One of the hardest things about being creative in any way is putting yourself out there. Creating something, making it public, and then getting feedback in front of anyone and everyone on how well you’ve done can be terrifying.
For some people the self-doubt of being yourself in blogging can actually be crippling.
The best creative work though, whether it’s through paint, writing, film making, whatever, is always when you’ve put all of yourself into it. A blog post like 12 Things to Do in Havana, unless really well written with plenty of personal anecdotes will never let your reader get to know you as well as a post on how you split up with your boyfriend or how sad you were when your nan died.
See, which of those links would you rather click on?
When it comes to publishing more personal work, you don’t know how hard it is until you try. Usually, because you’re worried what people will think. Your dad, that girl who works in the same office, an old friend from school, a total stranger and that PR guy you hope to work with sometime are all reading the same post, and bringing their own values, morals and judgements to their understanding.
As a blogger you might be able to control what you put out, but you can never control how it’s received.
I find it scary and weird to think of people consuming my work, and, unless it’s Snapchat (which lists your viewers names), you never really know who is.
I was at a travel blogger conference recently and one speaker said she would never work with bloggers who drink on Snapchat. This struck a chord with me as I did / do, and I knew that ‘some’ people wouldn’t appreciate it but my justification was that Snapchat was meant to be real life. And drinking was and is a part of my real life and most people my age.
I was totally paranoid she was talking about me, and promised myself I’d never drink again. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I wouldn’t actually want to work with her anyway. Someone who could judge you for that wouldn’t be a good match for me. And so that night, after I’d got over the massive paranoia, I joined my blogger friends in partying the night away no doubt with someone recording it on Snapchat.
It depends what kind of blogger you are but this blog is my livelihood so I do need to think about brand partnerships in some way. I work with brands I like, use and try not to be too salesy about it, just to introduce you guys. If the work from here dries up it’s back to an office I go – but it’s the right brands that I want. Ones that want to work with me, not my numbers.
Blogging for your reader
As a blogger you’re writing or producing for your reader, so muting yourself or censoring seems pretty pointless no matter how much you want to work with brands. If being yourself in blogging means sex, drugs, or drink, not as many brands will want to work with you, obviously. But that’s your thing, that’s you. That’s what the readers keep coming back for, which is ultimately why you’re on a PR person’s radar in the first place.
You shouldn’t mute who you are.
I was billed to go on a press trip once with an awesome vlogger who’s kind of a big deal. About a week before we were due to go, the destination decided they didn’t want her because she has a lot of sex related stuff on her YouTube channel. It’s not raunchy, porn, nudity, any of that jazz, it’s all positive stuff created to make girls feel better about themselves and to give them some body and sex confidence.
She hasn’t stopped doing what she’s doing and has around 500k subscribers who love her work. She’s one of the UK’s biggest vloggers and the tourist board missed out, but she just wasn’t the right fit. It doesn’t mean she has to change.
Create your own narrative
Blogging is a way to create your own narrative. To say what you want to say and be who you want to be without anyone else editing you or dictating. The freedom of voice and choice is one of the greatest things about blogging, and why there’s no doubt in the fact that people are moving away from traditional media.
But, you can’t control the way that people receive your narrative, or how people identify you.
I’ve met quite a few travel bloggers now who seem nothing like how they appear on their blog, either in looks or personality. Did they set out to deceive? Probably not but I’ve built up an image of them in my head, sometimes even putting them on some sort of pedestal which is never a good idea.
You can only ever know a small part of someone you read or watch online. Even your best friend is only showing you a small part of who they are and it’s up to you to connect the dots to make up the rest of who you perceive this person to be.
In my high school year book at 16ish, my ambition is listed as ‘going on Big Brother’. My only defence is that that was when it was an interesting social experiment, back in 2001/2 and the days of Helen and Paul, not the fame hungry sex show it’s turned into today. I think it must’ve been the next year that I went off the idea, when I realised that with a 24 hour day per person, condensed into what, about 5 minutes of air time? The producers could tell any story they wanted about you. That’s terrifying.
But that’s what blogging and vlogging does too. Your readers go on what they can see you put out, which you may carefully measure depending on how worried you are about these things but even then, if they don’t see everything you put out, they won’t receive the carefully crafted version of you you’re trying to drip feed.
Which is why you just need to let it go, be yourself and have fun.
People probably won’t like you
The fear that people won’t like you, is a horrible one. You’re a real person living your life and expressing yourself online and then people who don’t know you come along and judge you for your life choices, it’s not a nice feeling. They don’t know you. THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’VE BEEN THROUGH.
