Awhile back, I had a bit of a pondering session. I tend to have these every so often, and they are often the basis for what I end up writing that day. I ended up thinking about how winning isn't everything. Some of us, myself included, have often gotten into the mindset that winning should be the end goal of everything. But that can be incredibly counter-productive. It can lead to a lot of needless aggravation and setting unrealistic expectations.
Not every piece of content that you produce is going to succeed. That's just a given. You could spend hours crafting a beautiful essay, and five people ever read it. You sit there and wonder. With all of your social channels, with all of your promotional tactics, with how strong your page rankings are in Google, how could that happen? There are so many factors that could be completely out of your control.
Through my various ventures, I've come to realize that success can't be measured in only in sheer numbers of successes and failures. It should be measured on what you learn from those successes and failures. You always learn more from a failure. The human brain is always going to lean towards what's worked before. Human beings like success. Life's little victories are what we live for; are they not?
Sometimes you get so involved that you get too close to something. You start setting the bar for victory so high that you lose sight of the big picture. It's so easy to do this and I had to once back out of a venture that was setting itself up for failure by not stepping back and looking at the big picture. The problem is when people just keep trying the same thing over and over again. Some people become convinced that they're simply not putting enough hours into it, that the team isn't working hard enough. Unfortunately, human beings only have so much time and energy to give. Nothing is infinite.
How Could I Fail? You May Have Done Nothing Actually Wrong. But, There Was Something Missing...
There are so many times that we bang our heads against the wall thinking how could we have possibly failed when it worked before? It is incredibly likely that you didn't even do anything wrong. But you may have missed something. Yes, you can in fact do everything right and still fail because there's something you missed. in life there's always something new to learn. There's always a new channel to pursue. There's always a new niche that's opened up or about to open up. It's a matter of remaining vigilant. You need to stick to your guns. Use failure as a learning opportunity and a stepping stone, not a world-class bomb.
What made me realize this was stepping back from something that I had worked at for almost a full year. It was very difficult to finally back away. But the progress simply wasn't there and the effort was burning out. Now stepping back, I realize it wasn't that we weren't winning. We'd lost sight of the big picture. There simply was not the depth of field that was anticipated. Because of that, we were grasping at straws trying to make connections that didn't quite fit. We tried to shove not-so-round pegs into round holes.
Now I've been working on my own projects. I did have some setbacks with my website consistently crashing. There is so much uncertainty when you run into egregious site outages and your promotion efforts are wasted. I started simply losing my mind because what I had built up to become a 2000+ visitor a day site was now falling apart before my eyes. It has been my greatest success of my life. Now, I felt that my magnum opus was going to commit suicide before my eyes.
I started thinking what if it's not this and it's that? I started dreaming up worst case scenarios, that everything I had built simply couldn't stand. The nameservers my domain was hosted at were just really sucky, it seemed. Fixing it involved spending a bit more money that I didn't really have yet, as the site just began to actually start bringing in revenue. But that's the thing. Even with all it's problems, it did eventually provide just enough revenue to cover this new upgrade. As long as the site stayed live, it did manage to pay for itself. Sadly, it pretty much died after that. The site was cannibalized for future projects.
So what I realized is that I must simply use this as a learning experience. My site apparently did well enough that apparently something about the hosting wasn't enough to keep up with my growing audience. It couldn't handle the interest that the sheer amount of content that my brother and I were trying to deliver daily through our site. There was still the possibility that something in the installation of my Wordpress was messed up somewhere. I figured that it may involve rebuilding the entire site. Even though the site ended up being shut down, most of the content was integrated into another site. It was mildly inconvenient for our audience for about a week. But that content still gets views. It just doesn't earn like it once did anymore. The traffic has to be built back up.
Growing Pains are Just Reality
Any great success MUST have its growing pains. That's unfortunately just how it is. You have to struggle before you succeed 99 times out of a hundred. It's those struggles that you need to learn from and not let you crawl back into a hole. Content marketing is VERY hard. I have had countless failures where I wrote some pieces I thought were brilliant, but NO ONE ever read them.
I've learned a lot about promotion and that if you don't rise above the noise, you simply won't be heard. I have gotten far better at finding the niches that seem to get conveniently missed by others, and that's where my latest success has come from. That's what content is all about, finding your niche. Yes, occasionally you could have something go viral. But that is definitely an EXCEPTION, not a rule.
What I am saying is not anything new. Plenty of advice out there says you need to learn from every piece that you write. If it doesn't do well, there IS a reason. Just remember that you may have done nothing wrong. You simply may not have known what else you need to do to make it right. But winning isn't everything. Consistency is EVERYTHING. You need to stay on course and keep hacking away at something. Then, take time to reflect. Try and take away something positive from every misstep as well as every success.
This isn't just true in content marketing. It's true in life. I've discovered that in my own life that I became WAY too obsessed with winning. Even in my hobbies. In everything. I like to say I learned awhile ago to bask in life's little victories. At times I've been rarely satisfied with the little things. But you have to be. The little things are what matter. Even if a piece only reaches one or two people, one or both of those people could have their lives improved by it.
Consistency is everything. Winning is nice, and the more you do it obviously the better. I'm glad I've learned this lesson well through my recent failures and my one fair success. Now it's time to build off that past success to keep succeeding.
There have been several times in my life in which I didn’t write much of anything for weeks or even months at a time. Life can come and sweep you away to more urgent things. But for a writer, having to write is urgent even if you don’t really have time.
Recently, I was thinking about how to get jump-started after long absences from writing, on the web or otherwise. Here are a few things to help you get back into writing after a long absence.
Ease Back into Writing
The number one thing to do when you’re returning to anything after a long absence is to ease yourself back into it. There’s a good reason why it’s suggested to work part-time first when returning to the workforce after long periods of not working.
