What I Learned from a Summer of Not Blogging

What I Learned from a Summer of Not Blogging

IMG_0149I haven’t posted a new blog entry in months and I’m trying not to feel guilty about that. The summer was filled with writing two books which, frankly, took priority over blogging.

One book was a co-writing project with Bill Blacquiere, soon-to-be-retiring director of Bethany Christian Services. The Call to Care helps focus readers on how each one of us is called to care for vulnerable children and families. How we work out that call day to day is different for everyone.

The other project was my own book, Christian Publishing 101, releasing in January 2018. I interviewed many experts in the publishing field—editors, agents, authors, publicists—to help create this writer’s-conference-in-a-book.

Throw in a family vacation, writers retreat, helping plan and pull off the Breathe Christian Writers Conference, and being a good family/church member and mom/wife, and suddenly it’s early November.  There are a couple of lessons I learned during this blogging hiatus. Hopefully you can take some of them to heart.

1. Social media is fluid. I didn’t blog, but discovered the joys of Instagram. Who knew that #writingwithchickens would be so much fun for me and for readers? It started because every time I wrote outside on the deck or swing, our three chickens would rush over to get in my business. They walked across the keyboard, pecked at the keys, studied the screen, did other crazy chicken stuff.

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Once I started posting goofy pictures on Instagram, #writingwithchickens became a thing. People started liking and following the girls. We don’t have a ton of followers, yet I’m always surprised when people talk to me about those chickens. And they buy me chicken stuff! I now am proud owner of a tiny chicken notebook and a stack of chicken plates, plus a chicken item or two that I purchased.

I may not have blogged, but I now have an Instagram following and friends on Facebook who comment on the crazy fowl. Plus I’ve taken the girls on the road thanks to a traveling flock of three tiny chickens that fit in my pocket. (See if you can find them in the photo.)

2. Interns are fun and make me work. I had my first intern over the summer: the lovely Sarah Traill. Her guest blog posts will appear here soon. She was a true gift, helping me research, writing a bit, and generally making my writing life easier. This fall Hannah VanKampen, a senior at Cornerstone University, interns for two afternoons a week. She took the photo of my cool chicken stuff. Hannah is eager to work and learn, too, and a real gift.

Sarah and Hannah help me focus my writing life—because I have to give them something to do! Being accountable is always a good thing, and these two have helped me tremendously.

3. Guilt is a choice. I knew this already, but it’s good to reinforce that I don’t have to feel guilty about not doing everything all the time. As many in the publishing industry say, focus on what social media platforms you enjoy and let some of the others go for the time being. I was good at Instagram this summer; I’m adding blogging, which I enjoy, back into the mix now. It’s all good!

(Photos by Hannah VanKampen)

I would love to hear how you have balanced writing and social media, how others have helped you along the way, and how you’ve dealt with guilt as it has assailed you in your writing life.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about Christian Publishing 101 and entering for a chance to win a free copy in January, email me at annbyle@gmail.com.

 

Writing Alone & In Community

Writing Alone & In Community

AnnchickenWriters are solitary people. We sit alone at our desks with only the dog for company, at the coffee shop tapping on a laptop, on a park bench scribbling in a notebook. Writing is a task accomplished alone.

Yet we also write in community in so many ways. The American Christian Fiction Writers conference last week in Nashville was an exercise in writing community. Nearly 600 fiction writers–published and yet-to-be published–gathered to learn about the craft and network in the form of sharing meals and elevators, and laughing like crazy people.

These are people usually slaving away at a computer creating worlds they only inhabit in their minds. But these writers, like all writers, need a community. Many have found that community through ACFW and groups like it, through small writers groups that meet once or twice a month, or through online groups that feed the souls and minds of people far apart.

My writers group recently took retreat at a cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We did a little writing work each morning, then played in the afternoon, visiting beautiful Whitefish Point (after gorging on fresh whitefish in the town of Paradise) and spending a glorious afternoon swimming/sunning along Whitefish Bay. Our trip home included visiting First Editions Used Bookstore, a hidden gem in the middle of UP forestland. One of us bought a guide to learning Ojibwa, another a Stephen King followup to “On Writing.” Children’s books, classics and juicy novels also ended up in bags to be happily carried home.

The community you build around you as a writer may be as small one like-minded friend or as large as ACFW. It’s probably somewhere in between, like my communities are. First there is the Guild, six writer friends who love each other enough to vacation together in a cabin with one bathroom. There is also the community built around the Breathe Christian Writers Conference, with its yearly conference (Oct. 7-8, 2016) and active blog with many voices of encouragement. As you can see, I occasionally have my chicken friend Helen to help me write. Often she’s accompanied by her sisters Jemima and Sadie.

I encourage you to find the community that fits you best. It will be one of the wisest investments in your writing career you’ll ever make. Tell me about your communities! We’d all love to hear how you find encouragement and understanding in your writing community.