Archives For blogging

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Facebook. Twitter. Shoutlife. LinkedIn. Dopplr. Google+. Plaxo. Blogger. WordPress. Shelfari. Goodreads. Writer’s loops. Conference loops. Endless loops.

By the time I finish updating my status, writing my blogs, tweeting, pasting my bulletins, my newest pictures, my URLs and YouTube links, recruiting friends, recommending friends, sharing reads, rating reads, ranking reads, ranking friends, tagging friends, responding to posts, responding to friends, responding to blogs, ranting, reblogging, re-bulleting, re-accepting (plants, gifts, pinches, bits o’ karma, flowers, flare, tickles, candy, drinks, siege warfare by angry goats and lil green patches–what the heck is a lil green patch anyway??) it’s time to repost my status–and respond to those responding to my status who are reading their walls, shuffling friends, organizing bookshelves, recommending contacts and waging mob wars.

By then, the day is over. I have missed my hair appointment, my deadline and a conference call, needed to go to the bathroom three hours ago, blown off dinner, ticked off my friends (who live in town and did not check my wall to see why I never showed up), neglected my Significant Other, alienated my family, and defaulted on my mortgage.

I’m already grossly behind on an article and some reading, on projects for friends and the synopsis I owe my agent… and yet I cannot tear myself from Facebook because I might miss something important–say, another lil green patch–and then I will have gone from being behind with writing, reading and work, to being behind with the relational fiber of my life that is supposed to make the reading, the writing, the work all meaningful.

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Bouncing back and forth between the social, networking and professional sites I signed up for to catch up with friends, connect with readers and promote my work, it’s plausible that I might never have time to write another book–or if I do, it’ll be 360 pages of 140-character one-liners.

I don’t know half the people in my extended network, but they came highly recommended. And even though I may not actually know Marlene in Dekalb, I’m fascinated by how white her teeth are in her picture and the fact that her relationship status just changed from “In a relationship” to “Single.” I’m wondering if they broke up or she forgot to change it before her last boyfriend. And if I know any friends of friends willing to dish.

I’m fascinated by hub friends, who seem to know and be on everyone’s page, horrified at how many colleagues know schoolmates who have seen me do stupid things, appalled friends’ exes who never had the decency to settle down more than one degree away.

It gets a bit uncomfortable–I worry if raucous friends will offend the straight-laced among my network (or vice versa). I wonder whether I’ll say something dumb that will haunt me forever–or at least until it scrolls off the new bulletin list, pushed down by the newest rants, requests, ramblings or reciprocal idiocy of others.

The only way to know, of course, is to stay pasted to the screen. I find that trolling for feedback is an especially convenient time to spy on high school friends and frenemies, the real lives of people I only see in suits, my exes, my readers (it seems only fair), my colleagues, my neighbors. And I am at peace with my virtual social life, holed up like a voyeuristic hermit, my picture neatly made up in the window as I sit stinky and unkempt at home in my sweats.

One of these days, God willing, I’ll start a new project. Crickets will chirp from the void that was my blog. The status line of my Facebook page will stare blankly at no one. Invites will turn kudzu on my homepage, and my Shelfari shelves will grow dust. Concerned friends will send notes like morose pings into the ether as I wrestle with metaphors and confront the empty page, wishing I could trade my Roget’s for the tiniest lil green patch or bit o’ karma.

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Tosca just sent you a lil green patch.

[Accept] [Decline] [Ignore] [Wage Mob War Instead]

#caffiene

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This post originally appeared on the blog of Tosca’s agent, Steve Laube, back in January of this year. Because I felt it has something to say to those of us engaging in Jim Woods’s #WritersUnite campaign, I asked Ms. Lee if I could repost it here; she graciously agreed.

Tosca Lee is the author of Demon: A Memoir, Havah: The Story of Eve, and the forthcoming Iscariot. She is also the co-author with Ted Dekker of the NYTimes bestsellers Forbidden, and Mortal. A sought-after speaker and former Mrs. Nebraska, Tosca was a senior consultant for a global consulting firm until turning to writing full-time, making her–for those of us familiar with the work of Jon Acuff–something of a poster child for the Quitter movement. She is someone who left her day job for her dream job. As she would likely tell you, that dream–like a certain branch of the military–is the toughest job you’ll ever love. She holds a degrees in English and International Relations from Smith College and also studied at Oxford University. You can find her on her website at: ToscaLee.com, on Facebook at Tosca Lee, and you can follow her on Twitter @ToscaLee.

