Finding the People Who Care
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I’ve recently seen a complaint making the rounds from a few prominent writers and marketers, in varied forms, which made me start wondering if I was missing some big story somewhere.
When I asked a couple privately what their real problem was, I was told it was “just a joke.” That old chestnut.
Basically, people taking to social media to call out cooking sites and food bloggers, for including backstories and personal stories in their posts.
Now, I’m immediately going to get irritated by anyone with a platform and following, who jumps on their soapbox to try to declare that people shouldn’t be able to tell their own stories.
I realize I might be weird this way (ok, let’s be real, I’m weird in a lot of ways), but I love reading people’s stories. Getting to know why something is important to them, hearing about their family and traditions, understanding how they came to discover whatever particular thrill brought them to sharing this moment of sharing.
It’s something that perplexes me: how can people not be insatiably intrigued by the people and world around them? Remember Anthony Bourdain? He created an entire food show, phenomenon, and legacy with sitting on flipped over buckets at street markets and just listening people talk to him.
We live in a fascinating time and place, this crazy speck of dust spinning through the universe, and online content gives us the opportunity to get sneak peeks into lives and thoughts and experiences we never had before.
More importantly, I see little point in belittling them, or getting irritated about it.
But that’s unfortunately the way that content marketing and phenomenons like the 24-hour news cycle and eCommerce have conditioned us to think.
That there is no value in stories and writing if they do not serve what YOUR short-term needs and objectives are.
Which is, of course, utter bullshit.
I speak to a lot of writers and creatives in passing, for consultations, during masterminds, and on our podcast Writers’ Rough Drafts.
One of the things we always talk about, when I ask why they started writing or how they built their career, is this need to tell stories. For many, taking to a blog or column or (for those with a long enough writing-background) LiveJournal and ListServ, was the way to get thoughts out of their heads – where they simply swirled around, constantly niggling at them.
Eventually, through practice and working at improving their craft, they started to get more attention. More than just the 12 original old-school RSS feed subscribers, and their Mom.
They found an audience that was filled with “their people.”
And I suppose that is my greatest problem with criticisms like the one above.
When people with platforms try to tell others that their stories aren’t worth reading, it is most likely because they are stories that that person is not interested in.
While I love stories, I don’t read ALL THE STORIES. I don’t finish every book I start. I click away from more articles than I complete. I daydream my mind off into an exploration of no less than one million rabbitholes every time I am forced to make small talk with strangers at dinner parties.
That doesn’t mean the stories aren’t worthy of being written and shared.
It means that I am not the person the stories are being written for.
If these people are looking for recipes to “feed their family” (honestly, how condescending and shameful can you get?!), then they simply need to look at recipe sites. It’s exactly what they were created for. They have one job, and it is to focus on the one thing, that in an instant, fulfills their commoditized need and one-track mind.
They need a recipe, they go to a recipe site, they get a recipe. Bada-bing, bada-boom.
There’s a place for them to find exactly what they are looking for, yet they take the time to instead whinge about a site that is obviously not for them.
And that, my friend, is the most important part of this whole message.
Those cooking sites and food bloggers are not creating content and websites for them.
They are creating stories and experiences for their people – the people who crave the background and personal anecdotes. The personality and the fun. The process and steps and how-to.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, there are a number lifestyle bloggers and online influencers doing quite well, doing just that.
So it really frosts my cookies (I heard that phrase once and it made me chuckle; and since this is a food-themed piece, we’ll go with it) when I read things like this, especially from prominent personalities.
As if we don’t have enough to deal with in a world where the poignant is so easily replaced by the sensational.
I’m not going to give you the special snowflake line, where I tell you that you will absolutely make a ton of money one day, just by being yourself and telling your stories. The newly available addresses listed on domain registries across the internet will show you a deepening reservoir of folks who tried and weren’t able to succeed.
Maybe they gave up too early. Maybe they couldn’t make the commitment to practice and improve. Maybe they are that person at the dinner party who drones on in a way that makes everyone around them “go to their happy place” to smile and nod their way out, slowly backing away.
Or maybe, they are taking advice from these jerks, who want a world filled only with the quickly passing trends that serve a singular function, so they create content that doesn’t build a fiercely devoted community and instead is write for an audience that will probably never read them anyway.
There will always be a market for quick and easy, and it will likely make lots of money. If that’s the route you want to go, then you do you, boo.
But if you want to make the time, put in the practice, improve your craft, and tell your stories…in my experience, from the conversations I have, and through the successes I see again and again…it does pay off.
You need to find your people.
Don’t focus on the people who tell you they only want what you don’t provide.
Focus on the ones who are desperate for the experience only you can create.