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Writing For Your Life Today

The 3 Core Elements of Personal Branding

 

Everything you say online—and everything you don’t say—contributes to the story about you that plays in people’s heads. While everyone has a personal brand, not everybody has a Heroic Brand that can put content sharing on auto-pilot. And Chris Brogan has a Heroic Brand. Here’s the connection between his powerful online persona and content ignition, in his own words:

“Some people share content just because they believe in you and what you stand for. I believe there are three core elements of personal branding, at least for me, and they are very intertwined and related. “First, I’m exactly who I am no matter if you talk with me online, offline, in the lobby of a hotel, or before/during/after my time on stage. I think that an integrated (and true to life) persona is vital. People can no longer get away with being someone they’re not. It just doesn’t work. At least not for long.

“Second, I believe that connecting with others and serving them is one of the most important parts of personal branding. That’s a mistake most people make. Your brand isn’t exactly about you. It’s about how others experience you. So I work hard to connect, to respond, to be available, and to show people I’m just like them for the most part.

“Finally, personal branding and connecting with people is about making information portable enough that others can make it their own. I say two or three things over and over: Give your ideas handles (meaning, make it easy for others to take the ideas with them). Everything I do is steal-enabled (as much as I dislike plagiarism, I love when people take my ideas and run with them—with a little credit). Brevity and simplicity are gold (most often, people try to convolute their ideas to make them seem more important than they are). To be simple is to be more open and honest.”

 

– from “The Content Code” by Mark Schaefer 

Religious Books

 – by Frederick Buechner

 

There are poetry books and poetic books—the first a book with poems in it, the second a book that may or may not have poems in it, but that is in some sense a poem itself.

In much the same way there are religion books and religious books. A religion book is a book with religion in it in the everyday sense of religious ideas, symbols, attitudes, and—if it takes the form of fiction—with characters and settings that have overfly religious associations and implications. There are good religion books like The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne or Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor, and there are miserable ones like most of what is called “Christian” fiction.

A religious book may not have any religion as such in it at all, but to read it is in some measure to experience firsthand what a religion book can only tell about. A religion book is a canvas. A religious book is a transparency. With a religious book it is less what we see in it than what we see through it that matters. John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany would be an example. Huckleberry Finn would be another.

Writers of religious books tend to achieve most when they are least conscious of doing so. The attempt to be religious is as doomed as the attempt to be poetic. Thus in the writing, as in the reading, a religious book is an act of grace—no less rare, no less precious, no less improbable.

 

Honoring Your Passion to Write

 

By Sarah Arthur

Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a published writer. Or maybe you enjoyed writing at some point in your life and would like to pick it up again, just for fun, because it delights you. The act of writing is a worthy activity, even if it’s just a hobby for now. Here are some ways to honor your passion:

  • Set aside time daily, weekly, or monthly just for writing. I get together monthly with a friend for dinner and a “writing date.” When we’re done eating we open our laptops and work on our fiction projects, pausing occasionally to chat or get another chai. The accountability to another person means that I will show up and write fiction at least once a month.
  • If you share a family computer, consider getting a designated computer/laptop just for you.
  • Ask for writing resources (software, setting up a writing desk/office, magazine subscriptions, attending a conference,) for Christmas, birthdays, etc.; or save up money. Yes, words are cheap, and writing can be as simple as a paper and pencil. But other people spend piles of cash on their hobbies–golfing, anyone?–so don’t feel guilty about it. This is important to you.
  • BACK UP YOUR WORK!!! You never realize how vital your writing projects are to your soul until you lose one or more of them. I use a combination of Google Drive, Dropbox, and an external hard-drive.
  • Join a writing group, locally or online. You can hunt around websites such as Writer’s Digest, which has discussion forums and online communities.

