Monday, March 2, 2015

A Look At Blogging For Writers

Oolala. One of my favorite things. Blogging! Some of you just raised a rallying cry, the others of you just rolled your eyes. I know, it's not everyone's favorite past time, but I do think it's important and I'll discuss why here today.


Who should blog? 
Everyone! Well, maybe not, but the option is definitely open. Anyone can start a blog, but the question is: should YOU start a blog (or write on the one you have)?

If you are a writer interested in creating or building a platform, then I think a blog can greatly improve your visibility. It can also put a "face" to your name. I go into more detail below on this, but your personality is what will draw people. It's your writing voice. A blog is a great way to find that voice, hone it, and show it off to the world in an environment that is less stressful than say...a hard cover copy of your novel ;) (Though hopefully that will come too.)

Why should you blog? 
There are some obvious reasons, like getting your name or thoughts out there, but there are also some awesome "side effects" or additional reasons for blogging:
  • Personal introduction
  • Relationship building
  • Create and cultivate community
  • Encouragement
  • Promotion
  • Taking a stand
  • Honing writing discipline and creativity
Emilie's tips for blogging...

Me :)
Speak For Yourself

Personality is huge! As I said above, your voice is what makes you uniquely YOU (tweet this). That's a big deal. Don't spend time trying to make your voice sound like someone else. Spend time figuring out what you sound like. Honesty is huge in blogging and being able to share honest thoughts with your readers will create a connection like none other. Why? Because people who are brave enough to share what they really think and feel are rare and readers want to see that. They long for that type of real connection. To know that someone else feels or thinks like they do.

Ask: Was I honest? Do I believe what I wrote? Did I explain why or how?

Find Your Corner

I like listening to you, but why are you talking? I often find myself thinking that about...well, me. Ha! So no, I don't like listening to myself, but I do frequently ask "Why am I talking?" or, in this case, writing. Blogging is about finding your corner and accessorizing it. Making it look like you, feel like you, and sound like you. Your blog should reflect your personality, what you like and are passionate about, and ultimately I think it should give back (what I mean by this probably requires it's own post, but for the sake of efficiency I'd say that looks like sharing what you've learned or are learning).

Ask: What am I passionate about? What do I know? What can I share? Who am I writing to and what can I share with them?
Flickr by Gene Han

Say Something Worthwhile

Hold to your convictions. That's not to say: be angry and rant. There may be times where you feel like it and maybe give in to a rant or two, but I've found it's better to share gracious, well thought out, direct posts that tackle the tough questions without attacking. People want to read your thoughts on things if they are coming to you blog. Give them a reason to keep reading. (tweet this)

Ask: What am I saying? Is it worthwhile or am I just angry? Have I thought out my points? Are they accurate? Did I re-read?

Consistency is Key

My Blog Schedule
For me, one of the hardest parts of blogging is being consistent. I'm a planner so it continues to surprise me, but I make a great plan and then fail to stick to it. So frustrating. But the first piece of advice here is just that: organize! Make a schedule and get to color-coding (if that's you're thing - it's definitely mine). Then, set aside a day at the end of each month to look ahead (it may help to do this 2 months ahead but that will depend on your schedule and time). Decide what you'll post about for the next month, tentative titles/topics, and everything else that goes on your blog. Finally, get to work. That's the tough part, but it always helps to have a "road map".

Ask: How do I want to organize my posts? How many times a week can I sustain posting?

Keep It Relevant

It's important to keep your blogs and posts relevant. When you engage the blogging community with timely topics, people are more likely to share and comment on them. It's fresh in their minds and they want to know what you think. This gets tricky when planning, but you can always leave a "hole" in your schedule for relevant topics either weekly or monthly.

Ask: What is happening this week/month that my readers would be interested in? What am I passionate about that's current?

Blogging Friend - Kara
Invite Your Friends

My last piece of advice is, I think, the most powerful. The blogging community is just that - a community! That means there's a give and take. Inviting your friends to your blog means they bring their friends with them. Just like when you visit their blogs. It's a beautiful thing. So go make some blogging friends! (tweet this)

Ask: Who do I know that I could invite to my blog? Who's blog could I guest post on? 


Your turn: Do you blog? How often? Do you like it? Share a blogging tip with the rest of us!

Your challenge: Write a blog post that either: a)explains your heart for blogging to your readers, b)stretches you with being honest or c)is relevant to something trending. Then share with us!

#ttmediachallenge
(Don't forget to tag your posts with this hashtag^)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Simplify:Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels | RE:View

I was drawn to the title of this book. Simplify. Can't we all use some simplification in our lives? I know I can!

