It is Worth It – Guest Post by Yecheilyah Ysrayl…

My Guest Blog Post with Chris Graham. My message today is “It Is Worth It”. This is for the writers underground. Underground is the place where people are tilling soil, laying seeds and preparing for harvest. Keep striving! DON’T give up! Why? Because it’s worth it.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

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Peace to everyone reading this post at this moment, for sharing these words on your blogs, and for giving me the opportunity to speak. I am grateful for the support and for the opportunity to build with you.

Frustration, depression, sadness, and lack of hope is something that everyone experiences at one time or another. These spirits are most especially present in the ambitious person. The man or woman who desires to go above and beyond. The person who strives for excellence, who strives to do anything beyond the norm, anything great, anything outside the box, and anything noble can be sure to experience these low points somewhere down the line.

Any writer who is really seeking to make a difference, not just to pen empty words on a page but to literally carve purpose into ink and to do it so powerfully that it breaks down mental barriers, this…

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A Writer’s Responsibility

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Writers must understand what their responsibility is as a voice. As a shofar to the world. Low self-worth, ignorance, and low self-esteem can be smelled from miles away. The stench of give up is not something that is difficult to discern. If you dare to write, then dare also to own it. Your words, your message, and your purpose is something that must not be shared timidly. It’s not about arrogance, for arrogance will surely destroy you. What it is about is writing with authority and making yourself responsible for every word, every syllable, and every piece of heart contextualized. Humility is understanding who guides you every day and who came before you. It is not thinking less of yourself. Every blog post, every email, and every book demand from you a responsibility. You are responsible for being professional, exact, kind, and factual despite how inappropriate others may be. You do not have the permission to curse people or spew opinions that are not rooted in fact. You are a writer and this is your responsibility. When it comes to writing, there is no modesty for the words that you put on the page. If you cannot strip yourself down to the bare minimum and expose your gift for what it is then what are you doing writing? In the words of Maya Angelou, “Life will knock a modest person down faster than a G-string falls off a stripper”. If you cannot take advice on how to better your work, what are you doing writing? If you cannot take it the same as you dish it, then what are you doing writing? What you do will come back. If you can give constructive criticism then be able also to take it. So what people think negatively about you. Their loss. Accepting correction is part of your responsibility as every artist or professional is told what they don’t want to hear at least some of the time. If this is something you can’t handle then again I ask you, what are you doing writing? The same applies to every profession. Dare not put your trust in man for man will always disappoint you. Instead, see every critique, every negative, every mistake, as part of the gift and the growth. You don’t have to agree with me but you will respect me and I will respect you. Not for you alone but because it is my responsibility as a person and as an artist to do so. Authors, you are a fountain of information. If you cannot hurricane Katrina, or tsunami this with the world and be confident and open about it, then what are you doing writing? To be courageous is not just a choice, but it is your responsibility. Every word I stitch into this blog, every piece I spit on stage, and every book I publish comes with trembling fear. But it is a fear that I must use as energy I need to push on. Always forward. Despite those looking for grains of fault in every post I publish, hoping to catch me in a trap as to accuse me of not being the person I’ve always shown myself to be. Despite this, I must write. Even if I do not speak (muteness is addictive. I’ll shut down with the quickness and write you notes as Maya did), I must write. I must do so because it is my responsibility. What’s my point here? Stop complaining. Are you a writer? Then be strong. Own it. You are here and you have something to do.

Talk Yourself into Achieving Your Goals

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Like many of you, I experience doubt, fear, and all the other emotions that can bring about stress and negativity. I am no different than you in these feelings. I am human and like you, I have emotions. Sometimes I am broken, undetermined, and lack confidence. However, I soon remember that this is not how I want to live my life. It is not that I am “happy go lucky” all the time, fake, or that I do not have feelings of despair, but that I have made the conscious decision not to give my energy over to such feelings. Of course, there are days when I am not consciously strong enough to make that kind of a decision, and that’s when prayer comes in.

So often I hear writers, bloggers, and friends complain about not being good enough without realizing how they’re speaking this into existence. If you truly don’t believe you have worth or value, then that is how it’s going to be. It’s not about being flawless (for we have all fallen short in some way or another) but what it is about is talking ourselves into achieving our goals instead of talking ourselves out of them.

