Jul 312016
 

I ran across a marvelous list earlier this week that arrived by email. The list, 107+ Blog Post Ideas for a Rocket Start, was assembled by Helen Nesterenko to jump start blog posts when you’re having a tough time coming up with something to write. It’s an excellent list, really, but it occurred to me that you could take one of these 107+ ideas on the same topic and give it to five writers, and come up with five entirely different blog posts. What’s the difference? I think it comes down to your writing voice. In the end, you can’t really get a post started unless you know where you’re going, and that direction accompanies a clear writing voice.

Photo by Jason Taellious (https://www.flickr.com/photos/dreamsjung/5836430369) via: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Photo by Jason Taellious (https://www.flickr.com/photos/dreamsjung/5836430369) via: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

What in the world is a writing voice, you ask? It’s the way you tell a story, a story that only you can tell. You hear the story, and you know right away who is telling it. Paula Munier tells us in her book, Writing with Quiet Hands, that you can “Tell a story in your own strong and authentic voice, and you may win readers based on that voice alone.”

One of my fellow Blogging Business Artisans friends, Rose Clearfield, recently started a lifestyle blog at Rose Clearfield after years of writing about her jewelry creations at Randomcreative Art. Although she is an experienced professional writer, she took time off from blogging to regroup and generate a new blog. The result is a blog where you’ll clearly recognize that Rose writes about what stirs her—her love of southwestern Wisconsin, photography, cats, family and friends, and—once in a while—the jewelry she makes. The earmark of a writer who has discovered her writing voice is that the content is unique and authentic; it reflects who that person really is.

Red Gray Sneakers Jeans Through a Wooden Bridge - Fine Art Photo Print Home Wall Decor by Rose Clearfield on Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/listing/161239365/red-gray-sneakers-jeans-through-a-wooden

Red Gray Sneakers Jeans Through a Wooden Bridge – Fine Art Photo Print Home Wall Decor by Rose Clearfield on Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/listing/161239365/red-gray-sneakers-jeans-through-a-wooden

Finding your writing voice is not something that happens instantly. Often a blog that starts out as one thing ends up as something entirely different when the writer finds his or her voice. In Rose’s instance, she decided that an entirely new blog was in order, but other bloggers might re-title their blogs and shift their focus. Their blog reflects the inner transition that is taking place inside the writer. Whether you re-title your blog or start a new one that more accurately reflects who you are, how do you find your writing voice?

Photo by Mutiara Karina (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mutsmuts/4211019754) via: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Photo by Mutiara Karina (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mutsmuts/4211019754) via: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Jeni Elliott of The Blog Maven suggests, in Finding Your Blogging Voice, that you take five minutes to identify your real reader by writing a description of that person, and that you address your blog posts to this individual. Although I suspect my blog appeals to a wider audience than the “real reader” for whom I write, she is a woman somewhere in her mid-40s or older who is married with adult children, who has worked a variety of jobs inside or outside the home, but now has set aside time to explore her creative interests. She likes to read and write, works with her hands, attends craft fairs—and loves the process of learning. She is me, in other words–although we don’t necessarily have to practice the same crafts.

Photo by Robert Easton (https://www.flickr.com/photos/13968680@N07/3152762157) via: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

Photo by Robert Easton (https://www.flickr.com/photos/13968680@N07/3152762157) via: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

Discovering your writing voice can sometimes be scary because you may feel you have to bare your innermost thoughts. To a certain extent, it’s true that you open up your private world, when you blog, to complete strangers. But keep in mind that not every blog is a lifestyle blog or personal narrative. There are marketing blogs that dispense advice, DIY blogs that provide tutorials, travel blogs that extol the pros and cons of various venues, interior design blogs that highlight decorating styles and/or design skills, political blogs that likely have agendas, and the list goes on. Not every blog reveals family secrets—nor should it, I might add. Courtney Carpenter, in Learn How to Recover Your Voice When Writing, says it may be necessary for you to get comfortable with private writing before you broadcast your words through a book, a magazine article, a blog, or some other public platform. What comes immediately to mind for me is the advice my writing instructors recommended: keep a private journal, and write every day to find your voice.

