What 4.5 Years and 1 Million Views of Blogging Have Taught Me

About four and a half years ago, I asked my then agent what I could do to better my odds of success as an author, other than writing and writing some more. Among his chief suggestions? Start a blog.

Write for free in the spare time I don’t exactly have? It sounded like dreadful homework, but like many writers, I was eager to do whatever it took to move forward. That “whatever” turned out to be one of the most important professional decisions I’ve made.

Over the weekend, my blog reached 1 million views. While numbers are by far not the most important thing and all relative, this felt pretty awesome—especially considering I recall very well a time I nearly pleaded people to check it out. (Uh, that’s not a suggestion.)

PLEASE? I'll do anything!

PLEASE? I’ll do anything!

Some writers might hear “a million views” and think, “Yeah, but it was all for FREE!” Heck, if if I’d received a penny for every hit, I’d be $10,000 richer. But I can assure you, I’ve received much more than that.

Blogging has helped me build a readership before my first book even released, introduced me to wonderful friends and given me a platform to share and connect with others in ways I hadn’t imagined possible. It’s led to speaking and writing gigs, including my highest paying magazine assignment, some groovy awards and, three years ago, facilitated the launch of Girl Boner®—which led to Girl Boner® Radio. It continues to fill the emotional gaps between writing for others, this writing that is fully mine—no rules or hard deadlines, no editor’s sharp eye or endless rewrites—only me, my soul and my fingers, typing to my heart’s desire, very often letting whatever’s on my mind spill out on the page. In that vulnerability lies strength and even healing.

Blogging isn’t for everyone, but if you’re the least bit curious about what it might bring or allow for you, I highly recommend giving it a try. If you do, or if you’re currently blogging and it does feel like annoying homework, here are some of my favorite strategies:

Write what you’re compelled to write, no matter how seemingly “big” or “small.” When I speak about blogging, I’m nearly always asked what one should write about. The answer is, whatever you wish. Your content doesn’t have to tie in to a particular theme or product. (Yes, Girl Boner® is my brand now, but you’ll also find me reminiscing about whatever and writing about my dog.) It simply has to matter to you.

Be consistent, but not rigid, schedule-wise. When I first started blogging, I’d read that three posts per week is ideal. Holy way-too-much-for-me. I tried it, then quickly realized that I needed to make time for stuff like sleep. If super frequent posting works for you, great! I find that about once per week suits me. Find a rhythm that works for you, and if you need a break, take it.

Set aside fear of what others might think. Yes, it’s important to consider your audience and loved ones when blogging, but there’s a huge difference between consideration and fear. Don’t let fear of others’ judgment hold you back; that’s stifling in all life areas.

Prioritize authenticity, not popularity. When I started Girl Boner®, a few told me I’d definitely gain readers, because “sex sells!” Everyone wants to read about sex, right? Yes and no. There are gazillions of sex blogs and articles, so joining that genre was a bit like becoming a drop in an ocean, versus a kiddie pool. My most popular posts aren’t my most explicit or seemingly “marketable” posts. They’re the ones I feel most compelled to write.

And remember, building takes time. Here’s how my blog’s growth looks visually:

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Don’t over-strategize. Hey, isn’t this a list of strategies? Yup. But I’m talking about not becoming an over-strategizing-numbers-likes-shares/trendy-topic-obsessed monster. My favorite people to read and follow online are those who are *gasp* human. They share to share or because they feel (that word again!) compelled to, not for a particular reaction. That authenticity shows in their writing, their brands and their worlds. And you know what? They’re going far. Gentle strategies here and there, groovy. Fixating on acclaim, not fun or helpful.

Lastly, dive into the community. Seek and explore other blogs. Follow, comment on and share those you dig. Mix and mingle with Kristen Lamb’s brainchild, the #MyWANA community. Check out BlogHer—the best conference on anything I’ve been to, and much more. Spend even 10 minutes a day scoping things out through WordPress, Twitter or Facebook. Chances are, you’ll find your tribe. That is the beginning of awesome.

