Power of Words

What Happens When You Go Viral: On Wanting to Give Up

I recently found out that the hit count on my Relevant article back in June was over 1.6 million. The editor told me it was the second-biggest traffic day in the history of their website. That’s mind-boggling to me.

If you had asked me a year ago what I thought it would mean to have a piece get that much exposure, I would have assumed it would be my big break. That it would boost my blog, lead to freelance opportunities, help connect me to the right people. That it would be my open door into the world of professional writing and publishing. That it would bring me validation and satisfaction. It would reassure me that what I’m doing here isn’t pointless and that my story matters.

Do you want to know the truth?

It hasn’t done any of those things. For a few weeks I received a lot of emails and messages from people thanking me for my story. I got to write a few guest posts on the topic. But no one has offered me a job and I haven’t landed an agent. 1.6 million people read something I wrote and my blog still has fewer than 200 followers. (If that’s not discouraging, I don’t know what is). And as much as I would love to say I don’t care about any of that, in the world of professional writing ( by which I mean writing in some capacity that pays the bills) numbers are what matter. How many subscribers do you have? How many followers on Twitter?

All I’ve ever really wanted to do since I was in kindergarten is to be a writer. I’ve tried other things and I’ve cultivated other interests, but writing is the only thing that has consistently excited me. I’m under no illusions that I could make a career out of blogging, but I would love to have enough paid work as a writer to support my family while doing something I love. And, like most writers, I would love to write a book someday. But these past few months I’ve become more and more convinced that I am not cut out for what “being a writer” means today.

Being a successful writer is no longer about craft or talent or art. It’s not about having the deepest insights or the most profound observations to share. It’s often simply about who can shout the loudest. Like high school student council elections, success in the blogosphere is a popularity contest. It’s about who is the most provocative, who is the most visible on social media, who is the most aggressively self-promoting.

I admit that I’ve dipped my toe into that pool. This summer I (very reluctantly) got a Twitter account. I hate it. I almost deleted it within 30 minutes of registering. I’ve tried to network with other bloggers, to write and invite guest posts, to comment other places, to submit pieces to other publications. But pursuing self-promotion doesn’t feel right to me. Reading someone else’s posts and looking for ways to insert myself and my work into the comments goes against some of my core values of sincerity and authenticity. These are things I’m not willing to compromise on.

In my last “What I’m Into” post I confessed that I’d been reading like a chain-smoker, using other people’s words to try to hide from own. I’ve read a few posts about this struggle lately (here and here ). Honestly, I was a little shocked and disheartened. One of my friends is working on a book and has landed a really great agent. One has a completed manuscript she’s starting to send around. I look at them and think, “If only I had an agent…” or “If only I had a finished manuscript…” Perhaps they look at me and think, “If only I had a million-view article…” And yet, we seem to have hit a collective wall. We are all struggling to feel that what we are doing matters.

I confess that I frequently get angry with popular and successful writers whose blogs I find poorly written and uninspiring. I don’t believe in quantity over quality – in pushing points that don’t need to be made just to generate content. There are a million voices out there and there are many moments when I don’t think the world really needs mine. If all I’m doing is adding to the noise then I’d rather be silent.

I want my writing to be about creating something beautiful—about art and passion and sincere wrestling with (sometimes fragile) faith. I want it to be about telling truths and naming every day grace. I want it to matter.

I’ve been rolling a book idea around in my head for at least eight months. There are some stories I want to tell, but I am afraid. This stage I’m in as a writer is one where I carve off a chunk of my heart and fling it out into the world and watch it disappear into the distance without even the consolation of hearing an echo back to let me know I hit something.

I am afraid of failing, yes, but here is an uglier truth. I am also afraid of hard work. Or rather, I am afraid of hard work that goes unrecognized and unappreciated. I am afraid of 1.6 million people who say, “Your words don’t matter.”

I want to give up.

And yet, I can’t quite do it. I can’t completely walk away. Because this space has changed me. In some ways it is healing me. I’ve made friends here. I’ve found a tiny community of artists who are fighting to say something true. These people inspire me. And I’ve experienced moments of extraordinary grace from readers, some whom I’ve never even met in real life, who have sent encouraging emails and have shared their own stories, who have sent me articles and books that are dear to them, and even one who bought the most beautiful cook book I’ve ever seen and mailed it all the way to Korea.

Jim Carrey once said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

I’ve never been rich or famous, but I can tell you that as a writer, having an article go viral is not the answer. And it seems that having an agent or finishing a manuscript is not the answer. Satisfaction and conviction that this work is good and that it is worth doing has to come from somewhere else.

I don’t know what the next few months will look like here on the blog, but I’m committed to trying to figure this out. Should I write? Should I not write? What should I write? And why? And for whom?  Hopefully I will find a way forward–a way to be able to do what I love without compromising the kind of person I want to be.

___________

****EDIT: I just wanted to add a  note letting you all know how much I appreciate all of the kind and supportive comments I’ve been receiving on this post and for all of the new followers. I am really overwhelmed by your generosity and support. Online interactions can sometimes be so negative and all of your kind words have really touched me. I may not be able to respond to each and every comment, but please know that I’ve read every word and I appreciate them. I know I’ll come back to them in moments of discouragement. I’ll be checking out a lot of your blogs over the weekend. There’s a phrase we use in Korea that means “Don’t give up! You can do it!” It more or less translates to “Fighting!” in English.  So to all of my fellow writers, artists, and creators, “Fighting!”

Image source: Wikipedia.org

 

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955 comments

  1. Reblogged this on HarsH ReaLiTy and commented:
    I think there are two different ways to gain “attention.” The “new” way is that you can actually bring the attention towards yourself through interaction, follower gaining techniques, and social media platform mirroring that will in essence “cause you to go viral.” The other way is to get seen or found and your article takes off. I get your frustration and much of that is why I decided to push my blog myself by becoming a powerblogger. I didn’t want to feel that “cliff feeling” of reaching an endpoint with how my materiel is seen. I reached 1 million views on my blog this past weekend and it took me 23 months to do it. I am happy about that, even though as you said no job offers came or companies hounding me to join them, because those views were all me. I have never gone viral, never been Freshly Pressed, and never had any handout or help with gaining views. I simply worked my butt off for each one.

