Somehow we’re well into 2018 Q2. I know I say this every year–every month, really–but the time is just slipping past.
In part, it’s because things have been so busy!
I say “busy,” by the way, as a positive thing. Productive. Full. Purposeful. I’m never anyone who would subscribe to the “busyness as a badge” mentality, so when I say it’s been busy, I mean full. Happy!
So, here’s what’s kept me full and happy:
West Paw: Oh, man. I love this brand. I’m so stoked to contribute to their blog, The Scoop. Watch Twitter where I’ll share my posts as they publish!
Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food: Healthy pet food at an affordable prince? Yes, please! I’m pumped to blog for their brand’s site. The blog just launched, so my work isn’t up yet, but I’ll share it on Twitter as soon as it’s live!
BlogPaws: Oh, how I’ve adored writing posts about writing, blogging, and storytelling! I’m off to the conference next week. Will I see you there?
The Zero-Waste Pet: This is a passion project, truly born of the heart. I seriously can’t wait to launch (it’s so soon!!!) and share this joy with you guys. If you haven’t yet signed up, better get on it! The free 7-day challenge launches April 16!
What’s kept you busy lately? I’d love to connect and share our projects on Twitter! You can find me @maggiemarton.
How often have you, as a blogger, been told to write authentically?
How frequently have you read the advice to be authentic and your audience will find you?
Sure, you should absolutely write authentically. Yes, if you are authentic, the right people will find you.
How do you do that?
How do you write authentically? How do you balance all the social media dos and don’ts with being your true self?
Here are my 5 steps to authenticity that apply to anyone creating content:
Write like you speak. Nothing makes your work sound weirder faster than trying to write in a way that you think sounds “smart” or, really, anything other than your natural voice. Focus on being conversational.
Cut the jargon. Related to the point above, jargon alienates most readers. Unless you’re writing for a technical audience who you’re sure knows what you’re saying, cut the jargon. If someone has to look something up, you’ve probably lost that reader.
Write in active voice. Whenever possible, write in an active voice rather than a passive one. Check out this blog post for the hows and whys.
Read your work out loud. Always. You could probably do away with tips one through four if you simply read everything out loud. Trust me on this one. Here’s more.
Not one of those tips will take you much longer to complete your piece, but every single one will improve your work.
If you want to dig into this topic more and really examine your blog for authenticity, check out my eBook, Authentic Blogging. With tons of worksheets to go along with the content, you’ll come out the other side feeling confident and self-assured in your writing!
PAW5: I love writing blog posts about enriching your dogs’ lives. It’s a true passion for me!
Pet Age: I recently wrote this story about anxiety products for dogs, which was eye-opening for me and my training with Cooper. We started him on one of the products I learned about for the story, CBD treats from Austin and Kat.
Unfortunately, my own pet blog has been one of the biggest cuts. But, this is just a season. And, it’s funny, but it sort of has helped to write far less on my blog. For a while, I felt burnout setting in, and now I’m giving myself time to think and brainstorm. Big ideas are percolating! I’m sure they’ll all bubble to the surface when the time is right.
I’d love to see what you’re working on! Fellow writers, tweet me @maggiemarton with your current projects so that I can read and share!
It’s been a bonkers 2016 so far! (I feel like I say that about every year…)
I took on the role of Senior Editor at BlogPaws at the end of 2015, and it’s been a whirlwind of activity since. I’m proud of all that’s been accomplished on the BlogPaws blog and would love for you to go check it out.
I’ve also contributed two columns each month to Pet Age Magazine. It’s such a pleasure to work with leading pet industry manufacturers and media pros on a monthly basis. I learn so much with every story I write. Check out some of my recent work.
It’s been a travel-heavy year, too. It started with the BlogPaws team summit in Phoenix earlier this year, followed by Global Pet Expo in Orlando, and my trip to Best Friends in May. BlogPaws is around the corner, in Phoenix at the end of June. That’s followed by SuperZoo in Last Vegas and a girlfriends’ trip to Vancouver at the end of August. Whew!
I took on a bunch of other little side projects, too, like contributing blog posts to PAW5 each month. I love that gig because they’re an eco-friendly brand that’s all about enriching our pets’ lives. How great is that?
