Find that blogging voice of yours!

Published February 27, 2017   Posted in Blogging

In my recent rant about having children, I mentioned that I have “found my voice” on the blog. By that, I mean that I’m no longer concerned about whether people agree with what I have to say or not. That’s right – I just don’t care.

One of my readers sent me a message on Twitter asking for tips on how to engage that voice. How do we bloggers break through our natural desire to exist without conflict and instead enter into a world where we might be criticized for our opinions?

Is it okay if somebody calls you an asshole?

Politicians do this shit all the time. So do highly-visible business people. Entertainers. Or, virtually anyone who pursues a lifestyle in a creative space. If you put your opinion out there, you might get criticized. And, that’s okay.

One of my favorite phrases in life:

Opinions are
like assholes.
Everybody has one.

I love it because it describes this phenomenon so well. We will never find ourselves in a position where everybody loves us. And quite frankly, that’s good. It makes us stronger people when we fend for ourselves and hold opinions that others may find to be unattractive. Basically, believe whatever you want to believe. This autonomy is the spice of life!

Find your blogging voice by ignoring criticism

I’ve been criticized for the words that I’ve written on this blog. I mean, look at this – I cuss, including the “f-bomb”. I write in a very informal, completely unprofessional manner. I’ve told people that their $80,000 car doesn’t impress me. I’ve trashed the idea of having children. After a feature in Business Insider, I was more or less called the scum of the earth. Living a life of destitution. Living off of the fat of the land on the backs of everybody else.

And you know what? I don’t give a shit. They, like everybody else, have an opinion. People will believe whatever they want to believe.

The fact is we cannot prevent people from getting offended. We can’t keep them from getting mad. That’s on them, not us. We, as bloggers, have a job to do. We put forth our perspective on life and the world in general and then let people draw their own conclusions.

The second that we trap ourselves into a world were we can’t offend, we’ve lost our voice. It’s gone.

And when we are more concerned about offending others than we are about putting forth content that represents us and our drive towards financial independence and early retirement, we’ve lost all control over our blog. It no longer reflects you and your journey.

I never set out to offend someone else. Ever. But if I do, oh well. It happens.

Think about criticism in a whole new way

Two things strike me about criticism and how most people view this issue. Try these on for size:

We notice criticism more than we notice praise

Of the 415 blog posts I’ve written on this blog, about 95% of the comments have been positive. Thousands of comments in hundreds of blog posts are positive and supportive, and that ignores the personal emails I’ve received from those who find our story inspiring. The Twitter messages. The private Facebook chats. The wide variety of communication between my blog viewers and me has been outrageously supportive.

But the comments that I remember the most are those that are negative. I’m a relentlessly positive person, but even I can’t help but remember the negative shit. My $80,000 car post, for example, has several gems in the comments. That Business Insider piece has a bunch, too. I’ve been told on YouTube that one of our videos made them literally throw up. That we are the absolute worst. That they laugh at our stupidity.

Take these negative comments into perspective. They are by far the exception rather than the rule. Even though we may naturally focus in on these types of comments, the large majority of the message resonates well, and that should be our focus.

Criticism means our message is getting out there

I love negative comments. No, I’m not some masochist who loves to be criticized. I don’t derive weird satisfaction out of people hating me. I am strange, but not that strange. I love negative comments because it means that my message is getting out there. I love when my message breaks through the personal finance community and flies free in the general population.

This is when things really begin to get fun.

And, a few additional bullet points about criticism

  • People who have a lot of spare time are often those who feel like their opinion is FACT
  • It is far easier to criticize than to come up with the “right answer” yourself
  • If someone does something differently than you, it doesn’t make either of you wrong; different strokes for different folks
  • When you love controversy, prepare yourself for comments; it’s natural

How I respond to critics

My response to critics depends a great deal on the nature of the criticism. I always ignore personal attacks entirely. They are nonsensical and certainly not worth my time responding to. Quite frankly, I laugh out loud at the large majority of these types of attacks. If you want to get through to me, do it respectfully. Otherwise, I’ll take it as a joke. I’ll usually have a little fun with the reply, too.

In response to a YouTube video that made a commenter laugh due to our “sheer stupidity”, my response was quite simple:

I’m thankful that I was able to make you laugh. It is the best medicine, after all!

Or another one: “blah.. had to stop watching. awful” to our Oregon trip video:

Cool! Appreciate your thoughtful comment. See ya next time! 😉

And perhaps my favorite, from my $80,000 car article: “you should shoot yourself steve or get a life. No one cares about you peasants.”

