October 22 12

In my humble opinion

(which, typically, is a phrase that I am quick to loathe, especially in acronym form, but, well, it just seems to fit in this particular situation, as I am not actually an expert on anything—except maybe movie popcorn and anthropologie-coveting—so my opinion here? It is humble.)

the three most important things you can do to get better at this whole blogging thing are:

READ (everything—newspapers, books, blogs, articles, magazines, subway ads, the backs of cereal boxes, your toddler’s picture books. If it has words on it, read it.),

WRITE (often, often, often),

ENGAGE (comment, reply, tweet, RE-tweet, comment some more)

I often read blogs or articles written by writers and storytellers and humorists or essayists or bloggers who are better, funnier, smarter and frankly, have way more interesting lives. This used to discourage me. Nay, I used to allow it to discourage me. I would doubt myself and think that I would never be able to be that good, to be that funny, to be that smart. And, of course, I would never have a story as interesting as theirs.

This weekend, I spoke at a little conference called Blissdom Canada. I led three microsessions on Writing: Finding Your Creativity to three great groups full of writers I know in real life, writers I know by Twitter avatar only, and writers who are brand-new to me.

It seems that I’m not the only one who has had those discouraging thoughts. 

But if there was one thing I was able to assure the bloggers who sat at my table it is this:

It doesn’t matter. 

It doesn’t matter if you are the funniest, the most interesting, the loudest, the craziest, THE BEST. You simply don’t have to be. You can make something extraordinary out of something mundane. You can come up with at least 25 good story ideas out of one little tiny idea. You can get a great story out of that BIG controversial story that you don’t want to touch. You can get article ideas straight out of your Facebook comments or your Twitter conversations—there’s tons of material right there. Your stories are interesting and important and they should be told and they will be read and they will resonate with someone or they will make someone laugh or they will make someone think or they will make someone share.

Shareable content. 

It’s all the rage these days.

We all want to write it. It feels good when we see that little number on our Facebook shares and likes goes up. We like it when someone retweets one of our posts. It tells the world “Hey! I like this! I think you’ll like it too!” There is hardly a higher compliment out there on the interwebs.

But in the search for writing shareable content, it’s super easy to get frustrated, to give up, to stop writing altogether.

I think I have figured it out, though.

Don’t write to write shareable content.

Write. Period. 

READ. WRITE. ENGAGE. 

In the semi-changed-to-fit-the-purpose-of-this-blog-post words of Ray Kinsella’s field whisperer, If you build it (your community, your writing, your reading), the good and shareable content will come. I often look back at my archives—you know, when I need a good laugh—and it helps me see how far I have come with this whole writing thing. I see how much better I have gotten, simply by exercising the ten fingers that are attached to these two hands.

I am still just sitting here telling my stories—but I’m telling them with a beginning, middle, and end. I’m telling them with the elements that make a good story a better story, a GREAT story. Without consciously thinking “How am I going to write better?” I just do. I just am.

Because it *is* possible to write good content about nothing more than a double rainbow.

Awesome double rainbow

I have heard it has been done before. 

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  1. I so needed to hear this!! Thank you so much for this super post. I’m a fairly new blogger and know it is easy to get discouraged. I’m gonna just keep swimming and writing. Thanks again, Deb

    [Reply]

    ali replied on

    Yes! Nemo up and just keeping swimming :)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Deb on October 22, 2012
  2. I love this.

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    Comment by Jodifur on October 22, 2012
  3. Agreed. High five. I didn’t get to your table at all because it was too full. I love that. But I did want to hear what you had to say because regardless of where we are on the confidence/success/newbie scale, and holy moly I have some discouraging days, but there is always lots to learn.

    [Reply]

    ali replied on

    It’s so, so true. So much to learn!!

    I didn’t get to see your face enough this weekend.

    [Reply]

    Comment by karengreeners on October 22, 2012
  4. Your message got through this weekend. I’m glad I got to hear it.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Kat on October 22, 2012
  5. I was at your first session (brought up the whole “negative comment thing”) and am glad I was. Your message really got through to me and it has been running through my mind all morning. I could write about how, every time I go away my kids seem to loose important articles of outdoor clothing, which I don’t realize till Monday morning. I could write about writing about everyday things…I could write about carving out time to do so…(but if I get up at 5:30 for boot camp, does that mean I have to get up at 4:30 to write?…hmmm…maybe I should have also attended the productivity microsession…;) ). Thanks again; you HAVE inspired me. :)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Melissa on October 22, 2012
  6. This might be one of my favorite posts of yours.

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    Comment by Corey Feldman on October 22, 2012
  7. Ali,

    I was in one of your microsessions and love this post. I’m also making a point to comment on blogs I read and not just commenting back through twitter.

    Thanks for the encouragement and letting us know that all of our stories matter.

    [Reply]

    Comment by MelissaG on October 22, 2012
  8. [...] not even sure why this is even being published, but my *** friend alimartell says just to WRITE, so I’m just [...]

    Pingback by This Is What Adult-Onset ADD Looks Like | A Whole Lot of Nothing • Your Favorite Blog on October 22, 2012
  9. Read. Write. Engage.

    Yes.

    That is one great rainbow!

    [Reply]

    alimartell replied on

    It was amazing. For real.

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    Comment by Tracie on October 22, 2012
  10. You are so wise, Sali!

    You’ve made me want to write again, and I haven’t blogged consistently in probably over a year. I haven’t written since BlogHer. But now I want to write. JUST to write! As is should be.

    I’m sad I didn’t get to go to your sessions, since I’m sure they were awesome!

