I’ve been a writer ever since I was a toddler.
My mom had me tell her stories, and then she would write them down.
But when I was 12 years old, I fell completely in love with writing. I would sit at my parents’ old Macintosh and write love stories in which I was the object of not just one, but 2 boys’ affections.
My love of writing continued into high school, when I went to Denver School of the Arts in the Creative Writing program. My teacher, Ms. Clark, taught me how to come back day after day and write. She taught me that it was okay to be a hopeless romantic even while surrounded with kids who seemed to have much deeper things to write about than I did.
A story I wrote was published in a book about grandmothers when I was 16 years old. It was about a conversation I had with my grandma in which she told me I should have sex before marriage.
At Hampshire College, I created a cocktail major of Storytelling through Creative Writing, Film, Photography, and Theater. My senior thesis was a collection of poems about travel, distance, longing and love.
But in writing that thesis (which we at Hampshire called a Division III project), I completely lost my love of writing.
I was in a toxic relationship at the time, and I was completely unwilling to write the truth that was in my heart – that my boyfriend was making me miserable. My attachment to the relationship made it impossible to write my truth, which, in my mind, is the whole point of writing poetry – to express a deep truth within yourself.
Somehow, I managed to write 23 poems, most of which were pretty good (if I do say so myself), but the experience of sitting down, day after day, and struggling to write while disconnected from my inner truth, left me drained and unwilling to write anymore.
For the next 10 years, I slowly found my way back to writing. I taught a course on how to develop a writing practice. I joined writing groups, and created my own. But I couldn’t find my way back to the loving relationship I’d experienced with writing when I was younger.
I even started a few blogs, but they all fizzled out after 10 posts or so.
Then, last December, I was visiting my family in Denver, when I felt this strong urge to start writing again.
The first post I wrote on this blog was called “Feeling Good in My Own Flip-Flops.” It was about coming to terms with living in Miami.
I decided that I would write a blog post every single day. One was about good parking karma (which is a trait that runs in my family). Another was about morning practice. I didn’t have many readers, but I didn’t care. The joy of writing sustained me.
Then I started writing about finding your writer’s voice, and my blog picked up momentum. I wrote about how to build your brand and your business online. I wrote posts about launching my first product (which, incidentally, was pretty much a failure, but it was a good exercise in getting something out there).
As I gained new readers and my blog traffic grew, I started asking questions of other bloggers. What did they really struggle with? What did they care about? I coached a bunch of bloggers on their content, and, in the process got lots of ideas for blog posts.
Then, something shifted. In the beginning of writing my blog, I felt the freedom to write about anything and everything.
But once I had defined my niche, I felt like I couldn’t write about things like parking karma and morning practice. Every single post needed to be about blogging.
I slowed down from writing every day, to writing 5 times a week, to 3 times a week, to 2 times, and finally, once a week.
And something else happened, too. My “blogging” no longer just consisted of writing. I created the 10 Day Blog Makeover Challenge, which brought thousands of bloggers into my life, grew my Facebook group to over 2,000 people, and made me think about how to build my business in a whole new way.
In the beginning, I saw writing blog posts as a non-negotiable activity. It was my way of expressing myself, but it was also my vehicle for building a business.
Now, the writing portion of blogging has been pushed to the back burner, because there are so many other responsibilities I’ve given myself. Running my Facebook group, creating courses, building my Twitter following. And on and on.
My initial drive to write led to so many unexpected benefits and twists and turns along the way, that I lost my initial reason for blogging – to express myself and reconnect with the long lost writer inside of me.
And that’s okay. Really. Because I also wanted to build an audience and a business, and sometimes that means refining your focus and being strategic.
But it’s also painful. It’s hard to write with the burning question of, “Will my audience like this?” Because then I’m not always sitting down to write what’s real, and true, for me.
All of my posts are honest. It’s not that. It’s more that I don’t write a lot of what I want to write, because I’m worried about what you’ll think of me. Most of my posts have more answers than questions, because that’s what I know you want – answers to your blogging questions. Help along the path.
But I’ve recently decided that sometimes it’s okay to admit that I don’t have all of the answers (or even most of them). I’ve decided that, while I am still writing posts for a specific audience, (bloggers who are, day by day, building a platform for themselves) what matters more to me right now isn’t being liked.
It’s being real. It’s getting back to my own voice.
I deeply, deeply care about what you want to read about. But to build a blog that’s uniquely me, I’ve found that I need to care just as much about the stories burning inside of me than about what my readers want.
I don’t want to fall out of love with blogging, like I fell out of love with writing all those years ago. So I am coming back. I’m reconnecting with why I started doing this in the first place.
And, instead of giving you answers in this post, I am leaving you with questions.
How much of what you write is driven by a need to write something that matters to you, and how much is to cater to your audience?
What do you think blogging is for? Is it to express yourself, to build an audience, or both?
How can you sustain your love of blogging even when it feels like a drag?
Blogging really is just a series of questions, anyway. About what matters most, to both you and your audience. About how to stay motivated even when it gets hard. And as soon as you answer one question, another arises.
That’s one thing I love about writing and blogging. There’s always another question to explore.