Something’s waiting for you:
It was 3 AM in late December 2015. I was sitting on my childhood bed in my underwear because the AC was broken again. Of course.
I was at my parent’s house in Florida for the Christmas holiday. And while I was supposed to be taking time off from work, I’d spent the last few hours tossing and turning with a restlessness that could only mean one thing:
I had an idea… and I needed to write about it.
But it wasn’t just any idea, and it definitely wasn’t an idea that fit into my regular blog lexicon, which included such glorious, wholly-expected titles like The Art of Crafting Awesome Client Experiences, and The Unwritten Rules of Making it as a Freelance Digital Creative.
Nope. This didn’t fit in with what I was “supposed” to blog about at all.
(Which isn’t saying much. In the copywriting world you’re “supposed” to write about copy strategy 101, conversions, persuasion, building your business, and something something selling through story…
… Which is probably why I’d spent the previous 4 years avoiding it like the plague.
Besides — I was way too busy writing everyone else’s blogs anyway, right?)
Still: This was different.
It was about my childhood. It was about my own personal philosophies. And it also painted a pretty unromantic picture of the way I see the world.
I’d tried to write it a few times but all I had to show so far were a few half-hearted drafts, and most ended with some variation of:
“F — K IT. NO IDEA WHERE I’M GOING WITH THIS, OR IF PEOPLE WILL EVEN CARE. DELETE.”
But as I laid in bed that night, the idea began to pull me by the hair and poke me in the ribs. And it wouldn’t leave me alone.
It was clear sleep wasn’t coming. So I threw off the sweaty covers, sat up, and dragged my laptop onto my bed.
I made a quick list of bullet points that combined the story I wanted to tell with the “takeaway”, and got to work.
Imagine my surprise when the idea suddenly began flying out from under my fingers.
Instead of feeling draining and tedious, as blogging so often did, this felt energizing, like I was finally getting a chance to throw and shape clay I’d been carrying around inside me for years, unsure of what it was.
By 4 AM, I had a finished rough draft, and went to bed.
The next morning I read it anxiously over my coffee.
And… I didn’t hate it. In fact, I liked it. A lot.
The thought of publishing it made me simultaneously uncomfortable and elated that I’d hit on something so true for me, and managed to get it organized enough to share.
But what if people didn’t like it? Or worse — what if no one cared at all?
As Neitzche once said, to the delight of many a goth 17 year old: “If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
… Bet ol’ Friedrich didn’t know the same was true for blog posts.
I read it over again. And again. Made a few changes, tightened a few concepts.
Then I gave it a title:
Closed my eyes…
… And hit “Publish”.
A few minutes later I shared it on my social media channels and turned off my phone, determined not to care if and when no one took notice of it at all.
Then, when I returned a few hours later… I was blown away.
My phone started to buzz with texts, PM’s, emails, and social comments and shares in a way it never had before. While it wasn’t “viral” by any means, the response I received was almost shockingly heartfelt.
“I went through exactly the same thing, I just didn’t know how to put it into words,”
“I can’t believe this is your story! I’d always assumed you were a straight-A student…”
“I love this so much! Thanks so much for the truth talk!!”
At that moment, my love affair with blogging really began.
But before I go any further, let’s talk about the elephant in the room:
As brands, business owners, and writers, we all know we’re “supposed” to blog. So why don’t enough of us do it — or really enjoy it?
Yes, we know we should use it to “build our brands and businesses”, but when you’re boring yourself to tears, or spending hours researching “50 SEO Secrets of Sparkle Unicorns”, only to get 0 response to what you create?
Chances are you’re gonna think: “Nah. I don’t need to do this.”
And yet! That doesn’t make blogging any less essential for branding yourself, developing your messaging, and building a business.
It was on that fateful, muggy Florida morning, I realized: I’d been going about this blogging thing all wrong.
While yes, I had to keep the basic rules o’ blogging in mind (write something your audience will find valuable, have a lesson and a takeaway people can utilize, have a call to action, etc.), the limits I’d been placing on myself in terms of subject matter were totally zapping my creativity and energy.
Tl;dr — I wasn’t blogging because I was bored.
So I decided to take another approach.
Yes, of course it was intimidating to write an article for myself after a long day of writing for clients.
But when you’re a creative who’s genuinely excited about an idea? You tend to get a second wind, don’t you? It’s the reason so many of us get shiny object syndrome when we’re in the middle of a launch. #guilty
So: Instead of writing what I thought I should write, I decided I was only going to write what I wanted to write, and what made me genuinely excited to create — as long as I could make it valuable to other people (and I’d save the rest for my diary).
I also refused to put myself on a strict schedule.
I rolled back on that annoying voice that squeaks:
“If you’re not blogging at least once a week, why bother?!”
And replaced it with:
“I’ll aim to blog once a month about things I’m genuinely excited to say and share. And if I miss a month? I won’t beat myself up.”
2 years later, my blog posts have helped me amass thousands of followers (particularly on Medium), and attract a huge range of phenomenal connections, opportunities, and projects — because, as it turns out?
