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Find Your Voice: Blog Like You’re In a Closet

This guest post is by Brian Lund of bclund.

Writing a niche blog is all the rage these days, but they require a different type of content than is typical of a “mass audience” blog. And that content can be hard to come up with.

However, there is a simple, though not necessarily obvious trick you can use to help produce consistent, quality, personal content that people really want to read, and which will eventually garner your blog a much larger audience. It took me five years to figure it out, but you are going to learn about it in the time it takes to read this post.

Learning from experience

Way back in 2006, I decided that I was going to start writing a blog.  It was free, seemed easy, and all the cool kids were doing it.

The subject of the blog was ostensibly the stock market and my original idea was to have it act as an online journal highlighting the stocks that I traded. I worked very hard at it, making sure to make a post every day, and supplementing my commentary with charts and graphics.

And it was horrible. I mean really, really bad.

As a novice, I was unaware of resources like ProBlogger, or important blogging concepts like actually writing coherent content!  In retrospect my blog was literally unreadable, filled with monolithic blocks of unformatted drivel.

It was flat.  Sterile.  Uninspired and lacking personality or character.  Too structured.  Too stiff.  And worse than that, there was nothing about my blog that set it apart from the thousands of other traders who were writing similar (and better) blogs. 

It was the written equivalent of beige paint.

After about two years, I finally gave up.  Over that period of time I think I was only able to attract two subscribers to my feed, one of which was probably my mom, and the other a psycho ex-girlfriend who wanted to cyber-stalk me.

Don’t try to find it now because I took it down, deleted the files, and crushed the actual hard drives from the company that hosted my site to make sure no trace remained. I wrote blogs off as “stupid” and “a waste of time” and continued on with my life, angry and bitter that the public at large failed to recognize the obvious brilliance of my writing.

Blogging in the closet

Fast-forward to the fall of 2011.

For the first time in years I seemed to have some extra free time, and the thought of devoting that time to watching television did not seem very exciting or worthwhile to me.  And for some reason, the idea of trying to write a blog again kept popping back into my head.

At first I hesitated because I feared that the same thing would happen as before: I would spend a ton of time and effort and get little in return.  But then something occurred to me that I had never seriously thought about when writing my original blog: who was I writing it for anyway?

I pondered that question for a while until I realized that I was really writing my blog for me, and only for me.  The problem was that this attitude was not reflected in my writing style, which was why my content was so awful.

Though the blog was for me, I wrote it in a way that I thought other people would want to see it written, based upon what I thought their sensibilities and expectations were.  I limited myself to what I thought they wanted to read about, and in the process lost any part of me in my blog. That is when I decided to play a little trick on myself.

I decided to write my new blog as if I was in a closet. 

Okay, to put it more clearly: I decided to blog like nobody would ever read any of my posts except me.

That small shift in my perception was at once liberating and exhilarating.  I began to sense a ne0-found freedom to write in a real and at times emotional way that I had previously refrained from for fear of what others might think.

I now felt free to write posts that were humorous or sad.  Posts that resonated or missed the mark completely.  Posts that were honest.  That bled.  That showed who Brian Lund really was.

I immediately wrote my first on-topic post, “10 Golden Rules To Blowing Your Trading Account Out” and tweeted it into the StockTwits network.   It was a raw, risqué, but funny list post that I would never have attempted on my old blog, and it got a reaction right away.

Comments, those strange creatures unknown to me previously, started to come in.  I suddenly had new followers on Twitter and even got emails from people telling me how much they enjoyed the post.

This “success” fuelled me and I started to write on a regular basis, always reminding myself of the virtual closet I was in.  Whenever I started to question what I wrote, I’d say to myself, “What does it matter? You are the only one who will ever read it.”

After a while, I got confident enough to write an off-topic post entitled “How To Bring A Loved One Back From The Dead.” This was my most personal post at the time, and it got an even greater response than any before it.

Then one day, out of the blue, I got a call from the executive editor of the StockTwits Blog Network.  Not only had he been following my blog, but he liked it and asked me if I was interested in joining the network, where my blog resides now.

