I am so grateful that this blog has been meaningful in some way to someone.If you scroll down the page, you’ll see that I’ve actually won something! I hardly ever win things–to illustrate, I entered numerous giveaways in the last two Bloggy Giveaways without being chosen for a single item. But that’s okay, because I don’t really need anything. Still, it’s fun to win.For me, however, even better than winning a beautiful set of earrings or an adorable tea cozy or a great book or an iTunes card, is knowing that I’ve been a part of someone’s life in some way. The blog has allowed me a way to connect with people and share my faith, thoughts, ideas, revelations, concerns, and even a little fun.So when somebody passes along an award, I’m humbled. Grateful. Delighted. And I once again marvel at the connections that these blogs build.I’m supposed to pass along these awards to others, following the expectations or rules that accompany it. I’m afraid I’ve dropped the ball on that, so I’m going to try to catch up today.Let’s start with the Rockin’ Girl Blogger award that was passed to me a while ago–like, a really long time ago, from Heather L. at It’s All for the Best. Thank you, Heather. Apparently, I’m a slacker-rockin’ blogger. In fact, I’m so late, maybe I’ve lost the honor?Anyway, I have to admit that I’m not entirely sure what the rules are–how many blogger recipients should I list, for example? And what, exactly, constitutes a “rockin’” blogger? The best I can tell is that it should be someone who exudes some energy and fun from time to time.Check out the following bloggers and see if they inspire you to crank up the radio and dance around the kitchen…maybe fling your hair around to a heavy downbeat. Here you go, you two Rockin’ Girl Bloggers! Grab the pink award and make us dance:Home Sanctuary: With the word “Sanctuary” in Rachel Anne’s blog name, you may not get the impression she’s rockin’ out, but her Company Girls program is a fun idea and her tone is extremely encouraging. Plus, she’s got a music widget and selects energetic, often themed, music to fit her posts that always makes me smile.One Thing: Jenni’s full of surprises. I never know what to expect when I pay her blog a visit. Sometimes it’s a series of great photos with amusing captions, other times it’s thoughtful poetry or a profound essay. And sometimes it’s just a silly story that makes me laugh. She gave me a scare a while back when she threatened to stop blogging. Thankfully, she stuck with it. Rock on, Jenni!Next award, Blogging with a Purpose.Like Merchant Ships practices cheerful frugality–discovering God’s plenty, secondhand. She explores the area where frugal living intersects with simplicity and contentment. She sticks to that purpose and demonstrates it vividly with great writing and gorgeous photographs. Makes me want to rush off to Goodwill and hunt for silver serving dishes…not that I don’t do that anyway….Holy Experience draws us into her mind, heart and soul with purpose and grace. She is sharing her daily spiritual journey powerfully and poignantly. She’s not out to strategically reel in readers with programs, though she did set up the encouraging One Thousand Gifts concept inviting people to practice gratitude. Instead, her purpose is expressed in her header in words borrowed from Frederick Buechner: “…listening to my life…for whatever of meaning, of holiness, of God there be in it to hear.”Holy Experience awarded me this for spreading the love of Jesus. I don’t hold a candle to her outpouring of poetic and prayerful devotional depth. It’s a lot to live up to, Ann. I’m honored. Read above and below to see that I’m sending back my admiration.Hope Road is a blog written by a college senior named Anna. She explains that the name of her blog is “Hope Road” because “I’ve been rescued from the broad road that leads to destruction, and graciously placed on the road that leads to life. While some may see this path as being confining and restricted, I see it as freeing, and ultimately, as full of hope. Without my Savior, I would have no future, no promise, no life. So it is in gratefulness to Him that I look at my life and the world through the lens of hopefulness.” I’m refreshed, inspired, and encouraged by this young woman’s faith. In the midst of studies and major life choices, she’s spreading the love of Christ on the blogosphere.Andrea, the Flourishing Mother, shares her life and faith on a blog that reflects her everyday life as a mom and her rich relationship with Jesus Christ. Sometimes one of her posts will offer a devotional thoughts or nourishing recipe; other times, a story about her kids. You might even find a book review. Overall, though, her flourishing life is flourishing because of her faith in the King.Chrysalis awarded me an E for Excellence! Thank you! She reports that according to the rules, this award must be passed on to