When I started writing, it all seemed so simple.
I had a message that I felt God was calling me to share, so I wrote. I wasn’t particularly bothered about who was reading. Each comment encouraged me and I came to appreciate the community I found, but mostly my focus was on writing what I felt called to write.
I quickly discovered it gets much more complicated…
As I learned more about blogging and connected more with blogging communities, I discovered there were all kinds of other things to consider: social media, growing email lists, creating the right images for your posts, understanding Facebook algorithms, and SEO… (I still have no idea about that so please don’t ask!)
On the one hand it was tiring and confusing and there just wasn’t time. On the other hand people were constantly telling me how important these things were and that my aim should be to grow my number of readers.
It’s a tension, and one which I think is experienced by most Christian writers and speakers. As Christians, we are called to humility – to love God and serve others rather than seeking to build ourselves up.
But at the same time we are called to let our light shine. God wants us to impact others for him – through our writing, our speaking and the way we live. We are not called to hide the light he has given us. If we have a message to share, surely we want it to reach as many people as possible.
But how do we do that with integrity?
I was delighted to hear of a new book tackling this very subject: Influence: Building A Platform That Elevates Jesus (Not Me) by Kate Motaung and Shannon Popkin. I hadn’t encountered Shannon or her writing before reading this book, but Kate is someone who has encouraged me in my writing from the very start and I have always appreciated her humility and the way she points to Jesus, so I knew she would have helpful insights to share.
I was not disappointed. The book is not so much a “how to” guide, but a “why to” guide. It focusses on examining your heart and your motivation for writing or sharing. Kate and Shannon each share parts of their own stories as well as pointing us to the Bible and the example of Jesus.
Here are a few of my favourite quotes:
“God asks us to build onto what Jesus has already accomplished. We are simply extending the reach of Christ into a dark and hurting world that desperately needs Him.”
“When others see the light and are drawn to God, it won’t be because you have learned the correct tactic for shedding light or because you will have targeted the perfect patch of darkness. No, your role is to simply step onto the platform God has given you and to share the light, or understanding, which you have received.”
“The praise of other people is a strong undertow that can pull us away from our original mission to elevate Jesus.”
“If I have any sort of following, if I have sold any books, if my work online or in person has had any influence whatsoever, it is all grace.”
Reading the book caused me to reflect on my own experience and some of the lessons I have learned on this subject as I’ve been blogging, so here are some of my thoughts:
Write what you’re called to write
I have been guilty at times of submitting my work in the hope of exposing it to a larger audience, rather than because it is a place where my writing actually fits. This usually leads to rejection and disappointment.
By contrast, when I heard about the opportunity to write regularly for Gracefully Truthful, I knew it was the perfect fit for me. I was accepted straight away and every time I receive details of the assignments available for the coming months, I feel inspired and excited and there are several I’d love to write!
Don’t waste time on things you don’t enjoy
Blogging caused me to try out various social media platforms. To my surprise I discovered that Twitter is the one I enjoy and Pinterest is one that I don’t enjoy or understand at all. I know that many people love Pinterest but it just doesn’t work for me. If I was to use it, it would be for all the wrong reasons, so I have chosen to focus my attention elsewhere.
Seek real community
Don’t use others to build your platform or try to get ahead. Don’t see other writers as competition. As a much more experienced writer said to me at a writing conference I attended, “We’re all on the same journey, just at different points.” The Christian writing community is amazingly encouraging and supportive and I am so grateful for the friendships and connections I’ve made. For me, these are only worthwhile if they are genuine.
I have published posts which I thought were some of my best, linked them up to several link-ups, and shared them on social media, only to be disappointed by how few views they received. By contrast when I took a blogging break in October, during the first week of not posting my blog got more views than any week in the past six months! It was as if God was reminding me that he is in charge of how many people read what I write and I need to trust him, which brings me to my next point…
It’s not all about numbers
I would rather have one person read a post and be helped or challenged or encouraged in a meaningful way than have a hundred people read it and forget it. We never truly know the impact our words are having. On a few occasions I have received a comment or a message from someone who has been following my blog for a while but has never commented before, saying how much they have appreciated what I share. Those comments are precious!
Don’t lose your focus
It’s easy to get distracted. We need to stop regularly to consider why we do what we do, to examine our motivation and look at who we are really seeking to glorify with our writing. I love this song by Casting Crowns – I’ve been listening to it a lot lately and it definitely helps me to refocus on what really matters.
What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and any tips or experiences you have to share.
You can find out more about Influence and here along with details of an online book discussion beginning on 4th February. You can find it on Amazon at these links: UK, US.
I only feature books on my blog that I can wholeheartedly recommend. Amazon links are not affiliate links but are provided for your convenience.