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Breakfast Blend 09.02.14

The Top 10 Characteristics of Lousy Leaders – MICHAEL HYATT: “I’ve worked for a few spectacularly bad bosses in my time. And as a corporate executive I’ve had others equally bad occasionally working for me.”

10 Rules for Students and Teachers – OPEN CULTURE: “Avant-garde composer John Cage started out as a disciple of Arnold Schoenberg. He greatly looked up to the exiled Austrian as a model of how a true artist ought to live. Cage, in turn, inspired generations of artists and composers both through his work – which incorporated elements of chance into his music – and through his teaching.”

How to Get Back Into Your Writing – LEARNING. DOING. LAUGHING: “You write, so diligently, and then a week slips by. Getting back into the structure of things — writing — is even more challenging when traveling, moving, changing. I can make a million excuses; writing and making time for writing is and always seems so hard.”

7 Myths that Keep Pastors From Writing – PREACHING.COM: As a pastor, what keeps you from writing? Do you fall in the category of believing in one or more of these seven myths? Or do you seek the truth and use writing as part of your ministry?

The Best Apps for Taking Notes – TECH HIVE: “Man, it’s a great time to be a note-taker. For a couple of decades—first as a student, then as a professional journalist—I filled notebook after notebook with notes, covering classes, press conferences, interviews, and more. When I was done, I’d have to find someplace to store them until (most likely) I’d throw them out. The notes I did keep? Useless. My on-the-fly handwriting is a horrible thing.”

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Writer Fail #10: How to Keep Blogging Sustainable.

For a while, I started up a blog with a niche that I thought would be marketable. It wasn’t necessarily something I was passionate about. It was something unique – I hadn’t seen it done before.

But the truth was, the niche I was writing in didn’t motivate me to get up in the morning. I didn’t feel I was writing something worthwhile. So although I accumulated a slight crowd of onlookers, the blog never really received any momentum. A couple of big guys linked to it when I asked, which was nice – but readers can sense if a writer is passionate about what he’s typing at. I wasn’t.

If I had to choose between advising you to find a niche and writing on something you love, I’d say: write on something you’d love to read yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s being done. Ask yourself, “Would I subscribe to this blog (if someone I didn’t know was the author)?” If the answer is “Yes”, you’re onto something. If the answer is, “Honestly, no” you haven’t found your niche.

Passion for your work is one of those invisible writing qualities you won’t find in books – but it’s something every good writer has in common. Successful writers love what they create, so they love creating it. So – write about something that thrills you, and readers will return the favor.

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Writer Fail #9: Why Most People Won’t Subscribe to Your Blog

As I sit here writing at Starbucks, there’s a woman behind me describing her blog idea to her friend. It will be a combination of recipes, prayers, devotionals, daily liturgies and how-to advice. In other words: it will be a blog about whatever springs into her mind. In other words: it will be a blog about her.

That blog is totally fine – I sincerely mean it – but it’s not the kind of blog that will get publisher’s attention.

Trust me, I know.

My first blog was pretty eclectic, something like “Nick’s Random Thoughts on Life” (how many others with a similar title have you seen? I’ve seen about a gazillion). This is fine if blogging, to you, is a form of public journaling. But if you want to get published, don’t do it.

Why? Because let’s all be honest. As interesting as my life is to me, it’s not all that interesting to most other people. Pictures of my kids are great for friends and family – but building a platform? Not so great.

If you want people to read what you write, you need to drop said “Kiki’s Random Bits” blog, and focus. What do you have to offer to others that is helpful? What can you offer that will make someone say, “I need to read this as part of my daily routine, in order to…”? When people visit your blog (if they don’t know you), their first question is always tuned into WIIFM – “What’s in it for me?” Do you make a promise on your blog, and consistently deliver?

It took me a long time to accept the truth that blogging needed to veer away from everything I wanted to say, because to me, it sounded like selling out. But the truth is, there are many layers of writing in our day and age. Blogging is the outermost layer – it’s the layer that is, naturally, the shallowest. As people become interested in your helpful content, you gain permission to say deeper things, even more poetic things, to them.

My first two books have nothing to do with the art of writing and preaching – but now that I’ve created something helpful, I have permission to say something deeper. And that’s because when I switched my blog content (for the THIRD time), I asked myself: “How can I provide something helpful/useful to the people who read?” And – what do you know? People started reading.

So here’s your homework: find a niche – something that you can write about, but no one else can. For me, I knew I had a unique love for aesthetics and theology – I wanted to become a communicator who could convey deep truths with a wide-angle, artistic edge. You’ll find my “promise” on my blog’s banner; “Creatively communicating Timeless Truth”. Readers now have an incentive: if they want to creatively communicate theological truths, I can dialogue with them and offer practical advice.