ten bloggers who have blessed, inspired, and encouraged me. Ten! Oh, boy, how can I limit this to ten? Nearly every blogger I visit, even if I don’t agree with everything that he or she writes, has said something to bless, inspire or encourage me. Check out my blogroll for an extremely wide range of bloggers from all walks of life. They all get the award.Without meaning to take away from others, here are a few Excellent bloggers I’d like to highlight:Holy Experience again. Truly excellent.Toddled Dredge: In spite of seeing her link on many blogrolls for years, I’m a fairly new subscriber to Veronica’s Toddled Dredge. I don’t know why I waited so long! I really enjoy her writing. So far, everything I’ve read is Excellent.Lifenut. “Action is Eloquence,” she claims in her header. Yes, that’s true. And I would suggest that thanks to her writing, her blogging is also eloquence. It’s funny, too. She’s a clever girl. You won’t find this guy on my blogroll, but I stop by his site from time to time: John Shore. He’s a professional writer and speaker, and writes bold posts with attention-grabbing themes. People get really involved in the comments, often because he will have written something utterly unexpected about writing, life or faith that really got them thinking. Maybe they vehemently disagree and want to explain their opposing stance. Or maybe they are delighted to see someone writing about his Christian faith with such creativity and energy. He’ll get you thinking, and if for no other reason that that, I’m awarding him an E for Excellence.There is so much excellent writing out there on the Web, people. As you have probably already discovered, there are some big-name, Top Bloggers out there who demonstrate excellence and often a very defined purpose. I just figured they’ve been awarded so much that their blog-display case is packed full. Nevertheless, they fit the criteria.Because you’re probably already familiar with them, I’ll simply list them for easy access:Antique MommyBoomamaBig MamaRocks In My DryerI find them all, in very different ways, to be Excellent and Blog with Purpose.
Sometimes ideas are rumbling around in my brain’s gray matter, but I can’t seem to capture them and put them into words. When I try but can’t seem to compose a meaningful post for my readers, here are some productive ways to keep mentally, creatively, and spiritually “active”–and often, quite often, as soon as I employ one of the ideas on this list, I’m able to generate a satisfying and perfectly usable post:
Read Scripture. I’ve already shared my Psalter/Proverbs devotional method, but there are many ways to dig into the Bible and let it inspire you. There’s nothing like a good dose of Truth to get some ideas flowing.
Learn about Current Events: Now that I’ve started to receive all of my free subscriptions, I have more resources than ever to sharpen my understanding of world news and current events. I’ve started tearing out articles that might inspire a post and sticking them in a file for a day when I feel uninspired.
Visit new blogs: The technological savvy of today’s bloggers blows me away. Oh, and the amazing photos, clever blog-enhancing tools, and consistently creative writing ability showcased in post after post are so inspiring. It all makes me want to do more with my own humble, homely little blog, and fortunately a lot of the top bloggers are generous with explanations about how to incorporate some of these virtual gadgets. So visiting blogs to gain ideas is a good thing; I just need to keep Blog Envy and personal insecurities at bay. Overall, though, I’ve found that visiting new blogs is usually a helpful outing, like going out to coffee and enjoying a riveting conversation with somebody, then driving home and finding myself thinking all kinds of new thoughts.
Experience Something New: Trying something new is good for writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or blog posts. New experiences keep our mind active and fresh and call us to draw up new metaphors to describe sensations and feelings. It’s good for the mind and gives you fresh, raw writing material at the same time. Instead of staring at the screen and wishing for the words to come, go live a little!
Take a Walk: Years ago I read a book about writing by Brenda Ueland, and she recommended a daily walk not so much for exercise–though that’s obviously part of it–but for inspiration. Somebody copied out her quote online at this site: “I will tell you what I have learned myself. For me, a long five or six mile walk helps. And one must go alone and every day.” As much as I hate the winter weather, taking that walk outside in nature (instead of on a treadmill), breathing fresh air and watching squirrels scampering up trees, is a critical part of providing fresh inspiration. It’s hard to explain, so just bundle up and go try it. Report back on your findings.
