What have I learned over the past two and a half years of growing a blog?
 
Below is Part 2 of my response to Barbara. In Part I, I spoke about finding an approach to your work (whatever it is) — that works with who you are. Here, I’m writing more specifically about my experience with blogging.

Here’s the original note from Barbara:

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Tara,

I just posted a reply on your blog, but I have something more personal to add. You’ve inspired me with your response to Kim.

I’m starting a blog, to bring people to my website and I’m feeling a little paralyzed. (Is that like being a little pregnant?) I thought all I had to do was show my art work, but now I have to write too? Drawing is easy, actually transporting, but writing is hard.

When I look at my life I see that I’ve done a lot, in fact, I’ve lived the live I wouldn’t have dared to dream of when I dropped out of college. Teaching, raising two kids, staying married, making and keeping friends, entertaining, decorating, serving on the boards of my church and my art school–there are so many different parts that it seems a bit out of focus.

I have found that I need to talk everything over with someone before I start–maybe I should just put it out there and see what comes back?

When I look at established blogs I get totally intimidated.

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Barbara,

I love that you are able to look back at your life and see your journey as worthy of sharing through writing. In my Playing Big course, the second module is called “Owning Your Own Story.” I made this a focus of the course because the tendency in so many gifted women is to think they need more experience or education to make a contribution. They can’t see the way that their own stories – their own natural insights and life experience – are enough to allow them to add a very needed, valuable, new perspective. It’s fabulous to hear that you can see this in yourself!!

I can personally relate to your concern about your blog: “but isn’t it unfocused?” I got lots of advice to choose one narrow focus for work, my message, my brand. People kept asking me: What was “my hook”? My tagline? What was my “thing” going to be?

I could never pick one. Contemplating the idea sent me into a panic and made me feel like I was making my message, and myself, into something reductive and cheesy. My gut said that 1) I needed to figure out what I was writing about by writing and 2) I needed to follow what was creatively exciting for me – which was not confining myself to one issue, demographic group, or tagline.

I think that perhaps picking a more narrow focus would have been a faster way to build an audience, but I’ll never know. It certainly helps people and media understand who you are and what you are offering — quickly and easily. But over the long-term, would it have allowed me to do the work I want, communicate the message I want, and attract the remarkable quality of readers I have now? I don’t think so.

I’ve come to believe that people can connect well with a complex brand and a blog that addresses a wide range of topics — but it might take longer for a “right-fit” audience to discover you. Julie Stuart has a marvelous post on this topic here.

As for your other concern, I think your intuition is right on track: put it out there and see what happens. Jump in the deep end of the pool. I think blogging is a craft – and not just on the technical side, but on the writing side. It’s a unique medium, and a unique set of things work (and don’t work) in that medium. There’s no book that can teach you – really teach you – how to write posts that have significant impact (on your business or on the world). Instead, there is the live “internship” of blogging, day after day, and seeing: What caught people’s attention? What did they forward to friends? What did they comment on, or write you personal emails about? What evoked radio silence or seemed “dead in the water” once you hit publish? Observing this, over time, has made me a better writer – an unconscious training and refining has been happening.

Lastly, yes, in the beginning, I too found looking at established blogs totally intimidating! I had fits of insecurity, jealousy, raging judgments, like: “I cannot believe that idiotic post has 80 comments! Why don’t any of my posts have 80 comments, when they are obviously of higher quality!” Not my most generous moments!

I often got the impression that other bloggers had easy, overnight successes–and I’d compare myself unfavorably to them. I’ve come to realize the “overnight success” thing is an illusion. One blogger often talked and wrote about how her blog reached x many thousands of blog subscribers in just a few months! I would read that and feel like a failure with my 131 subscribers or whatever it was at the time, and then I found out: she had created many, many blogs before her current one, and had learned about blogging as each one of those withered in obscurity. Hers was not actually an overnight success, but a learning process seven years in the making.

Now I experience this from the other side: a few times lately people have said something to me about my blog’s rapid growth and “sudden” visibility and I remind them that I had 38 subscribers for the first year. For the full year. I used to joke, “If you want to know how to have a secret blog, I can teach you how!” It took a long time to leave my comfort zone and actually do the things that would help me grow my blog. It took me a long time to find other bloggers I wanted to be in a community with. I wish I had really been able to get that growing a blog is like building something: it happens brick by brick, step by step. It takes time, and it also takes learning and experimentation.

Those are some of my thoughts…on beginning blogging. On less suffering in the blogging.

I’ve been getting a lot of emails from people asking questions about how I built my blog, which is something I’m delighted to share about because it was an area of a lot of suffering and fear when I was getting started, and I’d LOVE to relieve some of that for other people if possible….so I’m going to do a free call and share my experience and respond to your questions about building a blog. The call is next Friday, June 10, 11am-noon PST.

To get the call in # and passcode, SIGN UP HERE. Signing up will also give you access to the recording if you can’t attend live.

If you want the inside scoop on my blogging experience, and to hear the things I wish I knew earlier on, join me!

Hugs,

Tara

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