How to Fail at Blogging

Monday, January 28, 2013

Epic Fail - Scenes from St. Stupid's Day Parade 2012
Image by Gary Stevens via Flickr/Creative Commons

I should be a blogging superstar.

I should have enough sponsors and unique monthly visitors to quit my day job if I wanted to. I should be speaking at blogging conferences across the country. I should have a book deal and a monthly column in my favorite magazine.

But I don't.

I'm not saying I should have these things because I think I'm so awesome that everyone in the blogosphere should love me. I'm saying I've been blogging, in some capacity or another, for over five years and I've read every piece of blogging advice I could get my eyes on along the way.

I'm also good at picking out blogs with great potential. For example, I wrote about Julie Zeilinger when she first started  The F-Bomb, a blog and online community created by and for teenage girls who care about women's rights. Her blog is wildly popular and landed her a book deal. Her book about the next generation of feminism,  “A Little F’d Up: Why Feminism Is Not A Dirty Word,” was published by Seal Press in the spring of 2012. She's even been a guest on the show of one of my girl crushes Melissa Harris-Perry. Also last year I wrote about Around the Way Curls. They were recently featured Essence magazine and were recognized as one of  the Black Bloggers You Should Know for 2012 by The Root. 

So if I have a wealth of web wisdom stored away in notebooks and an eye for good blogs, why haven't I achieved the success I dream of? That's easy: I don't practice what I preach. Through the years, I haven't been following the very blogging advice I often offer on my own sites.

Here are the top five blogging tips I've failed to follow:

  • Find a niche. The biggest blogging mistake I've made in the past is trying to be everything to everybody. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the more focused your blog is the more likely you are to attract a large and loyal following. Thus, being Feb. 1 this blog will be focused on writing, wellness, and women's empowerment. 
  • Take risks. Along the same lines of trying to be everything to everybody, I've also wasted a lot of time trying to get people to like me. I've worried about writing things that would offend people or cause people to criticize me. This is stupid. Bill Cosby once said, “I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” Amen. Furthermore, I have found that my posts that are the most controversial are the ones that garner the most hits. So I'm putting my big girl panties on and I'm going to strive to really establish myself as a feminist blogger.
  • Be consistent. I am bad about going through phases of blogging like crazy and posting every day and then getting busy with life and abandoning my blog for a week or even longer. One of the things I appreciate most about one of my favorite writing blogs is the blogger's consistency. It's also important to be consistent regarding the type of content you publish and your writing voice. Beginning Feb. 1, I'll be posting new content each weekday. If this becomes too tough I'll let you know and begin to post three days a week -- Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. 
  • Don't be afraid to self-promote. While I, of course appreciate an occasional "atta-girl" I am utterly embarrassed by any grand gestures of recognition that come my way. Last year when I was recognized as one of the top 10 "Smart Women" of Birmingham for my work with See Jane Write I thought I was going to vomit when I went on stage to accept my award. Don't get me wrong; I certainly appreciated the recognition and it gave me the encouragement I needed to keep growing See Jane Write. But when someone at my school found out about it and emailed an announcement to the entire faculty I nearly peed my pants. But this has to end. The only way I'm going to get the word out about my blog and about See Jane Write is to promote, promote, promote. So in 2013 I plan to be a total media whore. You've been warned.
  • Keep pushing. I get bored easily. If I'm working on a project that isn't progressing as quickly as I had hoped, I drop it. The only way to grow a blog is to actually, well, grow it. It takes commitment and hard work and being mature enough not to run off for something shiny and new. It's time for this Writeous Babe to grow up.

Local Authors Expo set for Feb. 2

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Birmingham writers, mark your calendars for Sat., Feb. 2. Next Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the annual Local Authors Expo will be held at the Central branch of the Birmingham Public Library. Up to 100 authors, many from the Birmingham area, will be on site to not only sell and autograph their books, but to discuss their writing process as well.

"One of the main missions of the library is to connect authors and readers and this event does exactly that,” said Jared Millet, the Authors Expo organizer and library department head of acquisitions. “It gives authors an opportunity to promote themselves to the public. If you are a self-published author, it's hard to get into brick and mortar stores. You have to use events like this to get your name out there.'' 

Whether you’re interested in cooking, sports, or fishing, or you’re looking for an inspirational book or just a great novel, the 2013 Authors Expo will have something for you.