This is a journal I made for a friend’s daughter several years ago.

In a best-case scenario, the tone of the writing, the focus of blog posts, and the uniqueness of the content align with each other best when the writer has a strong self-vision. Another Blogging Business Artisans writer whose writing reflects a clear blogging voice is Natasha Nunez of The Artisan Life. Her lifestyle blog reflects her creative interests—photography, the products she develops for her Etsy shop, reading, healthy eating, essential oils, yoga and island life. Every post is a pleasure to read—whether you’re a yoga wanna-be or not, crafter, creative photographer, island trekker, or playful cook. Whatever Natasha writes, you feel she is speaking directly to you. You connect with her, even if her interests and yours are not exactly alike. The moment you create that feeling in your reader, the moment you cause your reader to feel a personal connection with your content, you have succeeded in making your writing voice be heard.

Flamingo Wood Sign by Natasha Nunez of MermaidsWhispers on Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/listing/274769350/flamingo-wood-sign-flamingo-crossing

Flamingo Wood Sign by Natasha Nunez of MermaidsWhispers on Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/listing/274769350/flamingo-wood-sign-flamingo-crossing

One of the ways we learn to write, and in the process develop our voice, is by reading widely good writing from others. Jeff Goin, in 10 Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice, recommends you jot down five books, articles or blogs you like to read, describe what they share in common, what makes them unique, and why you enjoy them. This may give you some insight into what your voice might or could be like, since we tend to admire that which reflects our ultimate goal.

If you’re not sure where to begin reading, I recommend you sign up for Bloglovin’, a free aggregate reader service that allows you to follow blogs, then emails you lists of posts to explore, such as the screenshot shown below. For added convenience, you can install a Bloglovin’ app on your smart phone or tablet. Click here to download either the Apple or Google app.

Bloglovin' Email Screenshot

Bloglovin’ Email Screenshot

You can also discover excellent bloggers by reading the quarterly Somerset Studio magazine called Artful Blogging. This magazine is available in most local bookstores.

IMG_7516

To develop your blogging voice, or to rediscover it, below are several tips that will set you on the right path:

  1. Identify the reader for whom you’re writing, and write the post as if you’re speaking directly to that person.
  2. Keep a private journal, and write daily.
  3. Read other blogs to experience the diversity of blogging voices on the Web.
  4. List five blogs, books or articles that you enjoy, and describe what they share in common, what makes them unique, and why you admire them.
  5. Every blog has its own tone, tied to its content. Make sure you match your diction, syntax and punctuation to that content. For example, if you have a personal blog, don’t write formally, as if you’re delivering an academic paper.
  6. Read your post out loud. Does it sound the way you speak?

Writer Cris Freese, in Voice in Writing: Developing a Unique Writing Voice, summarizes best, I think, what discovering your writing voice is all about: “To set your voice free, set your words free.” Let your personality shine through your words so that no one can mistake your writing for anyone else’s. It takes time to develop your writing voice, but when that moment arrives, your blog post will write itself.

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Jan 282016
 

Blogging Business Artisans is a diverse team of Etsy sellers and bloggers to which I belong. We support and encourage each other to grow as artisans and business owners while socializing online through private discussions. One of our team requirements is meeting a team challenge four times a year. There are 12 challenges, and you choose the ones that appeal to you most and/or whose timing you can meet.

This month, jewelry designer Sharla of Beaded Tail challenged teammates as follows:

What do you hope to accomplish this year? What are you looking forward to doing in 2016? Do you have plans to travel someplace exciting, move to a new home/city or how about get a kitten? Will you be taking your shop in new directions? Let us know or give us a hint of your year to come!”