Lastly, I’ve been chipping away at OMD. To be honest, I’ve struggled to keep up with it, not just because of all the work stuff, but because it’s hard to find our herd’s new voice after we lost Lucas. Everything changed, and it’s just taken me time to wrap my head around it and find this new voice. But, it’s coming.
So, that’s where I’ve been! How about you? Connect with me on Twitter so we can compare project notes!
On a sunny May morning in 2010, I pulled into a gas station somewhere between Bloomington, IN, and Columbus, OH. I pulled out my phone while the tank filled. I spotted a ton of tweets from other folks who were on their way to the first ever BlogPaws conference.
I actually considered NOT tweeting that I was on my way, too, because I felt like such a fraud. Who was I to be going to a social media conference? Who was I–a blogger with less than a year under her belt–to think I could hold my own in a professional crowd?
Of course, it all turned out fine, despite myriad doubts and fears and insecurities. In fact, it turned out great. Some of the dearest friends and most important people in my life today were friendships formed at that first BlogPaws. I learned a ton, though I was incredibly intimidated. I vividly remember hearing a speaker say that you can’t really make any money at the blogging game until you have at least 5,000 followers. I balked. At the time, I don’t think I had more than 50 or 100 readers at that time. Not per day. Not per week. Per month!
Since then, since BlogPaws 2010, I’ve topped 20,000. I credit my herd with that growth because they’re the ones who give me the stories to tell. But, I also credit BlogPaws–not just the speakers and sessions and keynotes, but the relationships formed. If I have a WordPress question or need a contact at a PR agency, or if I just need someone to cry on the phone with (which I did when Lucas was diagnosed with cancer), that community is there.
Sure, BlogPaws isn’t perfect. But there’s truly no other organization like it, and we can all improve if we work together in constructive, positive ways.
We’re lucky: We’re in two growth industries. The pet industry has become a massive, innovative behemoth, and the blogosphere continues to expand and develop. Both industries are primed for development. We, as pet bloggers and social media influencers, are in position to lead, to direct the future of both capacities.
Whew. Things have been busy, busy, busy. My goal for November was simply to keep my head above water!
We relocated, and the move took up far more time than I ever imagined. And we’ve moved a lot. This one was an extra-big-beast for some reason. Thankfully, though, we’re settled in and (mostly) unpacked. I’m grateful it was all completed before the bustle of the holiday season!
In the meantime, I’ve been working away. I’m finishing up the semester teaching writing skills to an eager bunch of adults who are all working like crazy to get to the final paper.
I’ve also been writing for one of my favorite sites, PetGuide.com!
Plus, I’ve had the unique opportunity to serve as a campaign manager for several blogger campaigns for BlogPaws. It’s been an incredible learning experience. Part of the job requires reading a handful of blogs every morning, and I’ve spotted so many “best practices” and clever ideas. Soaking it all up!
There is so much on the horizon, so many big, huge things about to happen. I can’t wait to share them all as the projects get finalized. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, have a wonderful week and a productive start to December!
I’ve attended all but one of the annual BlogPaws conferences (darn chemo ruined my perfect record), and this year’s was a remarkable experience. They’re all wonderful, of course, but this was the first year I got to speak.
That’s me. Speaking.
I need a haircut.
Anyway, it was an absolute pleasure to chat about authenticity in blogging.
I truly believe that the key to long-term success is being completely, wholly true to YOU with your blog.
In a cluttered online environment, discerning readers can pick out who’s being honest and forthright versus those bloggers who are just shilling. That isn’t to say you can’t earn money on your blog; you can and absolutely should–as long as you’re doing it authentically. If fact, being authentic increases your earning potential.
The term “writing voice” is bandied about but rarely defined. Your voice, though, will make you stand out from the crowd of other writers and bloggers.
So, how are you supposed to hone your writing voice if you’re not sure what–or where–it is?
For starters, I like to think of my writing voice as the sound of my work. If you were having a conversation about your article/book/post, think about what you would say and how you would say it. You want to capture the sound of that discussion in your written work.
