More Thoughts On Finding Your Blog’s Story
I’ve been thinking about how to give people more guidance on figuring out their stories. It strikes me as kind of a sticky issue, now that I really think about it.
For example: there are cases when a blogger has been doing their thing for a while — and I’m going to just say right now I am NOT TALKING ABOUT ANYBODY IN PARTICULAR — but because they have been doing it for long enough, they will get to a point where a story emerges whether they like it or not. This is not true for every single long term blogger, but I thing the longer you go without self-consciously crafting your own story, the less control over it you will have.
Because as I was thinking about it, I was forced to reflect that yes, there are a few people who I could say, “Look, this is your story. This is your thing.” But I really don’t want to do that, because: 1) it feels like it’s definitely not my place to do it; and 2) it seems way, way too personal and defining of a thing to do, even if somebody asks you to do it. I really think that people should define it for themselves as much as possible, while they still can.
Now, with newer bloggers, it’s much more difficult to figure out the thing, because there is just so much less text to work with. You can go through back posts, watch them on Twitter, Facebook etc. but it’s much harder to see a pattern emerging. They are still figuring out the landscape, and maybe they haven’t really gotten past the honeymoon period where they are on their best behavior yet. But one thing that occurred to me after reading Julie“s comment (i.e. all personal bloggers have a story, and but the best ones know what their story is) is that not only do the best bloggers know what their story is, they don’t try to fight it — they aren’t in denial about it. In other words, the best personal bloggers might be stuck with a story that is not always flattering, and they might be totally conscious of that fact, but they go with it anyway, either because they don’t know any better or because well, it’s their story and their sticking to it.
Example: Penelope Trunk. Technically speaking, not a personal blogger. However, as people who have been reading here for a while know, definitely one of the best bloggers out there in my opinion. Her niche is career advice, which is something in which I have zero interest, but I never miss a post of hers because her thing is “the beautifully writing blogger who gives career advice despite never really being employed (in the strictest sense of the word) and who might also have Asperger’s but it’s hard to say because you are never sure how much of what she says is actually true.” If that’s not a story, then I don’t know what one is.
Have a look at Penelope’s latest post, in which she talks about how she needs to get a “workplace spouse” in order to fill in the gaps in her real life marriage, because her new husband really does not want to talk to her. Yeah. Now, listen. I am not suggesting that you need to write about stuff like this in order to have a popular blog. What I am saying is: Penelope knows what her story is, and she doesn’t bother with trying to make it into something it’s not — she doesn’t exaggerate to make it better or to make it worse. It’s just her story, in all of its craziness, and nobody else could write it. That’s why people love to read her blog.
The vast majority of bloggers have not figured out what their story is yet. But for people who have been blogging a while, I think there may already be a story that has emerged and they just are not realizing it. With those cases, there’s probably less of a need to self-consciously brand yourself. Probably what you need to do in that case is to learn how to make peace with how people have already come to think of you, and figure out to what degree you can spin that perception to your best advantage. I’m not sure that everyone has it in them to handle it as well as Penelope Trunk does, but for those that do, she’s a great model on that front.
What do you think? Could you embrace a story that had emerged about you, even if it wasn’t particularly flattering, if you thought it had market potential?