content creation

The content writing that is worth your time is part of a broader plan

I love it when the core of my work gets challenged, I realize I agree with the argument, and I feel all the stronger about doing what I do in a way that truly serves the greater good.

This is how I felt when I listened to Jonathan Fields of Good Life Project talk about “The Content Marketing Delusion.”

Jonathan's argument - wonderfully delivered in one of his short weekly “riffs”:

Content is more about sustained growth, positioning, and trust and, yes, eventually leads than it is a high probability vehicle for launch and accelerated growth.

Put simply:

Content is your long game. Hustle is your "now" game.

Challenging the "When all else fails, blog!" mentality

Jonathan goes on to talk about  how hiding behind the blog page or the podcast mic and relying on content creation can be an act of self-protection. After all, hitting publish is easy. Gearing up for conferences or calling potential clients or influencers… <gulp!>

I launched my #365StrongStories because I loved to write and because I wanted to walk the content creation walk, yes.

A few dozen posts into my 2016 project, however, I saw that I was allowing a story-a-day to monopolize my energy because I felt safe in my private creative space. I was praying my stories would be seen, but also pleased that it was all on my own little terms.

That said, I have immense compassion for myself on this one. After all, mothering small children doesn’t exactly set you up to attend lots of snazzy networking gigs in the city.

And think about Susan Cain's book Quiet and what she taught us about introversion (and even the needs of gregarious extroverts). Depending on your constitution, putting yourself out there might require more energy than you can spare. Based on the reality of my own daily life, I just didn’t have the energy to do more or show up anywhere but my own blog most of the time.

All of that is OK, but you have to align your daily actions with the professional and creative dreams if you expect to succeed.

I wasn't building the livelihood my family needed by simply writing a lot.

"Just write" can't be the only visibility strategy for an entrepreneur with bills to pay. Writing and exploring ideas is satisfying, but it doesn't fill the belly. Marketing and connecting with people who will take action based on those brilliant words is what makes entrepreneurship work.

Oh yes, the hustle.

Jonathan’s message was  big, fat moment of TRUTH - even though, upon first glance,  his title it may look like a slam of my bread-and-butter writing coaching work.

The content writing that is worth your time is part of a broader plan

Not so long ago, this podcast might have sent me into a panic. How could I build a business around helping people tell stronger stories if content marketing is a “delusion”?

Blogs and guest posts and free reports do have a key role to play for many entrepreneurs and private practice owners. My work is vital to the right people who are doing the writing for the right reasons.

If someone is opening a brand new business or practice and expects to write some blog posts and expects the appointment calendar to fill, however, my #1 job is to remind them that content is part of a bigger puzzle.

Content connects, it strengthens relationships and establishes loyalty, but as Jonathan says, you gotta “hustle”

"Hustle" is a tricky word. When Brene Brown told us we didn't have to "hustle for worthiness" I was thrilled to leave all the stress of hustling in the dust.

But when you tune into Jonathan's quick episode I think you'll see the word in a broader, more constructive context.

Most of the time, you need that first digital or real life introduction. You need to move it and shake yourself out of your creativity cave and find your first readers who will love and share your content. You find them through conversation and asking the right questions, not by saying "hi, I wrote this, read it!"

It would be great to rely on "love at first blog post" but it's almost never that simple.

Again, this Good Life Project podcast came at the perfect time.

Right now, I am hustling in a way that feels great to me, connecting with my own ideal clients (and genuinely fabulous humans) on Facebook groups like Melvin Varghese’s Selling the Couch Community and Agnes Wainman’s Blissful Practice.

And, as my business matures and my family is able to do without me for a few nights, it is time to take that "hustle" into the real world. I'm booking a bunk at Jonathan's Camp GLP. (Will I see you there in August?)

Remember, the writing coach isn't telling you to quit writing

There's another side of content creation that Jonathan doesn't have time to address in his riff: the way that writing helps you develop your vision, your professional brand, your creative power.

