[Announcement] This is what “niche down” looks like

The idea that so many people give up social media for Lent can lead to surprising adventures in ministry.

A letter from Erin to the small but mighty Heard Mentality Community:

Lent 2022 was a time of discovery. I started out with big plans and thought that they were plans directly from the heart of God because there were all sorts of “just in time” signs. The biggest was that I got an email about how people give up social media for Lent the Monday before Ash Wednesday—all right after I had decided to encourage people to give up isolation for Lent—all right after I’d been learning more and more about how to use Google Classroom. So I started Heard Mentality and tried to launch a community on Google Classroom.

I do think it was a direction from God, but it didn’t lead where I assumed it would.

As Lent progressed, I felt more “in the weeds” as we’d say when I was waiting tables: too many orders going through my head, too many plates piled on too many trays for me to reasonably carry, and here I was, trying to promote mental health while playing fast & loose with my own.

Again, it was all a direction from God but not the kind I’d expected.

I found myself without the time I needed to create the content to promote the community to grow the platform to serve the people. I thought that I had a job: create a broad, soft place for people to land once I reached them. Alas, I was getting nowhere fast, and the message I was trying to craft was itself falling by the wayside.

So this brand new Heard Mentality community got neglected.

I went seeking counsel from others in ministry. What should I do? How could I manage my time in creating this place for people to land and still keep my own serenity so that I’d be a useful messenger? The answer repeatedly was that I was just doing way too much. I had a metaphorical counter full of raw pies, their crusts wilting in the frenzied heat of all my activity.

And why would I keep making new pies instead of finishing one, just one, I’d already started?

Because when something is finished, it’s available for criticism.

I was hiding from my critics by not giving anyone anything about which to complain. Now, looking back on this with some self-compassion, I get it. As a developmental trauma survivor, I’ve had to deal with a serious affirmation deficit. Trying to avoid more criticisms against my best efforts? Completely understandable. That said, there aren’t many ways we can actually die from disappointment. As long as I’m surrounding myself with enough people who use the truth for the purpose of showering me with love (building each other up through both positive and difficult feedback) instead of for the purpose of making themselves feel a false-better by making me feel less-than, then I have the emotional support to face whatever disappointment may come my way, whether through content creation failures or just the relational failures that are part of being a fallen human.

It was during Passiontide 2022 that I received some very important messages that gave me the direction I believe I need to move forward and get back to creating things that aren’t just there for criticism but are also there to share God’s healing love with those looking for it:

Niche down

This is something heard often in the content creation world. Don’t make your message too broad. It’s easier to reach and cultivate a small audience who is looking for a specific message than it is to reach everyone with everything in a world as informationally noisy as ours. The smaller the message, the sharper the arrow to hit your target. Etcetera. I thought “I’m on a mission to heal trauma with truth” was a small enough message. Um, given how big the trauma in my own life has been, why would I think that’s a small message!?! I spun my wheels a lot, because I was going in too many directions. Yeah, I picked up a generous bucket of skills along the way (took an SEO class for a possible job for which I didn’t even get an interview, learned Google Classroom for a community that I didn’t have time to build, am picking up Adobe Premier for videos I haven’t been able to produce by my original self-imposed deadline…), but what was it all for if it was spent not getting the results I wanted on the schedule I wanted?

It wasn’t all for nothing.

In my creative pursuits as well as just relationships in general, I’ve been living through the story that says, if I made a mistake, it was a waste of time. However, one day during my social media benchmarking time, I came across a TikTok that I’ve since lost, in which the viewer is encouraged to imagine God whispering to her, “It wasn’t all for nothing.” It wasn’t? I didn’t get that job, but now I know SEO tactics to use to reach more people in my ministry. I learned Google Classroom, but I also learned its limitations so that I can make better informed decisions as to what platforms I want to use in the future for community-building. I still have a lot to learn in Premier, but those are not the last videos I plan to create.

Failure-based disappointment and freeze-based regret are equally painful. One is not less painful than the other.

That said, only the first one of those teaches new skills, especially the skill of resilience.

So I’m closing Heard Mentality to niche down and focus on Filled With Good: Theology of the Body for Food Addicts.

I’m afraid. Once I have that course out of beta mode, it could flop. All that time & energy & creativity wasted (my trauma will say). Whatever happens, it won’t be all for nothing. This, Heard Mentality, was not all for nothing. I thank you for your sense of adventure in answering this invitation at the start of Lent 2022. If you don’t already, please say in touch either on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Clubhouse, or even good old email.

Blessings & praise,

Erin C.

4 comments

  1. I think we all feel like we’ve wasted time, energy, and money when things don’t pan out. Trauma probably intensifies that feeling though. But I do find that over time I can see how learning certain skills or lessons were valuable not in the moment or the year – or maybe even the decade! – but eventually were useful for some tangential project or task.

  2. I hear you! I only half-jokingly say that someday I’m going to write a book on how to be a total failure (which no doubt would also completely fail)! But yes, knowledge and experience are never wasted. I wish you all the best as you move forward. Sending you love and prayers.

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