How’s that for a formulaic title? Not bad, huh? But, no, that isn’t one of the lessons I’ve learned. Well, not a full lesson.
I do want to be clear about one thing. I’ve had this blog for 5 months, and I’ve learned more here than I have at any other time or with any other blog. I’ve had previous blogs on blogspot, but I never took things seriously. These 5 lessons I learned have all been through this blogging effort. I’m a slow learner, and I am far from done learning, but I just thought I’d do some reflection today.
1) I Have No Idea What I’m Doing
Here’s the thing, this might actually be a good thing. Actually, there is no might about it. This is a good thing. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’ve learned that blogging was made for learning and growing. Very few times have I been involved in something as forgiving as this blogging world. I make mistakes. A lot of them. But I can learn from them and apply what I learn as I go. There are no penalties for it. If somehow I alienate someone, or offend in some way, readers are quick to forgive if I own up to my mistakes and learn from them to be a better blogger/person. I don’t think I will ever fully “get it” when it comes to blogging. There will never be a time when I consider myself an expert at this. But, I will continue because I can grow and learn and change and meet some really great people through this.
2) Building a Platform is Exhausting
Let me be honest here. While I had blogs before this one, I had no desire to really blog. I started this one because I wanted to stop treating my writing as a hobby and become an full-out author. I heard that in order to do that I needed to “build a platform”. So, I started this blog to fulfill that goal. What I learned, quickly I might add, is that platform advice is overwhelming. I tried just about everything that I read I should do if I want people to read my stories. See, this is where my first lesson shines the brightest. I found out that not all of the advice is for me. It might work for some out there, but I wasn’t being true to who I was nor was I being respectful to all of you out there. What this did do for me was push me to set priorities and analyze my motivations. I started out wanting people to know who I was and to read my stories. That changed. Sure, I would love my stories (if I ever do finish my book) to be loved. But this blog is more than that. I’ve found that I would rather hear everyone else’s stories. Building my platform has become a means for me to build more community. It’s a big world out there, and there are lots of stories worth listening to.
3) Social Media Isn’t the Bane of Society I Thought
This ties into my second lesson. I had a Twitter account and Facebook page for awhile, but I wasn’t very active on either one. In fact, I often wondered why I had them at all. They seemed to just suck up time and energy. When I started out with the purpose of building my platform, I rediscovered these avenues of social media and started reconnecting with people. They can be time destroyers, but they can also be incredible ways to reach out over this big world and connect with people and care for people and not retreat into myself like I do regularly. Now, a lot of platform advice out there says use this one or that one or lots of social media outlets – and I tried that at first. That’s part of the “exhausting” I mentioned. I then read, and heeded, that I should focus just on two. I chose Twitter and Facebook – because I’m already there regularly. And, I started connecting to people instead of focusing on my platform. This is far more rewarding. Will I “grow my audience” this way? No idea. For me, that’s not the point any more. It’s the connection; it’s the community.
4) There are a lot of Talented, Kind, and Generous people out there
This is where wanting to hear other stories comes in greatest. There really are some great blogs out there that I have enjoyed more than I can say. In the day-to-day, I (and I’m sure most of you) hear a lot of ugly in this world. I’ve discovered, through the blogosphere, there is still a lot of beauty. People are just trying to live their lives and live their dreams the same as I am and their stories are beautiful. Really beautiful, even if they are experiencing some ugly times. I do not regret the time spent reading their blogs. I do not count it as wasted time. It’s from them that I am learning, much more than about blogging or writing.
5) I’m Finding out More About Me
I’ve found that this endeavor is a lot like life for me. There is no end to the advice available, but there is also no “one size fits all” formula. Some things work, some things don’t. It’s okay. I might not ever grow my audience to what I once thought I needed. It’s okay. I started out thinking I needed to have a massive readership before any literary agent or publisher would even look at me, but I’ve learned it doesn’t matter. Hopefully I’ll get my book finished and out into the wide world for people to read. I hope they love it, too. However, numbers don’t really matter to me as much as I thought they should. Right now, I’m enjoying getting to know people. I would rather build a strong community than a large one. I might be crazy in that, who knows, but that is what I’ve learned about myself. Just like my life outside of this digital world. Relationships matter to me. People matter to me. This digital world isn’t going to be any different.
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