Writing and content development are absolutely necessary as you develop your online presence and platform. They are fundamental to growth. Just be sure that you understand that writing and publishing alone aren't likely to catapult you to six figures or to whatever "enough" is for you.

Storytelling Is About Relationships

Story depends on relationships. Relationships depend on story. #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy Is this your fantasy too? You get to be the person with the space, the time, and the luxury to simply write. Uninterrupted days are lavished on your own ideas without a care for the reader or the marketplace.

Well, that is certainly my fantasy, but we all know I have an incurable addiction to words and sentences. Maybe your fantasy is that you'd never have to write another word again! Maybe you pray that you'll be able to build a solo business or practice without creating online content and telling your brand's story.

Whether your a born writer or you're someone who needs to be tied to the keyboard to get the blogging done, we all need a reality check:

Stories depend on relationships and relationships depends on story.

Next week, in the Connect with Readers & Clients: Discover the Story Triangle we're going to explore how stories build relationships and how stories depend on relationships.

We go a little in today's Facebook live video (below). Be sure to sign up for the free webinar to learn how to make these relationships work in your own writing. Save my seat!

5 Reasons to Keep Writing & Creating Content You Care About, #365StrongStories 55

imageAnyone could blame the weather. Here in New York, we have been been slipping from spring sunshine to a few inches of February fluff to slush and misty gloom. All of it is born away on a tide of mud that just never washes out.

Or, I could blame motherhood and all the ways it shatters my focus and steals my sleep.

And, if I chose, I could blame the creative impulse itself. This need to write and share and connect with readers is a mad, beautiful journey.

No matter the reason, it’s easy to lose track of the “why” during long, dreary days at home in front of the laptop. It's easy to forget about the great goals when the to do list never ends.

Why add more words and pages to this noisy digital world? Why steal time from my family just to try to be seen and read by strangers? Why not just get a job instead of making it all up as I go along?

The welter of worries that threatens to swallow all the creative and professional dreams. You know them too, I am guessing?

And so, the aimless Facebook scrolling begins. Fortunately, I’ve been at this game of questions long enough to stop myself before I start reading my spam messages or looking up high school boyfriends’ little sisters.

Instead, I seek out the resources I know will replenish me and get me back on course: the insights from clients and colleagues I know and love.

We're much the same as we try to carve out enough space for family and relationships and for entrepreneurship and creative passions too. We have unique goals and needs and sources of inspiration to make the balancing act work, but when we can rally together to share the “why” of it all, all of us can get back on track.

This isn't the first time I've worried that there are too many stories out there already, of course.

Luckily, last time I began to believe that the emerging thought leaders I long to help were just too busy being awesome at life and work to sit down and create content they really care about, a wise friend and colleague got me back on track. She reminded that she knows writing and diving deep into her ideas is vital to her practice and her big dreams.

As she described it, you need to write blog posts and HuffPo articles and all the rest because:

  • Content builds trust
  • It’s how clients get to know you
  • It’s how you weed out the wrong people before they even call
  • It’s how you first inspire people to know you’re worth your full fee
  • Content makes people want more of you in programs and classes and all the good stuff you want to sell

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Your turn: Are you convince you need to create content? What's your "why"? (And I would love your answers even if you're thinking "I know I should start writing but I just can't make it a priority")


Writing for the Web Is Crushing Your Creative Spirit

Writing for the web is crushing your creative spirit. Marisa Goudy, Writing CoachLast week, we explored how to take a story from your own life and shape it into a narrative that bolsters your visibility or furthers your business. The goal is a simple one: connect to the reader through a description of a personal experience and then offer some useful or inspiring content that makes the reader the hero.

Essentially, invert that high school essay writing funnel: go from the narrow personal tale to the more universal message that speaks to the interests and concerns of your tribe.

I devoted two posts to this Art of Using Personal Stories In Professional Writing.  One was a basic “how to” and the other was devoted to modeling the process.

