Do you have one habit, more than anything else, that brings out who you are? For me, it’s blogging. Aside from making me straight-up braver, it’s brought me into contact with a can-do tribe like the one I encountered this past Saturday at Minnesota Blog Con. There I experienced my happiest day in weeks.
Someone once asked why I call myself a blogger instead of a writer. Sitting in the auditorium after a few sessions, I was reminded of my answer: Because bloggers are scrappy types who find a way. They’re doers and and tinkerers and also encouragers. They value putting their voice into the world over, well, not. They’ve figured out the tech, and they’ve overcome the perfection that can drag even the best of us into that special pain that is inertia. (Not that I know what that feels like. Oh no, not me.)
Throughout the day, we were reminded to do everything it takes to keep ourselves from holding back. For me, it’s no coincidence that I need to hear this message repeatedly. I’m on the precipice of a midlife career change, you see. As I’ve discovered, this can be a full-contact emotional experience.
Ideals I adopted in my twenties (that led me to take on a nonprofit career) ended up having tough financial ramifications 20 years later. Decisions I made breezily in my thirties (which led me to put work over self-care for years on end) suddenly feel frighteningly ill-thought out.
And so it is that I find myself contemplating my next phase. When you become more aware of how precious your time is, you realize there’s no point in holding back who you are. Thanks to presenters at MN Blog Con, here are some ways to bring out your gutsiest self.
Four Tips for Gutsy Blogging (Or Creating, Connecting, and Just Being Human)
Tip #1: Find and Use Your Voice, Even When It’s Ugly
As soon as MN Blog Con began, the message of authenticity resonated right away. Keynote speaker and strategic marketing consultant Jennifer Kane didn’t waste any time letting us know the best storytelling is fearless. “Truth tellers are popular these days,” she encouraged us, “because it’s hard to tell the truth.”
She urged us to get comfortable with failure and gave a cautionary tale. On the same day two women chose to launch videos on their sites. A year later, one had hesitated repeatedly. The other had made mistakes–like bad lighting and (shock, faint) feeling fat–but had produced a lengthy collection to show, and a larger following, to boot.
Tip #2: You ARE Capable (of Creating Live Video, Even)
The incentive to try new things continued with a session on live video from Erica Hanna of Pukerainbows.com. (Best. Site Name. Ever.) What struck me most about her message was one simple piece of advice: You have permission to try live video because you ARE capable. It’s worth the effort, since live video provides audience connection in an interactive way. Bonus: It can also be re-purposed in other media.
If bloggers are concerned about not having anything to say in this format, she suggests starting by making a list of your three most popular posts. From there, lead a tour, interview someone, do a product demo, or even just answer some FAQs. Despite having no intention of trying this myself, I left the session with an idea that both thrills and terrifies me: An on-the-spot visit to my fave thrift-shop. Will it happen? Hmmm . . .
Tip #3: Go Local, and You Just May Find Some Cheerleaders
The next session that lit me up was led by Donna Hup of Donnahup.com, which puts Midwest destinations on the map. No matter that she’s from a small Iowa town: Her journey’s taken her from having no social-media experience to more than 75,ooo Twitter followers. A recent highlight was meeting her governor to discuss the impact of bloggers.
I found her message to be surprisingly powerful: Go local. Never underestimate the value of collaborating with people and businesses in your area. Not only does forging local connections create opportunities, but “going local means finding your greatest cheerleaders.” She encourages bloggers to consider places where their hearts are, then reach out. (My mind is spinning: Antique stores! Nature walks! Cute towns!) Consider increasing your impact by starting a social media breakfast to brainstorm how to write and share about your community.
Tip #4: Team Up with Another Blogger
Which leads me to our fourth and final tip, from Tumblewalla founder Sonal Gerten: Team up with another blogger. Blame it on my somewhat introverted nature, but I have to hear this advice again and again. It’s so much easier to sit at home and write to my heart’s content, than to ask someone to collaborate and risk not being liked. Or even just having to talk to another human when I’m in a hibernating mood.
But here’s the deal: Brands like bloggers. Evidently, 81% of U.S. consumers trust advice from blogs, and 61% have made purchases based on them. Especially for bloggers wanting to generate income–and of course it’s wise counsel for all of us–collaborations help grow your following. She provided case studies of successful collaborations like the upcoming Brews and Brands. “Never underestimate the value of meeting in person,” she suggested.
So there you have it. I don’t know about you, but if I push through my anxiety and actually follow these tips, I’m certain I’ll gain more than I lose. My blog will grow in unexpected ways and bring me into contact with more of my people. And if my blogging story so far is any indication, taking risks will bring additional fulfillment and make me a better human.
As always, I’d like to hear from you. What’s your most effective blogging tip? Blogger or not, what practices to you cultivate to put your voice into the world?
All photos were taken by me at MN Blog Con (mostly during breaks in an adorable courtyard).