As the city commemorates the 50th anniversary of Birmingham's civil rights movement this year, there will also be a special section of civil rights authors. At 1 p.m. Carolyn Maull McKinstry, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing survivor and author of the book While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement, will talk about Birmingham's civil rights movement, the bombing and her life.

This event isn’t just for people who like to read a good book, but also for those looking to write one.

"If you are thinking of writing a book, you need to be at the Birmingham Public Library on Feb. 2,'' said Chanda Temple, director of public relations for the Birmingham Public Library.

At 10:30 a.m. Millet, who is also a published author, will hold a workshop on how to breathe life into your writing. Furthermore, writers will have the opportunity to network with other authors and potential fans.

"A lot of times, writers or beginner writers wonder how an author got his or her book published or how they make their story flow in a certain manner. This expo will give writers a chance to talk to authors, many of them self-published, to find out how they did it,” Temple said. “It's all about making connections, gaining inspiration and building support. We hope this expo will spark networking opportunities for everyone and continue to build the literary community.”

For more information about this event visit

Cross-posted at the See Jane Write blog.  

Monday Motivation: Scale Back Alabama

Monday, January 21, 2013

If nothing else can motivate me to lose weight and get back in shape, I'm sure money and the threat of public humiliation will.

And so I've signed up for Scale Back Alabama. This annual statewide weight-loss contest is in its seventh year, but this is my first time to participate. Participants are to be in teams of four. If each member of your team has lost at least 10 pounds at the end of the 10-week contest, your team is entered in a drawing to win cash prizes. The top prize is $1,000 per team member!

Show me the money!

On Saturday my team and I weighed in Medical Weight Loss Solutions and then I went for an hour-long jog as soon as I left. I'm determined to shed at least 10 pounds because I don't want to be the jerk who made her teammates miss out on $1,000!

When I posted on Facebook that I had just signed up for Scale Back Alabama my cousin/BFF replied with this comment: "Javacia, you have no weight to lose."

I get this comment a lot when I mention I want to drop pounds. But I know something they don't: the number that stares back at me when I step on the scale. Most people would have a hard time guessing my weight by looking at me. The last time I was weighed at the doctor the nurse in charge looked at the number and exclaimed: "Well, that can't be right! You're so little." My response: "Well, apparently not."

There was a time when I didn't care about my weight or my BMI. In the past I've always been pretty muscular and since I know muscle weighs more than fat, I didn't give the number on the scale a second thought. Plus, I wore a size 4 or 6.

Those days are long gone. Most of that muscle has morphed to fat and I now wear a size 10 or 12.

Now, I'm not all depressed and rocking back and forth in a dark room over this. I know my weight and my dress size don't measure my worth as a woman. And I know my husband doesn't find me any less attractive. (In fact, he seems to be excited that I've gained weight. Southern men like 'em thick.) But my BMI has me on edge because it tells me I'm officially "overweight" which means I could be at risk for more health complications.

This is the part of the post when I do something I've never done before and share my weight with all my readers. I won't even tell my husband how much I weigh when he asks, so this is a big deal.

That's what I weighed yesterday afternoon and thus my BMI is around 29. The scale at the weigh-in center put me at 168 pounds. I doubt I lost half a pound in 24 hours, but just in case I did I'll be going for another hour-log jog today.

And let's hope that in 10 weeks I'll be 10 pounds lighter and $1,000 richer!

...and a side of waffle fries

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Today I begin the third and final week of my 9 foods experiment, inspired by Jen Hatmaker's book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.

Since I'm two-thirds of the way to the finish line, I should be thinking, "Oh, I got this." But I'm not.

The first week was tough, but not nearly as tough as I thought it would be, once my sugar withdrawal headaches subsided. Then I foolishly stepped inside a Chick Fil-A.

It was the Saturday of week one of the experiment. I attended a storytelling night at one of my favorite local coffee shops Urban Standard. There I managed to resist ordering hot chocolate and didn't even glance at the shop's famous cupcakes.

But after the event my cousin and I were hungry. I suggested Chick Fil-A because I knew I could have a char-grilled chicken sandwich without breaking my fast, as long as I removed the tomato and pickles. But I hadn't considered how weak my willpower would become as the scent of waffle fries began wafting toward my nose. So I ordered the char-grilled chicken sandwich combo (not just the sandwich) with a lemonade (which was also a violation of my fast).

I can't blame this on Chick Fil-A for tempting me with their tasty tubers. This was all my fault.

