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Why You Should Go For It (11 Tips from 12 Months in Blogging)

Chances are you have a dream you’d love to see realized.

And chances are you’re skittish about it. One moment you’re ready to conquer the world…the next you’re in full retreat in a corner thinking you’ll be a colossal failure.

Been there. So I’m writing this in the hopes it will encourage you.

You should go for it.

Here’s why.

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12 Months Ago

A year ago I was getting ready to launch my book, Leading Change Without Losing It.

Naturally, like any writer, I had hoped somebody would read my book. I was praying and hoping it would help church leaders both find the courage and develop the skill set they need to usher in significant change in the church.

I also knew publishing was changing.  I had read Michael Hyatt’s super helpful book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Among the recommendations Michael makes is that authors should blog to build an audience and platform for their work. Otherwise, your book can easily get lost in the digital landscape.

Michael’s book made me really wrestle down blogging. I had a blog, but it was faltering.

My On Again-Off Again Relationship With Blogging

The truth is I started this blog almost six years ago.

I had begun blogging with enthusiasm, but for years I had an on again-off again relationship with it. I would stop, and then start.

I couldn’t find my voice. One day I’d write a meaningful leadership post. Then I’d write that I went biking and saw a cow (well, not quite, but you get the idea). Then I’d stop all together.

At times it would be months between posts. I considered deleting the blog altogether several times, including as recently as last summer.

Take a Deep Breath

But having read Platform, I decided to take my blog seriously again.

One year ago this month, I

Committed to blogging 3 times a week every week.

Decided to get up even earlier each morning (by 5:30 a.m. at the latest) so the blogging wouldn’t interfere with my full time calling as the senior pastor of Connexus Church or with my family.

Set a ridiculous goal of 100,000 page views in 2013 to keep me motivated. That was more than five times the traffic I had been seeing on the blog.

It felt impossible.

I was nervous I wouldn’t have enough content.

I was worried I wouldn’t have the time.

In the back of my mind I thought it was futile.

But I started anyway.

Didn’t See This Coming

What happened in the next 12 months, well, just shocked me.

When I started writing regularly, people actually started reading.

The first month my blog traffic doubled.

Then it doubled again.

This month (12 months after my decision and 10 months into this year), my monthly traffic surpassed my annual target of 100,000 page views.

Never saw this coming.

I really hesitated to post these numbers because I didn’t want to sound boastful. Hope that’s not the case. I share it in the hopes that it will inspire you to take action. You can accomplish more than you realize. You just need to go for it.

11 Lessons

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned in the last 12 months of blogging.

1. Goals matter. At least they do for me. Had I not set a goal, I might not have stuck with it. I’m thinking about setting aggressive goals across the board in 2014 in all areas of my life and leadership. Maybe your next step is to set a goal. Just make it big enough that it scares you.

2. Discipline beats creativity. The sheer discipline of having to write three posts a week is far superior to waiting for ‘the inspiration’ to arrive. It’s amazing what deadlines can do to drive you closer to God and closer to wherever that creative well lies. Preachers take note.

3. Generating content doesn’t deplete the well, it replenishes it. I was so scared of not having enough content to keep 3 posts a week going. I keep a notebook with blog ideas just so I make sure I don’t run out. But after a year of content, I discovered that generating regular content doesn’t deplete the well, it replenishes it. Strangely, the more I write, the more ideas I have. And not just for blogging: for preaching, for staff and volunteer development and so much more.

 4. The weirdest things go viral. My biggest posts are posts I struggled to write or wrote at the last minute because I had nothing else to say. Not making this up. This post as well as this one I wrote in less than an hour because I just ‘had to get it done’. I literally had my wife spell check them as I drove to the office because I barely got them out. They are two of the three most shared posts I’ve ever written. One is even now going to become a book. Weird. Just weird.

5. What you think is awesome sometimes falls flat. There have been a few times I thought I wrote masterpieces (well, you know…not really, but I thought they were decent.) They got pretty much zero traffic.  Moral of the story: just keep writing and don’t cry too much when nobody likes your work.

6. Helpful wins. I love helping other leaders lead. Just love it. I’ve learned that the best posts help other leaders lead. Just help people. It will connect. Preachers and bosses, take note.

7. You’ll be tempted to quit moments before a critical breakthrough. I almost quit blogging (again) two other three times in the last 12 months. If my traffic declined for a month or I hit a bunch of posts that didn’t generate much response, I’d get discouraged. But then, almost like clockwork, the next post would generate tons of feedback.

8. A broader audience attracts disagreement. Just be prepared to attract critics. That’s all. And don’t take it too personally.

