Queen Elizabeth I is an endlessly fascinating figure to me. She was a female ruler in a country that had predominantly known rulers to be men. She ruled as a man but made constant references to her womanhood. She refused to marry, unthinkable in those times, but said she was married to the country she ruled. One could study any single segment of Elizabeth’s life and learn about overcoming challenges, defeating impossible odds, and finding an internal core of strength that is indestructible.
My friend Gloria (@grandmaondeck) suggested that I write about self-expression for those bloggers who might be shy, and Elizabeth immediately came to mind. She was not shy, but given what stood in her path, one could have forgiven her for being so. Given unbelievable obstacles, Elizabeth remained eloquent and powerful. How did she do that, and what can we bloggers learn from her example? Let’s take a look.
1. “I do consider a multitude doth make rather discord and confusion than good counsel.”
Elizabeth did not surround herself with a massive court, despite the fact that as a woman “prince” many thought that she could not rule successfully on her own. She opted to trust a few people to give her good counsel rather than tossing out a broad net that may or may not catch good advice.
As a blogger, it’s important to write as if you’re talking only to a few people, and people you trust. You of course cannot be true friends with everyone who might read your content, but if you write that way – if you write as if you’re sitting at a table with a coffee cup and a friend, it becomes much easier not only to receive counsel but also to give it out.
2. “I have no desire to make windows into mens souls.”
Elizabeth tried her best to prevent the rift between Catholics and Protestants from becoming a gaping wound. While her sympathies were more with the Protestants, she seemed to believe that everyone could worship the way they wanted, in peace. She did not want to explore why any one person believed the way they did.
As a blogger, it can be easy to take advantage of your platform to try to hammer something into your readers’ minds. You can write and end up creating a post that is sort of like Krushchev banging his shoe on the podium. While this may be self-expression of a sort, it is not the kind that invites people in. Don’t try to create or understand peoples’ souls. Share what you think and be ready to learn or to change your mind based on what people tell you.
3. “A strength to harm is perilous in the hand of an ambitious head.”
It might be odd to think that Elizabeth, a queen, would say something like this. In her case, however, she was surrounded by men who wanted to work their way either into her good graces or into the good graces of her enemies. Ambition ran riot through her palaces. If an ambitious person in her court wanted to do harm, they certainly had the means – and they knew it.
I firmly believe that if you sit down to write a blog post with ambition on your mind, your readers will sniff it out. You might try to stuff your post with buzz words or keywords. You might try to populate your sentences with links and mentions. These are not great ways to offer people insight into how you think. Moreover, if your ambition motivates you to “call out” someone else, you really can do great harm. Again, that might be self-expression, but it is not the kind that will keep people close to you
4. “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king.”
Now this might seem really strange for a great ruler like Elizabeth to say. Weak and feeble? Hardly. So why did she talk this way? Well, Elizabeth knew her audience. She knew what “baggage” they were bringing to whatever she said. She knew their expectations (or lack thereof). She based what she said on those expectations, all the while acting as she darn well wanted.
As a blogger, it’s important to know your audience. This can be tricky when you first start out, and that’s why a lot of people advise that you do a LOT of reading before you start writing. What do people in your field expect? What kind of tonality is most common? Are there important words that get bandied about? While you might put your own particular spin on it (being a female prince is a pretty good spin), showing that you know who you’re talking to is a great way to use self-expression to connect to your readers.
5. “There is no jewel, be it of never so rich a price, which I set before this jewel; I mean your love.”
Before you roll your eyes and say that I’m about to get really squishy, let me explain that the love a queen receives from her subjects is not *exactly* what I’m talking about here. But there is one thing you can learn from Elizabeth as you read this quote. She never lost track of whose lives were at risk based on her decisions. She was always acutely aware of her people and often spoke as if she was the mother of England, not the queen.
As a blogger, you are never too big to appreciate your readers. There is never (in my opinion) a good reason to refuse to answer comments. There is never a good reason to stop thanking people for sharing your posts. Your posts won’t go anywhere without those folks. A queen is not really a queen if she has no subjects to rule, right? If you blog but nobody reads, it’s going to be hard for you to build anything.
Let your readers know you appreciate them. Write for them. Write with them in mind. That is the best way to use self-expression to connect with your audience.
What other lessons can you think of that we as bloggers could draw from Elizabeth I? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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