Are You Struggling to Find Your Niche?

Are You Struggling to Find Your Niche

There are some high school graduates that walk off the stage, diploma in hand, knowing exactly what they want to do with their life. They enter college, declare their major, and go on to have the successful career of which they dreamed.

There are some bloggers who start a blog knowing exactly what they want to blog about and they go on to have the successful blog of which they dreamed.

I started out writing about attachment parenting and that turned into natural living and a little bit of crafting and then my kids got older and I became interested in education and homeschooling, so I wrote about that. I also dabbled in photography and decorating and DIY. But then I wanted to give myself room to write more about faith and motherhood, so I started a new blog and declared myself a writer. And then I was thrust into this whole new world of writing niches and genres and I found myself occasionally (okay, often) at a loss for words, just wanting to share a few pictures of my kids.

Welcome to my blogging identity crisis.

Most blogging courses or ebooks will tell you that identifying your niche is one of the first steps to successfully growing a blog. And that makes a lot of sense if you know that you want to write about one of your specific passions or interests and leave the rest of your life out of the public eye.

But if you are like me, and you tend to write about the big picture of your life and your family and what the Father is teaching you as you observe His hand at work in the everyday, trying to choose a niche can feel rather stressful and burdensome.

Some of my very favorite blogs have been around a while and are, what I would call, niche-less bloggers.  In fact, many of my top blogs break all the rules. They have very disorganized categories or (gasp) no categories at all, they have no tagline, they have a vague About Me section, and some of them don’t even have a Facebook Page. They seem to be doing everything wrong, and yet myself and thousands of other readers never miss a post.

I think we can learn a few lessons from the first generation of bloggers.

They started blogging before there were e-books and online courses and conferences on how to grow a blog. They blogged before blogging became all about branding and niches and platforms and networking.

They started blogging simply to have a creative outlet in which to write and to share their voice and their lives, and as a result, their blogs grew in this grass-roots, organic sort of way. I love to look through the archives of some of these bloggers to see how their blogs have evolved and changed over the years as they gave themselves the freedom to write out of the season in which they were living. 

If you are struggling to find your niche, I encourage you to try a new approach:

  1. Stop over thinking it and just write. Write about what you are passionate about right now. Write as the Holy Spirit prompts, even if it means you are writing about something that you don’t consider your niche or expertise.
  2. Stop looking to other blogs to define yours. You are a unique creation of God and your personality and your life and therefore your blog are also going to be unique. Don’t be afraid to let your blog be the first of it’s kind!
  3. Break some rules! If your tagline is stressing you out, don’t have a tagline. If you are obsessing too much about the name of your blog, just use your real name. Focus more on content and less on branding, and soon your blog will speak for itself.

After a while of giving yourself this kind of blogging freedom, your niche may simply find you.

Or maybe it won’t and we’ll just link arms and be niche-less bloggers together.

And that’s perfectly okay.

Post from the archives; authored by Amanda

8 Tips for Beginning Writers

8 Tips for Beginning Writers

Finding time to write can be a bit of a challenge. My children are all young enough to still need quite a bit of help and attention doing everything from loading the dishwasher, to using the potty. To say I don’t have a lot of free time is an understatement.

A question I am often asked is this: “How do you have time to write like you do? Or, people sometimes say it in a statement form, like this: “I don’t know how you found the time to write a book!”

