Storytelling – A Beginner’s Guide #7: These 3 Stories Can Kill Your Blog

MikeachimBlogging, Storytelling20 Comments

What are the right stories to make your blog a success?

It’s a startling fact that around 95% of blogs are abandoned. Sometimes their owners lost interest, sometimes they had a particular goal in mind and when that goal was achieved, they walked away. But for the overwhelming majority?

Disappointment. Disillusionment. Frustration.

Whatever they had in their heads when they first started tapping? It never came to be. Their dreams were unrealized, their hopes cheated – and the story that guided them forward was the wrong one.

Here are 3 very popular stories that kill most blogs.

Baseball closeup

Field Of Dreams

Farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is wandering his corn field one day, hears a voice whisper “If you build it, [they] will come”, and promptly destroys his only source of income before building a baseball diamond on it. People (his friend; his wife; his bank manager) tell him he’s nuts. He ignores them because he can see dead people (yep, always a clear sign you’re not nuts). The films ends with a bazillion cars approaching the field, stretching back to the horizon. He was right all along.

Everyone loves this story. It was nominated for 3 Academy Awards, it’s one of the American Film Institute’s top 10 fantasy films, and it’s guaranteed to thaw the iciest heart (oh, the bit with Burt Lancaster! And the other bit with Burt Lancaster!). The message is timeless and resonant: if you have a dream and you hang onto it hard enough and long enough, that dream will come true. For that reason, it’s one of my favourite films as well.

It’s also flat-out fantasy.

The real-world blogging equivalent goes like this.

        1. Open up a blog, ignoring the competition and doing minimal market research.
        2. Blog about things you’re interested in.
        3. Wait to be discovered (or even Discovered).
        4. Wonder why nothing is happening.
        5. Run out of enough time, money or supernatural baseball analogies to keep going…
        6. Quit.

Faith is an essential part of blogging success. It’s how you stick with your vision, how you leap hurdles and dust yourself off when you’re knocked into the dirt. Faith is the Why that keeps you moving forward, and without it, you’ll stop dead. It’s that essential.

But blind faith will often end in disaster.

How often?

Oh, probably about 95% of the time.

Dorothy Wizard of Oz

The Wizard Of Oz

A bunch of lovable screw-ups walk a long, long road in search of someone who will magically fix all their problems in ways they never, ever could.

Everyone loves this story.

Particularly people in positions of power and control. And people who run lotteries. And anyone with a vested interest in keeping people happy and docile and locked in place, fooled into thinking that someday Everything Will Be Okay, So Who Cares About Today? It’s the ultimate philosophy of delayed gratification and, ultimately, of shattered dreams. It’s the death of learning.

If you can’t take your blog where it needs to go without the help of magic, it almost certainly will never get there.

Man Walking Silk Road

The Road

Everything is dying around you. You don’t know why you keep going – there’s no plan, nothing to guide you, and you’ve given up looking for guidance – but you keep going anyway. Day after day. Nothing really improves, but that’s not the point — it’s about basic survival. You have nothing to look forward to, nothing to aim at and nothing you really want to say. All you have left is just keeping going. After all, what’s the alternative?

Everyone hates this story.

(Not the book, which is a gorgeous piece of work. The story).

It’s a bleak, joyless tale – but it’s still awfully popular in the world of blogging, as many people grind on towards a completely uncertain future, no motivations beyond simply turning up, driven not by a vision but by a compulsion. Why do they do it? They’re not sure…

…but on they go.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to run my blog guided by these stories — and they almost killed it. Luckily, there are much better stories out there.

NEXT: #8 – Why I Blog (On A Napkin)

Images: theilr, Wistful and Jonathan Kos-Read (also check out this incredible shot from Jonathan’s Silk Road series).