Amazing insight, Stanley. Very much appreciate you taking the time to comment, and I’ll give your suggestion some thought.

How fun!

In contrast, insightful criticism I take to heart. I have learned a great deal about myself and life around me through criticism, in fact. I am the person that I am today due in no small part to the critiques leveled against me throughout my life. I have incredibly thick skin. But still, I listen to and respect constructive and insightful criticism.

Just a few examples:

  • My writing has improved due to criticisms over stupid typographical errors and careless omissions
  • My form at the gym is nearly spot-on now due to “feedback” on basic muscle physiology
  • My photography has grown leaps and bounds after relentless feedback about how boring it all was

Find your blogging voice through self confidence. Put your opinion out there and don’t mince words. Be direct. Write forcefully. And if someone disagrees with what you write, let ’em. Who cares. Focus on doing what you do best and ignore judgmental bastards.

It’s the only way to blog!

We track our net worth using Personal Capital



Comments

70 responses to “Find that blogging voice of yours!”

  1. Love this message to us fellow bloggers, Steve! I love that you’re raw on your blog. It helps to bring out your character. 🙂 I admit in the beginning I was trying to write too generically and for the masses. But, that’s boring! The real audience that you are meant to attract will come naturally from being yourself. Today I hang it all out there… including somethings my friends and family don’t even know about… hehe.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Michael! I definitely enjoy keeping my blog more raw. Hopefully it is more enjoyable to read that way…and I damn well know it’s a lot more fun to write!

  2. Marc says:

    This is great advice for anyone that’s going against the “main stream” way of thinking. I’ve experienced some negative comments/feedback and I agree that those are the ones that you remember and dwell on. But when it comes down to it, I think it’s funny that they took the time to read the article and spent the time and energy to come up with some sort of mean/witty comment so clearly you struck a nerve with them. Those comments show me that what I wrote was worth it. I want to make people uncomfortable and actually think about things.

  3. You get it, I love it! I try to go about my life the same manner – my style probably will be off putting to some people, but to many people it will be refreshing and add value to their lives. People are jealous by your success; they need to get over it.

    Thanks for the post. Haters only stoke the fire over here!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Erik for taking the time to comment. I agree about your comment on haters. If it’s a personal attack, you gotta just have a little fun with it. 🙂

  4. I’ve heard that if you never get criticized that you’re doing something wrong. That it means you’re too wishy washy and most people lose interest. I think there’s a reason talking heads on TV have such a following and loathing. People enjoy hearing the truth whether they agree or disagree with that person. Thanks for sharing your authentic voice with us.

    • Steve says:

      I’ve heard that same phrase as well. I think there is quite a bit of truth to that, too. Give someone something to think about and there will always be at least a little controversy. 🙂

  5. Very good advice Steve. The internet especially seems to bring out the negative vitriol in people. It is after all the home of all arguments degrading to Hitler. You just have to remember why you started blogging imho. My guess is no one would ever say it’s one of those commenters you referenced. It’s probably the community, and when critique comes it’s the critique with the actual improvement advice.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks FTF! The Internet brings out a LOT of hate from people who, generally, have the most time in which to spew it. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? And yeah, when Hitler makes his first appearance in a debate, you know that the participants of said debate are fresh out of anything meaningful to say.

  6. Go Finance Yourself says:

    When it comes to putting your thoughts and opinions out for everyone to see, criticism just comes with the territory. On the bright side, you know you’re writing about something important if you receive some criticism. You’re challenging people’s view of the world. Plus, those who don’t create are usually the first people to lash out at those who do create. It’s easy to tell someone else their work is shit when you’ve never tried yourself.

    Keep up the good work Steve!

    • Steve says:

      Totally agree – criticism comes with the territory, especially in a creative space such as this one. “It’s easy to tell someone else their work is shit when you’ve never tried yourself.”

      Incredibly well said.

  7. TheRetirementManifesto says:

    I hate you, Steve. You’re an idiot. Retiring in your 30’s, you lush!? Get a job! Get a life! (Ok, looking forward to your response – LOVE your stuff, and you know it!!).

