I’m celebrating something today.
And while my high school reunion IS fast approaching, that’s not the one I’m referring to.
I’m talking about the April 2012 MNINB Platform Challenge Reunion.
I know, it’s a mouthful. I’ll break it down…
April 2012: A year ago.
MNINB: My Name is Not Bob. The name of the blog of Robert Lee Brewer (whose name is not Bob). That’s Robert Lee Brewer of Writer’s Digest fame, for any non-writerly folk out there. He’s a writerly-type extraordinaire, and he had the grand idea to put his knowledge out there for folks like me.
Platform: This is what you want if you’re a writer that hopes to be published. Why? I don’t know, but all the agents whine platform, platform, platform All. The. Time. Apparently you need it, and size matters. As in, they want to see a lot of followers and lots of traffic and a large presence in all the sundry social media venues.
Challenge: Because I’m challenged.
Reunion: The folks who went through the challenge formed a bit of a band. A family. And it’s extremely cool. At first, we were calling ourselves the Not Bobbers, but now we’re all grown up and we go by Wordsmith Studio. Isn’t that the bomb? We have our own blog and a badge and everything.
Anyway, we realized that we had all learned so much during the platform challenge and then in the ensuing year, and we said, “Wordsmithers? We should have a reunion of sorts so we can all reflect on how we’ve grown and what we’ve learned.”
Only it was going to be way better than a real reunion because nobody would be talking about how much weight the prom queen had gained or how pot-bellied and balding the varsity quarterback had gotten or how Mr. Most Likely to Succeed was still living with his mother 30 years later.
Each of us that wanted to attend the reunion had only to sign up for a date in April and write up a piece about all that reflection and growth.
And so this is mine.
From the challenge, I learned that it’s not enough to say “If I build it, they will come.” Not in this digital age, anyway. You have to build it, and commit to adding to it, and sharing it, and engaging with others till you become that cool party house that everyone wanted to hang out at. You know, the one with the laid back parents and plenty of chips.
And I’ve learned that a lot of this process is fun, but some of it is tedious and downright hard. With this reunion, it’s time to look back at what I was taught, and figure out what I learned and what I still use. Just like those school subjects so many years ago.
For example, Twitter and Google+ and Linked In and SEO? That was math for me. I learned it, but it’s not easy for me and I don’t enjoy it. I know how to use the basics enough to get by, but you’ll never catch me dabbling in it just for fun.
Facebook and Blog Hops and Guest Posting and editorial calendars? That’s my English. A bit dry and dreary at times, but it comes easy and I kind of enjoy it.
Pinterest? Art class! It’s fun and it’s easy and I love it.
Creating blog posts and reading comments and checking my stats? Those are the after school activities that I do because I choose to do them, not because the state mandates that I take the class.
Of course, there are a few areas I need improvement in, and I need to work on those skills. Kind of like taking an adult education class at the local community college. For example, I suck at engagement, so I really need to beef up my skills there. It’s partly a time issue, but I know I can’t blame it entirely on that. And I need to find a way to allow readers to follow me by email. I tried to put an email-following widget in my sidebar once, but I failed. I need to retake that class. Summer school?
Clearly, I learned plenty during the challenge, even if it wasn’t all fun. But where did it get me? Am I more successful now as a writer than I was in March 2012? I’d say yes, I am. When I look back at where I was in terms of platform before the challenge compared to now, I can see an enormous change. My blog followers have grown from numbering in the teens to over 500. My monthly page views have grown from about 4,000 to five times that amount. I have a healthy following on Twitter and Pinterest, and a Facebook fan page that’s none too shabby. Besides the increase in traffic and followers, my “searchability” has improved tremendously, I’ve received a few awards, and I’ve had essays published in magazines as well as in several books. I’ve been interviewed a number of times, and I receive queries for guest post submissions and advertisers on a daily basis. So yeah. HUGE difference for me.
Besides reflecting back at what you’ve learned and how far you’ve come when you’re at a reunion, you also apply that to your classmates. Where are they now? So I ask, what of my fellow “students” from this graduating class? Well, I am nothing short of amazed. When I think of their collective creative genius, their fortitude, and their leadership skills, I am blown away. The Wordsmithers is an organized and efficient group, with a board of directors, committee members, and an ambitious yet grounded vision. They are intelligent, supportive, inquisitive, and talented, and I am humbled and honored to be a part of this incredible group. What’s that expression about sisters? Chance made us sisters, choice made us friends. That can be applied quite neatly to the Wordsmithers, as well.
So now, drink in hand, I stand at the corner of the room and look out at my Wordsmith classmates, drinking, laughing, dancing under the lights at our reunion. We all went through it together, and we all emerged knowing more. We each took away something a little different, perhaps, yet this common thread has been woven into a rich and beautiful tapestry.
Here, hold my drink. I want to go dance….
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