UNDEAD Trailer from Clay Morgan on Vimeo.

1) When did you know that you were interested in writing, and was there anyone that stands out in your memory who encouraged you to pursue it?

I was a late bloomer, always a decent writer but never passionate about it until college which is probably when I first realized how therapeutic writing was for me. My great teacher Ron Forsythe changed everything though during the college years. He was brilliant and taught me technique with a lot of passion mixed in.

2) You recently published your first book, Undead: Revived, Resuscitate, Reborn. What was the genesis of the idea behind the book?

I wasn’t even thinking about writing a book. Then one night I was debating whether or not I should read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith or another book about Jesus by Max Lucado. Then it occurred to me that dead people did come back to life in the Bible. I was surprised to learn that there were six such individuals. I was off and running from there.

3) Who would you count as your creative influences? Who do you like to read?

I wish I could say that I read C.S. Lewis as a young man and then moved onto some of the classics. Instead I started with Garfield and moved onto Dave Barry. I listen to a LOT of audio books. I’m a fan of memoirs, biographies, and more. Stephen King’s often been in front of me and recently I’ve enjoyed Matt Mikalatos, especially Imaginary Jesus.

3) You’re a teacher at several colleges in the Pittsburgh area, maintain a successful blog, and now have a book out–how do you balance it all? How did you maintain the pace? How did the daily obligations impact your “creative time?” Is sleep overrated?

Man, as I answer this I don’t feel like I’m handling it well! I left my old blog to shrivel while finishing the book. The pace wasn’t sustainable but it didn’t have to be. I made it to the finish line then rebooted this summer. Although now that I’m in the post-release reality I’m wondering why I didn’t write a second book in recent months.

I need sleep though, that’s for sure. I’m the worst at mornings ever. I’ve never been a writer who has my best creativity early in the day. That’s my stupid time. I’m lucky if I can handle emailing and driving, although not at the same time. My brain ignites at night, and much of my best stuff comes after normal people go to bed.

4) In reading your blog, I see that you’re very into pop culture and history. What, in your mind, is the intersection of the two? What is it about pop culture that you love? Who are some of your favorite historical influences? Pop culture influences?

The culture of one era becomes historical record. Shakespeare was Hollywood a few centuries ago. Now he’s studied by academics. Current pop culture is a window to who we are in part and will, believe it or not, become part of our historical record. God help us when archaeologists sift through our ashes and make determinations about us based on Jersey Shore. But they will.

I’m a product of Gen X and always loved TV shows, movies, and video games over books while growing up. I can’t do a math problem to save my life but I can quote fictional characters of the screen from the past three decades. Go figure. When I need to give or take advice, movie plots and song lyrics resonate with me. I’m just wired that way.

As for historical influences, I like guys like Alexander Hamilton and Abe Lincoln. Too many to count really. And I love the world that the Bible was set in. Too many churches miss the rich settings and characters in exchange for dull discussions on theological systems and word studies.

5) In Undead, you reference the current pop culture craze with zombies and tie it into the search for a meaningful life. What is it about such stories that speak to the deeper places in us?

Whether we admit it or not we are preoccupied with death, at least inasmuch as that’s the doorway to eternity. Solomon said that eternity has been set in our hearts by God. We’re obsessed with what happens beyond the grave. Humans have always been that way. So when we see the living dead we can actually relate to them in a strange way. Sure their flesh is decaying and they want to eat brains all the time, but they do that while still wearing Dockers and curlers. It reminds us how close we are to the other side you know? And since we’re compelled by beings that can’t be stopped by death, what then do we make of Jesus of Nazareth and the claims made by his followers?

6) You are a Christian. What can Christians specifically learn from scary stories? Would you generally agree with the following statement: most horror stories are morality tales, crucibles that expose to us what’s in our hearts, i.e. “what if” scenarios that ask us, through identifying the characters, what we would do in similar situations? A sort of “What Would You Do?” with not John Quinones, but Stephen King?

Christian Director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister) opened my eyes in this regard when he said that the horror genre is perfect for Christianity. With such an emphasis on the supernatural why don’t we appreciate that realm in pop culture? Sure, horror movies might have gratuitous sex or violence but they don’t always have to. And as Derrickson pointed out, Christians admire someone like C. S. Lewis who wrote The Screwtape Letters which is a conversation between demons!

