5 Powerful Lessons I Learned Teaching A Blogging Workshop For a Year

Learning from my students taught me so much more than what I brought to the table. Here’s what I learned.

Rachel Thompson
Dec 12, 2020 · 7 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Over the past year, I’ve taught dozens of writers blogging skills and creative nonfiction. We’d meet on Zoom (yes, before and during the pandemic) to discuss writing, where to make improvements, and how to raise visibility. While I was the instructor and moderator, I learned a heck of a lot from my students.

Here are five takeaways:

1. Writers are amazing, creative, and interesting, even though most think they’re not.

Each of us has unique experiences to share and so much to offer the world, even if we think we don’t.

Example: One of my students hails from the Midwest. Her mom raised her and her siblings Pagan with no technology in the home, yet she now lives and works in Japan for a tech company. She also is writing a story about how she walked away from a $50,000 bonus while working for an NYC investment firm. Fascinating.

I want to read that, don’t you?

Another talks about the transition of growing up lonely and shy in India, being the only one in his family interested in mathematics, to now working for a satellite company with a high-level government security clearance he can’t discuss. He’s also an author and painter, successfully merging his analytical and creative sides. His brain is so beyond anything most of us can comprehend, it’s mind-blowing.

Sharing these interesting experiences most of us probably haven’t lived through ourselves is why writing about them is so crucial. Beyond that, sharing them here on Medium (or on other mediums) is how we connect, particularly now that we are so isolated due to the pandemic.

This leads me to my next point:

2. Most writers don’t see the connection between blogging and social media.

When it comes to writing stories in a blog post or personal essay format, writers are all about that. Excited to learn how to go about doing so here or how to optimize it correctly for their own blogs.

However, when it comes to sharing their work on social media, the majority of writers do little more than sharing the link in a Facebook Medium group (or two or ten), depending on others to clap, comment, and share to raise awareness. The big hope is for curation, which helps up one’s readership and visibility immensely.

When that doesn’t happen, look out. Some writers will write novels about their disappointment, the unfairness of the model, or how to somehow cheat the system, complaining for days about how little money they’re making.

Listen: we don’t control what happens here. Do the very best you can, which requires you to build your own following on social media and via email marketing.

Here’s what I recommend: write what moves you. What inspires you. Be authentic. Then, share snippets of the blog on social media.

You’ve already done the work! Now let the work do the work for you.

The work is sitting there waiting to help you. So, let it. As they say in the Netflix show, Halt and Catch Fire (great, by the way), “It’s not the thing. It’s the thing that gets us to the thing.”

I’ve written extensively here and on my own blog eleven tips you can do now to share your blog posts for maximum exposure. This post tells you exactly how to create that connection! Learn more here:

It is work. Do the work is one of my mantras, and for good reason. Being a working writer requires writers to work. This leads me to my next point.

3. Most writers don’t want to market their work.

They think it’s difficult and confusing. Or will require a huge timesuck. Or they need a degree in marketing. None of which is true.

Point is, they don’t know where to start, so many just…don’t. They want someone else to do it for them, though they’re not sure who, and they don’t want to pay for it because, money. And time.

I get it. My entire BadRedhead Media business is created around this model: I help writers with their branding, marketing, social media, and promotion via training, consulting, or doing it all for them, depending on their time and budget. All of that stuff doesn’t come easily to people, and even when it does, it takes a lot of time. And money.

This is not completely true, of course. I wrote an entire book that walks writers through how to market their book (or blog) in thirty days, with assignments each day (visit my site to learn more). Most of the assignments offer insights, tips, and tools that are completely free.

What isn’t free? Your time.

Writing is only one part of this gig. Marketing is the other part.

If all you want to do is write, cool. That’s a huge milestone in many writers’ careers. If and when you decide you want people to read your work, or you want to make a little dough, you’ll need to learn how to market your work because writing is a career choice.

Invest in yourself. You deserve it.

4. Many writers enjoy writing for the sake of writing, not for the business aspect.

I’ve heard this from almost every writer I’ve ever worked with. Though they want to be famous, selling millions of books and making tons of money, most writers have no idea how to go about making it happen. It’s a dream.

