How Your Worst Enemy Can Become the Key to Your Blogging Authority

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What’s that? You didn’t realize you had an enemy?

Don’t tell me you’re unfamiliar with that procrastinating self-destructive demon that’s thwarted so many of your best efforts.

You know, that troll standing on the bridge between your actual life and the un-lived life within you, the dream of which likely started you down this crazy blogging path in the first place.

Yeah, that bastard.

We’re going to face him, right now …

Welcome to the war, kid. Here’s your field manual

The secret enemy has a name … Resistance. The bad news is that Resistance is real, and that it wants to kill you and your dreams like cancer.

The good news is that it can be beaten.

And the better news is that Resistance can actually become the secret to establishing your own blogging authority, even if your credentials aren’t what you’d like them to be (yet). Even if you’re entering an already overcrowded field.

And the best news is that some blessed soul has actually written a field manual for battling and beating resistance — Do The Work, by Steven Pressfield.

If you don’t have both this book and Pressfield’s The War of Art, you’re handicapping yourself.

Really. Do yourself a favor and buy them both ASAP.

But for now, here’s just a taste of what Steve has to say about Resistance and its (perverse) ability to demand the kind of clarity in your work so necessary to establishing authority:

Using Resistance like a compass

Resistance puts two questions to each and all of us. Each question has only one correct answer. ~Steven Pressfield

So what are the two questions?

#1 How bad do you want it?

#2 Why do you want it?

So, taking that from Steve, let’s skip question #1 (you already know the only correct answer to that one, right?), and move on to question #2. Here’s Steve’s list of common answers:

  • for the babes (or the dudes)
  • the money
  • for fame
  • because I deserve it
  • for power
  • to prove my old man wrong
  • to serve my vision of how life/mankind ought to be
  • for fun or beauty
  • because I have no choice

Which answers will get you past Resistance and which will leave you stuck?

The last two are acceptable answers according to Pressfield — answers that he claims are really the same.

But the third answer from the bottom isn’t acceptable, which just might shock a lot of kumbaya bloggers. And understanding why is the real key to using Resistance to determine exactly the kind of posts that’ll help you break through the clutter.

Here’s how this connects with authority

In order for readers to grant a blogger authority, they need to feel that the blogger:

  • Is her “own person,” and not a me-too copycat or slave to textbook answers
  • Isn’t in it just for money, attention, or fame, but because she actually cares about her craft and her readers
  • Is producing content that provides critical analysis, based on actual experience, rather than blind obedience to industry or conventional wisdom

So obviously, the first 6 answers to “why do you want it?” — for the babes, money, fame, power, etc. — directly violate the “not just in it for the money” part of authority.

Also, if those are your primary motivators, you’re probably not anywhere close to being your own person, as self-actualized people aren’t driven by those kinds of lusts, after all.

The kumbaya pitfall and how to sidestep it

And that leaves us with the problematic “To serve my vision of how life/mankind ought to be.” Sounds high-minded, but in practice it can come off as preachy and ego-directed.

Expressing to others a vision of how mankind/life ought be is the opposite of following the whisper of your own intuition, of writing in order to explore and discover.

Even if your goal is to demonstrate expertise, your writing should feel more like you’re sharing a map of your explorations than preaching a philosophy.

If you’re writing to serve a philosophy, you’re very likely not serving your muse/genius/authentic self, … and you’re very likely coming up with me-too material.

It’s a trap, and it will kill your authority deader than a bag of hammers.

Make Resistance work for you

Bottom Line: authority-building content becomes easier to create when you’ve got clarity around why you’re blogging.

But beyond that, the posts that will really push your authority to the next level are the ones that can most cause Resistance to well up inside you.

The “scary” posts are the posts you most desperately need to write.

Here are the most common kinds of Resistance-inducing & authority-building posts:

1. Posts where you reveal your own personal / embarassing misadventures

You need to get comfortable blogging naked, because the stories of “this is how I flubbed up” or “this is the weird side window through which I learned something cool” allow readers to emotional connect to you — and by extension to your expertise/advice/mission.

And yet these posts are painful to write. I write darn few of ‘em myself. Fear and Resistance keep many of us from it, and that means it’s likely the best path forward.

2. Posts where you offer unique explanations for otherwise common material

Sticky explanations get repeated and quoted, regardless of who penned them.

And whenever they’re quoted, they bestow added authority onto their creators. Merlin Mann actually did a better job of explaining Getting Things Done than David Allen. And that early post on 43 Folders turned him into a widely recognized expert on the subject.

Think about your own field, niche, and subculture — couldn’t you produce exactly this kind of exquisitely clear explanation?

So why aren’t you?

