Have you ever felt stuck, unable to do something you really wanted to do? Did you have the desire, but you just couldn’t muster the courage or motivation to move forward? Most of us have felt this way at least once in our lives. That’s how I feel about this new blog of mine right now. I started out so excited and full of ideas, but then I had the hardest time completing my first real blog post. How could that happen? I’ve dreamed of blogging for a long time, and I’ve wanted to help people all my life. I’ve read articles about blogging and studied the ins and outs of the craft for months. Was I mistaken about my desire to become a blogger? Had I managed to evict my inner blogger? Was I crazy to leave my part-time job to start a new blogging career?
The answer to those questions is no.
I’ve been wrestling with these questions and a slew of others the past couple of weeks. January came and went and I didn’t have my first 5 pillar posts (the foundation of a new blog) completed. I didn’t even have one of those completed. So much for setting monthly goals and writing them down in my planner. Those goals were posted in places where I saw them every day. Many bloggers suggest doing this to help stay focused. I reviewed my goals every few days. I wrote out a work schedule for 2 week chunks. Each day had a specific goal to focus on. After all, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, right?
Dealing with the unexpected.
What I didn’t plan for was my son having pneumonia the entire month of January, which included weekly doctor’s visits and 3 1/2 weeks of having him home from school. Or me catching a lesser form of his pneumonia and being sick for 2 1/2 weeks (a much better deal than my son’s, poor kid). Thankfully, we are both healthy now, but it took a long time to get back to 100%.
Due to budget cuts at my now former part-time job, my position was reduced from 25 hours a week to 10 hours a week. So I decided to resign effective December 31. This change happened abruptly in mid-December and was not one I was prepared for.
At the beginning of January, nothing I scheduled in my planner helped me deal with the weirdness of not leaving for work each morning after dropping my daughter off at school. Yes, it was pretty cool for the first week or so, but at that point I had not made the mental adjustment of being a work-at-home mom. Combine that with the fact that many people don’t see blogging as a “job,” and I pretty much ended up stuck in the mud of uncertainty and doubt about my choice to become a blogger. Uncertainty creates inertia, and inertia is the death of both creativity and productivity.
Since I couldn’t seem to focus on writing blog posts, I focused on getting my work space in order. We bought our home last May but due to a busy summer work schedule and a gastric bypass that had a huge post-op complication (I was sick for 4 months), I was out of work and unable to do any real unpacking in our house until December. I figured if I didn’t feel mentally up to writing blog posts, it must be because of my work environment. That’s what a number of articles I’ve read on Pinterest told me. So I started intermittently clearing boxes out of our family room and organizing the side of the room that will be my office space. But it didn’t help. I bounced back and forth between taking free online courses, cleaning and organizing my office space, signing up for what now feels like EVERY bloggers email list and devouring everything I could find about all aspects of blogging life on Pinterest.
This big distraction called Pinterest.
Ah yes, Pinterest. Oh Pinterest, I am so in love with you! I can spend multiple hours with you! And when I want to feel like I’m doing something productive for my blog, I come to you. Pinning article after article about blogging, marketing, e-mail lists, social media…I have SO many Pinterest boards related to blogging! But then I start reading some of those articles and the fear and inadequacy set in.
Do I have to stay in just one blogger lane? (a.k.a. finding your niche)
According to much of what I’ve read, I need to have a blogging niche. Okay, so originally I thought my niche was self-help, but then I realized that niche was waaaaaaayyyyy too broad. So I went with personal growth and personal development. Getting better. But what if I want to write something that isn’t in that niche? I want to write about my experience with my gastric bypass, and my newly diagnosed food allergies, and my love for self-help books and resources, and life experiences which have kicked my butt as well as helped me grow, and, and, and…
I spun myself into a fearful frenzy before I really began. Because there is so much information out there about blogging, I was reading and reading but not writing. The voices of seasoned bloggers were helpful in many ways and I’ve learned so much from them, but I was creating a new set of restrictions for my blog before I had really gotten started on my blogging journey!
A much needed reminder.
As I stressed myself out needlessly, the question I came back to was, “What do you feel compelled to write about?” That’s when I was reminded of an experience that happened to me a few years ago. My former career was working as a Youth Director, Christian Educator, and Director of Children’s Ministry for several different churches since the 1990’s. During a period of burnout and questioning whether or not I was still called to work in a church, I had the fortunate experience of going to a silent spirituality retreat one weekend. Those who know me personally know I talk a lot. There was much well-meaning joking about how I would survive being silent for a whole weekend. But it was one of the most meaningful and memorable experiences of my life. And obviously, I survived. 🙂
Every church I’ve worked in has been wonderful in many ways. I still keep up with a lot of the people I met while working in churches. My career has shaped me in ways which will last a lifetime. But one of the downfalls of being a church staff member is everyone in the church is essentially your boss. And when you’re running programs and working with hundreds of people, eventually someone is going to be unhappy with you about something. You can’t please everyone.
