Don’t Hide Your Light

An amazing pianist plays at all the church functions, and shared that she wrote a piece of music and was going to get it recorded at a local studio, except that she put it away someplace and can’t find it. What really makes this story special, is that this pianist, like many self-taught musicians, cannot read notes, and does not know the names of the notes on the keyboard, but plays entirely by ear. Another musician wrote down her music for her, and she put her one copy away and now, she can’t find it for the making of her recording.

Just like her, I have gone through every drawer, box, nook and cranny of my home looking for stories I wrote and put safely away. I moved them from place to place around the country, and I can remember exactly where they were in different homes. I decided I wanted to share my stories with my grandchildren, my church, my blog, and I can’t find them. The good new is that the very polite rejection letters are also gone, even letters telling me my effort is good, but does not fit their current editorial needs. My work is hidden, even from me. Lost.

Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to share your creativity. The reviews might be mixed. Your family may not understand why you waste your time when you could be doing something productive like training for a marathon, before rushing off to work and then back home to take care of families at night. Your friends might politely say “That’s nice,” as they rush off to pick up the kids and take them to their next scheduled event. Busy people don’t have time to sit and appreciate your creativity.

But there is a light of appreciation you see reflected in the eyes of others when they take the time and really appreciate what you have done. Others will admire the work and skill put into that crocheted baby blanket, quilt, or beautiful and tasty meal. When your work of art or writing creates exactly the response in another person that you intended, you have stepped beyond admiration to heart to heart, mind to mind connection.

If you hide what your creativity, you will never know the joy of appreciation or connection. So get yourself out there and do some self promotion. Enter contests, use social media, pass it around, do whatever you can think of, just don’t hide what you do. If those closest to you don’t appreciate what you do, there are those out there who might, if you give them the chance, so follow your heart. You will be happier as a result.

Defining Myself

Okay, so who am I? Everyone wants to know. People are constantly asking me to define myself. What is my style, goal, aim, or intention? If the direct approach doesn’t receive the clear and concise answers they are looking for, then the questions change slightly. Who do I want to appeal to? Who is my audience? Why will they read me? What will they like about me? Well, they ask me, what am I trying to say?

These are all valid questions. The problem is “I don’t know,” is not a very satisfying answer. I write to answer to the question “who am I,” so I can define myself, and discover my style, goals, aims and intentions. I would like to be friends with people around the world, because I believe that all people have the same hopes and dreams of a good and peaceful life with loved ones living in safety with respect from others.

I have spent a week trying out themes. It is like trying out new dresses for my blog. I must have tried out nearly every free theme offered by our host and even a few that were not free, but to pay money for a theme is a level of self-definition I have not yet attained. I tried everything from a one that appeared as a chalkboard, and one with little childish zoo animals marching across the top, to a very stark black and white layout of various combinations. I did not feel either extreme, juvenile nor strict, set the correct tone for my blog.

I kept going back to three. There was the slick three column layout that reminded me of my days as a newspaper correspondent, which gave me a nice warm nostalgic feeling for days gone by. Nostalgia aside, I decided I really like each posting to have center stage for its moment. Next there was a surprisingly colorful two column layout that set off each posting with a diamond and frame. This theme had an artistic feel to it that I really liked, and the widgets all nicely accessible, but my blog name shrunk away to a little bitty thing. Am I vain, just because I want my blog name as a banner across the top. Maybe. I can live with that. So I have decided to keep the layout I have now and not change. I have had this layout for a short time and don’t think I even use it to its full advantage. Is it perfect? No.

By keeping my current layout I do keep the banner header that emphasis my blog name and adds a little artistic touch. This layout is easy to read and features each post clearly. I don’t like that the follow button is way at the bottom, but many blogs have that, and maybe more technically experienced people don’t find this a problem at all.

So why will you read me? I hope you read, because of my insight, humor, honesty, and openness to learn from others. If you are reading for my highly polished and professional looking blog, then the credit goes to WordPress who made me what I am today.