Part of me hates that advice and part of me stands by it… because I am about to do it again.

Note: I’m defying the form I just offered you and inverting  the “personal to universal” funnel.  I may switch to another metaphor completely. 

Since this post is about identifying and defying rules - as well as owning up to the pain of the online writing process and honoring the needs of your own creativity - funnel nixing and metaphor mixing seems acceptable.

But first, let’s establish some more rules - just so we can have the pleasure of breaking them. And so we can admit how we all feel a little broken by all these bloody rules.

Five “rules” for writing for the web

 When you’re trying to follow typical internet writing conventions, you make sure that every web page or blog post is:

  • Focused - Devote yourself to one central question or theme. Go deep rather than broad and realize that most of your big ideas are actually the foundation of dozens of different articles.
  • Brief - This isn’t just about word count since important, “substantial” posts of 1500 - 3000 words can be highly successful. Be sure to break ideas into bite sized pieces so that the distracted reader can digest what you’re trying to say.
  • Clear -  Even if the goal is to raise questions for the reader rather than simply dole out a bunch of overly simplistic “shoulds,” don’t muddy the waters with your own ambivalence.
  • Actionable - Every post should be the beginning of something - an ongoing relationship because the reader signed up for your list or the first step in the buying journey. You’re missing a huge opportunity if you don’t invite your reader to take a next step when they reach the end of the piece. 
  • Fascinating - Well, at least be interesting... The previous four rules are pretty irrelevant if you're boring the reader.

You and I will ignore those writing for the web rules (is that ok?)

Rules are made to be broken, of course, and you can point to a zillion successful articles that annihilate these conventions. Such posts compel you and even go viral because  they’re aimed right at the collective sense of concern, outrage, or “awwww, so cute!”

One thing about those rule-breaking posts though? Readers may comment and share them, but they probably aren’t spending any money based on the content they've just consumed.  It’s hard to invest in a writer or a company who rambles about their own confused state of affairs....

It’s important to remember - the “be focused, brief, clear, and actionable” aren’t just guidelines that exist “because the internet.” They’re just good business sense.

If “the confused mind does not buy,” then the confused entrepreneur does not attract buyers.

But what if you don’t feel focused and clear in your writing (or in your thinking)?

As I said, I kinda hate the advice I gave about using your personal stories to frame a bit of useful business information - but I believe in it enough to do it again (and again).

Telling you about my ambivalent, nuanced relationship with the blending of personal storytelling and forwarding a brand doesn’t make for focused, brief, clear, actionable prose. So, most of the time, I keep the existential angst to myself.

I tell part of my story about storytelling, hit publish and feel just good enough that I offered my readers something authentic and worthy of their time.

But then I stew. For days.

I fill a couple dozen journal pages, questioning the role of entrepreneurship and storytelling in my life. I analyze my place in the entire capitalist venture. I long to abandon business and blogging and all the well-meant advice so I can hole up with a word processor and a dream of being a novelist.

Ok, so I don’t do this every week (I’d end up in alone, likely  in a van down by the river), but when I do get myself into this state, I write headlines like:

For I Will Go Mad If I Write Only for the Marketplace

I long to spool out meandering paragraphs that go on for pages, expecting the reader to stick with my muddled quest for clarity simply because she loves being along for the artist’s journey…

Invariably, I swing the other direction, glad that I’ve given up dead poets and all that opaque academic writing for the vibrant, immediate world of the creative entrepreneur.

I trust that there’s room in my life for the personal writing, the fiction writing, and the business writing.

I hate tangling my creativity in business goals and online writing rules. (Except when I don’t hate it.) 

This, my friend, is not the stuff you blithely toss on the blog and share to LinkedIn with the expectation that new clients will start tying up the phone lines.

Why am I revealing all this anguish? Anguish I cooked up by publishing my own useful, business-focused blog posts? Because I think you’re going through something similar.

This writing-for-your-business stuff doesn’t always feel good. What’s the source of the pain?

