Cutting through the B.S. (A Blogging/Content Experiment)

Throughout my life, I’ve studied a number of cultures, and most recently I’ve become a member of the blogging community. It’s been about a month, and I’ve gained a grand total of about ten followers, but I think I’ve hit a pivotal milestone. It’s happened with every culture I’ve been emerged in, and evidently this one is no different – it even took around the same amount of time in the cyber world that it takes during foreign travel.

After a month of immersion and study, I’ve gained confidence that I know how to navigate this place! It just so happens that I’m also scheduled for a rare and exciting opportunity – a two week hiatus from my “real job.” So, I’m going to use that time to conduct a content/blog growth experiment which you are more than welcomed to join in on.

My two weeks away from work will be spent hiking and camping in the Southwest with little signal, so I’ve scheduled some posts in advance. Let me set the scene for you by sharing a couple of lessons I’ve learned, along with my predictions going forward:

  1. It seems to me that the way this blogging thing works is that people who are passionate about writing attempt to use their craft to influence or inspire others. In their efforts to gain a readership (and often, to genuinely contribute to the community of other writers) they slave away and get down into the weeds with their feelings, giving 100% of their honest effort to provide quality content.
  2. It also seems to me that, as someone endeavoring to contribute to the community of others while growing my own, I set the bar pretty low for who I’m going to follow. It’s like, if they have decent grammar and their blog is basically professional, I hit them with a follow and hope that they will be marginally inspired by my work like I am by theirs. I also make a note of the blogs that I REALLY want to read, so I can stay up to speed with their content. This guy is presently at the top of that list. (Note that it isn’t dishonest when I follow blogs I’m marginally interested in, I just have faith in their ability to grow over time and want to help them do so.)
  3. Another important lesson I’ve learned is that “branding” is evidently important. However, as a freelance writer whose “brand” is simply using the written word to provoke and inspire contemplation, I think I largely get a free pass on this one. All I want to do is write impactful shit – so that gives me a pretty wide range to work with.
  4. While I thrive on persuasive writing (particularly, articles on idealism and leadership), I’ve also been a poet for as long as I can remember. I have hundreds and hundreds of poems already written, but breaking into articles and content is new for me.

All that said, I’ve scheduled some of my favorite (self-healing/self-help) poems to be posted once per day at 0800AM until my return on May 28th. Cristian Mihai said in one of his articles that consistency is more important than almost anything when it comes to blogging, and I believe the guy! Your content is the most visible during the first few hours that you post it, so posting something new consistently is bound to yield more followers.

I guess the ultimate goal of a blogger is to first build your network using whatever strategies (authentic or otherwise) you can, and THEN once that community has been built, try to maintain it by inspiring them, hoping that you’ll be able to hone it down to people who are honestly impacted by your work. And strangely, I’m okay with that. If I get a thousand followers, and then 80% decide that my work isn’t for them, then I have gained 200 followers that I can honestly engage with and learn from.

My prediction is based on two factors:

  1. That, in general, the poems I’ve scheduled over the next couple of weeks will attract an audience that is genuinely interested in all of the things I write (I observe life’s subtleties and draw larger lessons from them – that’s essentially poetry).
  2. That I will be able to gain more of an audience by not being so attached to the idea of growing one. The things I’ve written have impacted me – there’s no reason I need to check a hundred times per day to see if they impact others.

I’m betting I’ll be able to at least double my number of followers during this experiment. And if I don’t, I promise to be straight forward about my lessons-learned and redirection of course when I get back. Click follow to see how it goes, and know that I’m genuinely thrilled by the idea of building my organic, honest community, and learning from your contemplation as you learn from mine.

If you stayed with me this far, you must be intrigued. Here’s an example of what to expect each morning.

Much Love,

Dustin Stitt (The Quiet Visionary)

Writers – Cut Yourself Some Slack!

This message is just as much for me as it is for any of you – and I’m going to keep this short, because it doesn’t take long to say what’s on my mind today. The way I see it, there are three major obstacles that all writers face, and that most of us NEVER overcome.

1. Finding your voice: You can write for decades, and even be good at it, but most people never find their unique, vulnerable, and brutally honest voice and style. If you’ve done this, you’re leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. I’d say that being confident in your voice puts you ahead of at least 50% of aspiring authors.

2. Live through experiences that validate and lend credence to your voice: People want to know why they should read your work. There are a million possible answers to the question – maybe you studied a particular subject, hold a certain set of beliefs, or traveled to parts of the world that made you who you are today. I once had a college professor tell me, “Tons of people can write. Not many of them have lived a life worth writing about.” Just remember that you have to write with purpose – nobody wants to listen to someone vent for three hours.

3. Lastly, you have to find your audience. This is increasingly complicated in our technologically advanced world. It’s easy for anyone to share their thoughts on social media, so there’s a lot more competition. Even before the era of social media though, many of the greatest authors in the world weren’t discovered until after their deaths. Give it time – if your message is impactful and you are dedicated to helping others by delivering it, you WILL succeed in finding your audience.

I realized this morning while beating myself up that I have achieved two of the three necessary but often not achieved steps to becoming a successful author. We all need to just cut ourselves some slack and enjoy the journey. 2/3 isn’t bad for my first 27 years.

Thoughts? Did I miss a step? I’d love to hear from you.

Defining The Problem

For nearly two years, my primary mission in life (aside from typical distractions like working, paying bills, and finding inner peace) has been to write and publish my memoir, which was initially entitled “Depravity.”