Because these kinds of posts force you to ask yourself: how well do I really understand this? Could I explain it to a reasonably bright 11 year old?

And even more importantly:

  • am I willing to search for clearer examples?
  • am I willing to create — from scratch if necessary — before and after comparisons?
  • am I willing to risk being accused of “oversimplifying” if I break a point down for maximum clarity so that it become “directionally true” but technically innacurate?

Here’s another example: Among all the many “show, don’t tell” writing posts out there, precious few provide the side-by-side comparisons of telling v. showing writing like this one.

But Resistance says it’s 20 times easier to just rehash the principle rather than finding examples. Plus, if we use our own examples, there’s the chance “they’re all gonna laugh at us!

Once again, the posts that create resistance and fear are the posts that’ll build authority.

3. Specific and unique tricks and techniques for implementing common procedures

Everyone might know about the general procedure, (like asking for testimonials) but offering practical and micro-level how-to advice (like which 6 questions will get you the best testimonials) shows you’ve made that task your own.

And yet, it’s hard to share what can feel like our stock in trade. Especially if Resistance has already made you feel as if the only thing you have to offer are tricks and tips.

So recognize that this mindset — that there’s a limited amount of good ideas — is largely driven by Resistance. What you should be offering is *more than* just technical know how. And once you come to grips with that, you’ll see that the same people who share incredibly useful tricks and techniques (like Sean D’Souza, The Eisenbergs and Copyblogger’s staff) are also the same folks who everyone recognizes as authorities.

Don’t give away the farm, but do demonstrate expertise with shared tips, tricks, and techniques

4. At least 1-2 unique perspectives that clash with the conventional wisdom

You can’t be a thought leader unless you leave the pack at some point.

There’s got to be something about your field’s conventional wisdom and common practice that’s out of whack from your perspective.

Handled properly, this difference in opinion can be a blessing. This is where you can engage in spirited (but polite) argument with the big names of reigning orthodoxy — debate that automatically ups your own perceived authority and authenticity.

Yet, this kind of argument opens you up to attack, too, which makes Resistance shout, “they’re all gonna laugh at you”

So let Resistance be your guide: outwardly embrace a position that you have no choice but to embrace inwardly. And then pray that you are called on to defend your position against the big boys — few things can boost your perceived authority as much.

So that covers the four most common posts that inspire heavy Resistance but that can be used to build authority with maximum impact in minimal time.

And if you want extra help in battling Resistance, you’ll find it in Do The Work and The War of Art.

Keep ‘em close to hand and you’ll do just fine; The War of Art will give you the big picture and help you identify the enemy, while Do The Work will give you the tactical drills to kick its ugly ass out of your way.

About the Author: Jeff Sexton is in charge of Optimization Management for BoostCTR, a partner in the Wizard of Ads consulting firm, a well-known online copywriter and optimization expert, as well as a faculty member at Wizard Academy, where he co-teaches Persuasive Online Copywriting. You can find him online at www.jeffsextonwrites.com.


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Comments

  1. “At least 1-2 unique perspectives that clash with the conventional wisdom”

    A little controversy every now and then can be good. It can get people talking and get you noticed. You don’t want to always play the devil’s advocate, playing nice still counts for something, but it’s always worth stirring the pot every once in a while.

  2. Nick,

    Yeah, the idea isn’t necessarily to create controversy — though that really can’t hurt when done properly — but to differentiate your understanding and approach from everyone else’s. As the saying goes: If two people agree on everything, only one of them is doing the thinking. So if you ALWAYS agree with conventional and traditional wisdom, people assume you’re not doing any thinking at all!

    Also, if you have an internal voice that says, “that just can’t be right” or “that simply doesn’t jive with what I’ve seen and experienced,” there can be great power in publicly acknowledging your own inner truth, even if it forces you to disagree with the orthodox position.

    - Jeff

  3. I loved “Do The Work” it spoke to me to me at a visceral level that other “self” help books fail to reach.
    I’m a big fan of his fiction too.

    I am just starting to get a ritual like Steven describes in the book. I think I will add to it as I go along, but not so many things that it becomes something else that needs fighting.

    “You can’t be a thought leader if you don’t leave the pack at some point” is very true and sometimes the resistance is your pack pulling you back as they fear your achievements. At that point it’s time to change packs.

  4. it’s also a good idea to understand which “It” we are striving for in those two questions. We better make sure our ladder is up against the right wall before we put the effort into climbing it. Otherwise the wheels will fall off eventually. It’s just a question of when.

    • Absolutely. Of course, the questions about WHY you want “it” help weed out the wrong “it” along with weeding out the wrong motivations.

