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Blogging and Insecurity: Conquering the Fear of Presenting Your Big Ideas

In this post Chris Guillebeau from The Art of Nonconformity examines the topic of blogger insecurity.

Here’s a confession: every time I post a new essay on my site, I experience a brief moment of panic. At first, the panic is the same feeling I get when sending an email or turning in an important memo.

“Did I just commit a horrible grammar crime?” I wonder. “Did I misspell something obvious?”

But even after the momentary panic passes as I proofread the post yet again, a deeper, more serious feeling sets in. The questions I ask myself shift from grammar concerns to fears about what I’ve actually written.

“What if the readers don’t like it… or worse, what if they just don’t care?”

That’s my confession—I am a highly insecure blogger. I worry a lot about what people think, even though I fully realize that this fear is not always rational and certainly not optimal for good writing.

In talking with other bloggers recently, I’ve begun to suspect that I’m not alone in my insecurity. Many of us struggle with the same emotional issue of learning to overcome fear and insecurity in presenting ideas to the blogosphere.

At least for me, the fear of presenting free ideas for the world’s benefit is much greater than the fear of presenting commercial projects for personal profit.

I’ve produced about 20 commercial websites and consulted on a lot more. But none of them have caused me as much anxiety—or as much fulfillment—as my new personal site. I’m not entirely sure why this is true, but I do know that I feel much more personally invested in my writing project than in any for-profit venture I’ve been involved in.

When I write, I think about the fact that these ideas are originally my own, but my greatest hope is that they will go out into the world and help others. Throughout the writing and publishing process, I experience these fears:

  • The world is so crowded… how will I break through all the noise?
  • What if I can’t stick to my publication schedule?
  • What if no one notices?
  • What if people notice and they don’t like it?

Countering these fears, the medium of blogging presents a number of opportunities that will help you overcome the insecurity and get your ideas to the people who need to hear.

4 Great Things about Presenting Your Ideas through Blogging

1. The gatekeepers aren’t in charge anymore. Perhaps the greatest thing about the blogging revolution is the increased democratization of information. People can decide not to pay attention to your ideas, but no one can hinder your ability to put them on the table.

2. You’ll receive instant feedback that is usually positive. Eventually, all bloggers who gain a significant audience of fans will also attract their share of critics. You need a strategy to deal with the critics, but in most cases, the fans will greatly outnumber the critics. While you probably shouldn’t present big ideas in anticipation of being praised, the positive feedback will help you break through the moments of insecurity.

3. Thanks to archives, your ideas will always be available. With traditional forms of communicating big ideas, such as public speaking, your ideas are more limited in distribution. Contrast this to blog posts and other online content, where a good idea can last a long time after you first publish it.

4. You can change your mind. If the passing of time or the availability of new information causes you to change your mind about the original position you took, that’s OK. You can either write a new post explaining the change, or simply modify the original article. Some people will object to this, but remember—it’s your blog. You are ultimately responsible for the ideas you present, so you also have the freedom to change your mind.

My Own Story

In my own quest to visit every country in the world and lead the crusade against conventional thinking, I spent nearly a full year outlining and writing initial content before I started the Art of Nonconformity site.

I devoted hours to learning from the masters here at Problogger and other authority sites. I actively followed other bloggers I admired, especially those who were able to quickly establish a following. I solicited—and paid attention to—good advice from those who have gone before.

But finally, I could wait no longer. With the help of a great designer, I set up my site and started publishing on a regular schedule.

The time to start presenting your big ideas is when you can no longer keep them to yourself in good conscience.

When you reach that same point, and when you’re willing to sacrifice for it, nothing can stop you. Some of the best advice I heard came from John Wesley at PicktheBrain.com. John told me that the turning point for his site was when it went from being about what he wanted to what the readers wanted.

I really liked that perspective, and we’ve been doing some redesigning over the past couple of weeks to focus more on what our own readers have shared through site comments and email messages.

Do you have big ideas of your own to share with the world? In the end, you may find that any insecurity you experience will be worth it. Despite the challenges, there is a great deal of freedom in knowing that you have the courage to come out of hiding and share your ideas with anyone who cares to listen.

Chris Guillebeau is a social entrepreneur who writes at The Art of Nonconformity. Over the next five years he will be traveling to every country in the world.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. LOL, so true! I know the feeling, the manic or fear! Your right about changing your mind, I’ve already experience this but I’m open to change. Excellent post, thanks for sharing your story.