    I suppose this is all to say that you shouldn’t be discouraged, but instead use what victories you have gained to motivate you on. Hopefully the rewards you seek will be around the corner. -OM
    Note: Comments disabled here, please visit their post.

    Liked by 34 people

    1. Wow, congratulations on reaching one million views. That’s a tremendous accomplishment. I’m inspired by your attitude towards setting goals and working steadily towards them. Thanks for the encouragement and thanks so much for the re-blog. I hope you continue to enjoy the rewards of your hard work!

      Liked by 5 people

  2. I was just having this exact conversation with my dad earlier today. He said, “Why don’t you write a book and make some money?” I said, “I can barely get people to read my blog, how am I going to get them to read an entire book?!” It seems these days that writing, and art in general, is 10% about the creating and 90% about the marketing. And I also struggle with this. Why can’t I just create words that I know are inspiring and beautiful and that I know people will enjoy, and have that be enough? I wish I had an answer or suggestion for you, but I’m in the same boat. All I can say is try not to lose sight of your passion. Write for the sake of writing, not for views and stats. Those people writing list posts and making a buck off of their million views aren’t creating anything meaningful, and it’s short sighted. Hopefully it will all come together someday. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway. 🙂

    Liked by 26 people

    1. Sigh. Exactly. Close friends and family have suggested writing a book for years and I’m just like, You guys don’t get that writing a book is about SO MUCH MORE than writing it. It’s about selling it too. I agree that while I get jealous of the people who are making it writing stupid, cliche things, I don’t believe they are contributing something lasting and meaningful and when I can get myself to remember that I can admit that that’s not what I want anyway. For the record, I think you’re a great writer and I am always entertained and/or inspired by your blog. 화이팅!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love it. I thought I was the only one that family and friends keep saying, “write a book, you’d be great at it.” while I am thinking, No, you don’t understand how personal it is and gut wrenching all at the same time, Yes, I was published once, and yet I didn’t want anyone to read it for the fear of being judged. I almost didn’t tell anyone about it. Writing is such a personal escape for me, yet I can’t stop “putting it out there.” Glad to know I am not the only one who can relate to this yen/yang feeling of writing. It’s a curse and a love all rolled up in one. Much Love.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It really is a curse and a love. And when you write things publicly people feel like they have free license to say whatever they want about it and about you instead of respecting that you are a real person with real feelings who has chosen to be vulnerable with them and that they should honor that even if they don’t agree with everything.

        Like

  3. “Should I write? Should I not write? What should I write? And why? And for whom?”

    Write what you want in all honesty and fairness because you love it and you do it for your own happiness (if it makes others happy, that’s going to be your bonus).

    Liked by 19 people

  4. Thoughtful and sincere. I think it a remarkable achievement to get over a million and a half views on one piece of writing (I punched the air and did a little jig when I got 2500 views on my whole blog the other day).

    I too sometimes think that I’m too scared of negative feedback (or worse, indifference) to write, always trying to second guess my audience to make sure it’s the sort of thing people want to read.

    I think now I should just say ‘sod it’ and get stuff down. I might not make it but at least I can say I tried on my terms.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Haha. I totally understand. The first time I had like 100 views on something I was convinced I’d hit the big-leagues. 😉 I also think it’s important to try on your terms as you say. Because what happens if you put all this effort into writing what you think your audience wants to read and then it bombs. Not only did it fail, but you’ve spent all this time and energy working on something you’re not even proud of! Or, it’s successful, but you’re sort of embarrassed of it because it doesnt’ feel authentic. I think that would suck even more than creating things you are truly proud of and not getting the recognition you want.

      Thanks for your encouragement and blessings on your writing!

      Liked by 4 people

  5. Lily, you rock. And you should keep writing. But you really have to write for you. i would be a hypocrite to say don’t look at the numbers, although it helps [did ‘No stats November’ last year and it changed my attitude towards my blog quite a little bit!].

    i started a second blog while i was in Americaland that was aimed at people pleasing [let’s be honest] – so set types of posts on set days [mon=humou, tues=relationship, wed=whatever] so that if people were interested in a specific thing they only had to check that day etc… got to a point maybe 8 months later when i realised i was so pressured into writing specific types of blogs that the pieces i actually wanted to write were not happening. so canned the whole blog ad just decided to only write what i wanted to write. my blog is a lot more eclectic than most peoples i think who have some kind of theme or angle but as you know i’m all over the place which i’m sure doesn’t work for a lot of people, but it works for me and i’m okay with that – and now that i’ve started to give it some attention it is starting to grow – while i totally hear you on the shameless promotion on the one hand, i have more of a Paul’s ‘all things to all people in order to win some’ approach and so i do alot of self-promotion but only in places where i think i am adding to the reader – so i will link some amazing relationship pieces that you and others have written to a viral relationship piece i find online and maybe grab 50 to 200 new views and stuff like that – so find what is comfortable for you [and if that’s nothing, that’s cool too] and stick with that.

    but you really have to be writing for you first, or you and God – whatever you feel is the right thing to write and you can’t be swayed by people – one of the big time bloggers i used to really respect is now churning out what feels like self-help kind of crap and i literally haven’t been to their blog for months now cos it’s not the edgy challenging risky stuff i was initially attracted to – so find some people doing the same hearted stuff as you and keep on guest posting and series planning and writing what is real to you and know that the people it is important for will show up [maybe not in their 1.6 millions though so you need to get happy with that]

    take that from one of the jealous she-got-a-vira-post-and–i-cant-even-get-a-reply-from-Relevant people… you’re doing great… and if you have the book in you, start writing – mine has been a 15 or so year journey through book titles and finally this December [i hope] it will be heading to self-publication [and yes, looking wistfully at all my friends with publishers etc] but just going to do it and see what happens, and then maybe do another.

