For the past 3 years I’ve been blogging without much direction, trying to please as many people as possible. Maybe you feel that way sometimes: stunted by not knowing which direction to go and/or which way will lead you to the greatest outcome. Besides, there are so many things we have to do…
“Well, I’m moving in a month.” As I watched his reaction, I immediately wished I could Command + Z to undo the statement. His eyes grew wide, visibly shocked.
Strangely, I already missed him, and we just met that evening.
We were seated outside Sip Coffee below strings of decorative lights in Scottsdale, Arizona about 2 years ago. He was an acquaintance who I only knew through friends of friends, all of whom were more or less in love with him thanks to his pretty smile and quick wit. We had never talked until messaging on a dating app where he admitted to avidly reading my blog.
What I thought would be an informational session on how to start his own blog turned into a dissection of mine – and each reason why he liked it: “It’s like, here’s this girl talking about these taboo things that everyone thinks but doesn’t say. I love it.”
Within 5 minutes of conversation, every weekend spent alone in that coffee shop, consuming overpriced pastries in front of my laptop, felt validated. I couldn’t help smiling.
“Will you write about the same things once you move?” he asked.
“I think so,” I responded. “But I’ll probably have to write more about stuff like fashion and style and brands if I want to make it in LA.” I rolled my eyes, shrugged and took a sip of the decaf coffee.
The Shittiest Elevator Pitch
“What is your blog about?”
Though it’s the natural question to follow when I tell an Uber driver or first date, “I have a blog,” it has always caused a frustrated feeling similar to Restless Legs Syndrome. Your mind stretches in an attempt to relieve the discomfort, like explaining the plot line of Black Mirror or synthesizing all the reasons why your friend’s douchebag ‘boyfriend’ sucks.
“Umm, it’s kind of a mix of everything…”
“It’s about fashion and fitness and sex and relationships, plus an online shop…”
“It’s like, the story of my life, you know, like, dating or lack of dating and stuff…”
As someone who touts the importance of a solid elevator pitch, I’ve felt defeated each time I try to summarize the contents of my website. Similarly, while I’ve coached friends and family about target audiences and tailored online experiences, I’ve failed to walk the talk, concluding that I’m somehow the exception to the rule.
As a result, my blog has spread itself thin, with its content being as schizophrenic as my taste in guys. One article is a marathon running, middle-aged Marketing Exec and the next is a hipster bartender/musician who’s best friends with my brother.
But what’s so wrong with that?
Am I Failing Readers?
In the month leading to my move, following the coffee shop meetup, me and my newest friend spent hours texting back and forth. I stayed up giggling most nights between conversations on dating and unconventional relationships and the history of sex and annoying habits of needy girls.
He was the muse I needed to write pieces on monogamy and pubic hair preferences; however, along with the joy of writing ‘exactly as he would’, came the self-inflicted concern that I needed to keep it up. What would he write? What would Cosmo write? What would Refinery29 write? What would I need to write to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars so I could buy a Vespa, live in Venice and post up in a coffee shop all freaking day?
And more importantly, without a variety of content, how could I please everyone?
- How could I compete at Instagram without fashion?
- How could I win at Pinterest without recipes?
- How could I fill a ‘Health’ category without workouts?
- How could I work with brands without talking about products?
Not to mention, there were some bigger life concerns that I had about my content:
- How am I supposed to write about dating forever if I want a relationship someday?
- How am I supposed to produce sex content if I never have it?
- How can I keep up with what Gen-Z likes when I’m entering my thirties? And how I am even supposed to care?
Because of these concerns, the consistency of my Sunday posts fell off. I stopped sending marketing emails for fear that not all recipients could relate to the week’s post. I cared way too much about readers’ responses – or lack thereof. So, in order to reflect on what to do – as well as tackle a project that had been sitting on the shelf – I dedicated two months to book writing and determining my next steps.
How to Narrow Your Focus on What Matters
This weekend I started rebranding the blog which was in desperate need of a facelift, and as I combed through old articles I recalled the concerns of me and my friends’ early twenties, from “Pool Party Protocols” to “I’m a Coachella Douchebag.” Many of us hung onto fuckboys from Maya Day + Night Club when we secretly knew the smart, considerate co-worker was a better option. The same has been true of my blog content.
1. Keep shooting, even if you’re off-target
The only way to narrow your focus is having something to narrow.
I’ve been practicing shooting guns with my dad when I go home to Illinois in hopes of a hunting trip. Sometimes it takes many bullets to make it towards the target, but it’s all in preparation for the bull’s eye. Similarly, while it has slightly stressed me out to comb through old posts in search of common themes, I’m grateful that the posts were written. So shoot it, write it, cook it, do it, whatever.
2. Identify your strengths, even if they’re not the sexiest
What is it that you really love? What comes easy to you? What makes you feel good?
In high school I was voted ‘Most Artistic’; however, the only thing I ever drew or painted were people. When I started photography in the past few years, I quickly picked up portrait photography but still super suck at shooting landscapes and sunsets. I’ve realized the same is true in my writing as well. While some people are drawn to mountains or wildlife, I’ve always been most interested in people. I want to capture each wrinkle, the way they laugh and the details of their lives.
3. Start saying ‘no’
What will you say ‘no’ to? What are you willing to compromise/give up?
After realizing my strengths, I’ve decided that I only want to write about stories that have meaning – my own stories and stories of other people.
- Instead of recipes, I want to write about why he quit his job to pursue healthy cooking
- Instead of butt workouts, I want to highlight how working my butt has improved my mental health
- Instead of dating app reviews, I want to showcase friends who found their person on them
I want to focus on authenticity, and if that doesn’t make money right now, that’s okay. I am willing to say ‘no’ to partnerships to feel like I’m making a difference. I will give up short-term monetary gains for long-term purpose and happiness. Life is short.
4. Trust. Test. Trust.
Once you’ve made up your mind, trust it and see where it takes you…
The New Elevator Pitch
Last Sunday I climbed into an Uber, headed for the coffee café inside Bodega Wine Bar.
“What are you up to today?” the driver asked as we drove down Santa Monica Boulevard.
“Just working on my blog after taking a couple months off.”
“Oh cool, I read blogs. What is yours about?” I waited for Restless Legs Syndrome.
“I call it ‘meaningful storytelling.’ They’re real stories about my life and others’ that have some type of lesson or takeaway,” I responded, both relieved and satisfied with my answer.
“That sounds interesting! Is that your full-time job?” she asked.
“No, I don’t make any money from it, but I’ve realized I would rather enjoy my full-time job as a Software Product Manager and write about things I love instead of writing about things I don’t.”
“I think that will pay off in the end…”
And as I drank my coffee at Bodega, I received an unexpected text from my old coffee shop friend who I was certain had stopped caring: “Coming home anytime soon? Thought about you at Sip Coffee today.”
I couldn’t help smiling, partly because he hadn’t bailed despite the fluctuating blog content, but mostly because it reminded me that you don’t have to do anything.