I get it. I want that, too. Heck, who wouldn’t? (Six books in, and yea, I’ve sold tens of thousands of books and I’ve won several writing awards which is great, yet no millions in sight for this girl.)

In reality, bloggers who ‘make it,’ have been writing for decades, whether that’s blogging, books, or both (think The Bloggess or Dooce). “Overnight sensations” typically have already released dozens of books, have written professionally for years, and/or toiled away anonymously for a long time. Or, they’ve embraced affiliate marketing in a huge way — again, a business model.

Think of the iceberg analogy: we only see the tip.

That’s okay. Success is whatever we believe it to be. Point is, have realistic expectations based on what you put into it. If you don’t make your work visible, connect with readers, or interact with people, how likely is it that readers will know about your book or blog?

I had a client who never wanted to interact with readers, ever. Yet her expectation was that she’d sell thousands of copies of her books, which was completely unrealistic. Building relationships with readers, bloggers, and reviewers is the absolute best way to build a following which can, in turn, create readers and therefore, sell books.*

*Exception: when you’re already a household name.

It can be tricky to manage writing, marketing, and real life. Here are my tips to handle it all:

5. Many writers need permission to write the hard stuff.

We’ve all skimmed posts that are surface-level, leaving us wanting more. Most writers, particularly trauma survivors, express worry they need permission to share their stories from some Oz-type of booming character in the sky, when they have that voice inside of themselves, waiting patiently for release.

You had the power all along, my dear ~ Glenda, The Good Witch

It’s scary, showing our vulnerability. People relate to universal truths and emotions such as love, fear, and grief.

Example: One of my students lived through a stroke, an abusive marriage, postpartum depression, and a psychotic breakdown, all in the course of a few years. Her story is unique, heartbreaking, yet ultimately uplifting. Her fear? Writing the gritty, raw, realness of her psychotic thoughts. She remembers everything.

“Will people think I’m a terrible mother? I’m so worried.”

A big part of these workshops is reassuring my students that it’s okay to share their stories, that nobody is standing over them while they’re writing, criticizing, and judging them. Another mantra I stand by, and how I write my own stories of surviving childhood sexual abuse in my books, Broken Pieces and Broken Places (and the upcoming release, Broken People), is this:

If you don’t feel it as you write it, the reader won’t feel it as they read it.

I also love this quote from Anne Lamott:

“Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

Writers are amazing. We are storytellers, and in the tradition of storytellers throughout the many years, we are compelled to tell our stories. That has not changed. What has changed is the medium. How do we stand out in this digital cacophony of voices?

That has more to do with your author branding, consistency, and writing blog posts people want to read. Learn more about author branding here:

Teaching is the highest form of learning, and I took on these workshops in order to increase a deeper understanding of blogging and writing creative nonfiction. I’m truly humbled by the experience.

I also learned about the raw humanity and universality of storytelling, common concerns writers have about marketing their work, and some of the expectations and trepidations many have about publishing.

What are your expectations for your blogging and writing career? Does this post resonate with you? Please share your thoughts below!

To learn more about Twitter, Facebook, book marketing in general, and her books, visit Rachel’s BadRedheadMedia.com site, or connect with Rachel on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or join her Street Team!

Join her #BookMarketingChat on Twitter every Wednesday at 6 pm pst/9 pm est. Just type in the hashtag to join the conversation!

The Ninja Writers Pub

Inspiring and encouraging posts from the Ninja Writers Community

By The Ninja Writers Pub

Stories from the Ninja Writers Community Take a look

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Rachel Thompson

Written by

Author, 6 books. Writer: The Every Day Novelist, PS I Love You, Ninja Writers Pub, Writing Coop. Assault survivor/advocate. Marketer http://BadRedheadMedia.com

The Ninja Writers Pub

A good story, well told, can change the world. Ninja Writers are changing the world.

Rachel Thompson

Written by

Author, 6 books. Writer: The Every Day Novelist, PS I Love You, Ninja Writers Pub, Writing Coop. Assault survivor/advocate. Marketer http://BadRedheadMedia.com

The Ninja Writers Pub

A good story, well told, can change the world. Ninja Writers are changing the world.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store