guest post by Kelly Diels
I’m not a huge fan of arguments based on evolutionary psychology. They tend to justify the status quo, much of which is “status unacceptable” to me. They tend to explain social injustices and systemic discrimination as, oh that’s just the way we are. That’s evolution. That’s biology, baby.
Like this: oh, women seek relationships and withhold sex because evolutionarily speaking, childbearing was a life-or-death thing, so she had to be selective. So don’t bother granting them rights or jobs or treating them like people, or anything. They’re just baby-making, mate-seeking machines.
Or this: men are controlling and jealous because evolutionarily speaking, paternity was always a question. The only way to ensure the baby was yours was to ensure the baby can only be yours. So don’t bother thinking that men have feelings or emotions or that it might be nice to be kind to them or anything. Because they just want to bash you on the head, drag you back to the cave and make babies. Men. Neanderthals. Same dif.
Or this: we’re all racist because evolutionarily speaking, xenophobia helped preserve the safety of the tribe. Being cautious about strangers and outsiders is a survival instinct. So it is totally okay to make racist remarks and be suspicious of immigrants, because, like, that’s just natural.
The roots of these explanations may be true but often we make these kinds of statements as though we don’t have the brains, good fortune, common sense, compassion and creativity to evolve beyond them.
So, evolutionary psychology can be a good history of why we are the way we are, but it is not a strait jacket or a prison or a prophesy. Your biology and your ancestors don’t explain or predict all that you are or all that you can be.
Wherein I Get to My Point: Fear is the Enemy of the Guest Post. And Guest Posting is Essential to Your Success.
Take fear, for example. Fear is awesome. Fear warns you that something you’re about to do might cause you harm. Fear is really useful. Every kid who was afraid of fire and stayed away from it, didn’t fall in and get burned. Every woman who looked at a big scary guy and thought, I don’t think so, lived to procreate another day. Every man who turned and ran instead of charging into battle unprepared also lived to pass on his genes another day, another way. You see where I’m going here?
Evolutionarily speaking, fear keeps you safe. Fear keeps you alive. We’re all here because the people who came before us navigated fear successfully.
I have a serious respect for fear, except when I get frustrated with fear and tell it off right to its face.
Because my world is just not that dangerous. And neither is blogging.
Fear, and Guest Posting. It is NOT a Sabre-Toothed Tiger and No One Will Eat You. I Promise.
So, my point: guest posting.
Guest posting was scary to me. And, based on the comments, e-mails and direct messages I received in response to my advice to guest post, guest post, guest post, it scares the prehistoric right out of you, too.
So let’s talk about it.
Yep, it is scary. Potential rejection is always unappetizing. But let’s put it in perspective.
There are 17 kajillion blogs out there. That means there are 17 kajillion bloggers out there who are working and writing and raising kids and worrying about evolutionary psychology and its sociocultural impact on justice and trying to figure out a way to beat spam because comment moderation is freaking killing them. In other words, they’re tired. They would LOVE a day off.
Your guest post is a day off. Don’t you want to give someone a day off?
Guest Posts are A Gift. Give Wisely.
That’s not very scary, is it? Your guest post is a gift.
My WordPress genius friend Dave Doolin, who also happens to be very smart and practical man, recently counselled my readers – in a guest post, let me point out – as follows:
Some of us have an almost pathological requirement to give. We need to give. The problem comes when giving to people who don’t want our gifts.
Our challenge is building a community who will freely – and graciously – accept our gifts.
That’s the key to guest posting: find the people who want to receive your gifts. Or, create a community in which this is possible.
How do you do that?
You do your research and you act human.
And how do you do that?
By reading other blogs, and commenting incisively and insightfully when something touches you. By e-mailing other bloggers. By talking to them on Twitter. In short, by making friends.
And please don’t do it as part of an return-on-investment strategy wherein you identify blogs with a certain level of traffic and then kiss the author’s ass. That’s just yucky. And transparent.
Be sincere. Reach out to the people who make you laugh and make you think and maybe even teach you a lil’ sum’in sum’in.