Like learning, self-examination is not a one-time thing, but it is forever constant in our lives. One of the reasons self-reflection is so important is because we often deceive ourselves. Self-Deception means that you are not consciously aware of your true self. The person in the mirror is not reflective of what really exists. There are often two kinds of ways in which we deceive ourselves:

a. The part of self-deception that makes us look at ourselves and downplay everything about us because we know that we are flawed.

b. The part of self-deception where we know everything.

Both of these views are wrong.

Self-examination is not comparing ourselves to others or being mean to ourselves. It does not make it so dark that nothing new can grow. In this instance of Self-Deception we’re just too busy counting our mistakes and being “down and out” to make any real changes. It’s almost as if we want to be in that low place. Walking around carrying the burden of this dark cloud over our shoulders like its a responsibility, and brushing off any inkling of light that wishes to squeeze itself through.

The other one simply leaves no room for improvement. Self-examination is not self-exaltation.

It is possible that the way we perceive ourselves is flawed. If we think we know everything it is possible, then, that we are self-deceived. Likewise, if we believe that we know nothing, then it is possible that we are self-deceived, for everyone has a little bit of something in them. We all know in part and working together we become whole as we all bring something different to the table. No one knows everything, but everyone knows something.

When we have these low moments, we must talk ourselves into those changes we want to happen in our lives and implement a plan that will help us to reach these goals in a practical way. Again, it’s not about having it “all together”, it’s about changing your perspective on life itself and going from concept to execution. Words have power and they do not come back void. Instead of speaking negativity over your life and having a “woe is me” attitude, try being inspired. Try optimism. Try faith. Try something different, for insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. You already stressed yourself out about that today. Try something else.

So, your blog isn’t growing the way you want it to, what are you doing to change that? What practical steps are you taking to change what you don’t like? Or are you just complaining about it? So, you’re not where you want to be with your writing, or business, change it. Sit down and outline a plan. So, you don’t like the way your stomach looks right now, change it. Maybe you can’t run a mile starting out. You don’t have to. Run a block. Walk a block.

Anything you don’t like in your life can be changed but first you must change your perspective. In addition, there must be a willingness to be uncomfortable. Only when we are in that place can we really grow. For as the saying goes, “Comfort zones are beautiful places, but nothing ever grows there.” Yes, it’s going to be hard. Yes, it’s going to take persistence, and yes it’s going to take dedication but it begins first with the self-confirmation that yes, IT IS possible. We have to start using words like, “I can”, “I will” and “I will learn” instead of “I can’t”, and “I will never”. Don’t talk yourself out of achieving your goals. Talk yourself into them.

Confidence and Writing Discipline

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The most important factor in a writer’s life, at least in my opinion, is not mere talent. Neither is it some mysterious entity floating in the air called luck. It is not how much you blog or how less you blog. It is not how much money you spend or how little money you spend. It is not even your profound research and marketing skills. These elements surely help, but the greatest difference and perhaps the most unique too, between writing and other careers is a writer’s level of discipline and confidence. To keep writing, I often find that I must maintain a proper balance of each of them. Believing enough in your ability to write and having a consistent writing practice is often the difference between aspiring authors and published authors. Of course, it does not stop here but it is a step in the right direction.

The advice we hear from like-minded bloggers, agents, editors, or just authors, in general, have always, and perhaps will continue to be, our focus on writing. Because engaging in any activity of whatever sort on a daily basis naturally makes one more familiar with it, we will always hear how important it is to write and to keep writing. While this is good advice, I think that for many writers finding the time to write and sketching out a daily routine is not always easy and this is often underestimated  by those who are not writers or those who consider writing to involve less work than other careers.

“Self-discipline, what many call will-power, refers to the ability to persist at difficult or unpleasant tasks until they are completed. People who possess high self-discipline are able to overcome reluctance to begin tasks and stay on track despite distractions. Those with low self-discipline procrastinate and show poor follow-through, often failing to complete tasks even tasks they want very much to complete.” – Wikipedia

When a writer transitions from the workplace to fulfill a writing career, his initial challenge will be to maintain a certain level of self-discipline. For years he has not had to create his own time sheets, develop his own projects, and schedule his own lunch breaks. All of this has been done for him by the corporation in which he has worked for. It is now that, as a full-time writer, he must put in the necessary time to ensure a proper work day, rest, and vacation time.