Laura Whitelaw at Selfgrowth.com offers the advice to write down what you hope to achieve when you resume working. That’s excellent advice. The best way to start writing again is often to just begin by writing about what you are hoping to write about. That can help jumpstart your brain and get it moving on a good track.
Focus on What You Know
If you’re writing for money, especially for the web, it’s good to focus on what topics you can write at the highest level and jot these down. Having vague topics and ideas is perfectly fine. Writing these down regularly is good for anyone, even people that don’t write for a living. You never know when you might use them.
Whitelaw also mentions updating your skills at a local community college. This is also particularly good advice for writers if it’s something that may work for you. Online workshops are also a good idea if you can afford them. There are free webinars and workshops all over the internet, too.
Study.com has some online writing courses that offer credit. But along with their own offerings, they have a list of 10 universities offering free online writing courses. Of course, you may not have time for all that. Just reading up on the topics that you want to write about is fine.
Refresh Your Online Presence
When you do get writing again, make sure any writers’ resume or “about me” sections you have online are up-to-date. Even if you’re not actively applying for any positions, you never know if someone may have interest in hiring you for your skills.
Donna Fuscaldo at Bankrate.com offers a couple of good tips when it comes to resume-writing after a long work absence. Her idea of a writing a functional resume, where you list your skills first, is an awesome idea for writers. Again, you never know who may need content in a given area.
Fuscaldo also mentions being upfront about everything you’ve been doing. Say you haven’t written much but have attended trade shows or other events related to your writing topics. It’s good to mention these. It’s also fine to say if you took a break from writing to attend to family matters. That simply happens, and helps explain long absences.
Also, every experience that you have is important to writing. Keeping anything that lists your experience when it comes to writing up to date is essential. Web writing resumes, in particular, need to be updated more often even more than traditional resumes, because of how fast the writing game can change.
What Else Have You Been Up To? What Have You Learned?
While it may not be absolutely necessary for writers so much, listing work outside of writing is not a bad idea, paid or not. Anything you’ve done that has given you practical experience that affects your writing is a good idea to mention, paid or not.
Looking credible is extremely valuable. It's become even more important in a writing world where the competition is continually growing ever fiercer. It also helps you in case someone just happens to be looking for someone to help them write about topics you’re an expert in. Backing up your expertise can only help you obtain potential work. It can also help you gain a better overall following.
Have you ever been away from writing for a long period and have found certain ways of getting yourself “back in the game?” Be sure to let us know!
Kids on summer vacation from school and you still have a job to do? A job that requires you to work while they are at home in your midst? It may seem scary and impossible. As a veteran homeschool teacher and work at home mom, I have learned a trick or two. You can maintain a work at home job when the kids are on summer vacation.
Keep busy items on hand. Working at home in the presence of the kids requires creativity on the parent's part. Of course you will need to play with the kids and give them attention. But there is no reason they shouldn't also have some playtime independent of you. In fact, it’s probably good for them. During those times, they can play with what I call busy items. This would be any item that the kids are very interested in and can play with for long periods of time. Craft supplies, puzzles, building blocks, crossword (and other pencil) books, and favorite stories are just some ideas. Whatever keeps your child busy will be ideal for this time. When it is your child's busy time, it's also your busy time with work.
Take family field trips and schedule activities. This may seem like a distraction to your work from home job. But if you don't take care of yourself and your family, you are not going to perform as well at work. Take time out for fun so that the kids know you care and so you can get in a break. When you can have fun days mixed in with the work days, it helps create balance, leaving you and the kids less frustrated during work time. You can also schedule activities for the kids, such as team sports, dance, and other things they may be into. Be sure to schedule both activities you can participate in with them, as well as those they do independently. Work harder at home when the kids are away and enjoy them when you can have fun together.
Schedule what you can around the noisiest times. You know what times the kids are most likely to be full energy. Try to schedule family fun into that slot and your work in another. Chances are that if you try to work through the noise, you'll get less done. You might as well save the work for later if you can. As I always say, 10 minutes of focused time is more valuable than an hour of chaos. Fit your work in where it makes sense, if your work at home job is at all flexible. Because I am a writer, I can write at any time. Sometimes I find myself writing during graveyard hours because it just didn't happen that day. If you have to, try changing your hours so that you are not working at all when the kids are home or awake.
Call in a mommy's helper. If all else fails, hire someone to help you out. My oldest child is a teenager, so she can do this when necessary. Just have someone around (perhaps an older child or a good friend) who can supervise the kids while you work. You can still be the main supervisor, as I am in my house. But the mommy's helper can help with things like keeping the kids busy, preparing lunch, cleaning up small messes, answering the phone, and more. Even though you are paying this person, when it's an older child, be careful not to work them too hard. You should still be the main supervisor. But having a mommy's helper can really take away a good amount of the stress and frustration so you can get your work done.
Just let it flow. This is probably my life saver tip. Sometimes it helps to just relax and let things go however they go. My work at home career is pretty flexible, as far as time. There are deadlines at times. However, I find that I get things done best when I don't over plan or over schedule. I just do the work when I can and let things flow. Sometimes I want to work when the kids want to have fun. If I don’t have a deadline, I don't worry about it. I just have fun with the kids, such as when we take our nature walks. I complete the work when we get back. There are times when work has to come first. But the kids should also know they matter. For me the key to keeping it all together is letting go of all the worry. My mind is freer, I get more work done, and my family is much happier.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Lyn Lomasi & Richard Rowell are life & business partners. Owners of Brand Shamans & the Write W.A.V.E. Media network, we are your brand healing, soul healing, & content superheroes to the rescue!
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