Blogging Rules Worth Breaking
I have to confess: I should have started this blog two years ago. I had a Squarespace account that sat vacant of any content because I wasn't brave. Then after I started writing posts I wanted to share with people, it sat private for several months as I changed my mind a million and a half more times. You may be getting the sense that I was a perfectionist (now a recovering "good enoughist" as Brene Brown likes to say) and yeah, I was. I recently read Big Magic and I think Elizabeth Gilbert sums perfectionism up pretty damn well: "Perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it's just terrified. Because underneath that shiny veneer, perfectionism is nothing more than a deep existential angst that says, again and again, "I am not good enough and I will never be good enough.” The people who wait until they are "ready" to do something never quite seem to get around to it most the time. The magic is lost and they float on to something else since all that time was wasted that could have been spent trying, improving, and getting better.
Perfectionism kills creativity.
Another reason I waited to start this blog; I was stuck on the idea that every photo absolutely needed to be taken with a fancy DSLR. When you see enough amazing style/travel photos, you start to think that's the standard. But, that's not my standard and I don't think it's most people's standard either. Brenna of "The Battered Suitcase" recently wrote a post that really stuck with me, asking a question I've wondered myself: "When did travel blogging get so boring?". She writes, "Some of these new bloggers are here to PLAY. We’re talking fully optimised blog posts, slick web designs, professional photography (does everyone under age 28 own a drone?!), and perfectly done hair, even when standing in the middle of a rice paddy in Bali (does everyone under age 28 go to Bali?!)." I laughed, if only because it's all so ridiculous. I can't help but think the same thing when I see photos of people traveling through India looking perfectly styled despite all elements of the heat. When I think back to my time in India I was mostly covered in giant bug bites (some even on my face, thank you), flat hair from humidity and wrinkled clothes. It's an unrealistic expectation and since I don't work for National Geographic or Conde Naste, I'm not going to drive myself nuts try to emulate what they do. So for now, it's not authentic to my life to take every photo with a DSLR camera and I won't pretend it is. My authenticity lies in looking at everyday life and noticing the little things that bring me joy, or styling out an idea that popped into my head -- and usually that's with my iPhone in hand, so I can share more quickly and more often. So for now, that's okay.
you don't always have to sell something or put seo above content
Once I started this blog, I learned to be more flexible and to have more grace. This means forgiving myself if I can't get it all done "on time" and also just rolling with the messy punches of life. After attending Altitude Summit recently, I have a lot of technical things swirling in my brain about SEO, Google Analytics, optimizing content, etc. and as much as I'm excited to work on getting better at these things, I'm also not going to reduce this blog to fluffy listicles or clickbait either (ugh). I still like to think people enjoy reading and I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to assume people like to identify with their fellow humans and will enjoy thoughts that aren't simply driven by SEO or selling another pair of shoes. I know I do.
It's okay to say something that might be unpopular
I hope the next "big thing" in content is breaking the rules that have plagued a lot of companies, bloggers, and brands from having an opinion. So many of us are afraid to touch on politics because we might offend someone. That's totally okay and I think being mindful about offending people is a great place to come from when you're sharing your own thoughts. On the other hand, if I never get to talk about national events or political happenings that I care about, I'm silencing my own voice, one that I try to use mindfully and cautiously to hopefully open respectful conversation. Am I only supposed to talk about things at a surface level? If I always silence my voice on touchy subjects -- well, aren't I just letting those who don't care about offending others have the bigger platform? Shouldn't we care about participating in difficult conversations so we can learn from each other? I know a lot of celebrities talk about how people tell them to stick to their jobs and not voice their opinions on politics -- but why shouldn't they use their platform for what they believe in? Aren't we all doing the same thing with our own Facebook pages and conversations online anyway? Having a larger audience is all the more reason to speak up so why wish anyone silence their authentic self in the means of superficiality? People aren't just what they do and maybe we forget that with public figures. So, if you're a blogger I hope you don't have to feel trapped to post about your new outfit if you're actually having a bad day or if there is news in the world that feels worth addressing, I hope you address it. We're not all superficial humans, so it's okay to think we deserve more meaningful content to share and absorb. Not to demean all posts about shoes or say that every post needs to be serious (that's not authentic for me anyway, because I too might want to share about a great pair of shoes!), but if you're compelled to speak up, I say go for it -- just do it thoughtfully, without the intention to rile people up... unless that's your jam I suppose, then I won't knock you for that either.
authenticity is two-folds
Another perspective I love on this: It's also inauthentic to not share what your talents are. Miggy of This Little Miggy Stayed Home recently blogged about taking a modeling workshop to be better in front of the camera and shared some great nuggets of inspiration she learned from the workshop leader: "She went on to talk about authenticity and how we needed to stop worrying about what other people think. The sentence that got me: "No one is going to be offended if you take an awesome photo." To be honest, this is a new side of authenticity that is only recently coming into focus for me. Being "authentic" does not mean showing us pictures of your house being messy, or "keeping it real" by talking about how you yelled at your kids. Being truly authentic and vulnerable means giving of your talents, of yourself, and being honest with the world by saying, "Yes I am good at this and this is what I offer to you." Telling the world what we're bad at is much easier and less authentic than sharing with the world what we're good at." I LOVE THIS. I'm just as easily plagued by sharing my talents as I am my weaknesses and what a disservice that is to myself and those I want to share with.
So, it's okay to not follow the unspoken "rules" of blogging for every post. That said, I'm not here to put down all the hard, important work that goes into the behind-the-scenes marketing (I'm still wrapping my head around it myself) but I hope you don't let it make you less interesting, boring or burnt-out trying to obtain that image of perfection or success you see on other blogs. It's my hope you break a rule or two this week without thinking twice about it. I promise you won't loose readers if you share something just for the sake of it every once and while, especially if it brings you joy.
What blogging rules would you like to see broken more often? Do you ever feel constricted by blogging or social media "rules"?