The ladybugs did it. One October afternoon when an Indian summer cast eighty degrees of hot sun onto the back side of our house, I stepped onto the deck and into hundreds of fluttering ladybug wings. I scurried back inside and after taking the kids through a side door to the playset below, I watched those ladybugs flit around my house and mused about the wonder of insects that have long been associated with good luck. This prompted me to think about what I wished for my two young children as they kicked their heels up on the swings. Then I wrote a blog post about it.
It was 2007 and I had been writing the Mommy Truths blog for less than a month when I began to use a story to share my broader message. Sure, it was easy to tell stories for a mommy blog. That’s the formula: share a humorous, embarrassing, lesson-learned story to impart scraps of wisdom for other moms. Little did I know that writing about tantrums and sleep solutions would hone my craft for a future career in content marketing.
The value of craft
I didn’t attempt to monetize my blog. At the time, few brands had discovered how to leverage bloggers for content marketing. There weren’t many opportunities to generate revenue and I knew that I would spend more time going after a few thousand dollars than I would spend writing the actual content to generate the income. Keep in mind that the content marketing discipline had yet to take off because social media was in its infancy and brands hadn’t yet built large enough audiences to market to with their own channels. In other words, they didn’t yet need content for all that marketing.
But I knew that it was good to write because one, I enjoyed it and two, honing my craft would serve me well in any future that involved writing. Blogging about the lessons I learned while parenting two children also helped me shape my voice. After writing a few blog posts, I could see that an arms-length portrayal of my struggles and enlightenment was pretty boring. The only way to share my stories was to tell them with the bumps and bruises that made them real. These were the ones that earned the most comments.
After I wrote Parenting with Scissors, about how I cut my daughter’s hair too short after she spent a year growing it out, one reader shared that her mother had cut part of her brother’s ear off during a home haircut. (I certainly felt better.)
Eventually, I wove my blogging skills into my business writing and began to use stories to illustrate bigger themes and concepts. I consulted for authors and marketers and pressed them to develop their brand’s voice to make an impact on their audience. And I searched for opportunities to add dialog to a story to bring an immediacy to the moment.
Moments, whether when a flurry of ladybugs crawls out from under your shingles to bask in early October sunshine or when a Millennial named, Jessica, needs a digital customer service technology to shop for custom cabinetry, make content more captivating for your audience. (The Millennial example was used in an eBook for a technology vendor client.)
While I didn’t earn hard cash for the mommy blog, I wrote over 100 posts and gained thousands of visitors, earning me complimentary tickets to Barnum & Bailey Brothers circus for, The Greatest Show on Earth, and Walt Disney World for Top 10 Tips for Visiting Disney World with Kids Ages 5-10.
I stopped blogging on Mommy Truths regularly a few years ago when my children were old enough to be embarrassed by my posts. The most poignant and humorous stories require authenticity and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice that or their feelings to write good content.
That 10,000 hour rule
You could say that my monetization strategy revolved around writing practice and experimentation that led to my career in content marketing strategy and publishing. As Angela Duckworth points out in her excellent book, Grit, it’s all about putting in the time to practice and stretch yourself while doing so.
That’s why when interviewing candidates I always ask if they write personally outside of “work.” Blogging allows writers, content marketers and thought leaders to test how they convey ideas, to experiment, shape their voices, and if nothing else, to hone the craft of communication. Practice, in most forms, leads to improvement and will eventually lead, even through a circuitous route, to the bank.
Learn how to use stories in your business content. Read my new book: Brand, Meet Story, How to Create Engaging Content to Win Business and Influence Your Audience