Last week I got the audiobook form of Seth Godin’s The Dip through iTunes – it was on for four dollars, how could I say no? – and finished it over about three days of on-foot commutes. I’ve since been trying to come up with a good way to communicate some of the lessons in the book.
Regular book reviews give me the gyp. I can’t write them. If you want a better example of a synopsis review, see Brad J Ward’s sum-up – he did a good job. I like the Dip. I like its message, I love Seth Godin’s writing. But I always have trouble with book reviews, because I look so hard to find application more than just assessment. So why not do something entirely different. Why not an assessment, then an example?
Godin is very good at adding value to simple concepts, but it still feels like you only need one page to write this book. Never quit is a stupid piece of advice, because sticking with things that aren’t working for you is a waste of energy, effort and capital. Godin uses the term Strategic Quitting very often in the book, and talks a lot about the things that are legitimate reasons for us to quit, and the irrational, reactionary reasons why most people quit and then, in true Godin fashion, he wraps it all up with a very simple message.
Being prepared to quit for good reasons (and knowing the reasons why you quit) is of infinite value in any endeavour. This is because, until you reach those limits- the ones you set for yourself when you plan, you’re never going to give up and you’ll eventually become (as Godin says so many times) The Best In The World.
I’ve been reading Mark Dykeman’s Broadcasting Brain for just under a year. It was one of the first blogs I happened upon when I was looking into doing this very thing myself – and I consider myself very lucky to have found it. Mark’s writing is incredible. The angle from which he approaches life is at once pragmatic and inspired; he gathers massive numbers of ideas for blog posts, and recently crowd-sourced a lot of wisdom about doing work better in the coming year. However, this is now. The dip was then. In August, Mark wrote a perspective on his previous two years of blogging, and it was a visible sign that he was leaning into a big personal dip. Or, perhaps even better considering the awesomeness he’s been producing lately, August may have been the end of the Dip, and the Mark Dykeman we’re seeing now is on the other side, on the hard hill upward, reaping all the benefits of his experience crossing the dip.
Here are the questions I asked Mark, and his responses.
So, first question. How did you get into blogging? Was it your first “get me out there” tool, or was there something else that brought you to it?
Blogging was kind of an accident. I was doing some article writing on the side in 2007, not related to my day job at all. I was trying to make an extra buck or two and I discovered social news and social bookmarking. I learned about WordPress.com and started trying to use it as a means to link to some of my other articles and occasionally added new content to this beginners blog. I began a period of intense immersion in social media and blogging, reading lots of good stuff from recognized experts like Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net as an example. I actually have three or four paper binders full of blog posts!
On a deeper level, I wanted a new outlet for self-expression. I was more creative in my high school years but that faded into the background with university, career, family, etc. I needed to put something like that back in my life. It has evolved into more of a “get me out there” tool over time. I eventually snagged the Broadcasting-Brain.com domain (although I’d dearly love to get the non-hyphenated version), got a hosting account, and things have just grown from there.
Secondly, was there a period where you were considering quitting? What brought it on – and what helped you get through it?
Absolutely. Year one was very fun, exciting, and experimental. Year two sucked, to be blunt. There were two things that sucked about year 2:
1. Blog traffic stayed static and even decreased on average (although I’d had some big posts that did well on StumbleUpon in year one which skewed my results). Actually, my subscriber counts increased significantly that year, so you could argue that blog traffic really continued to increase; it just didn’t look like it. However, I kind of dropped out of the social news and bookmarking scene in year 2 because I had a lot of demands on my time, I was feeling kind of jaded about social media in general, and couldn’t sustain the original traffic bursts that I had maintained.
2. The frustration that I was feeling, along with the other demands on my time, made it very hard to focus on my writing. I also consciously changed some things a bit, like deviating from the templates and blog posting lessons that I’d learned just because my heart wasn’t in it as much. I felt like I was writing crap, which was turning into a downward spiral, mood wise. At one point I was posting no more than once per week, especially during the summer. I didn’t just want to be another echoer or bottom feeder from the social media trough.
Things started to brighten up a bit during the last two months of 2009 (the start of my third year, I guess). I’m basically trying to make incremental improvements to things on a regular basis, like sprucing up some of the static pages, changing the blog template, getting a new blog header (to which I’m grateful to Pamela Weir for helping me with), etc. I also planned a few blog posts for January, thinking that they’d probably do well traffic-wise (and they did, even a bit better than I expected). So things are going well at the moment; I’m just trying to work on keeping up some momentum.
Ok, you’ve mentioned both that you’re an introvert and that you’re a member of toastmasters. How did that dynamic come about, and how has it affected your writing process?
Introversion is a psychological tendency that you’re born with, I guess. It’s important to keep in mind that introversion is not shyness; introversion is more about where you get your energy and what drains you. Introverts need alone time to recharge their batteries and I certainly fall in that category. However, I’ve done a fair amount of speaking in front of groups through my job, so it’s not terribly uncomfortable to me.
You could say that joining Toastmasters five years ago was a first step towards reawakening my creative side, since you have to write the speeches, not just give them. Without that step, it’s possible that I might not have started blogging and writing for the Web. There was an interesting intersection of writing and Toastmasters: I had an article published in Toastmasters magazine in 2008, fulfilling a dream I’d had for 14 years previous to that when I almost (but didn’t) get published in a magazine.
As far as the impact of Toastmasters on my writing process… other than the fact the writing speeches helped get back into writing and using outlines, not much. However, I have used blog posts as starter material for speeches.
On another note, what kinds of tools (aside from the boomarking and networking tools online) do you use to keep your process evolving?
Reading and finding about new things, mainly. Occasionally I do something different, like the #mrcaptionhead series on TwitPic. I think you need to keep trying different things to keep from going insane, I mean getting stuck in a rut.
And lastly (for now) since we’re looking at dips – as Seth Godin suggests at the end of The Dip, it’s worth being conscious of the circumstances under which we’d quit doing a given thing. Have you given any thought to what these circumstances are for you with blogging?
Not especially, but it would have to do with any or all of the following:
I completely run out of time.
I completely run out of interest.
It winds up hurting my livelihood or loved ones.
Phew, that was exhausting!
You can find Mark, of course, at Broadcasting Brain and, ever so often, here in the comments.
You can find The Dip at Amazon or under this obligatory Amazon affiliate link: Seth Godin – The Dip