Blog Branding

When things come together in unexpected ways it is known as serendipity. On Wednesday I wrote Blogging Lessons and what I learned from my stats. On Friday I wrote about marketing run amuck in Creative Backlash to Disney. This morning I listened to a podcast by Michael Sutton of BeBuildHave about leveraging your experience to create your future. On top of all of this, a little WordPress course, Blogging 201,  begins today and asks me to define why I write a blog, and to set three goals.

Why do I write a blog? I am a writer in need of a voice. A friend asked me to take a beginning writing course with her. As an experienced journalist I didn’t think that was the correct outlet for me, but I did want to express my ideas and get feedback from others. After a time of grief and depression, I felt a little rusty, and lacking in creativity, so a blog seemed like the perfect place to test my writing and get my creativity flowing.

Exactly where I am going I have yet to defined, but my forays into poetry have been well received, and each post grows my followers, so I am greatly encouraged to keep writing. I’ve already learned I’m not as negative as I once believed, and more people find me funny than I ever imagined. Maybe I’ve played to the wrong audience, or I’ve hidden my best stuff. Either way, I am coming out of my writer’s closet.

My goals through the end of the year are these:

  1. Post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with an occasional purely artistic post just for fun on the weekend to keep growing those skills.  Plus, post  earlier in the day.
  2.  Branding drives growth and I would like to top 100 followers by the end of the year.  I would also like to see more action in my comment section.
  3. Create a more detailed editorial calendar, which projects topics, rather than relying on finding inspiration from someplace each day.  This seat-of-my-pants approach to blogging is a little scary.  What if I can’t think of anything?  There goes goal one!

Planning leads to success.  If my wildest dreams came true and my blog  had thousands of readers, I would know I am ready for the next step.  That would be a book of course.

Blogging Lessons

As a newish blogger there is a lot to learn: how to post a blog, links, adding pictures and other media, and what the heck is a pingback and a blogroll? I thought content would be my big problem. You know, thinking of things to write about. It turns out I can always find something to write about, but is it something you would like to read about? How do I figure out what you like to read? So I entered the world of stats.

Stats is a mysterious land that tells me how many people actually visit my posts each day. I think. I really wasn’t sure. So I started clicking on anything that could be clicked on and was surprised at what I found, and what I learned.

Lesson 1: Write from passion. Have something to say.
The idea to start a blog came to me in 2010, four years ago, and quickly stalled out. Three months ago, I committed to writing, motivated by the death of Robin Williams. The responses I received surprised me. While I was interested in my earlier blogs, they lacked the passion, the urgency to communicate, that was now aroused within me. I had a message that I needed to share. This is in fact my most viewed post. But this was not the only lesson I learned from studying the stats on this post.

Lesson 2: Use titles to drive search engines, as well as categories and tags.
I have no doubt that the main reason this is my most read blog, is because Robin Williams name is in the title. I had zero followers at that point. Someday, maybe my name will be enough, but until then, I need to use what I can to get my work out there. Close behind this post is another one, for an entirely different reason.

Lesson 3: Make them laugh, but also give something of substance.
People love to laugh, and If a Man is in the Woods is a funny post with a sensitive side. This post deals with something all of us are concerned about, relationships. This post got the most comments, but comments are not the only measure of how a post is received.

Lesson 4: Just because they aren’t commenting doesn’t mean they aren’t reading.
When we sit in a room by ourselves reaching out with our words, we wonder, “Is anybody out there?” Some people say they only write for themselves. I wrote for myself for years, in notebooks, stored on my computer, and there is a privacy setting that allow you to do just that. When we hit the publish button we are reaching out. We want to have an impact. One such post is Safety Dejavu. This post received one very long response, with one very long reply back. Given my readership, it was very well read. The other thing I learned from my stats, is that even people from Facebook have been reading, even though most have not commented or liked. It is good to know my friends are supporting me, if silently.

In general my 37 posts show my readership is growing. I’ve learned to use pingbacks and what a blogroll is, and bunch of other stuff thanks to Blogging 101.

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