If/when you’re ready to take the next step to freelance or publish your work:

  • Get a professional-sounding email address. You want publishers to take you seriously.
  • Create a simple but tasteful and professional blog/website. You want the world to be able to find you easily by a simple internet search. Keep the information on your site current, and post periodically to show that the writing life is important to you.
  • Research the publishers/publications that interest you. When you read a book you like, notice who publishes it and then go to that publisher’s website and see what kinds of resources they produce. Check out the annual Writer’s Market Guide for your genre–your local library will likely have a copy.
  • Join LinkedIn or some other professional network. This is not the same as Facebook, in which you connect with just anyone. Limit yourself to writing and publishing networks, plus whatever area is your specialty (for me it’s youth ministry; for you it might be quilting or radiology). I’m a member of LinkedIn as well as the Redbud Writers Guild.
  • Make business cards. You can find some really good deals on VistaPrint, or check with a local graphic designer.
  • Learn how to craft excellent pitches and proposals. Author and publishing coach Margot Starbuck includes some great resources on her blog, or you can check with a guild in your genre. NOTE: Someone asked me if you have to have a completed manuscript in order to pitch to agents and/or editors, and the answer is “It depends.” If you’re pitching a novel, it should be finished: they need to see that you can deliver. But if it’s nonfiction, you can pitch a title, description, synopsis, and 1-2 sample chapters. Always include a bio with your credentials as a writer or as someone who knows the topic well.
  • Attend a writer’s conference where you can meet agents and publishers. I’ve suggested a few below. Be sure to have all of the above things in place before you walk through the doors of the conference center: this shows that you are serious.
  • Getting published doesn’t just happen—you won’t be “discovered.” You have to put yourself out there but without being totally obnoxious.

Writing & Publishing Resources:

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Sarah Arthur is a fun-loving speaker and the author of a dozen books on the intersection of faith and great literature, including the celebrated A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time (Zondervan/ HarperCollins, Aug 7, 2018). With insights into Madeleine’s spiritual journey as well as interviews with her friends, family, colleagues, and influential fans, what better way to celebrate what would’ve been Madeleine’s 100th birthday in 2018?

 

Also, don’t miss the latest on Sarah’s book The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us (co-authored with Erin Wasinger; Brazos Press, 2017), which traces two families’ year-long experiment of translating downwardly-mobile spiritual practices (such as hospitality to the struggling, simplicity, social justice) into their suburban context. Listen to the Small Things podcast, read our fantabulous blog, & more here.

Check out Sarah’s latest musings, find updates about her writing and speaking, read excerpts and reviews of her books, and purchase signed copies of her resources for both individual and group reading.

 

www.saraharthur.com

Creativity Is Whole-Life Engagement

You can’t engage with a creative process and not engage other processes. When you are exploring and unveiling, your emotions get hooked, your intellect gets hooked, and your deepest beliefs about life get hooked. If creativity is nurtured well and allowed to grow, it will grab onto your life in multiple ways.

– from “The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life” by Vinita Hampton Wright Loyola Press

 

“Influencers share stories because they want to build bonds with people”

In his book Fizz, word-of-mouth marketing expert Ted Wright concludes that those who ignite content are intrinsically motivated. “Influencers share stories because they want to build bonds with people. For them, that is the reward, and it comes from a place deep within them. If they think what you’re selling will be interesting to people they know, that is all the motivation they need. You cannot buy their interest—or their approval—with discounts or rewards.”

 

– from “The Content Code” by Mark Schaefer

 

 

Manna

~ by Lindy Thompson

 

 

I used to pretty much want to be my pastor.

I wanted to be just like her.

I wanted the robe, I wanted the love I saw coming from everyone’s eyes.

I wanted the hands that could bless bread, make it more than it was.

I wanted to be her.

I definitely didn’t want to be me.

 

Stuff catches up with a person.

Even a fairly self-aware person who has been trying.

Who has been working on it.

You can’t just will things to be different.

They are what they are.

Your scars are whatever your scars are.

And you can work with what you have,

or you can pretend.

Those are the choices.

I didn’t like what I had.

I liked what it looked like she had.

And I wanted that.

 

I have been told that God made me.

I suspected for a long time that that was only partially true.

Because what God makes is good – the Bible tells me so –

and the suffering, desperate parts of me have never seemed good.

They have felt desolate, in need, almost frantic.

I would never have labeled them good.

And the behavior they have driven could not be called good, either.

I have much to not be proud of.

 

***

There has been a lot of interior talk lately.

A lot of listening.

I am pretty sure every part of me has had a chance to speak, at least a little.

The circle slowly gets bigger because I am making everyone welcome.

And when one girl tries to let go and sink down into a ball on the ground,

the others go partially down, too,

until they can help her back up

because they won’t let go anymore,

so we are now all in this together.

 

Most of the eyes looking out of the faces

are warm with compassion.

The disdainful eyes, the scared eyes, the desperate eyes

are all still part of the circle,

but they are closed, waiting for blessing, waiting for healing.