But something strange happened: I nearly ate my entire sandwich without touching the fries. And I realized I didn't really want them anymore. I ate about five fries anyway only to justify spending the money on them and I didn't enjoy them at all. Nor was I tempted by the ice cream cones being enjoyed by the kids at the table across from mine.

In just one week, my appetite had changed.

And with just five waffle fries I ruined my progress.

My slip-up on Saturday set a bad tone for week two. I felt frustrated and kept referring to my experiment as "THIS STUPID FAST!" My pal Erin kept telling me, "It's not stupid," but I just wasn't convinced.

The purpose of a fast is to give up something so you can focus more on God. And I haven't done this as much as I had hoped because I've been so busy. This experiment has shown me that the thing I probably need to streamline most of all is not my diet, but my day. I need to streamline my schedule.

This experiment has also taught me the value of forming healthy habits. My appetite began to change in just one week. Think of how our lives could change if we applied that to other areas. If you begin to exercise regularly, suddenly your body just won't tolerate being sedentary. If you begin to write regularly your mind just won't put up with writer's block. And if you begin to do something loving and kind for yourself and for someone else every day, your heart just won't have room for jealousy and hate.

I don't know what the third week of this experiment will bring, but if I can hold on to these thoughts after my fast ends then I will know it was worth it. I will know it wasn't stupid after all.

Cross-posted at Streamlined Birmingham

Tweets & Sweets

Friday, January 18, 2013

Next month See Jane Write will host its second big event of the year -- Tweets & Sweets: A See Jane Write Tweet-Up. This event will be held Friday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at The Wine Loft, 2200 1st Ave. North in Birmingham. The evening will feature drink specials and sweet treats from Birmingham-area shops and bakeries.

This event is also a birthday for me! So even if you're not a writer or blogger, come on out and help an old lady celebrate her special day. 

In lieu of birthday gifts, please consider bringing a cash donation to See Jane Write. 

If you think you can make, please click here to RSVP or if you're not on Facebook just let me know in the comments section of this post that you'll be there.

And here are three reason you should be there:
  1. You love networking. Well, maybe you don't love networking, but you're smart enough to know it's an important thing to do. If you're a writer Tweets & Sweets will give you the chance to meet and mingle with other writers in Birmingham, some of whom you may have only previously chatted with on Twitter. Maybe you'll meet your future writing partner -- someone you can meet occasionally for writing sessions, someone to hold you accountable for writing regularly, and someone to critique your work. If you're not a writer, here's your chance to introduce yourself to people who are. Tell them about the big project you're working on and maybe you'll be the topic of their next blog post or news feature story. In other words, don't forget to bring your business cards!
  2. You love cake. It's the beginning of the year, so you're probably on a diet. You're trying to lose weight and get in shape. I am too. But it's my party, I'll eat cake if I want to. And I give you permission to do the same. We can go running together the next day to burn off those calories. 
  3. You love me! Okay, there's a chance you have no idea who I am and this is your first time ever visiting this blog, but hear me out. As I mentioned before, this event is also my birthday party and I'd love to celebrate my special day with anyone who takes the time to read my rants.  
Hope to see you on Feb. 8!


javacia a.k.a. writeous babe

PS -- If you're not in Birmingham, consider hosting an event like this in your own town. Remember, today's task for 31 Days to a Better Blog is to "Organize an event for bloggers in your area." So get to it, and let me know how it turns out. 

Cutting Ties with Tweeps

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

When it comes to Twitter I am not a member of #TeamFollowBack. For those of you not hip to Twitter lingo, let me explain. If a person follows me on Twitter I am not going to automatically follow him or her in return. 

I hope that doesn't make me sound like a snob, but I take my Twitter timeline seriously. If you don't have a picture or a bio I will not follow you, unless I know you personally. I need a picture to show me you're not a robot and I need a biography to get an idea of what your tweets will most likely be about. I want to see that we have something in common. 

And I suggest you be just as picky. 

Today's task for 31 Days to a Better Blog is to "cut ties with some of your tweeps to streamline your Twitter experience."

Try to maintain a 1:1 ratio on Twitter, meaning you should follow approximately the same number of people who follow you. This shows you're actually thoughtful about the people you follow. Streamlining your Twitter experience will make room for new connections and keep you from missing great content. 

Here are three things you can do: 

  • Stop following folks who haven't posted in over two months. (Try UnTweeps for help.) 
  • Stop following people who never followed you back (unless they're a big shot whose tweets you love to read). 
  • If you can't remember why you followed someone in the first place and their tweets cause you to strain your eye-rolling muscles, it's probably time to unfollow. 

