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Writing Stepping Stones

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to get lost in the woods around our house in lower Michigan. We never lived too far from the city, so we’re really just talking pockets of trees left standing in the suburbs, but to my mind, they were part of the Big Woods that once spanned the continent. They were vast and wild and open to possibilities.

Discovering Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones in a riverThere was a stream not far from one of the houses we lived in that drained into a swampy area. We weren’t supposed to play there because it could be dangerous, but that just meant fewer other kids to bother me. I wanted to explore what was on the other side of the swamp and crossing the stream was the only way to get there. And it looked easy enough. There were several large rocks that made an uneven line across the current.

But when I got to that first rock, I realized the second rock was a lot further away than it looked from the shore. If I tried to make that jump from the uneven surface of the rock I was standing on, I was likely to end up in the water.

Remember how I said the stream could be dangerous? Even as a daredevil kid, I knew that was a bit more risk than I should take without another kid around to run for help.

It took almost the whole summer, some bloody fingers, and a few bug bits, but I eventually managed to find and haul enough medium-sized rocks – the biggest I could manage on my own – up to the stream and started dropping them in a line from one of the existing large rocks.

pile of rocks

Finally, the line reached far enough that I could make my way from the first big rock to the second, anticipating I was just one more jump away from discovering that other side.

You’re probably not surprised to learn I still had a long way to go. Once again, the distance from Rock 2 to Rock 3 was a lot further than I’d anticipated. From my side of the stream, I looked like a simple, hop, skip, and jump away. In reality, it required an additional four medium-sized rocks for me to get from Rock 1 to Rock 2 and another three to go from Rock 2 to Rock 3. I was glad when I only needed one more rock to get to the far side, finally free to explore!

Of course, by then, it was winter and the stream froze over. I could easily get across, but so could all the other kids in the area. While I was disappointed at first that I would not be the first to discover the new lands, it was much more fun to find new treasures together with friends.

I forgot all about this particular season of my life until I was full grown and trying to grow my online business.

Re-Discovering Stepping Stones

Like trying to cross that stream, standing back and looking at the overall scene, it seemed easy enough. Take Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 and you’d be successful. All the experts said so.

steps with stepsBut when I got closer, the gaps between those steps were a lot wider than I’d been led to believe.

In order to even get to Step 1, I had to take baby steps A, B, C, and D. And each of those steps had their own little a, b, c’s to reach completion.

As a business owner yourself, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

The expert says, all you need is a lead magnet, a product for them to buy, and a funnel to connect the two. Easy, right?

But when you get to the shore, ready to jump onto that first rock, you realize you have no idea to get from where you are, with some ideas and a plan, to that first rock, a polished and attractive lead magnet that will encourage the right customers to stop by your door.

Just to be sure we’re all on the same page here, a lead magnet is one way of referring to the thing that you offer to encourage people to join your email list.

CRAVE: 5 Ways a Book Can Boost Your Business coverDone right, it gives people a taste of who you are, what you’re about, and, most importantly, it gives them important information they can use to grow in some way. Many times, this is a short ebook, such as what I offer on this site (CRAVE), a video or audio lesson, or a ticket to an online event, but what you offer is only limited by your imagination, your time, and the needs of your audience.

Have you discovered the first gap between where you’re standing and that finished lead magnet yet?

Stepping Stones Matter

That is why I focus on Stepping Stones here.

When you try to focus on every little a, b, c along the way, you will need in your path along the way, you can quickly become overwhelmed in the details, like I was, spending my entire summer and fall hauling rocks almost heavier than I could carry to the river trying to guess how many I’d need to get across before I even really started.

That’s a quick way to shut yourself down!

Instead, I encourage you to focus on the smaller steps you need to get from where you are to the next big rock of your journey.

There is a special quality about writing that doesn’t translate to every profession. Before you can build anything, before you can start a movement, before you can teach others, you have to start with the words. Most of the stages along the way will require writing in one form or another.

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of words – the magical way they can shape and redefine our worlds with a simple twist of phrase.

What you can look forward to from the Write Services Stepping Stones newsletter and blog is a continuing exploration into how different writing applications can be used to help you grow your business, when to use what kind of writing to match your personality, serve your audience, and meet your goals, and some of the finer steps of these processes.

But no exploration is complete without additional perspectives. I invite you to add your experiences, ask your questions, contribute your knowledge to the discussion if you feel inclined. Let’s start with a simple question which you can answer in the comments.

What childhood game taught you an important life lesson?

You don’t have to share the life lesson if you don’t want. Let’s just remember for a moment the value of true playtime.