Out of context quotes from the panel I moderated at BlogHer are exhausting me.
In the “Have you found your Mom Blogging Tribe?” panel, I said:
“Writing well is n0t enough anymore.”
At the time, in context, the room nodded in agreement. Because it was in context, surrounded by paragraphs of other words. Now, sent out into the world to fend for itself without any explanation, that single sentence is haunting me.
Allow me to explain. Excuse the mild teeth grinding.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, there were, like, five blogs. If you wrote well, someone would eventually find you, stick around, and maybe tell others about you. It wasn’t hard to find you. There were five blogs. Google helped a lot.
Maybe, just maybe, you never had to tell a single soul that you even had a blog. Sigh. Maybe.
Light-years later, there are five gajillion blogs. You could be the reincarnated blend of Dorothy Parker and Walt Whitman, but without a little direction it is nearly impossible to find you. Google can’t decipher what all those 1’s and 0’s mean on your blog, as it can’t tell the difference between your brilliance and the brilliance of the other 5 spafillion bloggers out there.
When someone Googles “blue poop,” Google has to have a little help in deciding how to order its search results. It has too much to choose from now and doesn’t really care that you write really really well. It just cares if anyone else thinks you write really really well.
Which means people have to read you first. Which means they have to find you first.
People have to find you first.
Before anyone reads you, they have to find you. Before anyone tells their friends about you, they have to find you. Before anyone comes back to read your brilliant writing a second time, they have to find you first.
People have to find you first.
Writing well isn’t enough anymore, people. You need to, at some point, let other human beings know that you are out there.
This is not an attack on good writing. Are you freaking kidding me? Did you honestly think for a second that I was suggesting that strong writing is irrelevant? Honestly? Did you, for one second, think that I value popularity and rank over writing well?
If so, please leave. Yesterday. Because I’m only going to explain this once. Again.
You could write the most brilliant pieces of nonfiction ever articulated, all while cozy and warm in your deep dark cave, but no one is ever going to find you and read that brilliance if you don’t send out a few smoke signals.
Fancy yourself the next Emily Dickinson? That’s fantastic. Can you explain to me one more time how it is that everyone knew to come knock on her door and ask to read all that secret writing she had under her bed while she was alive? You know, the really fabulous stuff she never told a soul about?
Writing well is everything. In the long run. But if you want anyone to read it and give you a chance at any form of a “long run,” a single soul other than yourself (and honestly, if you are publicly publishing it, I’m putting my money on that you do), then you need to let people know where to find you.
Add your blog to your signature on emails and message board posts. Share posts on twitter. Comment on other people’s posts.
If your writing is strong and you let people know where to look for it, you are headed in the right direction. Writing well may even be enough. Maybe you’ll only ever have to tell one person in the entire world about your blog and they’ll take it from there.
But if you think for one second that even one person is going to be sitting at home and magically conjure your URL in their head, I have a dot com startup to sell you.
In the session, I said that your tribe is busy. They want to meet you, but you have to help them. They will probably adore your writing, but you need to help them find it first.
I know it’s not fair. Writing well should be enough. Just hitting publish should be enough. People should be psychic.
I love you. I love your writing. But I’m not psychic.
Help me find you first.
Because writing well isn’t enough anymore, damn it.
I Got Soul But I’m Not a Soldier (…this is the one about why your plain blank blog template is like a book cover with just a title, no synopsis, no blurbs, and buried in a bookshelf at Barnes and Noble… and how I’m amazed that you are amazed that it’s not flying off the shelves.)