He must dig deep into his resourceful mind and find the inspiration to write, in some way, daily. If he is not writing, then he must attempt to focus that energy in the direction of reading, social media marketing, offline marketing, and public speaking events to keep in line with the workflow. As we can see, the full-time writer has a lot to do and it is not always easy finding the discipline to get it done.

Sometimes it is just so hard finding the time. What I have come to invest in, however, is my purpose. As long as I remember my purpose and invest in that it is usually enough to keep me moving. This is because discipline works hand in hand with motivation and drive. It is that ingrained, determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need. It is the answer to the question, “Why do you write?” This answer is different for each of us but the result is the same. If every full-time writer kept his primary goal, the answer to the question of why he or she must write, always at the forefront of his mind it can undoubtedly become the catalyst to a more disciplined writing life and as a result more material.

Yet, in all of this, a writer must still believe in his ability to write and speak this into existence.

There’s a lot of criticism out there for writers. It is enough to keep us full for a lifetime. Not only in its relation to the backlash geared at Self-Publishers, but many people also do not see entrepreneurship, specifically writing, as being a “real job”. For this reason, confidence is necessary to be an apart of this movement. It is not to think more highly of yourself than you should think, (*caution: recipe for disaster*) since there is a power greater than you. But confidence is the state of feeling certain about something.

Working for you can feel like a blessing and a curse. There is so much to do, so much to strive for and (wait for it) so much failure. But if you believe in that aged old saying, “hard work pays off”, you will allow self-discipline and experience to train you into the professional you need to become.

One of the greatest ways to maintain just enough confidence to get the work done but  at the same time maintain just enough humility is to be of help to others as best and as often as you can. What you do always comes back. How you treat others will almost certainly reflect how you yourself are treated. It’s not always about you, and yet your personal goals are still important.

So there’s a balance between our level of discipline–which will get the work done–and our level of confidence, which will keep us going when a project has failed to meet the goal. In the words of Kevin Nance, “failure curdles into something else… I go down into that failed place, and I think, ‘I’m going to take a look at that failure and make something of it”.

True to Yourself

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This is a repost. I thought this would be a good time to remind us of something very important when navigating the online world.

Stay true to yourself.

The major similarities I see that unites all social networking forums is that you’re bound to have people who are not being honest about their intentions, and what they plan to achieve by taking part in the online community. Of course, we have to expect that any time there’s an opportunity for people to wear a mask you’re going to have these kinds of situations. This is, after all the internet, and is filled with people who wear a façade. People whose fingers do not transcribe the truths concerning the inward man. In a world as endless as the internet, it is easy to get lost in the hype moving throughout the cyber world. It’s easy to pretend, and to become someone other than who you are. If you’re just naturally wicked, it is also just as easy to pretend to be a good person, though your heart is a web of lies and deception.

When you’re gliding along the social world, it is easy to get distracted from your primary goal and what you set out to accomplish. Further, it is just as easy to start to take on the same thoughts and opinions of those you’re around the most. This is perhaps the most important aspect of online writing that I believe is important for new and experienced bloggers. For the mimicking of purpose to fit in can creep up on you if you let it. By creep I mean that changes do not enter our lives all at once but piece by piece. Slowly and with great patience change chips at you until you have  adapted into something or someone else.

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Blogging, probably more than any social platform is exciting, educational, and inspiring. However, just like every other social platform the truth is that there are more snakes out here than there are angels and they are not your friends, buddies, pals, or playmates. They’re not here to take you to the movies and hang out with you because you liked their post or followed their blog. In fact, they may just be writing your death letter while sending a smiley face.

For instance, in the blogosphere, there are those who often complain that they are not interested in gaining more followers, or networking and such and such. While this isn’t the thought process of most, I am convinced that some of you are not being true to yourself in regard to what you really want from your blogs. Some of you actually care about gaining more traffic but for whatever reasons, you’re afraid to admit it.

Truth is, I think someone can still care about growing their blogs or company without compromising who they are. I believe a person can genuinely care about increasing subscriber rates, expanding networks, and building relationships while maintaining their integrity. I believe there are people who care about these things not because they want people to praise them, and not because they bask in the attention from others, but simply because they’re reaching people, even if only two out of two-hundred are actually paying attention.

In updating this post, I came across two very interesting articles. One from the blogosphere and the other from an article posted from LinkedIn:

Amazon’s New Reviewing Rules – Could it Affect Authors in the Future?

