An Appeal to Bloggers: Feel the Fear and Write it Anyway

Feel the Fear and Write it AnywayIf there’s one thing I dislike about the blogosphere, it’s the posturing that goes on within certain communities. It seems as though we (bloggers) have lost the ability to be authentic and to write about real human emotion and with genuine depth. Or more likely, we haven’t lost the ability to do so, we’re too scared to do so. And to be quite frank, it sucks.

There are some highly respected and knowledgeable bloggers out there who write truly helpful and extremely insightful stuff but who I simply cannot bring myself to read due to their pretentious and hollow nature. These guys are successful by many metrics – subscribers, comments, social shares, peers, referrals – and all power to them. But, for me at least, the bravado and the affectation of perpetual gregariousness, positivity and confidence leaves me feeling cold. Do they never, ever have an off day? Whatever happened to being real and being true to yourself? What are they scared of?

The True Nature of Blogging

For me, this isn’t really blogging. Blogging is offering something more of yourself than simply what you know. It’s letting your readers into your head and your heart, opening yourself up to all of your foibles, quirks and shortcomings. Blogging is overcoming the fear of posting something truly personal; stepping out of your comfort zone to lay yourself bare; being scared about looking unprofessional, being judged as an attention-seeker or as being after the sympathy vote…and then hitting the ‘publish’ button anyway.

Very few bloggers are brave enough or willing enough to do this, and yet three of the very best posts I’ve read in the last couple of weeks do exactly this. Whether it’s the extreme stress experienced by being overrun with work demands, admitting poor past behaviour and addressing the need to work on channelling anger and disappointment, or whether it’s the strain of balancing looking after four kids and earning a living, these posts depict human emotions at their rawest. They demonstrate humility, fallibility and sincerity. In short, they’re human. And I take my hat off to each of the bloggers in question. I admire them for being brave enough to write these posts and for putting themselves out there, even though I know that they all felt uncomfortable about doing so.

“We are not thinking machines that feel; rather we are feeling machines that think” – Antonio Damasio

The key learning I’d like to convey from this post, especially to new or corporate bloggers, is that knowledge is nothing without emotion. Blog with passion about your subject and give your readers an insight into who you are as a person. Impart how you feel about your topic or your story, not just what you think about it. People want to be made to feel something…anything! You have the power and the opportunity to do that. Don’t waste it. I’d rather read one post written with genuine emotion than ten filled with knowledge.

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  • Claire Dunford @rainbowclaire

    Personally I think it all boils down to why you’re blogging.

    If you’re wearing you work-hat when you’re blogging you might not be quite so open in your posts – in the same way you temper your behaviour in the office. You’re right about the fear – I think people are scared about over-sharing on a platform where the readership that isn’t prepared for such emotion.

    But ultimately, a balance needs to be struck where knowledge is moulded with personal experience, emotion and passion in order to create a developed and truly engaging read.

    • Paul Sutton

      Totally agree re: circumstances and context. I would never blog about anything too personal on BOTTLE Uncorked (company blog) as it’s not suitable. But I do write in the same voice and with the same tone. As you say, bringing personal experience and feeling to those posts makes them more readable and more shareable.

  • urbanvox (@urbanvox)

    THAT has to be one of the best blog posts I read in a while…
    We spend so long thinking on how we will be judged by what we express and spend so long trying to follow trends that we forget WHY we blog anyway…
    Thanks… Did help me put in perspective the contento going on…

    • Paul Sutton

      Thank you, and really glad it struck a chord. It’s not easy to be scared of being judged, but in my experience at least, the highly personal posts I’m talking about invariably get a positive and supportive reaction. Thanks for dropping by.

  • liveotherwise

    Thanks for the mention, I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear I agree with you :)

    • Paul Sutton

      I’d have been worried if you didn’t, Jax! :)

  • Geoff Livingston (@geoffliving)

    I think for many bloggers it’s become business so they avoid this. It’s the same for companies, right? Some play it safe, others make bold moves. Being fearless can also be reckless, and I have been accused of both. But it seems to be working out for me! Thanks, Paul!

    • Paul Sutton

      You’re welcome, Geoff. As I previously said about your post: brave and honest.

  • Steve Earl

    Your ability to be potent and pointed (and so brave) with content is in direct correlation to the extent to which you understand your audience. Too many bloggers seem to like the sound of their own keyboards and spend time farting into the breeze to make themselves look popular in ‘digital circles’ rather than using audience nous and editorial skill to make content effective. Unless, of course, their objective is just to feel good about themselves and be windy.

    Is that a brave comment, or just me being deliberately provocative?!

    • Paul Sutton

      haha! Probably both, knowing you. But I think you’re dead right. I can understand bloggers being tentative about ‘brave’ content if they don’t know who reads their blog (to an extent anyway). There IS a fear when you publish personal, brave or combative content – I know, I’ve done it. But that shouldn’t stop you (in my opinion). And if you don’t know your audience, you shouldn’t be writing, let’s face it…

  • Sean Fleming (@flemingsean)

    I’m quite sure there’s at least eleventy-billion blogs out there full to bursting with emotion.

    Maybe you’re just reading the wrong blogs..? :)

    Either way, not every subject requires an injection of emotion to make it useful or enjoyable, and not every blogger is actually capable of writing well enough to convey emotion without sounding like a cack-handed amateur. Even those of us who can write pretty well are playing with fire when we try – it’s so easy to get it wrong.

    PS: there’s no picture credit on the image you used. It’s one of my pet narks about the ‘blogosphere’… when people don’t attribute images or seek permission. I could be wrong, it could be a pic you took, or perhaps it doesn’t require a credit. In which case I apologise for that observation.

    • Paul Sutton

      Whether you said that in jest (reading the wrong blogs) or not, I don’t know, but I think there’s an element of truth in that. Maybe I need to clarify this post to encompass ‘in my specific topic area’?

      It is easy to get wrong, I agree. But you’ll never learn if you don’t try.

      (And point taken re: picture credit. Wrist duly slapped)

  • Steffi Lewis

    I believe that being open, honest and emotional works well for personal bloggers but for business ones then there is a line. I work with many bloggers and they all have differing personal limits on what they will and will not share about themselves.

    However, it is the emotional posts that get the most comments and shares every time!