Bill approached the idea of "practices to unclutter your soul" with a light and intuitive perspective that I found refreshing. He used real life examples drawing from his own life and ministry as well as the lives of others he's interacted with. I also enjoyed how he included specific action points at the end of each chapter. For those willing to dig in deeper, he has provided a lot of great questions and activities to further growth.

The only thing that knocked it down from a solid 4 stars for me was that it really took me a long time to get through due to some lengthy, semi-surface level things. The overall approach Bill takes is great, but I found some parts dragging. There was definitely scripture incorporated, but I would have liked to see more exposition and drawing from Jesus' ministry to today. That may just be a personal preference thing for me when reviewing faith/theology based books.

I'd still definitely recommend it to any one interesting in decluttering their life. For those willing to take stock and be very practical about approaching simplification, they will find Simplify. a great resource and starting point.

Rating: 3.8*
Purchase: Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul

Book Description
(from Amazon)
Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Overscheduled. Sound familiar? Today’s velocity of life can consume and control us . . . until our breakneck pace begins to feel normal and expected. That’s where the danger lies: When we spend our lives doing things that keep us busy but don’t really matter, we sacrifice the things that do.

What if your life could be different? What if you could be certain you were living the life God called you to live—and building a legacy for those you love? If you crave a simpler life anchored by the priorities that matter most, roll up your sleeves: Simplified living requires more than just cleaning out your closets or reorganizing your desk drawer. It requires uncluttering your soul. By eradicating the stuff that leaves your spirit drained, you can stop doing what doesn’t matter—and start doing what does.

In Simplify, bestselling author Bill Hybels identifies the core issues that lure us into frenetic living—and offers searingly practical steps for sweeping the clutter from our souls.
 ______________________
I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Social Media & Marketing Month


Welcome to what I'm fondly calling: Social Media & Marketing Month here on Thinking Thoughts. If you're a reader, don't worry, I'll still be posting my weekly New Novel News posts as well as introducing you to new writers on {Writer Wednesday}. So no, I have not (nor will I ever) forget you!

But, part of this blog is devoted to writers and one thing I've become increasingly aware of (and passionate about) is marketing. Oooo! The dreaded "M" word. But, as much as there are some scary notions associated with marketing, I've realized that it doesn't have to be that unscalable mountain looming in the distance. It can be...well, fun!

This month I'll be taking a look at the big dogs...
  • Blogging
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram 
  • Pinterest
  • Evernote
  • Google +
  • YouTube
The difference about these posts? Well, they will be with YOU, dear writer, in mind. That's right, I'll be looking at utilizing social media well as a writer. That means I struggle with a lot of the same things you do...voices in my head, procrastination, great ideas, no time....the list goes on!

So, check back during this month for posts directed toward you writers with fun ideas, time savers, expert guest posts, and hopefully a few things you can tweet about too!

And please feel free to join in on the fun! I've created a hashtag for this month (um, don't know what those pesky hashtags are? We'll talk about that too!). So, if you're posting on Social Media make sure to use:

#ttmediachallenge

Yep, not only is this month dedicated to social media, but I'll be challenging YOU after each post to utilize that particular platform. So, how about it? If you're exited about this let me know. The first post will be this Friday (March 6th) so I expect to see you here!

Tweet your excitement using the hashtag above to: @eacreativephoto


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Writer Off The Leash by Michelle Griep | RE:View

Hilarious. Refreshing. Honest.

I love the combination of humor and truth that Michelle has combined in Writer Off The Leash. You'll be smiling from the minute you pick this book up until the minute you put it down. I personally I found many "tweet-able" truths contained within the pages here (and we all know that's an important thing!).

As you dig deeper into Writer Off The Leash, you see the harsh reality of what it means to be a writer. Michelle doesn't shy away from "telling it like it is" nor does she make excuses. Though she sympathizes with the desire to make those excuses. Writing is hard work and you've got to be up to the challenge.

I would recommend this book in a couple of ways. First, I'd recommend it to people who are considering the idea of being a writer. You may be asking yourself, "Is writing something I really want to get in to?" or "What is it like to submit myself to the 'writing life'." This book would be for you. Secondly, I'd recommend it to those who are writers and need a kick-start (or a kick in the pants). Maybe you've been relaxing (dare I say 'laying down on the job'?) and need to be reminded of what it means to be called to be a writer. This book is for you too!

So, do yourself a favor and take a few days to read through Writer Off The Leash. Use a highlighter to make note of her amazing nuggets of truth, and springboard forward from reading it right into your next manuscript.

Rating: 4*
Purchase: Writer Off The Leash

Book Description
(from Amazon)
Are you a writer at heart? How can you tell? And if you are, how do you go about composing and selling the next Great American Novel? WRITER OFF THE LEASH answers these questions and more--all in an easy to understand, tongue-in-cheek style. This is more than a how-to book. It's a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn't know how to take their writing to the next level. Award-winning author MICHELLE GRIEP blows the lid off stodgy old-school rulebooks and makes it clear that writing can--and should--be fun.
 _______________
I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Final Favorites | February 2015

I've been pretty busy this month! Lots of blogging and some amazing guests have been featured and I was so excited to do another "Final Favorites" video for you all. There's just something fun about getting the chance to reflect back on the month.

A few posts of note this month: 
 And, while I'm sharing, stop by Putting On The New for my monthly contribution, "A Page From My Journal on Trust". I think you'll like it!

Without further ado...


This month's book Recommendations: 
Book 1, Book 2, Book 3

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Flawed Perspective and A Missed Opportunity: Rob Bell on Oprah

From Christianpost.com
My, oh my. Rob Bell has been busy. Books. Opinions. Oprah. Attempting to undermine the authority of the Bible....

Yeah. That's a thing.

I'll preface this post by saying I don't usually do this. I'm not one to "soap box" it up, but there are some things that I can't let by without a healthy dose of thought, which eventually comes out in words that land on Thinking Thoughts. The inerrancy of the Bible is one of them. Sometimes you have to take a stand, even if that means rocking the boat.

In my post about true love and Fifty Shades of Grey, I said the following:

Without His example of love and self-sacrifice, we wouldn't have a picture of what true love is.
I was talking about Christ here and I stand by that declaration. I fully believe that Jesus, the Son of God, was and is the living example of true and perfect love. That's not a notion I made up, I found it in the Bible. That is, God's word. His authority on the topic of...well, life.

As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day I came across a video of Rob Bell on Oprah. As they discussed his new book, The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage(no, I won't be talking about this book), he made some...interesting claims. These claims reached way beyond promotion for this book, though I'll admit I'm not surprised he made them. I remember Mr. Bell in his Nooma videos. At the time I though, Wow, this guy is cool and takes a different approach to life. Awesome.

But he's changed. Or maybe who he was the whole time has surfaced? I'm not sure, but I'm saddened by the fact he has such a large platform and he's using it to spread lies.

Yep. I just said it. Lies.
Flickr by Jim Forest

Take his quote he made about the Bible to Oprah: "...And the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense." (quoted from www.cbn.com)

Um, "best defense"? Back up. The Bible isn't a defense. It's the reason. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I decided to dig a little deeper and found a treatise by Bell titled, "What is the Bible?" There was a lot there, it was a looong post (followed up by several more) but I was unhappy with what I found. In essence, he made the point that, in his eyes, the Bible is human. That is to say, written by humans and therefore human in its flaws.

He says, "If you let go of the divine nature of the Bible on the front end and immerse yourself in the humanity of it, you find the divine in unexpected ways, ways that can actually transform your heart." (Rob Bells tumbler)

I'm sorry, but when you "let go" of the divine nature of the Bible in any way, shape, or form, there are no longer any standards. You start to believe a version of God that doesn't fully represent Him. You can suddenly pick and choose the attributes of God you like (ie: love and gentleness), instead of seeing the full image of Him. Both just and loving. Both wrathful and forgiving. Both humble and divine.

When the Bible simply becomes a story, it's no longer truth

This is dangerous because it undermines a standard. Christ set the example for us. The Bible relays that standard in writing inspired by God. The minute the Bible is found to be inaccurate is the minute we get to decide. Decide what to accept and what not to . Decide what to think about God and what we'll throw out. You don't like the idea that there is punishment for sins? Well, if the Bible is just human--just a great story--then we don't have to believe in punishment.

Flickr by Adam Dimmick
This is flawed. There is a lot of info written by far wiser people than me on why the Bible is inerrant (you can see writings by John Piper, The Gospel Coalition, John MacArthur, Tim Challies, and even listen to one of my favorite speakers, Matt Chandler on the topic). There are also historical reasons, but there are spiritual ones too.

We can't pick and choose what God says. Any discount of scripture is against scripture.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite authors and theologians, C.S. Lewis. It speaks to the reality of who we believe Christ is and what He said about himself and I believe it is the same with the Bible.

