Are you limping or leaping into 2021?
While I’ve swung between the poles of exhilaration and despair many times since March, as the shock of pandemic living and surreal holiday-ish vibes of the first lockdown shifted to a Groundhog Day-esque months-long slog, I’m looking back on this year and ahead to the next with a fresh perspective. And you should, too.
So what did we learn this year?
First, I think we can agree to deep-six pandemic cliches (now more than ever, unprecedented). Second, there are silver linings to strange, stressful times. I’ve never been so grateful to be a little bored but safe, as I was at home with my boys. Three? Well, you just never know. We plan, we prophesy, we develop processes. And it takes one errant virus to blow it all up.
We never really know what’s coming. And we are pretty bad at imagining what is possible in either best-case or worst-case scenarios.
I think this is the greatest gift of the pandemic.
It showed us that things that are conceivable, but unlikely, are possible.
Things that are feasible, but difficult, are attainable.
So the corporations that insisted a 9-to-5 at the office was mandatory because ‘facetime matters’? Well, there’s a new FaceTime in town that’s replaced that outdated view.
And that idea of putting your business online that you never got around to? Or the social media strategy you knew you should probably get to? Those things became mandatory, really quick.
Pre-COVID, we had the luxury of choice. And luxury can make us lazy. Cautious. Complacent.
COVID was about survival. When you’re in survival mode, you don’t sweat the small stuff.
You get on with it.
Hitting Our Stride
For writers, this fight-or-flight stress response is the perfect headspace. It’s where you accept that you may not spin phrases of pure gold. And that’s OK. You’re less artiste, more construction worker. You know it’s going to get messy, but the project’s going to get done.
And if you’re still hanging back from the online world because you think you don’t have stories worth sharing? Well, you can thank the pandemic for obliterating that idea.
Because if you’ve made it this far, and you’re ending the year still in business, you have at the very least a survival story.
“I Don’t Have a Story”
I hear it all the time from struggling writers: I don’t have a story.
Or I do have an inkling of a story—but it’s not very interesting.
I hear business owners say: I haven’t struggled enough or been through something dramatic enough to matter to others.
Too many people mistake drama and even tragedy for story, and then don’t bother sharing the parts of themselves that are so very fascinating.
Your stories don’t need to chart incredible hardship. They are simply about change. And that change can be subtle and even internal.
So, you don’t need to have survived a life-threatening illness or lost someone close to you. You don’t need to have slain the proverbial dragon for your experiences and ideas to matter. You don’t need a heartbreaking origin story or a tale of heroics behind your products and service for them to deserve sharing.
But hey, we are living through a global pandemic, so if you were waiting for something big to happen before you got working on some new content, I’d say you’re good to go.
If this epic year isn’t a license to write, then nothing is.
Communication Is Different
2020 has changed how we communicate, as endless memes about never-ending Zoom meetings demonstrate.
But it also changed how we think about what’s worth sharing.
We know each other’s homes, and families and—oh, is that your pet? As the line between personal and professional became one big blurred grey zone, we got more comfortable knowing each other.
We also got a little more real this year and became comfortable sharing the messy sides of ourselves because we just don’t have the kind of time you need to clean your whole house before every video meeting. We liked seeing those domestic, natural sides of each other (roots included!).
Against the broad, epic and, at times, the nightmarish backdrop of the pandemic and its emotional, financial and physical hardships—lovely tiny scenes played out every day, and we got to witness each other’s lives in newly intimate ways.
We made a gradual shift, as a community of people. Getting to know each other opened up the doors to asking more about each other. And stories that would once have been too personal for a professional brand are now the thing that potential customers want from every brand.
Your Story Matters
So, as you reflect on how writing and sharing your story fits into your plans for 2021 and how to stand out in the online cacophony of “content” and copywriting, the way to do that is easy.
Tell the truth.
It’s the first adage of writing and storytelling. And not just in the sense of being factual (always good policy to which to adhere, of course), but in being true to your values and voice. The pandemic has confirmed over and over that you are enough, just as you are.
Months of isolation have given people time to get over the bottomless pit of 30-second content on the internet. Spending another night binging Netflix isn’t as interesting as a few hours with another human being—even if it’s online.
So in the final days of this year, the year none of us saw coming, I hope you can look ahead and see the possibility. I hope that 2021 is filled with the confidence you need to share your unique story with the world on social media, on your website, and in all the small moments we’re able to steal with one another.
As I settle in for a much-needed rest before the cacophony of the new year, from my desk to yours, I can’t wait to see what you have to share in the new year.