Recently, I received this email: (edited)
I am a follower of your blog and Twitter. I must say your fearlessness is rather intriguing and gives me hope to continue my blog. I currently have a blog and a column at school. I want to upgrade my blog and in some way combine it with my column. Bloggers like yourself have encouraged me to invest in myself and my craft. What I worry about is reaching a bigger audience.
I am not sure if I am scared of success or failure but I feel lonely in my enthusiasm and ideas. I do not have much support from older peers and my friends are all about it because they are my friends but how can I get over this? I want to involve myself in the blogger world but I am scared I won’t fit in. I first will like to thank you for taking the time to read this and I now humbly ask for your constructive criticism. Is this normal to feel this way?
You wrote a lot. And, you asked some pretty heavy questions. So, in turn, I am going to write a lot and give you some pretty heavy answers.
It’s interesting that you used the word “fearlessness” because I am afraid every day. All the time. I am afraid I will never be able to pursue writing the way I really want to. I am afraid of what happens when I turn 30 and can no longer write under the tagline of a “sincere, sassy and sometimes smart-assy take on growing up.” I am afraid that I will choose my career over my relationships and lose the people who knew me before all of this. I am afraid that my well of ideas will run dry. I am afraid. All of the time. But, I just keep writing because it does not make sense to do anything else. The pulse inside of me that only beats if I write is what outweighs the fear. It outweighs the fear of losing my brand or my words or my relationships. That pulse is quick and it thuds so loudly that I have no other choice but to write.
There are a few things you touched on including reaching a larger audience, feeling lonely in your ideas and enthusiasm and getting involved in the blogger world. I will tackle those three.
Do not worry about reaching a larger audience at first. No, really. Don’t. Don’t care about that right now. You can’t afford to care about that. You have to build first. That’s what kills me about some people in the blogging community–they want to be a global movement before they’re even a household name. You have to start small. You have to start local before you can even think about being global. There are levels to this shit. Sure, now I have a consistent readership, but I wrote for a year in relative obscurity. The only people who continually read my work then were my oldest sister and a few friends. But, I didn’t care because I knew I had something to say and I believed in whatever that was. So, right now, just build. My blogging trajectory has very much adhered to the mantra of “build it and they will come.” Believe in what you are saying and say it. If your goal up front is to gain crazy high readership, you’ll spin your wheels and sell your soul trying to get there.
But, once your readership grows (because it can and it will), that is when you grow with it. As your brand expands, that is when you make changes. That is when you develop new ideas. That is when you shift. I never set out to have giveaways or an intern or events. But, my blog offspring started to outgrow its clothes and I had to change the contents of its closet.
In terms of your ideas and enthusiasm, you will be lonely. Passion breeds loneliness because no one will ever care about your work as much as you. And, that is sometimes a maddening reality because you want the people around you to get excited when you come up with a great idea for a post or you start working on a new project. But, somehow, the strength of that passion manages to wan every time it moves beyond you. It’s like a parent showing off pictures of their infant and everyone in the office repeating, “Aw, so cute!” No one groaned in pain for 10 hours trying to birth that kid. No one else knows just how tough and rewarding it has been to raise that child. Only the parent knows, so only the parent loves it in that unconditional and knee-jerk kind of way.
The upside to all of that is that passion breeds results. Passion is what you come to rely on even on the days when you are tired or don’t have the best idea for a post. It’s that loud pulse that won’t stop thudding.
Your friends will be all about it because they are your friends, but the more you work, the more you will find uninhibited, no holds barred support from unlikely sources. I love some of my closest friends, but I would not call all of them my biggest supporters. They read some of my work. They know I write. They see how much I tweet about writing. But, they are not necessarily the people pushing me and inspiring me on a routine basis. The people, and particularly women, who have rallied around my work are people I hardly knew before I started my blog. Let the support rise from a place or person you never considered. Let the love come from unexpected corners.
As far as the blogging world goes, you don’t need to fit in. Bloggers exist in the land of misfit toys. That is why we blog–because our worlds, our words and our lives make little sense elsewhere. You will fit in if you bring every piece of who you are to what you produce and if you do so consistently. The only people who think blogging is competitive are people who are threatened by someone else’s voice. The people who think blogging is about connecting and creating a sense of community are people who stand firm in the uniqueness of what they have to say. Stand firm. You already have a blog. You already have a column. I do not have one doubt in my mind that you have something to say and the world needs to hear it.
And, finally, do not think too much. Just do. Just write. Just produce. The accolades will come. The readers will come and so will the haters. But, for now, just create. Don’t let apprehension stymie you from doing something that you are so clearly meant to do. You asked if it was normal to feel this way. It is more than normal to be afraid. But, too many people rest in the cozy blanket of fear. They never push it off of them long enough to do anything substantial in this world. You reached out to me. You are already invested. You are already ready. You are already as unafraid as you need to be to do this crazy thing called blogging. Now, you just have to go do it.