9. You need a few good friends. On the days when critics are having a field day, I’ll pull in a few close friends just to critically assess the feeedback, smile a little, and keep going. Therapeutic.

10. Experimentation is inexpensive and essential. I’ve tried different formats, different titling strategies, different social media strategies and so on just to see what connects with leaders and helps people most. Guess what? Failing is free. And you never know what connects till you try.

11. Knowing what’s next isn’t as critical as you think. I really don’t know where the blog is going next, but that really doesn’t matter. I had no idea where it would go last year or that I would be able to connect with so many amazing readers. So just keep going.

Thank You

If you’re one of the tribe who reads this blog shares it, comments and given feedback…thank you.

Thank you for helping me—and many others—lead better now.  Seriously, I grow as I interact with you. I’m so grateful for you, and look forward to so much more together. Thanks for making this a fantastic year.

So…that’s my story.

How about you? What are some lessons you’ve learned by simply deciding to do something you were afraid to commit to?

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37 Comments

  1. Brandon May on September 2, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    Hey Pastor, I just found you about a week ago and I am devouring your podcasts. I started from the beginning with Andy Stanley and am working my way to get caught up with where you are now. You are a blessing and this podcast is so helpful to me.

    I am a young (30) new pastor/church planter in Augusta, Ga. We planted Illuminate Church in March of this past year (2015). We have learned lots and we have much still to learn. Among many other changes we are beginning to make, we have decided to begin getting our content out there and one way we would like to do this is by blogging.

    My question is this… Is there a site that you could recommend that provides blogging templates? Do you use a template? Is your template designed by your church or is there a place where I can access something similar?

    Thanks for what you do! Love, love, love what you are doing!

  2. Alex from Germany on January 4, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Hey Carey, love your Blog and am very challenged by you to start blogging. Many of your points really describe why i haven’t startet jet. But now i am serious about getting started. However, i would love if you could give insight on HOW you write your blog. What are your guidelines, or questions that drive your content? Do you have a system by which you decide on what you are writing? You seem to have your very own Compass. Would you mind letting us in to how you write?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 7, 2015 at 12:49 pm

      Alex

      Way to go! Go for it. I shared a bit of my learning here in this post: https://careynieuwhof.com/2013/10/why-you-should-go-for-it-11-tips-from-12-months-in-blogging/. Just over two years in, I’d say 1. Be helpful. 2. Think about how you’re helping the reader (or not) more than getting your message out.

      I write about things I’m passionate about and things that can help the reader (or at least hopefully help). If I’m writing on it, there’s a 100% chance it’s an issue I’m thinking about, struggling with or have solved or am trying to solve in our ministry.

      It’s a bit organic, but I hope this helps.

      • Alex on January 9, 2015 at 7:14 am

        Thank you Carey!

  3. mark on October 31, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks Carey…great post and challenging. Have really appreciated and shared your blog over the last year numerous times. Thanks again.

  4. Brent Dumler on October 30, 2013 at 12:13 am

    To answer your question, recently I decided to just start spiritually leading my wife. This is something she has asked for over the years, but I never really did because I was afraid of failing her. Ironic…I failed her because I feared failing. Not only is it going much better, but we are having open conversations about it. She even encouraged me to put my blogging to work and write a book on spiritual family leadership for men like me who are intimidated by the subject. I have personally grown as a leader from reading your blog this past year…so please keep it up!

  5. Maribeth on October 29, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Carey…. I have just started reading your blog. Love your comments regarding blogging and the goals you set for yourself! I am so happy I found Connexux. Just started attending starting point and looking forward to the next few weeks. Thank you and all of your staff and volunteers for all that you do!
    Maribeth

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 30, 2013 at 11:45 am

      Maribeth…thank you! And I am such a huge fan of Starting Point. So glad to hear it. Thanks for taking the step of getting involved at Connexus!

  6. James Davis on October 29, 2013 at 7:56 am

    Cary,this is my fist time of responding to your blog,but this blog on blogging has been one of the most helpful for me. Our ministry is in a major transition and at times I just don’t know what to do. Thanks for being transparent

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 30, 2013 at 11:46 am

      James that’s so meaningful. Thank you and welcome to the community here at the blog.

  7. William Mosel on October 26, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Carey… I am in this boat right now… and sinking! Thank you for a fresh perspective and inspiration to move forward. It’s great to see a picture of why this will work. Thanks for all you do for leaders and people. Glad to be a part!

