Just Write

February 6th, 2013 | Shonali Burke | 51 Comments

leading the wayYesterday Mark Schaefer published a terrific post on how to pluck up the courage to blog with confidence. As I commented on the post, I recalled how I felt every one of the emotions he described (I’m too scared!, how much time will it take?, who will read it?, etc.) and then some, before I got my started on my blogging journey.

And I also recalled how I might never have actually started that journey had it not been for Kami Huyse asking me to guest blog for her back in 2008.

Image: Jeremy Brooks via Flickr, Creative Commons

Down Memory Lane

This was before WUL. I was still transitioning into “life after the ASPCA” and tentatively feeling my way back to my own life. I’d met Kami the previous year, at IPR‘s annual measurement summit (coincidentally, the first time and same place I also met Shel Israel, because Katie Paine insisted I needed to know both of them). We’d stayed in touch, and met up again in 2008 at that year’s PRSA International Conference.

That particular conference saw many firsts. My first time presenting on such a large stage (literally, I co-presented with Katie in a humungous ballroom), my first tweetup, and my first time meeting people like Shannon Paul, Lee Odden, Zoe Siskos, Lauren Vargas, and many, many others I still respect and have since come to know better and be privileged enough to call “friend.”

I just realized you might think I’m name-dropping. That is not my intention. Rather, it’s to share how intimidated I was by this new world inhabited by “social media people.” Many of them had been blogging for years, and weren’t shy of telling you so. No, not the folks I mentioned above, nor several others; but there were certainly some gems who so closely identified  with “who they were” online, they scared me practically to death.

One moment in time

Shonali Burke and Kami Huyse at PRSA 2008 in DetroitOne of the moments I remember vividly from PRSA 2008 was when we were introducing ourselves at the tweetup. Kami had organized it, I think in conjunction with PRSA but I’m not sure. She thought it was going to be a relatively small event, but it grew and grew and grew until we moved from one table to an entire back room at the restaurant.

So there were a lot of people doing the “go-around” of intros, and a typical introduction went like this: “Hi, I’m @_____, I work for _______ and blog at ______.”

Well, there they went. Around and around. They worked here, and they worked there, and they blogged here, and they blogged there, and they were @Such-and-Such, and @So-and-So… they were all so very Very.

And then came my turn. As I watched and listened, I kept trying to think of how best to put this: I was a nobody. I didn’t have a fancy job title (any more), I didn’t work at a big organization (any more) and I certainly didn’t have a blog!

“Why are you here?”

Well, when it was my turn, I said, somewhat shakily, “Hi, I’m @shonali on Twitter, I just left for the ASPCA and am in between jobs, and I don’t have a blog.” Or words to that effect, I don’t remember exactly; but that was the gist of it.

Someone – I don’t remember who, I wish I did (all I remember is that it was a guy) said, “Then why are you here?”

Yes. Really.

I was so taken aback that I didn’t know what to say. Katie, Kami and Michelle Hinson (who was IPR’s director of development for years, and still working there at the time), on the other hand, did. They leaped to my defense and said in unison, almost as if they’d rehearsed it a million times, “Because she’s AWESOME!”

I was so touched. These metaphorical Amazons of the PR, social media and measurement universe thought I was good enough to sit among them … and had no problem proclaiming that to the world. I’ll never forget it.

Saying “thank you” in a guest post

So when Kami asked me if I’d write a guest post for her, there was no way I’d say “no.” I agonized over what to write, how to write, how much to write, how little to write, how not to write, what not to say… until finally I couldn’t agonize any more and sent it in to Lauren (Vargas), who was helping her edit her blog at the time.

I was so nervous about whether they’d like it or not. I must have asked Lauren 20 questions about when it would run, how commenting would work, what I should look out for… and she answered every single one of them patiently.

When the post finally ran (as I re-read it today, it’s still pretty decent; though I’m not sure what happened to the comments, maybe they got blitzed when Kami switched her blog from Feedburner to Feedblitz? I don’t know) I was so proud.

shonali's first blog post ever

SO proud! I emailed it around, shared it on Facebook, asked people to comment (even via DM, and some did not like that!)… I might as well have been showing off my new puppy.

WUL is born

A few months later, WUL emerged in January of 2009. Since then, it has sailed some choppy seas and, I don’t doubt, will sail them again, but it’s still around. I’ve been high, I’ve been low, I’ve ranted, I’ve reasoned, I’ve shared and cried, I’ve done it all on this blog.

Along the way one guest blogger started walking with me, then another, then another. I’ve tried to build up a guest blogging team, in part because that’s how I got my start blogging and want to pay it forward; in part because I think there are some stellar voices that need to be heard, and I’m doing my bit to help them. And I continue to guest blog whenever I can, because it’s just such a terrific thing to do, to stretch one’s writing and creative muscles.