Think of all the people who grew up without any church affiliation or religious encounters. Where have they been exposed to ideas of the supernatural? In cinemas and on TV and through novels is where. We can complain about how evil all that stuff is or we can get in there to offer some thoughtful perspectives. I’ve had a number of meaningful conversations about God with people because of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Many of those folks I chat with aren’t interested in American churches, so culture creates opportunities to connect with people where they are.

7) Are there any questions you’re surprised that you think folks would ask, but don’t?

I never know what interviewers will bring up first. I’ve gone into most of those with no expectations on what might be the favored topic, so I haven’t been too surprised yet. Although I am still waiting for someone to ask me how they should go about supplying their nationwide network of college students with copies of Undead. Kidding. Sort of.

8) What’s in store for Clay Morgan in the future? Will you turn your hand to fiction? Are you working on another book now? If so, can you share anything about it?

Interesting you ask that. I’ve got two projects underway, one only in development. And yup, one of them is fiction which is more terrifying than a zombie squirrel. We’ll see if I can pull it off. But no, unfortunately it’s all top secret at this point.

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Blogging is both fun, and challenging. You hear a lot these days about tribe, platform, and success.

While I haven’t quite got a handle on just what success is yet, I know what it isn’t:

It’s not stats, numbers, click throughs, comments. Because it’s entirely too easy to focus on those things while building your tribe, platform, Internet playground, and lose sight of why you began blogging in the first place:

The words.

If it it isn’t first and foremost about love of the craft, then you’re a monkey.

A Blog Monkey.

Trust me–I know. I’ve been there. As recently as last week, I was ready to shut down this blog because I didn’t feel like I was successful based on numbers.

I became a blog monkey, a slave to stats. I lost my “first love.”

The words. The language, the love of putting together words and sentences in sometimes lyrical, other times stark, packages.

Don’t be like me. Don’t be a blog monkey.

Do it for love. For love of the craft.

If you do, and if you trust God to bring the increase (or not, as he sees fit), you’ll find freedom and liberty to create better art. And that my friends is true success. The freedom to create art for nothing more, or less, than love.

Don’t write for numbers–write from the heart.

Have you been a blog monkey? It’s a safe place here–you can tell.

A Renewed Focus

randomlychad  —  September 20, 2012 — 18 Comments

'Just Write' photo (c) 2011, Sean MacEntee - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Yesterday was hard for me. Those of you that create content for a living, or for love, know the twin demons of doubt and fear which follow hard on the heels of a renewed resolve. You may, or may not, know that I’m working on a book. But… who am I to write a book? Who will read it? Who’s my “tribe?” How do I do that, and still maintain this blog?

Despite plumbing the depths of my heart and soul, stats–and comments–are down here. If I get to the end of the manuscript, polish it up, who’s going to read it? I don’t have a huge following. This is very much a niche blog. But I feel like I’ve been putting forth a lot of effort not only sharing my heart, but also trying to cajole people into reading it–without a lot of feedback (don’t get me wrong–I have received some nice notes of encouragement). Maybe I’m trying too hard, putting too much of myself into a blog?

Listen, you don’t really know just how close I came to shuttering this blog. Fortunately, I have a very wise wife, and some great friends who talked me down from the edge.

My wife told me:

“Growing in Christ is the most important thing. Maybe you should focus on your book and leave it in God’s hands. It’s hard to focus on work, blogging, your book, family, church, small group, classes, chores and family time.”

My friend Jim had this to say:

“Don’t kill something GREAT. You blog is NOT like other blogs. I FIRMLY believe Christ is using your blog, but also has BIGGER better things in store.”

My friend Tor said this:

“Personally, I think you may be taking a drastic step “by driving a stake” in the heart of your blog. The simple fact that you’re stressing about being in God’s will is a fairly good indication that you’re not too far from it – His grace will help cover the delta. As far as blogging, have you considered a 30 or 60-day sabbatical to focus only on your book? That might be an option. For what it’s worth, I took TWO months off from writing this summer with the birth of our boy thanks to the generous guest posts of writers like you. I felt renewed. That might be an option to consider.”

Thing is, it’s not just a blog to me–it’s a passion project. It just seems that a lot of energy goes into promoting, promoting, promoting, when instead it could be used for creating, creating, creating. I mean I get it: it’s a noisy world, full of a cacophony of voices. “Everybody wants to rule the world,” right?

Well, I don’t. Despite being my blog, I don’t want it to be about me, but rather about Jesus, and the message he’s given me. Because you see, I’m willing to let all die–this dream of writing–for him, for his sake. Yes, I understand he grants us the desires of our hearts, but I don’t want to be in the place where I’m desiring my dreams more than I desire him. Because I don’t care anymore about being known, but to know him.