That’s the kind of razor sharp focus your blog needs. What does your blog promise people? Anything? What do they get out of it? If you can’t answer in a simple, succinct sentence, you haven’t defined your niche.

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Breakfast Blend 08.28.14 (Revised)

7 Thoughts on Christian Leaders and Platforms: THOM RAINER – “You might be a pastor with a blog or a preaching podcast ministry. You might serve in a Christian organization, and you just self-published a book. You might be a church staff member who leads conferences in your area of knowledge and expertise. You might be a stay-at-home mom who reaches many other Christian women through social media. All of you are Christian leaders. All of you have a platform. Should a Christian even have a platform?”

This New Moleskin is Like an ipad Made of Paper“: FAST COMPANY – “Ask companies like Adobe and Fiftythree, and they’ll tell you that tablets are the future of drawing. Give in, and get used to the concept of touching a stylus to your screen. Because as hardware and software get better, you’ll be able to create the sorts of things you can only dream about creating on paper.”

How Not to Debate a Calvinist: SCRIPTORIUM DAILY: This isn’t a post about how-to-not-fight Calvinists, because a clear theological dispute can be a good thing. It’s a post about how-not-to-fight them; it’s about one specific tactic that I think is both inaccurate and unproductive.

The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard: SAGE PUB: “The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand.”

The Key to Storytelling: PRESENTATION ZEN – “A good story has to be extremely particular and peculiar to your life. It has to have an element of singularity and yet – and this is the alchemy and paradox of storytelling – it has to be something immediately universal, part of something that we all experience.”

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Breakfast Blend 08.28.14

7 Thoughts About Christian Leaders and Platforms: THOM RAINER – “You might be a pastor with a blog or a preaching podcast ministry. You might serve in a Christian organization, and you just self-published a book. You might be a church staff member who leads conferences in your area of knowledge and expertise. You might be a stay-at-home mom who reaches many other Christian women through social media. All of you are Christian leaders. All of you have a platform. Should a Christian even have a platform?”

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Writer Fail #8: Why Some Great Blogs Never Take Off.

When I first started blogging, at long last, I thought I’d shot the magic bullet. But, as it turned out, a blog needed maintenance. It was like I’d bought a fresh, potted flower, never watered it, and expected it to last all day by the windowsill. Whenever a new thought came to mind, I’d post it. It was a bit like a public journal, in which I could make an entry at whatever time I chose.

The problem was, nobody was reading. Since changing my platform, I’ve repeated this chorus to up-and-coming writers: you need to blog every day, for one year.

I don’t know why it works.

Maybe it gives you credibility.

Maybe it improves your writing skills.

Maybe it sends better search results up into the cloud.

Maybe it gets the attention of bigger bloggers who say, “Wow, this guy is serious, let me reward him.”

Whatever it is, blogging every single weekday seems to be the key difference between my blogging before success and after. I’ve seen it in others, too. Many times I check out blogs and think, “Boy, this is really cool! I bet it’s really popular.” But when I look at the stats and don’t see numbers, I always know exactly why: they didn’t put in their year.

Let me save you a few years of half-hearted effort – commit to blog every weekday for the next 365 days. It really does work like magic.

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Breakfast Blend 08.26.14

How to Host a Successful Book Launch: TWEETSPEAK: “Shortly before the new year, T. S. Poetry Press published Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior. Named a Best Book of 2012, this compelling memoir arranged around the classic literature that helped shape the author’s life released to warm reviews and well-deserved accolades from countless book lovers. As chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages at Liberty University, it made good (and convenient) sense for Karen to host her book launch at her campus bookstore. (It also makes her a wonderful instructor in our Poetry Classroom series this month on classic love poetry.) We asked her to share, with readers who might be looking toward publication, her tips for a successful book launch event.”

On Platforms, Self-Promotion, and Pleasure Complete: TIM BRISTER: “Imagine you were privileged to be at a place where you were going to be introduced to the greatest person alive today. His reputation is one where the most influential people in the world would all agree that there is no greater. Imagine what his introductions would be like? We have all heard the hyped up intros, haven’t we? The keynote speakers at conferences, the guest preacher at the church service, the honorary guest at a reception . . . we have been there…God, through the Apostle John, gave an introduction to a man named John the Baptist.”

7 Things Writers Need to Make a Living: COPYBLOGGER: “If you’re a writer, you might have heard this most of your life. People don’t make a living writing. You should find something practical to do with your life. Smart, capable writers grimly pass around war stories on Facebook. Penny-a-word assignments, clients who don’t pay, disdain for our craft, and disrespect for our profession. And yet. Look around us, at this digital world so many of us spend our lives in. It’s made of ones and zeroes, yes. But it’s also made of words.”

