midland painted turtle hatchling
Image by alumroot via Flickr

It’s hard practicing what you preach, especially when others look to you for guidance.

So what do you do when faced with something that’s incredibly scary but thrilling at the same time?

Shrink.

In my case, this is usually my gut reaction. I shrink back. I, like a turtle, pull my neck into my cardigan and snuggle up in that little bit of security that I think I have. Little do I know that I never really had that security in the first place. After all, I chose to publish.

Putting yourself out there online isn’t scary at first. Actually, it’s really exciting. You’ve got this fresh, blank slate to work from and you love the chance to create something. Yes, you’re creating. And it’s real. And it’s out there. And there are consequences.

I recently had a post published on Search Engine People. I’ve been guest blogging over there for awhile now and it’s been a great experience. I’ve produced some great work, and hey! My name is out there, which is also exciting. But my most recent post on storytelling and SEO wasn’t like my other guest posts. It was bigger than that.

The post you’re reading now isn’t about how my storytelling guest post got a lot of hits. It’s also not about how it got a solid Post Rank and was popular. It’s also not about how the post was tweeted by Brian Clark of Copyblogger. No, it’s not about that. It’s about knowing that something is very real and that your actions have consequences.

After the post went live, I was noticed, even if it was only by a few people. That’s something that comes with the act of choosing to publish online. Some people don’t think about that when they hit update or click “OK” on something. Not everyone considers that every act, every published status, and every comment has a consequence: you can be noticed. I see it all the time with people my own age, baffled by the fact that they can’t get jobs yet amused by the most recent posting of photos from last night’s kegger. I also see it with people much older than I, crying for attention with a constant stream of negativity between Farmville updates. It’s a bit baffling, but it’s also part of our nature.

We like to tell stories. We live to do it. In fact, we’ve been doing it for thousands of years. People love to create a world that they understand and they exercise control over that world through communication. Maybe it’s through art, music, words – it doesn’t necessarily have to be a particular medium. The point is that when you put something out there, it’s a direct reflection back to you and back to the image you’ve created of yourself and your world.

My post reflected me as a storyteller and a good writer. I was flattered by it because really, that’s all I want to do with my life. I want to communicate and tell stories – not in the sense of marketing false information but in the sense of being engaging. This is what I want to do and by publishing a post like I did, I set the¬†precedence. Did you ever stop to consider that what you’re posting is setting the precedence for you? Or your business? Or your product? Or your service? It doesn’t matter. What you post is there and once it’s out, it’ll start making impressions. Choose carefully.

You see, when you get called on to actually live up to the online expectations you’ve set, you better be damn well ready to do so. You can’t shrink, as much as you may want to. It’s easy to be a hack. It’s easy to back down and stay silent. It’s also easy to puff yourself up, inflate your ego, and deliver failure. Danny Brown wrote a great post about this. There are a lot of people out there who choose hackdom because it’s easy and sometimes, it can lead to quick bursts of attention. Until people start asking. Or calling. Or questioning. That’s when your word goes against the rest of the world and you had better be confident that your word will hold up.

You can’t shrink from what you’ve created.

From now on, I’ll try not to.

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