    keep on, until you really believe you should not, but take a month or two to purely write the top things you want to without looking at any stats and see how you feel afterwards…

    love brett fish, a fan

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Thanks, Brett. I guess I’ve felt like up to this point in my “writing career” I have mostly been writing for me, but it doesn’t seem to be “working” on a big-picture level. I’ve been working on this book proposal for a while and every time I get to the part that asks me about my qualifications I just have to quit. Because I’ve got nothing. I can’t slap down some fancy set of stats that prove that what I have to say is worth listening to. Maybe what I have to do is trust that God can open doors in unconventional ways and present the stats as they are without worrying about whether they’re good enough. Thanks, as always, for your continual encouragement. You’re one of the good ones! 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thankx Lily, i was pretty sure i was one of the dodgy ones you were mentioning. Just keep in mind that God’s kingdom often looks different to what the worldly one looks like and the worldly one is definitely all about numbers and influence and reach – maybe book 1 needs to be self-published [which is the route i am going] and maybe it grows from there – and maybe it does grow slowly or even not at all – and maybe that’s okay too… you are influencing a specific number of people right now so continue to influence them well as you figure out what is next…

        Keep on
        love brett fish

        Liked by 4 people

  6. Very thought provoking. You took all of my feelings and put them into words. Never compromise who you are for success. In the long run, you’ll regret it. You seem very genuine and sincere. To me, those are the best kind of people. Yes, I know what you mean about having that bit of income to support the family while doing something that you love, but try to think of all the people that love your writing for what it is now. That’s what’s important. Not how many views or “likes”, but rather how many people you are reaching out to and inspiring while you’re doing what you love.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the advice and the encouragement. I think you’re right, if I change myself to make myself more marketable then I won’t feel satisfied anyway because I won’t be doing what I really care about. The difficult part comes when you try to pitch to a publisher or editor or apply for a job managing a company’s blog and they want to know what your credentials are. It matters more in those situations that you have good stats than it does that you’re really talented. But it’s true that it ultimately matters more to me that my words really mean something, even if it’s for a smaller audience.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Lily. I’m a teacher, and this is only my second year. While I can say that having good references did help me get into the teaching position I currently hold, I believe there was more at play than just that. For one, I believe that a passion for what you do can open up opportunities where you will be more desired than those with lots of experience. Second, we can always compare ourselves to the greater writers out there, but they all started somewhere, right? Third, I had faith that God went before me and helped to orchestrate scenarios and opportunities that eventually all met together one day when I heard those words, “You’re hired.” So while I can agree with you that credentials can matter, that isn’t always the case. If you can’t stand out on credentials right now, stand out in your passion and persistence.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Trey. I really appreciate the encouragement. I think the hardest part of the numbers/statistics game is that even if I don’t find my satisfaction in the numbers, that’s still what publishers and editors care about. When you pitch an idea to a magazine or publisher they want to know what you’ve done in the past and what kind of platform you have. They want you to come to them with an audience already created so all they have to do is build on that. And those are the moments when I spiral into thinking I can’t do both – be happy with myself and what I’ve created AND be marketable. So I’m working on being happy with myself and my work without caring about whether or not it’s “marketable.”

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I found myself saying “Yes, YES, YESSS!” to each of your statements. It doesn’t matter how much “skill” or talent someone has anymore, which makes me sad and frustrated as a writer. Thank you for your honesty. I’ve had dreams of going viral because I thought it would bring big results, like a book deal. I’m now rethinking my “dreams.”

    By the way, what you said about Twitter…made me laugh. I just recently opened an account and I LOATHE it. I feel like I’m pimping myself out with the “self promotion,” if that makes any sense. I’m just not built that way. Kudos to you for going viral. That’s a HUGE feat.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. You know the other thing about “going viral”? The attention I did get was all focused on this one topic I wrote that article on. It was literally the one and only time I had written about that topic. I had no intention of that being my “thing” but the few people who did contact me and ask me to contribute other places only wanted to hear more on the same topic. It was very limiting.

      And yes to Twitter making you feel like you’re pimping yourself out. 120 characters of snark is not my style. And tweeting at more popular people makes me feel like I’m groveling at the feet of some internet monarch hoping they’ll notice me. It’s embarrassing. I just keep thinking there has to be another way!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for the encouragement.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. “And tweeting at more popular people makes me feel like I’m groveling at the feet of some internet monarch hoping they’ll notice me. It’s embarrassing. I just keep thinking there has to be another way!”
        ^ This.

        I hear ya. I decided Twitter is like a stadium full of American idol “tryout” contestants: it doesn’t matter if you’ve got talent, it’s about who can scream the loudest and most often.

        I’m finding the blogging world much the same.

        So it’s part of my “10 year plan” now. I figure a decade of hard work ought to get me somewhere. And if not, at least my kids would have something interesting to read at my funeral if I die young.

        In the meantime, I will still dream that Readers Digest sends me a check each month for witty articles I write whenever I feel like it. A girl can dream.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Haha. Let me know how that works out for you. 🙂 In reality though I think the hard thing to balance is how much you pursue “success” in writing, the way you would with any other profession, and how much you just stick to what you’re doing and hope for the best. I’m not going to change what I write or be obnoxious on social media or needlessly provocative to try to win followers, but maybe I should be working harder to submit writing to other websites and publications and that kind of thing. It’s hard for me to know sometimes when I should push “forward” and when I should just keep doing what I’m doing and being content with where I am.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I think that more people feel like this. Not just writers (but definitely them), but also artists, crafters, small business owners…etc. I’m in the boat of: I-want-to-create-something-original-but-everyone-else-is-too-so-where-do-I-fit-in? And, if there’s millions of us (fairly younger generation) attempting to all create something with our passion AND make a living from it… sheesh. That’s a lot of pressure to put on ourselves. I have no idea what the answer is, but I hope we both find it soon so we don’t have to work boring jobs to pay bills. 🙂 Thanks for being authentic 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I see this a lot, actually – there are tons of bloggers trying to make money from their blogs or doing something creative to try to make a living . . . I love the creative, open-ended, big idea, risk-taking aspect of that . . . but I also think it can change your outlook on whatever your art/creative outlet is. If I HAD to write to make money, I think I would be even MORE stressed about writing. I am glad that I have an 8-4 job, and it’s a job I enjoy (most days). Writing can be a stress reliever, a healer, a hobby, and a passion without me having to worry about it providing for my family. (Although, for the record, I WOULD like to make a little money from my writing at some point.) 🙂