    [Reply]

    alimartell replied on

    YES! HOP TO IT! I would selfishly love to read your words again.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Kristabella on October 22, 2012
  11. This is great and what I needed to hear.
    I sometimes get discouraged when I try to engage and (it seems) no one is interested in engaging back… do you know what I mean? Like, I leave comments, I re-tweet, I ask questions, I leave what I think are reasonable and thoughtful comments and then? Nothing. No reply, no answers, no hi’s!. Nada.
    Does this happen to anyone else? Just me? (I hope not!!)

    [Reply]

    alimartell replied on

    It happens to me ALL THE TIME…especially when I’m feeling particularly smart or hilarious (usually accidentally) and then…CRICKETS!
    :)

    [Reply]

    Amy replied on

    Whew! Glad it’s not just me!

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    Comment by Amy on October 22, 2012
  12. It looks like all the Melissas at the conference went to your sessions, and are leaving comments. We’re nice like that. :) (I don’t know how many Melissas were actually there, but the fact that I’m the third Melissa commenting makes me giggle.)

    Both your session and Haley’s session really gave me the kick in the pants I needed. I often have all these ideas swirling in my head for writing deep, thoughtful, long posts. Unfortunately, I don’t often have the time to do them well. Your encouragement to just WRITE reminded me that smaller posts about the minutiae of life are just as valuable as the Big Stuff.

    Which I should have known, because it’s why I enjoy reading your site so much. :)

    I’m also glad I’m not the only one who feels like I’m talking to myself online sometimes, especially when it’s something I was proud of or amused me. It really does happen to everyone, and it’s not personal. We have to go outside sometime!

    Thanks for your sessions. I appreciate the work you put into them. :)

    [Reply]

    Comment by melissa on October 22, 2012
  13. Damn skippy. Perfectly said.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Avitable on October 22, 2012
  14. Amen, sista!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Nuala Reilly on October 22, 2012
  15. I needed to hear this just now – perfectly timed. Thanks so much.

    [Reply]

    ali replied on

    I’m so glad! YAY!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Tweepwife on October 22, 2012
  16. Love this, Ali.

    Love you, too.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Angella on October 23, 2012
  17. You sure inspired me, lady. Your session was my first and I walked away with goosebumps. I talk about proposing to you in in my blissdom recap. :) Thanks for your wise, wise words and for putting fresh excitement in my veins. xo

    [Reply]

    ali replied on

    Fresh excitement is the best kind. Can’t wait to read your words :)

    [Reply]

    Comment by shannon on October 23, 2012
  18. Now I really wish I’d been at your session. *sigh* Thanks for this post.

    [Reply]

    ali replied on

    Coffee? I can recreate all three for you? Or we can just have coffee :)

    [Reply]

    Tamara replied on

    Yes! Either would be amazing.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Tamara on October 23, 2012
  19. I really need to hear this, I was starting to forget why i started my blog in the first place.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jess G. on October 23, 2012
  20. Thank you for writing this. I’m sure there are others who would disagree (humble opinions, etc.) but I really appreciate it.

    I’m still not sure why I write a blog. None of my family or friends know it exists, so I don’t get a lot of traffic, but I’m still not ready to share it with real life people. Maybe I’ll never be ready.

    For now, I content myself with the idea that I’m writing for myself, whether that is true or not.

    [Reply]

    Comment by kootnygirl on October 23, 2012
  21. So simple, yet so brilliant.

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    Comment by Gamanda on October 23, 2012
  22. Your microsession was fantastic. Thank you so much for doing it. :)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Mrs. Wilson on October 23, 2012
  23. Can we make t-shirts that say READ. WRITE. ENGAGE.

    LOVE THIS!

    [Reply]

    ali replied on

    totally make a t-shirt right now…

    [Reply]

    Comment by Shauna Glenn on October 24, 2012
  24. I needed to read this today and I don’t just mean that in a flip, oh-I’m-such-a-blocked-writer kind of way, I mean that in the most humblest, sincerest and thank you for saving my sanity and the thing I love to most kind of way.

    Thank you!

    [Reply]

    ali replied on

    ohmigosh, I’m so happy! This comment made my day. Seriously.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Nikki on October 24, 2012
  25. Can you read my mind today, or something? THANK YOU!

    [Reply]

    ali replied on

    I’m totally a mind reader :)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting on October 24, 2012
  26. Perfect! I love this information.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jana A (@jana0926) on October 24, 2012
  27. [...] hour or so later I read why you need to keep telling your stories by Ali and I had another moment where I was just overcome with emotion. Combine the bible verse with the [...]

    Pingback by How do I speak to the mountain? | on October 25, 2012
  28. [...] learn MORE about writing so I went to Ali Martell’s Writing: Sparking Creativity microsession. She gets all zen about her session on her blog Cheaper than Therapy. Her advice gives me the courage I need to be the writer I want to be. It’s water… I [...]

    Pingback by Blissdom Canada 2012 ~ I write | Preshus Me on October 25, 2012
  29. [...] you Haley, Ali and Dee for inspiring me. I may not know where this writing journey will take me, but thanks to you [...]

    Pingback by Write everyday… even if it’s crap. | Preshus Me on November 2, 2012
  30. I was at your microsession too, and have been taking your words to heart. I’ve been doing LOTS of reading, and the more I read, the more I feel my own words come. So thanks for having the courage to tell us how to find our own!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jenn on November 8, 2012
  31. […] you Haley, Ali and Dee for inspiring me. I may not know where this writing journey will take me, but thanks to […]

    Pingback by Write everyday… even if it’s crap | Sleep Less, Write More on December 21, 2013
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