5 Lessons I’ve Learned As A Catholic Blogger
4 weeks ago
Now Reading: 5 Lessons I’ve Learned As A Catholic Blogger
4 weeks ago
Writing a Catholic blog is the most accidentally educational thing I have ever done.
It turns out there’s a lot more to blogging than just writing blog posts. You’ve got to learn about website design, search engine optimisation, copywriting and marketing. But there’s also deeper lessons to learn about motivation and authenticity.
I’ve been blogging, off and on, for 7 years now. While there’s definitely been a lot more “off” than “on” in those years, here are the 5 most valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way.
If I’m going to attract, maintain and (hopefully) change the lives of my audience, I’ve got to be consistent.
It doesn’t even matter much what that consistency looks like – a social media post every day, a blog post once a week, a long-form essay every month – what matters is the consistency itself. I want my audience to develop an expectation, and then I want to meet that expectation again and again and again.
Unfortunately, I’ve also learned that I’m terrible at consistency. Even a cursory look at the time stamps on my blog posts reveals this. I’ll post 3 times in the same month, and then nothing at all for 3 months.
I’m under no illusions – this is the No.1 reason that my audience hasn’t grown anywhere near as much as it could have. It’s why, when someone asks me for advice on starting a blog, all I’ll tell them is “be consistent.”
Even if they keep pressuring me for more information, at least for the first few months this is all they will get out of me. Because none of the other stuff matters – the social media, the search engine optimisation, the email subscriptions – unless you can be consistent.
I’m a blogger because I love writing. Sure, I want to positively impact lives and say something meaningful – but if I didn’t love writing, I wouldn’t blog.
It’s unusual, therefore, that I will do just about anything to avoid writing. I’ll check emails, update my blog software, post on my social media accounts. Anything to avoid actually sitting down and writing a blog post.
In his book, The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield describes this reluctance as “resistance.” Resistance is the reason why you’ve never written that book, it’s the reason why you quit going to gym, it’s the reason why you can’t seem to keep up a daily prayer routine
Pressfield defines resistance as the repelling force that prevents us from doing everything that is most important to us. And it’s hard to beat! If you’re wondering why I suck at consistency, look no further than resistance.
It finds any excuse it needs – I’m too busy, too tired, I’m just not in the right headspace – to keep me from writing. More often than I would like, it succeeds.
Resistance will destroy consistency if you let it. But what I’ve learned is that consistency is also the answer. Pressfield writes, “There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t and the secret is this: it’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”
If I want to overcome resistance, the answer is simple: I need to sit down to write. So, every morning before work, I allocate 50 minutes for writing. During this time, I’ve only got two options (1) I can write, or (2) I can do nothing at all.
During this 50 minutes, I don’t have to write. I’m free to stare at the wall, reflect on life’s mysteries, and contemplate where my socks go when they disappear. But I’ve learned that if there’s one thing big enough to overcome the Resistance, it’s boredom. Inevitably, I’ll start writing.
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It’s easy to feel like every Catholic who is doing something noteworthy has a podcast, a website, and a massive Instagram following. There’s a lot of pressure to create your own online platform.
But before you do, you’ve got to know your why. Because desire for worldly success is not enough. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love a 100,000 followers on social media or a bunch of well-paid gigs as a Catholic speaker. But neither of those aspirations is going to get me out of bed and wrestling with Resistance every morning.
So, what’s my “why”? Well, I’ve got two. First, as stated previously, I love writing. Second, I’m a Catholic young adult.
For me, the first few years in the “Catholic young adult” bracket were challenging. I went from being part of a vibrant youth group and parish community to… nothing. No community, no formation, and what felt like no other young Catholics within a 100 mile radius.
The one thing that really helped during these years was reading Catholic blogs. These bloggers reminded me that I wasn’t along. They were tackling controversial issues, living their faith in day-to-day life, and building community with other young Catholics.
I write a Catholic blog because I’m hopeful that I can provide other young Catholics with that same encouragement I received. Truthfully, I don’t know that the world needs another Catholic blog. But I know that I need to write one. With every post I grow as a writer, I grow in my faith, and I get to interact with other awesome young Catholics on a similar journey.
Every time I’m struggling with this blog, I come back to this “why.” It’s what motivates me to keep giving the heck of a lot of time that a blog demands, 7 years on.
If you’re going to create something that matters, you’ve got to know your “why.”
The more I blog, the more I’m realising that the most powerful thing a blogger has to offer is his/her own story.
Take the topic of dating, for example. It’s been done to death. If I write a generic article about what Catholic dating should look like, it’s unlikely to change any lives. You could read the same thing a dozen times, in a dozen different places.
But if I get real about this topic in my own life – if I share my frustrations with Catholic dating culture or get real about the challenges of dating with physical boundaries in my own relationship – I might actually say something that matters.
Most online content creators are beginning to recognise the importance of authenticity. But my concern is that it’s becoming just another box we need to tick. We upload a blog post every week *tick*, post to social media every day *tick*, and then make sure a couple of those pieces of content showcases our raw authenticity (maybe an unfiltered selfie?) *tick* *tick* *tick*.
Authenticity should not be something we curate. Instead, authenticity should characterise every single thing we create. Every piece of content should be a disclosure of who we are as a human person and the journey we’re on.
Holy moly, the learning Does. Not. Stop. Even just to start a blog, there’s a lot to figure out, from the best blogging platform, to website design, to what makes a good blog post.
7 years on, I’m still learning every week. There’s no shortage of knowledge to seek out on topics like online marketing, social media, and even a bit of coding. At a deeper level, I’ve learned valuable lessons about about perseverance, honing your craft, and the power of the written word.
In his exquisite YouTube pep talk, An Invocation for Beginnings, Zefrank declares “Let me not think of my work only as a stepping stone to something else, and if it is, let me become fascinated with the shape of the stone.”
The more I learn about blogging, the more I realise just how much there still is to learn. But I’ve become fascinated with this endless project. I can always be making improvements, so I’m excited to continue learning.