      Liked by 5 people

    2. Haha. Amen to the no boring-jobs-to-pay-bills. 🙂 I used to think maybe it would be better to have a stable but boring job that allowed me to pursue writing and travel and those other things on the side, but when I tried that out it made me absolutely miserable because I wasn’t getting any kind of fulfillment from my job, but it was draining me of the energy and time I wanted to be devoting to writing and traveling. My current job (teaching ESL) is the best thing I’ve found so far that I don’t hate and that gives me enough free time to work on writing, but I’m only here til August and then will be heading back to the US and have no idea where I’ll go from there. Let me know if you figure it out! 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I am working a boring job now – but I actually enjoy the stability it brings (for now). I got a degree in sociology (WHYYYYY) and then worked with an amazing non-profit, but was basically living in poverty. Was rough there for awhile, so I’m ok with my administrating-assisting-slash-dipping-my-toe-in-the-blogging-world-when-work-is-slow. 🙂 Where are you guys moving back to? That will be such a huge change I’m sure. I taught English in China for six weeks to 30 adorable six year olds. It was fun to play, but teaching is not my thing 🙂 Glad I found you!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah yes, I also did the non-profit thing for a little while, then I tried marketing which really, really sucked my soul. I’m not totally sure where we’re moving back to at this point. Hubby is applying to grad schools right now, so it depends on where he gets accepted. Could be anywhere from California to Texas to Virginia so we’ll see. Hopefully we’ll know about school by February or March and can start making plans from there. I’ve found that I more or less enjoy teaching, but I don’t have teaching certification in the US so if I decided to do that I’d have to take some classes when I get back anyway. Who knows. I guess it’s exciting (slash terrifying) to have a lot of options At least theoretical options. 🙂 I’m glad you’ve found me too! It’s always nice to share the journey.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Preach on sister. Writing and blogging can be so frustrating. I was honored and excited when I was asked to write 2x week for a politics and pop culture site (I love writing about music and some of my snarkier posts attracted them). But I soon found myself feeling pressured by deadlines and disinterested in writing on demand. Funny when you get something you thought you wanted and it ends up it isn’t half as wonderful as you thought. I was at least fortunate enough to be surrounded by fellow writers who I adore; some of which became dear friends.
    Now I’m back in the throws of resurrecting and redefining my personal blog and again questioning what I want out of this. Followers still haven’t capped 200 and I long for comments like a man in the desert longs for a drink of water. Such is the adventure I suppose. Glad I stumbled upon your site!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I can so relate to the deadline thing. I had one freelance assignment this fall and I had a month to do it – it was like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. It felt like the biggest burden of all time. You can ask my husband, I whined SO much. And it was ridiculous that I felt that way since I’ve been busting my butt trying to get more writing exposure.

      The one thing this whole experience is teaching me is how important it is to encourage and support other writers I really believe in. It’s easy for me to think they don’t need to hear from me or that they probably already know they are awesome, but when I consider how encouraged I feel by each person who takes the time to say, “Hey, I appreciate what you’re saying,” it really makes me want to take the time to be supportive of others who are in the same boat.

      Thanks so much for the encouragement and good luck with your blog re-vamp!

      Like

      1. You’re sooooo right on the encouragement thing. I think anything that is considered an art, and writing certainly is, requires constant feedback. Maybe it’s because writing makes you feel so incredibly vulnerable. It’s comforting for someone to say, “Hey, I’m paying attention to what you’re putting out there and I dig it.”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s so true! Honestly, sometimes I’d even take someone saying, “I totally disagree” just to know someone read it and it made them think enough to have a different opinion. I mean, obviously it’s better when they say, “I’m right there with you,” but even disagreement is better than no engagement at all!

        Liked by 2 people

  10. Thanks for being so honest about your struggle. I often wonder also about how some writing becomes so popular when it doesn’t interest or inspire me. I can become a little resentful about this too.

    It’s so great that your did have that success of being seen by many readers though. It is actually helpful to me to know that there is no formula for getting the word out. I operate pretty much in a vacuum since I have some hesitation with self-promotion on social media. When I get down about not having many readers I remember that I am doing this for me as much as for anyone else…

    Like

    1. Thanks for your comment. I think you’re right that even though it’s disappointing, it is kind of helpful to know that there isn’t one easy formula to follow. And I really understand the hesitation with self-promo on social media. I usually post on facebook one time and tweet one time when I write a new blog post and just leave it at that and hope that people who liked it will share it. It’s definitely not the most aggressive form of marketing, but the few times I’ve tried doing more I’ve felt like I’m irritating people and the response hasn’t been any better anyway.

      Good luck with sorting all of this out. I think you’re right that we really have to remember who we are doing it for –it’s more important for you to feel good about what you’ve done than it is to write a bunch of meaningless stuff because you think it will attract more followers.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Marketing yourself is probably the way to go. I’ve been blogging for quite a while, and my main blog at the moment just passed 22,000 views. That’s in 33 months. And about 80% came in the last 12 months. What happened is that I decided to post daily. The trend on my blog is upward, and I just broke 2,000 in one month last month. I don’t expect anything to go viral, though. I’m actually more interested in interacting with my readers than getting views. Comments are my favourite thing 🙂

    I guess we’re kind of similar in a way, both in east Asia (you in Korea, me in Japan), we’re book readers, and we both want to be writers.