C.S. Lewis
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
(source)

God gave us--breathed out--His word to equip us. More than that:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Hebrews 4:12-13 (emphasis mine)
Words that are living and active are not out of date. They are not a defense against the reality of life, but rather a guide in dealing with, handling, and living out a Christ-like example in this life. Can something human made "discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart"? No.

Rob Bell had an opportunity. Sitting there, only a few feet away from one of the most influential women in this modern age, he could have shared the beauty of the gospel to everyone watching. The reality of who Christ is. The hope found in the realization that we've all sinned (Ro. 3:23) and deserve death (Ro. 6:23) BUT that God created a way for us to be made right with Him (Ro. 5:8, 10:10, 10:13).

But he missed it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Delores Liesner {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Delores...

Writing, Speaking or as God’s delivery girl, Delores lives life passionately and humorously revealing dynamic hope and confidence found in the heritage of our personal God. She writes from Racine, WI. Is a CLASS graduate, and has published over a thousand stories, devotionals and articles as columnist, freelance writer, and teacher. Delores is represented by Linda Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency. Part of Delores’ dream is that her writing could help support the Fullness of Life Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ – which provides treatment funding for children with life-threatening illness.

How to connect with Delores...

Blog/Website: http://deloresliesner.com
CWA: http://www.cwareviewcrew.com/the-crew
E-Mail: lovedliftedandled@wi.rr.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/deloresliesner-author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/dliesner
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/dliesner
Linked In: www.linkedin.com/in/dliesner/
Her first book to be published early in 2015, is a devotional called Be The Miracle

Author Interview | Delores Liesner

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you start writing? What has kept you writing?
...I’ve always been a storyteller, and as a teen, often crawled out of my 2nd story bedroom window to sit on the roof under the stars and write stories and poetry. I was able to use my skill during various employments (including a nursery school, for elementary through high school education, church plays and curriculum, and as a forensic coach).

Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
...Be The Miracle is very dear to my heart because I lived all the experiences in the devotional and I truly believe we can live in expectation that God is up to something good because those who have a personal relationship with Jesus bring Him with us into every situation.

What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest? 

...The first hardest thing about publishing was waiting, then hearing genuine compliments from several well-known traditional publishers. Really? I am not kidding you, it was hard — because the compliments were followed by that little word: but. The second challenge was having several offers, and not having peace about them. I was praying about it when I got a call from Elk Lake Publishing (same owners I greatly respect at Book Club Network) and I had complete peace that this was the right decision.

Your Writing
 
What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with? 
...That God still does miracles today and that he wants his followers to put hands and feet to their faith and be the answer to prayer for others.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
...Attend writers conferences! My first conferences were CLASS Christian Writers Conference and Write-to-Publish in Wheaton, Illinois. Both were life-changing, spiritual experiences, and I received important training, professional critique, and had appointments with editors and publishers that resulted in writing opportunities.

Writing

Where do you find inspiration?
...Life inspires me! I’ve heard of writer’s block, but I’ve never experienced it. Honestly, I think I am the world’s most mature toddler! I am always asking why is that, what just happened, and what if…

How do you find inspiration?
...I journal a lot and try to re-write scripture in my own words, or sometimes in the words I feel God is telling me from my Scripture reading. I try to answer questions like is there something I need to do or stop doing, a teaching I can live out today or new-to-me details about God or the characters in the reading. Notebooks and pens everywhere and jot down bits of conversations, scenes I witness, descriptions of scenery, characters, and ideas for what if… I used to keep them on 3x5 cards in alphabetical file, but I now translate them to documents on my computer and keep them in folders titled Fiction, Greeting Cards, Devotional Ideas, Bible Study, Blog Ideas, Personalities, etc.

Why do you write?
...I am a Writing Junkie. I cannot NOT do it.

...Yes, I’m confessing. I admit it. I see it now for what it is. A habit. No, it’s stronger than that - an addiction.

...I found myself at it again, you see, just this morning. I was casually flipping through Webster’s Dictionary when suddenly my eyes bugged, because I saw myself. There I was - me and my life-blood all wrapped up in that one small word: ad.dict: to apply habitually, as one’s mind to speculation; to give (oneself) up to or over, as a constant practice. 

____________________________

Thank you so much for visit the blog today, Delores! For you readers who also love to write - I enjoyed Delores so much I've invited her back next Tuesday to share some thoughts on writing with you all! Make sure you stop by to say hello then (and while you're at it, say hello now!). 

____________________________
 
Last but NOT least... Last week's winner!

If you missed it, check out LoRee's post from last weeks {WW}. But, without further delay, here's the winner...

Constance

Congratulations! Contact me and we'll get you your PDF copy!