Idle Time: Puttering is freeing for the mind, so declutter a closet or organize the kids’ shoes. Plan out this spring’s garden, or even clear out some of the dried up annuals in one of the flowerbeds outside. It’s during those “down” times that the mind is free to come up with ideas that may have been stuck just under the surface. Again, I noted another pertinent Brenda Ueland quote: “I learned… that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.”
Read a Book: Whether or not I like the writing style or agree with the author, reading a book engages the mind–it’s the opposite of the idle time–and gets me thinking. Ideas flow in response or reaction to the content I’ve taken in.
Link: Can’t think of anything to say? Point to somebody who said something you really like! Share that linky love and send your readers to some good stuff you’ve unearthed.
Enlist the Talents of a Guest Blogger: Let someone else do the writing for you. I haven’t done this yet, but what a great solution for slogging out of an idea quagmire.
Lists: Great idea, eh? Come up with a theme and generate some bullet points. Write a few thoughts, and presto! You’ve got a post!
As we head into the next couple of uninspiring, bleak, cold, gray winter months (at least that’s what they’ll be here in the American Midwest), may these ten suggestions help you trudge forward with hope that practical solutions for composing your posts are within reach.
It’s Works For Me Wednesday “backwards edition,” where I get to pose a question. I have several that are blog-specific about comment protocol:
After you’ve left a comment on somebody’s blog, do you expect a response from the blogger?
If so, do you look for it in the stream of comments or as an e-mail from the blogger?
Which do you prefer?
I’m dreadfully behind in responding to comments–the holidays along with a big project deadline threw me off–but I’ve often wondered how people like to keep the conversation going. Do you ever return to the comments to see if I’ve written anything?So before I dive in and respond to people’s comments on the past few posts, I’d like to know what’s the customary response mechanism for a blogger, what’s expected, and what’s preferred.**Updated: Just to be clear, I’m most curious about how a commenter to my blog post wants me, as the person who wrote the post, to respond to his or her comment.**To see what other people are asking, check out today’s post at Rocks In My Dryer.To see what I’ve offered as helpful tidbits in the past, check out my Works For Me Wednesday archives.
On the backwards edition of Works For Me Wednesday, I get to ask questions instead of offer tips. This blog first came about because of the book I’d written. My publisher suggested I start a blog back when most people I knew had never heard of blogs or blogging. I had to explain it to them, and they thought it was strange–some people suggested it was a colossal waste of time, but I loved it and tapped away, regularly publishing post after post.Over time, the blog morphed into a more personal blog, as I shared family stories and connected with other moms on the blogosphere.As a result of this gradual unfolding of style and content, this blog simply goes by Ann Kroeker, instead of a bloggish name that hints at its purpose and content. In fact, for now it serves as an online presence for my writing life.So I’ve been thinking about refining the blog and its content, but hesitant, since many people have mentioned that they appreciate the wide range of topics that pop up here. It’ll be great to hear from both readers and bloggers, and those who attended BlogHer would have interesting insights:Readers, what do you enjoy most in a blog (specifically this blog)?
- Humorous personal/family stories
- Helpful ideas (like WFMW tips)
- Thoughtful insights on topics relatng to motherhood/writing/life/Christianity (one of more of those topics)
- Devotional-style posts
- Posts pertaining to the writing life
- A mixture of posts, unexpectedly tuning into any of the above (if you like a mixture, would it be helpful to categorize them more clearly? Or should a blogger keep separate blogs for different topics)
Bloggers, have you narrowed down your blog’s purpose and seen good results from doing so? If so, how did you go about the process of defining that purpose?BlogHer attendees, what were the top two changes you made in your blog or the act of blogging as a result of the insights you gained from the conferences?Everyone: Assuming you weren’t already stopping by regularly, would you be more drawn to this blog if it had a bloggy-style name?Visit Rocks In My Dryer for more questions on this backwards Works For Me Wednesday.See my previously published, odd assortment of tips and solutions here.