    • Steve says:

      I do know it, Retirement Manifesto – and trust me, likewise. But if someone truly called me an idiot, I’d probably say something like, “Cool, appreciate your insight – and thanks for dropping by and adding another hit to my Adsense total!”. 😉

  8. I love the concept of responding sarcastically to haters, but taking helpful criticism and using it to become a better writer. This is a strategy that truly lets you get the most out of every comment, I’ll have to use this strategy with my own content! Although I haven’t been fortunate to encounter any haters yet, I feel more prepared for them now 😉

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Zach – you totally get me. Ignore and/or have fun with the personal stuff, but learn from the constructive criticism. That’s the only way I operate, and it’s taken YEARS for me to actually master the relationship between those.

  9. I love those responses. XD

    Also, definitely a good distinction between thoughtful criticism and just an asshole being an asshole.

    I used to get really anxious about any sort of criticism – especially at school or work. I think it’s natural to get defensive or offended. Thankfully I’ve been able to work through that, and now I literally ask for it.

    It’s just the random internet trolls and the pre-criticism niceties preambles I can’t stand (you know, where they spend ages getting to the point – just come out and say it, already!)

    • Steve says:

      I definitely think that it’s easier to blow off criticism online…just like it’s easier to actually GIVE criticism online. Some try to be clever about it. Others are just passive aggressive. I used to be passive aggressive in a previous life…it was a character flaw that I worked diligently to fix!

  10. I guess that means I must be doing something right, because I get A LOT of criticism. Maybe 75% of the comments are nice and on-topic. But the other 25% are like an internet shit-storm hit, and my blog is directly in its path.

    I honestly think that many of these hateful commenters don’t even read the post. They just want to spew hate. Or a mountain of text about how I’m “doing it wrong”.

    The vast majority of them don’t add anything of value…just verbal diarrhea. Thank god it’s easy to clean up.

    • Steve says:

      “I honestly think that many of these hateful commenters don’t even read the post. They just want to spew hate.”

      I think you’re exactly right, Mr. Tako. Some just want to talk shit. The read the headline and MAYBE the first paragraph, but even then, perhaps not even that. It’s too easy to identify the serial haters out there.

  11. I do like a thoughtful criticism or leaving a subtle ridicule to make a point. There is obviously a line that can be crossed when a comment in a post becomes disrespectful. I generally am ‘nicer’ on line than I am in real life, but have enjoyed posting a few sarcastic opinions when the feeling strikes me.

    Since I’m a car guy, I had to go back to your post about $80K cars to see if I responded negatively, but I must have missed that one. I subscribe to the belief that anyone who loves anything too much will be called a fool by people who don’t care that passion. Less important than the cost of a vehicle is if they paid for it with cash or credit.

    • Steve says:

      Totally. There is a line indeed, and as long as you don’t cross it, then I’m generally interested in what you have to say. But on the other side…not so much. 🙂

  12. What? Now you’re hearing voices? I knew I couldn’t trust someone who doesn’t like $80,000 cars.
    Uhm, no, just kidding, this was a great post, of course. It’s good to start every Monday morning with a smile! 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Ha! Thanks ERN. Arguably, I’ve been hearing voices my entire life, and they all keep telling me “Don’t do it!”. Of course, I never actually listen. 😉

  13. Mrs. BITA says:

    My mother knows I blog but I refuse to tell her the name of my site because if I had to imagine my mother reading my blog, my voice would be somewhat *ahem* tempered. I tend to cuss in real life and on my blog, but I don’t (can’t?) curse in front of my parents and so I certainly don’t want to have to imagine them reading my content.

    • Steve says:

      My folks know about my blog and my propensity to use colorful language here. It all goes to hopefully make my content a little more interesting to read. I hope it’s working!

  14. Hahaha! Great job with those comments back at the trolls. People are such jerks when they have a computer screen to hide behind. Sorry you have to deal with it at all; that’s a bunch of crap. I had someone go on a rampage on my site after I said I don’t recommend Subaru cars. It was so bizarre, hahaha.
    But keep on keepin’ on. That’s what makes your blog special, after all.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Mrs. Picky Pincher. No worries on my end. It comes with the territory. On the bright side, most commenters make it painfully obvious right off the bat whether or not their comment is worth the time it takes to consider it seriously. 🙂

  15. I personally admire bloggers who aren’t afraid to speak their mind, or use their voice. It’s easier said than done. And, I think blogging anonymously is a great way to find that online voice, without too much fear. I also like that you respond to every comment, even the intentionally negative ones, from the trolls, that don’t add value to a conversation, and are purely just an attack.

