Tell me, do you reach a point in life when you’re no longer embarrassed by what you did five years ago? It would be nice to imagine that someday you won’t blush at the thought of what you wore, what you watched, or what you blogged about.
The fashion and entertainment industries exist because they’ve convinced us that new is always better. And the internet is in the thick of its own maturation process, which means time is constantly sped up.
We're practically compelled to reinvent ourselves every few years - and feel a little sheepish about what we offered up as our most stylish look or most polished work just half a decade before.
My writing from five years ago makes me squirm.
The Story of a Young Blogger
Between 2007 and early 2010 I blogged in fits and starts. The Girl Who Cried Epiphany was the perfect description for a woman who bounced from one “ah ha” moment to the next, giddy with each new idea and almost sure no one had ever looked at things quite the way she did.
I began as a writer on a spiritual quest and was eventually a new mother seeking to escape the 9-5. I loved my baby, Byzantine sentences, obscure Irish poets, and trying on different faiths, and I wanted everyone to know about because… well, because!
So many words, so many assertions, so much earnestness shared on a site that didn’t include my real name or my picture.
I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing, but I was terribly serious about it. Eventually, I just knew I’d be recognized for being smart and nice and worthy of praise.
But I was so frustrated that the more I cared about the blog and the process, the less my tiny audience seemed to care.
They Call that a “Hobby Blog,” Friend
If anyone had dared dismissed my nightly writing sessions as a mere hobby I would have been mortified. A hobby involves macrame or painting model airplanes in the basement! This was my art and my soul. It was my own super important journey - and doing it publicly was part of my dream of changing the world.
Fast forward to 2015. I’m more likely to get blogging inspiration from the likes of Jon Morrow (the Boost Blog Traffic guy) rather than Thomas Merton (the contemplative monk.)
Morrow compares serious bloggers to hobby bloggers I know what he means because clearly I used to be one of the latter.
But, there’s also so much to learn from that hopeful twenty-something who was so dedicated to self-discovery (and to writing sentences that stretched on for four or more lines).
5 Epiphanies that Could Transform the Wannabe Thought Leader
We’ve all asked this question: if I knew back then what I know now, where would I be? Pointless navel gazing, but these five recommendations could help rescue a could-be serious blogger from the hobby zone today.
Have a goal. Yes, we write to discover who we are and what we think. When you begin writing you likely won’t even know how to articulate your big goals. That’s why you’re writing! Start by acknowledging that you want your blog to take you somewhere and write in that direction each day. “Draft to discover” - Jeffrey Davis’s gift of a term - is an essential part of the writing process and the thinking process. My old Wordpress blog was a draft to discover laboratory - or it could have been. But that sort of meandering public self-discovery project is not nearly enough to consistently impact readers’ lives.
Tell captivating, elevating stories. That’s what brings in readers and keeps them. Those stories aren’t accidents that spring from your stream of consciousness post of the day. After “Draft to discover” Jeffrey Davis invites the creative to “craft to design.” That means you’re revising and honing your message, but not because you seek perfection. You do it because you seek connection.
It’s not about you. “Make the buyer the hero” is a concept that Chris Brogan has written about a lot. Even if you’re not trying to sell anyone on anything other than you own credibility, this still applies. As a blogger it’s up to you to invite readers into the narrative. Even if the story is ostensibly about you, allow them to see themselves in the story you tell (come on, I know you’re thinking about what you might have posted online back in 2008).
Know the value of attention. The attention of an audience is a privilege that you earn. It almost always takes a long time to garner the sort of attention that will sustain you over the long haul. You don’t deserve acclaim just because you’re a wonderful person with lots of ideas. If that were the case, you and I would be famous and my spell checker wouldn’t know the word “Kardashian.”
Remember where you’re writing. This is this internet. It is not a book, it is not a term paper or your thesis, and it is not a professional document. Don’t sacrifice your voice to imitate how they write on People.com or even Copyblogger, but remember that people are reading your work on an iPhone, not from a leather bound volume. Work with their splintered modern attention spans - at least a little bit.
How to Do Self-Discovery… Differently
Maybe it sounds like I’m being a little hard on the quest for self-knowledge and dismissing it as so five years ago. That isn’t my intention. After all, I offer something called the Message Discovery & Development Process.
I believe in the discovery process with every fiber of my creative entrepreneurial being, but I only arrived there after I worked through a ton of resistance.
As soon as I started my own business I dismissed the discovery process as a luxury and only made time for it when I hit a total dead end (I’ve made several professional wrong turns that make me blush more than my old blog ever could). Completely swept up with doing, I was frantically following “expert” advice and trying to mimic others’ success.
Now, I’m dedicated to shaving years off your business message discovery process.
Yes, keep writing and keep searching and keep being vulnerable and allowing yourself to get it wrong. But don’t just free write on your blog, praying for the next epiphany to strike and catapult you to the fame you deserve.
There’s more to this process of discovery and to this sort of public writing. The world you want to change needs you to do it differently.
Let's talk about how I can help you discover your message and put out a message you'll be proud of in 2020 and beyond.
PS: It's the Feast of the Epiphany. Feast your eyes on Marisa-in-progress with a couple January 6th posts from 2008 and 2010. Sweet and spirited, but most likely under the heading of "what not to do."