    Anyway, I followed. Good luck!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your thoughts and congratulations on your success so far. I agree, getting comments is the best. Especially when they’re not just from your mom. 🙂 I’m not really comfortable with marketing myself a lot. In my previous attempts at marketing I’ve actually found that the more places I share my posts, etc the less traffic I get. I think it’s because I just can’t help sounding inauthentic when plugging myself. My own discomfort with it seems to come across to potential readers. Hence my dilemma. I want to grow my audience, but I want to stay true to who I am and what I believe in writing about more than I want great stats. I think I may have to rely on word-of-mouth and shares from people who already follow me.

      Sounds like we have some things in common. I will definitely check out your blog! Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the follow!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks. Hope you enjoyed my blog.

        One thing I find that’s helpful is to go to other blogs and comment on them. The owner of the blog is most likely going to visit your blog, and there’s a possibility of other readers visiting, too.

        Like

      2. Thanks, I do think that’s a good way to engage with other bloggers. I just always want to be careful that I’m commenting because I really have something to say and not just because I’m hoping I’ll get a click or two.

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  12. Totally agree about how writing a book is also about pushing it ! But have noticed one thing though. Whenever I write with authenticity and from the heart, it gets read and remembered. I am from India and when I see the quality of books getting published, I do wonder when this boom will crash. Quality has to win finally !

    So keep writing !

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I really enjoyed reading your honest post. I wish I could offer you some inspirational words. I was just thinking today that I am not sure I am cut out for the self promotion that it takes to get a break. I started a blog purely for a creative outlet (I am not an aspiring writer, I just like sharing experiences and I love lifestyle photography) but once you start looking at those stats and putting yourself out there, it’s almost like you need more of a reward to keep you going. Without a bit of shameless self promotion which I am not comfortable with either, it’s hard to see the end goal. I hope you find the motivation you need. I am super impressed with your 1.6 million views and I think you should stick at it, but try and do it for other reasons, not the numbers.

    Totally irrelevant but I am doing an exercise at the moment which might help you too. Writing down 3 positive things from ever day for 1 month. It’s meant to change your thinking I am told. Well guess what? Clicks, likes, follows on your blog are not the sort of thing that ever come up on that list. It helps put things into perspective, well for me anyway! Good luck 🙂

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    1. Thanks for stopping by an for your encouraging comment! I saw that you’re from NZ. So jealous, haha. We visited last January and I wanted to move there immediately. 🙂

      I love your idea about writing down 3 positive things every day. Like a gratitude journal. I think intentionally focusing on things we are thankful for can be such a powerful way to refocus ourselves and remember what matters. And also not wallow in self-pity. 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion and for the follow! Keep doing what you love. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m so glad to read this post tonight. You and I could have written each other’s stories. Early this year, I discovered a dead girl in a parking lot. The experience impacted me profoundly, and the post I wrote about it went unexpectedly viral. I kept saying to myself that I needed to parlay the exposure into something big.
    It just isn’t in me, I guess.
    I don’t have the energy to “shout loudly” and all the social networking feels manipulative and disingenuous.

    I want to encourage you with something. Your article on Relevant gets a lot of attention for two reasons. The first reason (obviously) is because it’s about sex. The second (most important) reason is that your writing is REAL, and people, whether they realize it or not, are hungry for something real. Frankly, the vast majority of articles I read on Relevent are just drivel. If I see another “5 things you need to know about…” article, I think I’ll puke. Your article is probably the most genuine thing I’ve read on that site, which is why I started following your blog.

    I never did do anything to capitalize on that viral post of mine. Here is something I did do: the fiancé of the poor girl I’d found–he contacted me after reading my story. He and I met for coffee; he sat there and poured his broken heart out to me, and he thanked me over and over for writing what I did, and kept saying to me, “I really want you to keep writing, Luke.” I think that thing I wrote was not about the multitudes around the world; it was about that one guy. I haven’t seen him since that day, but I think of him a lot.

    Writing is such a pain in my ass, but I don’t really have a choice with it. I have to do it. It’s the only thing I do that makes me feel normal.
    I suppose you’re the same way.

    Thanks again for writing this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lucas and Brett are saying some good things, as are all of the commentors I’ve read here. The desire for success and certainly the need to feel relevant are understandable, but perhaps the bigger question we all need to consider is “Why are we here?” What is our purpose? It took me several years in ministry, experiencing both success and failure, decent salaries and bankruptcy along with the tortures of rejection by people to whom I had opened my heart, to finally be able to distill my life’s purpose down to this realization: God put me on this earth to be a “Truth teller,” pure and simple. I’m not here to make money or be successful or famous. Whichever (if any) of those things God desires for me to have, He will provide. I’m not holding my breath. As many times as I have entered the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes with the prayer “Please God, let me prove to you that winning this thing won’t spoil me,” I know it’s not just the odds telling me “it’s not going to happen!” I AM here to represent the truth of God in Jesus Christ as faithfully, AND honestly and transparently as I can. Your openness and honesty in grappling with issues of faith and life are just that, telling the Truth as you are experiencing it at this time in your life. It is a High and Holy calling! If in writing about this journey you are on leads to some financial benefit for you and your family, that is merely a bonus as others have suggested. But your task is “to remain faithful to the calling to which you’ve been called.” And if it feels as if it’s taking forever to get going and that you may never accomplish all that you want to before you die, let me offer a word of encouragement from a t-shirt of mine which reads, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind I will never die!” You’ve got plenty of time!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks, Rick. I agree that nothing we do really works out if we’re doing it without the conviction that it’s what God has called us to. I just don’t always find it that easy to know if I’m pursuing something because I feel deeply called to it or because I don’t feel deeply called to anything and this feels like the next practical step. I guess what I mean is, I feel called to writing in some capacity, but it’s never been clear to me if that’s meant to be my vocation or if it’s just some creative outlet I’ll always dabble in on the side. And because of that, I don’t know if I should concentrate my energy on writing or if I should be concentrating on teaching or doing ministry or something else entirely and just keeping writing as a personal enjoyment. I really like what you said about your calling being “Truth-teller.” I guess if you think of calling like that, you can be fulfilling your calling in tons of different life circumstances. Thanks for your wisdom and encouragement!

