Writing and running in Austin, TX.
I just spilled beer on the dog. I thought you’d all like to know.
As interesting as that is, it’s not really the point of this post. The point of this post is missions. Or more accurately, mission statements. Which apparently some people think about they start a massive endeavor such as, ohh, pouring 4 years into a blog…
If I were being completely honest – which it’s me, so yeah, we’re going there – I would have to say that I’m always on a mission, I just never stop to figure out what exactly it is.
That’s one of my dirty little secrets: I rarely plan anything.
For example, as a writer, I never ever create outlines. The closest I’ve ever come was in my past life as a tech writer. When I would receive a new feature that I thought would require 10+ topics (so something really effing massive, by tech doc standards), I would maybe scrawl some basic ideas on scratch paper.
It would look something like this:
|Sadly, they did still teach penmanship when I was in school…|
…where “Ref. stuff” encompassed about 150 topics describing different functions like Create Sphere, Create Cube, etc.
Side note: In my own professional defense, is it really necessary to outline a topic that is primarily going to say, “Create Sphere Function – Creates a 3-dimensional sphere with the diameter you specify (in pixels).”?
So yeah, as much as I’m super dreamy/future-oriented, I rarely define that future in concrete terms. And I certainly never write mission statements. In my world, they’re kind of like vision boards…a nice idea, but with a very real risk of super-gluing my index finger to the desk.
Here’s another dirty secret (this is all going to tie together, I promise): I read very very few other blogs.
Yes, this makes me a giant hypocrite, but rather than faithfully follow the 100s of running-oriented blogs out there, I rely largely on friends to forward me links I should be reading.
It’s not that I don’t want to. I read about running all the time, as my last post indicated. It’s just that a lot of blogs are, well, “light”. I don’t mean that as an insult! To be successful (i.e. make money) at this blogging game, you have to post all the freaking time. Like daily. Do you know how hard it is to come up with something fun and interesting to post EVERY SINGLE DAY???
If a novelist takes 3 years to write a 250-page book, then I should get at least 5 days to come up with 1 semi-decent post, right?
Yeah, not okay in the blog world. (Believe me, I have wallowed in obscurity for 4 years.)
So, to be a “professional” blogger, you pretty much have to write something every single day – which means if you take a week’s vacation, you better front-load 7 posts and set up a scheduler to post them – AND you probably have to sell ads. Which will likely mean devoting some of your precious time to product reviews that you know full well everyone will assume you were paid to write.
In short, I kneel before those of you who have “made it” as professional bloggers. You’re working your ass off, under constant pressure to be creative, and you’re probably going to have to write a book IN ADDITION to your daily blogging to have any hope of making a decent living at this.
Here’s where I tie it all together…
Why are we doing this anyway? Especially someone like me, who publishes a blog more-or-less half-heartedly for multiple years and considers a post a success if a Facebook friend of a Facebook friend reads it?
This question, combined with a post from one of those pro-level blogs that did catch my attention (MizFitOnline), got me thinking that maybe I should give this whole mission statement idea some thought.
In a recent post about branding, MizFit – aka Carla Birnberg – offers some shockingly simple-to-follow advice on how to approach this “what am I doing here?” question. (And I say “shockingly” because if you’re looking for an exercise in futility, try Googling “how to write a good blog”.)
Her points all kind of dovetail together into a more basic question of “why do people like you, anyway?”. I know, I really shouldn’t find that question revolutionary, but then again, I probably should have thought about what I was doing here, ohhh…4 years ago.
Anyway, MizFit encourages slackers such as myself to look over their past posts to see what themes they consistently return to, what people have commented on, what’s gotten the most views, etc. And then to do that consistently.
So I thought about what I do consistently:
And then I thought about my most successful posts/comments from readers:
And then I thought about why I started this blog in the first place:
And finally I thought about who I am:
|Truly horrific old running pic to prove my complete lack of shame.|
And looking at all these bullet points together (you have to scroll around a bit), I came up with the following mission statement:
I fake confidence in long-form prose (with excessive use of parentheses) while also running and hoping everybody I ever meet likes me, even if I don’t like them. And I also try to be funny by telling embarrassing stories about myself.
I came up with a better one – or at least a more PC one. My official mission is:
To encourage self-acceptance through militant authenticity.
Running makes me authentically happy, so I’ll keep doing it and writing about how great it is.
Telling jokes at my own expense makes other people happy, so I’ll keep doing that. Not in a “down-on-myself” way, but more in a “a little embarrassment never killed anybody” way.
Interesting fact: I used to think I should focus on being less self-deprecating. (I especially thought this every time I read books about leadership and management.)
But when I actually became a manager, I quickly realized that my only hope of success was being 100% me. Overly-honest, foot-in-mouth me.
And sure, that realization lead to the further realization that I wanted to do something different with my life, which then lead to worries about money, overly-honest blog posts, and awkward conversations with various friends, family, and acquaintances.
But guess what? I’m also happier than I’ve ever been. I’m 30, slightly overweight, slightly underemployed, a slow runner, a sloppy housekeeper, and an all-around anxious person. I also have fantastic friends, a rock-solid relationship with an amazing partner, and a passion (that would be running) that provides both goals and an escape from the anxiety.
Oh, and I write really long blog posts where I talk about myself way too much in a way overly honest manner.
Live it. Love it.
Here’s a picture of my dog that makes me really happy: