why i’m over building a platform

I’ve been blogging for seven years now. Most of the people who were blogging when I started have either surpassed me in fame and platform numbers, or they are no longer blogging.

I have heard so much over the years about platform, and it is all true: if you want to write a book, publishers want you to have thousands of followers somewhere in the interwebs. I have the majority of a book finished that has been quite admired by acquisition agents as they refused to publish me because I’m not a sure sale.

I am rewriting that book in an attempt to create something that woos them past their saavy business sense. Or maybe I will self-publish it. I don’t know at this point.

I only know that I don’t want to build a bigger platform. (This is heresy in the writing world, but I have lost my ability to quiet my tongue.)

Go ahead and roll your eyes and tell me I will NEVER succeed. I don’t care anymore. I’m weary of hearing how important it is to have tens of thousands of email followers. I don’t want women all over the world to like me online. I want women all over the world to engage in what’s happening in front of them, in the real life they’re living. I want them to increase in their commitment to their own growth, their families, and the efforts of the local church to establish God’s love and justice in their city.

 I have grown weary of the popularity push.

A few weeks ago I sat around a table with a group of women I adore with my whole heart. We talked about our dreams and our goals and I loved every minute of the face to face interaction. Our lives are woven together by our allegiance to Christ, our families’ friendships, and years of working together to serve our spiritual family and our city of Austin. We have mourned together and celebrated together. We have laughed at/with each other, honored each other, strengthened each other, and cheered one another on.

Our connection to one another is not a platform we sit on, it is an altar where we have bowed together before the God who brought us together.

My friends remind me that success is highly subjective, isn’t it?

This is my version of success:

  • I want to love my husband well, to laugh with him, to sit in the sun and the rain together, and to remain tender and kind toward him on the hardest days of our relationship.
  • I want to mother my children well: offering wisdom, kindness, truth, and love to them so that when they trek out into the wide world with all its struggles, they will stand firm and courageous, knowing their mom will always be there for them.
  • I want to be the kind of friend who makes dark days a little brighter and happy days a little sweeter. I want to show up with cookies or a good casserole when you least expect it, but need it most.
  • I want to help build a church in Austin that will be a light to our city, that feeds the hungry, speaks up for justice, and establishes peace and reconciliation as it leads the lost homeward in Christ.
  • I want to write and speak and paint words that will lessen the blow of the world’s severity on our hearts, and remind us to look ever out over the horizon for where mercy rises on the clouds and leads us to God.

Here is what I don’t want: to gain the whole world and lose my soul.

Every time I buckle down and work on my “platform”, that’s what happens to me. The light goes out and I feel lost when I’m trying to build a higher seat for myself. Some amazing people I know do marketing and branding with grace and beauty. It is life and joy and Kingdom work for them. I have accepted that I am not one of those people. My soul is just not made of that kind of stuff.

Accepting this means that I frequently feel like the writing world is passing me by, like I don’t have what it takes, and I have failed at one of my biggest dreams. These are hard thoughts to process, but there doesn’t seem to be another way for me to make it through.

I know I couldn’t possibly be the only person who feels this way about writing platform. I can’t be the lone person out here dying a million deaths to platform strategy. Surely I have some brothers and sisters out there? Here’s to solidarity.

I don’t know what will happen with us, if we sit back and lean into who God made us to be instead of trying to muster the energy to do the things that we don’t do well. But I’m willing to take the risk. I’m willing to be a colossal failure by industry standards so long as I am following Jesus to the quiet places He has given me to lie down in.

I trust that Jesus was talking about me when He said to take the seat in the back at the party, and move up when someone offers you a better seat.

He was pointing at me when He said that God cares for the lilies and the birds, and that I don’t have to worry because He will array me in splendor and provide everything I need.

Jesus was looking at me when He promised that if a person abides in Him, and His words abide in her, she will bear fruit and glorify God.

I don’t have a big platform, but I have Him, so I’ll be okay. And so will you, no matter what size platform you’re standing on today. Really, we’re all just standing on His love for a world full of redeemed failures, which is the foundation of all the best Jesus work.

Join the discussion 37 Comments

  • I love this! I feel the same way. I am right there with you sister!

  • John Myer says:

    100% agreement here. I have a similar story and I was recently told the same thing about an agent who loved my work and then told me to make sure I contacted him when I had 5,000 followers on social media. The thought crossed my mind, “Now if I had all those followers, why would I give my book to you so you could sell it to them and then give me a fractional part of the profit? But that’s what happens when you write in order to be published by a prestigious house. It’s the prestige. The only problem is, most of the people I hope will read my book don’t know the difference between Baker and Buick. They just want something that ministers to them.
    I realize traditional publishers can put books in all the bookstores, but the niche of people I minister to don’t browse around in bookstores for fun.

    • Carrie Stephens says:

      I think knowing your readers is key. My book is for church leaders, and I think more of them will find it if it’s in the CBA. My agent has advised me against self-publishing for that reason. (Although she’s a big fan of self-pub in general.)

  • Having published 2 books and I am a blogger and a Life Purpose Coach, I wholeheartedly agree…however, I had to learn this through the process one goes through when we hit the gate with high expectations of grandeur….the end result is I heard Jesus say if you only wrote the book in obedience to Me would that have been enough? When I finally let go of building my platform I felt freedom to just be…who He created me to be and let him sell my books to those whose lives will change as a result. And sometimes He lets me see the fruit of it….What a freedom to walk in!!

  • Kate Redmon says:

    Yes. Thank you. I’m in tears. So frustrated with platform building.

  • Alida Sharp says:

    Amen! Thank you so much for putting my thoughts into words. Blessings to you!

  • Naomi says:

    Awesome! And you are Not alone! I whole-heartedly agree with you! I have a blog and several partially written books. haha I actually quit looking at the number of views/subscribers on my blog because it’s not about that. It’s about being faithful to steward whatever messages he gives me, and leave the rest up to him. He said the last will be first, and seek FIRST my kingdom and everything else will come. Jesus repeatedly tried to turn down others who would promote him and he certainly was not for self-promotion. Keep up the great and best work of just knowing Him!! much love! Naomi~

  • This is beautiful and so needed. The first time I tried to blog I got so caught up in the numbers and burned out. Then over the time I was away, I felt like God gave me a different vision for my writing. That even if we encourage one person towards eternal transformation God can do something huge that we may never even see this side of heaven. That our job isn’t producing results rather it is in being faithful with whatever He has given us to do. Now that I am back, it isn’t always easy to remember but at my core, I am more centered where He needs me to be, and it is easier to bring my focus back to where it needs to be. Thanks for writing about this–we need to be talking about this more.

  • Gilian says:

    You are not alone. I’ve been blogging for more than 10 years! Even before blogging was famous and became all about brands. I was recently lured to conform to the latter but foundout it just isn’t what my blog was supposed to be. I created it as a place where I could share God’s move in my life with or without thousands of followers. I don’t care if I make money out of it, one soul that will know Jesus through my blog will be all worth it. 🙂

  • Kim Wright says:

    Oh my goodness! I resonate so very much. Whenever I get too focused on the build I lose site/sight of the Builder! I somehow stop writing from my heart and get into my head trying to force topics I think will get hits, shares, reads and likes. So good! Thank you!

    And thank you Dixie…I will write the book in simple obedience to him!❤

  • I have a similar story and am feeling that platform building is definitely taking me away from my purpose – even writing a post takes far longer as I try to find headlines that are SEO friendly and will be picked up by Google. I am told I will get more sales if I had more followers and I need to write another book, all this platform building is leaving me with little time to do so. I go on courses to learn which lead to more diversions away from my goal. I am hoping in time these courses will bear fruit and lead to less being more. If not I shall retire gracefully and enjoy my later years.

  • I keep reading this post and crying. That is all. You have said it so well. Thank you.

  • Agree! Sometimes we get so into what others think we are supposed to do that we forget what we are called to do. Love the article.

  • Judy Roberts says:

    Ditto–and well said.

  • This bring so much freedom! Thank you for voicing the words running through me so eloquently. You’ve inspired me to sit and think about what I want — what God wants — my life to be.

    There is only one platform I need to stand on. And no man can build it.

    Thank you so very much.

  • Wow! I really needed to read this today. I’ve had a hard road in publishing, too; agents telling me to change my story then passing, book contracts that fell through, etc. Two years ago I made the decision to indie pub & it’s been an uphill battle. I’ve felt like a failure so many times since then, yet I know I’m exactly where God wants me. It’s nice to be reminded of that.

  • Your words sounded like hands opening palms-up. Lovely and well-said.

  • Oh my, yes! I came to the same place about a year ago, and you have described it perfectly. So, now we know we aren’t alone in our abandonment of the system!

    I’m completely willing to put in the work and do whatever He leads me to do, but I have felt Him leading me away from building my platform. We can trust God to be the strategist while we write what he’s put on our hearts. He’s much better at it than I am anyways!

  • Marlon says:

    As a blogger for just over a year I can so relate! There is always the temptation to strategise in building our platform as opposed to simple obedience to our Father. Whenever I am faced with this dilemma I hear the question : Do you want to be popular or do you want to be effective? My answer is always effectiveness over popularity, so I plod on. Improving my skills and sharing my heart and mind as a service to the reader.

  • Wonderful words, Carrie! I am also one who feels a strong calling to write and speak as a ministry and struggle with focusing my energy on building a business at the same time. I do wholeheartedly believe that God will build what He wants to with our efforts when we are faithful to follow Him in obedience.