And all the while, people like you made WUL into what it is – whatever it is – through your encouragement, your visits, your comments, your emails, your DMs. Just by being here, by showing up, by sharing, by caring.

Just write

None of this would have happened if Kami hadn’t given me that one gentle push. To just write. When I wasn’t confident in myself, she was.

And while I still don’t think I’m a “great” blogger, I do have more confidence to say what I think. Or, sometimes, not say anything at all. But I know where I’ll do it.

So if you are walking that same road right now – that road that I’ve walked, and that Mark and Kami walked before me, and Katie did before all of us – and are trying to figure out who will care, what you’ll write, who you’ll write for, what you’ll say…

Stop worrying so much. And just write.

We’re here for you.

So just write.

Now that I’ve gone all Bill Dorman on you… or maybe all JackB… please. Just write.

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Shonali Burke
Head honcho of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke is President & CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, she loves helping for- and non-profit clients, both small and large, turn corporate codswallop into community cool™. She also loves ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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51 comments
ginidietrich
ginidietrich

I remember that feeling so well. When we switched our business model in January 2010, I wrote a blog post about it and hovered on the publish button for hours before actually hitting it. I don't have that same hesitance any longer, but I definitely remember how that feels.

And I agree with the amazons of PR. YOU ARE AWESOME!

Latest blog post: A Triberr Confessional

geoffliving
geoffliving

This post made me feel old. That is all.

Ancita
Ancita

Awesome post @Shonali :-) You know this post reminds me when I started guest blogging for WUL and that gentle push that I got to "just write" ... thank you for giving me that opportunity and yeah I totally believe that I'm walking the same path ...but I'll "keep writing" :) :) 

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

Let's get one thing straight. You should NEVER be intimidated. You should be doing the INTIMIDATING. (And I mean this is the nicest way!) 

Nice topic to read on a day when I hit "Publish" on my first blog post in nearly two months. Whoo-hoo!!

jrsygrl621
jrsygrl621

Love this post! Great advice to just doing what it is you want to do. As well as a reminder that support may not comes in the most unexpected ways. 

Adam | Customer Experience
Adam | Customer Experience

What a great post Shonali! Very interesting to read about your start in blogging. It's amazing the how similar the challenges of blogging are for everyone. And I agree with the consensus "just write."

leeodden
leeodden

I'm so glad to have met you Shonal and I love that you shared your story and such sage advice to "just do it".  

SandraSays
SandraSays

What a great post. I recently went to the Dad 2.0 conference and was asked if I am a blogger. I gave my typical response: no. And was promptly asked what I was doing there.

I should clarify that I do have a blog. But I average 20-25 posts a year, usually, so I don't identify myself as a blogger. I am, however, very active in social media. I have wonderful networks on several channels. And I flatter myself that I have a good community online, regardless of how seldom I post on my own blog.

And then we get to the blogs I don't own myself or that I don't publish in my own name. I did a count and realized that I post 10-20 articles, posts and other types of content onto blogs every month. And I don't call myself a blogger. Maybe I need to revisit that title. 

Tks for sharing. Great, as usual.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

WhenI attended Counselors Academy for the first time in 2009, I was a nervous wreck. I thought people would wonder what the hell a solo practitioner from Idaho was doing there. When I stood in front of everyone and gave them my brief story,I had people coming up to me throughout the event to tell me how much they loed what I was doing.

Sometimes we have to get out of our own bad selves and in front of others for fresh (and far more desirable) perspective! Love this story, Shonali!

KDillabough
KDillabough

I'm baaaaaack;) I love this post, and I so resonate with what you've written here. Tomorrow, February 7th, is actually my 2-year anniversary of blogging. I remember those heady first days of excitement, fun, learning, meeting new people. And I remember the valleys when it felt like "what's it all about?" (right @bdorman264 ?) and what I referred to as "chopped liver syndrome"...feeling like I was on the outside looking in...not part of the cool-kids-crowd.

You've always been so very kind and generous to me @shonali , and I appreciate and treasure that. I started blogging for one purpose: to stop the self-editor in me. Mission accomplished. 2013 will see some tweaks and changes to my blog, but will still be based on my new mantra, which came via @TheJackB , who concluded one of his posts with the words: "Just write baby, just write." And if I could figure out how to post a photo of the framed version on my desk, I'd do so...help anyone?

Thanks for being an inspiration and a friend. Cheers! Kaarina

DonnaVincentRoa
DonnaVincentRoa

Super post @shonali! I am always impressed by the way that you deliver emotional vulnerability. This represents a potential blog post: why is emotional vulnerability in blog posts important? and how the heck do you do it without sounding weak, strange, or totally off your rocker. 