Your writing process is often a burden or an unanswered "should." Let’s be honest about why all this blogging and guest posting and website content creation is hard - or even painful.

Here are 5 reasons that the creative entrepreneur resists the writing-for-your-business process (at least some of the time). 

  1. Creativity doesn’t like serving a single-minded master - particularly when that master is concerned with doing what’s necessary to sustain a viable business
  2. Storytelling is an art in and of itself, and sometimes it feels like you’re selling out when you use your own stories to sell a product or service
  3. There’s only so much creative juice in your glass, and when you drain it for something as ephemeral as a blog post, you resent how the “real” creative projects suffer
  4. Certainty isn’t part of the creative journey - and you don’t want it to be… asserting your in-process vision as fact because the skimming online reader doesn’t see shades of gray feels reckless
  5. You want to believe that stories matter because they matter, not because they’re a means to an end

Some of these are pulled right from my own fevered journaling sessions. Others come from conversations I’ve had with creatives who struggle with their online writing chores. All of them resonate with me, but I think, collectively, we could go even deeper.

Please share your reasons for resisting or resenting the writing-for-your-business process in the comments or on your favorite social media post (please do tag me and share this post!)

Why wallow in "writing is hard!"?

We're not throwing a "woe is me, the connected creative with a business and a following and a commitment to my art" pity party here. Instead, we're owning up to our resistance and our periodic crises of faith in the whole endeavor of building an online platform.

In a world where ambivalence or being "in process" is seen as a weakness, we must take a stand for the very real state of "becoming" and embrace the clarity as well as the mess.

Dare to follow the rules of writing for the web - sometimes. Put out posts that are focused, brief, clear, actionable and tell enough of the story to meet your own Sovereign Standard.

Other days, allow yourself to defy those conventions and just write into "fascinating." Write what you must write, not what the marketplace seems to demand.

But, do me a favor - breathe deep and pause before hitting publish. Some ideas must be allowed to marinate in the mind and in the journal for a while... even if you are dedicated to making this whole online writing thing work.

Let's make this writing-for-your-business work easier... I'd love to support you as your writing coach. Have a look at what I offer and we'll set up a free 15 minutes chat about how I can help you.

5 Reasons to Quit Curating Content and Just Get Writing

5 Reasons to quit curating content and just get writingContent curation seems like an easy way to boost your online visibility and prove you're a useful, fascinating resource. You pull together ideas from lots of smart people and then weave them together with a common thread plucked from your own life and work. You publish and share. You tag both the new and established content creators who are featured in your piece. Take the weekend off and start it all over again on Monday.

I took it on good authority that this whole curated newsletter thing was a low sweat way to build credibility. And grow a list.

5 Myths and Truths About Content Curation for the Creative Entrepreneur

content curation: 5 myths and truthsThis list is based on ten weeks’ experience of research and writing about 15,00 words. Is this enough time to be an expert in the field of curated newsletters? No, but I am an authority on the Sovereign Standard and my own definition of what it means to be a successful creative entrepreneur.

My intention is to give you some insights from inside a content curation project because there’s a lot of good press about it out there.

Truth is, you might just be better off writing rather than curating. I’m pretty sure I am...

Myth #1: Content Curation is Quick and Easy

The Hope: Curating others’ content would be easier and faster than writing my own post/newsletter each week.

The Truth: Weaving together other people’s posts and interviews often took more time than just writing and organizing my own ideas. Though I started with three set categories (livelihood, message, and everyday creative magic) and intended to share a couple of posts for each, I quickly rejected what felt like an overly simplistic system and wrapped all the ideas together in prose. (Lots and lots of prose...)

Outcome: I was producing long, “heady” posts each week that were well-made but ultimately too much for the majority of my readers.

Myth #2: Content Curation Makes You Smarter

Hope: I would read more widely and with more focused attention.

The Truth: I stopped reading things for pleasure or personal growth and would scan only for Sovereign Standard-related ideas. It’s likely I missed out on the best stuff because I was preoccupied with my agenda - my topic of the week.

