Warning: Super long post ahead! Usually, I’ll write long posts in two parts, but it just didn’t feel natural to break this one up.
Ok, I’ll admit it. Every once in a while, I need to be knocked down a few pegs.
Theoretically, you started a blog in a specific niche because you are an expert of sorts in that topic. Most of us don’t pretend to know everything, but if you aren’t fluent in the topic you cover, why should anyone listen to what you have to say? If you don’t at least think that you’re better than average in your niche, you might want to reconsider your blog topic.
Sometimes that guru spot gets a little comfortable, though. It’s easy to fall into a rut without realizing it, posting without actually growing as a blogger. We stop reading and commenting on other blogs in our niche, first because we’re too busy building a blog and then because we’ve fallen out of the habit. We don’t do research for our posts because our current knowledge is good enough that it will teach readers something, even if our posts aren’t spectacular. We stick to connecting only with the friends/followers/etc we already have on social networks, forgetting that new bloggers and even readers sometimes can teach us new things about our niches.
We don’t surround ourselves with challenge.
When I was a little girl, my baby-sitter told me something that still sticks with me today. I don’t know if she came up with it herself or heard it somewhere. For all I know, it could be a line from a movie or the message in her fortune cookie. Regardless, it still makes sense to me, 15+ years later:
In this world, there will always be someone who isn’t as good as you, no matter what you’re doing. You are never the worst, and there are always people you can teach. But remember, in this world, there will always be someone better than you. You’re never the best, and you can always learn something new.
I remember that this advice boggled my mind as a kid, and I sat for hours (or maybe minutes…for a kid, a few minutes pondering a grown-up thought seems like an eternity) and thought about how I would be able to teach or learn if the one person worse or better than me at whatever task was at hand lived in China or something.
I don’t think she meant it that literally. :-p
What she meant was that we should always be willing to share what we know, even if we don’t know much about the topic. At the same time, we should always be open to learning something new, even if we know a ton about the topic.
I think most people are open, but the problem is that if you truly are an expert in your niche, someone who knows more isn’t just going to walk up to you every day and start spouting useful information. No, you have to seek out people who know more, you have to look for education. It comes back to one thing: you have to challenge yourself by surrounding yourself with awesomeness.
This is the part where I talk about being knocked down a few pegs.
I think that looking for the challenges has been something I’ve forgotten lately. I know that I give good advice and whatnot in my blogs’ niches, but thinking that what I know already is “good enough” just doesn’t cut it. I’m not the best. I don’t know everything. Admitting that doesn’t mean I’m a failure or that no one should listen to me. It gives me the opportunity to grow.
My knock-down moments have come over the past few weeks when I’ve been serving as a freelance writing consultant. As people fire question after question at me, it’s become apparent that although I have a lot to teach, I also have a lot to learn. It’s humbling, and a big old slice of humble pie is exactly what we all need at times. In fact, if you need an intermission because this post is so darn long, you might consider buying a slice at the concession stand so you understand what I’m talking about. Or at least some humble junior mints, if you aren’t in need of as much humbling as me.
In dealing with the tasty humble goodness, I’ve realized that challenge hasn’t been missing because I don’t know anyone smarter than me. It’s been missing because I’ve been ignoring what they have to teach. Yes, I can give you a million excuses as to why I haven’t had time or motivation to feel challenged by these bloggers or seek out other bloggers to inspire me, but the why doesn’t really matter, because the end result is the same. My work could be better if I surrounded myself with challenge. These people are already around me…I just have to open myself up to letting them in.
Challenge can come in many forms in your niche. Is someone in your niche a really good writer? Is someone in your niche super unique? Is someone uploading more posts than you think is humanly possible? I could go on and on. In fact, I’m willing to bet that every single blogger you come across, even those who write in unrelated niches, can challenge you in some way. The top people in your field aren’t the only people who have something to teach.
Read blog posts. Comment. Show link love. Connect on networking sites. Most of all, be inspired to be a better blogger! When you find yourself thinking that a post is “good enough,” put that thought out of your head. You don’t have to agonize over every post, never happy with the final product, but if what you’re writing is mediocre, because it’s “good enough” for your readers’ skill levels, find your passion again! Your readers deserve the best.
I’m going to end this post by linking to five bloggers that challenge me (and why). I hope you’ll leave a comment doing that same – tell me who inspires you to be a better blogger and why. My five:
- Johnny B. Truant: JBT writes posts that are effortlessly entertaining (or, at least, he makes it seem effortless). They always make me laugh, but without coming off as “hey, I’m trying really hard to make you laugh.” If it sounds kinda like I have a blog crush on him…well, it’s because I do. He challenges me to be a better, more entertaining writer.
- Susan Mulder: I met Susan through Twitter when she contacted me to sign up for consulting. I came away from that session feeling like I learned so much about my own blogs! For someone who is self-proclaimed to be a total blogging newbie, Susan has this inherent understanding about how to write blog posts that are super-engaging. She challenges me to write more personable posts.
- Anne Wayman: I sometimes take for granted all the work Anne does. She posts these huge lists of freelance writing gigs three times a week, PLUS runs newsletters, PLUS posts tips-based posts, PLUS writes ebooks, PLUS teaches a book-writing class, PLUS works for clients, PLUS does a bunch of other things that I’m not listing here because I could go on forever. I bow down to her work ethic, and when I’m feeling lazy, she challenges me to make good use of my time instead of vegging in front of the TV all day.
- Jordan Cooper: Yes, yes, yes, Jordan’s funny. If you didn’t know this already, you probably do now, since he guest posted here earlier this week. He inspires me in a complete different way, though. Check out his blog. Notice how awesome he is at linking to other posts, both his own and on other blogs, throughout the text? Notice how his list of guest posts and interviews on top blogs in the industry is a mile long? Notice how his post titles catch your attention, or how his posts are formatted to be easy to read, or how he makes it easy for readers to promote his posts? He challenges me to be detail-orientated and better at networking. Not a pro blog my ass.
- Amber Osborne: I find myself snort-laughing at the things Miss Destructo tweets sometimes, and I don’t even know her! I Twitter-stalk a lot of entertaining people though, so why am I listing her here? To put it plain and simple, Miss Destructo challenges me to be myself without giving a crap what other people think, because I should just believe that I’m awesome. She’s original not because of what she does, but because she’s got the guts to do it, when most people would be content to fade into the background. I guess learning to feel comfortable in your own skin is a life lesson as much as it is a blog lesson. Maybe she should start up some Destructo-therapy.
I really could continue to list people, but I promise you I’d stop at five…so now it’s your turn. Tell me who challenges you to be a better blogger!