  2. LOL, so true! I know the feeling, the fear! Your right about changing your mind, I’ve already experience this but I’m open to change. Excellent post, thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Gori Girl says:

    I have the same sort of fear that you describe here, Chris. When I first started blogging (about three months ago), I gathered a handful of very awesome readers – but then I started to get performance anxiety. What if my newer posts weren’t as good as the first few posts that they seemed to like so much?

    I think it’s important to remember, as you point out, that, while there will always be critics, most feedback will be positive. I try to remind myself that, even if everyone doesn’t like every article I publish, if a post helps one person have a better relationship (I blog about intercultural relationships) then that should be good enough for me.

  4. Muscle Post says:

    Insecurity is definitely something we all feel. Especially us lesser accomplished bloggers, because we don’t get the extraordinary amount of positive feedback and our readership is small. This makes us wonder if it’s worth all our time and if people are actually benefiting from our posts. I’m hoping they are!

  5. Ryan McLean says:

    When I first started my financial blog I showed it to all my friends. Half of them tore me to pieces, saying I was full of #$*%, and laughing at me and paying me out.
    This made me an insecure blogger. But I have to remember that I am blogging for those who like me, not those who don’t.
    My blog is starting to have some success, and once it is extremely successful I will take it back to those friends and throw it in their faces.
    Hehe

  6. This is really great! I got your announcement on Twitter, while reading this article I find it funny because damn! I had this feeling too now that I know that I had this “Blogging Insecurity” I am much more aware right now. I really learned a lot from this article! Thanks for making this excellent post!

  7. John Lessnau says:

    There is nothing like spending a half day on a new post and not getting one comment. Or worse, people comment, but not on my site, but on a 3rd part site like sphinn.

    This is something all new blogs go through but it does make me think: “Am I just wasting my time that could be spent more productively elsewhere?”

  8. Joe says:

    I’m extremely insecure about my site. I value readers a lot and I’m afraid of things I might do to lose them, as I did once before. Building up a base of readers is difficult!

  9. This post count not have been more timely. I’ve been working on redefining my personal site and have decided to actually start writing and publicizing my posts. But I have found this experience to be frightening and have felt the same insecurity discussed in Chris’ article. What if no one cares? What if they care and hate what I wrote? What if I insult someone without intending to? Rationally I know that I am still mostly anonymous but the feeling of insecurity is intense. Fortunately, I have a couple of friends who are really encouraging, which keeps me going. Anyway – thank you for the article. I was so surprised to discover it when I was feeling exactly the same insecurities. And it is refreshing that accomplished bloggers encounter the same feelings of self-doubt that I do …

  10. Tess says:

    This really strikes a chord for me. And it’s worse when people I actually know in the real world read my blog. In fact it took me about nine months of writing before I told any friends and family about my blog.
    Because I write a lot about spirituality, and have no qualification whatsoever for doing so other than stumbling along the same path as everyone else, I felt really self-conscious about it and thought my friends would laugh!
    In fact I got writer’s block for about a week recently when one of my friends told me she was going to start reading my blog because another friend had been praising it – how can I live up to those expectations?, I thought.

  11. vjack says:

    One of the fascinating things about archives is that they provide the blogger with a way to track his or her development over time. I look back at posts I wrote a couple years ago and sometimes think, “What the hell was I thinking?” It is nice to see my own growth reflected.

  12. I agree, with the sudden panic, I am sure most people experience this, but putting yourself “out there” just reaffirms in you mind who you really are and who you want to be.

  13. SpaceAgeSage says:

    I find many blogs overlap with oft-repeated content, but when bloggers offer a bit of themselves — their heart, their journey, their successes and failures — the content changes from an information exchange to an offering of relationship. It is easy to give out information. For us more insecure people, it is hard to reach out for relationship when you have no idea who is at the other end.