Outcome: Reading others’ content became a chore. And, for brief and terrible periods, I started playing Two Dots or Candy Crush to avoid it.

Myth #3: Content Curation Encourages People to Share the Posts

Hope: Content creators would be so happy to appear in the Sovereign Standard that they’d jump on my list and share the posts with enthusiasm.

The Truth: Some people were awesome about this. Heck, Margaret Atwood tweeted at me and must have visited my blog (because she thought I misread her poem, but still…)! For the most part, however, there wasn’t any detectable bounce from all my dedicated linking and tagging.

Outcome: Over this ten week period I was producing two posts a week. The post that was all “mine” and more directly related to writing advice was just as likely to be shared as the Sovereign Standard piece.

Myth # 4: If It’s a Good Idea, It’s Worthy of Content Curation

Hope: Great posts related to the week’s topic would be easy to share and link to.

The Truth: The Sovereign Standard is about setting one’s own standards. Everything that was included in an issue had to meet my own (rather exacting) standards. As a writing coach with extensive website creation experience, I size up the effectiveness and quality of a site in about three seconds flat. I had to reject lots of content related to my weekly topic because I didn’t think the post or the site worked overall. If the post didn’t include a clear call to action or the website left me wondering “what does this person actually do?” I couldn’t include it.

Outcome: I did identify some potential clients and I became certain that people need my help when it comes to clarifying their message and presenting it through clear website copy. (Yes, this ultimately is a win, but it never made assembling the Standard any easier!)

Myth #5: Content Curation Frees Me to Focus on My Own Creative Projects

Hope: As in point #1, I was seeking a quick and easy route to visibility because I have a novel to write (and children to mother and a husband to love and clients to serve). 

The Truth: Because content creation didn’t really feel like mine (even though I was expending loads of creative energy as I tied all those ideas and sources together), I felt compelled to write a second blog post each week that explored my signature idea - Writing to Sovereignty. The novel? I’d be lucky if I made few notes while nursing or hanging at the playground. Those two blog pieces took all my writing and production mojo.

Outcome: I started to feel like a fraud calling myself an “author” when I hadn’t typed a word of fiction since launching this curated newsletter. I was starting to resent whomever had appropriated my creative fire… and I realized it was me. 

Still Curating, Still Sending a Newsletter, Just Not a Curated Newsletter

When it comes down to it, there is nothing wrong with content curation. I’ll never actually stop doing it.

After all, every time you share something you’re a “curator.” And linking to other people’s posts is a longstanding tenet of blogging that deserves to be preserved.

The problem was the way that I went about it. I lavished time and attention I didn’t really have on a project that wasn’t giving back what I was putting in.

The hope was to create something credible and substantial. The truth was, I believed that no one would be interested in what Marisa Goudy had to say about writing, entrepreneurship, and creativity, so I decided to share the spotlight with other creatives (many of whom hadn’t asked for the privilege).

I was afraid to stand Sovereign.

I’m grateful for this 10 week journey - for all that it has taught me and for managing to fail quickly (to borrow Chris Brogan’s line). I’m taking this opportunity to reset my course so I can tell my own Sovereign Story and offer you, dear reader, something useful that will help you identify your own.

Focus On What Actually Builds Visibility & Brings in Clients

What will change about the Sovereign Standard? Even my most loyal readers may barely notice.

The important thing is that I am shedding a term that became heavy and restrictive for me. I wanted “curated” to be a container that helped me shape my thoughts easily each week. Instead, I was perpetually over-delivering (in ways that didn’t add tangible value to readers or boost my business) because that container was never the right size or shape.

Likely I’ll end up blogging on my own site once a week and focusing on guest posting (please go read my essay about grief, motherhood, and a crazy dog on Suzi Banks Baum's Laundry Line Divine). 

Most importantly, I’ll be making my foundational website copy absolutely perfect so no one ever says “I love your work! But… what exactly do you do?”

