Writing Life: Success for me seems to be in reach, now that I’ve stopped listening to the ‘experts’
Sometimes to find success you need to forget what other people tell you.
One of my recent articles received my first comment written in another language. It was written in German and I had to use Google translate to ensure my complete guess as to what it said was correct. (Basically, “I enjoyed reading your article, thanks. Lesly”) It was a pleasant and unexpected surprise. True, my stats show I’ve had an occasional international viewer, but there’s never been any real proof anything I wrote was actually being read. So this little comment was an exciting affirmation that my writing is being seen, read and most importantly, resonating with people.
When I started this little corner of the internet I wanted to showcase the best Baltimore had to offer. Being one of the Marylanders not only born and raised here, but also having never lived anywhere else, I knew I was uniquely positioned to share the popular and the hidden. My goal was to highlight places, artists and events people should know. When I first started it was going to be a hobby, just something fun since I enjoyed writing. I would post when I wanted — which meant when I thought there was something worthwhile for others to read. This became a problem though: I kept stopping myself because I thought nothing I did was “worthwhile enough.” This morphed into, I’m not doing anything “the right way.”
I started to compare my writing to others and became discouraged when I didn’t have the interaction or following of other writers, be they freelancers or hobbyists. Article upon article of advice on how to write correctly or take the perfect picture were read and analyzed. In fact I read about writing more than I wrote at the time. Everything I thought about writing was seen through a lens of Is it exciting enough for people to read? Or I can’t write about this, I don’t have the correct images.
I started to pick things apart: I didn’t have a “brand.” I didn’t have as slick a website. I didn’t have a huge Instagram following. I didn’t write about the correct things. Or I did, but someone else’s was picked up to be shared and not mine. Even worse, there were topics I wanted to write about, but they weren’t solely a Baltimore thing, so I thought, ‘I can’t write about that, it’s not on brand. I’ll never get more readers.’
Then I finally made the decision to just say, fuck it.
Write what you want to write Beth, whether it’s about Baltimore or not. Start writing about all the things you always wanted to write about: your thoughts on life, the causes you believe in, places near and far you can’t wait to revisit or discover next. Just write what you feel most like writing about and fuck what the experts say about timing, branding, images and perfection. Do whatever the fuck you want. (Even if it’s using the word ‘fuck’ a few times, since it is your favorite.)
In the short amount of time I’ve stopped paying attention to all of the expert advice my articles are receiving more notice and comments. Readers are engaging in ways they previously didn’t. While I’m not an overnight success in the expert terminology, I am more successful.
Success for me is not about the number of readers and the buzzworthyness of a website. For me, the goal is connecting readers with the causes, people, events and places I believe to be important. Success is readers agreeing it’s worthwhile enough to spend some of their screen time with me to learn about it all. It’s finally starting to happen, so to Lesly and all my other readers I offer a huge and heartfelt,