I’ve achieved a number of goals and breakthroughs concerning the memoir, not the least of which was breaking the book into two parts and changing the title to “Depravity and Defiance”. For around the past year though, I’ve been at a virtual standstill when it comes to actually writing the damned thing. After months of contemplation, discussion with friends and mentors, and having a few test audiences read along, I’ve learned a few things, which I intend to process for myself in this article.

My primary mistake was based on a concept from the East – that clinging to outcomes and having (generally unrealistic or unenforceable) expectations only leads to stagnation and pain. The purpose of the memoir is to help people who have experienced trauma (which is virtually everyone) on their paths to overcoming it. My mistake has been visualizing the achievement of that goal by yearning for things like mass publication, a Pulitzer prize, or landing on the New York Times Best Seller’s list. I’ve been so focused on the book being translated into dozens of languages, overcoming cultural biases, and winning prestigious intellectual awards, that I’ve amassed this incredible amount of pressure for myself, which has largely prevented me from putting words on paper.

Additionally, while I’ve had an intangible idea for what I want the book to accomplish, I’ve never written it down. As a writer, I should know how important that is, but I’ve long neglected it. By way of a remedy, here is the defined list of life-events that I want to address in my book, which is something of a “Thesis on Life.” Since the book is a memoir, these are largely chronological and are written as I experienced them in my own past.

  1. The over-arching theme of the book is that humanity is a universal condition, not one to be ashamed of, and not one that we must atone for. Our best efforts need to be viewed with compassion toward the self, and passionate expression in writing is not sinful.
  2. It’s important to realize that we are the way we are for reasons, and that reflection and meditation on each piece of our lives will lead to a greater understanding of the whole. It isn’t enough to shove hard emotions into a box that we never open. We have to examine and process the emotions we’ve shoved away in order to maximize our potential and achieve our goals.
  3. Written from my own viewpoint throughout different stages in my life, the book begins with a 10 year old’s attempt to process the following: coming from a divorced/broken home, negotiating a life of inconsistency, growing up with different (and opposing) influences, and overcoming an initial introduction to loss and grief. When I lost one of my best friends at age 11, death (the balance to life) became incredibly tangible to me, and has been so ever since.
  4. Religion has been a primary influence in my life: I grew up in Pentecostal Churches, have lived with a Muslim tribe in the Horn of Africa, traveled to Central America and witnessed the influence of the Mayans, Voodoo, etc. I’ve also explored Eastern Religion and Yogic lines of thought associated with energies and spirits. Additionally, I was heavily influenced by Greek religious concepts and philosophies during my college studies, and I hope to share the cultural lessons I’ve learned from each. I aspire to break down the stigma that differences must be met with violence, hate, and pain. I also share my experience in processing multiple religions (including the pressure of loving people who have opposing beliefs) in hopes that others will be able to relate to the process. Allegory and parables are used in my book, as they are in many of the influencing sources. In part two, I share my current perspectives, not to convert, but to explore and express.
  5. The writing progresses to my early teenage years, where I attempt to negotiate the effects of parental alcoholism and violence on a young mind. I address my experiences with misogyny and the self-hate associated with toxic, angry masculinity. Throughout the entirety of the book, I address the multi-generational and highly contagious effects of masculine guilt and insecurity.
  6. My grandfather was a profound mentor and influencer in my life. I address how impactful healthy relationships can be for young people, even when they aren’t obviously so. I also address the process (from a young person’s perspective) associated with the loss of such an influence to cancer.
  7. Nearing the middle of book one, I discuss the spiraling cycle and rut that a lifetime of impactful events can have on a child’s mind. I explore internalization and the loneliness associated with not having an avenue of expression. I reflect on how that suppression can lead to violent thought (and eventually, to violent action), which perpetuates guilt and causes a deeper rut to be formed.
  8. The book explores young love, the cultural and religious pressure that causes young marriages (and subsequent divorces). Family values can cause young people to project things that aren’t there in their ambition toward achieving “the American dream.” I learn about the journey my parents were experiencing during my youth, as I experience it for myself in adulthood.
  9. I reflect on the impact and journey of military enlistment and the (many) demons that can accompany military service. I write about PTSD, suicidal thoughts, and the overuse of medication in treating veterans and others.
  10. I traverse the intelligence community, discover a number of truths about politics, government, and international relationships. I write about my journey as a father, both to my own daughter and to foster children. I write about achieving the American Dream.
  11. I write about my father’s diagnosis and battle with cancer – my experience with separating from service in order to support the family. I cover giving up, breaking down, and the confidence of authenticity that comes from just not giving a damn anymore. I explore how to recover from not giving a damn. I break the American dream into pieces and explore what my own dreams might be.

Book two is about my perspective as an adult, and how I (attempt to) balance and learn from the events listed above. 

Below is a list of people who I want the book to influence and help:

  1. Humans, or anyone who might know one.

Since the book is a thesis on life, I decided to pursue a mentor to hold me accountable for its progress and content. A special thank you to my mentor in completing this project. Also, to my readers, collaborators, and life influences.

An extra special thank you to anyone who accepts me for who I am and the mission that I have in the world rather than trying to change me into something else. Transmutation can be uncomfortable, particularly for the object being transmuted.

In a world of extremes, I hope to use difficult experiences and impactful language to snap people out of complacency and propel them forward in a journey toward balance and acknowledgment of the self.

More to come, for those crazy enough to read along. Much love. This one was written for me, really. Now, I’ve got some work to do.

-Dustin Stitt (Just a man who writes things, because that’s what he’s supposed to do.)