 Need help focusing in on what writing projects are really important to building your business? Let's set up a free initial consultation.

Content Creation, Social Media, and Our Big Reciprocity Problem

The Sovereign Standard brought to you by Marisa GoudyThe Sovereign Standard, Issue 5

When it comes to reciprocity, we're a bunch of amateursWe tend to give more than we receive. That leaves us feeling imbalanced and burned out. In such a state, the inner critic seems to find a bigger megaphone and resentment of all kinds gets free license.

Giving and receiving in equal measure is the art of reciprocity. Unfortunately, in this department, most of us are amateurs at best when it comes to self care, social media habits, and promoting the business.

Don't Blame the Baby for Your Self Care Deficit

If the majority are giving too much you’d think that would mean that there’s some big segment of the population getting fat on others' contributions.

First group that comes to mind - kids. Children can seem like massive energy vortexes that will suck you dry, but that’s their job, right?

Yikes! Is that sense of imbalance - and martyrdom - an inevitable part of parenting? It doesn’t have to be.

So grateful to find Jessica Michaelson’s description of a common problem we usually don't have a name for - Depleted Mother Syndrome - and what to do about it. Thank goodness every stressed out working parent doesn't have to wait two (or more!) decades to get their equilibrium back!

OK, so if children aren’t to be implicated as little vampires intent on draining their elders, and we still feel like we’re out of whack, who is there to blame?

It’s not necessarily a somebody.

Feeding the Voracious Social Media Beast

Content Creation social media and our reciprocity problemQuestion: Who takes but doesn’t really give anything in return?

Answer: The social media networks that are building mega corporations based on the endless contributions of users.

Ok, the social media platforms don’t give us nothing. They give us a place to connect and an unparalleled opportunity for global visibility in exchange for our personal data and the content that lures our friends and followers to sacrifice their own privacy.

Does that feel like an equal exchange?

Here’s evidence that we’re conditioned to give more than we get. Last fall, 380 New Yorkers gave up everything from their mother’s maiden name to part of their Social Security number in exchange for a cookie.

But maybe giving it up for a cinnamon Instagram cookie doesn’t matter considering everything data brokers know about us already thanks to our buying and clicking habits.

But Social Media is About People and Relationships, Right?

We're quite used to putting away our concerns about privacy (because worrying about Big Brother is next to useless, according to this New Tech City podcast).  Instead, we focus on the immediate benefits of social media - seeing and being seen.

The folks at Big Fuel explore the basics of reciprocity in social media.

They see our online presence as motivated by a dual desire to “be recognized as an individual, and belong to a community.” Online influence - something every entrepreneur wants - is the beautiful love child of posting your own content and sharing others’ stuff.

Optimistically they declare: “Whatever you give to a community, you earn in return.”

Well, that’s the ideal. That’s what reciprocity really is. But do we actually experience it much?

Paula Reed Nancarrow nudges us to witness the distracting dark side of the quest for reciprocity. Because social media is so easily quantified in followers and shares, it’s all too easy to lose focus and authenticity because you end up playing the numbers game. Reciprocity isn't about a blind series of obligatory back and forth interactions. 

Reciprocity at the Human Level & the Creative Level

The art of reciprocity read comment share like you mean itSo, as we give and we give to a faceless online beast (even though we’re assaulted by countless faces every day), how do we continue to keep track of our own mission, our own creative potential, and our own humanity? How do we cultivate the art of reciprocity?I don’t have any data for this one, but don’t need it. I know my favorite solution is to read, comment, and share like you mean it.

Writing and creating content are part of the job for most of us, but let's be honest about the days when you just don’t want to show up and churn out more ideas. You may be coping with an issue that you don’t want to share with your online community  or focused on a longer term project may have your attention.

Sometimes it’s hard to write because you can’t reconcile the time it demands with the needs of the people who are right in front of you and the fear that your latest blog post won’t get a response.