My degree is in Communication Studies and Journalism. We had a lecture once on the importance of pigeon holing and that as humans we need to organise the people we come across in some way, to categorise them in order to cope with the amount and their complexities. How horrific does that sound?
That’s why first impressions, having yeses or nos, massive turn offs, or turn ons, are all devices to decide instantly who’s worth further investigation so you don’t actually have to spend too much time working it out.
Think of the Spice Girls, they were named by a magazine journalist to make distinguishing them apart easier and that was that. However hard she could try Scary could never be Posh and Sporty could no way be Baby. Their future was set, with all the associations that go with it. Their control over how people saw them had gone.
Same with blogging, people will interpret you how you want and if you try to worry about it, or change it, you’ll go mad.
Sometimes people won’t like you. Sometimes they won’t like you based on who they assume you to be, not even as they know you. Just one written or spoken thought they don’t agree with can throw them off. But you can’t worry about them. As long as you’re happy with your output, with what you’ve decided to create, you can be confident.
There’s always someone waiting to knock you down, to judge you and damage your confidence but if you stay mentally strong and believe in yourself you don’t need to let the negativity in.
You can’t please everyone
And if you do try, chances are you’re not pleasing anyone. To have an opinion, a belief or to be fun, is way more interesting. I mean, who’d seriously choose vanilla when you could go Pistachio (or nutella? Or strachiatella?)?
Fake it and as you meet people – either brands, clients or even other bloggers – you’ll get found out.
If people don’t want to work with you, because of reasons you’ve deemed important enough to feature on your work, then you shouldn’t work with them anyway. If anyone makes you feel bad for who you are, when who you are isn’t hurting anyone, then you shouldn’t want to be around that person for a minute longer.
I know ‘working with brands’ is a popular topic for travel bloggers. They’re usually the fullest talks at conferences, but if it damages your integrity too much and makes you feel bad because you’re not aligned then what’s the point?
The only way you’re going to be happy with any kind of rise to the top is to be yourself and be proud of yourself for it.
Your blog is you, it’s your chance to be yourself. And as I talked about before, to be a successful blogger you need to work out what success means to you. For me, it’s freedom. So to be racked with paranoia about what people / brands will think if I have a drink with my friends and record it on Snapchat is a step back to working in an office and having my days planned out for me hour by hour.
2 extreme fake blogger stories
1. Josi Denise
Josi Denise was a ‘popular’ mummy blogger who had enough. She finally mic dropped with this tell all post entitled Dear Mummy Blogger.
[Her website has since been deleted, but you can read the news story here]
It’s a fascinating read. She comments that a post she wrote, a raw heartfelt one to her husband for not paying child support, went viral, and no sponsored post would ever achieve that. And that’s what I’m saying, she was herself in that, but lost herself in all the sponsored stuff. Partnering up with anyone and everyone, and moderating and censoring what she wanted to say to please brands. Which, by the sounds of it, made her hate blogging.
“What’s the point of having your own space to write if you’re being paid to sound like you work for a corporation?”
– Josi Denise from josidenise.com
2. Belle Gibson
Belle Gibson built a huge empire on the illusion that she’d beaten her brain cancer with a diet of vegetables and healthy eating. A 20-something single mother she created apps, books, recipes and even raised money for charities (which was never delivered) from sufferers and lovers of cancer sufferers all eager to find out exactly how she’d done it and how they too could cure themselves.
How had this blogger succeeded to treat her brain cancer when thousands of scientists are still working on it?
Truth: she lied about it all.
And of course, she was busted, revealed as a disgrace but most disturbingly had given false hope to thousands suffering who believed her.
Fascinating article on Munchausen by Internet: the sickness of bloggers who fake it online.
Extreme examples I know, but still, shows what can happen when you’re not yourself in blogging.
It’s too hard to keep up a pretence in anything you do. So don’t.
Getting to know you
The whole point of blogging is to let people get to know you and to lay it all on the line, surely?
In the survey I did a few months ago, my readers told me that I was genuine and authentic and fun. Amazing, exactly the blog I was going for.
I like things to be real. I want to see real life not polished. That’s why Vimeo isn’t as popular as YouTube. It’s why people follow daily vlogs on YouTube and why viewers feel like they know reality show stars, rather than those from the big films. Fun, real, authentic, relatable lives are much more interesting than the polished ones.
Be as open as you’re comfortable with on your blog but know that unfortunately this does open you up to judgment. For everyone who thinks you’re an idiot though, you’ll have others who think you’re fun. For everyone who thinks you’re weird, others will think you’re just like them. You need to brush off judgement, including how you judge yourself, and just focus on being the best version of you.
Being yourself is the best way to get the loyal readers and friends who will support your work and allow and encourage you to reach your travel blogging goals.