8 Tips for beginning writers, (You Can do it) 

  1. I treat writing as a job. What I mean specifically is, I set aside specific time to work. I schedule it into my day, just as I would a doctors appointment or a girls night out. This helps me to plan our activities, and allow plenty of face time and class time with my kids, while still getting my projects done.
  2. I set deadlines. I’m jumping headfirst into another project and in order to make that happen, I have set deadlines for myself to complete different phases of the project. This prevents me from enjoying wasting hours of time watching Duck Dynasty, when I need to have something ready for editing.
  3. I guard my writing time fiercely. My children take a scheduled quiet time every day. This time is sacred to me. This is when I write most often (like right now) and I am very careful about things that would otherwise interrupt this time. It occurs at the same time everyday, and so I schedule our entire day around this 2 hour window. I’ve been known to turn down many activities that interrupt this hallowed time. Thankfully, my friends here know me well, and don’t often ask us to play or do anything during that time, and likewise, I avoid scheduling anything that will prevent me from being near my computer during this small window of time.
  4. I (sometimes) write at night. Part of the reason I guard my quiet time with such ferocity, is that in the evenings, I’d like to hang out with my husband. Therefore, in order to write, I must try and work around his schedule, which means limited night writing. When I was in the throws of finishing my book, many nights were spent writing, and we made do, because we knew that pace would not last. I try to have a once a week “write night” (#writenight for you tweeps out there) because honestly, sometimes, night writing is where the magic happens. I should add here that my husband is an absolute saint and supports me fully in my writing, which makes all the difference in the world. Amen.
  5. I write before the sun comes up. Early morning is an excellent time to get those first morning thoughts out on paper–and that’s specifically how I do my morning writing, on paper in my journalI won’t speak too much to this because everybody has their method, but I will simply say this, if you write almost exclusively on the computer, I suggest you find a good legal pad or a journal and every now and then, write long hand. I am amazed sometimes at how different my writing can be when I take the time to draw out the letters.
  6. I take scheduled breaks. I have found this to be a critical component in my efforts to hold on to ideas. The more tired I am, the more often I lose the words. Scheduling rest is a key component in holding on to my story and making my deadlines. ( If you need accountability and encouragement to take time off from being creative, try this.) This leads me to my last point.
  7. I get offline. Sometimes I can be positively fed full by the online conversations I enjoy. But I can also easily waste a tremendous amount of time online, and get distracted from my own writing and work. If you want to write, get off line and do the work. Everybody knows this already, but yet, many of us still struggle with this one seemingly obvious point.
  8. I pray. This perhaps should have been the first point, but the fact that I list it last does not speak to the significance of this tip. If you want to write, take that desire to the Lord and give it back to Him. Ask Him to show you how to fit it into your life, and for the words and wisdom to share. I believe that God is honored most by our willingness to use the gifts He has given us, for His purposes. Don’t know what that looks like for you? Ask Him. He will direct your steps.

What tips do you have for other writers? Share them below! 

Post from archives, authored by Kris

Passion for His Fame

Bring Him Fame

So let this love be like a fire
Let our life be like a flame
Fill our souls with Your desire
Let our passion bring You fame*

There was a time I took a spiritual gifts test through my church. I wasn’t caught off guard by my strengths, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a few previously low-scoring areas move up a little bit. Honestly speaking though, there were still some areas that were just plain low … pretty deficient actually.

I literally came up with the lowest possible number on Worship. And really, it’s because I don’t have a lick of natural inclination, talent, or skill when it comes to musical expression. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t still be a “Worshipper.”

We all have a tendency to let our natural bent define us.  Does that mean that we can’t excel as well in the areas where we naturally fall short though? I know the Lord delights in my gifts, but is He bummed out about me in the areas that I’m not dominating in some spiritual awesomeness?

One day, I went to a sandwich shop, picking up lunch with my kids. The guy behind the counter making our lunch had a black eye patch covering one of his eyes. It looked just like a pirate patch. I noticed it and was inwardly cringing as my 2 year old would not take his eyes off of this man. I was terrified by the possibility of what he might say.

And then he pointed. With a chubby innocent finger, he pointed straight at the man and said, “Cool hair. Cool hair Mommy.”

The knot in my throat loosened as I sighed relief and noted that indeed, this man had a head full of really awesome looking dreadlocks.

In that moment, I heard the Lord clearly say, “You may think I’m taking note of your shortcomings when I look at you….but really I’m admiring the things I love about you. I am delighting in you, and so often you think I’m staring and picking you apart.  I don’t misjudge you my love, it is you who are misjudging me.”

Why do we worry that the Lord would focus on our deficiencies? Or even more, that those areas of shortcoming would disqualify us from any service of Him?! That I’m not “gifted” in an area, or that I fall short isn’t a hall-pass to be sedentary. It’s like we think that we have to be fit to even join the gym…that our skills and life have to be in order to serve in certain capacities.

Yet…YET, I hear the Great Qualifier say to me…to us, “My sweet ones, I delight in you. I don’t notice that you can’t sing…I see the worshipper inside of your heart. So come, and worship…I delight in all of YOU.”

Let us allow our passion for Him to bring fame to his name. Let us rely on the wonder of Him to fan the flame of Christ’s work in our lives…not any ability of our own to excel in certain giftedness. “Every good and perfect gift is from above” anyhow.

Let’s allow our lives to receive the gifts… only to point back upwards to Him. And let us NOT allow that upward gaze to stray back earthward onto what we do or don’t do well. All to His glory….ALL to His glory.