In this week’s blog post, What You’ll Gain From a Business Writing Practice (Besides Blog Posts) I offer up all the ways that your writing-for-business practice gives back to you because I think that we can keep the dream of reciprocity alive.

Start with creating a positive give and take with your own creative endeavors and then apply that to your relationships with clients, colleagues, and the people you love.

It meant the world when someone I haven’t interacted with lately shared my latest post with a few heartfelt words. I quickly searched out her wonderful Hudson Valley summer camp and posted it where I could. I was motivated by gratitude and its soul sister, reciprocity.

This was not an obligatory "you scratched my back, I hafta scratch yours" share. I believe in this woman's work and she opened the door for me to share in the spirit of reciprocity with an initial act of generosity.

Look for the deeper benefits in every act of content creation to make sure you're caring for yourself. And then, read, comment, and share like you mean it to ensure you're showing your care for others.

Reciprocity is Sacred and It's Something We Can Cultivate

The indigenous peoples of the Andes have a word for profound reciprocity: ayni.

As Eleanora Amendolara of the Sacred Center Mystery School describes it “When you move through life inspired by the spirit of ayni you balance the great scales between yourself and the earth, the cosmos, and with all the people in your life.”

Listen to the  Virtual Wisdom Council call that I co-hosted on topic The Rhythm of Reciprocity and Gratitude. Though we won’t be talking about entrepreneurship or your online message, Eleanora is a channel for creative magic. The discussion and group meditation offers an opportunity to see reciprocity from a broader perspective and will help you find your equilibrium.

This post was sent to Sovereign Standard subscribers first. To join our community please subscribe here.

Online Visibility, Transparency, and Authenticity When You’ve Got Other Things On Your Mind

 Online Visibility, Transparency, and Authenticity When You’ve Got Other Things On Your MindEntrepreneurship springs from optimism. You believe in the vitality of the marketplace and your own potential. You understand that your livelihood relies on your energy and vision. You have a faith in yourself and your tribe and the world as a whole. But what if you’re just not feeling it right now?

We get stuck in the doldrums sometimes. Maybe it's due to illness or the needs of the family or this endless winter (this week’s Sovereign Standard offers balm for the snowed-in February soul).

Regardless of the source, these low periods are real and sometimes you can't just put on a happy face and push through, business as usual.

You Can Keep Sailing Your Professional Ship - Despite Private Tidal Waves

Are you the unsinkable Molly Brown type? Me Neither.Maybe you’re one of those unflappable people whose personal relationships or interior monologues never gets in the way of her work. Maybe. But I doubt you’d click on a blog post with this title if you were. For the purpose of full transparency, you and I probably won’t be soul mates if you’re the Unsinkable Molly Brown type.

Time for more disclosure: I have big feelings and big ideas and sometimes they cause huge waves that threaten overturn my little professional skiff.

You too? Wonderful. Keep reading - there’s some ideas for how to survive these internal tempests and an extended boating metaphor in it for you!

Decide What You’ll Throw Overboard BEFORE the Storm Hits

You set out on the entrepreneurial journey with dual goals: adventure and prosperity. You were prepared to do the creative work as well as the grunt work. Your vision would become a service or product that filled a need and was worthy of your clients’ investment.

Though you may not have thought about it in any detailed way, you planned on showing up fully as you. After all, the reason you’re taking the risk of self-employment is for the ultimate fringe benefit: independence and the freedom to plot your own course.

The thing about being you - about being human: stuff happens. Storms hit. And the best laid professional plans are practically worthless when you’re in survival mode.

Well, those professional plans aren’t totally worthless. Before crises hit you can set priorities, develop systems, and hire back up so that clients won’t feel seasick when you're caught in a riptide.

And you can decide what’s on the bottom of your list.

This post is to help you decide what to cut loose before the ship starts going down. My suggestion? Your online presence.

Yes, the woman whose business is based on writing, content creation, and feeding the hungry internet beast in a graceful, sustainable way just told you to put your online presence last.

