Tomorrow I’m flying to Atlanta to speak at AimingLow’s blogging conference aptly named NonConference.
This will be my first speaking event where I address bloggers. I’m grateful to have been asked and over the past few months have tried to create a worthwhile presentation/discussion for attendees. My topic is about taking risks with your writing and trusting in your abilities.
When I was at BlogHer I was in a half-day seminar with thirty women. During one exercise we lined up on spectrum where one end represented “confusion” and the other end “clarity.” We were asked where we believe we are with our blog content. I just assumed everyone was confident about their writing and so I made my way over to the “clarity” side. Well, it was just me and two other women. The rest of the group was at the “confusion” side.
I felt like an egotistical dick. Who was I to feel confident about my crap? But I did feel confident – not egotistical, but comfortable. I’m not a good writer. I know this. I need to learn more about writing. But, I am clear about what I want this blog to be, and I feel damned competent. My blog has always been about three things – humor, honesty, and vulnerability. While it started out as humor-only site I quickly realized I was not going to be able to hit joke home runs every day. I needed to expand my offering if I was to create any regular content. Jokes take too long to perfectly craft. Over time I started to add in stuff (non-funny, mostly) about my day.
When I started experimenting with non-funny content, I was in the middle of a divorce. I had many feelings, mostly sadness and anger, that were constant. I wrote about these experiences. Even though I would pepper each post with jokes, it was primarily a confessional of what was going on in my life.
Growing up I thought if I was funny people would think I was cool. And yes, if you’re funny, people like you. Girls will dig you. But I thought if I shared my pain and sadness and anger, you’d see I was a big screw up and run away. Ironically, making a lot of jokes will almost guarantee that people will not feel close to you. I have best friends with whom I never shared anything substantive. It took a lot of years to face pain that I’ve avoided myself. By learning how to courageously tell my loved ones about my struggle, they have felt closer to me and we have connected at a deeper level. The same has happened with my readers. So now when I write I always start with one question.
Do I have the courage today to write about what’s really going on?
Then, a second question.
What is really going on?
I realized the other day that I never have written about fear. I rant constantly about anger, sadness and shame, but never about fear. And the truth is that I’m terrified of many things. Scared that my girlfriend will leave me (like my wife did). Scared that I won’t ever make the money I want to make at my day job (or get fired). Scared that my readers will leave over time.
Fear is the hardest thing for me to address. Ironically, fear is a deep, connecting experiences. When I have exposed my shadows, this has done more to increase readership than the dad dick stories I’ve penned. I am insanely proud of those stories, by the way. I do have a mom vagina story that I need to write, too, but it’s not about my mom’s vagina. It’s about vagina advice my mother gave me. Oh yes. It’s good.
When I address everyone this Friday, even though I’m doing twenty-five minutes, I can really sum it up in two sentences.
Write the truth like you wouldn’t notice if your entire audience left. And, if they do leave, keep writing as a new audience will funnel in for the second show.