A week ago I was flying home after a weekend in the Twin Cities where I was speaking at a Catholic women’s blogging conference.
I’m not sure why I use jazz hands when I’m speaking but there you are.
A lovely venue (there are some seriously gorgeous Victorian homes in St. Paul!), thoughtful workshops, good food, great swag bags, and beautiful fellow speakers Nell and Laura really made it an incredible weekend.
But the best part of this sort of gathering is fellowship and community. It’s invigorating and inspiring to see beloved friends, meet online friends in real life, and meet new friends who love the written word and love sharing their story with the world. It confirmed something I’d harped on in my talk: the importance of community for bloggers/writers.
I don’t share a lot of blogging advice here at Carrots and it’s not just because most of my readers aren’t bloggers and would think, “yeah, okay, Haley, let’s get back to the usual programming.” I rarely share about blogging because there’s so many different ways to blog successfully and it all depends on the unique voice, niche, and goals of each blogger. There’s so many variables that the question of how to blog well does not have a one-size-fits-all answer. But the one piece of advice that is always true is that a successful blogger always has a strong community.
Blogging can feel really lonely if you don’t have a community. The internet is a big space and it’s hard if you don’t feel like you have little piece of the web to call home. When I first started blogging I was reading a lot of Catholic homeschooling mom blogs written by women a couple of decades older than myself. I saw this niche as THE Catholic bloggers. I, a new mom just starting RCIA, commented on posts and even emailed some of these bloggers. “This is going to be my community!” I thought. But it wasn’t. My comments sat there without responses. My emails, save one, were not replied to. I felt like I was on the outside looking in at a club I wished I could be in.
The exclusivity was likely not at all intentional. I’m sure these are lovely women who are just very busy and already have an established community. But I was honestly discouraged. “I’m not (fill in the blank–Catholic, mature, seasoned, knowledgeable, good) enough to be included!” I thought. When I wrote my posts, these women had been my desired audience. But when it became clear that their niche wasn’t where my voice would fit in the internet, I realized there might be room for something else out there. And there was.
So I didn’t give up on writing. I kept going and started writing for someone more like me. A couple of years later, I decided to create my own little community–I decided to make a mastermind group.
What’s a mastermind group? It’s a virtual (or real life) community of a handful of other bloggers/influencers–often in the same niche. About three years ago I reached out to 8 other women and asked if they’d join a secret Facebook group to talk about Catholic blogging. A space for answering each other’s questions, exchanging ideas, nurturing community/fellowship, collaborating, and sharing each other’s content. None of us had met in real life, we barely knew each other at all.
After three years these women are some of my dearest friends in the world. I’ve met most of them in person, talked to them on the phone, done video chats, prayed for them, laughed with them, and cried with them. The little community of my mastermind group has been huge for not just my blogging life but my personal life. If I’m struggling, these are the women I ask to pray for me. If I need ideas for post titles, these are the women I ask for suggestions. If I have a tech problem, these are the women I go to for help. If I need backup for dealing tactfully with trolls in the comments, these women are my tribe. Creating a thriving mastermind group has been absolutely invaluable.
So here’s some advice for how to create one:
- Decide on your goal. I wanted to have a community of Catholic bloggers in my niche who were in a similar place in their blogging journey. What do you hope to get out of your mastermind group? Networking? Technical support? Encouragement?
- Choose your members. I’ve been a part of multiple mastermind groups. The one that really stuck was the one I created from fellow Catholic bloggers that I really wanted to get to know. There’s about 10 of us, so it’s small enough to be intimate and big enough to have some good diversity of style, opinion, etc. Do you want to invite folks that are all in the same niche? This is what has worked best for me. However, I know of groups that have folks from many different niches. Some groups are more personal, some are more professional.
- Choose your venue. The mastermind groups I’m a part of all meet in secret groups on Facebook. But that’s not the only app you can use. I know of groups on Voxer, the voice recording app, or on Slack which is a simple and wonderful app that works more like a big group chat.
- Invite your members. If you know everyone pretty well already, then just go ahead and start inviting. Otherwise, I would invite folks you do know well first and once they sign on, share the guest list with folks you don’t know personally. That way that potential fellow-masterminder can see what other members are joining in and can get a better feel for whether it’s a good fit for him/her.
- Get started brainstorming, sharing, and supporting!
If I could encourage new bloggers to do one thing it would be to form a mastermind group. Community really can’t be beat. And I’d also say that you don’t need anyone’s permission to call yourself a blogger. If you blog, you’re a blogger. You don’t need a certain number of followers or an ok from more established bloggers to own that title. The internet is a big place. There’s room for your voice.
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