Month: November 2012

“I do it for the joy it brings”


In a post about why she blogs, Birmingham-based blogger and editor Erin Street quoted my favorite Ani DiFranco song, “Joyful Girl,” and inspired my blog post for today.

For years I’ve thought that this song, particularly the first verse, describes perfectly my love for writing. It explains why I’ve wanted to be a writer since the age of 7 even though it’s a rather thankless and low-paying occupation that most people regard as a hobby. 

But last week as I was listening to the song (on repeat) in my car I realized the first verse also explains why I’m so determined to build up See Jane Write. I’ve been asked plenty of times why I bother organizing events for local women writers even though I’m not making money off my efforts. In fact, I usually spend money to make these events happen. And yes, the time I spend on these programs I could be using to work on my own writing. But the joy, the downright giddiness, that I feel when working on See Jane Write activities is invaluable. 

I do it for the joy it brings

Because I’m a joyful girl 

Because the world owes me nothing

And we owe each other the world. 

I do it because it’s the least I can do 

I do it because I learned it from you

I do it just because I want to

Because I want to

— Ani DiFranco, “Joyful Girl” 

Crossposted at The Writeous Babe Project.

Why I Love Being a Woman

Last week Glamour magazine hosted its annual Women of the Year Awards. Honorees for 2012 include the likes of actress Selena Gomez, photographer Annie Leibovitz, Girls creator Lena Dunham and USA gold medal Olympians. (Click here for a complete list.)

As Evette Dionne mentioned on her blog, The Huffington Post’s women’s website, Huff Post Women, captured the spirit of the evening at a reception dinner, asking several honorees and attendees this question: “What do you appreciate most about being a woman?”

This got me thinking: What do I love most about being a woman? It didn’t take long for me to reach an answer.

The thing I appreciate most about being a woman is sisterhood.

I believe in the power of sisterhood.

Most women understand that when we band together we are an unstoppable force.

In my nearly 32 years on this earth in this female body I have learned that your good girlfriends make accomplishing goals more manageable and a lot more fun — whether you’re working toward artistic or professional aspirations or a goal to get in shape.

My #bloglikecrazy challenge is a perfect example.

I’ve now blogged for 19 days straight even though I’ve been juggling my full-time teaching job, freelance writing assignments, and church and family obligations. I’ve also had to make time to develop writing prompts to send to other bloggers participating in the challenge. One of the primary reasons I’ve been able to do this is because of ladies of See Jane Write and other female bloggers across the country who’ve been blogging like crazy with me. Their posts keep me inspired; their energy keeps me motivated.

And what I’ve seen happen this month on the See Jane Write Facebook group page has been fascinating.
I’ve mentioned before that the women of See Jane Write have been sharing their blog posts with the group and have been forming incredible connections, even with women they’ve never met IRL, as they discover things they have in common. But what I’ve also seen is women who were intimidated by blogging or had left their blogs sit dormant for months getting in on the action too. They’ve started or relaunched blogs because they saw we were having so much fun.

All this has inspired me to strive to take See Jane Write to even higher heights and I know I can do it because my sisters will be there to help me along the way.

Crossposted at The Writeous Babe Project

Reaching for a Helping Hand

Helpful Leader
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

I don’t like asking people for help. 

My parents say I’ve been this way since I was a child. I’ve been called “fiercely independent” and I carry this label around like a trophy; I wear it like an “S” on my chest. 

But sometimes, actually oftentimes, two heads are better than one. Sometimes I need help. 

A member See Jane Write recently wrote a blog post on this very topic. In her post she stated: “One of the biggest lessons I learned when it came to goals is that to achieve you have to know when to ask for help.” 

My fellow Jane went on to challenge the other ladies in the group to post their goals on our Facebook group page so that we could help one another realize these dreams. I often write about my goals on my blog and mention them on various social media outlets, but usually for the sake of accountability, not for assistance. 

But that changes today. 

I have a major goal for 2013 and I need help! Next year I would like to take all the steps necessary to make See Jane Write an official non-profit organization. I have such big dreams for this group. I want to offer more programs, a conference, and a writing camp for girls. But to do these things I need money and sponsors, and to get money and sponsors I need my group to be a 501(c)(3). But the very idea of this is so overwhelming it makes my stomach hurt. 

So I’m asking for help.

Now, it’s your turn. What’s your major goal for the next year? Leave it in the comments so I and the other women of See Jane Write can give you a helping hand. And I leave you with this: 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. 
Indeed. It is the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead

Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project

Finding Your Blog’s Voice

What is “voice” in writing and how is it created? Why is it important to add voice to your writing? (Danny's Symbolic)
Image by Danny Getz via Flickr/Creative Commons 

A few months ago I discovered the virtual blogger meetup known as Blog Brunch.

Blog Brunch is “a collaborative network powered by bloggers wanting to share, dream and learn with other creatives in the blogging community.” Blog Brunch hosts Twitter chats on various blogging topics the first Saturday of each month. 

This month’s chat, held yesterday, was about finding your blog’s voice and couldn’t have come at a better time for me as I strive to do exactly that this month during the #bloglikecrazy challenge

Ironically, even though I participated in the chat because I have so many questions about the future of my blog, during the chat I realized I already had many of the answers I was seeking. 

