Note: This is a guest post by Amy Crumpton who is wife, mom, coach, and rediscover-er of all things messy and meaningful at Purpose Dweller.
After years of blogging for a small email list, I finally slipped through a door at The Huffington Post with a story about discovering my purpose. In it, I offered a free trial for a course I’d created to help others discover their own callings.
I was excited like a kid at Christmas until I saw the first comment:
“As I read your article, I found myself entertaining hope again. Then I got to the end and saw you were just trying to sell me something. I want to judge you but God says I am supposed to forgive you. I don’t know if I can, but I hope God will.”
Shame rose up in me like steam from a whistling teapot as I turned the comment over and over in my head.
The blistering effects of criticism
Criticism can blister us like a red burner. The wound will heal, but it’s unnerving to keep working so near the hot stove.
I thought The Huffington Post door would open the door to a lot more opportunities. But as they expanded their blogger platform, readership dwindled and became divided.
I continued to post there, but I focused primarily on my own list. I blogged steadily, asked for feedback, invited comments, ramped up social sharing, and offered free stuff. I did everything I knew to do.
But the feedback was fleeting. Shares were rare. Free stuff just sat there. I heard nothing but crickets.
When nobody cares
Crickets are even worse than criticism. We persistently pour our hearts into our art as the silence screams, “Nobody gives a crap! Why do you keep trying?”
I threatened to quit almost every week, but timely encouragement from a reader would give me just enough gas to keep going.
I was whining one day, and my friend asked, “Are people unsubscribing?”
“No,” I replied.
“So at least you aren’t going backward,” she said, and she encouraged me to look again at the posts that did have feedback.
I took her advice and saw that readers had responded to my personal stories more than to my “how-to” articles.
Suddenly, I felt hopeful. Then immediately terrified (like that dream when you’re suddenly on stage in your undies, unable to figure out how you got there and why you can’t find your clothes).
To play it safe, I decided to start a new blog, separate from my old one. On it, I said things other counselors won’t and “good” Christians don’t. The list grew at a faster pace; readers commented. I was finally getting the feedback I craved.
I felt validated.
I was (almost) ready to abandon the original course I’d poured my time and savings into and chase the taste of an active tribe.
There was just one more thing…
I had a call with Jeff Goins scheduled. I’d been one of the first 10 people to sign up for Tribe Writers Premium on a webinar and had received this bonus.
I forwarded links to both blogs beforehand and asked for advice. Jeff’s advice? “I would put all my eggs in the Purpose Dweller basket. Say what you need to say on that blog and keep stretching. You just need more traffic. You will get there.”
I realized Jeff was encouraging me to share my voice right where I was with my first blog. I felt strangely certain he was right, yet I knew why I hadn’t. I was afraid my readers (and especially my loved ones) would reject the real me.
It was one of those pivots Jeff writes about in The Art of Work. A shift we must make when answering our call. So, with butterflies and shallow breathing, I began to write more authentically for my original audience.
And then the “unsubscribes” began.
Battling through the discouragement of unsubscribes
Each time I posted, people dropped off my list like flies. Publishing to my blog was painful, like getting stung by a thousand bees twice a week.
Unsubscribes are even worse than silence. It feels like people are saying, “I don’t like you anymore, but you don’t get to know why.”
Over a few months, my list stabilized. It wasn’t blowing up, but it wasn’t bottoming out, either. And I was getting more comfortable with my voice. Through authenticity came connection—emails from readers saying my stories gave them courage. Their stories were giving me courage as well.
I eventually stopped thinking so much about quitting and took the stronger stance of committing. Old-fashioned perseverance is where the “dream” morphs into the real call.
Finding hope in painful practice
So if you’ve been thinking about quitting because it’s painful, I totally get it.
But here’s the thing Jeff says about painful practice in The Art of Work:
“Not until you find something you can do to the point of exhaustion, to the extent that you almost hate it but can return to it tomorrow, have you found something worth pursuing.”
This brings tears to my eyes the way truth does when your heart hears it. Not because I hate making art sometimes, but because the painful practice comes in letting the art go—again and again—never knowing how or if it will return.
Yes, it can be painful. But you’re not alone on this journey. We are all in this together at Goins, Writer.
So, pretty please, let’s make a pact: Let’s promise each other we won’t let the painful practice of putting our art out in the world stop us from living in our calling.
Now, take one action to put your art out there today! You can do this!
What is the one action you plan on taking today? Share in the comments