deadlines made me feel like I was doing real work, even as my heart told me “No.” While I grew like Kudzu, my blog never got around to that blooming fun part. OK, so this part is the cautionary tale… thank goodness it’s never too late. You gotta have fun with it.
The big lesson in all this was to stop trying so hard to provide the best, most thorough information in every single post. I always thought if I didn’t have a fully fleshed out 1500 – 2000-word blog post with strategic links, bullet points and a smart perspective on digital marketing, then I shouldn’t bother.
I stopped wanting to write my own blog posts. I actually thought about getting someone to write them for me. I’m not talking about having a guest blogger or two, but a true stand-in for me, a ghostwriter. I felt like a fraud. The writer hires a ghostwriter… Crazy.
I didn’t do it, but I took a break from my blog for a while as I tried to find my voice again. I also forgave myself for missing my own deadlines.
During this time I took my hands off the wheel and spent time studying (my usual escape) and “planning,” another sick practice when taken too far. I was also busy picking up large chunks of my personal and family life lying all over the ground. Thankfully, I became aware of my folly. It was like cleaning up after a hurricane.
All the while, I couldn’t write the things I was “supposed to write about,” because A. I was stymied by fear of imperfection and B. I had no interest in it.
Thankfully, I’m over that. Maybe you can tell.
Yes, I still try to schedule my posts in advance and I keep track of them on a content calendar (I’ve been using a plugin lately called CoSchedule, that makes it super easy to plan and share blog posts), but now I am trying to make sure I’m blogging about things that I really want to write about. Because it matters a lot, I’m coming to find out…
Plus, I missed writing.
It’s easy to get caught in the Content Trap — especially if you’re winging it and you don’t have a plan. As soon as you finish one blog post, you’re thinking about what to do next. You’re focused on keeping your audience’s attention and providing “entertaining and relevant” content. Do they need it, want it, or like it? Is it shareable? And who are these people anyway? Pretty soon you forget to connect with the people you’re supposed to be writing for… and why.
This anxiety can kill the spontaneity and fun of your blog, though. If you don’t rest, ask questions, listen to your readers, and participate in your own life with joy, then you’re trying too hard. Once you learn to enjoy the process (whether that means writing daily, taking pictures of your art, or being a fully present mom, sister, dad, wife, etc. to the people who matter most) everything starts to flow.
These days, everyone’s supposed to have a video series, a podcast, infographics, an ebook or two, inspirational memes, an online paid course, and pictures of you and your team doing fun things in all parts of the world.
Can we all just please stop trying to maintain an impossible standard? I beg of you; just do what you can do. If you don’t have a team of creatives to help you with all this, then just do what you can. Make time to do what you can, and pursue it relentlessly; but don’t fall prey to the lie that you have to do everything. Yes, some people may miss out on your wonderful-ness, but your work will have that stickiness and cohesiveness that has a profound effect on the lucky few. Then, magically, it will get shared.
Weird how that works.
I was talking to my dad the other day. He’s retired, but now starting a new business and relocating to another state this year at the age of 75 (!) and I asked him how to know what you’re supposed to DO in life. How do you know you’re running the right race – the one God put you here to finish?
He told me a story about a woman he knew from high school. They were casual friends. She didn’t particularly stand out at class reunions, nor did she have a “big” career, etc. She was always “sweet,” and nice to chat with, though. This woman recently passed away, and after attending her amazing funeral, my dad was sorry he did not know her better. Like many of her former classmates, he had been unaware of the fine and glorious life she had lived, and how many people she had touched. He missed most of it, as did others, but he caught a few pinpoints of her light, as did thousands of other people.
His point was “It all counts, even the small stuff.” And that’s why I’m going on faith as I say this: You may not have a platform of millions yet. You may only have a few fans and followers now. But your job is to touch whom you can with what you have, and to give as generously, sincerely, and lovingly as you are able.
As far as sharable content goes, not every piece of content has to be red meat. You can serve up side dishes, too. It all counts.
Shining your best lights means you’re writing stuff that makes you happy. You don’t have to be overjoyed with every blog post, but you have to show an ongoing enthusiasm for your content. People like reading articles that lift them up. Positivity doesn’t have to be the top layer in every piece, but your blog should motivate you enough to keep you going and attract new readers.
What moves you? What is it that breathes in you and through you, that makes you, YOU?
Maybe you don’t know yet. You may be scrambling to find the perfect content that satisfies 100% of your market all the time. I used to try to create content that hit it out of the park, too, but all I ever did was struggle.
Yes, I always had clients, but oh, there was something wonderful missing. I spun myself so far into the ground, that I buried everything that made me happy. I stopped making art, and listening to music.
I had blinders on – just me, my computer, and the next deadline. I threw everything into jobs that didn’t feed my soul, and many that sucked. I don’t want you to waste too much time doing that.
Please, waste some time learning, of course, but don’t stay there too long. Many enthusiastic people use the endless acquisition of knowledge to forestall the difficult work that matters. Feed the little sparks that inspire you with fuel and attention. Don’t just take stuff in. Give something – anything — back until you discover your purpose, even if you can’t see the end of the road. Those little daily sparks of joy and hints-of-purpose become your life, and I pray that you live one that has meaning.
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” 2 Timothy 1:6
That’s the way you contribute to that city on a hill, with thousands of points of light making you a landmark for all who travel by.
You never know who’s life you could be saving, just by living yours authentically.
Think about your friends in real life. Do you want to be with someone who is always angling to hit it big, or do you enjoy the company of someone who’s enjoying the journey and sharing freely the good stuff they encounter? I want to spend time with the one who shares little gems on a regular basis, and doesn’t hide the oddball side of her, too. That’s why I keep coming back.
Sure, I want to know when my friends hit it straight and long sometimes, for then I’ll watch in awe and wonder. But when she slices it into the rough, I also want to enjoy the time shushing through the long grass, helping her find her ball again.
There is time enough for all of it. The curious gifts God gives you are shareable as long as you can see and share other’s gifts, too. Take the time to see them and lift them up.
I have a 100-yr-old friend who told me out of the blue the other day, “You know, Jen, I’m into quantum physics now.” That just tickled me pink. She doesn’t blog, but if she did, I’m sure she’d have lots of readers. Her curiosity and willingness to share make her someone you just want to follow.
It’s so easy to get hung up worrying and strategizing about how to get your post or video to go viral; or to find the right audience who has the ears to hear your message; or how to come up with new and different content that gets people excited.
Sometimes you’re searching so hard to hit that mark that you forget about your inner warrior. Know this:
- You have everything you need; it’s already inside.
- You are already perfectly endowed with the right gifts.
- You must take the shot, especially when that voice tells you you’re not ready (and it will).
- No successful person has ever been 100% ready.
I hope you close your eyes once in awhile and trust your gut. Just get in there and play.
The content I like to read, and the stuff I look forward to consuming, is content from people who live rich, imperfect, weird lives, and have a drive to share their best inner and outer stuff with their followers. Over time, I may not agree all the time, but I learn to trust their perspective and rely on their voice like an old friend.
Their joy in the act of creating itself entices new followers because their loyal fans have already identified their content as valuable… and that’s why they share.