Start-up Guide for Online Writers – course review


Kate Motaung sent an email out to students who have taken this course, Start-up Guide for Online Writers.  Tomorrow, Wednesday, September 20, 2017, the price of this course goes up to $29.99.  However, it’s still on sale today for $19.99.  If you are considering investing in your writing self, this is a good day to take the plunge and make a commitment to YOU. Nothing good happens without commitment. Right?

Here’s the link from Kate’s email. 

If you miss the deadline, it’s OK. The resources you will find in this course are valuable even at the higher price.


Giant strides learning comes from small pervasive steps …

A few weeks ago, I was invited into a learning experience shared with fellow writers whose audience is virtual. In today’s environment it’s common to refer to the virtual meeting via satellite or virtual classroom via an online learning management system. When I think of writing articles or books for a virtual audience it seems so mysterious and unconventional. So I was eager to join this group and immerse myself in learning from Kate Motaung, seasoned, professional author and founder of 5-minute Friday, an online community that supports writers improving their craft.

This course is an excellent value. Based on the education provided for writers in general and because there were so many resources, I found this course to be remarkable for seasoned writers as well as those who are just getting started. First, I thought it helpful that Kate Motaung understood that some enrollees in the course might be new to online courses. The very first lesson was all about becoming acclimated to taking an online course. The remaining Units of the course continued to provide a broad spectrum of information every writer of online content needs to know.

I appreciated the practical advice about having a website and the impact your email list has on your blog or business. I remember that even in the decades before email, it was the mail list that was scrupulously maintained because it ranked high in getting noticed. Let me tell you, having done both, maintaining an email list is easier.

One of the greatest benefits to me in taking this course was becoming familiar with different writing tools and supporting Apps. Here are just a few of the ones I have checked out and am now using or plan to purchase because of what I learned in this Start-up Guide for Online Writers. Evernote was a given, as I have used it for the last few years. I use Buffer to schedule social media posts and Canva to create the images. I am looking forward to using Scrivner which I have heard is like Word on steroids. I found out about so many other apps that helped either with creative thinking or actual writing, I must decide when I can work them into my schedule to try them. I expect them to be a great asset.  

The pitch to join the social media crowd was sound. If you are going to write for online audiences, you have to go where your audiences are. Kate advised us to get accounts at least on the major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Even if you don’t spend much time there, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+ also open the playing field to readers of your articles and posts.

I found the writer’s tools in the Module, Get the Resources You Need, to be priceless. I learned about Link-ups for bloggers, which surprised me. I sometimes participate in Kate Motaung’s 5-Minute Friday Link-up and had no clue that it was this type of venue. Here’s what blew me away though. From her knowledge and experience, Kate Motaung listed many names, blogs, websites, and programs of professionals who have been doing this online writing for years. They have perfected their crafts and Kate included links to their blogs and publications. That Unit of the course is a goldmine for students of this course who want to seek mentors and coaches in the future. 

What I found in this course that added to its value were the lessons on things like podcasting, reading books to strengthen my craft as a writer, searching out other courses, and learning from experts. There was also a lesson all about affiliate marketing, what it is, how it works, and what to do if you want to try it out.

I realize this course was designed primarily for writers whose audiences are online, but so much of what I read was universal and could apply to writers of any venue. Writing articles and books for real-life paper and ink publication has so many parallels with writing for online audiences, I recommend this course for anyone who wants to write and create a platform to be noticed. The value of content-to-cost makes this a viable purchase with benefits for both the online writer and traditional writer. I wandered around on Amazon while taking this course and bought Kate Motaung’s e-book, Start-up Guide for Online Christian Writers, so I would have a Kindle version of this course available quickly when I wanted a reference to what I learned.


You Are What You Tweet – book review

I was given a copy of this book to read and was immediately drawn in. If there’s a book that covers the topic of social media, especially Twitter, in so many aspects, so far it’s unknown to me. I’ve been reading books and writing reviews for a couple years but until today have not posted them on my personal blog. Why not? It’s a mystery. I’ve never considered it until now.  I hope you take the time to read the full review posted here.

If you are overwhelmed by Twitter or social media in genera this book is for you. Germany Kent recognizes that the world of social media is dynamic and pushes more at us than our minds can absorb. If overwhelm is a word that describes your experience with social media this book is for you. Through it readers are taught how to use the powerful platform of social media to discover how to share their individuality through self-expression.

You Are What You Tweet: Harness the Power of Twitter to Create a Happier, Healthier Life by Germany Kent

Stand Up & Stand Out OR Stand Down & Stand In – Which were you created for?

