3 HUGE Benefits of Frequent Blogging

Benefits of BloggingI’ve been blogging weekly for more than three years, and the benefits are worthy of consideration for any writer. First, my writing has improved tremendously. Every writer hopes for that. Secondly, writing has become so much easier. Hallelujah! In the early days, I would spend several days working on a 600-word post. Now I spend a couple of hours, and that includes production. But the benefits of blogging don’t stop there.

If you use analytics to understand what your readers are reading, you learn what resonates with your audience. If you write more of what they like, you begin to develop a theme. If you continue to write on a theme, you become known as an expert…. And guess what? After a year or so of blogging on a particular topic, you’ve got enough material to consider turning it into a book.

That’s exactly what I did when I came up with the self-empowerment series, “The Power of Living Joyfully.” I culled through a couple of years of blog posts, noted the coaching themes of interest to readers, and developed a series of topics that fit within the living joyfully concept. The first book in the series, “Setting and Achieving Goals that Enrich Your Life” was published last November. The second in the series is in development and scheduled for publication later this year.

Granted, I also get material from being a success and self-empowerment coach. Still, doing the work (coaching) is one thing. Blogging about the topics I deal with is something very different. The latter allows for repurposing the material in many ways. Books are just one idea. There are also teleclasses, podcasts, and videos.

How to Make Blogging Easy and Fun

If you feel like blogging takes too much time away from your regular writing, no worries. It takes time to figure out how to integrate blogging into your writing schedule in a way that feels unobtrusive and fun. Here are a few of my best practices:

    1. Find your schedule. When I began blogging, I’d write over the weekend and post on Monday. But weekends can be hectic and, as a result, there were times I would be writing my post the morning it was due. Even though I set the deadlines, I like posting on a regular schedule, which means I hate waiting until the last minute to write. What works best for me is to post on Thursday. This gives me plenty of time earlier in the week to draft the post, tuck it away, and then come back to it fresh. With the necessary edits, I just drop it into WordPress, schedule it for publication, and I’m done.
    2. Write yourself a few notes when inspiration strikes. I have a document on my computer where I capture writing ideas. I never close it. Sometimes I write a one-liner of the idea, other times I write the opening paragraph, and sometimes when I’m super inspired I’ll draft the entire post in one brief sitting. What’s important is to write down your thoughts when the creativity strikes. I can’t tell you how many “great ideas” I’ve lost because I neglected to write them down while they were fresh in my head.
    3. Create a content calendar. This is a good idea for lots of reasons. If you are new to blogging and not really sure about topics to write about, you can check to see what holidays are coming up and use that as an idea generator.  If you’ve been blogging a while and have ideas coming out the… well, you know… then having a content calendar helps you organize your ideas in a way that makes delivery more logical. I typically plan my content quarterly. Do I always write what I think I’m going to write? Heck, no. But then, who does?
    4. Keep your posts short and easy-to-read. The most-read blog posts are not long. My content averages between 700 – 1000 words, with the rare post going longer. Keep it simple by keeping it real. What’s going on in your day-to-day life? In the life of your family and friends? Your community? Generate ideas from random conversations with strangers. I love this blog post by John Corcoran, “How to Make Small Talk with Strangers: My 21 Day Happiness Experiment.” Just imagine, in 21 days you could have more than 21 different ideas to write about. Brilliant!
    5. What recent newsworthy stories motivate you? When you write posts about anything trending, that can increase your traffic. I recommend you only do this when you have a real interest in the topic at hand. Readers are smart. They see through smoke screens.
    6. Offer to guest post — nothing like a deadline to motivate you. When you are writing for someone else, you need to review the content on your host’s site to ensure your piece fits in. Perusing other blogs always gives me lots of writing ideas.
    7. When I feel stuck, I look for a writing prompt in a nearby book. For example, I’ve just picked up Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time.  I randomly opened the book to page 134 and put my finger on the paragraph that reads, “Charles Wallace giggled again. “Yes. Every once in a while there’s a little trouble with cooperation, but it’s easily taken care of…” From this short passage, I could write about something that made me giggle. Or I could write about wanting to have more cooperation with something. I could even flip it and write about having the cooperation I need, or maybe I’ve more cooperation than I need. Book dipping can be a fun and creative way to juice up your inspiration. Who knows what you might write as a result!

I would have never guessed four years ago that I would be blogging every week and loving it, but here I am. For me, the benefits of regular blogging are more than I had hoped for. Not only has blogging sharpened my writing skills and given me a quick and easy creative outlet, it has also provided the foundation and inspiration for future books.

Are you a frequent blogger? If so, how have you benefitted? What tips can you share to make if easy and fun?

Writing Exercise Inspires Character Development

Music InspiresI have always had a strong appreciation for music that I attribute to not just hearing the music, but feeling it. For me, music comes together in a melodic, sometimes chaotic, reveal in my very being. It energizes me from the inside out. So when it comes creating works of fiction, I find that writing while listening to music inspires creativity. It also allows me to connect more deeply to my work, revealing more robust character development.

In my experience, even though I may create a character, at some point my characters start writing themselves. It’s an occurrence I’ve also heard other writers express. In this respect, perhaps writing fiction and making characters come to life on the page is no different than birthing children. You only keep them so long before they take off on their own.