That said, I know my gift and my calling, and feel like he wants me to use it. But it’s not about me; rather it’s about him, and the message he’s given. The liberty I’ve found in him that’s freely available to all. If he wills, that is what I wish to be about–because there such peace, freedom, and healing in him.

This doesn’t mean that other topics won’t, from time-to-time, come up. There will be periodic book reviews, and author interviews. I haven’t lost my passion for writing; rather, it’s been renewed. And I want to excise the distractions that detract from my mission. Which means I will still write, but I may do so less frequently here. And I refuse to give any more time, or thought, to stats, comments, etc. My words will connect with whomever God wills.

And that will be enough.

I want to thank you for coming on the journey with me thus far. Let us look forward together to what lies ahead.

In the end, let’s just say that after years of being “random” I’ve found my focus, and like a compass it points to True North.

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Where’s your focus these days?

PS Look forward to an exciting new project coming from my friend, Jim Woods in the coming weeks. It promises to bring a #WritingRevolution. You heard it here first.

If you’re a Christian, and a blogger, and you’ve spent any time at all on the Internet over the past few years, you know who Jon Acuff is. In addition to being an uber-successful blogger, and author, he’s aimage

man who’s wise beyond his years. In addition to his penchant for pithy insight into church culture, he drops bombs like:

“Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”

Now we’re not talking about Japanese hot dog-eating champion Takeru Kobayashi here–although the principle applies. Just as Kobayashi trained to get where he was, so must we who are bloggers, artists, creatives. Just as it would be unwise for a beginning contestant in the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest to expect to achieve Kobayashi levels of success, so those of us who are starting out on this creative path can’t expect to instantly achieve Acuffian levels of success.

It doesn’t work that way.

Yet we all seem to do it.

What do we do? We compare. We compare ourselves to those who are further along the road we want to walk. We do this oftentimes without knowing what those people had to do to get where they are. For instance, look at Jon Acuff: he wrote two, or three, other blogs before Stuff Christians Like took off. He had put in a monumental amount of effort in relative obscurity before he was a hit. Though SCL did strike like lightning, there were years of practice behind it. (Even now, as successful as he is as writer and speaker, Mr. Acuff works for the Dave Ramsey organization in Nashville).

Our problem is that we see these seeming overnight successes, and want to replicate them. But again it doesn’t work that way. Look, for instance, at an image

author like Tosca Lee: there were years and years of writing things that never saw the light of day before her book, Demon: A Memoir hit print. In the interim, she continued to work for Gallup as a traveling consultant as she pursued her dream of being a full-time writer. It’s my understanding that it was only within the last two-and-a-half years–after having published two books of her own–that she was finally able to quit her day job in pursuit of her dream job. (Now in her case, and to be fair, she did coauthor a trilogy with the ultra-successful Ted Dekker, but that opportunity didn’t come about until she had been working for years and years on her own. Somewhere along the way, Mr. Dekker became aware of her work, and when her novels Demon and Havah were reprinted, Mr. Dekker was asked to make an endorsement. Conversations then ensued, and the Books of Mortals were born).

But there were years and years of work before she got to that point.

I can’t say with any certainty, but being that they are human, I would venture to guess that both Mr. Acuff and Ms. Lee from time-to-time look to those who are more successful than they are in their respective fields, and compare themselves. In Acuff’s case, for the sake of argument, let’s say he compares himself to someone like Michael Hyatt. As successful as Jon is, Hyatt has a larger following. Never mind the fact that Mr. Hyatt was the CEO of Thomas Nelson, and has been plugging away for years.

Or in the case of Ms. Lee, lets say–again for the sake of argument–that she looks to someone like Neil Gaiman, and wonders why she hasn’t yet achieved that level of success. But again, Gaiman has been working for how long, and in how many fields?

Allow me to be entirely blunt here: I chose the writers I did because they are people I have looked at, have compared myself to. I mean who in the Christian blogging world wouldn’t want to be Jon Acuff? Or who, as a Christian novelist, wouldn’t want to be a Tosca Lee?

It’s when I get my eyes off of who I am, and the work that I’m about, that I run into trouble. When I start comparing myself to others whose work I admire, and bemoan my lack of success, I kill my creativity.

And dishonor the God who put the spark within my heart.

Whether you, or me, such comparisons only lead to despair. Let us each be the best we that we can be.

Have you ever compared yourself to someone you viewed as more successful than you?