All I've got is the ability to type 90 wpm, a nose and a mouth, and a lively interest. And the ability to speak English fluently.
I can also relate to what Steven writes about ruts of depression or anxiety, times when I feel powerless. I think in our modern society, nearly everyone feels these things at some point in time, to some degree. When I'm in a bad place, some of the thoughts and worries that I have when I think about the effort I put into RateTea and this blog are ones like: "With so many blogs, websites, media outlets, and messages out there, how can I possibly get anyone's attention?"
This collage of screenshots captures just how many tea bloggers there are:
Those are all member blogs of the Association of Tea Bloggers, of which I am a member. Yet...the collage only shows some of their blogs, not a full list. And there are numerous tea bloggers who are not in this association.
The self-promotion mentality:
It's easy to see what's out there and to get into a mindset that I like to call the "self-promotional mindset". The thought process goes like this..."There are so many blogs out there." --> "Wow, it's so competitive." --> "I need to do a lot of clever marketing or strategizing if I am going to attract significant readership to my blog."
I think this is not necessarily a healthy mindset. At its extreme, it leads towards spammy behavior. I also think it's not based on truth. I think the biggest fallacy in this line of reasoning is the idea that the atmosphere of blogging is "competitive". This is a subjective interpretation of reality, and from my experience, it's not true. Bloggers form a community, and they are more interested in engaging with each other and cooperating than they are with competing against each other.
I also think that at its root, this mentality is based on thinking of blogging as "what can I get out of blogging" rather than "what can I bring to blogging". Yes, you can get things out of blogging...you can generate revenue by serving ads on your blog, or by adding affiliate links to tea companies, and if you own a tea company, you can generate traffic to your website and make money by selling tea. But I still think that this isn't the best or most productive way of thinking about blogging.
Getting out of this mentality: what can I bring to blogging?
In the spirit of the famous JFK Inaugural address, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country".
I find it uplifting to focus on the fact that each person brings unique gifts to anything they try. Blogging is no exception. I think that this mentality actually helps people to get the most out of blogging as well...it's a bit ironic, by thinking of giving most, you get the most. But it works like this: the best way to "promote" a blog is to write something unique and interesting, sharing from your own personal experiences, and writing from your own strengths.
What do I bring?
I have no credentials when it comes to tea, just my own limited personal tasting experience, which, relative to many bloggers, is not particularly deep. Visual design is also not my strong suit. Here I am, still using the default blogger theme, and the site that I've put the most effort into, RateTea, was made fun of on the Steepster forums for its visual design (before the recent updates, mind you, and we actually substantially redesigned the RateTea homepage again today, so hopefully it looks even better).
But I do bring something unique.
What I do think I have to offer is an above-average knowledge of ecology, some business experience, some gardening experience from the mid-Atlantic and midwestern U.S., and an academic statistics background that helps me to sort through the piles of research on the science of tea and health, and herbs and health. And I also bring a fairly quirky, zany mind with a knack for drawing deep connections between subjects that most people might not think are related.
And, back to Steven Knorr's 39 Steeps, I will say, I think that tea blog also has something unique to offer. It's eclectic, which makes it interesting to read and helps to inspire creativity. Steven also has discerning tastes, which makes me better able to trust what he writes, and, as diverse as the posts are, he seems selective about what topics he covers...I think a good bit more selective than I am. So, addressed both to Steven and numerous others: stop all the silly talk about not having any credentials! =)
What do you bring?
Think about what you bring to blogging...and consider commenting or writing a follow-up post. I would be curious to read what you personally believe your strengths are as a blogger and a tea enthusiast.