As some of you may already know, this first month of 2016 got started with a big surprise: the news that I had been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, subsequently underwent major surgery and am now in recovery, and will likely be looking soon at the possibility of several radiation sessions. Whatever else I had planned for 2016, I must say that starting off the year this way clarifies and simplifies your priorities. So, here we go!

Celebrate the moment. In January nearly everyone I know, including myself, vows that this will be the year they eat more healthy foods, become more fit, get adequate sleep—in short, this will be the year of the body makeover. My goal this year is not so lofty; I’d simply like to recover from surgery, successfully undergo radiation treatment, and then live each day in a balanced way. Certainly that means making better food choices and establishing a regular routine of walking. But it doesn’t mean climbing a mountain, booking an exotic cruise, or moving into a more spacious home (which would be nice). It does mean taking joy in the small moments and being happy to be alive.

Flowers from Mary

Write more. In my previous post I mentioned that last August I started working full-time out of the home after spending many years at home, writing, crafting and volunteering. The result was that my writing habits languished—something I deeply missed. Writing helps me maintain a positive outlook. I use blogging, a public form of writing, to touch base with others whose interests are similar to mine, or to share my passion for creative endeavors. I write poetry, a private form of writing, to reflect about personal issues. I’d love to get back to writing real letters—old-fashioned paper letters that make people laugh and cry and hope and reminisce, real letters that people unfold and re-read and save, instead of e-mail notes that get deleted with a click or deposited into a virtual trash can.

The Write Goal

Keep the hands busy. Everywhere you look, I have UFOs (UnFinished Objects) scattered all over the house. There are balls of yarn on the family room couch in the basement, waiting to be crocheted. There are projects bags filled with linen fabric, colored threads and beads, waiting to be stitched up. There are boxes—yes, stacked boxes—of fabric, waiting to be sewn up into organizers, journal covers, purses, place mats and more. There are stacks of card stock and printed papers on the verge of being turned into handmade books. And finally, there are lists of project ideas that will likely never see the light of day. I perpetually lament not having enough time to get things done, but the reality is that I will never have enough time in this lifetime to get it all done. Who does? But you’ll never get anything finished if you don’t start. Just keep the hands busy, and do it. Get used to doing what you can with the time that you have, and don’t look back.

Yarn UFOs

That’s it. Those are my goals for this year. Everything else is secondary. What are your goals for 2016?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Mar 312015
 

I’m feeling celebratory. Our annual taxes are filed, so I can breathe a sigh of relief. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but I’m afraid I procrastinated in entering all of the numbers into spreadsheets that are necessary for our accountant to have so that he can complete our tax returns. But wouldn’t you prefer, as I do, to craft instead? I know that’s how I feel, so while this month of March was productive in terms of completing lots of mini books for my Etsy shop, Mister PenQuin—after all, March is National Craft Month, according to the Craft and Hobby Association—I can’t say I was equally diligent with my bookkeeping. Well, not until the last two days and nights of the month, to be more precise.

In any event, taxes are behind me and resolutions for no more Bookkeeping Procrastination are ahead of me. (Yeah, sure.) But let’s be honest. The colors of my crafting materials, the colors outside my window as the weather seriously warms up (we had seventies today), and the colors you can find anywhere on Web shopping sites are vastly more appealing—and distracting—than the black numbers marching across the columns of my Excel spreadsheets.

So, I’ll celebrate completion of tax returns with a splash of color by curating an Etsy treasury—something that always makes me happy. If you click on the large image below, you’ll be taken directly to Etsy and can check out the wonderful products that are shown. And while I’m on the subject, take a special look at the items from Katrin of Katrinshine (living in Italy, but originally from Russia) and Eugenie of Mulberry Whisper (from Uzbekistan). Both women are the newest members of my blogging Etsy team, Blogging Business Artisans. I’d like to extend a warm welcome to both of them!

Color me happy!© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

 

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