The Right Things
When I began working as a freelance magazine editor about 5 years ago, “they” told me that I should have a website so that folks could find me and hire me. So I made a website.
They told me that I needed to post content on that website that would position me as an expert in my field. The field was being an editor, ghostwriter, and writing coach. So I posted that kind of content.
Until I realized that editing everyone else’s content all the time pushed my own content to the back. I started to feel that ghostwriting for other people was taking words away from writing for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I am a very good editor and I enjoy doing it. I am a good ghostwriter and have the ability to capture the essence of what a client is trying to say. But I wasn’t happy in this role, and my own writing was suffering.
So I stopped taking on clients, but kept the website because–hey, in this day and age you have to have an online presence.
I went back to writing what I wanted to write, including my own book, which I published in the Fall of 2016.
I played the SEO game and tried to optimize my posts for search engines and social media sharing.
On other social media platforms, I tried to play the hashtag and seek/follow/like/comment game.
And I grew tired of the games.
More of the Right Things
Then I joined a health and wellness supplement company. I loved the products and the discount as an ambassador was too good to pass up.
Everyone around me had a FB group for their teams, so I started one. But I had no team.
Other people in the organization posted regularly to their social media accounts and/or their blogs, trying to position themselves as experts in the field of health and nutrition.
So I did that, too. I changed my blog away from editing and writing tips and tried to post more health and wellness content. That’s what I was supposed to do.
That didn’t feel right, either.
What Was I Thinking?
In August of last year, I decided that I wanted to get back to writing about what I want to write about.
By this time, I felt like my website was such a mess. Was it the website of an author who also did editing and ghostwriting? Was it the website of a health and wellness ambassador? It felt like a hot mess that I didn’t want to look at.
So I did what any rational person would do.
I started another website. That’s totally rational, right?
They say that when you start a new website, you should post content frequently and consistently. So I took on the challenge of posting new content every day for 30 days.
That lasted 30 days, +1 day ten days later. I haven’t posted a stitch to that site since.
Then I decided not to think about any of it at all.
I quit posting to either website. Although I was still writing, I was only writing short poems, short prose, and I just shared the pieces I wrote directly to social media. (The experts say that’s not the right thing to do because then the social media channels “own” your content.)
I didn’t want to think about the mess I’d made while trying to do all the right things that everyone told me I was supposed to do to “grow an online business” or to “grow an audience for your books.”
It made me angry to think of the hours and energy spent (wasted?) on trying to figure out color schemes and font themes and hunting for the right graphics to go with every post and changing what I wrote so that it would check off all the SEO boxes.
I also felt sad that I have this gift, this incredible gift of being able to write so beautifully, but I couldn’t seem to do it because I was so caught up in whether or not I was doing all the right things.
And now I’m done.
I’m done trying to check off all the right boxes. I can’t keep trying so hard to do all the right things so that search engines and everyone who might read what I write will like me or hire me.
I love everything about words and the power they have. And I write best when I don’t try to do it the “right way.” When I just let my heart pour out on the paper.
Most days I feel sad that my writing seems choked out by all the rules I have allowed to come between me and the words.
So I’m done.
I’m going to try to start doing the right thing…for me.
It’s a little bit tempting to end this piece with some grand crescendo about how I’ve learned from my mistakes and now things are going to be all better and I will crank out amazing content. But I don’t have that in me today.
The truth is, I’m starting out by going back into the vaults and pulling out things I’ve written but haven’t published in this format, along with things I’ve published years ago on other blogs I used to have. Honestly, I’m not sure where the new content is or when it will show up.
I do know this: When it comes, it will be right and it will be treasured by me. And I am choosing to believe that the people who need to read it will do so.
This is finally the right thing, for the right reason.