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    2. Lucas, thanks so much for this comment. I read your piece about finding that girl several months ago and I thought it was deeply moving. And I completely understand feeling wrong about trying to capitalize on the success of that piece. It went viral because it was a unique story that you told in a moving and compelling way and people couldn’t help but want to share it.

      I’ve actually struggled with capitalizing on the Relevant thing partly because of what you said – that so much of what they post is just drivel. I put very little thought into posting my article there – at the time I was just trying to stretch myself by submitting work to other places and that was somewhere that was relatively easy to submit to. But in all honesty, I don’t read Relevant, neither the website nor the print magazine, for much the same reason. So partly I wasn’t able to capitalize because it goes against the core of why I write. And partly I didn’t pursue it too aggressively because I don’t really want to be that strongly associated with Relevant forever.

      It’s really cool that you were able to meet with that girl’s fiance and have at least this one true human interaction to remind you why you do what you do. That reminded me of the emails I’ve received from people who said, “I thought I was the only one.” And you’re right, it’s worth it for just one person sometimes.

      I couldn’t agree more with you – I don’t feel like I have that much choice about writing. I tried not doing it for a few years and I’ve come to realize that I need it. Even if it’s not a public thing I will always need it.

      Thanks for reading, for encouraging, and for supporting.

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  15. If you only knew how much I relate to this! Don’t give up! We have all been there….Also, I love reading your stuff!

    If you get the opportunity, please check out my blog: MyLifeAsMaeganHagan.wordpress.com

    As long as no one can take away our ability to write….we’re doing good!

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    1. You’re right! Just the ability to do something we love is a gift. Thanks so much for your comment. I read your post about your husband’s recovery on your website. What an amazing and inspiring story! Thank you for sharing it.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I recently had an article go viral as well. Some opportunities did come out of it, which I’m really grateful for, but there was no book deal and life is pretty similar to the way it was before.

    I wasn’t sure what would happen when it started to go viral, but turns out, it’s not the answer. And my book-writing colleagues with agents have told me similar things — that’s not the answer, either. Writers are always looking for this “answer” but there may, in fact, not be one at all.

    This blog entry really, really spoke to me. I’m doing the whole twitter thing, self-promoting, and it’s exhausting and sometimes feels dishonest. So I’m trying to strike that middle ground.

    I just try to keep reminding myself that I love writing, and regardless of the pay-off, it’s a privilege to be able to do something I love. Nonetheless, I really do wish I could do it all the time without the restraints that financial necessity and life place on me.

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    1. Hey, I read your piece about Robin Williams and Amanda Bynes when it blew up. Someone had posted it on FB. I feel like I’m talking to a celebrity. 😉 Seriously though, that was a really profound and important piece and I’m really glad you wrote it.

      I love your perspective here – that it’s a privilege to do something we love. Not everyone gets to do that, even as a hobby. Thanks for the reminder.

      While we’re both in the same boat with “going viral” and discovering that it doesn’t mean all your dreams come true, I do take some comfort knowing there’s a reason those things go viral – and it’s because what we wrote mattered to people. So even if it didn’t mean instant success on a grand scale, I think it’s pretty amazing that even for a few days our words touched people’s heart.

      My best advice (to myself and to you) is to keep writing what’s in your heart, what you most deeply believe to be true and be proud that you are making at least a little corner of the world (or the internet at least) more beautiful.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. What you said about how being a writer today seems to be about the “one who can shout the loudest” really resonated with me. I’m not a shouter. I don’t want to be. So… what then? In these dark days of winter sometimes things can look very bleak. I hope the sun comes out for you very soon. And that you find your path. The one that brings you joy.

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    1. I’m not a shouter either. And I mostly find people who are to be off-putting so I don’t really want to become one. I think the key is finding purpose in a quieter place. Thanks for the good wishes. I hope you’re finding joy in your writing these days too.

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  18. This resonated with me deeply. I honestly believe true artists struggle with this theme almost daily their whole lives. But because we are artists we do it anyway because we have to. It’s in our blood and to deny or hide from it is denying our spirits’ flight. Keep writing for the joy of it and the rest WILL follow – try to allow the universe to take care of the details. Let it go and focus on your goal of writing a book. Please. You are a stunning, engaging, passionate writer. You gots all the “right” stuff my dear! Peace, love & light, jules

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    1. Thank you so much for your sweet words. They are so encouraging to me. I will take them to heart and try to focus on honing my craft and doing what I love and not worrying so much about the outcome. Grace and Peace to you. And thanks for the reblog!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. A very honest thought provoking post. There have been times where I nearly gave up on some of my dreams. Some haven’t gone as planned or as I hoped or even imagined. Some have taken me into different directions. There is a quote that I love “Dreams are free, so free your dreams” I certainly believe that yours will come true 😀

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate the reminder that sometimes our dreams don’t go as we hoped or planned, but sometimes they turn out even better than we imagined. When I started thinking about that I could remember examples of this in my own life and it was so encouraging. Thank you for the positivity!

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  20. I believe a person should be able to make it without getting involved with social media sites, saying that my only publications are short articles I have posted directly to magazines and it seems to work. I am not convinced with Facebook and Twitter. Another thought could be to create another blog on a different platform, and see what response you get.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts. It’s encouraging to hear that you’ve had some success without getting too involved in the social media game. Mostly, I just don’t want to spend my time and energy navigating the world of social media instead of working to say something meaningful. I may eventually buy my own domain name and try that route, but having just been (completely surprisingly) Freshly Pressed, I feel that WordPress is being good to me at the moment. Thanks so much for reading!

