Are You Committed to Writing Everyday?

Our guest speaker at the monthly gathering of writers hosted by the Writers Guild of Texas (of which I’m a Board Member),  gave the crowd a number of fabulous ideas geared to helping individuals write every day. Nathan Brown, former writing instructor at the University of Oklahoma and Poet Laureate of Oklahoma, shared a number of insights and helpful tips to help writers write every day.

Writing everyday may seem like an ominous task. In several one-on-one conversations I had before the Monday night’s meeting, a number of people in attendance expressed their daunting sentiments concerning sitting down and putting words on paper daily. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that they don’t want to write. To the contrary, they claim to have the desire, but lack two things 1) time and 2) ideas.

Nathan Brown definitely helped give each of us a means to write when inspiration seems to be avoiding us. He suggested making lists, exploring our memories, and recalling our senses. Through listing, you’ll always have something to write about. Think about those great family stories that get told at every gathering or better yet–what about those stories that nobody talks about but everyone knows. For inspiration, try recalling memories of your annual vacation spots, where you spent your summers, or where you grew up and writing them down. What are some of your strongest sensory memories? Maybe for you, it’s the smell of the apple pie that Granny baked or the taste of that first kiss. Mr. Brown’s pointers certainly were solid and offer opportunities for each of us to put pen to paper–or in our modern 21st-century–fingers to the keypad on our laptop. His insights prove useful if you’re a fiction or non-fiction writer.

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Carving out time, I think, is a bigger challenge for many of us, myself included. I find if I don’t set aside time to write, then it won’t happen. I’ve also had to schedule out blog posts an editorial calendar as a way of keeping me on schedule and posting regularly. I have to set daily word goals and make a point of finding time to write consistently. For me, that’s usually before I head out the door. But, I find myself writing at different times throughout the day, not just first thing in the morning. There are numerous nights that you’ll find me burning the midnight oil, sitting in the glow of my laptop screen, punching out words. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts—a lot of my writing the past several months has been academic in nature as I finish up my graduate degree.

I’ve found, the more I write and the more I focus on actually sitting down and producing material, the more opportunities to write present themselves. Writing is not for the faint of heart. There are days–even weeks–where it can be a very discouraging pursuit. Perhaps that’s why so many great writers simply write for themselves first, rather than an audience. Writing is something you have to do because you love it–and dare I say it—enjoy. This may seem like a rather sadistic endeavor–because in many ways it is. But there’s really nothing much better than someone being encouraged or entertained by the words you’ve written or by the story you’ve told.

Keep writing. Lord knows the story won’t write itself.

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Blogging Isn’t All PJs and Coffee

Blogging takes time and commitment. Anything you want to be good at typically does. I imagine when you meet someone new a similar conversation might ensue:

“What do you do?”

“I’m a blogger.”

Befuddlement hijacks their countenance. Some of them are thinking, “That can’t be too hard.” Others have zero idea what that means.

Don’t let the fear of what others think deter you. God only created one you. Yes, you’re sure to get some funny looks along the way, but I think you’ll find more and more people who support what you’re doing if you keep after it and they see you are serious about it.

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People picture you sitting on your favorite chair, wearing your pajamas. I’m not gonna lie. I’ve done it that way.

But, if you hope to make a living at blogging then you must treat it like a job.

You get up and get ready for work as if you are heading to the office or to the shop. Shower, shave, and…well you get the picture.

Those posts aren’t going to write themselves. Successful blogging means you have to show up to work. Your followers (readers) like it when you’re dependable and your posts appear when they expect them to be there. You can train your audience. You are either training them to trust you or you’re teaching them that you’re flakey and willy-nilly about posting on your blog. It doesn’t mean people won’t read your blog. They just won’t show up regularly because you don’t show up regularly.

Success is a result of effort. Be committed. Care. If you’re hacking away at the letters on your keyboard, struggling to get through, overwhelmed with the pressure of having to blog, then you might consider if blogging isn’t really for you. That’s ok. It’s a free world. No one is making you blog. It’s something you’ve chosen to do. If you’re not having fun doing it, do something else. That’s not to say that some days you won’t feel the vibe. On those days, try to push through. If all else fails—take a break.  If you’re determined to succeed, then you’ll need to be prepared to bring the necessary level of commitment required to achieve your goals. Building your following takes time and effort. Engagement doesn’t happen overnight. Commitment matters.

Growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Plan and prepare. Think ahead. Success always requires planning and preparation. Have a calendar that gives you deadlines and keeps you on track. It’s real easy to skip a post—which on occasion is okay—but not a habit you want cultivate. Think through what you want to blog about and take time to do the research that will help your posts stand out from the crowd. Don’t just wake up, hoping something will happen and expect the words to magically appear on the screen. Plan. Be prepared.

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Reciprocating with kindness causes good things to happen. When people take time to comment, respond back. Engage in conversations. I’ve found the more I am willing to engage on other people’s posts the more people are willing to engage on mine. Funny how that works. Blogging is a community. An online, digital universe all its own. Building community is easier when you talk to your neighbors or spend time with like-minded people doing what you are doing.