I’ve written entire books to particular genre music. In my book, Truth Runs Deep, I listened to sacred music to help me connect with the religious aspects of my characters. I was especially moved by the voices of Libera; boys aged seven to sixteen from South London, whose music is both ethereal and mystic and helped me evoke the desolate past of a conflicted priest. In the same book, the police chief was a big blues fan. Listening to Albert King was perfect for helping me connect (and reveal) this character’s personality. In my recently published young adult trilogy, Wells Worthy, I wrote all three books listening to music from the Middle East and Africa, which added to the creation of the Egyptian setting. As a result, I’ve become particularly fond of several musicians that I previously had not known, including Algerian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Khaled and African singer, percussionist, songwriter, composer Youssou N’dour.

Writing Experiment

Whether or not you’ve written to music before, writers find this 30-minute experiential exercise worthwhile. The idea is to experience the music as fully as possible, allowing it to inspire your writing.

  1. Select three different kinds of music (i.e., classical, soft rock, country).
  2. Set a timer for 10 minutes and begin playing the first type of music. Close your eyes and listen to the notes. Imagine the notes are different colors (think of the movie Fantasia) and they are dancing around in front of your eyes.
  3. Now imagine the notes float into your body, and you feel the music vibrating inside of you. How does it make you feel? What thoughts pop into your mind? If you have a character in mind, imagine that you are that character. How does the music make him/her feel?
  4. In the time remaining, write about your thoughts and feelings. If you were experiencing the music as one of your characters, write about their experience. How did they feel? What were they doing?
  5. When the timer goes off, repeat the process with the next type of music. Once you have completed the exercise with all three types of music, reflect on your writing. Did one type of music inspire you more so than another? How might you use music to inspire your writing further? If you were writing with a character in mind, was your character easier to express with a particular type of music? If so, what does that say about your character? More importantly, how can you leverage this revelation as you continue working with your character? How might music help you deepen your reveal of other characters?

If you love music, I think you’ll find this exercise helpful when writing your characters into reality. Not only might it benefit your writing, but also you may discover new artists who become a part of your musical repertoire.

Sheila Callaham blogs weekly and is the author of seven books. Subscribe to her newsletter on the right, connect with her on Facebook, or tweet it up with her @SheilaCallaham.

3 Tricks for Making Yourself a Priority

Put Yourself FirstLife can feel overwhelming at times — that’s a fact. And when you are feeling over-the-top, it’s not uncommon to focus all of your time and energy on what’s going on around you, leaving your own needs unattended and your personal goals laying by the wayside. That’s how you end up paying your bills late, eating fast food instead of cooking a healthy meal at home, or finding yourself stuck in the same unfulfilling job year-after-year. It’s important — critical, in fact — that you make yourself a priority. When you take care of you, that allows you to share a better version of yourself with others.

It’s All About Mindset

If you think of yourself and your needs the same as you would think of your job, there is a higher chance that you will give yourself the attention you need and deserve. Shifting your mindset works because when you think of personal needs with a business mind, your brain categorizes it differently. No longer is it in the “get it done when I can” category, it’s in the “let’s get this done” category.

Here’s a personal example. For a long time, I wanted to write a book. I was working full time, managing the kids, the dogs, and home, in partnership with hubby. It was overwhelming to think of working full time and writing a book. However, when I shifted my writing goals from the personal category to a business category, it made a huge difference in how I approached my work. With a business approach, I carved out the time needed for writing and was able to write my first book while still doing everything else.

3 Tricks for Making Yourself a Priority

  1. When it comes to administration, bill paying, filing, setting appointments, etc., imagine you are the #1 to the CEO of YOU. Whatever the CEO wants, you are not only going to make sure it gets done in perfect time, but you’re going to go above and beyond. After all, you are the #1 for a reason! Of course, you are both CEO and the #1, but because you are only performing one role at a time, you are tricking your brain into switching gears even though the goal hasn’t changed. When you are in the CEO role, your brain is focused on what needs to be achieved. When you are in the #1 role, your brain is on the execution. It’s a mind game that works!
  2. Development of employees is key to any company that wants to stay competitive; and the same is true for you. You must continue to learn and develop your skills to stay competitive and self-sufficient. In organizations, employees have development plans. Why should that be any different in your personal life? It shouldn’t! Consider the areas where development could most benefit you, and then set up a training plan to ensure you make the time to get what you need. While some of your training goals may require an investment, you can find lots of free webinars and courses online. Here are a few courses I took in 2014: a 30-day Kindle publishing course through book coach Kristen Eckstein (paid); a free webinar on marketing on Pinterest (Pixel of Ink); a free Creative Visualization teleconference (Lisa Nichols); and a free, five-week course on digital story-telling (coursera.org). Whether you are looking for technology development (SEO), social media enhancement (Pinterest), or graphic design tricks (PicMonkey), webinars are plentiful. What’s even better is that they usually only take 45 – 60 minutes, and include a free recording you can keep for future reference. With a development plan and so many self-training options to choose from, you can easily progress your development throughout the year.
  3. Incentives are key! Just as it’s important to reward good employees with a raise or bonus to acknowledge a job well done, it is just as important (if not more) to acknowledge yourself for your achievements. For longer term projects, celebrate milestones along the way. For example, when I’m working on a book, I celebrate the completion of the draft, the revision after I execute my editor’s comments, and again after publication. Since I like champaign, I pop a cork after those milestones are reached. For shorter term projects, celebrate by having lunch or dinner with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or take a weekend trip and spoil yourself.

Personal Reflection

If you were to consider your personal needs and goals more like a business priority, what changes would you make? How would those changes help you live healthier and pursue your lifelong dreams with purpose?

Sheila Callaham is the author of seven books. Her latest publication, The Power of Living Joyfully: Your Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals that Enrich Your Life, is a self-empowerment book to keep readers on the path to achieving their biggest dreams. Available on Amazon for $1.99. Go on, reward yourself. You deserve it!