Being the real you

In the first three months of my renewed blogging efforts I got more pageviews than I could ever have imagined during the two fruitless years I spent on my old blog. They have continued to climb ever since.

But more important than that, by “blogging in a closet” I was eventually able to find my natural writing voice, which has allowed me to connect with readers in a way that has created trust, loyalty, and an honest interaction that never would have been possible previously.

Have you similarly “come out” to your readers by getting into the blogging “closet”? Tell us how you connect best in the comments.

Brian is a active trader who blogs about the intersection of markets, trading, and life (with some punk rock, pop culture, and off-beat humor mixed in) at bclund on the StockTwits Network. You can also follow Brian on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Oh my you nailed it!!! I had this same experience – a couple years ago, I started a blog that honestly no one was reading because I hadn’t told anyone about it. Then I started to tell people and I freaked out. I couldn’t write anymore. I got some readers and then what they were reading was crap. I stopped writing too. And, recently, like you, I started writing again. This time pretending that no one is reading except for me. I don’t get caught up in what people might think about me. I’ve found that I’m back … whether people will like my blog is still up for debate. But for me, I love it. Worse case, no one else does and I have a little piece of me that my kids can read when they are older. If you’re real, I believe people will know it and love your writing. You couldn’t have said this better … your fellow closet blog writer! :D

    • Brian Lund says:

      Thanks for the nice words Amber.

      You know on my blog I write a lot about the markets and how to trade them successfully. One of the interesting dynamics that happens to traders, that parallels what you experienced with blogging, is that when there are many “eyes” on them, their trading changes.

      You will often get an individual who trades his own money, and does quite well at it. Then in order to move to the next level, he decides to start a fund and trade customer’s money. You would be amazed at how often that causes his trading success to plummet.

      There is something in the human psyche (in most of us) that changes the way we act in a public versus private scenario. Sometimes that is a good thing and keeps us from making fools of ourselves in public (not that I would ever have any experience with that). But at other times it limits us, and that is when we have to figure out ways to act like we are “in the closet.”

    • Amber, I empathize. It’s scary to think that people are reading your work. I used to have mini panic attacks when hitting publish!

  2. Sad, humorous, raw, risque – those are the types of posts that people eat up. You really do have to write for yourself not only will your writing shine but you will also feel better about it.

    This post really spoke to me, I’ve been there trying to put content out and feeling like people are going to judge it. It can be a terrible experience. Once you liberate yourself you feel a lot better and I think that the people reading your content feel better about it as well.

    Great post it really took me back there :-)

    • Brian Lund says:

      “…I think that the people reading your content feel better about it as well.”

      Not only that, but they really get a truer sense of who you are, which builds trust, something I think bloggers today often undervalue.

  3. Rahat says:

    I have just recently created a design blog and have found that my writing becomes stiff when I’m thinking about the end-reader. However whenever I’m thinking of writing for myself, my writing becomes natural, fluid and easy to read.

    Thank you for this great post.

    • Brian Lund says:

      You’ve already found the key that took me five years to figure out. That intuitiveness will serve you well as you continue to create content for your blog.

      Thanks for reading and for the compliment.

  4. Jarah W says:

    I’m trying to get a blog started simply to expand my online reputation as well as wanting to start some online marketing/advertising for various companies. I’ve been having issues figuring out how to get started but your blogs are really helpful and informative. I am a lot more confident in getting started now, however, as an Internet Marketing major I am wanting to be more than just another “unreadable” blog.

  5. Love it. Let go of the fear and let it flow!…. from the closet out to the World :-)

  6. Kenny Fabre says:

    Brian

    I think being the real you is very important, that helps you sell yourself and help you get as much readers as possible

    • Brian Lund says:

      Unless of course the “real you” is a total jerk. Fortunately, I am only half-a-jerk so I can get away with it. :)

  7. Joe Lee says:

    This is so important. I too made the mistakes of writing in a good way. Afraid of how other may think of me. Afraid that it may affect my profession. Then I found out that there will be some who like me, some who don’t.

