I’ve been writing online for five years. I can remember starting with Facebook notes, then a Myspace blog, then my first personal site, then my group blog, then SBM, where you find me today. I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way, and wanted to share five of them with you.
Some of your best stuff will be the least read.
I couldn’t tell you how many times I poured my all into a post only to see it end up with three comments and few pageviews. It still happens to this day. It still comes with frustration.
But the lesson I’ve learned over time and had to remind myself is that the quality of my work isn’t dictated by traffic. I could write a Nobel Peace Prize post, but because the title wasn’t extra clickable or it didn’t appeal to a fickle interest, the only people that saw it were the regulars that support, a few curious lads and lasses, and a few folks that wanted to be doing anything but work.
On some of the same articles where I was ready to beat my head against the wall because of comment count or traffic, I got emails, tweets, Facebook messages, or texts from people that appreciated the writing or felt like it had a concrete impact on their life; or at the very least, how they thought about something. It wasn’t until the day I got a message from someone that I’ll never forget that I realized no matter how small the crowd, words matter:
“I just wanted to let you know that your post kept me from suicide.”
That’s about as powerful as it gets. To know you saved someone’s life is a far greater reward than seeing a ton of traffic or comments, or a whole bunch of Facebook or Twitter shares. I felt dumb when I got that message. I feel dumb thinking about it. I’m sitting here thinking about metrics not being to my liking, while someone is out there going through things and looking for a reason to exist.
You never know who’s watching.
I’ve had my fair share of good fortune come from writing. I’ve been to conferences. I have trophies or plaques that aren’t from high school shit. I’ve spoken at events and on shows. None of these things would’ve been possible if I didn’t put my pen to pad — well, fingers to keyboard — to create my art.
And here’s the interesting thing about my “success” to date…
I don’t think it’s because I write these prolific posts that change the world. I don’t think I have this ridiculous network of connections that just pushes me through. I think the right people just see how much effort I put in or they stumble across the right article at the right time. And the people I do meet, I treat them well. Reader or internet famous. Friend or acquaintance. I treat them with respect.
I’ve gotten words of encouragement from people I’d never expect to hear from. And each message I get is a source of inspiration. Gratitude is crucial. Anyway…
Eight people thoroughly immersed in your success are far greater assets than eighty with lukewarm enthusiasm.
So a couple years ago, I was financially irresponsible and stuff. The Blogging While Brown conference and Black Weblog Awards were happening in LA and I wanted to be there. Without a little help, it wouldn’t have happened. I reluctantly looked to my personal blog readers for help. I needed 4-500 dollars at the time. I ended up getting over $1,200…from strangers…and a select few friends. Actually, two.
I couldn’t tell you how shocked I was given the small audience on my personal site. I had a couple people who told me I had no right asking for money since I was employed, but the people that supported (and continue to support) me checked ’em. Because hey…
Everybody makes mistakes. Everything is entitled to pursue their dreams.
Though I still have moments where I wonder if anybody’s reading, I know that my 80 are out there. They’re the folks that get a seat on the tour bus(es). They’re my boosters.
No matter how good a person you try to be, there will always be people that don’t like you.
As much as I’d like to say nothing phases me, sometimes I hear or read things that give me pause. I remember having my picture plastered on a “popular” website because I was part of a twitter chat that went left. I read a few of the comments and…well, you know how that goes.
I also remember hearing a couple years ago that my name got thrown all through the mud. I couldn’t understand why, and I was annoyed at what was being said. It felt unfair. It felt unjust. I wanted to reach out to each and every person and find out what the deal was, but that wouldn’t have solved anything because that’s not a good approach to life.
There are some people that no matter how much good you do, they will find fault. And it’s those people that we can’t spend our time on.
It’s easy to get caught up chasing someone else’s dream.
This was the bane of my existence for a while. I’d be looking to the left, right, and in front of me at what others were doing. I’d see the opportunities they were getting and the money they were making, and wonder why I wasn’t having the same success? How could I get those opportunities? How could I get invited to the cool kids table?
Those aren’t negative thoughts in and of themselves. But when you adjust your path or vision because of what someone else is doing, you’re on a road to disappointment. You could have all (their) success in the world. But if you’re not doing what’s important to you — what makes you happy — you’ll eventually pay the price.
And I can tell you from experience, it’s not worth paying.
These are just five things I’ve learned from writing in the last five years. And though they revolve around what I do online, I can take them into my offline life. Because yeah, that’s where the living happens.
With the utmost reflection,
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned over the last few years?