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      1. Social Media is ever so consuming of one’s time, and I prefer to avoid going down that route, but saying that, many Writing Advice sites and magazines promote them … but not for me as long as possible…

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  21. I know it isn’t much but I wanted to share with you that I added your blog to my blogroll. Granted, you have more viewership than I do but I think its the gesture that counts. It is true that meaningful words get lost with how boisterous everyone else is but I want to take this small action to show that it isn’t the case. 🙂

    If you ask me I think you are accomplishing what you have set out. You have provided people with something desirable to read and they have noticed—surprised? You shouldn’t be. People are keenly aware that what is being churned out is not what they are looking for. They will look and they will listen so you just make sure that what you say is worthy.

    So please, do continue pursuing your passion 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Thanks for sharing this experience. I think making our living writing is just enormously difficult because supply outstrips demand. I think it takes a ton more luck than skill to make it.

    I’ve been blogging for 7 years and am to the point now where I get about 400 views a day, 75% of them thanks to the Internet’s long tail. My posts get maybe 40 views on their first day and maybe 5 comments. But I keep at it because the attention I do get is so rewarding. Some of my commenters have been with me for years now. I love it that they keep coming back.

    Like

    1. Yes. Supply outstrips demand. But sadly, a lot of the supply is pretty crappy. But lots of companies and individuals are paying for that. Sometimes I just wish I could make people have higher standards, haha. I understand what you’re saying about how rewarding it is to have a faithful following. I have a few friends who I literally met through blogging who I never would have known otherwise and other people I’ve never met who read every thing I write and I think that is AMAZING. Thanks so much for reading.

      BTW, I laughed when I read your bio – “He lives in Indiana and likes it.” My husband is from Indiana (West Lafayette) and I always used to tease him that he only liked it because he didn’t know any better. 😉

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  23. Dear lilyellyn, thanks very much for sharing this article. I could identify with what you are feeling as there were many times in my life when I was standing on the line of giving up and I decided it was always worth one more try. To me, life is very much about trying. Especially if you have a dream which resonates closely with your heart and you have been trying very hard. I got to know Kate(katekatherina.com) nearly three years back and went through with her process of moving herself from Ireland to Berlin and how she reached her current point in life. I was very much inspired by her efforts and optimism. I hope her recent blog entry will cheer you on in your endeavors. Take care.

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement to keep on trying. It’s so important to have those voices to remind us not to give up. And also the stories of others who have made it to give us hope that it really can be done! Thanks for the link to Kate’s blog. For some reason my school computer is blocking it (weird Korean firewalls) but I’ll try to get it to work from my home computer later. Thanks for reading and for all your encouragement!

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  24. I so connected with this post. Thank you for writing it. You are a really good writer and it is incredibly frustrating to work so hard at your art and feel like you have to be your own salesperson at the same time. I understand the feelings of inauthenticity that go along with that and struggle with the same issues. I come from a family of writers and am also a musician, but am first a single mom, “going it alone.” I have worked for many years at a frustrating “day job” to support my family and the conclusion I finally came to was that I needed to keep doing what was bringing me joy without expectation that I would make a living at it. If it happens, great, but on some level, I had to let it go. I hope you keep writing (if it continues to bring you joy), because you clearly have a gift. Congratulations on the viral post!

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    1. “It is incredibly frustrating to work so hard at your art and feel like you have to be your own salesperson at the same time.” This. Exactly. Because I feel like if I spend all that time and energy “selling” myself, I won’t be putting that into actually creating something meaningful. I am so inspired that you continue to pursue your passion even while juggling all the responsibilities of being a single mom. You are amazing. I wish so much strength and joy for you. Thank you so much for your encouragement.

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  25. This is beautifully written. I think this sums up a lot of people’s frustration with “viral” trends and the skewed acknowledgement of writing by the general population. In particular, this sentence resonated with me, “This stage I’m in as a writer is one where I carve off a chunk of my heart and fling it out into the world and watch it disappear into the distance without even the consolation of hearing an echo back to let me know I hit something.” I hope you continue to strive towards, and accomplish, your goals. Whether it feels like it or not, a million hits is incredibly impressive!

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  26. Just write it for the love of it. Love your creation as if it is the only thing for which you exist. Forget the rest. People would definitely connect for we all are same inside. Trust me…

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  27. Thank you for baring your soul. I truly enjoyed your story. I just reactivated my Twitter account (ugh!) and as of today, signed up for WordPress. In the end, it doesn’t matter how many followers or people read your blog. As you so poignantly wrote…it’s about sharing truths, and to provoke the reader to think beyond his or her own self.

    Kudos to you! You’ve inspired and confirmed that this exactly what I want to do in life!

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  28. Really good read here. And, I can relate, to a point.

    I worked in newspapers and was pretty successful. I won a handful of awards and really thought what I was doing was wonderful. Then the floor fell out and my position was cut. It was then that I, too, realized that the art and craft wasn’t as important as other things — such as the bottom dollar.

    I’ve blogged on and off since 2005. My blog has changed over those years to something I truly enjoy now. Sometimes, I think I’ve written something amazing. Then it gets 25 views. I’ll write something I don’t think is amazing and it will get hundreds. Go figure. Even still, the most I’ve ever had on one post was just shy of 1,000 views and I thought I had won the jackpot.

    What I needed to personally do was answer a question — why do I blog? Am I looking to make it big? Am I doing it because I love it? Am I doing it for the community? Something else? Turns out, I do it because I love it and for all the other reasons and then some. Still, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit jealous of the 1.6 million view post. And I can understand where you are coming from in regard to not seeing something result from it.

    Something did result from it, though. You had 1.6 million sets of eyes on something you wrote. Not many bloggers can say that for the life of their blogs, let alone one post. That’s something you should be tremendously proud of doing.

    Writing, like most things in life, evolves. Now it includes self-publishing, social media, and different ways to express yourself and your words. Blogs pop up and fold every single day. Newspapers have changed. So have magazines. So have books. There’s no shame in self-publishing anymore and, honestly, some independent authors I read put those with the bigger contracts to shame.

