Amber Salhus is one of my favorite Clumsy Bloggers. In addition to writing great words, she’s always cracking us up in the Clumsy Bloggers’ Facebook Group with her cussing and her GIFs. When she showed me her list of blog topics she’s working on, I saw this one and said, “I want that for a guest post on my blog!” So here it is:
Writers talk a lot about their “voice”, like it’s some kind of holy grail or mysterious skeleton key with the power to unlock all the secrets of truly brilliant writing. Me? I’ve never had a hard time knowing my voice – it’s lighthearted, funny, and sarcastic. It is also unguarded, vulnerable, and honest.
My problem is that while I know my voice, I’ve been unsure how to use it. I’m uncertain where it fits in, or if it even fits in at all.
To be a successful blogger, I’m supposed to know not just my voice, but my niche too.
Who am I writing for? Am I a mom-blogger? Am I an angsty millenial burned by the church? Am I a foodie? Am I an emo, introspective deep thinker constantly feeling all the feels? Am I into fashion and decor?
What happens if I belong in all and none of those boxes at the same time? Is that allowed, even?
My friend Micah is a real and true blogging wizard. In fact he knows so much about blogging that he literally teaches a course on it. I know, because I took this course. It’s amazing and I learned all kinds of helpful information.
I learned that a picture is worth a thousand
words clicks. I learned how to create margins on the page and to give my words room to breathe so they’re easier to read. I learned that the first three words and the last three words of a title can make or break a post’s readership. Those 6 words actually matter a lot and I’d better choose them wisely, because who knew people would rather click on “Why I’m Done Playing The Harlot” than simply “The Problem With Harlotry”?
I learned that I must curate my social media presence with care and wit and genuineness. I’ve got to engage. As Chuck Wendig cleverly points out:
“For quite some time, social media has been promoted by nearly everybody…You have a Certified Platform. It is the place where you express your Authorial Brand…YOU MUST TWEET. YOU MUST FACEYTALK. YOU MUST BLARGH ON THE BLOGS.”
It’s how it works.
I’m still working on that last one. I tend to run about seven years behind on all technological fronts. I’m not proud, but it is what it is. I didn’t even sign up for MySpace until it was a ghost town and everyone had moved on to Facebook. (Remember MySpace?!) Then a few years later I finally showed up to Facebook, all like “Heyyy!”
But by then it wasn’t that cool to like Facebook anymore because Twitter. Apparently Twitter is where all the people are. You guys. I am ashamed to tell you that I only signed up for Twitter a few months ago. I know. You don’t even have to say it. I already know what you’re thinking. Am I even a real human?
You see I have a sort of complicated relationship with Twitter. It requires things from me that I cannot bear. Things like brevity. I feel like my soul dies a little bit each time I have to backspace and delete down to 140 characters. But what’s cool about Twitter is that you can spy on other people’s conversations- and let’s all be real here, who doesn’t think that’s fun? You can also connect with just about anyone. I mean, how cool is that? I stubbornly held out for far too long but I finally took the Twitter plunge recently when I found myself writing this really great letter to my favorite author (Melanie Shankle) and it dawned on me that I could Tweet it to her and she could actually read it with her own eyes. And then if things went well, she could Tweet me back that she loved it and then I’d go and quietly die a thousand deaths. It’s all very magical, you see.
Even with all these helpful tools I’ve learned, I still struggle with how I should use my voice. There are plenty of ways to be noticed, to be successful in the blogosphere. It’s just that not many of them ring true to who I am.
I’m not into exploiting the latest social/political controversy with an inflammatory headline so I can use shouty capitals as a microphone for my personal opinion. Do I know where I stand on issues like Ashley Madison and Josh Duggar and the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality? Yes I do. But I prefer to discuss those opinions with people who can see my face and know my heart, and I with them. There are enough voices on the internet being divisive and drawing lines in the sand. That’s not my jam.
I’m not into writing about “How to Have the Perfect Marriage” or “27 Ways to Rule at Life” or “10 Things Your Kid Hates About You”. Those might be great ways to grab readers but it feels slightly fraudulent for me. Like a bait-and-switch. Because what do I know? Dude, I’m just fumbling around half the time. I’m no expert and I certainly have no business pretending to be.
You probably won’t find me writing about “Why I’m Leaving the Church”, and then “Why I’m Making Up With the Church”, or “Why the Church is So Screwed Up”, but also “How It’s Still Really Important.” That’s not my story. It’s a valid story, one that needs telling and hearing, but it’s just not my story.
Confession: Even though it wouldn’t represent me well, I’ve sat in front of a blinking cursor and considered taking one of these routes. It’s a great way to get likes and shares and comments. After all, I’ve gotta build that platform, right? But at the end of the day, I just can’t bring myself to pull the trigger on these kinds of posts. It’s right for other writers — and writers whom I deeply respect — but it’s not for me. It feels slightly dishonest when I try it and frankly it all gives me sweaty armpits anyway.
So where does that leave me? Can I be sometimes funny and sometimes serious and just share my stories as they happen? Are readers interested in that? Is there another way to blog successfully?
(Do you want me to ask more questions? Because I can. I have more.)
Do I write to get likes and shares and comments? To be successful? What is the endgame here? To write a book? To get published? To get thousands of followers and move all of heaven and earth with my words?
I can’t lie. I’d like all of that. I’d like it very much. But it’s not why I write. I write because that barely-audible whisper of a desire to do so has grown too loud for me to ignore. And I’m afraid of acknowledging that desire because acknowledging it makes it real. Once it becomes real I may fail at it. Failure is scary. Us writers are a terribly insecure bunch. It’s a difficult thing to perpetually expose myself on the page.
I write because I believe in the power of words. I believe there is power in showing up and telling my real, messy stories. I write because I want to connect and relate to other people. I write because it satisfies a part of me that I never knew existed. I write because it makes me come alive.
Are you a clumsy blogger too? Join us in the Clumsy Bloggers’ Workshop today! Use promo code “REDEMPTIONPICTURES” for 20% off. 🙂
published September 16, 2015
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