On Sunday our pastor talked about Narcissus. Remember him? He was that hunter guy from Greek mythology who was known for his ‘beauty’. He loved himself so much he couldn’t love anyone else. One day he was lured to a pool of water where he saw his own reflection and was so enamored by his own looks that he somehow died. Over the years I’ve heard a few versions of the story about how Narcissus died, but every story ends in death by self-absorption.

I couldn’t help wondering about where the line is drawn between narcissism, which is excessive love of self, and the balanced love of self we learn from scripture. The line is blurred and there is no distinctive white on one side and black on the other. In his message our pastor used 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 to help us understand the truth of how God says we are to think about ourselves. He said there are small things and there are big things. Small things are the opinions that others have of us while the big thing is what God thinks of us.  Well, not the collective us, but the individual us – as in me.

Those thoughts spiraled through my mind all night because I wondered, “What does God think of me?” Because of the work I do, I’m constantly exposed to social media. I’m on Facebook. LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and when I write a book review, they are published on Amazon, Goodreads, and at Bizcatalyst360. I’m sure you could find my name showing up in other places, like this blog. Is that OK with God? Daily, I’m urged to put myself out there, take risks, be more. I’m told, “You have to promote yourself.” But is that what God says he expects of me? Please don’t get me wrong. There are over 7 billion people in the world, people from every angle converging on every platform clamoring, to be noticed. Millions were created to be noticed, we can’t all be participants of civilization content to blend into the background. Some are called to stand up and stand out while others are called to stand down and stand in.

I’ve been criticized and told that I’m a complete failure at selling myself. But I’ve  had a lot of practice getting to know me and I can say with some assurance I’m in the stand in category. I was born to stand in for others. God calls it helping and I can show you in 1 Peter 4:11 that standing down and standing in is a gift. “If you have the gift of speaking, preach God’s message. If you have the gift of helping others, do it with the strength that God supplies. Everything should be done in a way that will bring honor to God because of Jesus Christ.” People with the gift of speaking are of the stand up and stand out variety, I on the other hand am the stand down and stand in helper.

Taking our pastor’s sincere message to heart though I found my Bible the next morning and started doing some self-examination. I realized in this blog I often use the words me, my, and I.  Could that suggest narcissism? When I use my own experiences to encourage others, it’s not to impress upon anyone that I have it all figured out, it’s not to imply that I’ve reached some lofty level of achievement or that I’ve arrived. My motives are to help others understand that despite how complicated their circumstances, God can work them out; to share a glimmer of hope when life feels hopeless. Through scripture my intent is like the story Paul told in Acts 2:25-26” What David said are really the words of Jesus, “I always see the Lord near me, and I will not be afraid with him at my right side. Because of this, my heart will be glad, my words will be joyful, and I will live in hope.”

Having joy and living in hope will never come from a prideful heart – a heart described as soul-empty. This contrast is made clear in the Message translation of Habakkuk 2:4 “Look at that man, bloated by self-importance— full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive.” Soul-empty. Even the sound of it is demoralizing. Think about it. Self-importance is the same as self-defeating. Which would you rather be, full of hope or soul-empty?

God urges us to be humble; not self-deprecating, not humiliated, but humble. C.S. Lewis said “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Ephesians 4:2 says “Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other.” When God looks at me and when he sees my heart, I want his seal of approval on my motives. What motivates me? Hebrews 10:24 describes what my heart desires “We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things.” Am I always successful? Not always. I have this human factor that breeds imperfection. I could be a complete washout by human standards, but God knows my heart and it’s his opinion that matters.

Millions of people want to be superior, need to feel superior and that means they have to care what the other 7 billion people think of them. My concern is what one God says about me. What does the Lord require of me? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8. If that’s your goal too, Galatians 6:9 promises “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Hello! And then … What comes after that?

Last night a new Twitter follower sent me a direct message. Before I tell you what it said, you have to understand that I have yet to receive a direct message that was not asking me to buy their product or hire them to change my life. This one was different.

Social media is a big part of my life. In today’s vernacular it would be called my platform, but to me, social media is simply the vehicle I use to bring attention to my friends who need customers for their businesses, or to promote organizations whose values I respect, or congratulate achievements, publically express thanks, wish a happy birthday. Most of all, social media is the one method I use to instantly encourage one person or a hundred. It’s free, it’s quick, and it’s always sincere.

