If I only knew then what I know now. I’m not sure if I would have done anything differently, but it might have made the journey easier. I hope this information will help you if you’re fearful or hesitant about publishing your work.
The first lesson is the most important. It’s more of a mindset rather than a tactic or strategy. I would have quit long ago if I had defined success by traditional measures.
Victory Comes From The Exploration
How do you define success for each story? Many writers use stats like fans, readership or email sign-ups. I see all of those as secondary metrics. They’re essential; I check those numbers often, but the victory comes long before the first reader clicks on my story.
Each writing session is an exploration. I always end a session with one of these three results.
- I learn something new or gain a deeper understanding.
- I reinforce something I already know.
- In rare instances, I open my mind up to new opportunities and ideas I never considered.
Each one of those results is a victory. I gain something from the experience. Whatever accolades I receive afterward is icing on the cake. I would not have survived this long if data were my sole measure of success.
Obsession With Stats Never Wanes
The first blog post I wrote received zero page views. That post was from way back when I blogged on a self-hosted Wordpress site. I still look at stats several times a day. I question anyone who claims they are unconcerned about their numbers.
Perhaps if numbers always moved in a linear upward fashion… Ah, but they don’t.
It’s Okay To Experiment
I often try new styles, new approaches to writing. Most of these experiments fail. I post something new every other day, so I don’t worry about the failures. I know some writers worry that a poor performing story will tarnish their reputation.
I find that to be a delusional attitude. Your failures don’t matter. Everyone, except you, forgets about the stuff that fails. And sorry to bruise your ego, but they’ll likely forget about your great stuff too.
If you stopped publishing your work tomorrow, few people would notice. It could be that in a few weeks a loyal reader will think, “hey whatever happened to Barry Davret. I haven’t seen his work in weeks.” And then they’ll shrug and carry on with their day. It might sound depressing to discover your fans don’t plan their lives around your words. I find it liberating.
There are more theories on this topic than there are writers. Should you write every day? Should you write every day but publish once a week? I write every day, even if I’m not in the mood. I do not publish every day.
It’s okay to write for yourself or to explore new ideas without any intention of publishing them.
Some writers follow the mantra, “If you write it, you must publish it.” I used to adhere to that rule myself, but it didn’t serve me well.
Whatever pattern you choose, stay consistent. As a reader, I have a cadre of my favorite writers. Many writers have come and gone from that illustrious group. Most have disappeared because they stopped publishing or they published too inconsistently.
A consistent publishing schedule keeps your name top of mind.
The Rule Of One
Each piece should have one promise to your reader. In this story, I promised you ten lessons I gleaned from my blogging history. That is all you will get. If I had decided to throw in a few pointers about marketing, it would distract you and weaken the message. If you read the most popular stories and essays, you’ll see that they all follow the rule of one.
It’s tempting to throw in an interesting aside. It’s human to go off on a tangent. Always take a separate editing pass to focus on this point.
Write down the promise you made to your reader and cut anything that obstructs or distracts from that promise.
Never Think You Have It All Figured Out
I am NOT an expert. I will never be an expert. I’ve probably learned .000001% of all there is to know. That means each day offers an opportunity to learn something new.
Be wary of anyone who claims to have All the answers, or even most of the answers.
Learn And Implement
Everyone loves to learn. We have the books and courses to prove it. I make it a point to learn from others. I make the time to do it because it allows me to grow.
I’m not in a race to read the most books or watch the most videos. There’s an old saying that you learn by doing. Whenever I learn something new about writing or about the subjects I write about, I try to implement it. A technique might sound fabulous to you, but it won’t do you any good if you never put it into practice.
Learn something new. Try it. Evaluate the results. Try again. That’s learning.
It’s also how you improve.
Fear Diminishes But Never Disappears
I wrote for sixty days in Google docs before I ever published a story anywhere on the web. I was terrified.
“What if nobody reads it?”
“What if people read it and hate it?”
“What if people read it and love it? Then I’d be under intense pressure to repeat the success. How will I manage?”
Your brain is adept at concocting irrational fears. Those fears have diminished with time and experience, but they never disappear — a mentor of mine used to tell me this advice.
“If you’re not at least a little bit afraid to hit publish, you haven’t pushed hard enough.”
If you finish a story and feel little to no fear, then maybe you played it too safe.
Sometimes It Takes Two, Three Or Four Attempts
One of my earliest stories was about nostalgia. I wrote about it from a marketing perspective. It’s a powerful tool to attract and hold attention. The story went nowhere.
A few months later I tried it again, and it performed well. The second story had a tighter focus. I stated the ideas clearly. This phenomenon has occurred several times. It often takes two, three or more attempts to clarify your thoughts and write them in a way that resonates with your audience.
If you feel confident about an idea, keep at it until you get it right.
It’s worth the effort to you and your audience.
You Don’t Need All The Answers
It’s okay to write about a theory on life, relationships, business, whatever and tell your readers that you haven’t figured it out yet. It’s okay to write about your failed business, dating screw-ups or parenting struggles. It’s valuable information for others. It tells us what we should avoid trying ourselves. There is value in that. Plus, let’s be honest.
Who doesn’t take a little guilty pleasure in hearing about the misfortunes of others?
Complexity Is Your Enemy
You should never have to read a sentence twice to understand its meaning. People today are busier than ever. We read stories on our phones while gulping down a coffee and rushing to our office. Don’t make your readers’ job harder by adding unnecessary complexity. Avoid words that only a Ph.D. would understand (if unavoidable, define it). There are so many entertainment options, and it is too easy to click away to find something else.
Readers of all educational levels appreciate clarity, brevity and simplicity.
Here’s an effective question to ask yourself as you edit.
“Would a reader who knows nothing about X understand this?”
If the answer is no, keep working on it.