100 of the Best Charles Spurgeon Quotes:  LEADERSHIP RESOURCES: “Below are some of the best C.H. Spurgeon quotes separated by topic and focusing on God, the person and work of Jesus Christ, grace, prayer, the gospel and evangelism, and more.”

Three Characteristics of Expository Preaching: LEADERS DON’T PANIC: “Authentic expository preaching is marked by three distinct characteristics: authority, reverence, and centrality. Expository preaching is authoritative because it stands upon the very authority of the Bible as the word of God. Such preaching requires and reinforces a sense of reverent expectation on the part of God’s people. Finally, expository preaching demands the central place in Christian worship and is respected as the event through which the living God speaks to his people.”

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Writer Fail #7: Failing to Blog

When I first submitted my work, I had no platform. I had a book. “But,” I thought, “won’t they love it enough to take me anyway?” No – they didn’t. And they won’t, because publishers know that books sell in communities, not in vacuums. They know that if they’re going to sell books, it’s going to be to people who already love what you have to say – and having a book-binding does not necessarily entice anyone to care.

 

Although blogging seemed intimidating to me at first, not being a techno-nerd, I discovered the art of hooking up with great organizations that answer my questions quickly and clearly. I’ve probably e-mailed wordpress.com and aweber.com two-dozen times each, asking them to help me do things anyone with a normal brain could achieve. In the end, I created a blog that looks like I know what I’m doing…when truthfully, I don’t. I just found the right organizations, and they held my hand through the process.

If you’re intimidated by starting up a blog – don’t be! Blogging might have been out of reach ten years ago for the Average Joe, but today it’s as simple as clicking a button. Visit wordpress.com, and you’ll discover just how easy it is – at the click of a button, you can have your own blog up and running.

Don’t think you have time? Well, borrowing from Stephen King’s quip, “If you don’t have time to blog, you don’t have time to publish.” It’s as simple as that – if you come to an agent or publisher without a platform, you’re doomed for disappointment. While five years ago I was craning for publisher’s attention, when my blog took off, I actually had a publisher I’d already eyed contact me. While this likely won’t be true for everyone, it proves the point: when you create your own platform, you make yourself an asset to publishers, rather than a liability.

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Writer Fail #5: Trying to Write a Classic

When I first set out to write, I did so determined to write the most profound, life changing, deep and everlasting work known to mankind. Unfortunately, in my search to write the next great American classic, I failed to write something I liked (besides, being ‘profound’ in Christian realms usually involves being ‘heretical’).

The irony is this: classics are classics because they’re truly original. When you try to write a ‘classic’, you’re in the wrong mojo – your brain is trying to repeat what has already been done in classic works. You’re doing the opposite of what classics do: offer something new.

So for me, I don’t try to write anything profound. Not even paradigm shifting. I just try to write the book I wanted to read but nobody wrote. And what I’ve produced since then isn’t “great” literature, but it’s important, because it’s important for me, and people like me. It’s useful. It’s pleasing. It’s not profound.

So – when you write, don’t burden yourself to write for the centuries beyond. Write for yourself as a teenager, or a Mom, or now. Only an infinitesimal speck of humanity writes anything that will be remembered. And if that were you, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

You’d be cooped up in an attic, removed from all society, like the tortured maniac you are.

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Breakfast Blend 08.21.14

What Writers Can Learn From ‘Good Night Moon’ - NT TIMES: “The babies listened in their sleepy baby way, and as the pages turned, I felt a growing excitement — a literary excitement. Not what I expected from this moment. But I was struck and stunned, as I have been before, by a classic sneaking up on me and, in an instant, earning yet again another fan.”

Why People Need Poetry – A TEDx talk by Stephen Burt.

17 Reasons To Write Something Now – THE WRITE PRACTICE: “I know writing a short story or a novel or a blog post is scary. What if someone reads it? And yes, it’s true. You might fail. People might not like what you write. Worse, they might ignore your writing altogether.However, if you’ve ever wanted to be a writer, now is the time to start. If you don’t believe me, here are seventeen reasons to write something right now.”

You Might Be Breaking This Grammar Rule… – HUFFPOST BOOKS: “Every writer has a story to tell. But if you want your writing to be published and read by an appreciative audience, it’s important that you say it — and write it — well. Good writing skills begin with the very bones of your work: the sentence structure.”

5 Great Ways to Combat Writer’s Block - BLURB: “You’re sitting at your computer, staring at a blank document. You’re poised in front of your notebook, but can’t seem to move your pen. Sound familiar? Writer’s block strikes again. But you don’t have to suffer for long. Great writers throughout the years have faced this problem and come up with clever tricks to get the words flowing again. If you’re having trouble getting your writing project finished (or started) here is some advice to get you going.”

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