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« Save Public Media | Main | Highlights from the Inaugural Etsy Success Symposium »
Thursday
Feb102011

Telling Your Story Online

The other day, I read a tweet (sorry, I can't remember who posted it) that reminded us not to take what comes easily to us for granted. In other words, that which seems easy, obvious, or intuitive to you may be very challenging for someone else, and vice versa.

I read this tweet in the middle of the Etsy Success Symposium, where I was giving a presentation on what creative business owners can learn from improv. The more I observed the Etsy sellers in attendance over the course of the day, the more I wished I'd chosen a more concrete workshop topic, something it seemed all of them could use: how to tell your story online.

I'm an online story strategist by trade. I fell into this line of work when some flukes in my early career led me to PBS.org's doorstep, where I was hired as the editor of news and documentaries. In large part, this meant working with documentary filmmakers whose films were airing on PBS, and helping them translate their stories to the web in compelling ways. It was an awesome job, and one for which I felt woefully unqualifed at the time.

A few years later, I took a few tentative steps toward blogging. At first, I was terrified, and only showed my blog to a few close friends. Within another year or so, I had launched Creative DC and was blogging up a storm.

Today, telling a story online comes as naturally to me as breathing. Really -- the instincts are that ingrained. That's not to say that the practice of online storytelling is rote, or that I don't seek opportunities to try things I haven't tried before. But listening to those Etsy sellers, I realized how many fundamentals I know that I ought to be sharing with fellow artists and creative souls trying to build their businesses online.

So, moving forward, I'll write more about online storytelling here on this blog. We'll talk about blogging, how to use things like Facebook and Twitter, and how to let your online story evolve alongside the evolution of you and your work.

For now, I'll just say this: You can't tell your story online if you can't tell it to yourself. The first step to marketing yourself effectively is to know who you are. This, of course, is the work of a lifetime. There's a reason that the tagline for my website is "mindful storytelling" -- the more mindfully you live, and the more attentive you are to yourself and your place in the world, the better and more authentic stories you can tell.

Here are a few exercises to help you get started on the path to defining your story:

1) List three adjectives that describe you, just off the top of your head.

2) Ask a few people close to you to send you three adjectives THEY think describe you best.

3) How would you describe your creative gifts?

4) What qualities are you most proud of in yourself?

5) Using the hero's journey as a template, write a story about yourself in the third person. What challenges have you overcome? What is your pot of gold at the end the rainbow?

After you've done these five things, take stock. What jumps out and resonates with you most?

And, to end where we started... what are three things that come easily to you that, when you really think about it, might not come so easily to other people? How do these gifts fit into your story?

Remember: Telling your story (online or off) isn't just self-promotion. It's self-knowledge.

Photo above by Flickr user umjanedoan

Reader Comments (4)

I just attended the Writer's Digest Conference in NYC several weeks ago. Speaker after speaker presented their areas of expertise, and the audience politely took notes, tweeted and played with their iPads/cellphones/laptops.

But when one presenter finally went into a personal story, pens dropped, heads raised, and people leaned forward smiling.

"The power of story," I thought. "We're being seduced."

I'm taking a story telling class in DC where I'm learning how to tell stories for entertainment. But my real desire is to tell stories as a way to promote my brand and business on my blog and in person.

I look forward to your posts.
February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Crill
Linda - clearly, you get it. So excited you found my blog and I hope we'll stay connected.
February 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
thank you so much
i had been stuck in a mire for awhile with all these thoughts
and how could translate my success that i have experienced oiffline
and now bring that online
i will definitely follow your work
and thanks !
November 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterthefabricdiary
Fabric Diary - so sorry I never saw your response, but very glad you found this post useful and best of luck telling your story.
February 28, 2013 | Registered CommenterAmanda Hirsch

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