Since I have your attention – you’re reading this aren’t you? I think you’ll agree that social media opens up avenues of expression that didn’t exist even 20 years ago. For good or for bad, social media is our modern megaphone with the benefit of indelible sky writing.  (Now you know why they call it the cloud.) If you say it, write it, record it – it sticks. There’s a verse in 2 Corinthians 5 where Paul says “We make it our aim to always please God.” There was no internet back then, but the Bible doesn’t morph with the times. Our goal should be for every act to be pleasing to God.

When someone follows you on Twitter, it’s common courtesy to follow back. I’m extremely picky about who I follow because once I connect with them, their values feed right into my information stream through quotes, articles and photos they post. True, I can block them, but why invite the first offensive post to begin with? When someone follows me, I read through some of their tweets and if they pass inspection I reply with my cyber style Hello. “Thanks for following. Treat yourself to joy every day!” It might sound crazy to you but it makes perfect sense to me. Hello – let me encourage you.

So yesterday I followed back and said “Thanks for following. Treat yourself to joy every day!” Within minutes I received a direct message: I appreciate the Follow. If I may ask, would you share your mission statement? Many thanks!

In 140 characters or less, could I describe my mission? It brought to mind this passage in 2Corinthians 6:4-7 (CEV) Paul is talking, but it explains so well what is on my own heart. “But in everything and in every way we show that we truly are God’s servants. We have always been patient, though we have had a lot of trouble, suffering, and hard times … We have worked hard and have gone without sleep or food. But we have kept ourselves pure and have been understanding, patient, and kind. The Holy Spirit has been with us, our love is real, we speak the truth, and God’s power has worked in us. In all our struggles we have said and done only what is right.”

“If I may ask, would you share your mission statement?” Hello. And yes, yes I can share my mission statement.  “To use my gift of encouragement, to share God’s love, and make a difference in the world.”

When you meet someone for the first time or for the millionth time, what comes after Hello?

Distractions! Let’s call them what they really are

How was your day yesterday? I know. Do we really have to bring up yesterday? Don’t we love the words in Philippians 3:13 “Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind”? I’m all about kicking yesterday to the curb and starting fresh every day but let me revisit yesterday so I don’t repeat it today. First – yesterday was a good day; nothing bad happened. Let’s just say it was an instructive day because God answered one of my long term prayers. You see, I have been asking God to reveal things in my own life that are getting in the way of my own life. Does that make sense? I’ve prayed so many times as it says in Psalm 139:23 ”Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”
Last Monday I spoke with a new friend on the phone. I mentioned then that God was convicting me of being unproductive and using my time unwisely. This isn’t a new thing. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little slow on the uptake. As my dad used to say to me, “Janie sometimes I think God needs a bigger brick for you.” He was kidding but 50 years later, I think he was onto something there. Yesterday I had a run-in with that mammoth brick! You’ve heard about the new ‘reveal parties’ where the gender of an unborn baby is revealed? Well my reveal party with the Lord was not so exciting – but it was revealing. Early in the morning, I considered skipping Mom’s Prayer group at my church so I could dive head first into my work. God had something to say about that. “Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2 Spending time in prayer for families is a reward, not a distraction. That started my day, my week, on the right path.

The rest of the day though, God kept pointing things out to me about where my heart is, what I treasure – the distractions I can’t avoid. If you’re laser focused, work on one thing at a time, and are not crippled by distractions, this will make no sense to you, but distractions are my enemy. I kept thinking about 1Peter 5:8 “Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour.” Seriously? Pretty revealing isn’t it? I took out my notebook and started writing things that came to my mind that were distracting me from what I should be doing. Email, my cell phone, community interactions through Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn – you see none of these distractions are bad. They aren’t in any way immoral or corrupt. In fact given the right priority, they have value and even have virtuous implications.

Yesterday afternoon, I realized that I have some pretty serious idols in my life. In the proper context and given the right priority, things that distract me have merit and add value, but when uncontrolled they become a distraction, a clanging symbol, a disruption – all time I can’t get back. My great reveal? I asked for it, and God confirmed “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; his eyes examine them.” Psalm 11:4 I sat down right then an prayerfully, open hearted, asked the greatest advisor of all to help me work out a schedule for my day to keep me on track and focused on the right things, at the right time, for the right reasons.

The time of yesterday – of all my yesterdays – can’t be recovered, but I am comforted by the words of Solomon in Proverbs 3:11-12 “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” I can go forward and not repeat the sins of the past. What can we do with the past anyway? Not one thing – except learn from it.  So today, you’ll love this. I woke up earlier than my natural waking time of 4:45 am and these words were repeating in my mind like a track that replayed over and over. My child, if sinners try to entice you, do not consent! Proverbs 1:10 I wasn’t sure why so I got up to start my day strong. The first thing I did? You guessed it. Checked email. And remember those online communities that collectively post over a hundred articles every day? These two titles were like a magnet and everything in me wanted to click, read, and respond.

