From Bandwagon Blogger to Blog-Trail Blazer

Social media concept in word tag cloud on white background

The most popular girl in school strode past my locker. She carried an air of confidence — the kind that eluded me. I wondered if the mysterious patch on her jeans had anything to do with it. There was something about that triangular patch. You know, the one with the question mark?

Within a few weeks, more girls showed up at school proudly wearing the question mark on their right buttocks. This newfound patch assumed the supposed weight of popularity. But I couldn’t begin to guess why.

Nevertheless, I begged my parents until I too owned a single pair of Guess Jeans. Except they didn’t make me more popular. They didn’t even feel different.

The whole affair struck me as silly. I followed the crowd without knowing why.

Today, I give thanks to God in heaven I’m no longer in high school. It took me awhile, but eventually, I found my own way. And it didn’t involve following the crowd.

Trends, of course, still come and go — whether we’re in high school or not.

In the blogging world, a new trend can permeate the online scene with great force. Blogging gurus inundate us with innovative ideas and vogue plugins. Many of their suggestions are great too. But sometimes the constant tide of new technology leaves us feeling like we’re electronically etched in the dark ages of blogging if we’re not mastering the latest technological gizmo.

For instance, when I visit other blogs, I see a variety of social media icons. They’re usually in the upper right corner of a blog. And they represent the various places we can connect with that blogger.

So when I had my website redesigned earlier this year, I wanted the full plethora of social media icons in the upper right corner of my blog too. Clearly, this was the “in” thing to do. These icons, of course, would need to link with real social media outlets.

So I made a list of blogging goals for 2014:

      • Begin participating in Instagram.
      • Figure out Pinterest.
      • Investigate Tumbler and Linked-In.
      • Upload some videos on You-Tube.
      • Learn how to schedule tweets and Facebook posts on Buffer or Hootesuite.

Across the bottom of my list, I penned my biggest and best goal of all:

      • Hire a virtual assistant who can do all of the above for me.

Well, we’re midway through September, and I’ve done none of the above. Because I had to ask myself:

Why do I feel this pressure
to have an online presence on every social platform?

Am I following the crowd because that’s what trendy blogging looks like?

There’s nothing wrong with participating in any of these social media venues, as long as we’re doing so with a genuine desire to connect with the people there. But I’m afraid my cute little icons in the corner of my blog had become a new patch for me — just like the patch with a question mark that my friends wore in high school.

What’s more, I wondered if my desire to be in every social sphere online was really an attempt to become omnipresent.

Has the Eve-old sin of trying to be like God re-fashioned itself in my generation’s attempt to be in all places at all times?

Only God is omnipresent.

So what’s my real goal here?

After reflecting on my real purpose for writing — to bring glory to God’s name — I decided that I don’t need my name everywhere. I need to be true to who I am. I’m a writer, yes, but I’m also a mom and a full-time English teacher.

As bloggers, we need to invest our time wisely because we are not limitless beings.

I’m comfortable with Twitter and Facebook, so for now, that’s where I’ll connect online.

We all have a unique set of strengths, and the most “successful strategy” for any blogger is to stay true to who we are.

Some bloggers are savvy with social media.
Some bloggers are awesome with affiliates.
Some bloggers are terrific with technology.
Some bloggers have a way with words.

Blogging trends come and go. But who we are — at our core — remains the same. I don’t want to be a bandwagon blogger. I want to be a blog-trail blazer. And the only way to do that is to stay true to who I am.

I no longer run out and buy a new pair of Guess Jeans just because everyone else is buying a pair. I don’t generally follow the blogging masses either. Instead, I stay informed. Sometimes the latest blogging hype is just that. Hype. But sometimes the newest gadget, or widget, is a fantastic feature that enables bloggers to accomplish online feats they never thought possible.

The blogging world doesn’t have to be a re-creation of an old high school soirée, where the “in crowd” knew all the best brands. You and I can make a difference. No matter how big or small our blogs may be. Our voice matters. And a lack of technical expertise or social media experience shouldn’t prevent anyone from starting.

We can master this crazy world of blogging we’ve grown to love. And going to conferences like Allume is the perfect way to get a jumpstart on all things blogging!

I’ll be there. And I’d love to meet you there too.

Which social media venues do you enjoy the most?

 

From Bandwagon Blogger to Blog-Trail Blazer @Allume <Tweet this!>

The most “successful strategy” for any blogger is to stay true to who we are.  <Tweet this!>

Blogging trends come and go. But who we are — at our core — remains the same.  <Tweet this!>

Denise J. Hughes

Denise believes in the power of a well-told story. She teaches writing at Azusa Pacific University and even has her students start a blog. She’s the author of On Becoming a Writer: What Every Blogger Needs to Know, and she devotes her blog to helping others develop their craft and deepen their faith. You can connect with Denise on her blog — denisejhughes.com — or on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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To Trust

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“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
-Helen Keller

At 5, I battled death. In 24 hours my father and brother descended from a village in the mountains where the clouds gathered around ankles cresting along the Himalayas. My mother had given them my diagnosis, the one we got when my body wilted and my fever spiked and the doctors shook their heads and recommended Western medical care.