What has blogging taught you? If you’re thinking of starting, what’s holding you back? Any questions you’d love thoughts on? I love hearing from you all—and am so grateful for the time you’ve taken to read any of my work. It means so much. ♥

The Worst Advice I’ve Ever Received

This week marks the start of my relationship advice column for The Good Men Project. I can’t tell you all how stoked I am for the opportunity. If you’re new to GMP, a diverse community of thought leaders who explore men’s evolving roles in modern times, I hope you’ll check them out. To read my first weekly segment, answering a question on finding bliss and “the one,” visit this link.

To celebrate, I thought I’d share some of the worst advice I’ve ever received. Most has been well-intended, some I had the wherewithal to ignore and some came from the person closest to me: myself.

authenticity quote

1. Darken your eyebrows.

When I was a teen and first entering the modeling world, I took advice from all industry pros to heart. Much of it was good (don’t pay anyone to model, don’t sign anything your agent hasn’t read and approved), darkening my eyebrows with brownish pencil made me look like I had furry worms crawling on my forehead.

Lesson learned: Don’t wear makeup 50+ shades darker than your face, and anything that makes you look like a creepy-crawler magnet. Aim to look like you.

2. Die your hair platinum blonde.

See explanation #1. When a stylist remarked, “You’d make a great platinum blonde,” I raced off to a salon and left two hours later with Barbie-esque hair. For about two weeks I loved it, relishing the attention. (People stare at you when your head glows.) But then roots appeared, making my naturally light hair appear dishwater-brown by comparison. Meanwhile, I felt like a faker. The frantic upkeep made me and my bank account crazy.

Lesson learned: Don’t color your hair vastly different colors than your natural shade, unless want to rock hot pink or rainbow stripes.

3. Don’t break up with a guy until after Valentine’s Day (or other holidays).

Strategic, right? *quivers* I gave this to myself and took it, multiple times, in my early twenties. Not keen on hurting a guy I planned to break up with more than necessary, I also wanted to make sure I had a date for those holidays. *moment of silence to commemorate personal growth* (If any of you guys are reading this, I’m so so sorry.)

Lesson learned: Staying in a wrong-for-you relationship is lonely, especially on holidays. Pretending you’re invested in a relationship hurts everyone.

4. Create fake identities to have conversations with yourself on others’ blog.

Eek! I’m so glad I didn’t take this. An acquaintance/internet genius suggested I do this when only my parents and 1.5 strangers read my blog. In doing so, he claimed, I’d intrigue people into clicking my (actual) name and visiting my blog.

Lesson learned: Being an industry professional doesn’t make someone an expert on you or your work. Also? Authenticity is everything.

5. Don’t quit.

I’ve heard this many times from well-intended folks—including when I’d decided to leave my first marriage, to trade financial stability in Miami for countless unknowns in LA, and to stop working on a novel to focus on non-fiction. In all of these cases, my instincts told me to leap. With one minor delay (clinging on to the novel for a bit), I did so. These leaps were some of my most empowering and important.

Lesson learned: There’s a big difference between giving up and moving forward. Staying in a relationship or venture because it seems safest or right to others can mean saying NO to our dreams—including those we haven’t yet conjured.

*****

I now realize this list could’ve gone on and on, as could the list of awesome advice I’ve received. For now, I’ll leave you with these five and open the floor to you. What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received? Did you take it? Do you relate to any of mine? I love hearing from you! ♥

Is it Time to Change Your Blog?

What the heck should I write about? What if no one reads my posts? What if EVERYONE does? What if HE does? Or SHE does?

Many bloggers obsess over ponder these questions early on. Then little-by-little we mature, from little baby blog-o-nitas to blog-alescents until finally, we reach hot blog mama-and-papa adulthood—perfect post, after perfect post. They flow from us like soap bubbles through a blower, impressing every reader equally and never ever causing a lick of stress.