Bonus: Follow me at @writeousbabe. :) 

Happy tweeting!

Is "Write every day" bad advice?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

writing in the journal
Image by Erin Kohlenberg via Flickr/Creative Commons

Yesterday my pal Tanya shared a very interesting article with the members of the See Jane Write Facebook group. In this article found on Study Hacks, a website about "decoding the patterns of success," the author argues that "Write every day" is bad advice and uses psychology to support his argument. He suggests that when you resolve to write every day you're setting yourself up for failure. Unless you're a full-time writer, life will get in the way and you will inevitably slip up. And once your plan to write every day fails your motivation for your work-in-progress will be negatively affected and the project you're working on will never get finished. 

While the argument presented in this article is quite impressive and sound, I still want to write daily. Ironically, it was my exercise regimen that taught me the value of writing daily. 

On Dec. 19 I resolved to try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day every day. I kept this up for about three weeks, but last week I slipped up because I got busy with preparing for a See Jane Write event. So this Study Hacks guy is certainly right about that. When we resolve to do something daily we will almost always slip up. But something else happened. By working out daily those few weeks, exercise became an essential part of my everyday life. Those days I didn't exercise my body felt weird, something felt wrong. It was as if I hadn't brushed my teeth or forgot to put on deodorant. 

And so the slip up did not make me give up on my goal to lose weight and get more fit, it made me more determined. That weird icky feeling I had when I skipped my workout made me want to jump back on the bandwagon, which I did this week. 

I want to write daily because I want to have the same attitude about my craft, my art. I want writing to be as essential to my day as brushing my teeth. 

Furthermore, it was actually easier and more fun to work out daily instead of going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week. And I think this is because I did something that was actually advised in the Study Hacks article. The author of the post explains:
When I’m working on a book, I instead approach each week as its own scheduling challenge. I work with the reality of my life that week to squeeze in as much writing as I can get away with, in the most practical manner. 

This is what I did with my workouts. Instead of telling myself I would go to this aerobics class on Wednesdays, that weightlifting class on Saturdays, and run 5 miles every other day, I looked at my week and figured out what I could realistically squeeze into each day. Sometimes I played Just Dance on my Wii. Sometimes I lifted free weights at home. Sometimes I ran. And sometimes I went to the gym to a group fitness class. 

And I think I can use this same method in my quest to write daily, instead of resolving to write for an hour every morning before work (because that ain't happening). 

And so I still believe "Write every day" is good advice. What about you? 

Monday Motivation: Get Inspired!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Recently my sweet friends Jennifer, Sherri, and Tanya gave me the Inspiring Blog award. This really meant a lot to me because they all write blogs that inspire me to be fit, to be happy, and to live my best life. They are also members of See Jane Write and thus a part of something in my life that started out as a project but over time has become my purpose. 

To give back to the blogging community, receipt of this award comes with the following tasks:

  • Display the award image on your blog.
  • Link back to the person who nominated you.
  • State 7 things about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other bloggers and link to their sites.
  • Notify the bloggers that they have been nominated and link to the post.

So here we go...

7 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Me...Until Now

1. As a child I was afraid of Bruce Springsteen's voice, the gorilla at Showbiz, and the Michael Jackson Thriller poster my parents bought for me but had to stash in a bottom drawer until I conquered my fear.  

2. Thanks to my husband, I could probably win first place in a wrestling trivia game. 

3. I have the telephone number of 90s R&B star Ginuwine in my cell phone. 

4. In 2009 I had a 30-minute phone conversation with Jamie Foxx. To this day it's the best interview I've ever done and I still have it saved on my voice recorder. 

5. When I want my hair straightened and/or cut I drive all the way to Montgomery to the only person I trust with my curly coif. 

6. And speaking of my hair, it's most likely because of my tresses that I get asked every other week what island I'm from. Sigh.

7. My name has been legally changed four times. Seriously. 

And now...