I admit: It’s often easier said than done, especially while you’re still refining your craft. Why? We all want to sound funny, witty, intelligent, wry, whatever, and if you’re trying to force that to emerge in your work, you lose your natural voice. But you don’t have to! It took me a long time to get comfortable with my voice, and here’s what’s helped.
3 steps to hone your writing voice:
Think out loud. It drives my husband crazy, but it works. When you are in the early stages of a project, you’re brainstorming an idea, or you’re stuck for the right phrase to round out a paragraph, start thinking out loud. Talk to yourself or to your dog or to your spirit guide or to whomever you want to imagine. When you think out loud, you will hear what sounds truly like you and what sounds forced. Delete the forced stuff.
Knock out that shitty first draft. I’m sure you’re familiar with the “Shitty First Drafts” chapter in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. If not, or if it’s been a while, the concept is simple. Just get words down on paper (well, word processor), and deal with the mess later. If you second guess every word you type, not only will you slow yourself down, but you’ll also interrupt your natural thought process, your stream-of-consciousness. Sure, it won’t be polished, but it’ll be finished – and, most likely, it’ll be a pretty darn accurate representation of what you really wanted to say. It just needs to be gussied up a bit.
Proofread out loud. Your neighbors might start to think you’re losing it if you’re talking through all your pre-writing (point #1) and then again in the editing phase, but trust me. This is the single most effective thing you can do to refine your voice. When you read your work out loud, not only will you catch all your little glitchy errors and grammar mistakes, but you will hear–actually hear–when your work doesn’t sound like you. Then, you can focus your editing efforts on those places to generate a far more solid second draft.
I recommend proofing everything out loud. It makes a huge difference in the quality of your writing, and it will help you refine your writing voice until it really, truly sounds like you.
The New York Times obituary of Joseph Mitchell heralded his work writing about average and eccentric folks, which he did well… until he didn’t. According to the obit:
If his name is not as widely known as it might have been, that is mostly because for the last three decades of his life, he wrote nary a word that anybody got to see. For years, he would show up at his tiny office at The New Yorker every day and assure his colleagues that he was working on something, but that it was not quite ready…. Whatever it was, nothing of any substance emerged from his typewriter after 1965 and his friends came to think of it as an exceptionally bad case of writer’s block.
The piece goes on to say that his editor suspected that he was plagued by perfectionism. After all, the janitor at The New Yorker cleaned reams of copy out of his wastepaper bin.
It’s tragic, really. If you haven’t read Up in the Old Hotel, do. It’s a carefully-curated collection of his work profiling unexpected characters. Mitchell sucks you in, grabs hold, and doesn’t let go until the last page.
So, what happened? Was it the infamous “writer’s block” that did him in?
I think writer’s block is a construct–a concept invented to allow talented writers an excuse for not finishing the work. Feeling stuck and stressed and overwhelmed and unmotivated occurs naturally in any creative profession. The fear of failing, of being ridiculed, of pouring your heart, soul, time, and talent into something that might be torn apart? Well, it’s enough to drive anyone crazy.
Crazy enough, perhaps, to stop writing altogether.
I’m guilty of this. I have a big project, a personal one rather than a client project, that I’ve backburnered time and time (and time and time) again. My reason excuse could easily be, “Oh, man. I’m just blocked on this one.” But I know that’s not the case. I know that this is a personal project, and it means a lot to me. I know that, by writing, I risk criticism, ridicule, and burning at the stake.
Okay. Maybe not. Definitely not. But it feels like that, so I don’t write.
So, what does a writer do to overcome this? Well, first off, stop calling it “writer’s block” because you’re letting yourself off the hook.
Then, set yourself a good, solid goal. Note that I didn’t say a big, lofty goal. Just a good, solid one. Like, tell yourself you’re going to write 250 words toward your project each day. That’s not much–one page, double-spaced. You can do it. Heck, you could probably do more, but that’s not your goal. Stick with 250. Hit that word count, then save and close your document.
Do it again the next day and the next day and the next. Before you know it, your project will be up and running, sprinting toward the finish line.
Don’t let yourself claim a case of “writer’s block.” Do the work. Keep at it.
As for Joseph Mitchell, who knows, but we all would’ve been better off to have had more of his work–imperfect as it may have been.