    Writing needs to come from within, I’ve always thought. You obviously have a way with words and take pride in everything you do. So don’t go away from it. Stay writing. Find a way to take that book from your mind and put it on paper. Sometimes, it just takes time. Keep positive and keep plugging away. I wish you the best!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for this thoughtful and kind response. Sorry it took me so long to reply to it. I can so relate to the ups and downs of writing – having something you are really proud of that doesn’t get much attention and something you don’t feel particularly proud of that gets a lot of attention. I kind of feel that way about this blog post, haha. Not that I’m complaining – I’ve been incredibly humbled and encouraged by the response. I just don’t think it represents my best writing. You’re definitely write that having that article receive so many views is something I can count as a victory on its own, even if it didn’t lead anywhere. I definitely don’t mean to sound whiny or ungrateful about that. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to leave me that comment. I hope you keep writing as well. Even in this comment I can see that your words are powerful. Thank you.

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  29. Nowadays, I feel like writing can be equated to showing kindness for one another. We are all capable of it, and we have all that we need to show it. It’s in that act of reaching someone that we create a small miracle. Why does it have to be more than that? Many of us are still stuck in this romantic fantasy of being a writer from a time when it was rare and difficult to get exposure – when we were something to just be “a writer”. I think that time is over. What’s not over, though (and never will be) is our creative ability to engage our readers with a story, a poem or a helpful article. So, I hang my hopes on that, and all of my energy goes into how I can better accomplish that. Screw twitter. Screw marketing tactics. I have a more mystical feeling about writing, and that is that it creates a happy moment in my life through the intrinsic, creative act and the chance that my creativity will also create a little joy somewhere “out there”.

    As for making money: I’m a freelance writer, too. I go after the most mundane technical writing positions, as they pay better. I am not attached to the artistic edge of my writing ability, in this case. I’m attached to my ability to communicate something clearly. It’s a tough market, and I wish you much success! Again, just by reading this one post: I think you are a good writer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is such a beautiful thought – that writing is like showing kindness and the miracle is in reaching somebody. I love this whole mind-set that by writing we experience this joy of creation AND have the capacity to make a connection with someone else. Do you find that doing technical writing for a living affects your creativity or motivation to pursue more creative writing on the side? Thanks for reading and for the encouragement. I really appreciated this comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey lilyellyn 🙂 – I think technical writing has really helped me in the creative process. It’s through this non-attached writing that i’ve been able to improve in the mechanics of writing and how to coherently express an concept or story.

        I’m reading Toni Morrison’s book “Love”, and wow: she’s a genius with creatively infolding a story. This book’s plot and charachters are like poloroids that become increasingly clear. I can recommend it! I’m also reading Bird by Bird…have you read that one? Really good one on the creative writing process.

        Looking forward to reading more of your posts!

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  30. Great post! I can really relate to this one. When I was younger, I had fantasies of fame and making a very successful career from writing. Now (especially because I am writing mostly poetry lately) I am happy working toward more manageable goals–getting a book out, occasionally publishing at publications I admire and am honored to be a part of, and sharing my work at poetry readings. My blog is very new and doesn’t attract much attention right now, but I am very grateful and happy that some people do wander over there and comment on my poems. Sometimes I have bigger dreams of somehow making money with my writing, but for now I am content with the small successes. Hyper self promotion is difficult for me, and I haven’t yet felt the pressure to write inauthentic posts to attract attention to me and my work. I agree with many of the writers here–be true to yourself and your vision as a writer. With a million plus hits on your blog (amazing!) success may come your way sooner than you think, in a most unexpected way! People like your writing or they wouldn’t be visiting your blog, and that is a very hopeful sign! 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much for your encouragement. I’m glad to know you can relate. I think what you said about working towards manageable goals is important. Maybe right now my goal can be smaller than, “Get enough paid writing gigs to write for a living” and could be smaller-scale like, “Try to get 5 freelance jobs this year” or whatever. Also, your poems are beautiful. Congratulations on your recent Liebster Award and Pushcart Prize nominations! That’s so cool!

      Liked by 1 person

  31. You have given beautiful words to many of my dreams and related fears and failures in writing. I too wish to write things that are meaningful and will bring inspiration and encourage change. I often fear that it will all come to nothing much. I also fear that it will be too hard! Thanks for writing something that had great meaning for me.

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  32. On a purely humorous note and with great humility, I will share that upon receiving my first “like” I entertained grandiose expectations of Oprah discovering my potential and sweeping me into my destiny. Perhaps the greatest truth is that what brings us joy does not always bring us ease and what comes with difficulty is often more precious for the effort. Best of luck in each chapter of your story.

    Liked by 3 people

  33. Never give up! You are amazing with words and I would do anything to work with someone as talented as you. I have an amazing story I would like to get noticed but, unlike yourself, I am not a writer. My blog is a work in progress but would love to hear your feedback and discuss further. Don’t compare yourself to others it’s just toxic…. littlesistersjourney.com 🙂

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement. I checked out your blog…what a heartbreaking story! I’m so, so sorry about your brother. I can understand why iit would be important for you to find a way to tell your story. Have you read anything by others who have had a similar experience? I sometimes find that reading other writers who are saying things that resonate with me can really help me find the words to express what I need to say. Best of luck to you. I think it’s very brave to want to share that story and help others who are experiencing that same kind of pain.

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  34. I read your post wanting my dream to become your reality so I could keep holding onto the dream. Ugh. Great quote from Jim Carrey bringing that thought home. Most successful people are successful because they kept going without looking around to see if it is working. You writing this post gets you one step closer — or maybe the truth is that you’re successful already. Now is the time to own it. Keep at it!! (For all of us!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. I think that’s so wise. “Most successful people are successful because they kept going without looking around to see if it is working.” I think that’s so true and it’s really giving me a lot to think about. Thanks so much for sharing and for reading. I really appreciate the encouragement. Best of luck with your writing, too!

      Liked by 1 person

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