  • Where to get the knowledge you need ….
  • Is fear holding you back ….

Wait a minute! What does it say here in Romans 8:6? The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

I’m not biting! If I still want to read those articles, I will, but not until 10:00 am when it’s time to do exactly that. Choose to read and respond to 2 or 3 articles —- in the time allotted for those tasks.

Well, daddy, God used a bigger brick, and it’s likely He will have to use it again, but I am taking Proverbs 1:23 to heart and responding first to God, then to articles. “If only you will respond to my rebuke, then I will pour out my thoughts to you and I will make my words known to you.

Yesterday was disappointing, but it’s gone, over, no more. Today is new, a blank slate, an opportunity. What will you do with it?  Ready team? Let’s get out there!

Talk, Text or Type

It takes a village … do you remember that platitude from the past? It grew to broad popularity then melted into obsolescence like ice cubes on a sizzling hot sidewalk. (do you feel warmer now)

This morning I looked up ‘thanks’ in a concordance and started reading scripture that revealed a true spirit of thankfulness. It was steroids for the soul. If you’re looking for just one chapter to refresh you, try Psalm 107.  But here’s my favorite Psalm 106:47 “Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.”

I was thinking of how we celebrate as a society, especially when enticed by the vivacious spirit of holidays. Conversations focused on one topic segue into the casual, “Got any plans for the holiday?” or “What are you doing over the holiday?”

Someone posted this fill in the blank question yesterday “I am thankful for _____________.”  It’s not a new question and the answers, many repetitive, were all true representations of authentic thankfulness. Since I practice the answer to that question and have answered it multiple times, this time the response had to be original.

“I am thankful for multiple methods of communicating” with people we love and care about. Email, telephone, texting, social media.  Awhile back I must have been listening to a message in Colossians because I highlighted this verse Colossians 4:8 “I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts.”  God puts people in our lives to fill a purpose and he puts us in the lives of others to fill a purpose.  What can we do with that?

Today is Thanksgiving … just the start of another year of ThanksLiving!

Today we can Talk, Text, or Type – which of these multiple methods will you use to encourage someone as an expression of your heart?  Happy ThanksLiving everyone!

The gift of social media

I was talking with friends at dinner last night thinking how blessed we are to have friendships. Gathered around the table were friends who have shared the menagerie of life for over 20 years and others who merged transparently into our homogenous community of mostly retired motorcycle riders.  We talk, we laugh, we eat dinner, we talk, we laugh, we depart to meet again next week.  Some would ask if we don’t get tired of meeting every week or how do we keep other things from interfering.  Answer: No we don’t get tired of sharing Monday nights with friends and sometimes things do interfere and Plan A has to acquiesce to Plan B.

Recently I was reading Ecclesiates – you know where in verses 8-10 the writer brings in the truth about how life can sometimes get pretty mundane.  “All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there anything of which one can say,  “Look! This is something new”?”  There’s an old Country Western song that somberly talks about the same thing … “Life gets tedious, don’t it.”  I don’t remember the tune – in fact I don’t think there was a tune, but life gets tedious, don’t it?

Yesterday an organization posted on Facebook “Are Facebook friends really friends?” You can answer for yourself, but this is my take on that question. Just as there are very casual acquaintances, familiar friendships, and deep soul mate friendships, so are there levels of friendships through social media. Hundreds of years ago when families started scattering instead of staying in their home town forever, we had the pony express, then the U.S. Mail, then the telegraph, then the telephone — the links between friendships; communications bonding relationships.  Social media is a gift. This is the new way we stay in touch with people we love. It works!

When God created the heavens and the earth, when he created people in his image, he knew that we would be disbursed across continents. God knew that we would crave the relationships we shared with friends from our past and friends who live next door.  A lot goes on in social media that does not please God, true. The Internet can be a place of destruction to relationships.  But as with anything else, if there is good that can come out of it, capitalize on that good thing.

Is there someone you can encourage today using email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, your own blog?  Social media is a tool and what are tools for?  To help us do things better and more effectively.  Tools are used to lift.  Tools are used to smooth things out. Tools are used to tear down the old and replace it with new.  What’s in your tool box today?  What can you use to clear a path and begin a new construction project to build someone up in their faith, encourage them on their journey, love them back to a peaceful life?

Some encouragement from Philippians 2 “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, any tenderness and compassion,  make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing…Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain ….then in faith, I will be glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Ready for this day?  Get your joy on.  Let’s get out there!