About a week ago I posted about blogs needing to be fed.A bit later, I shared my experience at a writing workshop called “Writing from the Heart,” where the leader recommended we find the convergence of heart and mind, where what we’re dealing with at a heart level is also what we’re thinking a lot about–and that, he said, would make for some powerful writing.Those two posts started to overlap and blur in my mind, each influencing the other. I started to think about frequency of posting and offering something meaningful or helpful in some way. And then when I considered heart-level content, I began to run into some inner conflict that seemed to be emerging also in the comments.One of the commenters, Mommymonk, said:
…I often wonder how I can come up with worthwhile blogs every day, but as you suggest, if it’s food for thought, we ought not skip meals! I guess my point is, I don’t want to blog just to fill up empty space; I really want it to be nutritious. Maybe not meat always, but at least a carrot here or there.
She has a good point–we don’t want to fill up empty space, and we prefer that our content be “nutritious,” but who can compose a meaty, heart-filled post every time (except maybe Ann at Holy Experience, who seems to write a deep and rich devotional–a full course meal, if you will–every time she logs on)?I wrote back in the comments to Mommymonk:
…carrots are good. Full of antioxidants. Most blogs can’t be a full-course meal every time.
Along those lines, Toni wrote:
As a regular reader of Seth’s Blog I have to note that for the most part he takes his own advice. His posts are often quite short and to the point – a fact which draws me to read them all the more. I like long meaty (or not) posts but frequently don’t take the time to read them as thoroughly as they deserve. Sad but true.
I thought about her admission of not taking the time to read the long, meaty posts as thoroughly as they deserve. It reminded me of another conversation a few months ago following a post I wrote after Jenni at One Thing shut down her blog (I’m happy to report, by the way, that she returned to her blog and is actively posting great stuff). A lively conversation ensued in the comments, where several bloggers were sharing their frustration over the apparent disinterest in the posts that they’ve poured themselves into–the very posts that “Writing from the Heart” would have applauded. Their sitemeters would rumble along at the same level–no heartbeat, no pulse, no spike, and strangely, no comments. One could practically hear virtual crickets chirping after publishing these emotionally packed posts. Visit the original post, “Bless a Blogger,” and follow the comments. It really hit a nerve.Which caused me to wonder the following:Maybe blogs aren’t meant to be meaty all that often? I just read yet another post the other day about keeping posts short. Makes me think…maybe a nice crunchy little carrot is all readers want or need? Maybe deep writing is for other venues, other forms–the published essay or article, perhaps?Maybe blog-readers are searching more for quick-inspiration to nibble on; USA Today-length posts. A perky little thought du jour to get them thinking about something or solve a quick problem.Otherwise, it may be overwhelming. Maybe it’s all too much….Too. Many. Words.I keep thinking about what Toni said: “[Seth's] posts are often quite short and to the point – a fact which draws me to read them all the more.”Short and to the point draws her to read them all the more.Meaningful or helpful, yet brief.Maybe I just talk too much? Perhaps word-restraint is in order?Now that, is food for thought.
At the writers’ colloquium I attended last weekend, the one where Haven Kimmel brought the keynote message, I participated in a breakout session entitled “Writing from the Heart.”The workshop leader, Brent Bill, led us through a couple of simple exercises designed to illustrate that while it’s easier to write from our heads than our hearts…writing from our hearts can make a deeper, more meaningful and lasting impact on readers (and ourselves).As I went through one of the exercises, I concluded–not surprisingly–that I am very head-oriented. I like thinking, learning, sorting through ideas. In fact, some of the people who have commented on my posts have mentioned that some of the things I’ve talked about have really made them think. I like to write about the things I’m thinking about, and there seems to be no lack of ideas in my noggin.The key is to tackle the more profound issues of the heart, as well. In fact, Brent said, a convergence of heart and mind is ideal.If I explore through my writing an issue that I’m both thinking about and turning over in my heart, I will probably produce something with much more power to minister and communicate to others.After posting about providing regular, meaningful content in order to feed the readers of my blog, I thought this nugget was worth sharing with fellow bloggers.It may be riskier emotionally, but if we want to touch, connect, impact and/or minister to readers–even entertain them–we should look for the places where our mind and heart converge; where the thing that we’re thinking about is also something we’re dealing with at the heart level.It might even change us as we write it.Ironically, this post does not illustrate this well. This is a head post. Helpful, hopefully; informative, perhaps. But not really dealing with matters of the heart.I do hope to write more posts in the future that are even more heart-level, while honoring my commitment to a vibrant mind and lifelong learning.I see others do it well, admiring their ability to merge storytelling and heart-issues with literary allusions, while tapping into inexaustible lexicons via their vibrant, vigorous intellects.To offer readers meaningful content, look for the convergence of mind and heart in your life. Throw in some story, and you have the recipe for nourishing, memorable, linkable, TrackBackable posts.Visit Rocks In My Dryer for more great ideas.To browse my previous odd assortment of Works For Me Wednesday posts are here.