For example, during the chat I began to think about and shared with others the importance of having a clear vision for your blog. This vision will help you stay focused, can help you develop an editorial calendar and regular features, can keep you from being preoccupied with traffic and page views, and can even help you when trying to select the right guest bloggers for your site. I’m going to work on drafting a mission statement this week. 

But even after you’ve figured out a focus for your blog, you may still have trouble finding your voice. Here are some great tips from other bloggers I picked up yesterday: 

Don’t be afraid to show your personality. Write as if your reader is a pal having coffee with you, one blogger suggested. 

One thing so many of us agreed on was the importance of blogging about your passion. If you’re just writing on a topic simply because it’s popular, it shows. 

If you want to know what’s working and what’s not, just ask. Several bloggers recommend doing reader surveys. And don’t rely simply on comments to gauge if your content is resonating with readers. Pay attention to what they share on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets as well. 

And speaking of readers, it’s important to truly engage them. “I make sure that I end every post with a question or two,” said @alliepal. “I don’t blog to hear myself talk — I’d rather hear from readers.” 

It’s important to engage other bloggers, too. Leave comments on the blogs that you read. Don’t be a “phantom reader” one blogger said. 

If you’re looking for ways to improve your content and writing skills remember good writers are also avid readers. Read other blogs, books, magazines, and more for inspiration. You may want to try free writing workshops too, @mspinkandblue suggests. 

Work on expanding your vocabulary. Not everything can be “AMAZING!” And remember that sites like Grammar Girl are your friends. 

While reading blogs and other online publications can be helpful, if you’ve fallen into a rut you may need to unplug.  “Nothing gets unique content rolling like being away from your computer and living in the real world,” @thecuisinerd said. 

Others agreed and talked about how writing about local events can really boost traffic. I can say that some of my best content and most popular posts were those written after attending inspiring events, such as the post I wrote after attending a panel discussion on the future of journalism

Other traffic tips included using titles that are similar to a Google search, which @stacyandcharlie recommended. And @mspinkandblue offered this great tip regarding post length and SEO: “Shoot for at least 250 words to get Google’s attention.”

That said, be sure not to get too focused on traffic. “Try not looking at your stats or ad sales for a month. See if that changes the way you blog,” said @passionfruitads. Obsessing over numbers, @passionfruitads said, is like “looking in the mirror all night and forgetting to go out and have fun!”

Crossposted at The Writeous Babe Project

How To Blog Every Day For a Year

This month I am striving to publish a meaningful blog post every day for 30 days over at The Writeous Babe Project. I’ve never been able to pull this off in the past so I must admit that I’m a bit nervous, especially since I’m leading this #bloglikecrazy challenge.
But then I look at bloggers like Jen West of The Jen West Quest and I’m reminded that anything is possible.
Jen West blogged every day not just for a month and not just for a season, but for nearly two years!
She started her blog simply as an accountability tool to lose weight.  “I was in desperate need to find motivation and excitement in the process of such a mundane task,” West said.
But in the process of losing weight, West gained an intense love for blogging, which she discussed with me recently and offered great advice for those of us ready to #bloglikecrazy. 

Jen West
Photo by Angela Karen
You blogged every day for over a year. Was this something you set out to do or did it just happen?
When I first started my blog, I committed 100% to blogging every single day until I lost every pound that I wanted to lose.  Four and a half months later when I achieved my goal of losing 47 pounds, I decided that I still loved to write on a daily basis.  I continued on to blog every day for almost 650 days.

How did you manage to do this? How did you find time to blog daily? Did you have a certain time of day in which you would write?

I found that with a daily commitment, writing in the mornings made it much easier to knock out.  My brain is at its best when I first wake up.  Plus, it’s a great feeling to know that you’ve finished it as you go on throughout your day instead of rushing through it later on.  I also gave myself an hour a day to write, edit and post.  Having a time cap made me concentrate better.

Did you ever face writer’s block?

Yes, I faced writer’s block often.  I would have really “on” weeks where I could write with ease, then others I would really struggle with content.  I found that the days I struggled, though, were the days

I had the best posts.  I forced myself to dig deep, because it wasn’t an option to skip.  When I get stuck I ask myself questions like, how am I feeling right now and why? What are my current goals and dreams?

What are my plans?  Where am I in life and what’s in the future? What do I love?  You can always find things to write about when you have passion and are in touch with yourself.

I remember when you decided to stop posting daily you mentioned on your blog that it was actually difficult for you not to post as often. Why was that?

When I stopped writing every day it felt like a big chapter of my life was closing.  I actually still wonder what it would be like if I had continued on.  But here’s the thing: I can always start it back up again.  I will never stop writing in my blog. The daily part was just an exercise in discipline more than anything else.  I write for myself, and I should do it as much as I want to.  I’m at a similar place with exercise in my life, it is no longer about a schedule, but for an experience.

And at the end of our interview West reminded me of something that we can not only apply to blogging but anything meaningful and healthy that we do for ourselves: “You will never regret it once it’s done.  It might be a challenge in the beginning, in the middle and in the end, but damn if you won’t feel good once you’re done. Blogging is a confidence booster, and most importantly a reminder that you are worth the time and effort!”