Invest in your craft. Spend time honing your writing skills and studying all things blogging. It’s what separates the wheat from the chaff. You can check out podcasts and websites focused on helping you improve your blogging, like Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger. Darren covers every facet of blogging and offers informative, inspiring content that will help you get better faster. I also spend time reading blogs written by bloggers whose blogs are more successful than my own , like BeautyBeyondBonesIn addition to being good at her craft, Caralyn sheds light on the challenges associated with eating disorders. Finally, spend time studying other bloggers and blogs creating content in your niche’. For instance, my blog focuses on matters of faith and issues centering on addiction recovery, in addition to sharing my insights and experiences on writing and blogging. While I’m no expert, these are things I know and have spent time doing.

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Those are just some thoughts on why blogging is harder work then you think it is. Blogging isn’t all PJs and coffee. No doubt, it’s fun. I get a lot of joy from engaging with readers and followers. It does my heart good when someone comes up to me and lets me know that they are reading and that somehow God is inspiring or comforting them through my words. I’m happy when people are entertained by what I write or when my blogpost brings them joy. That’s good stuff. Keep what you like, trash the rest. Be blessed.

Can Belonging to a Writers Group Help You as a 21st Century Writer?

For me, writing has grown to become an important facet of my faith & recovery. Writing helps me, personally, and I know from a multitude of conversations I’ve had with others, that my writing is helping others. This is both humbling and mind-boggling.

Since making the decision to seriously pursue writing as a ministry to others and a career, I have earnestly sought for ways to hone my craft. A huge part of that journey includes belonging to several writing communities.

Can belonging to a writers group help you as a 21st century writer?

YES! I believe it can.

Whether you are a traditional or digital age writer, you will benefit from belonging to a community of writers. There are the traditional writers groups that you can find in your local area, like the Writers Guild of Texas (WGT).of which I am a member. There are also online writing communities that you can participate in like Scribophile  and ProBlogger..

Since rekindling my interest in writing and because I wanted to hone my craft, I joined the Writers Guild of Texas (WGT) in the Fall of 2014 and have served on the Board of Directors since I first joined. Our Guild hosts monthly members meetings featuring a guest speaker discussing writing-related topics, either focusing on the craft or the business aspect of writing. These meetings have taught me critical lessons that have helped elevate my writing skill and sharpen my marketing awareness. The meetings are held on the 3rd Monday of each month (except in January when the meeting is held on the 4th Monday due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday).

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Writing in the modern 21st century is a two-fold venture: creating and selling. Each writer begins with an idea and weaves a story either on paper or on their computer screen. After a long slow dance of writing, rewriting, writing, and rewriting, the author has a finished work that they now need to sell. Once it is printed, the second part of the writing life kicks in. This is hard and challenging as the actual writing. In order to get people to buy your book, you have to tell them it exists and that they’d be better for reading it. I have found that belonging to a local writers group like the WGT has benefited me greatly by educating me in both of these areas of responsibility.

In addition to the monthly members meetings, the WGT also facilitates a monthly in-person critique group. Several members and non-members writers meet in the Basement of the Richardson Public Library on the 3rd Wednesday of each month to read and critique each others work. This interaction is critical to helping writers who are serious about developing their skills and producing a publishable work. Hearing your story read and getting immediate reader feedback is invaluable. WGT also maintains an online critique group on Scribophile that is available to all WGT members. Writers engage in discussions, participate in forums, and post their work for critique by fellow members.

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I have found participating in my local writers group has helped me build a sense of belonging by strengthening my writing and growing my writing community. Belonging to WGT has helped me discover other writing communities, both in-person and online. Through workshops and group activities, I have met people I would have not met otherwise. Many of these people have played a significant role in improving my writing, including growing this blog.

For example, through participating in WGT, I have been introduced to NaNoWriMo, WORDfest, and Writers in the Field.

Last year, I had the opportunity to collaborate with fellow writer/blogger Kathryn McClatchy, and her service dog Gizmo, for a presentation on how bloggers can make their voice heard amid a sea of 150 million blogs. Kathryn and I have also guest-posted on each others blogs, something that came out of working together on the Board of the Writers Guild.

Through my participation in a local writing community, I have also been able to identify my niche’ and hone my writers voice. You’ll find that almost everyone is writing a book. Those that aren’t, are probably thinking about it. Thanks to technology and economics, there are more avenues available to get your work published. You no longer have to rely on the Big Five publishing houses (of course, the other side of the coin is that if you want to be published the old-fashioned way, the Big 5 is who you’ll need to impress with your manuscript–and space and time is limited).

Finally, being part of a writing community has grown my arsenal of resources like the blogging website and podcast ProBlogger. Truthfully, I had no real concept of podcasting before joining the guild. Writer/blogger Jeff Goins and the worship blog WorshipMinistry.com are also resources that I discovered through my being engaged in a writing community. Seeking to expand my writing community, I recently joined the Writers League of Texas.  Through joining a writing community, you’ll discover new opportunities, identify helpful resources, and build lifelong friendships.

It has been my personal experience that belonging to a writers group has opened doors and shown me avenues that I would not have discovered on my own. Best of all, it has introduced me to a ton of great people that I would not have met otherwise. It has introduced me to other writers and bloggers who are passionate about similar topics—like faith, worship, writing, and recovery–that I’m passionate about. You will meet people who share your interests as well.  Speaking writer to writer, blogger to blogger—I would strongly encourage you to find a local community of writers near you. I believe you’ll find it to be a blessing in disguise.

Write On!