  14. Hey guys, thanks so much for all the comments! I really appreciate that.

    FYI my name is Chris, not “hris”… but most of you probably figured that out. “Hris” would certainly be original, so maybe I should look into that… :)

  15. Cheryl says:

    Great post, Chris. I was glad to hear you worked behind the scenes on your blog for a year before going “live” with it. I bought my domain a couple of weeks ago and felt silly because I haven’t put anything up on it yet. It’s comforting to hear that others (you, and the other commenters that have posted here) have insecurity sometimes, too. I’m glad you don’t let it get the better of you, and I hope the other commenters don’t either. :)

  16. Reading this article tonight is truly a blessing. I’ve been working on my blog contents for weeks. I have tons of useful information to share but I feel intimidated publishing articles next to the experienced writers. I heard a rumor that revising contents can be hurtful for SEO, so I keep finding myself revising my rough draft a number of times until I feel its good enough and I still dont think it is. But this article is an inspiration to me. So I will not give up, and I will let my criticisms only motivate me to write while involving my creative style. Thanks!

  17. Robin says:

    Well Chris – whatdaya reckon it’s like writing about living forever and not ever dying? Thanks or your post – there are some good points for me.

  18. jeflin says:

    I have experienced such insecure feelings before and you are right that a strategy has to be formulated to deal with critics.

    If you are not strong mentally, a few disapproving remarks may destroy your love and interest for your blog and you become hesitant in writing about what you believe in.

    People are entitled to their own opinions, not everybody agrees with you but hey, it is your blog, so if you find trolls, there is always the delete button.

    http://jeflin.net

  19. blog4net says:

    thats an interesting post. I too feel the same.

    But when my fear is more, i convince myself that on a blog some post may not be interesting to all and that a few bad posts wont spoil the overall reputation.

    anyway, nice ways to present the ideas on our blogs.

  20. C Kent says:

    Thanks for the post… it’s a big help to know others feel the same way. I’m always asking my wife “Is this funny or just dumb?” and “How stupid does this sound?” Once I hit publish, then I get nervous and start re-checking my post about a million times. I’m worse about ones with sensitive topics, but then these turn out to be the ones I get the most responses on. This reminds me the reason I started my blog was to express the stuff I’m less likely to talk about with the hope it can be a help to others or bring a smile to their face. Thanks again.

  21. I have to admit, I never thought my content would not be well-received by someone, because in the figure skating world, there is always someone who’s new to the sport. I’ve never run out of ideas to convey, and if it becomes repetitive, believe or not, skaters don’t mind having ideas presented in many different ways. For example, I personally don’t tire of reading the many ways of entering into a spin, and I believe (I hope I’m right) that others are just like me. I lucked out where I started a blog on a topic where everyone’s take is equally valid.

  22. This seems to be a popular topic in the blogosphere these days. John over at Poewar.com did a similar post entitled “Fear and the Guest Blogger.”

    Chris, I think if you blog from the following sentiment, which you so eloquently expressed, you’ll be fine:

    ” I think about the fact that these ideas are originally my own, but my greatest hope is that they will go out into the world and help others.”

    If your intent is genuine, you can’t go wrong — no matter what your PR rank, feedback or subscriber counts say.

    Yuwanda

  23. Mikhail says:

    A good thing to consider. If you were no longer concerned about the quality of your content it would mean you started focusing more on you than your audience. If you think about it that fear helps keep you honest.

  24. ulla says:

    Chris,
    thanks for sharing your thoughts. I find it very encouraging that someone like you admits having felt this kind of insecurity. the important thing seems to me that such a feeling a) is quite normal and b)can be overcome.

  25. malik says:

    Are there REALLY no longer gatekeepers? Or, have they just changed?

    Because linking and getting recommendations is still key to making money in the blogosphere. You still have the “cool kid” A-List bloggers who link to each other over and over again and recommend each other for paid blogging assignments. And if you’re not in NYC or Calif? It’s rare to get the kind of attention that most bloggers crave. Dooce is the exception to this rule, but she garnered most of her attention back when she was in LA and blogging was rare.

    I think the players may have changed, but the game is still on, unfortunately. Except in very rare cases. It’s still who you know.

  26. I just started my blog a few days ago and I have even more fear than you since I have the idea that nobody cares what I write about since only 14-years old.

  27. Thank you for the link to the article on dealing with critics. Personally, I hate conflict, so I could definitely use some pointers on that subject.

  28. Oh My God! I should have read this article two months ago when I started my blog. At first, I thought I was worried about grammar and sentence structure, but it was fear of expressing my thoughts to the world. But after writing a few articles I gained confidence. Remember, starting something new is a little scary or intimidating, but practice will improve your writing skills.

  29. Jo says:

    very grateful for this article! It’s good to know that I’m not alone about feeling like this sometimes… :) thank you.