  • Beth says:

    Love your honesty!! I have felt the same way for awhile. If my words are supposed to reach a certain audience they will. I have to live my life, which involves much more than writing.

  • Great post. I know what you’re talking about. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game. And then I’ll get an email from someone who was touched by what I wrote and my priorities are back in order. I am responding to God by writing. It’s something he wants me to do. I’m trying to do the steps I’m supposed to do, but the results are up to him.

  • 1. I want to hug you.
    2. I think this is magnificent and if you need to shout it from the mountaintops every day to reaffirm the truth of it, you should.
    3. I want to hug you again.
    4. I will share with you my thoughts in a similar vein: http://www.kendraspondence.com/what-to-tell-them-when-they-ask-you-if-you-have-a-platform/

  • Gail Kelley says:

    I love This!!! God is good and He is for you! I am a beginning writer, I guess you could say, but I always been (Well for many years) after God’s own heart and a lover of His children, the lost, and His Church. I love to encourage and edify!! I think what you do is amazing and is the sole picture of Christianity and what we are to look like as servers and lovers of Chirst!! It is a GREAT PERSPECTIVE AS A WRITER AND A CHRISTIAN. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!! Thank you for your hard work and DEDICATION!! You are leading a world of LIFE CHANGING WRITERS/BLOGGERS…I HOPE THAT YOU KNOW IT!!!

    God Bless!! Fyi..I would love to see this kind of living or writing perspective in a course/ webinar or program. It truly is a genuine approach. That’s what sales (if looking for profit).. I have yet to commit to a mentoring or training perspective on my writing and building my business/ brand/ writing for this reason. I have the desire to make a difference and touch lives. The monetary or platform rising is just the bonus; but like minded people are out there!! I am one of them!! We can all encourage and uplift one another!! There are always a school of people to lead or encourage. God Bless again!!

    • Carrie Stephens says:

      I think it would be interesting to rally people together somehow, not for the purpose of building platform, but so that we can grow together. I’ll have to put some thought into that one….

  • Thanks Carrie for encouraging me today. I became discouraged when all the advice out there is to build your list to 1,000 people before you even think of writing and publishing a book. Well this year I have up and allowed myself the joy of writing my first book..then I did the scary part and self published it…Now my list is growing with people who want to read more. It’s growing slowly but more organically. The numbers are small but I have to remind myself that it’s the message that God’s wants me to share which is important even if it is to 100 people and not 1,000.

  • Anna C says:

    Hi Carrie! My friend Sarah posted this at a very strategic time for me. I’ve been casually blogging for years, never paying attention to numbers and purposely avoiding anything that looked like platform building, for many of the same reasons you have put so well. At the same time, I’ve been using my casualness as an excuse to not use my talents in their full capacity. I don’t know what the “fulness” looks like, but I feel God putting it on my heart to open my aperture more. For me, right now, that means to start public “writer” pages (as all my social media accounts right now are very private) and write more for other sites and promote other writers on my own. I still don’t give much credence to platform as much, as I want people to have better access to what I’ve written and to be a better participant in the community of writers I’m blessed to be a part of. I’m sure I’ll be coming back here for the good reminder to lean into what God has called me to do and let it come naturally (and diligently) from that, not anything ever forced. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  • Stephanie says:

    Amen and amen. Standing in solidarity with you sister. I have been sick to death of the numbers game for far too long. You’re words are the encouragement and affirmation I needed to hear. To know that if I write the words in my heart then I am furthing the Kingdom and that is enough.

  • Robin says:

    A hearty amen from an Alaskan hope*writer friend. God bless the marketing people. That just isn’t where I am.

  • Wanda Ball says:

    Amen Sis! I’ve been blogging for over 10 years & have self published 8 books because of the same testimony every one else has given – limited platform! I’ve been praying asking for a larger platform to reach more readers & always thought I was lacking something in my writing. I’ve contemplated giving up a few times but God always brought me back because I’ve got work to do! And then I read your post & now I know I’ve got my answer! Praise God that you & others here feel the same & we’re not alone in this fight. Satan would have us to believe that unless you have thousands of followers you’re not good enough or your not reaching anyone. But God says different & that’s who I choose to follow! Bless you Sis & keep up the good work 😊 One day we will meet those who we’ve lead to Christ face to face 🙏🏾

  • Janis Cox says:

    Your Twitter doesn’t work. – the link at the top right.
    But I love this, ”
    I don’t know what will happen with us, if we sit back and lean into who God made us to be instead of trying to muster the energy to do the things that we don’t do well. ”
    I know exactly what you mean. I signed up for Platform University with Michael Hyatt but haven’t done anything with it yet. I am finding more connection with Tribe Writers. I think if we join together we will do more to glorify God than standing alone. He wants us in community.
    Blessings for a great article.