    I like this quote also: “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard

    I’d be curious what you think about bloggers turning off comments because of the negativity. I have to say that I don’t like negativity in general, but I just breeze through those comments. For me, the comment section is the most fun, because that is where the ‘conversation’ is at.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the comment, PP. Regarding turning off of comments…that’s a good question. They might have a real good reason for turning them off that I’m not aware of. In general, though, I’d rather them leave comments open. Even if they do get a number of negative reactions, at least they are open to hearing it.

  16. It amazes me how much resistance and backlash that exists in the mainstream media whenever one of the FIRE articles crosses that boundary. I guess anything against the norm is threatening so people feel the need to defend their consumeristic lifestyle and trash anything that doesn’t align with it. Eh. Fuck ’em 😉 Kudos to finding your voice and entertaining and inspiring others along the way!

    • Steve says:

      Oh, totally. The mainstream is absolutely full of hate and vitriol. Anything that challenges the status quo will be assumed to be “wrong”, and the forces will come out in defense of mindless adherence to standard operating procedure. Screw that.

  17. Joe says:

    Great job deflecting those negative comments. I don’t like negativity and I usually try to respond in a neutral or positive manner. Sometime I just delete them, though. My house, my rule. 🙂
    Blogging really helped improve my writing. Before blogging, I haven’t wrote an essay since high school. Everyone should take up blogging.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Joe – everyone should take up blogging…hmm, I gotta admit that would make for some very, very interesting writing (some more than others, of course). 🙂

  18. Jim Wang says:

    I think it’s important to use criticism to get better if it’s based on something specific. You don’t have to please everyone but if there is something constructive in the negative feedback it’s good to take a look. Most people who value what you do won’t say stupid stuff like “awful, sucks, can’t watch” or “you’re miserable” — those are just assholes.

    • Steve says:

      Yeah, I have no problem with constructive criticism. In fact, I’ve learned quite a bit from it. Love learning new things about myself that I never knew were there. Eye opening for sure.

  19. Apathy Ends says:

    Your bold, honest truth is authentic and keeps me coming back – don’t change (I know you won’t!)

    Agreed on the constructive criticism piece, it has made me a better writer (at least I think so 🙂 )

  20. Justin says:

    There’s an abbreviation I love. IDGAF. 🙂

    Also, have you seen the image floating around on the internet with the caption: “Behold! The field in which I grow my fucks. / Lay thine eyes upon it and thou shalt see that it is barren”. It’s such a classic 🙂 http://imgur.com/gallery/2bY9hT4

  21. That’s about the shittiest post I’ve come across all week! I hope that made you at least crack a smile 😉 Thick skin is a prerequisite for sure, and I have to imagine that the longer you do it, and the more exposure, the easier it gets. Although if someone is prone to criticism, blogging is definitely not the right medium of expression for them. Loved the post, thanks!

    • Steve says:

      Ha! I agree…if you don’t like criticism, a blog is probably not the best thing for you to start. Or really, anything “creative”. Maybe just stick to the numbers where right and wrong answers can be more easily determined? Hmm…interesting!

  22. Love it! Also love the new minimalist site – very fast and focused on content!

    I still teeter on being careful what I say while still trying to get my point across. On the other hand, I’ve noticed over the past couple years, I’m getting a little less worried about what others think… sounds like I just have to keep working at it! 🙂

    — Jim

    • Steve says:

      Thanks so much for the feedback on the theme. So far I’m still loving it…and tweaking, too. 😉

      And yup, it is definitely something that gets easier the more we do it. I’ve seen stark differences in post popularity, in fact, when I go the controversial route without any regard to whether people will agree with me or not. Every once in a while, it’s fun!

  23. Physician on FIRE says:

    I see you’ve adopted a whole new look for the site, Steve.

    It sucks, by the way.

    😉
    -PoF

  24. Screw you and your “blogging voice,” Steve! 🙂

    On a serious note, I once heard a well-known blogger share that he purposefully engages with those who send him hate e-mail because he learns a lot about others in those conversations. Most people love to hunt and peck on their keyboards long enough to send out some crap they would never have the balls to say in person because they don’t think anyone will bother to respond. Keep on crushing the haters with kindness and positive words, Steve.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Mr. Superhero. Yeah, either they don’t think the blogger will respond, or they think that whatever their “message” is will get under their skin. Sometimes they are successful. Not all the time, though. 😉

  25. Tawcan says:

    Haters will always hate. If you spend every minute of your life worrying about these haters you’ll never get anywhere.