  5. The way you explain Resistance, it seems to me like an assumption that all audiences are (potentially) hostile and critical.

    In Everyone Can Write, Peter Elbow writes about the variety of audiences available and how first-year university writers are only ever faced with the critical, grading audience. There are actually 3 or 4 more. Discovering (and working with) the other types of audiences can be a life-changer for all writers, at every level.

    And here I have a nice post about how to apply Elbow’s framework to blog writing–unique explanation of (somewhat) common material. Maybe I should submit it to Copyblogger when it’s done :)

    Thanks for the post Jeff. The list of types of posts is really useful.

    • Anabelle,

      I think we got our wires crossed on this one. Resistance is an “internal” saboteur – that which thrives on procrastination,fear, etc. It’s what keeps most of us from going after our soul purpose with everything we have. In this sense, Resistance has almost nothing to do with your audience other than the fact that the posts most likely to inspire resistance in yourself are the same ones most likely to inspire and connect with your readers. That’s what this post is about. It has nothing to do with assuming hostility on the part of your readers.

      For more on Resistance, I point you to the authority on the subject, Steven Pressfield and the wonderful content he has over at his blog:

      http://www.stevenpressfield.com

      - Jeff

      • Ah, thanks for the explanation.

        It could be seen something like an internal resistance though–let me try to explain. The way you mention how “people will laugh at me” is very much internal, and also, I think has to do with an (internal) assumption of a certain kind of audience, one who isn’t ready to give you the benefit of the doubt. The belief that all audiences are critical is certainly a personal and internal one, at least in the way I see it.

        My brain must be going in a different direction than what your post meant to do… it does that :) But it definitely started a reflection. So thanks for that and thanks for the clarification. I’ll certainly look up the blog and the books.

      • Thanks Jeff, for sharing this.

        ‎”.. sharing a map of your explorations…” loved it. I wonder how in pre-web days people used to find ideas to improve their writing?

        Helped produce a companion eBook for “Do the Work” titled “No Idling” as a tribute to Steven Pressfield. You can check it on The Domino Project website. Steven Pressfield called it freakin’ awesome. It features “Do the Work” stories from real life doers and achievers.

        To doing the work and fighting demons within.

  6. Hi Jeff,
    Someone just pointed me to “Do the Work” a few weeks ago, and from the first page I just loved it! Every word is incredibly inspiring. The book as a whole is BRILLIANT!! It’s the kind of book I can read, and re-read, and then read again, and every time enjoy it as much as the first time. I think we don’t even realize what holds us back most of the time, and we certainly don’t have a name for it. Steven Pressfield has given us the ability to fight it!

  7. Great post! VERY interesting.

    Resistance lives in my core, and yet, looking back, the writing I’m most proud of is what scared me most to do.

    Sarah Baron
    Anonymous8

  8. This is exactly what I need to apply to my upcoming blog.

    I’m an editor, so it’ll be hard to not have that copycat, textbook aura–hard, but if I’m good (which I believe I am), I can do it. :3

    I have a lot of thinking (and writing) to do…

    Thank you.

  9. First, many thanks for this thought-provoking post and for introducing me to Steven Pressfield. I am intrigued by his work and am poised to dive deeply into what he has to offer.

    I do, however, believe that he shortchanges his readers (or perhaps it’s your presentation of him) when he says that Resistance poses only two questions. I believe there is a third question to be asked, and that is, What stops you from getting what you want?

    When you have an understanding of what is stopping you from either pursuing your daily goals or more broadly living the life of your dreams, you have a place to begin doing your work.

    Like many people I know, my resistance can always be traced to a self-limiting belief system, one that most frequently operates at a sub-conscious level.

    So I see resistance as a doorway to the subconscious. And I agree that the road past resistance requires nothing less than total honesty.

    And, as you say, when you can be that honest with yourself, then you just might find you’ve got a great post for your blog and a way to build your authority.

    But I must add that because I’ve learned to look for a sub-conscious belief whenever I am dancing cheek-to-cheek with resistance, I’ve come to understand resistance as a form of blocked energy (I am of the belief that all negative emotions arise from blocked energy).

    Before starting this post, I read on Pressfield’s blog that he believes that all books, all music, exist elsewhere before they are transcribed by those who are given credit for their creation. I hold a similar view, and see all acts of creativity as the product of free-flowing energy, the energy that is ever-present in the universe and that we are all the products of.

    And because I think that creativity is, ultimately, the reason we all are here, I believe what we need are both opportunities to recognize when the energy that feeds our creativity is blocked as well as tools for releasing those blocks so that we can get back to the business of being creative, of living our lives as creatively as we possibly can.