15 Inspirational Blogs

  1. The Very Worst Missionary
  2. Stellar Fashion and Fitness 
  3. All In Stride 
  4. You Got Rossed 
  5. E is for Erin 
  6. Goins Writer
  7. Britni Danielle
  8. Redbone Afropuff
  9. Writability
  10. Jamie's Rabbits
  11. Pink of Perfection
  12. A Place to Dwell 
  13. Sometimes Sweet
  14. Write, Clair, write!
  15. Evette Dionne

Social Media Rules of Engagement

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Today’s task for 31 Days to a Better Blog is to recommit to being more engaging on Facebook and Twitter.
Treat Twitter and Facebook like a cocktail party – that’s the best advice I’ve ever read about the proper way to engage your audience and build your brand via social media.
Remember that you’re trying to have a conversation with people and that you want those people to find you interesting.

Post regularly (several times a day), but don’t ramble. Be intentional about what you post. Obviously, you should use Facebook and Twitter to share your blog posts. Also post tweets and status updates that are informative, inspiring, helpful or humorous. Don’t bore your readers with every detail of your life and don’t use social media as a place to rant about how much you hate your job, your neighbor, or your husband. Save that for your therapist.

Get personal. While you shouldn’t use social media as free therapy, don’t be afraid to show your personality. Share posts about fun, funny, or exciting things going on in your day. You don’t want to be all business all the time.
Stay on topic. The people who follow you on Twitter do so for a reason, so make sure you deliver. For example,  people tend to follow me because they’re interested in writing or blogging, feminism, fitness, or faith. There are also several fellow Birmingham residents who follow me. So I try to tweet about those topics and about things going on in my city. 

Remember you’re not the center of the twitterverse. Make sure your tweets and Facebook posts aren’t all about you all the time. This is like having a friend who only wants to talk about herself. Use your social media channels to promote other bloggers and writers as well. Retweet and share intriguing posts by others. Compliment and thank people for sharing something insightful.

Ask questions. You don’t want to spend your time on Twitter and Facebook talking to yourself, do you?  Social media outlets are meant to spark a conversation, so ask questions to show your readers you care what they think too.

And to lead by example…

What are your Facebook and Twitter rules of engagement?

Web Wisdom

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

BlogHer 08 Conference
BlogHer '08 Conference
Photo by Wendy Piersall via Flickr/Creative Commons

Today's task for 31 Days to a Better Blog is to sign up for a blogging class or conference. 

If you live in Birmingham, I have just the thing for you. Tomorrow evening See Jane Write will host the panel discussion Blogging and the Future of Community Journalism. 

At this free event you can learn how to use your blog to cover communities and topics you feel don't get adequate attention from mainstream media. You'll also learn how to make your blog stand out from other local websites and find out how you can work with journalists and even get respected as a journalist yourself. 

Our panelists include: 
  • Staci Brown Brooks, Community News Director for the Birmingham Hub of  Alabama Media Group
  • Emily Lowrey, founder of Magic City Post, a web publication that offers a daily posts on the Birmingham metro area and shows off the best the region has to offer.
  • Andre Natta, founder of The Terminal, a critically acclaimed web publication about Birmingham.
  • Erin Shaw Street, travel editor for Southern Living magazine and editorial content manager for the magazine's social media including its blog, The Daily South 

The panel discussion will be moderated by Edward T. Bowser, who is a community engagement specialist for the Birmingham Hub of Alabama Media Group, author of the blog Soul In Stereo, and my hubster!

Click here for information on time, location, and how to register. 

But that's enough shameless self-promotion. Here are a few blogging conferences you should check out: 

What conferences are you going to this year?

How to Build a Brand for Your Blog

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Brand Camp University-Tamsen Fadal
Image by Dean Meyers
via Flickr/Creative Commons

Today’s task for 31 Days to a Better Blog is for those of you who think you might need a change. Maybe you’re considering changing your blog platform or maybe you've been thinking about changing your blog’s title or URL. If you've decided a change is what you need, go for it!

But after you make this switch branding is going to become even more important for you as you try to market your new name. Lucky for you, on Saturday I participated in the monthly Twitter chat Blog Brunch and this month’s topic was Branding 101. Here are a few tips on how to build your brand.

Write a mission statement. I know you’re tired of me telling you this, but I’m not the only one who believes this is a good idea. So does Sarah Tolzmann (@notetosarah) of the blog Note to Self.  During Blog Brunch she tweeted “Your blog should have a mission statement, even if you keep it to yourself. It will help you decide if content is relevant.”  Remember, you can’t send a clear brand message to readers if you’re sure what your message is.