*Falls over laughing* Yes, we gain confidence and skills. But even then, blogging involves continual growth. While that’s a great thing, it can bring growing pains. We may realize we’re posting too frequently or seldom, that our graphics or theme needs work or that we’ve grown complacent, too wordy or sloppy. Blogs grow along with us. It only makes sense that they’d change as we do.

Sometimes the greener grass we seek is right beneath our feet.

I’ve experienced a bit of my own blog-angst recently over a couple of secrets I’ve been keeping from you all. Sorry! Not my preference, trust me. Normally, I write whatever I’m compelled to. But for reasons I shan’t fully disclose (involving technicalities and even legalities), a couple of sizzling-hot tid bits (sizzling to me, anyway) have been growing into untamable flames inside me, making me want to burst on a daily, sometimes more frequent, basis.

So, spill ’em already! I hear some of you saying. Not yet. 😉 I can set the stage, however, by announcing some blog changes I’ll be making pronto:

A new blog schedule. (Did I just use the s-word? Yipes!) Until now, I’ve posted twice most every week, on whatever days I choose. From now on, I’ll aim to post every Monday and Thursday. Guessing many of you haven’t noticed my variance anyway.

Thematic post days: On Mondays, I’ll focus on sexuality, sexual empowerment for women and related topics, such as romance and sexual health. In honor of #ThrillerThursday (a fabulous weekly Twitter event), and my main fiction work, I’ll post on whatever thrills me at the time on Thursdays. This could include writing, books, authors, movies, animals, food, psychology, music—the list goes on, and on… I didn’t mention Mondays’ theme-name, now did I? NOPE! T.B.A. 😉

Perhaps now you can see why the schedule is important. Sex and all-(other ;))-things-thrilling are vastly different channels. If you’re not into sex-related topics, you can skip over my Monday posts. If you LOVE reading about sexuality, or simply want to join in upbeat, sex-related, empowering, sometimes silly discussion, you might opt to read my blog only on Mondays. Totally up to you, as always. I think this shift will make things easier for all of us.

Making these decisions got me thinking about blog changes in general. We all make tweaks along the way. The following have helped guide my ways.

Signs Your Blog or Blog Habits Need Changing:

1. It takes away from other writing. When I started blogging, I posted three times per week. To keep this up, and work on articles, my novel and semi-keep up with housework and other basics, like showering (well, practically), I quickly learned that two posts worked better. To keep my novel work a high priority, I blog after, and occasionally as a warmup or break.

2. You aren’t in love with your topics. Perhaps love is a strong word, but if we aren’t excited or at least interested in a topic, our posts will probably fall flat. As many of you know, authenticity rules in social media. Don’t fake it. Change it.

3. Your gut says CHANGE. This holds true for all writing, in my opinion. If the little voice in the back of your head says, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” and the thought makes your heart beat a little faster, the voice is probably right. Nervousness and self-doubt may try to mute that voice. Don’t let it.

4. It feels like trivial homework. Blogging should be fun. Many of us blog as part of an author platform, but that doesn’t mean we should dread or drag ourselves through the experience. Even informative posts should be pleasurable to read and write. And I bet I’m speaking for many when I say I’d rather read a post someone had a blast writing than a “perfect” one.

5. You’re unfulfilled. Fulfillment derives from all sorts of stimuli. Posts and topics we care about and interaction with fellow bloggers and readers can be hugely gratifying. If you’re low on the interaction spectrum, make efforts interact more. This post by Kristen Lamb, on improving your “Likability Quotient,” is chock-full of helpful insight. If your posts aren’t gratifying, see #s 1 through 4.

Making changes, and committing to them, can be scary. What if our new content doesn’t jive well with readers? Or topics that seem cool in our heads come out wonky? What if a schedule we set for ourselves seems impossible to maintain? The answer, I’ve decided, is who cares? It’ll all work out somehow, and it’s far better to take the risk—especially if your gut says DO. Transitions may go smooth-as-PB or as clumpy freezer burnt ice cream. Fortunately, the latter—like most obstacles—is fixable. (We can always buy new ice cream. ;))

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you changed your blog? Are you considering changes? I always love gabbing with you.