    So I think you do us a service here by pointing out what a powerful ally resistance can be. It can be a powerful teacher that can lead us to greater awareness of our truest selves. But I am curious to know what the tools are that both you and Pressfield advocate for moving past resistance. After all, it’s one thing to know that being honest might lead you to a great post, but it’s another thing entirely to be mired in the fear of exposure, or failure, or ridicule, without a clue about how to get out.

    • Elana, I had not thought of Resistance as blocked energy, but I like that a lot. Thanks, I will steal that from you if you don’t mind. I would agree completely. And, as we all know from painful experience, when that blocked energy is not allowed to flow into positive channels, it doesn’t just go away. It pours into “the Dark Side” and manifests itself in distractions, vices, addictions, abuse of self and others, and on down the rathole from there. Thanks for this insight.

      And Jeff, thanks for a terrific post. Once again, right on target!

      • I like it a lot too! I like your comments about the way blocked energy streams into our dark side and can see how these denied aspects flourish when not taken care of…

    • Elana,

      Interesting comments. I’d just say that with your interest in these things, you really should make The War of Art a must read. Also, I’m sure it’s likely my presentation of Pressfield that’s at fault.

      I would say, though, that limiting beliefs are perhaps part of Resistance or a tool used by Resistance. So confronting limiting beliefs is a way to work past Resistance.

      - Jeff

    • @Elana: I need to read Stevens books. Been meaning to for some time. But I’d say a powerful tool to combat blocked energy is to admit it is YOUR blocked energy and only YOU can unblock it, not society, not more money, not less interruptions from family, not better organizational skills, etc. Simply KNOW you will no longer get blocked and BELIEVE IT.

      I run a writing prompt site. Although I did writing prompts prior to launching the site, I struggled for ideas in the beginning because I forgot how to convince myself that I was the boss of my muse. After several prompts, I remembered the warrior and now I boss around my muse at will. Just my three cents.

  10. Very good point about how blogging about our failures – what didn’t work – enhances our authority. Most successes are built upon a mountain of failures. Knowing what doesn’t work is often as valuable as knowing what does…

  11. Well done Jeff.

    Your comment on not to “sound preachy” really hit home for me. It was a nice self reflection comment which made me realize I may come off too pushy in my posts.

    Also, your statement about writing about what you know and sticking to your “own field, niche, and subculture” hits personally as well. As I grow as a blogger I find myself wanting to enter into subjects I do not know much about but find interest in.

    It’s nice to hear advice on how about to go about that.

  12. @Jeff: That show vs. tell link you provided is the best resource on this subject I’ve ever seen. That post should have 1000 comments instead of six. Outstanding.

    • P.S. Sorry Jeff. I got so excited about the show vs. tell like that I forgot to mention how much this post rocked—but you should already know that. :)

      • No worries – and you are right, that IS an outstanding post on “Show, Don’t Tell.” The things is, it’s instructive on how much that stands out vs. the typical blathering on most of us do in describing “Show, Don’t Tell.” And in all of our respective fields, there’s a subject of our own that we could tackle with that same kind of before and after demonstration.

        Finally, even though there’s only 6 comments, the post comes up #4 on the first page of a Google search on “Show, Don’t Tell,” so it’s clearly been passed around and linked to – which is exactly my point about how those kinds of posts can garner increased authority for the blogger who’ll do the hard work of creating them.

  13. Thanks for a fantastic post, Jeff. There’s so much of value in here. I teach workshops on creativity for writers and actors, so I know that what you say applies to everyone in any creative field. We have to learn to laugh at our harsh self-talk, and go ahead and do what the universe is calling on us to do. We must practice being willing to “make fools of ourselves”. That’s what sets us free.

  14. Thanks for sharing this post. One of my favorite sections was – Make Resistance work for you – great resource.

  15. Thanks, Freya and Eirka – I appreciate your comments and am thrilled that you liked the post. Also, if you liked this, you’ll love, love, love Steven’s books on Resistance:

    Do The Work

    and

    The War of Art

  16. If you answered “Why You Wan It” with either of the last two options, I’m pretty sure all the other whys will fall in place. I like to think if this is as, I have no choice but to have fun. If I don’t, then it’s another damn job that will piss me off and will have to look for fun and adventure in other places.

    Great Post Jeff…Steve’s books added to my wishlist at Amazon.

    Now, I need to fame, to get the power, to get the money to get the babes…It’s a vicious cycle, but somebody has to do it..