You know, there is a fine line.

You do it well. I put you in the same category as @petershankman. You guys are masters at getting into the nuances of a subject without seeming too sappy. You take a stand and always feature a good story. Thanks for taking the time to write.

DonnaPapacosta
DonnaPapacosta

Lovely post. We are all glad you started blogging!


kamichat
kamichat

There is nothing so wonderful as encouraging people with potential to take their rightful place. I may have been one of the people who saw that in you early on, but I certainly am not the only one - as evidenced by this vibrant community which surrounds you here.

I am even more moved by how you have taken these early kindnesses and passed them onto others. All of us had people who guided and encouraged us, mine were Katie Paine, Shel Israel and Scott Baradell. It's not a coincidence that Katie connected us, Shonli :-)

I am gald that we have stayed friends all of these years, and I hope it continues well into the future.

Latest blog post: Beth's Back!

BillSledzik
BillSledzik

Great post Shonali. I miss the days when you and I often crossed paths in the blogosphere and even once met F2F. Imagine that! 

It was only a few years ago, days when I did a lot more writing, thinking, and reflecting. Then came Twitter and Facebook and, well, the chats just aren't as deep as they once were. Your posts reminds me of the many friendship we all established out here --  and of the importance of maintaining them.

EricaButeau
EricaButeau

Privileged to have met you along your way and I remember following you closely through your turning points. You were then and continue to be an inspiration to me! Thanks for sharing your wonderful story, Shonali! 

KDillabough
KDillabough

Oooh, so good, but running out the door. Just wanted you to know how much I LOVE this post, and I'll be back...later! Cheers! Kaarina

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

And you are indeed AWESOME! 

Lovely post, Shonali and so very true. I still will overthink a post, rather than just write it. Today's post is a super long one, and may not be what I had originally intended, but I wanted to write. End of story. I wanted to write and so I did. Thanks for the reminder!


domcrincoli
domcrincoli

Thanks Shonali. I appreciate you confronting the emotional vulnerability connected with blogging and finding your voice.

zoeDisco
zoeDisco

AH! This totally reminds me of the first post I ever wrote - I had been thinking about blogging for so long and the only thing I wasn't doing was blogging! Not until I "just wrote".

Amazing to think about the impact that these people had on you....I'm honoured to be considered among them. Truthfully, Shonali, I look at you very much in the same regard - you totally have your s$%t together :)

And if you want a little more of a trip down memory lane, here's a photo of you, me and KD Paine at PRSA: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zoedisco/2984602636/in/set-72157608477509244.

Thank you a million times over, I feel so fortunate to have been able to build a relationship with online and off.


z

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

What a touching post! I remember feeling the exact same way. I remember starting a blog because I thought if I don't blog no one will take me seriously and I also wanted to improve my writing skills.  I was so unsure of my writing (I still am) and I remember one day @ginidietrich said to me  "You really should blog more, you're good at it" or something to that affect. It was a great confidence booster and it affirmed that I did belong in this space too. Since then I have put my own blog on hold more or less and have dedicated my time to writing for other blogs like WUL. Maybe one day I'll pick mine back up again but for now I really just enjoy blogging in other spaces and while sometimes I dread starting a post once I do I'm always reminded of why I started blogging in the first place.

bdorman264
bdorman264

Ah, you name dropper; I see you trying to get my name in there too...........:).

If they would have asked me why I was there, I would have put the Kung Fu grip on them and replied "and now, aren't you glad you showed up too?"

My focus is trying to change, but I still 'just write.' My wife heard me clacking away last night responding to the comments on my post and she said "I thought you gave up blogging." I mentioned that I had cut back, but was having too much fun just to give it up. She asked "are you still just writing about you?". And I said "of course, people love me." Her reply was "you love yourself." Doh.........

By playing in the game, it has allowed me to me some really great people like yourself. If that's all I get out of it, then that will be enough. Anything more will be pure gravy..........or at least butter chicken, huh? 

That's my story. 

Heather Coleman
Heather Coleman

What a great walk down memory lane Shonali! I've also been amazed by the people I've met through social media. This post makes me want to go dust off my blog (which sees about 5 posts a year from me) and start writing again. Thank you.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@leeodden I can't even tell you how many times I pinched myself when you not just stopped to talk to me, but then you took the time to interview me. OMG! You know how highly I think of you, Lee, and to me the fact that you are (still, when you are such a big name and I'm not joking about that) so kind to everyone, and humble... it's amazing. I'm truly privileged to know you.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@SandraSays You mean they didn't ask you why you were there since you weren't a dad? ;) 

Your comment about writing made me stop and think. We say we can't write/won't write/have writer's block... but think of all the words and characters and letters and numbers and spaces we type Every. Single. Day. I can't even imagine what that adds up to (@howiegoldfarb do you know? Because you know everything).