Our natural ability cannot define our response to Him. I don’t have to lead worship, to be a worshipper. He sees the beauty in each of us, and even in our weaknesses, HE makes us strong.  He doesn’t notice our eye patch my friends, He’s admiring our cool hair.

But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Cor 2:9-11

*Lyrics from Jesus Culture, “Burning Ones” 

Post from the archives–Authored by Logan

The Trap of Stats {Smaller Bloggers}

Look Beyond Stats

What defines a “smaller blogger”. There really is no “formal” answer but many people define themselves by their stats. So what exactly constitutes a “smaller blogger”?

It’s the mindset of the blogger.

When you play the comparison game, there will always be someone to stand next to you who has more readers, more likes, more follows than you do.

When we define ourselves (or others) by stats, we create barriers in various areas. When we use stats to define the value of a person (including ourselves) we put up walls and create stereotypes based on stats. We may not even realize we’re doing it! Yet, what happens is we start to make assumptions about people based on their stats. We think less of our ministry when our stats don’t mirror someone else’s. We become discontent with what we’ve been given.

Take a moment to watch this video that helps illustrate well what I mean. Click here if you’re reading in email or a reader.

Until we can look beyond our stats, all we’re going to see is stats. We are going to miss the ministry God has placed in front of us because we are too busy chasing after what someone else has.

There are many factors which lead to why stats look the way they do for different people. Some examples include:

  • time invested
  • goals/mission/vision of blogger
  • God’s vision (!!!)
  • unique gifts
  • reach
  • education (and I don’t mean a college degree, but willingness to seek out and learn)
  • consistency of blogging

These are just a few things. The goal today isn’t to overwhelm you — in fact, the overall goal for this entire series is to keep the information simple and straightforward. The last thing we want you to do is throw your hands up and think it’s hopeless based on this list. It’s not!

Our goal, however, is to make you aware of the elements involved in what creates these stats. The one thing you need to know about “bigger bloggers” is that they were once “smaller bloggers”. So when you see them write or hear them speak on topics like stats, they are doing it from a position of experience, not arrogance.

If you think you’ve hit a wall, don’t waste anymore time running into it. If you’ve done all you can and you believe you’re getting nowhere, it might be time to think about starting fresh. It might be time to dream again; to revisit your vision and goals.

It is important to understand that building a blog and extending your reach takes dedicated, consistent work. It requires that we stretch beyond what we know and be open to learning new things constantly. We must be willing to grow if we want our blog to grow. Growth involves more then merely stats. It includes the development of your writing, and your willingness to learn beyond the basics. It requires some investment.

This week, we want to challenge you to break the barriers of defining yourself and other people by their stats.  Blogging is not a popularity contest; it’s a community where we work together.

 

*Post from the archives, authored by Christin

Thankful

Allume 2014-Thanksgiving

Sitting at my sister’s kitchen table in New Jersey, I stare the French bulldog perched on the edge of the sofa straight in the face.

“One, two, three, four….. seventeen, nineteen, thirty-seven, TWENTY”

Sounds emanate from the adjoining room as a wild game of hide-and-go-seek fills my ears, and I find myself  both distracted from writing and simultaneously filled to the brim with a grateful heart.

“Henry is in the kitty litter!!!”

“What?!” I shout, jumping up from the table to find my 2 year old nephew in his hiding place in the closet…ankle deep in smelly grayish pebbles.

“You finded me!” a tiny voice squeals!

“Don’t do that!!! EWWWW!  Gross guys!  Let’s find a new hiding space! Oh Henry…we need to wash your feet!”

And so our Thanksgiving holiday begins…

*          *          *

While our hearts fill with reflections of blessing, and many of our homes fill with family and friends at this start of the holiday season, it is our desire here at Allume, that you know our thankfulness extends deep into this community.

We are grateful for you… our partners, our friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Grateful that we can open the doors of our homes and our hearts and receive the blessings of community in real life and in the online space.  We cheer for you, for your ministries, your callings, and the work that God is doing in and through you.

And for all of these things, we give thanks.  We record gifts, we bless one another, and we praise the Lord for his goodness to do abundantly more than we ever ask or imagine.

Happy Thanksgiving friends!