  17. I’m finding myself thinking deeply about these ideas you have expressed here Jeff. I have a ‘save the world’ mentality :) which is why I originally became a nurse and later a midwife … on to academic etc and really can see how it can come across as preachy etc. I also love the energetic field thinking and the conceptualisation of resistence as blocked energy that ‘pours into the dark side’ contaminating everything (thanks Elana and Stephen) … much to ponder and really enjoying the conversation. Thanks everyone for your wise words. Will definitely get those books you recommend.

  18. Dear Jeff:

    This is a wonderful blog that teaches us how to defeat the enemy RESISTANCE which is ubiquitius and endemic. Do you know, these days resistence to learning English grammar is common ? Do you think the same principles or recipe ` you prescribe will work to counter the ‘demon’ that hides in many seniors even?

    Thanks for your sincere labor.

    –Dr. Naquib

  19. Archan Mehta :

    Jeff:

    Thanks for contributing your ideas here. I really enjoyed reading your post.

    As a writer, I think it is important to remember that you write for the sake of writing. You don’t write for babes, money and power. A literary artist is in love with his words and ideas: he wants the muse to visit on a regular basis. There is an inner motivation, an inner compulsion to write. Of course, this demands both poetic license and artistic integrity.

    That is why the artistic/creative life is not for everybody. It is not for the faint of heart. You need to develop a thick exterior. You will meet with many challenges on the road. You will have your critics and naysayers and people who think you are no good, that you have no talent. Some people may even say you are crazy, a dreamer, with head in the clouds.

    Writers who write for a target audience are marketers. Those who write from an “inner knowing” are your literary artists. There is a difference between the two, although there may be a grey area as well that connects both. It is important to know and understand the difference. A writer like Mark Twain is controversial even today because he questioned the conventions of his day, but what a gem of an artist. Thus, as an artist, you can’t always toe the line: you have to find your “voice” and remain true to it despite the odds. Despite the fact that a lot of people out there will hate you for it.

    Over the years, that’s why so many artists have found themselves in exile or even thrown behind bars. But if you remain true to your calling, you are bound to find success in the end. Yes, even if that success is earned posthumously. That is the tragedy and the triumph of an artist’s life. And that is what your post reminded me about. Have a good one. Cheers.

  20. Hi Jeff
    what a great article – It’s funny, when I got online my first time around, I was taught to “fake it till you make it” , meaning I was supposed to come across as an expert ( which I indeed wasn’t). It gave a total writers block!

    My second time around(now) I am 100 % myself, tellling my failures and how I try to make it this time.

    Yes I was scared the first time I revealed all my mistakes, but the feed-back was incredible – People loved the honesty and suddenly they told me, they liked my style. Today I look forward to blog and more importanrt, I can ask people for help, since they already know I am NOT a super GURU.

    Thanks for your article , I’ll try to tame my resistance troll :-)

    cheers
    Tina

    • I can absolutely agree with you Tina.

      Sometimes we strive to be professionals so much that we play dress up before we are ready for the task

      Putting in the time and effort will not only make us more confident but it will show through our work.

  21. This was exactly EXACTLY the right thing for me to read
    right here
    right now.

    I have been feeling so small and overwhelmed and
    that DEMON has kept me stuck.

    I have a gift for writing but have been searching to keep it real and authenticity.

    Known for my passions, I clearly need to reconnect with those
    and unearth them from all the SEO and keyword stuff out there.
    At least in my blog that is =).

    Thanking you for an extremely relevant
    succinct and sticky post!
    Hope to visit you often!

    Kelly Ann Taylor

  22. Resistance is truly a problem. My blogging ideas come in pairs, so I find myself writing two articles and then experiencing a gap of two or three weeks. If you want to succeed, the important thing is to make a conscious decision that you are in for the long haul. Thanks for the tips!

  23. This is something I have always battled. I have put off so many things to the last second. Every time this happens I say never again, but I still do it. I guess it is because I can get a way with it. Things are not as good as they good be but, they are not bad so I never feel the crunch to change. As I build an internet business I see the need to fix this problem if I really want to succeed online.

    Thanks for the posts

  24. “You can’t be a thought leader unless you leave the pack at some point.” – Jeff Sexton

    Looks like the entire post was written for me. It addresses at a fundamental level was I’ve gone through and to some extent still undergoes in my blogging and entrepreneurial adventure.

    Most successful bloggers and entrepreneurs that I follow have all this common trait of being unique, authentic, and above the crowd.

    You’ve just given me a lot to chew and implement.

  25. For a shaming (for me) and funny (for you) example of how not to overcome resistance, see: http://lunarhine.blogspot.com/2011/05/resistance-training.html

  26. This post was extremely helpful and I’m grateful for the time you took in writing it. I written many post on my blog and I’ve had “resistance” in hitting the publish button. This is a great post for those who are new like me! Thanks~