When you’re crazy excited to write, create, and share ideas, people find them crazy easy to connect with.
Make no mistake: Writing a blog is still not:
A fast and easy way to make money.
The way to become an instant internet celebrity.
Just the ticket for soothing our own need for validation and support in our creative endeavors online. (Quite the opposite, really.)
In fact, if you ask a dear internet-famous blogger friend of mine how to make a living off blogging alone, she’ll probably tell you, “OK so go back in a time machine to 2008, and…”
But blogging is a whole heap of even more valuable things when it comes to building your brand and business.
Blogging helps you get in the habit of shaping your most important ideas.
Because that’s just what it is. A habit. The more often you share your own concepts, the easier it is to edit and expand on them, and figure out what your unique point of view is. (This also helps to suss out your brand and business’s “why”.)
Your blog is your training camp and your off-season game. The more you practice giving form and life to your own perspective and beliefs, especially if they’re outside the norm for your chosen field? The stronger your unique point of view becomes, and the easier it will be to share it with clients and customers.
Being able to translate your experiences onto the page is almost like learning another language. You’ve felt it, seen it, and done it all — but how can you give your reader a taste of your experiences and ideas so they can really understand?
That alone is a massively valuable practice worth starting and maintaining.
Blog posts can be repurposed for pretty much anything.
Want to write a new freebie? Got a course module you’re working on? Need some sort of subject matter for your video series? In search of a story for a marketing sequence?
Maintaining a blogging habit, even if it’s just once a month, can offer you a whole heap of your own content and original ideas to pull from, as well as cementing which stories “work” for your particular niche and industry.
Blogging gives you space to experiment and mess around.
In the last year alone I’ve shared a number of posts totally unrelated to writing — and they’ve been some of my best. Because I’ve found there are so many things to discuss on this entrepreneurial journey; like willpower, radical self-trust, the shadow side of creativity, and the value of rage.
But without giving myself permission to write Notes of an Unremarkable Child a few years ago? I never would have known that was even an option.
Blogging is less pressure than a book, and more formal than a Facebook post. (Though you can absolutely re-purpose a long Facebook post into a blog post. I’ve done it many times.) That makes it the perfect practice platform.
A few evolutions of my brand ago, I’d call my blog “The space for my words to run free after I’ve spent my days corralling everyone else’s.”, and I think that makes more sense to me now than it did when I first wrote it.
Blogging gives you something to do that’s just for you. It’s for your audience too of course, but on your turf, they have to deal with you talking about ideas the way you want to. That’s ultimate creative freedom.
Blogging helps you meet people, and maintain those relationships.
Truth be told, there’s nothing quite like getting those magical little emails that say “Yours is the only blog I ever read anymore”, and “I loved this so much,” “I needed this today, thank you so much,”.
It’s a great feeling to have people inviting you to guest blog, or appear on podcasts, or contribute to a course or article.
But more important than any compliment or accolade is a blog posts’s ability to put you in front of people who may never have met you, or read your stuff before.
I’ve developed friendships across the street and across the planet just by writing and sharing posts each month. I’ve had people stop me at conferences to say they’ve read every one of my articles (after which I try not to choke with excitement and surprise). And, whether they’re heavyweights, “influencers”, colleagues, potential clients, or newbie writers just getting their start — each one of those relationships has a whole heap of value and potential.
And finally: My blog helps me take the temperature of my audience — and vice versa.
Make no mistake: Sometimes an audience’s level of response can be relative. Sometimes algorithms don’t work in your favor, and you have to share a post a few times to really gage a reaction.
But usually? The reaction to a given post will help you sniff out what your people most want you to talk about — which has the power to energize you, and make you excited to keep talking and keep sharing about the things that matter to you.
And writing about topics that interest you, and light you up, also gives people who won’t jive with you the ability to self-select out of your corner of the internet.
All of this to say: If you think you’re ready to give up on blogging — DON’T.
You have hundreds, even thousands of ideas knocking around in your skull every single day, whether you realize it now or not.
If you don’t practice putting them out there? They may never see the light.
So focus on keeping it low pressure. Keep it fun. If you’ve quit blogging, start up again by focusing on what excites you — and you might just find those little off-beat ideas create some of the most impactful, thought-provoking, infinitely-shareable articles you’ll ever write.
You know: The kind that attracts the kind of clients, cash, and accolades that makes blogging such a feel-good long-term enterprise in the first place.
And if you need a little help? I’m kicking off a FREE blog writing challenge September 18th — 22nd.
It’s called The Blog Party Challenge, it’s $0, and you’ll spend 5 days with me in your inbox and a private Facebook group (where I’ll teach LIVE mini video classes and lead Q&A) brainstorming, outlining, writing, and sharing a post that feels ah-mazing to write and share.
And after we wrap? You’ll be able to follow the same bulletproof process again and again. Because writing brand-building blog posts should never be boring.
In fact — it can be the most gratifying, eye-opening thing you ever do for your own creativity.
So if you’re ready to put your toe back into the blogging waters, or step your current blog game up?
Click here to come join me, and I’ll show you exactly what I mean — and exactly how I write posts like these.