Last year I worked with a coach who told me I MUST start a blog and a newsletter in order to grow my coaching practice. This was not good news. I didn't have the time. I didn't have the ideas. And most importantly, I feared it would be shit.
Throughout my corporate career, I loved writing, but the only time I ever gave myself permission to write beyond email and PowerPoint was the 6 months I blogged about my ridiculous dating life while my then boyfriend (now husband) and I were on a break. As the late and great Nora Ephron put it, "Everything is copy." I knew, even if the date sucked, if the guy was arrogant or socially inept—or if I was, it was still a good story, making it worth getting out there.
I became a fierce, bold, awkward twenty-something with zero game to take on dating life in my beloved—but harsh—NYC. While the blog grew a teeny fanatical following—due mostly to my friends and family who were worried about me (thanks loved ones!)—when I reconnected with my boyfriend, I feared my life became too boring and mundane, and after one final post, I gave it up.
Thirteen years later, when I learned the necessity of blogging as a "content marketing" practice, I spent a week resisting, brain dumping pages worth of excuses and reasons this was a bad idea. And then I channeled the peace, comfort and joy that my dating adventures brought me during a truly rough time in my life. How it pushed me to do things outside of what was comfortable so I could both get out there and live AND have a creative outlet to reflect and observe the absurdities of human behavior—starting with my own.
I decided to commit, but in order to do so, I set up some guidelines for myself that have been pivotal in sticking with it for nearly a year. I've outlined them here to inspire you as you jump into your own creative practice (which I highly recommend you do!):
1. Do instead of asking for permission
For many years during my digital marketing career, I was called to write, but I thought I had to get my MFA to pursue it. When I thought about taking evening classes as a working mom of two, I became overwhelmed and dropped the idea altogether. Then two years ago, I read Elizabeth Gilbert's, Big Magic, in which she says, "The guardians of high culture will try to convince you that the arts belong only to a chosen few, but they are wrong and they are also annoying." What if I don't need a degree or a credential? What if my first blog posts aren't even very good? I will never even know if they are if I never get started! So, without a workshop, a course or even a plan, I began.
2. Experiment and play
I didn't know how to move forward or where to begin, so I promised myself I would take risks with topics, my voice and my style. I would have fun. I would take this time to be quiet, reflective and to go deep into my observations of people and myself. I started to include topics that came up often within my coaching practice, as well as topics I was personally struggling with. Combining the personal with the professional allows me to see what topics resonate best with my audience and learn more about the people I'm serving.
3. Be honest and be you
I spent my first couple of weeks judging my conversational, self-deprecating and yet optimistic tone. Then I let go, because 1.) I was following my first two rules, 2.) It flowed right out of me and, 3.) People liked me…they really liked me. The moment I allowed myself to curse in a post was liberation to my core. I wrote it, held true to it through the copyedit—but when it came time to hit publish on LinkedIn—I hesitated. What was I thinking? This is my professional network! What will they think? And then I realized a sprinkling of choice words for emphasis has always been part of my style, so, "Fuck it." I published.
4. Make it a top priority and show up
I knew the only way for me to commit fully was to make my writing time my top order of business. I blocked out two three-hour windows a week into my calendar for each week in the coming months. I scheduled everything around those times. When a client asked for a session during those times, I held firm and practiced saying that I was booked. When I showed up to write on those mornings and I felt uninspired, I kept going. I wrote anything. I stayed with it, and it was/is nothing short of brutal. Some days I ended up with 3 paragraphs in three hours and sometimes a piece seemed to write itself in an hour. And then there are the days, like today, where I'm making it work against all Starbucks odds (like the woman who loves to have conference calls in public, the baby who's wailing for food, and the carpets that must be vacuumed during peak business hours).
5. Know they can't all be winners!
Part of experimenting is knowing sometimes you'll crash and burn—and not only accepting that, but expecting it. I've found that sometimes I have the hardest time getting back to writing not after a post that experienced radio silence—but after a piece that was well loved. Even on a small scale—I feel the pressure of expectation, hoping the next time I write, it will be just as good. It's usually not. Yet, I move on and know that next week I have another shot, another chance to share my thoughts and to reveal new observations I have about what makes people tick.
6. Express gratitude
Your support is the fuel. I am simply in awe of all of you and beyond grateful for your invaluable feedback. Thank you for reading, for forwarding to your friends and colleagues and sharing with your people on social. When I hear from you, "I needed this today." or "You did what???" it makes my day. I felt truly blessed for the outpouring of love when I've shared my more personal posts and took some risks to speak outside of my industry or my expertise.
In my mind the blog is no longer simply a marketing tactic. Of course, it brings me new clients and when they come to me they feel like they know me. That said, I treat it as my creative playground and practice. I've come to need it and to believe it's a critical part of my life. I often wonder why it took me so long to feed this creative hunger and why I deprived myself the joys of making something that has the power to move people. And then I struggle over a paragraph like I'm doing with this one and I get it. This is hard. I'm new to it. I'm learning. It takes practice and commitment—and those are two things I know how to do. So, here's to being inspired by my awkward former single self, a creative experiment that showed me how to have fun while living the examined life, and to sticking with it in a way that doesn't allow life to get boring.