Waiting.

No one leaves – no one wants to.

We are now all in this together.

 

***

I wanted to be my pastor.

And without question the thing I wanted most was to give the bread.

To give the blessing.

To be so blessed myself as to have plenty to spare,

plenty to give away.

To grasp the holy, look into the eyes of other people,

press a piece of God into the palms of their hands

and tell them the truth:

that God made them, that they are good.

Beloved,

cherished,

and good.

 

The girls in my interior circle

are teaching me something.

They are teaching me

that no one owns the bread.

The bread is given.

And the only way to have more

is to give more away.

 

What is in my hands these days?

Laundry, dishes, a steering wheel, a pencil,

a phone.

Roughly in that order, I’d say.

But also, sometimes . . .

 

words.

 

Words, ladled up from somewhere,

poured out in cascades,

stirred, ladled up, poured again.

Served.

 

The blessing

that is mine to share with other people

are the words

that pour out,

come flooding out

as soon as they have the opportunity.

 

This is what I have been given.

This is the bread that my hands hold.

This is what I have to give away.

 

Not dressed in a robe.

Not standing in a chancel.

But in brief moments

in my little closet-office.

All the girls and I hold hands,

and everyone gets a chance to be heard.

 

Take, read.

This is my manna,

written for you.

 

 

 

 

Paper, a Pen and the God Theory

 

by Kamau Sennaar

 

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
(King James Version)

 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (English Standard Version)

 

A long time ago in the city of Jamaica, Queens, a young boy ambled through a large, public library, searching for an interesting book to read. He came upon the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series published by Bantam Books. The boy opened “Return to the Cave of Time” by Edward Packard and saw he was given choices to make at the ending of each chapter. He sat down with the book, amazed at all the possible story outcomes for the main character. It was like real life; the story was driven by the reader’s choices. Imagine Mr. Packard crafting the numerous storylines for me to (I’m sorry – I mean, the boy to) make his own decisions.

 

Go back further to a time when a theoretical physicist (somebody who tries to figure out how nature works) started a research program that developed over time into the String Theory. He was Dr. Werner Heisenberg. The String Theory is usually called “the theory of everything” or “the God theory” because it tries to explain how gravity and quantum physics (the study of the smallest stuff in the universe, basically atoms) work together. This research is still vibrant and happening now. It is a source of both amazement and controversy (conflicting ideas and debate of the theory).

 

The String Theory works due to these key features:

 

  • Energy is in all objects in our universe. It is composed of vibrating filaments (strings) and membranes (branes or layers).

 

  • There is a relationship between general relativity (gravity) with quantum physics (what is physically real). Reality is created when this relationship is explained.

 

  • At the smallest level of life (energy), all particles are made up of bosons and fermions. Bosons exist in multiples while fermions exist individually. Both the extrovert and introvert are needed in the creation of all things in nature.

 

  • Several extra (usually unobservable) dimensions to the universe must exist for the creation of all things to happen. This is known as “the Multiverse” – different realities happening at the same that lead to infinite outcomes. This last key feature brings us back to the boy at the library.

 

“My intent was to try to make Choose Your Own Adventures like life as much as possible with regard to the consequences of your choices.” – Author Edward Packard in an interview conducted by Grady Hendrix.

 

The book cover said, “You are the star of the story!” That announcement really appealed to me, that young boy in the library. It wasn’t just a story. It was interactive. The author was interested in my input as the reader. We would share the journey as I read his writings and made choices. I was 14 years old at the time (a few years after I was baptized). I connected these fictitious adventures to the free will God gave me to use in my own life.

 

Like the String Theory, there is much debate about whether free will/choice is infinite, limited or non-existent. When I learned of the String Theory, it gave me hope in my belief of complete free will/choice. The Multiverse component of the theory illustrates, through science, how God could offer choice while creating each small instance or step in someone’s life. Some believers think that God pre-destines your life because your “steps are ordered”. (Psalms 27:33) But I can see through the example of the Multiverse that God has put in place multiple realities at the microscopic level. They are individualized to each person and governed by that person’s choices.

 

What is also fascinating about this correlation between storytelling and the String Theory is that God uses genetics to build character and reveal purpose. Genetics provide strengths, weaknesses, history and potential in biological and biographical detail for the character. Genetics become the tools that help to inform the character’s inner analysis. This analysis drives the choices one uses in the Multiverse.