** I want to add in here that this post was originally written prior to the most recent events of the Ferguson decision and the resulting groanings in pain of entire communities.  In no way do we want to minimize the present pain by continuing to give thanks for the gifts we do have, but as we steward this space and our influence, we want to recognize that this life is simultaneously filled with pain and thanksgiving.  One does not minimize the other and in order to fully honor the Lord, we believe that we must learn how to hold these things together, to use our influence to expand the kingdom of God, and that the Kingdom is fully inclusive of ALL of God’s children.  As we hold pain and thanksgiving in tandem, we believe that a willingness to communicate, listen, and use our influence for the Lord can and will produce holy fruit.  

We have so much to be thankful for, but there is still so much still that my heart groans to see come to fruition. Jesus, let us see the days soon where we celebrate all of our differences and the only privilege we ever have is used to sow an increase in life and equality into the world. Thank you Lord for your creativity in creating us gloriously different, but remove the scales from our eyes that impede us from fuller living as a complete and diverse body of Christ. Today of all the things I’m thankful for, the thing I continue to be most thankful for is that Jesus died on the cross for ALL people and that my entire life should be lived out of that reality.

Today we are thankful for much, but there is still much that our hearts long to see change.  As we set a table for Allume this coming year, know that our hearts are to set it wide with thanksgiving and gratefulness for the beauty of difference that the Lord breathes into our world.

Black Friday tickets y’all!

View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allume2014

Oh yes.. those Super Early Bird Tickets.. just 10 of those bad boys go on sale THIS FRIDAY, black Friday… at midnight, EST.

That means as the clocks roll from Thanksgiving night into the early morning of black Friday.. 10 awesome tickets will go on sale.  They’re $69.00 off of the regular priced tickets.

So, make sure you bookmark this site:  THIS ONE  and come back minutes before the sale.  They go in minutes.. so make sure you’ve got your refresh finger/button ready!

All tickets will officially go on sale March 2nd.  We’d love to have you join us.

Much love and hugs,

The Allume Team

the gift of Allume

View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allume2014View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allume2014 Sweet friends, the Lord has done immeasurably more than even our sweet team could have comprehended in the last month. It’s been such a gift to pray and watch Him move, AGAIN.. not as a surprise but in the way He has moved.. such sheer delight, grace and kindness. With that being said, we are pleased as peach jam to tell you that

 

The 2015 Allume Conference will be held on October 15th – 17th, 2015 in Greenville, SC.

Are you squealing?  We certainly are!

10 (yes, only 10) Super Early Bird tickets will go on sale at midnight, EST November 27th (Black Friday). The rest of the tickets will be on sale March 1st at midnight, EST.

P.S. To read stories from those who attended Allume this year, click HERE.

P.S.S. To watch the keynote speakers at Allume, click HERE.  To order and download the audio sessions of the workshops, click HERE.

All photos are by the amazing Kim DeLoach.  See her blog HERE.

Allume Conference Link-Up!

allumecollage14

We want to read all about your time at Allume! If you’ve written a post about Allume, link it up here! LOVE YOU ALL!!!!

(Please make sure you link directly to your post, not just your blog. If you post something other than specifically about the Allume conference, or you link to just your blog/landing page, your link will be deleted.)

 



speaker interview with Sarah Dubbledam

Sometimes the world gets strangely small and people begin to connect like numbered dots in a row, and we all wonder some days who is going to be the one to actually know Kevin Bacon.  Meeting Sarah was kinda like that.  A connection through a friend from high school, my literary agent, and then this gorgeous magazine I saw at Anthropologie …I knew I had to meet her.  As it turns out now, you get to meet her at Allume this year too!  She is a beautiful soul with a passion to restore the true art of being a woman to this generation.  Read the magazine’s mission and I dare you not to feel excited about it!  She is genuine, kind, true, and a world changer, and we cannot wait for you all to meet our friend, and Darling Magazine’s editor in chief, Sarah Dubbeldam!sarah1

What was your favorite food as a kid?
Chicken nuggets!

What chore do you despise the most?
Doing dishes …

When was the last time you chatted with your neighbor?
Three weeks ago because I’ve been traveling in Europe and just got home!

What sound do you love?
Birds singing quietly in the trees along with a soft wind rustling the leaves.

If you could paint a picture of a place you have been what would it be?
The main castle in the city of Prague–it is absolutely stunning and takes you back to a Medieval time …

If you could only do one thing for a whole year what would you want it to be?
Travel Europe :)

If you could learn to do anything what would it be?
Speak French!

If you could pick anyone as a mentor who would you pick?
Beth Moore. Her passion and perspective always astounds me.

