Happy Birthday to Journaling Saves! Early January of last year, I hit “publish” on the very first post.
To help celebrate the site’s 1st birthday, I’m giving away free stuff! Read all the details HERE. (The contest is over – congratulations to winners Kathy and Kim and thanks to everyone who participated!)
I’ve learned A LOT in the past year through creating this website. Here are my Top 7 epiphanies of the first year.
Before I start, I have to warn you, this is a total Sapfest 2011. Be prepared for ridiculous amounts of emoting, gushing, and shameless gratitude.
If Emo is not your cup of tea, I’ll be sure to write a super-snarky post for next time. 😉
1. Community is more important than knowledge.
This insight is first because it’s the most vital and the most surprising. (Surprising to me. But I can be a little slow on the uptake.)
I started this site to get away from people. I was tired of dealing with web design clients. Of holding their hands, of managing their dramas, of stroking their egos and begging for their payments.
I just wanted to be alone with my MacBook for awhile. Little did I know… 🙂
The best part about this website, hands-down, is the people I’ve met through writing and promoting it. YOU. You are absolutely fabulous. I love you.
I love your insights, your enthusiasm, your camaraderie. I love how you encourage me and disagree with me respectfully. I love that you challenge me, and fill my inbox and my Facebook page with your thoughts and ideas. I love watching you meet each other and provide resources for others in our little tribe.
I love this whole damn thing.
(Okay, I’m fully crying right now. I’m ridiculous.)
I was recently reading up on how to streamline your work process (see “I Need Another 6 Hours a Day” below) and discovered a suggestion from one of my minimalism gurus. He said he didn’t check email anymore. He just… stopped.
He also eliminated comments on his blog. Turned them off completely. There was no contact form on his site. There was no way to provide feedback.
I felt a stab of loss when I imagined doing that. This community is the reason why I write this site! Why would I get rid of that?
I do my best to answer every single email I receive, and I love them to pieces. I love hearing your points of view in the blog comments and on Facebook. If that means I spend an hour a day moderating comments and writing responses to email, sign me up!
I mean, you people sent me actual Christmas cards in the mail this year!
This project was supposed to be a shelter from humans but it actually connected me with more than I could’ve dreamed of. I’ve learned that humans weren’t the problem; I was just hanging out with the wrong crowd.
2. Imagination is limitless.
When I began this site last January, I imagined a static website. I wanted to write a fat stack of “how to” articles on starting a journal, and then spread the word. I pictured the site as a finished resource for folks who wanted to start journaling.
I jotted down a list of 20 posts, and figured that was all there really was to say about journaling. Right?
Ah, no. What I discovered is that each post gave birth to three more, Hydra-style. While writing a post, I’d look down at my word count and realize it was approaching novella length. So I’d split it up. And realize I could turn each paragraph into a useful post. And then the topic itself would sprout tributaries, and I’d be off and writing in a whole new direction.
In fact, the more ideas I get, the more ideas I get! My cup floweth over. Creativity creates creativity. Amazing.
In the beginning of 2011, I sat down to create my editorial calendar for the year and churned out over 100 post topics in twenty minutes.
And I actually thought I’d run out of ideas!
3. You don’t know what you don’t know.
There’s a syndrome in marketing called the “Curse of Knowledge.” It means that once you learn something, you totally lose touch with what it was like to not know it.
When you’re in the business of teaching people, this is not good. Not only do you lose touch with what it feels like to be a beginner, you lose touch with what to teach altogether.
This initially happened when I went to create the website. I said, “I want to teach people how to journal.” So I wrote: “Get a notebook and a pen. Sit down. Write.”
I’ve been doing it for so long that I forgot what it was like to start. I forgot about what it’s like to stare at a blank page in panic. To fear for your privacy. To not know what to write. To feel like you’re doing it wrong. To not have enough time. To get burned out.
But you reminded me, by asking questions. I listened as hard as I could. Each time I talked to a person about journaling during my daily travels, I’d listen to their responses. (Mostly, their excuses for not doing it.) I looked for ways to address each concern. I came up with solutions based on what has worked for me.
It’s so easy to forget what it’s like to not know. And we often don’t realize what we don’t know until we learn it. (Wrap your noodle around that one for a minute.)
Understanding this has helped me in every area of my life. Sometimes we need to help our teachers teach us, by reminding them what it was like to be a newbie.
4. Every interaction is an opportunity to influence.
You never know who in passing is going to hang on to your words. Or who might stumble upon your shared wisdom in a moment of desperation.
Your simple truth has the potential to change lives at any moment. And you don’t get to pick that moment.
I’m not talking about the stuff I write. I mean the stuff YOU write. To me. Your comments, your feedback. Days when I’m not feeling inspired and I want to throw in the towel and I receive a simple email from someone saying, “I was down and you helped me get back up.”
It’s 100% mutual, my friends. And most of the time we have no idea how big of an impact we have on one another. Both positive and negative. It can be a big responsibility. I accept it gratefully.
5. I need another 6 hours a day.
There’s so much I want to share, and so much I want to learn and be a part of. There’s simply not enough time to do it all.
In a lot of ways, launching this site and trying to get the word out has taught me a great deal about prioritization. How to decide what’s really important.
It’s also taught me that sometimes I can’t do everything I want. A hard lesson for this girl to learn!
6. Celebrate the small victories… and the big ones.
Perfectionism snaps at our heels constantly. I am particularly prone to bouts of it. I’ve learned through growing this website that my evolving definition of success has a tendency to outpace my accomplishments.
This week the Big Dig email list reached over 1,000 subscribers (!!!). I did a little dance in the living room and immediately began thinking about the next 1,000.
And I was reminded of the party I threw when I hit 100 subscribers. That felt like A LOT. For about 10 minutes.
It’s important for us to slow down and savor our accomplishments when they happen.
There’s a fine line between healthy ambition and the relentless pursuit of perfection. Know when to say when, and celebrate the small victories!
7. You have to love the journey.
If you’re in anything for the long haul, you’ve got to love the process. Because that’s where all the work happens. That’s where all your love and effort and sweat and tears has to go.
A lofty end goal is motivating for a short time. But when the excitement of a future payoff loses its lustre, the journey itself will keep you engaged.
This was one of the most important lessons for me. You have to love the process. Sometimes you need to look for things to love about it. If you can’t find any, it’s time to find a different project.
What motivates me now is different than what motivated me when I began this site. It’s no longer Google analytics or opt-in rates. It’s human contact. It’s emails, blog comments, and direct replies to the Big Dig. I cherish every one of them, and they ARE the process. They are why I get out of bed in the morning.
YOU are why I get out of bed in the morning. So thank you.
Now let’s all cry and eat cake.