 

PBS once showed how this could work on its show “NOVA: The Elegant Universe”. It starred Dr. Brian Greene and discussed his views on the String Theory. The viewer sees him at a bar getting a drink. There are several different versions of him at the bar at the same time that the Multiverse could play out depending on his choices. This, to me, is the craft and underpinning of a great author – setting the stage for the character to evolve through its journey of choices. The author allows the character to present itself and then reveal the truth of who they are by their use of free will. Once the author applies the pen to the paper, worlds appear and their inhabitants. God spoke to the darkness and the universe was created. Witness the power of the word In Genesis 1.

 

It is interesting to me that one of God’s attributes is being long-suffering. This trait seems to be a mainstay for most artists or creators across the board. During the interview with Mr. Packard, it is established that the longer he wrote his book series, the less outcomes he created. At first, he did around 40 endings. Towards the close of the series, he was doing half that amount. He reasoned that he chose plot over the reader’s choices. He, as the author, wanted a stronger hand in the flow of the stories. God, on the other hand, doesn’t do that. Instead, more realities are created in the Multiverse to accommodate one’s choices in their life. We drive our plots. Our hands are on the steering wheel of God’s car.

 

Like the boy who grew into a man using God’s Multiverse, the desire to grow from an avid reader into a writer has taken shape in me over the years. I am now ready to start working on stories for a future, unknown audience with characters who will live their own lives. My intent is mostly like Mr. Packard’s but also a little different: to explore storytelling driven by choice but use parallel lives being acted out instead of interactivity.

“Who Do You Think You Are – Writing a Meaningful Memoir in an Overshare Age?” – Rachel Held Evans video

 
Rachel Held Evans is a New York Times best-selling author whose books include Faith Unraveled, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and Searching for Sunday. In this video she discusses various aspects of writing memoir, drawing on her own experiences.
 
Topics in this presentation include:
 
– Self-doubt
– Finding your unique voice
– How to take care of yourself
– “My inspiration board”
– Writing tips
– Effective storytelling
– Areas that are off-limits
– Dealing with criticism
– Recommended reading
– and more
 
Click here to purchase the video.
 
 

The Wonder and Power of Writing!

by

Mary F. Sanders

October 23, 2018

 

The ability of the ancients to engrave hieroglyphics on cavern walls, to write/etch on parchment/papyrus or as we do in modern day, write letters on plain or beautifully designed stationary.  And though no longer a phenomenon to many, the capability to enter data into a computer and then convey messages via email, twitter, Face Book, snap chat, etc., is a monumental feat!  As a result, the art of writing has been revolutionized.  This process, known as writing, has provided a means to:

  • preserve special memories
  • preserve family histories that otherwise would be lost
  • preserve secular and non-secular histories
  • write books, poems and articles and
  • hear and know the voice of God.

In today’s world, because of technology, family albums are no longer a popular method to maintain family pictures.  One afternoon, I decided to dig-out my family album.  Perhaps, it was the realization of the pending high school graduation of one of my great nephews that gave me the impetus because as I began look at the photos, I asked myself, where did the time go?

There is something warm and loving about being able to hold and touch each picture, an experience that is lacking when I view images from my photo gallery.  As I slowly turned the pages, an envelope fell to the floor.  An envelope that I recognized immediately; it contained notes that were written to me from several of my nieces and nephews when they were very young.  Notes that were written on whatever their little hands could find, yellow paper, blue paper, white paper and strips of torn paper.  I can still hear the excitement in their small high-pitched voices echoing as they tried to secretly write their expressions of love and affection for me.  The word “love” was written in large letters with crayon surrounded by big red hearts.  Some of these notes even included drawings of family members holding hands; stick figures of course.  Happy Memories! Precious Memories!  Memories that place a smile on my face!

In the United States of America, the history/culture/tradition of most African Americans (and other people of color) was not documented; it was ignored.  Early census gathers did not register the name or any other information about the enslaved, except maybe their gender and approximate age.  Thus, as a consequence, much has been lost. To add to this dilemma, many of the story tellers, oral historians in these families were sold; some were murdered by plantation owners or bounty hunters.  So, as a result of separation, family historians did not have anyone to pass the family story.  When family historians were murdered, the stories were buried with them.  Also, unfortunately, many family histories have vanished because of the lack of interest by ensuing generations.