  8. Pastor Matt on October 24, 2013 at 10:00 am

    This is extremely timely for me; one of many in that amazing phenomenon where the Spirit is prompting, and the message to step out in faith seems to be everywhere you look – thanks for sharing! I was recently reminded of this quote that, long ago, spoke very deeply to me. Years later, as I enter a year of preparation to leave my full time job and go back to school, it speaks to me again:
    “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
    ― William Hutchison Murray

  9. Chris Shumate on October 23, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Carey – I am not sure if you thought of this as something you learned, or if you considered it for a tip, but social media invovlement is essential. I have read quite a few authors and tweeted things that struck me as great from their books. Yet of all of them you are the only one thus far that has RT my posts, and even replied back to a few of them! Had you not been social media involved when I was posting tweets from “Parenting Beyong Your Capacity” I would not be a follower of your blog. I doubt I would have known it existed.
    I have introduced your posts to at least one person I know that follows your posts pretty regularly. He is a young leader like me. We talk on occassions of how your post apply to our work.
    I honestly feel you value each person that follows, comments, and shares your posts. It is evident to me because you reply to many of us. Thank you for not quitting.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      Chris…what kind feedback. And I agree 100% that social media is a conversation. I love learning from people and really appreciate the person connections. Thanks for taking the time to interact and share what you’ve found helpful! I always look forward to hearing from you Chris!

  10. Kevin on October 23, 2013 at 4:12 am

    Thanks for the encouragement to restart blogging again!
    One thing that I wrestle with blogging as a pastor is how much you can blog about experiences in the organizations you’re leading. There are times when I walk away from a conversation or a meeting where I feel there are points or takeaways I want to share about via blogging but don’t want to disclose too much information, especially since many would know the church I’m from (and some from the church might even read it!).
    As well, I sometimes want to blog about things that I’m wrestling or working through but don’t want to come across the wrong way… (ie. Would it be appropriate to blog about a theological issue you’re wrestling through without the person on the other end thinking that you’ve jumped off the deep end)
    How do you balance transparency and honesty in your blogging without divulging too much information or causing others to read too much into something.
    Hope that makes sense…

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 23, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      Hey Kevin…love your question. Several times I’ve almost written a post about that. But for some reason haven’t.

      For the the line is I want people from my church to read the blog and feel secure and never targeted or isolated in a story.

      I wonder if sometimes we want to write something as therapy rather doing the hard work of having the difficult face to face conversations. So if something is a face to face conversation rather than a blog post, have that first.

      But I do write out of real life experiences, and I would hope that the people who have been involved in those experiences would feel good a result of reading what I wrote.

      Hmmm…this isn’t coming across as clearly as I would like it to. Which might explain why I haven’t written the post. But I hope that give you some idea. There’s a line there somewhere and I want to put my finger on it. Having people I serve read my content and feel good about it gets close to where that line should be.

  11. kristen morris on October 22, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Thank YOU! Carey!!!!!

  12. david manafo on October 22, 2013 at 8:05 am

    This is great. Finishing a final course on a degree this fall and then committing to blogging in 2014. Thnx for the push.

  13. Emmy Lilholt on October 22, 2013 at 7:13 am

    Thanks for that, I utterly related to this post perfectly. I am recommitting to my blog…thanks for sharing.

  14. Jason & Allecia on October 21, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    This was not only a much needed encouragement but also incredibly timely. We enjoyed meeting you in Indianapolis last week at the Orange Tour. Thank you for sharing your insight.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 22, 2013 at 7:15 am

      It was so great to meet you in person…best wishes on the book! Keep going!

  15. Kimberly Smith on October 21, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Aarrrrggghhh. Soooooo needed to read this. TODAY! Awesome God! Thanks for your faithfulness.
    I’m gonna read this a few times more.
    I appreciate your blog as a general “person” (leader, follower, pastor, preacher) but also as someone in the shallow end of the blogging/writing pool.
    I appreciate your mentoring!

  16. Ryan Sargent on October 21, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I always enjoy your discussions and they read almost like a conversation one would have with a mentor. Thank you for your transparency and courage.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 21, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Ryan that’s so kind! Thank you. You brightened my day.

  17. Justin Hiebert on October 21, 2013 at 11:44 am

    As a blogger I think I’ve experienced all of these at some point in time but most consistently I’m amazed by #3-5

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 21, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      If you can ever figure out a formula for #3-5, I’ll be the first one to buy it off you. Thanks Justin!

  18. Dan Scott on October 21, 2013 at 10:38 am

    I keep putting off restarting… thanks for the kick in the pants, friend.

  19. Dan Scott on October 21, 2013 at 10:37 am

    I keep putting off starting again… thanks for the kick in the pants, friend.

  20. Lawrence W. Wilson on October 21, 2013 at 9:09 am

    You talked me into it.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

      Love it Larry! Again, so good to meet you last week in Indy! Go for it.

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