The weekend of the silent retreat, I was incredibly drained. Multiple people were telling me good things about the work I was doing. But a couple of very vocal people were giving me grief about decisions I made that they disagreed with. Unfortunately, I tend to be a people pleaser, so when someone is not happy with me for any reason, it really bothers me. During this time of uncertainty and doubt, I ended up placing much more value on the opinions of those couple of naysayers than all the positive and encouraging compliments from the majority. Essentially, I was giving away my power to a tiny, unhappy minority.
On the Saturday of the retreat, I took a walk. It was late fall and a sunny but brisk day. As I walked the wooded grounds of the retreat center, I heard, then saw, thousands of starlings perched in the trees above. They were making such a racket! If you’ve ever witnessed thousands of birds together and heard them all chattering at once, you know how loud they can get. All that chatter was not peaceful or serene. It felt a bit chaotic. Like they were all clamoring for their own individual voice to be heard. It was as if each one didn’t feel heard, so they chattered even louder, vying for attention. I guess the birds didn’t get the memo that this was a SILENT retreat! Sheesh!
Don’t get lost in the chatter of multiple voices!
As I continued my walk, I noticed the peace I felt as I got farther away from the starlings. Once I got far enough away, I could hear other sounds. More important, I could hear myself think again. Being away from all the different voices of the starlings allowed me to hear what I needed to hear in that moment. For me, that was my inner voice, sent from God, telling me I needed to ignore all the outside voices. My inner voice told me to stay true to doing things the way God wanted me to do them, whether or not those things were popular or understood by others. The naysayers were telling me I wasn’t good enough. They didn’t like the way I ran things. They were trying to change me.
That weekend I decided to make a plan to leave my job and move my family back to the area where my husband grew up and my in-laws still reside (yes, moving closer to the in-laws really was MY idea). At the time I had no clue if our house would sell or where I would work after our move. It took almost a year to execute that plan, but my husband and I did it. And it all started with a bunch of birds.
Walking away from the birds allowed me to hear that inner voice from God. Getting away from the naysayers for a weekend retreat allowed me to gain clarity after giving a few loud voices way too much power. Moving away from a bunch of people I still really care about and hated to leave allowed me to move on to my greater purpose. So what does all of this have to do with blogging?
It’s about which voices you listen to.
As I stated earlier, I’ve been reading a lot of articles on blogging. Many of them say similar things about the basics of blogging, especially the things a person needs to do to get started. But the more I read, the more things I focused on. The more things I focused on, the more scattered and non-focused on the actual writing part of blogging I became. I kinda put the cart before the horse. Social media strategy articles, free webinars on how to win at Pinterest, pitches for why this email provider or that social media scheduling tool is best. Too many outside voices. I got lost down the rabbit hole. I became overwhelmed by all the voices, all the sources of information. My focus was lost. My blogging vision got sucked down the rabbit hole with me. What was wrong with me? Then I thought about the birds.
Shortly thereafter, I came across this fabulous article about NOT niching down with a new blog, but instead working on the broader focus of your blog. Now that I can handle. That concept feels right to me. This creative type’s stress level increases according to how many rules she thinks she has to follow!
So I’ve decided to listen to my own voice first and foremost. Then I’ll consult all those Pinterest articles and emails by fellow bloggers and do what feels right for me. Will I make mistakes? Absolutely! Will I allow those mistakes to end my blogging career? Absolutely not! I’ve determined there really is an inner blogger inside me.
She’s the little girl who always got good grades in school but teachers mentioned on her report card that she talked too much in class. My mom said I even talked in my sleep as a child!
She is the chatty teenager writing loads of notes and letters to friends (many of which I still have, both the letters and the friends!).
She’s the twenty-something social butterfly, the one who got teased by college friends and fellow summer camp staffers for talking so much.
And she’s the woman who finally got paid to talk when I ran youth and children’s programs and preached in churches.
Inner critic, watch out! My inner blogger is coming after you!
Your Gentle Nudge: Whose voice(s) are you listening to that are negative or holding you back? Why do you value their opinions more than your own? What do you need to do to silence their voices and focus on your voice and inner knowing?
Please leave a comment below to answer the “Your Gentle Nudge” questions for this post. Add your email in the form below to receive your free Gentle Nudge worksheet, which will help you apply this week’s Gentle Nudge to your life. Thanks for reading!