They  packed  things at a frantic pace and lifted off with their sick child sprawled across their laps. Nepal is no place to fight leukemia, especially in the early 80′s.

We flew to Holland. Prayer circled and swirled around me for those weeks I lay dwarfed by the hospital bed.

But they prayed the fervent prayer only mothers of sick kids know. Knees bent to the ground, hands held, and voices lifted with petitions for me, a child who knew only that the needles hurt, the room was cold, and the Dutch nurses lack bedside manner.

I lived. Healed, really. And it became a part of my story. Why we left Nepal and eventually went back to Hawaii. This is why we had to leave third world missions. This is why my parents had to seek out God’s will in a country they never felt truly a part of, America. But as a child, I never really questioned the trust that was required.

As a mother myself, I can’t fathom the confusion and despair that would surround me if my child was threatened and their life was asked for. Would I be able to trust?

My mother came to a place in her heart during those hospital nights grasping my tiny hand where she was able to say “Yes Lord, if this is your will. I will trust you.” My mother who worries and frets about the funniest little things. Who we joke has a forever furrowed brow and always methodically thinks through things. And yet, she is a woman of amazing faith.

Going to Nepal with two small children and a promise of $75/month in support. Trusting that God would see them through.

It is such an odd dichotomy. That one could have faith to do the enormous, but  fear enough to hinder the modest.

But I think I may know why. Sometimes faith is easier in the crisis. What other option do you really have? You can trust or you can… flail against the inevitable? But when it is drawn out, it  becomes harder. To have faith in the small things when there are other routes you could take and avoid having to trust completely. To still be willing to walk the called even if you could take a different path.

Trust is hard, but are we still willing to walk the called because it is His voice that is calling?

photo credit

 

Alia Joy

Alia Joy is a cynical idealist, homeschool mama to three little ‘uns, wife to Josh, book wormy, coffee dependent, grace saved, writer of random musings and broken stories, collector of words, attempter of all things crafty, lover of mustard yellow, turquoise, Africa, and missions. She lives in Central Oregon with her husband and three children and loves to visit big cities because there are no decent Indian, Moroccan, or Vietnamese restaurants close by. Maker-upper of words. Disliker of awkward introductions and writing in the third person.

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Finding Why You Write

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is begin. And the next hardest thing to do is begin again. I took three months off of blogging, and I had a lot of time to ponder reasons why I should start again or not.

Life makes it harder.

We get weary.
We get busy.
We get distracted.
We get discouraged.
We compare.
We believe lies.
We doubt ourselves.

I came up with a million excuses why I cannot, should not, or will not. Yet, I knew I was not supposed to quit. God made it clear, and it really was not open for discussion. I had to begin again.

Beginning again is hard when you think you have failed. It is hard when you do not think it is worth it, because you are not seeing the results you expected. It is hard when the results you get are not in proportion to the effort applied.

It costs too much to mean nothing.

finding-why-you-write

Beginning again is hard when you do not really know why you are doing it to begin with. The reasons we begin are not always the same reasons we keep going. Sometimes our “why” gets redefined along the way.

It changes. We change.

We learn. We experience. We grow

What motivates us changes.

I became clouded with self ambition. My desires had to be refined, yet my purpose remained the same. The purpose is the same for those who call themselves followers of Christ

If we strip the “why” down to the simplest form, its simplest is its most powerful…

“He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 19-20 NIV)

God has a message He wants to get to those who are His, and those who are yet to be. He has put His message inside of you, and how you bring it as unique as every fingerprint.

We are all different, yet we have a common thread in all our tapestries.

“We are stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 NKJV

How might you be found faithful? Obey.

How might those mysteries be revealed through your words? Many ways.

They may come from you in a way that makes us laugh, or be contemplative and introspective. They may help us organize our lives, or help find our purpose. Your words may causes us to think or expand our thinking. Or they may challenges us, and aid us in being better selves — to love well, to serve more, to be who we were created to be.

Your stories and imagery may stir our imagination, and help us see grace and beauty in places we might not have looked. Or perhaps break our hearts open wide in conviction for our sin or compassion for those in need. You may write truth that brings freedom, opens blind eyes, and helps us live our lives as praise to God.

No matter what form it comes, the reason we write is the same — to make God’s love known.

“His love has the first and last word in everything we do…Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in His death so that everyone could also be included in His life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 MSG)

It is why we write. It is why Christ died. It is why we live.

 

Michele-Lyn

Michele-Lyn Ault lives in happy chaos with her family on the outskirts of Orlando on 30 acres of Florida country. She is a wife and homeschool mama of four. Michele-Lyn pours out her heart in words, at times courageously afraid, on backlit screen and sometimes her soul bleeds a little as she writes on her blog, A Life Surrendered.

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