Then, once you’re all friends and you’re reading their stuff, and they’re reading yours, and your stuff is good (please make it good) invitations to guest post will commence. Really, they will.
But don’t just sit back and wait for that to happen.
I know. That scary monster in the bottom of your stomach just woke up and growled.
That still scares me.
How to Outwit The Scary Monsters In Your Stomach and Your Head
So this is how I cope: I figure out my roadblocks.
Like this: I’m not good with pressure. I like to write creatively, in great big bursts of inspiration. The daily grind wears down me down a little. Uncertainty is even worse. Waiting to hear if someone likes me – I mean “my writing”, of course I’m talking about my writing – is torture.
So I just write a bunch of electrical, eccentric posts and offer them forth, completed.
I rarely pitch. I rarely inquire. My writing skills are way better than my social skills, so I just send a completed post to someone and if they like it, they run it.
If they don’t, or if they send me a note saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ then I just dust off my pride and that post and send it off to the next site.
This doesn’t mean that I send my “how-to-blog” pieces to Dooce. That would be inappropriate. That’s not the right fit. And Dooce doesn’t do guest posts.
Pick Your Battles. Send Your Pieces Places They Can Win.
Oh, that’s the other thing: send your pieces to the right places. Blogs that are based on personality are not the right place.
Take a read through the blog you want to write for and see how many guest posts you find.
Multi-author blogs, however, are guest-post gold. You know they run guest posts and are eternally hungry for guest posts. Definitely send your pieces there.
If you don’t have a relationship with the blogger – and it is a really good idea to have a relationship, first – then, by all means, pitch.
Ignore my fragile flower advice above because you are tougher than me. You can bear the will-she-won’t-she-run-my-post better than I. Yes, you can. Write an e-mail, include a couple of links to your best stuff, and hope for the best.
I still think it is a good idea to have the post finished before you inquire, though. That way, if the blogger says yes! send me your blazing epistle of righteousness, right NOW! well then, you can. Right away. While you’re still on her mind.
It also shows that you’re reliable, and fast, and possess that much-talked-about and elusive quality: follow-through. This is good, because you get a little mental check mark beside your name, and the next time you ask to guest post, the other blogger will remember, oh yes, he sent me a completed piece right away. That was easy. I like easy. Yes, yes, YES send me your lightning bolts of awesomeness. I will run as much as you can write!
Guidelines. Follow ‘em.
One more thing: some blogs have guest post guidelines. That’s pretty useful. They tell you what they want, and how they want it.
Like…they might want it in Rich Text Format. Or saved to Google Docs. Or maybe a Word file will do. Maybe if you submit a post to that site, you no longer own the copyright to the piece. Maybe you’re not supposed to say bad words. Maybe affiliate links are a no-no (they’re almost ALWAYS a no-no in a guest post). Maybe you’re not supposed to link repeatedly from the body of your piece to your own site (don’t do this). Maybe they write about sex but are really, really not interested in pictures of your anatomy. Any of it. Not even your elbow.
So then sending them a post that includes a picture of your umm, elbow, will not get accepted.
It helps to know these things. So definitely look for the guidelines, and if you don’t find any, ask what for some.
And, finally, listen to the marketing gods at Nike and Just Do It.
You won’t die. Nobody will attack you. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll get ignored, and again, that won’t kill you.
Other bloggers are not prehistoric monsters (mostly) bent on biting you (unless you like that sort of thing and they’re so inclined).
So psssssst, here’s a secret, one blogger to another:
Blogging is not dangerous. Fear has no place here. If you’re scared, do it anyway. Just try and find a way to make it less scary for yourself.
(Talking about it helps. But you know what really helps? Sending out pieces, getting them accepted, and getting confident.)
Those big, scary blogs that are popular, killing Alexa softly, and making money?
They’re written by bloggers who are you, five years from now. And those A-list bloggers remember their ancient history (being new and scared) well.
Kelly Diels writes for ProBlogger every week. She’s also a wildly hireable freelance writer and the creator of Cleavage, a blog about three things we all want more of: sex, money and meaning.