For instance, when you start a band, you love how it sounds. You walk around the very next day after your first practice, just trying to sound as casual as possible as you tell everyone, “Yeah, I’m in a band.”
And other people like how it sounds, too. They want to talk about it immediately. Where do you guys play out? What kind of music do you play? How did you get so sexy and cool?
So yes, when you’re blogging, it’s a lot like being in a band, without being cool. You even know it isn’t cool – for a long time you try to come up with a better phrase for it, try to dress it up in cool clothes. You might stand in front of the mirror, saying, “Yeah, I’m blogging.” Or, “Yeah, I’ve started a blog.”
And you can’t make it sound like anything other than a brick landing on damp soil, and not a very cool brick, either.
Don’t worry, though, because it’s so not cool, you’ll frequently walk into a room full of people who definitely know that you’ve started blogging, and no one will bring it up. You can see that they know about it, but they’re not wondering what you’re working on, and they’re certainly not wondering how you got so sexy and cool.
There are a lot of similarities, though. Your success is largely gauged, for instance, by how many people show up. When you’re in a band, this is pretty awkward, at first, when you’ve scored a gig in a local bar, and you’re not going to make any money off it, but it’s a chance to play out and get everything going. And then eight people show up – your mom, your sister, and six of your friends.
And some of the six friends are really not at all interested in your band – they’re just being supportive because they’re good friends. But privately, they might be thinking, oof, this is kind of painful.
When I started Future Tom, there were not very many people showing up, either, and yes, an alarming percentage of them were my sister or my mom. And I’m sure a lot of people were thinking, oof, every day? I’m supposed to show up and keep a straight face every single day?
Then what really starts winning people over, in both situations, is you keep doing it. You keep playing out and playing as hard as you can, even if it’s only to six of your friends and your sister and your mom. You keep coming up with new songs. You keep working at it. Slowly you start to see strange faces in the crowd, peppered among your earnestly supportive friends.
After a while, you stop focusing on how many people showed up, because you can see that your identity has changed. It’s no longer about whether or not you belong on the stage, it’s about the journey you’re taking up there, and getting past the fear of taking the journey in public.
You know that you aren’t perfect, and yet you put yourself out there, right in full view of everyone. It’s about the fact that before you started doing this, you had to convince everyone you were a writer or a musician by arguing the point, by showing them your laptop or your guitar.
Now there’s no way to argue, it’s just something everyone knows. People can say, I don’t like this band, or I don’t like this writer, but they can’t say, this guy’s not in a band, or this guy’s not a writer. All they have to do is look at you up there.
When you’re in a band, this is approximately when the groupies begin to show up, but you don’t get groupies, when you’re blogging.
But people start to respect the fact that you’re putting yourself out there. To some extent, that kind of respect is a bit easier to come by, when it’s blogging, and not inherently cool at all. You could start a band just to get to the groupie stage, and not put very much in it, and everyone kind of gets it. You’re in a band to get the ladies – it’s an easy concept to understand.
I don’t think very many people get into blogging for the ladies, and maybe that’s the reason people start to believe in your new identity. You don’t have much of a motivation for what you’re doing, other than sincerity.
Also, you have to deal with hecklers when you’re blogging, just like you do when you’re in a band. It’s much easier, dealing with the hecklers on the blog, because they aren’t really in the room. They just drop scathing insults into the comments, questioning your heterosexuality, questioning your right to have internet access, spraying profanity around like mean-spirited confetti.
But the good news is, you just click a little box and then no one can hear the heckler. He’s gone. His comments go right into a spam folder, and then he’s shooting off his mouth in a broom closet and doesn’t even know it.
Oh, but you’ll go in there every once in a while, just out of morbid curiosity, and you’ll read the borderline death threats from the super-serious Lost fanatics, and just knowing these guys are out there somewhere, typing at their computers with their eyebrows all pointy…
Not a pleasant thought.
As you start to build a name for yourself, the shows start to fill up, and you can see how maybe you’re not particularly close to turning a profit, but that you’ve at least picked up the trail.
The thing to do in both worlds is to cultivate relationships and support networks with the other people out there, doing the same thing. You show up at other shows, and you talk to the guys in the band afterward, make sure they know who you are and where you’re playing, and there’s a good chance they’ll show up, help to legitimize you and spread the word. You can help yourself a lot just by helping other people.
Same thing, when you’re blogging, even while you’re still cringing at the word – you show up on other people’s blogs, drop in comments when you see things you like.
And eventually you get a great gig, opening for Weezer at a concert hall or something. Or you write a rant about how much you disliked the end of Lost. And suddenly, for that one show, it’s not six people and your sister and your mom anymore. It’s an Audience. It’s an undulating crowd of people who are getting the message you’ve been sending, getting it and understanding it, whether they like it or not.
It’s a fifteen-minutes-of-fame kind of thing, because you won’t get that kind of crowd again for a long time, but you notice that when the tide goes back out from the Weezer show or the Lost rant, that it left a certain number of new fans behind.
You go right back to playing the same bars you started in, except this time they’re packed, and you recognize a lot of faces, from your big night with Weezer or with Lost.
This time, no one looks uncomfortable, or like they’re trying to keep a straight face. No one looks confused as to what you think you’re doing up there on the stage. No one thinks you’re doing it for the ladies, and no one feels like they have to show up, out of pity or obligation. They just show up to see what you’ve done, since the last time they saw you, and that’s all you wanted in the first place.
The identity that you kept in your pocket for so long, that you were so careful about who you showed it to, it’s nothing to be cautious or sheepish or apologetic about anymore. And you realize, you’ve lost most of the fear and apprehension, most of the mental whispers which talked you into holding back for so long, and now you just get up there and belt it out, the way you want to, however you feel like doing it.
And you want to make certain you remember that first of all, you’ve still got a long way to go, so confidence in your identity is awesome, but don’t mistake a single concert with Weezer as the end of your stuggle, or as a reason to start acting like a prick – it’s a common mistake.
And when you look out at the crowd, you want to make sure you remember your sister and your mom, and the six people or so who were right here clapping when no one else was. You want to remember to save them a seat and give them a wave, because maybe you wouldn’t be doing this, or maybe it wouldn’t be working, if it wasn’t for them.