Note: that doesn’t mean that you put your writing last. Goodness knows the only way to survive a personal crisis is often a nice glass of red and a long session with your journal, but I digress…

Why Your All-Important Online Presence Isn’t All That Important Sometimes

You build an online presence in order to increase your visibility. If you’re not being seen you’re not building brand recognition or accruing those vital “know, like, and trust” points.

Does that make the online world sound way too much like appearing at a high school hangout on Friday nights? I meant for you to squirm a little with that one.

As important as visibility is, it’s also a bit trivial. Was one missed party social suicide when you were a sophomore? Is one week without Twitter going to damn you to obscurity?

Of course not. If you completely vanish from, the scene the conversation will eventually move on without you. But if you stick around your professional online haunts even when you feel like an emotionally crippled zombie, you risk your sanity - and potentially your reputation.

But What About Transparency and Authenticity?

Transparency and authenticity are two of the buzziest buzz words out there when people talk about how to “do” social media. They’re also some of the most flexibly defined words in the modern lexicon.

Let’s consult the bona fide word experts at Merriam Webster:

Transparency:  the quality or state of being transparent: able to be seen through; easy to notice or understand; honest and open; not secretive

Authenticity:  the quality or state of being authentic: to be real or genuine : not copied or false

Remember, friend, in this particular scenario, you’re a mess. You want to crawl into your bunk with a big thick book (this one features a shipwreck in keeping with our theme) or take up permanent residence on a desert island.

I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship, AlcottWhen you're wracked with doubt or swept up in a personal hurricane, transparency is not necessarily your ally. You don’t want or need to share all the details of this process just because you’re dedicated to being “real” online.

Lots of smart people have explored the intersections of transparency and authenticity (Gina Fiedel offers two of my favorites here  and here.

Transparency is Optional. Authenticity is Mandatory.

You’ve got a lot of discretion when it comes to what you reveal, but as a creative entrepreneur whose work is fueled by your passions, authenticity isn’t something that you want to start skimping on.

Your child is sick. You’re dealing with a mental health issue. Your mother-in-law just moved in. These situations are casting some long shadows over your optimism right now. It may feel good to step into the light of the always glowing digital world and talk about growth and hope, but you may also feel like an underpaid actress desperately pretending the script isn’t flat and the working conditions aren’t horrible.

Sometimes the most authentic, connected thing you can do is gracefully step away from the screen.

You may want to post a little note to the effect of "gone fishin'" or you may simply trust that you'll be back soon enough and your dedicated online community will greet you with open arms when the time is right.

Alternatives to a Complete Digital Hiatus: 3 Ways to Keep Up Online Appearances

3 Ways to Keep Up Online Appearances even when you feel lost at seaSometimes you need to just pull away. Being online when you feel vulnerable can make you feel too exposed - even if you’re not talking about anything personal. But if you can get your head around doing some simple online chores there are ways to keep up appearances:

  • Post from your archives: You barely remember what you wrote last fall, so there’s a good chance that your older material will feel fresh to your readers. Plan ahead and make this easy on yourself: create a spreadsheet and record every post’s title, category, keywords, and meta description so you don’t just start picking old blog posts at random.
  • Create media with the books that are getting you through: If a novel or a gripping work of non-fiction is your solace during this tough time, pull some quotes and use WordSwag to create a neat little graphic that’s easy to Instagram and share across social media.
  • Build a list of ten or more trusted allies' sites and repost their content: Sharing others’ content may be a natural part of your day when you’re stopping by Facebook regularly, but think ahead for the times when you’re away from your usual digital hang outs. Create a list in Feedly or Twitter and repost content from your savvy friends and wise colleagues.

Despite the fact that I’ve barely been outside in months, I’m still keeping my ship afloat. Check out this week’s Sovereign Standard and subscribe to see you’re not the only one suffering during this long winter and to pick up some inspiration for finding warmth in the endless white veld.