  26. This is really timely for me. I’m anxious to see how my blogging voice evolves as time goes on. I love your responses to those negative comments. And seriously?!?! “You should shoot yourself…” Wow, that’s a little much. I’m definitely not looking forward to this aspect of blogging, but when I encounter these comments, I will be sure to refer them to my barren field. Thanks for the great post and for being you. I always appreciate the honesty and genuineness of your writing.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Cody, appreciate your comment. Yup, someone actually invited me to commit suicide because they didn’t like what I wrote about expensive cars. There are allllll kinds of people out there…some worth the time of day, and others…not so much! 🙂

  27. Great advice – it’s so true that when you put yourself and your ideas out there, you have to be ready for criticism. The only way to avoid it is to never put yourself out there in the first place. I’ve had lots of experience not caring what other people think of me, so I think I have an advantage in that space. 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Yup – the more public you are (or your work is), the more likely you are to field some negative shit thrown in your direction. It’s all good. It develops thicker skin, no doubt.

  28. Miss Mazuma says:

    “I’ll give your suggestion some thought.” Best retort ever! Thankfully, I have managed to steer away from most criticism but I know it is coming and have guarded myself against it the best I can. When I wrote about my short sales I was sooooo ready for someone to bash me on taking the easy way out that I beat them to the punch by saying so. I also realize I have the capability to be judgey towards others at times so I try to give people the benefit of the doubt knowing I would have judged my own story with harsh criticism had it come from someone else…after all, we can be are worst own critics. But the point you make is tried and true – who gives a shit?? This is my life. That is yours. If I read something I disagree with I move on to the next. Constructive criticism is one thing but I certainly don’t take the time to comment and try to change someones opinion (unless it has to do with hurting animals or kids – then you best watch out!!). My gosh – did everyone forget what our parents taught us? If you have nothing nice to say then shut the fuck up (or something like that). 😉

    • Steve says:

      Ha! Very well said, Miss. Mazuma. Like you, I don’t ever remember taking the time out of my day to bash someone for something they posted. I used to debate politics quite often, so I’m sure I got my fill in that kind of discourse. I no longer do that, though, as I’ve finally admitted to myself after many years that it’s truly a waste of time. 🙂

  29. katrun27 says:

    Love this! The most enjoyable blogs to read are those that aren’t afraid to ruffle some feathers. They’re making people think, and that’s absolutely a good thing! Your nonchalance combined with sound advice/philosophy make you great to read! Now to check out the $80K car post😉

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Katrun – I agree, blogs that aren’t afraid of the controversy are SO much more interested to read in my humble opinion. I can read bore magazine-style prose anywhere. I want something to get my emotions rattled, damnit! 🙂

  30. Andy Hill says:

    Great inspiration Steve! Be you and forget the haters.

  31. mamafishsaves says:

    This post was so heartening. I have trouble with wanting to please everyone in my day to day life so as a new blogger, getting some negative feedback on one of my recent posts was tough! Especially when some of the negative feedback was from my father in law! This post made me laugh and gave me some conviction to work on being ok with the haters. Thanks Steve!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Mama Fish. Yup, haters are everywhere, and they win when they get under our skin. Don’t let ’em. Their opinion. Their problem. 🙂

  32. Dan Palmer says:

    If you’re not stirring the pot, you’re not adding value! Just so long as you’re not stirring the pot just to piss people off. Because that’s not authentically stirring.

  33. Classic post! You pretty much have to take things with a grain of salt with the keyboard warriors. It’s way too easy for people to be negative and try to rile people up online. Easier said than done sometimes I realize!

  34. Spot on Steve. I like your voice so keep up the awesome work.

    One thing I would add is it takes TIME to find your voice, and it will change. If you write you will become a better writer, but you are always changing as well. I’ve been at it over a year now and I feel like I’m still trying to figure out my voice. Maybe I’ll never be completely satisfied, but I guess that is part of what makes blogging so much fun.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks man, appreciate it. It’s so true…the longer you blog, the easier this whole process gets. I’m still learning things too as I go along my merry blogging way. Learning…it never stops!

  35. MakinCents says:

    Great post Steve – My blog is fairly new and I’m still playing it safe at the moment. I definitely have the Don’t Care What Others Think mentality in day to day life! I think it is very important, especially those of us that make up the vast minority living below our means and doing something different! 😛

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