What do you do with 30 minutes of free time?
Read poetry or short stories. My favorite story author is Scott Fitzgerald.

What would the dream birthday present be?
Money for shopping!

What do you want to be when you grow up?
What I’m doing now! Honestly, I am living my dream and feel so blessed by that!

What is something new you learned last week?
I learned again that you can’t judge people by appearance. I saw someone coming down the aisle of the airplane to sit next to me and thought he wouldn’t be nice and looked a little scary (haha) but he wasn’t at all and was so kind!

What do you miss most about being a kid?
Having no real responsibilities–the freedom you have and the things you worry about as a child are nothing compared to being an adult who owns a business (smile).

If gifted an all expenses paid vacation to anywhere where would you pick?
The Holy Lands!

If everything in your life aligned exactly as in your dreams, what would your life look like? Where would you live, what would you do?
I would be doing what I do now for work, but I would live in Paris in the area of Montmartre in a small apartment with my own tiny yard, my husband, and my two black and white cats …

If I was coming to your house for dinner, what would we have?
Salmon with a soy sauce and honey glaze, sautéed vegetables, white wine and dark chocolate for dessert!

What’s in your purse?
I always carry a tiny purse but jam-pack it with: chap stick, red lipstick, all my credit cards and ID, sunglass cleaning cloth, sunglasses and a lot of loose random receipts I don’t need ;)

What are your 5 favorite books?
The Bible
A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit
Blue Like Jazz
Flappers and Philosophers by Scott Fitzgerald
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

 

We know you can’t wait to hear from Sarah so run over and get to know her here: Twitter /// Facebook /// Instagram

speaker interview with tim willard

If you don’t know him, you should.  Tim Willard - Allume 2014 KeynoteTim has quickly become one of our favorite writers, and in the general people category he probably ranks up pretty high in the “Most fun new friends of 2014.”  He is a talented poet, wordsmith, and also apparently used to be in a band once upon another time in life.  He is funny, smart, a lover of CS Lewis, and afficionado of beauty in the world around us.  We absolutely love him and think that you will too!  You’re going to so enjoy getting to know Tim Willard!

What was your favorite food as a kid?
Most likely hot dogs and beans; but also pizza, and also ice cream, and also hamburgers.

What chore do you despise the most? 
I wish I could hire someone to take out my garbage, mostly because I always forget, which leads to panic, and me running after the garbage truck in my boxers yelling like a mad man.

When was the last time you chatted with your neighbor?
What is a neighbor?

What sound do you love?
Song of Oxford nightingale as well as the sound of moss growing in the forest as well as the sound of silence as well as the sound of my pixies giggling from their bellies as well as …

If you could paint a picture of a place you have been what would it be?
Iceland.

If you could only do one things for a whole year what would you want it to be?
I am doing it at this moment: writing a dissertation on beauty in the works of C.S. Lewis and working on my novel as well as hiking in Iceland as well as getting lost in France with my wife.

If you could learn to do anything what would it be?
Play the cello as well as drive NASCAR as well as drive a hot air balloon as well as talk to Faeries.

If you could pick anyone as a mentor who would you pick?
My father; he knows me and with that knowing comes astounding grace and freedom to be me.

What do you do with 30 minutes of free time?
Hike or work in a book idea or tickle my pixies or have a cup of tea—a cup of tea indeed!

What would the dream birthday present be?
A trip to the planet Venus.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
An astronaut as well as a farmer. I wish I could be a galactic farmer.

What is something new you learned last week?The word for healing as well as green as well as reconciliation in Old Norse is “groa” but pronounced in a very Viking sort of way.

What do you miss most about being a kid?
I’ll let you know when I stop being one.

If gifted an all expenses paid vacation to anywhere where would you pick?
Iceland.

If everything in your life aligned exactly as in your dreams, what would your life look like? Where would you live, what would you do?
I am living in such an alignment.

If I was coming to your house for dinner, what would we have?
Hot dogs and beans as well as pizza as well as hamburgers.

What’s in your purse?
What is a purse?

What are your 5 favorite books?
Portrait of an artist as a young man, for whom the bell tolls, the gospel of john, till we have faces, lyrical ballads, as well as the prelude which really isn’t a book, as well as Alice in wonderland, as well as don Quixote, as well as the man who was Thursday, as well as Phantastes …

If you want more insight into this hilarious and amazing man, go visit him: Website /// Twitter /// Facebook