Be consistent. Having a mission statement will help ensure your message is clear, but you need a consistent writing style as well. You also need to make sure you’re consistent throughout your social media channels.  The author of the blog Sarah Hearts (@sarahkhandijan) tweeted “All social media pages should look like you! Your readers should instantly know by the look & content that it’s yours.”  I, for example, use the Twitter handle @writeousbabe and usually tweet about the same topics you’ll find on my blog – writing, blogging, feminism, fitness, and faith.

While consistency is key, don’t be afraid of change.  “I think your brand should maintain a common visual aspect – but it shouldn't hold you back from trying something new,” tweeted Katie (@mspinkandblue), co-founder of Blog Brunch.  Kait Kucy (@yuppielove) advised not changing your branding more than once a year. And most bloggers agreed that when you are making a change be sure it’s for a good reason and not simply just to follow a trend.

Network. Now that you've put all that work into crafting your message and polishing your blog’s look, you need to spread the word about who you are and what you’re all about. You need to network. Several bloggers from Saturday’s Blog Brunch agree that some of the best ways to market your blog and your brand include: commenting on other blogs, writing guest posts for blogs with a mission similar to yours, hosting events, attending conferences and, of course, using social media outlets such as Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

I’ve been thinking about branding a lot myself, lately. I've been considering changing the name of my blog, worried that “Writeous Babe” is too silly. What do you think? I’d love to get some feedback in the comments section.

Happy brand building! 

Monday Motivation: My New Year's Revolution

Monday, January 7, 2013

If you've been cruising down Lakeshore Parkway lately there's a chance you've pulled up next to a black Mazda 3 and caught a chick with big curly hair singing her heart out to the Alicia Keys song "Brand New Me."  That chick was me.

We're at the start of a new year and this is a time when many people start trying to make changes in their lives. As writers, we resolve to write a certain number of words each day, to read more, to blog more, and to be more aggressive in our efforts to get published. Then December rolls around and we haven't accomplished half as much as we had hoped. And this is usually the case with goals in other areas of life -- such as fitness and finances -- as well.

Where did we go wrong? Yesterday, my pastor had a pretty poignant message on this topic. He said that we ought to just start wishing one another a "Happy Improved Year!" instead of a happy new year because what we're trying do to with all our resolutions is change ourselves from the outside in instead of changing from the inside out. We're tying to do something different when we need to be someone different. Instead of improving the old you, become a new you. We need a New Year's revolution, not a New Year's resolution.

How do we do this? We must get centered. This will mean different things for different people, but it's imperative nonetheless. We must get focused on whatever is the cornerstone of our lives. Once we've done that we will want to do the things that must be done to accomplish our goals. It will no longer be a matter of wrestling with our wills to keep our resolutions to write daily or exercise five times a week. Once we're centered we will jump out of bed ready to write; we'll actually look forward to going to the gym.

For me getting centered means drawing near to God. It means praying constantly, reading Scripture daily, using my writing to encourage others, and forging meaningful connections with other women of faith. When I do these things I can feel myself transforming into the woman I'm meant be and I know that I will accomplish all this woman was meant to do.

My Quest to Streamline My Diet

Sunday, January 6, 2013

This is all Jen Hatmaker's fault. 

I can't even remember how I stumbled up her book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, but it was around the holidays, a time of year when I always feel disgusted with consumerism and our society's (and my own) obsession with stuff. 

The book details Jen's attempt to fight greed, materialism, and overindulgence in hopes of living a more Christ-like existence. The idea was to choose seven areas -- food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress -- and spend 30 days on each topic boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, only wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in only seven places. Her plan also called for her to eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe “seven sacred pauses.”

Am I doing Jen's experiment completely and to the letter? Hell to the no. 

But I am inspired to do some altered version of it in hopes that it will help me streamline my life so that I can spend more time, energy, and resources on things that really matter. And my prayer is that I will begin to look more like Jesus along the way. 

Hubster and I went out for Mexican food last night. I kept referring to this meal as
The Last Supper!

Just as Jen did, I'm starting with food. Jen's experiment was inspired by one of her friends who did a "Pick 5" fast. So since Jen added two items to her list, I'm going to add two to mine. (See, this is my problem. I'm such an American. Always trying to have more.) 

Also, I'm doing this for 21 days, not 30. Every January my church has what it calls 21 Days of Prayer -- a special time of prayer and fasting to kick off the new year. This year my plan was to fast sweets for 21 Days of Prayer, which began today. Then Jen Hatmaker came along and turned my world upside down and I've now decided to fast nearly all of the foods I love. 