I believe that all of the reasons above describe my sketchy family history.  It would be phenomenal if I could authenticate family lore, a story that was told to me by one my grandmother’s first cousins, Rose.  According to Rose, their mutual grandmother, who would be my great, great grandmother, was captured and brought to America from Africa at the age of 11.  No one knows if she was alone or other family members were captured also.  Remarkably, she survived the treacherous voyage of the middle-passage.  Confirmation of this story is almost impossible because written history is silent.  Nevertheless, I am convinced that my great, great grandmother’s stamina is the source of my inner-strength and determination.  It is embedded in my DNA.

The significance of documentation or the written word is indeed paramount!  It is because of the written word that we have the ability to access information that would otherwise be unavailable.  Libraries are filled with books that holds the history of worlds, civilizations; their rise and fall.  It is from the written word that we learn of heroines and heroes in the human struggle.  It is from the written word that we learn of discoveries and inventions of people who have made great contributions in medicine and science for the well-being of all.  Some of these inventors are well- known, while others are not.  Consequently, it is only via the written word that the significant contributions of obscure human beings are found.  People such as Sarah Goode who invented the first folding cabinet bed, Jupiter Hammon, Poet Pioneer, the first black writer in America, Phillip B. Downing invented the street letter box, the predecessor of the mail box, Dr. Patricia Bath invented a method for removing cataract lenses that transformed eye surgery and Willie Johnson invented the egg beater.  It is important to note that not only Hammon is African American, but all of the above are African Americans.  The written word affords us the opportunity to know and enjoy the works of past artists; operas, plays, stories, poems and music!  The written word fills the pages of newspapers and magazines; from these pages we are informed of local, state, national and international news.  Community newspapers provides information of interest to specific neighborhoods.  Last, but not least, written documentation preserves family histories, which helps to fulfill the innate desire within most to know who they are and from where did their ancestors migrate or for the enslaved to know the place from which their ancestors were captured.

The Holy Bible was written by inspiration from God.  Without this written documentation, we would still be dependent on oral tradition.  What a gift!    The written Word allows every individual the privilege to read, to meditate and to discern the genesis of human beings, the earth and its content.  It informs us of God’s expectations of the vertical and horizontal relationship between God and human beings and human beings toward human beings.

Jesus found inspiration and strength through quoting the written Word.  When tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He said to Satan, it is written…(Matthew 4:4, 7 and 10).  Likewise, we can also be inspired, encouraged and find strength and comfort in our times of trials and temptation by reading and speaking the Word to our situation.  Most of all, the Word teaches us of the depth of God’s unconditional love and Christ giving himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor (Ephesians 5:2).

There are a number of examples which illustrates that God did not only dictate scripture but God was a writer as well.  The ten commandments were written by the finger of God (Exodus 31:18; 34:1) and a message was written by the fingers of a hand on the wall to Belshazzar (Daniel 5:5).  God spoke directly to Moses to write these words…Exodus 34:27.  God also told Habakkuk to write the vision and make it plain upon the tables that he may run that reads it (Habakkuk 2:2).  Likewise, many people today construct vision boards to plot their plan of action to hold themselves accountable so that they will stay on course.

The art of writing has been a means for me to express my thoughts by penning poems and short stories.  Unfortunately, I did not save most of this work because writing was simply a way for me to release….  Writing is also a means to document dreams that come to me as I sleep.  Currently, I am writing a book to wrestle with the origin and continued effort to maintain the subjugation of women, as well as ways to change the narrative.

One of my greatest ambitions is to discover and document my family’s story for the present and future generations.

Taking One’s Time

 

One of my writing heroes is James Taylor, though our arts are different. He can carry a tune, for one thing.

“Sometimes a song will be finished for a deadline in the studio the day the thing is cast in stone forever,” he once said, talking about the art of crafting pop songs. “I know that songs and arrangements evolve and develop over time,” he went on, “that somewhere around the twentieth time it’s played for a live audience, a song finally completes itself.”

His art and the art I make are different, no doubt. If I learned nothing else from this fellow traveler with whom I have journeyed down different roads all my life, I learned this: if it takes twenty passes for a lyric of a few dozen words to grow into itself, then taking one’s time with twenty or thirty or forty thousand of them is probably not a waste of time.

 

– Robert Benson “Dancing on the Head of a Pen”

 

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