At a writing event this weekend, one of the speakers leading a breakout session mentioned his blog. He said, “A blog is like an animal–you must feed it.”True. To keep a blog alive, it needs food in the form of quality content.But how much? And how often? Monster-plant-sized portions daily, or a light watering once a week?If I recall from my personal history of blogging, bloggers used to be advised to blog daily. That was in the early days of blogging, back in Web 1.0. Then the advice shifted to “regularly” (but once-a-week minimum was still advised). The idea of regular or daily blogging was to develop a loyal audience–that nothing would be more aggravating to a curious visitor than to be interested enough to start visiting, only to find one day that no content appeared. That was the theory, at least. To gain readers–faithful, loyal readers–you had to give them lots of content.Then came RSS feeds, Bloglines, Technorati, Google Reader and the like. Now loyal readers rely on automated delivery services to alert them to new content–it pops straight to their reader, feeder, or e-mail in-box. This technology raised the question of whether or not daily content is still necessary.And then, along came over 50 million blogs, give or take a few million. Some of those, they say, may be abandoned; thus, the number of active blogs may be much lower. Still. This explains why I saw a post the other day at Pensieve, in which she noted with alarm that over 4,000 posts were waiting for her at Bloglines. Talk about overwhelming!We may be experiencing blog-fatigue. The term usually applies to the blogger him- or herself, the one too pooped to produce material. In this case, I’m suggesting that “blog-fatigue” refers to a reading fatigue. It’s a funny cycle, actually, with bloggers feeling a kind of obligation to their readers to provide fresh material; and readers finding they are overwhelmed with all the new material. The readers want to read–they may even feel a bit of anxiety that they’ll miss something great. But who can read all of those posts? Who can keep up?And one would be tempted to pose the same question of the bloggers, the writers–who can write all of those posts? Who can keep up? Strangely, many of us can. I miss a day here and there, but I do seem to keep tapping away.But should I?This article by Eric Kinz has me wondering if I am contributing to a problem, a glut in the blogosphere, a bottle-neck of ideas.Kinz appears to gear his post toward corporate marketing and professional bloggers (and it’s a little old, dated June 2006; and you know what that means in computer-years…), but he provides an interesting argument for why daily blogging is no longer necessary or even desired–and he does it in a 10-reason format, which is always so easy to read online.He talks about participating in the blogging community as being vitally important–more so, perhaps, than churning out daily posts (especially if content is compromised and lacking punch). A person commenting on the same post duplicated on Kinz’s blog pointed out that the goal of the blog should be considered when determining frequency.Kinz quotes Seth Godin saying, “blogging with restraint, selectivity, cogency and brevity (okay, that’s a long way of saying ‘making every word count’) will use attention more efficiently and ought to win.” Kinz concludes by saying he is only going to post when he has something to say.Still other articles make good arguments for daily blogging, even today, even with RSS feeds jamming and even competing with approximately 55 million blogs.I spite of Kinz’s 10 compelling arguments against daily blogging, I intend to continue posting often–daily, when possible. I guess it’s the German ancestry flowing down through my DNA–I like people to leave well-fed. No scrawny, underfed blog-readers over here. I’m going to try to keep you supplied with content.It’s up to you whether or not you’ll sit down with me for the meal.