I got into a lengthy discussion the other day with a fellow writer/blogger. When I told her that I was starting a one-year project writing every day here on Medium, she simply did not understand.
Her issues with it boiled down to two basic questions:
- “Why don’t you do all of your writing on your blog?”
- “How will it help you get more readers for your blog?”
For her, it’s all about the blog. Not for me. For me, it’s about the writing.
Don’t get me wrong. My blog and it’s mission will not be lost. I want to help fellow writers with their website, their books … their overall project to build a successful writing life.
But, I also want to write. I need to write.
It reminds of my years as a single mother. To be a good mother, I needed to be happy as a whole person. At the same time, my son needed my full attention. Both things needed to happen and I juggled.
I’ve been struggling with something similar ever since my blog started: writing versus writing about writing.
Trouble is, with a new blog there is no audience. Crickets, as they say.
So the spinning started and the writing life — the part that makes my heart sing — got put to the side for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube. Finding other blogs and leaving comments, networking with fellow bloggers, supporting fellow bloggers. Hours upon hours of it.
On good days, it was fun to engage with writers and bloggers on social media. In truth, they’re my people and I love that I’ve ‘met’ them. I’ve also found some friendships that I treasure.
Blogging is Marketing
Let’s call a spade a spade: most of the time, whether we’re on a social media site or on our own blog, it’s marketing. We put out a post with a specific intention: to draw readers with a headline and hope that we engage them enough with our copy so that they will, at the very least, sign up to our list.
So that’s what I’ve been doing with 75% of my online time: marketing. Is there a place for it? Absolutely! But, somewhere along the line, my writing life got consumed by my marketing life.
As a writer, any marketing that I do should support my work, which is writing. That’s not been the case. In fact, on bad days, it has sucked my writing soul dry and left me frustrated and distracted. Add to that, it’s been a bad investment based on a ratio of hours spent to results achieved.
So what’s a writer to do? WRITE!! Isn’t that the whole point?!
Blogging is Business
They say, “get more content out there … keep writing more and more posts … that’s the answer … that’s how your blog will grow … be patient … don’t give up!”
But writing more doesn’t work without an audience. It also doesn’t work if that’s all you’ve got: a pile of posts styled on copywriting best practices. (That’s not my writing dream.)
Here’s more advice: “focus your blog on a niche” … “be clear about what you’re offering” … “a narrow niche will attract your ideal reader.” I spent a year figuring out my niche, and I’m still not sure how to pronounce the word correctly. Is it ‘neesh’ or is it ‘nitch’?
Finding a niche does have its benefits. It’s like having a store that sells only cheesecake. The people that walk through the door are guaranteed to love your product because all of your cheesecake signs and ads are what brought them there in the first place.
So then, wouldn’t it make more sense to have some cheesecake to sell before you advertise? What’s the point in putting out loads of copy, if the store is empty when the customer arrives? Some may stay because they like your words or your promise of the best chocolate cheesecake ever, but many will leave empty-handed and you won’t be any closer to putting food on your table.
To sum up the advice then, based on what ‘they’ say, a new blogger should be putting out tons of content, be promoting it like crazy on social media, be offering something for free to get sign ups, and then add some sort of product later. Imagine hearing that advice for a brick and mortar store?
And it turns out, it’s not even accurate. Based on my research into writers who have found success, combined with a survey I did on my blog (don’t even ask me how hard I worked to get respondents for that survey), writing everyday is a crap shoot.
The odd person breaks through the magical barrier and they rise to visibility, but that is not the norm. And, if it does happen? The majority of the time, making a living with the blog will involve more … wait for it … marketing, along with advertising and sales.
Blogging is business. A lot of people with successful, self-hosted blogs call themselves bloggers, not writers. Again, there’s the odd exception … really odd. If they started off calling themselves writers, and even if they still call themselves writers, their blog has become a business — a marketing tool — that supports their writing.
If it isn’t clear yet, the other thing I want to do is make a living. Finding time to write AND make a living can be tough when I’m spending all my time on social media to get 100 visitors across my self-hosted blog’s threshold.
Time to Reevaluate
All along, when I had moments to spare, I came to visit Medium.
When a post inspired me, I clicked the little heart. Sometimes, I even posted a response. In no time, my followers grew and I found myself drawn ever more closely to this platform that I’d heard so little about. I can’t even remember how I found it.
Here, I can write. Really write. Niche is not a prerequisite and people find me! As Jonas Ellison, a highly successful Medium writer, recently wrote in his post, How one year of daily blogging changed my life:
“Before this, I had a self-hosted Wordpress blog. I don’t want to knock it too hard, it was a great start, and I connected with some great people through it. But from what I’ve found… If you don’t already have a large audience, a self-hosted blog pales in comparison to the power of Medium.”
The thing is, I know there’s no guarantee of a massive following in my future. I’m not here because I expect a sudden wave of thousands. But I do believe I am more findable as a writer here.
Not a marketer. Not a webmaster. Not a teacher. A writer. The calling of my heart.
So here I am. In a place for writers.
What more can I say?