For the next 21 Days I will only eat the following: 

  • lean white meat and fish 
  • green vegetables
  • sweet potatoes
  • apples
  • eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • peanut butter
  • wheat bread
  • almonds

This list is similar to Jen's but for meat she only allowed herself chicken and for vegetables she only ate spinach. Her list included avocado, which I replaced with almonds. I added Greek yogurt because one of my doctors has been encouraging me to eat this for breakfast for nearly a year. Peanut butter is here because a nutritionist in my favorite magazine recommended PB on wheat bread as a mid-morning snack. 

Jen only allowed herself to use salt, pepper, and olive oil to flavor to her food. She's a better woman than I am. I will allow myself to use some low fat, low calorie condiments, but in moderation and I won't be frying up any of meats on my list. 

As for beverages, Jen only drank water. I'm allowing myself green tea as well simply because I spend a lot of time in coffee shops meeting with fellow writers and working on my blog and I need to buy something in order to not feel guilty for taking up space and Wi-Fi. 

Looking at my plan you're probably thinking this won't be so bad because I have plenty of variety. If you're thinking that, you clearly don't know me well. My friends know that I believe the human body needs cheese more than it needs water and that I think most of life's problems can be solved with a cupcake. I could beat a 16-year-old boy in a pizza eating contest and I'm convinced the manna from heaven God sent down to the Israelites was some form of Mexican food. (Look out! It's raining chimichangas!) 

And for the next 21 days I can't have pizza, Mexican food, or sweets. Lord, help me. 

But, seriously, my prayer throughout my entire streamline project will be the same as Jen's:

"Dear Lord, may there be less of me and my junk and more of You and your kingdom."

And when I say less of me I mean that figuratively and literally. If I happen to streamline my waistline over the next 21 days I will be a very happy girl. 

This was cross-posted at Streamlined Birmingham, a new blogging project by myself and some other women in Birmingham who are also looking to streamline their lives in 2013. 

Taking My Mission Beyond the Blog

Friday, January 4, 2013

Today is Day 4 of 31 Days to a Better Blog. Today's task is to write a mission statement for your blog, a task that some of my blogging buddies have told me is quite daunting. And I get it. "Mission statement" sounds so big and scary. But it doesn't have to be. 

To start, ask yourself two simple questions: Why do I blog? and What do I want my readers to get out reading my posts? Your responses will quickly lead you to your mission statement. 

I blog because I want to express myself as a writer and because I want to empower other women with my words. I want my readers to leave my blog feeling a connection to me but also feeling inspired to go after their dreams and do what needs to be done to live their best lives. 

And if you're wondering if you need a mission statement for your blog, yes you do. This post from November explains why. In that post I shared a rough draft of my blog's mission statement and it hasn't really changed over the past two months. 

My blog's mission statement: 
The Writeous Babe Project is a blog about writing and women's empowerment. My blog is designed to help creative and goal-oriented women -- especially those who write and blog -- achieve their artistic ambitions and live their best lives. The Writeous Babe Project is also a feminist lifestyles blog, which means I address topics such as fitness, fashion, family, and faith, but from a feminist perspective.

For me, however, women's empowerment is more than a blogging niche; I consider it my life's work and my purpose for being on this planet. So I'm constantly thinking about how I can take my mission beyond the blog. 

Lately, I finally feel as if I'm doing just that and it's all thanks to See Jane Write. The sense of community we've been building lately has made me giddy with joy. Case in point, I spent yesterday evening with seven other women of the group having dinner and drinks at The Wine Loft, a popular wine bar here in Birmingham. The meetup was an impromptu one that came about Wednesday evening over Twitter. We spent three hours chatting about fitness, bad wedding experiences, movies, music, and so much more, and, of course, about writing and blogging.  At one point in the evening we all pulled out the notebooks (both paper and electronic) that we use to jot down ideas, which made for a great photo. 

Photo by Tanya Sylvan

So after you write a mission statement for your blog consider if there is a way you can reach out to your readers offline as well. I still believe that blogging is about people, not pageviews. 

3 Steps to a Better Twitter Header

Thursday, January 3, 2013

You probably already know that Twitter is a great way to promote your blog and Twitter's latest look makes this even easier to do. If you haven't updated your profile since Twitter rolled out its new look, today is the day to do so.

