Truth-Telling and Platform-Building

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Note from Jane: Today’s guest post is by Lisa Bennett (@lisapbennett).


When I finally came around to learning something about the business of platform-building, I soon discovered that there is a mountain of advice out there.

But one point, above all, seemed clear: If you want to attract an audience to your site, you need to offer something people want. Writing advice. Financial advice. Relationship advice. Parenting advice. Leadership advice. Cooking advice.

I’ve never imagined myself qualified to give other people advice—or even particularly interested in it. I just happen to be someone who finds the process of discovery more interesting than how-to tips. But I fell into it all the same.

And the result, for me, was not good.

In grief about the loss of my dear mother, saddened by the demise of a significant relationship, worried about how climate change will affect my children and others’, I started thinking about how to channel what was present for me into something that would be useful to people. And that led to a tagline about how people rise to challenges big and small.

Of course, this was not entirely false. I am fascinated with what loss teaches us; how we grow from facing the reality that things often don’t go our way; and how many seemingly ordinary people do rise in extraordinary ways to the challenges they face in life.

But when I was honest with myself, the truth was I did not feel like a person who should be trying to dole out insights and inspiration to other people.

I am still in grief, I am still sad, I am still afraid, and I am often confused.

Attempting to offer insights to others from this place, even if I was basing it on other people, seemed ridiculous. It also seemed like only half the story: an offering of the light without the dark in life. In a word, it felt fake.

That, I realized, was why I was experiencing writer’s block. Why I was starting and stopping. Going in circles. Feeling unable to push the “publish” button.

And then I realized, or more likely rediscovered, that it was OK to let the idea that I should put things in a pretty box go. The writing I did from those dark but deeply human places of grief, sadness, and fear was actually the writing that most interested me. It seemed most real, most meaningful—and contrary to what I might have expected, not depressing or self-absorbed. It usually went somewhere. It tended to be healing in itself.

So I have decided to let myself out of my self-imposed prison. To give myself permission to write just what is—knowing that this is the plane on which many of us would rather connect anyway.

This is not to say I think writers can disregard the realities of publishing and audience-building in today’s platform-crazy world. But it is to say one must not let it overwhelm the reason one wishes to write in the first place, which for me is the desire to explore, and the hope to connect.

Posted in Marketing & Promotion and tagged , , , .

Lisa Bennett

Lisa Bennett is co-author of Ecoliterate, a contributor to The Compassionate Instinct, A Place at the Table, and other books. Read her blog here or find her on Twitter at @LisaPBennett.

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14 Comments on "Truth-Telling and Platform-Building"

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CMSmith

I love this post and feel like Lisa has looked inside my soul. So much self-help out there. I hesitate to be just one more voice in that noisy world.

britta326

Well said. I resonate with so much of this. When I write, I usually do not offer advice. Having tried doing so in the past made me feel disingenuous and it was a terrible disservice to my writing. I write because I love to write. Like you, my writing is based on personal exploration with hopes of connecting with others.

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[…] How do you build an online platform when you don't have advice or ready-to-go insights (and don't like offering either)?  […]

Rebecca

I’m just starting out with a new blog, and this has been a concern for me, as well. My blog is more of a business platform than an audience platform which makes it even trickier – the need for good editing rarely evolves out of a deep personal struggle. Thanks for sharing your experience. It takes courage to put your real self out there.

laurieprim

Thank you for some good words on authenticity. Grief is so painful, wishing you well in your process.

Sandra Hutchison

Love this. If you’re not sharing the truth, you’re not truly engaging with people — you’re just putting up a facade. Life is too short to waste it bullshitting, whether blogging or writing fiction. This doesn’t mean you have to share everything with everybody, but I think it does mean you shouldn’t lie or pretend to be something you’re not. My best wishes to you.

ronniecf

Well, Lisa…I love all your writing. It’s authentic, and I believe, like you, writing is best when it originates from that place of discovery. Without the pull to give advice, take-aways can happen. And when those stars align, they sparkle all over your readers…and your platform.

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