Wow. And yes, you do need to revisit that title. Because you are a blogger. You are a creator. You are a storyteller. So you're much more than "a blogger" but you are definitely a blogger.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@KDillabough Ooh, happy 2nd bloggiversary, Kaarina - that is AWESOME. Congrats! For me meeting you, @bdorman264 @TheJackB @adamtoporek in recent years via blogging has definitely been one of the highlights. May we all blog long and prosper!

About the photo - I don't know if Livefyre lets you attach images, but I think you could host it online, eg via a Twitpic, or on Flickr, or basically anywhere you can grab a URL, and then share the link in your comment - just like @zoeDisco did below. Do try that - I'd love to see the photo!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@kamichat Yes, @kdpaine always has a reason for doing what she does. It's amazing, how many wonderful people I am now close to because she initially introduced me to them. You, Shel, @richardbagnall ... so, so many!

I am very glad we are still friends too, and I too hope that continues well into the future. I couldn't have put it better myself!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@BillSledzik Ha, I know, imagine that indeed! Do you remember how terrified I was of meeting you? And then you were SO nice to me. You even came to a tweetup with us. ;)

I know the chats can be less in-depth than they used to be. But, I'm also seeing some very powerful/deep conversations in some of the Facebook Groups I'm in. Are you? And, I am having many more one-on-one meetings and conversations with a range of people, via phone, Skype, or IRL. I especially noticed this happening at last year's IC... it happened often enough that I remarked on it to several people. I loved that. That's what I would like to do more and more of. 

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@EricaButeau How nice of you to say. Isn't it a wonderful feeling to think how long we go back? I felt like that when I was back home a couple of months ago... to catch up with people I have literally known for decades now. And we are as warm to each other as ever. The feeling is mutual!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@EricaAllison I haven't as yet been over to your place today, but OMG what a great headline! You have a gift for writing and communicating, Erica. You might have a career ahead of you in PR. ;) 

Seriously, though - thank you. I've learned so much from you, and continue to do so. I am so excited that I will see you IRL soon!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@zoeDisco I LOVE that photo! I think I have a very similar one in my Flickr set - I think we were all taking photos at the same time. Oh! Do you remember how @kamichat @vargasl and @shannonpaul were ALL typing on their BlackBerries at the same time? I think I may have a photo of that!

I am so proud of where we have all collectively come. Not in an arrogant way, I hope you know that. Especially you. You rock!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@rachaelseda You knew @ginidietrich before you knew me? How is that possible? Oh, I forgot; because the Jean Genie knows EVERYONE before ANYONE else. ;) Btw - you know who introduced me to her? @hackmanj - another super connector.

I would love to see your own blog rise again but I can't deny that I LOVE having you write for WUL. And it's funny you mention enjoying writing for other spaces; that's actually what this post started out to be (about the advantages of guest blogging), but then I remembered 2008, and then... well, you see where it went.

What I love is that you don't seem to have any regret about putting your blog on hold for a bit. You know it's there, and when the time is right, you'll pick it back up again. That is terrific.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@bdorman264 And I succeeded. ;) You made me laugh with the Kung Fu grip line, Bill!

You know I love your blog. I'm so glad you finally dropped the "invisible" thing - remember how much I would rag you about it? Because you are FAR from invisible. 

What you said is spot on: if [getting to meet great people... like YOU!] is all we get out of it, then that's enough. Because what is more important in life than having good people around you?

I still owe you the butter chicken, I know. You better get to DC soon!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@Heather Coleman If this post achieved that, I am SO happy! Please please will you let me know when your next post is out? And if you ever want to GP here, I would love it. 

Heather, getting to know you over the last year especially has been so nice. Seeing as how we are also in a few Facebook Groups together, I feel as if we've had the chance to see each other outside the glare of the public spotlight. Seeing you at TEDx, etc. What I always think of when I see/hear you is the feeling of calm you leave one with. That is a great gift!

Adam | Customer Experience
Adam | Customer Experience

@Shonali  It's been awesome getting to know you as well! Hopefully, I can make it to Knox and we can hang out IRL again.

And two years @KDillabough ! I will hit mine on Valentine's Day, if I count the original blog. :) That means @bdorman264 ought to be getting close to his also, since we all started around the same time.

LaurenVargas
LaurenVargas

@Shonali @zoeDisco @kamichat @shannonpaul I just saw this photo the other day. This is such a beautiful post and helps me remember to cherish the friendships and relationships that have helped me become who I am today and the future me. Thank you.

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