  8. Brian, you’ve inspired most bloggers who do not know where to start. Though I’ve read (and probably you did too) so many times that you need to think of a person (your reader) when you write. This is totally the opposite of what you are talking about here.

    For me, whichever works best for you then you do it.

  9. Alex Hagan says:

    Hi Brian, these are some great tips, thanks for sharing them. Of course, being the real you will give you an authentic voice, and that’s important if you want to engage readers. People blog for different reasons, and will have different motivations – but we all seem to be hung up on the stats – page views, comments, followers. I’ve decided to blog for myself. That gives me an authentic voice and if others want to view / comment / follow my blog, all the better. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that my page views have gone up since I decided to write for myself (I do still check!)

  10. You hit the nail on the head Brian. Thank you. I have got a reason now to improve my reputation online. I really enjoyed your tips and are actually helpful.

  11. Sudhir says:

    Great article.
    Being the real you will actually help u by making people understand the exact content of your blog. We people think in the same way, and when u express it in the same way then we can connect with our readers easily.

  12. Sarah-Louise says:

    I read this post on the bus to work and just had to tweet it as soon as I got into the office. I’ve been researching blogging for a couple of months now (as I plan to start my own soon) and this is most definitely the best advice I’ve seen/read!

  13. Nice post. I love the spirit.

  14. Mi Muba says:

    ah, ah ah and ah; I am spending the first phase that Brian you already passed in your earlier years of blogging. The same boring empty comment box, the two followers and a handful of visitors is fate of my blog right now. But after reading you post I am pretty much sure that I don’t have to quit blogging to restart it after awhile. i would surely take benefit of your experiences and instead of coming back with a new zeal and corrected concept of blogging I would stay put and try to change my way of blogging.
    once again thank you very much

  15. Great post! I’ve just started to blog (10 posts so far) and recognize the feeling… I started out just to see if I could write on a regular basis, but have found that the posts I write about my blogging experiences, which I basically write for myself, attract more likes (on WordPress.com) than the others which I spend more time and thought on.

  16. Victoria says:

    You are spot on Brian! It is so hard to put ourselves out there for the whole world to see, but in a lot of cases it is needed. There are millions of blogs out there and you have to stand out. That is why I put my whole heart into my post where it explains how I was kidnapped at 13 years old and how it can happen to any child and ways for parents to protect their children. It was an incredibly hard post for me to write, but if it means saving one child then it was worth it. You can read it at: http://chaosismylife.com/blog/kidnap-story-i-was-kidnapped/ Great post Brian. I will be checking out your blog too.

  17. This post seems almost contradictory on the surface, but it’s really not. It’s important to write so that other people can read, by spelling words correctly, using punctuation, etc.

    We often hear the advice that we have to pick interesting content to be successful, but nothing’s interesting to everyone, and everything’s interesting to someone. It’s most important that what we write is interesting (beyond interest–passion) to us.

    We must write as authentically as we can, but authenticity can be scary. Many people fear revealing their authentic selves to the world, putting ourselves out there for the world to scrutinize and possible reject.

    But when we overcome the fear, it’s the most liberating thing.

    Thanks for the insight.

  18. I just realized when reading Amber’s post that writing “in the closet” helps us “come out of the closet.” Very cool, Brian.

  19. Danielle says:

    Thanks for this!! Very timely, and you just inspired me to get writing again. :)

  20. I’m in the middle of this right now. I’d let myself get discouraged and distracted by real life and the lack of real connection through my blog. About two weeks ago I decided to dive in and just build the blogging muscles by writing what I cared about each day. It’s made the blog a little crazy, but I’m getting the work ethic back, and I’ve got some slightly popular posts lately.

  21. I love your post. It’s so true. I am trying to open up on my blog myself, great advice.

  22. Michael says:

    Never thought of blogging from that perspective. Great tips.

  23. Melissa Ng says:

    “Blogging in the closet” to find your voice. I like it.

    Sounds like it’s really about gaining self-knowledge and awareness of who you really are.

    Hearing your own thoughts in solitude or “the closet” is vital to finding your true voice…especially in a world where we are surrounded by the noise, opinions, and pressures of others.

    Thank you for your thoughts :D