“Mother died today” doesn’t rank well for SEO.

By trying to please everybody, you become nobody.

I had fallen into a trap that steals light from so many young artists, entrepreneurs, and creatives — people pleasing.

I first learned this truth through the creation of my travel blog two years ago. I started by creating simple content about the trips that I was taking — life updates, as it were. The sort of thing that two years before I’d be emailing to my parents, and twenty years before that I’d be scribbling on hand written notes. Only this time, the notes included cell phone pictures that might loosely be thought of as travel photography.

Soon the site started to grow, and gained a lot of momentum in a flash with the publication of We’re Told Not to Travel, the four-minute read that remains my most popular post. With attention on my site, it was time to capitalize. Time to make the layout more professional, the content more regular, time to sloppily paste a “Donate” button to the bottom of the page.

This was my idea of making a business. Or at the very least — to make the changes that should have been made before I had gained any morsel of success. People came to think of me as a travel blogger.

Whatever, that meant. I was just here to share stories.

There quickly came a lot of voices though, who thought storytelling wasn’t enough.

Add pictures — people love pictures.
Write longer content if you want to rank well.
You’ll never master SEO with a title like that.
Write shorter content, people have no attentions these days.

The wave of advice swept me off my surf board of success and into the cold waters of “What the fuck do I do now?” Being a young writer with half a clue what I was doing, I tried to follow all of it. Even the contradictory, or just plain bad, advice.

My site suffered for it and I lost views, as well as my own sense of self-worth. What was I doing writing a single word that didn’t ring to true to me? I had fallen into a trap that steals light from so many young artists, entrepreneurs, and creatives — people pleasing.

Now, as a young writer with a smidgen more than half a clue, I can say with confidence that if you try to please everybody, you will be nobody.

It is your own story that matters, before all else. Your own voice, your own experience, your own flaws, your own failures. Own all of it as only you can do.

While usually well-intentioned and often quite thoughtful, the advice was not what I needed. My most successful post had no pictures, no search optimization, and no mention of food. But I saw a wave and I reached for it — not recognizing that the wave I was already on was just where I had to be.

As I start building my YouTube Channel I face the same challenges once more. I’m diving straight into a medium where the comments on popular videos smell like the armpit of the internet.

Still, this time at least I will know that when the wrong wave comes my way I need to plug my nose, and dive deep under water. It is the only way I will be there to catch the right one.