That sounds like an awfully arrogant title for a blog, doesn't it?
Or maybe it sounds like a know-it-all wrote this post. Or maybe it's the kind of self-help blog filled with daunting checklists of things you should be doing if you want your blog to be successful. The kind of checklist that makes one feel like an utter failure who should have just stayed in bed for the day.
But despite the dubious title, this post is not an arrogant litany of points for success (at least I hope not). It's not a lofty checklist of the best practices shared by successful bloggers everywhere. And I promise this post will not make you wish you had stayed in bed. This post is short (well, as short as my posts ever are), it's personal, and there's no checklist to make you feel bad about yourself or your blog. To be fair, this post is as much for me as anyone because I frequently need to be reminded of how to be a good blogger.
I've been blogging full time for just just over a year now. I left my full-time job in Cleveland, moved to Virginia Beach, and started cooking and blogging last July (here's my first post when I restarted last year) and after 12 months, here's the 5 most important things I learned about blogging (and life):
- Put Love First: Love is the most important part of life and it should always be first in whatever we're doing. I firmly believe this (even if I don't always measure up) and I have devoted a lot of energy to this conviction. When I remember to put love first, everything else falls into place. No exceptions.
So when I begin thinking about a blog post, I first evaluate what I'm about to write to determine if it's motivated by love. If it's not, I take a step back and start over. The same is true for commenting, sharing, tweeting, liking, etc. If the motivation is not love, it's time to take a step back. In fact, when love is my motivation, nothing can discourage or derail my enthusiasm - concepts like page views, likes, retweets, and followers suddenly seem very silly and unimportant.
- Be Authentic: I'm not the Pioneer Woman, I'm not Ina Garten, I'm not Gordon Ramsay, I'm not Julia Child. I don't throw fabulous parties, I'm not sipping cocktails with celebrities, and my day-to-day life would be the cure for insomnia. I am Mark, I have my own personality and I have a story to tell - and that's what makes me an original. And originality is what makes me interesting.
If that sounds like some kind of clichéd psycho babble, it might be. But it took me years to discover and even longer to accept its truth. And it is true. People can spot phony from miles away - and it doesn't matter if you're concealed behind a keyboard. None of us are interested in phony and it's dreadfully boring. We crave - and often go to great lengths - to seek out and expose the authentic. So take a leap of faith and share the authentic you - it's the most interesting part of you.
- Never Bully: I can't stress this enough and it should go without saying. In fact, if love is your true motivation and you're happy enough with yourself to be authentic, you're not going to bully others anyway. Because you love them, because you value their perspective, and because it's WRONG! This was another really hard lesson for me to learn and I took a lot of well-deserved hard-knocks along the way - and sometimes I still need a reminder.
It's so easy to get caught up in being "right" - I can't tell you how many times I kept badgering away at someone else's opinion or perspective because I believed I could help them - if I could just convince them I was right. But it doesn't matter if I'm right or wrong - bullying is bullying and it's ALWAYS wrong. So share your perspective - and then graciously allow others to feel differently.
- Stay Positive: It's easy to stay positive when you have 100,000 followers, 3 book deals, company sponsorships, fabulous cars, a glorious kitchen, and a diamond tiara, right? The surprising truth is, happiness and positive perspective don't come from things or other people - it starts with us. And if you ask me, it originates with love as a motivation (but I digress). Just be happy with who and what you are right NOW and reflect that happiness in your blog.
No one wants to be bombarded by a stream of negative energy - we have enough in our own lives. So when I find myself welling up with tears on the verge of an angry rant, I try to channel all that energy into a positive outcome - it allows me work through the negativity and potentially even help others in the process. By the time I'm through, I'm back in a positive place.
- Collaborate: If you were stranded on an island with 100 people without readily available food, water or shelter, which strategy do you think would give you the best chance at survival? A) Everyone for themselves or B) Collaborate for solutions.
The correct answer is B because we all possess different skills and perspectives that when combined together will far exceed the capability of a single individual. So if you want to survive in a starving pack all competing for the same limited resources, collaborate.
Of course, you don't have to be stranded on an island staring starvation in the face to realize the need for collaboration - blogging is no exception. So don't be jealous of other bloggers' successes - collaborate. Don't defend your turf - collaborate. Don't try to be better than someone else - collaborate. Don't spam blog after blog after blog with "Love your blog, come check out mine" - collaborate. Don't compete. Collaborate.
I know, I know - where are the actionable items for SEO optimization, social integration, and giveaways? I promise, I've got lots more to share and some of it will include actionable items. But based on my experience, the above five things are the real keys to better blogging (and even successful blogging) - all the actionable items in the world can't make up for a lack of these five. Which means I'm going to print off this post and keep a copy by my laptop.
Because mostly this post is a reminder for me.