The husband asked me to help him make macaroons and lemon curd for a Doctor Who marathon. He wanted to make it a special event because he spent the last three and a half weeks persuading me to catch up on the twelfth Doctor’s storyline, while I spent the last three and half weeks refusing because Twelve’s debut episode was so dumb.
Cooking sweets sounded equally horrible. When you’re on GAPS diet you have to cook everything from scratch if you want to eat. No convenient restaurant meals between errands. No takeout when you’re exhausted. Feels like I spend more time cooking and washing dishes than I do writing. And I hate it.
I relented on Doctor Who because, like the Husband pointed out, most of my favorite tv shows are shows I thought I’d hate and then loved after he forced me to watch them. And I relented on the baking because all those recipe steps meant plenty opportunity for pretty Instagram photos.
So I zested and juiced and whipped and stirred, and then I spent the time with one eye on the Doctor’s quirky adventures and the other eye (and a finger) in my photo editing apps.
But once it was time to post those pretty photos, I had a mini crisis of identity. And by “crisis of identity” I mean I realized how little those beautifully edited lemon curd cooking shots had to do with writing and, by extension, how little they had to do with my online brand.
In short, the post was off message, and my perfectionist thought I shouldn’t post them (no matter how much time I’d spent making them pretty).
Do I take branding too seriously? Maybe. This isn’t the New Yorker after all. But branding matters when you want to break into a writing career. Branding links you with what you offer, which means you come to mind when someone needs what you offer.
The time I put into branding myself as a writer is why invitations to interview for writing jobs show up in my inbox. It’s why editors ask me to write for them.
And it’s really the bigger question behind those off-topic photos that matters: what do I want to stand for and how can I use that to help other writers and bloggers break through in writing?
When my blogging clients agonize over questions like this, I tell them all the same thing: your blog is your sandbox. It’s a place to try out ideas and see what works. So don’t sweat it.
And in the end I took my own advice and posted the damn photos, which isn’t as important as these lessons I learned from the dilemma.
The Advice You Give Others Is Way Better Than The Crap You Tailor to Yourself
I’m no special butterfly when it comes to personal problems, but you’d never know it the way I mull over possible solutions. Solutions to other people’s problems are easier to spot because we’re a little more dispassionate, a little more apt to call bullshit, and a lot more able to take the wide perspective. It was easier for me to make the decision not to sweat it when I followed the advice I’d given to someone else. The lesson? When in doubt, follow the advice you’d give your friend if she were in the same situation.
Sometimes The Small Things Feel Big (And Trap Us Just As Effectively)
This is especially true when we’ve spent a lot of time on something. I didn’t want to throw away the time I spent taking and editing those photos. It’s hard to throw away work, even if it turns out to have been the wrong thing for us. And sometimes the big things like the apartment flood or the medical bills make the little things that much harder to carry. We dwell on them until they grow like fungus. At that point, whatever decision you make doesn’t matter as much as just making a decision. The small things can stop our progress just as easily as the big if we let them.
Following Your Own Advice Reveals The Flaws In Your Advice
When I give writing and blogging advice that seems obvious to me as the outsider, it’s easy to forget the emotional turmoil behind the question. Sure, it may seem silly to worry over whether or not to post a photo, but the reasoning behind it was definitely not silly. I put a lot of time and love into this blog and connecting with readers and finding ways to make your writing journey just a little bit easier. And posting the wrong thing too many times in a row could undo the work I’ve put into making this a particular kind of writing community for a particular kind of writer. I don’t want to undo that work. And I don’t want to attract the wrong kind of people into our community with unfocused interests. What I learned is that these questions recur from clients not because we need more help trying new things but because we’re afraid of losing what we already have.
We Need Coaches to Validate What We Already Know
I already knew it was okay to try new things. I already knew that my blog is my sandbox to test ideas and see what works. But in that moment, I needed an extra push to get me on the track I saw laid out before me. I suspect it’s the same for new bloggers and writers. We need that extra push and validation sometimes to move forward with what we already figured out by ourselves.
One Advice Doesn’t Fit All
Even if I end up pulling that image from Instagram, I know I’ll be reassessing where I’m going in this writing business and where I’ve been. The fact is, most of my clients are new to blogging. And for them, on-point branding isn’t as important as developing a consistent posting schedule or developing networking connections. That was definitely true for me when I first launched. So the advice to treat your blog more like a sandbox is more true for new bloggers who need to try different things to see what clicks. Where I am now in this journey calls for a different approach (in some ways). And now that I know that, I’ll be figuring out what it means in the coming months. We’ll see where it leads. I hope you’re with me.