“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” ~ Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit
Bilbo Baggins is the irrepressible hero of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous work, The Hobbit. Bilbo is a Hobbit who found himself “having an adventure, and doing and saying things very unexpected.” He was also a writer. As bloggers, either full time or as part of our business content marketing strategy, we should always be looking at other writers for inspiration and guidance, even if the characters are fictional.
So, what lessons can we learn from Mr. Baggins?
Anyone can make a difference
When we first meet Bilbo, he’s a relatively young hobbit spending his days eating, enjoying the Shire’s finest tobacco, and living a life of leisure. Before he even knows what’s going on, he has become involved in an adventure that would not only change the lives of many humans, dwarves and elves that he helps, but in the finding of the One Ring, his actions eventually result in the overthrow of his world’s greatest evil overlord, Sauron.
While your blog may not bring about the destruction of someone like Sauron, your blog IS a platform on which you can share your thoughts and opinions, and which can have a lasting impact on people around the world. Michael Hyatt writes that “your platform is the means by which you connect with your existing and potential fans.” When you stand on your platform and speak, your voice can be heard, and you may never know the impact that you have on others.
When we write a new blog post, we’re expressing our opinion or providing information on a topic for others to read, and that is our platform. We share posts on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and others comment and reshare, and that’s part of our platform as well. Successful blog posts will initate conversations, both between the author and readers, as well as between other readers, and that may spread well beyond our normal sphere of influence.
Never give up
As a new adventurer, Bilbo was certainly not prepared for the challenges he suddenly faced. From trolls to spiders to a dragon, Bilbo was constantly put into different and frightening situations, and yet each time, even though he would often question himself, he still found the will to keep on going.
If you’re just starting your blog, the complete lack of readers and feedback can be very disheartening and challenging. Don’t give up! Blog regularly, continue to provide interesting and valuable content, and share it on social networks. Readers will come and your blog community will grow over time.
Each time you write a new blog post, you will get better and better at blogging. It will also get easier! Don’t give up.
Have a mentor
It could be argued that Gandalf was one of the greatest literary mentors of all time. He identified in Bilbo qualities that Bilbo himself didn’t know existed, and encouraged Bilbo in a series of decisions that put him in positions to be both challenged and successful. Gandalf supported Bilbo publicly, but also allowed the young hobbit to find his own way, even if that meant making mistakes and experiencing failure.
We all could use a mentor like that, so how do you go about finding such a person? This where bloggers have an advantage because we can turn to other bloggers for help! Begin to read and watch other bloggers. Study them, comment on their blogs, and begin to form a relationship with them. Over time, opportunities will present themselves that you might be able to take advantage of. You might find yourself at the same conference and strike up a conversation, or you might write a guest blog post that catapults your relationship (and readership). While you should never try to force a mentoring relationship, you should always be working on creating relationships with leaders in your industry, and be open to possibilities.
Another avenue to look for a mentor is through local connections. Join a networking group or local chamber and begin to meet with other business people in your area. You might connect with someone who can provide a positive influcence in your life, as well as connect with potential clients.
Be true to yourself
At one of the most dramatic points in the story, Bilbo Baggins found himself in an extremely difficult and emotional situation.
He and his dwarf friends have reclaimed the dwarven ancestral home, filled with treasure. Thorin, leader of the dwarves, has refused to share any of the treasure with the men who live nearby, even though it was these men who killed the dragon and made it possible for Thorin to be King Under the Mountain again. War is imminent and Bilbo has the one thing that Thorin wants most of all, a large and extremely valuable jewel that belonged to his family.
In order to save his friends, Bilbo decides that he must betray them. He sneaks out of the mountain, down to the camp of men, and gives them the jewel that they may use it to negotiate a truce. Bilbo could have given the jewel to Thorin, or snuck out and left the situation entirely. Instead, he remained true to his convictions and took the course of action he felt was best for everyone.
Again, this is a dramatic moment that hopefully will not apply specifically to your blog or content marketing, but the point is still valid. Your blog and your writing must be your voice. People who read your blog must be able to see your personality in your writing. Blogging is about sharing information, but people are going to come to YOUR blog because they like YOU and want to hear more from and hear more about you. This post, for instance, clearly demonstrates that I’m a fan of The Hobbit, and readers might also surmise that I’m a reader of SciFi/Fantasy in general, and that might resonate with some readers.
I first read The Hobbit around 1985 when I was still in elementary school. I was at a bookstore with my Dad and the book caught my eye. I wanted the entire Lord of the Rings series, but he wanted to make sure that I would read them so he agreed to buy the first book and give me each successive book once I was done. Well, I finished The Hobbit and loved it. I moved on to The Fellowship of the Ring and when I finished that, I went into my Dad’s office and he pulled the fourth book, Return of the King, out of one of his drawers. When I realized that he’d skipped a book, he had to give me The Two Towers and of course admit that he’d bought all the books after all.
Make sure that when you’re writing your blog, you regularly give glimpses into your personal side, and always strive to have a tone or voice to your blog writing that is unique and a good reflection of you.
Write about what you know
In the end, Bilbo returns to his quiet hobbit hole in the Shire, back to the life he’d left to go adventuring, though with a brand new perspective on life and tremendous experiences to look back on. Rather than allow those memories to fade, Bilbo committed to writing them all down and wrote a book, “There and back again, a Hobbit’s Tale.” He wrote about the stories and adventures that he was familiar with.
Similarly, a good blogger writes about what he or she knows. Share information and opinions and do so in an entertaining and informative way.
Always make sure that you are presenting factual and helpful content. A large part of this advice comes into play when a blogger is just starting and determining exactly what they’re going to blog about. You’ll want to choose a topic (or topics) and niche on which you can create a virtually endless amount of content.
The other side of this equation though is that you should always be learning. Bilbo learned a lot on his adventures, just as you should as you walk through life. Learn from other bloggers and mentors, and also be a student of your business. Read books from your industry and attend conferences and seminars, and continue to write about and share what you learn!
“Roads go ever ever on…” ~ Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit
In the end, Bilbo returned to his home in the Shire. As he was doing so though, he talked about how the roads go ever on, regardless of where you’re going or where you’re coming from. Your blog is like those roads, and no one can say where it will take you. Over grass and over stone, be sure to enjoy the journey.
Image from Hobbiton by Daniel Peckham.