With the addition of a header photo and the focus being shifted to the center of the page, branding just got easier. So here's what you need to do:

  1. Choose a header photo. Twitter recommends the image have the dimensions of 1252 x 626. And I recommend you pick an image that somehow represents what you and your blog are all about. For example, my header is a cropped image of a journal cover I have, one with the image of a typewriter. If you have a graphic in the header of your blog, perhaps you could use that. 
  2. Consider a new avatar. Your avatar is now more visible since it's centered. So choose a photo that you love and one that you will use on other social media networks too, as this helps with branding. Remember, as a blogger or writer, you are your brand.
  3. Review your bio. Your bio is now part of this new header, which means it may get more attention than before. Independent Fashion Bloggers once gave good advice on how to write a great social media bio. They recommend that you share who you are and what you do and give a peek into your personality. (Click here to check out some examples.) My bio tells you that I'm a writer, blogger, teacher, and founder of See Jane Write. It tells you I'm a feminist and proud Southerner. And it reveals that fitness is a hobby of mine. And if you follow me on Twitter you know that these are exactly the things I typically tweet about and the topics you'll find on my blog. (What? You don't follow me on Twitter? Well, let's fix that now. You'll find me @writeousbabe.) 

I can't wait to see your new Twitter header. Leave a link to your Twitter page in the comments so I can check it out!

Editorial Calendars Are Our Friends

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dandy Tea Towel Calendar 2013
Image by Kelly Loughlin via Flickr/Creative Commons
I've said it again and again: you need an editorial calendar. 

Developing a weekly editorial calendar that is centered on the mission of your blog will help you beat blogger's block and post more consistently. If you find yourself sitting there staring at your computer not sure what to write for the next day just check your editorial calendar. It will help you focus on a particular topic and quickly come up with an idea for a post. 

While you have your blogging planner out, you may want to consider looking ahead and doing a bit of planning for the entire year. Make note of any special events you want to blog about. Or perhaps you may want to take on a special theme for certain months like something about Black History in February or Women's History in March. 

To develop your weekly editorial calendar, first, decide how often you can (realistically) post each week. Then decide on topics (related to your niche and your blog's purpose) for each day. 

Here's my new editorial calendar, which I plan to kick off in February after 31 Days to a Better Blog. 

  • Monday -- Monday Motivation: On Mondays I'll share personal stories and life lessons that aim to offer encouragement to women and my fellow writers and bloggers.
  • Tuesday -- My Town Tuesday: This will be my time to show off Birmingham by highlighting local events or profiling interesting folks in my city. My goal is for the posts to be related to writing, blogging, or social media in some way.  
  • Wednesday -- Writer Wisdom: These posts will offer practical advice on the craft of writing. 
  • Thursday -- I have no cute name for this, but on Thursdays I'll write about blogging and/or social media. 
  • Friday -- Feminist Friday: Each Friday I will take on a feminist issue, especially those related to literature or the media. 
  • Saturday -- Feminists Just Want To Have Fun: Sometimes I want to just post something fun and Saturday seems like a good day to do that. 
  • Sunday -- The Writing Life: These posts will explore various issues we writers face in our everyday lives. 

This calendar is subject to change, especially if posting every day gets to be too much, but this is the plan for now. Be sure to extend to yourself the grace to change your editorial calendar as well. Remember, blogging is supposed to be fun, so don't be too hard on yourself. 

What's your current editorial calendar? 

Create the Blog You Want to Read

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Molly writes
Women writers, this blog is for you!
Image by Julie Jordan Scott via Flickr/Creative Commons

Happy New Year! 

It's t he first day of 2013 and the first day of 31 Days to a Better Blog. 

Today's task: Carve out a new niche for yourself. Create the blog you wish existed!

Pulitzer prize winning author Toni Morrison, who is one of my favorite writers of all time, once said 

“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”

I believe this applies to blogging as well. 

With so many blogs out there it's obviously imperative to find a way to make yours stand out from the rest and trying to be everything to everyone is not the answer. Find a niche and stick with it. 

Look around the blogosphere and ask yourself what's missing. 

As I scoured the 'net I saw plenty of blogs for fiction writers, but not many for writers of creative non-fiction and most of the ones I did find felt like a boys' club. Though I know this wasn't the intention of the writers, as I read many of these blogs I kept seeing in my mind a sign that said: NO GIRLS ALLOWED. 

The blog I want to read is one that's for creative non-fiction writers and one that's bursting at the seams with girl power. And so, that's exactly what I'm going to strive for The Writeous Babe Project to be.

What's your niche? How would you describe you blog?