10 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Don’t Do (Themselves!)

You may be asking yourself, what do these articles have in common?

The first article speaks about Amazon’s changes in reviewing products and the other talks about the importance of investing in third party sources to help to build your business. One of my favorite excerpts is:

“Time is an entrepreneur’s most valuable commodity. Yet one of the biggest problems for small businesses and startups is that the founders are wasting their time trying to do it all. We euphemistically say we “wear lots of hats” but the truth is that entrepreneurs are often trying to save money by doing it all themselves. This can be a huge mistake. There are some things that are better done by professional and are better delegated or outsourced.” – Benard Marr

This made me stop to think about the Indie Author Community and how it relates to the first article concerning receiving free items in exchange for reviews. I started to think critically about this and happened upon the epiphany that Self-Publishing didn’t get its stigmas from poorly written books alone. No, there is something else to it and it is possible that Marr is on to something.

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If Independent Publishing is just as important, if not more, than any other entrepreneurial business, and if it is to be taken just as seriously and handled with just as much professionalism, why is it that Self-Publishers invest as little money, time, and effort as possible in this very important field? Why is it that everything must be free for us to trust it? The first article is very interesting in that we may be coming upon a time where authors have to pay for reviews or invest some kind of payment. While I hope not, article two is a great conversation starter into why this may be the case for our future considering Self-Publishing is an act of entrepreneurship.

Amazon is changing things obviously because of the level of fraud out there, and we can be sure that giving away books for free in exchange for reviews is bound to change with every 5 star rating given to an obviously crappy book. While I’m hoping this won’t be the case, the truth is that amazon has a reputation to uphold  and like every other wise business person or company, understands that  free does not always guarantee quality. It’s the reason we pay more for name brands because we know that what we’re getting is top quality.

How does this relate to being true to yourself?

I like thinking differently and speaking on subjects that make people scratch their heads. It is what makes me who I am. I don’t have to be like you, think like you, or agree with you. This is an attitude we should all have. Otherwise, you can be easily influenced by others opinions and thoughts. In short, you have no vison and no goal, and the reason behind your actions is empty.

So, you wanna start a blog? Then do it with authority. Own your words and stand by your decisions and your goals. So what if you’re a nobody, so was Oprah at one point in her life. So was Stephen King, and so was your beloved JK Rowling. Pay no mind to what others say or think of you and never ever depend on man to validate you. Stay true to yourself and why you set out to embark on the journeys to which you find yourself. People fall in love with other people, not echoes. What is success? You choose. Dare to be different. Change the game.

5 Reasons We Doubt (And Why We Shouldn’t)

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  1. Belief – We have no faith. Period. We invest more in our problems than we do in possibilities. We spend more time thinking about the bad stuff before the good stuff which ultimately leads to stress. In addition, our unbelief tends to lead us to wait until we get what we want before having joy. Why do you have to wait until you get the job to appreciate the job? Why wait until you are acknowledged for a skill to nurture or appreciate the skill? We wait when we should rejoice on the way. Rejoice during the journey, not just afterward.
  1. Fear – Fear is the biggest reason for doubting because there is no fear in faith. Our fears vary. Could be the fear of rejection from others or a fear of failure. In any event, it is not something that we so easily notice or that we even care to admit to but it’s there. At the root of not doing our best is the fear of something. I remember when I was a little girl and I got into this fight. I hurt this person so badly that I didn’t want to fight anymore. I literally restrained myself from it. I didn’t take up for myself sometimes. I let people pick on me, and push me around.

My secret wasn’t that I was afraid to fight. My secret was that I was afraid of my own strength. I didn’t want to hurt anyone and I was afraid that I’d do just that. Sometimes our fears are not because we know that we will fail (although that too), but that we will succeed and what that will mean for our future, for with great authority comes greater responsibility. What will it mean for us to be who we were ordained to be? For many of us, the answer’s a frightening one. But look at it this way: You cannot turn a light on and off simultaneously. You have to either have the light turned on or turned off because light and dark cannot coexist. Likewise, fear and faith cannot coexist. You will either be fearless or you’ll always be afraid. Afraid of what others will say. Afraid of what others will think, and afraid of how your light will make others feel. That’s a terrible way to live.

  1. Disagreements – Also known as criticisms, one major cause of doubts comes from disagreements among others. Who remembers the Ach Conformity Experiment? A series of studies performed in the 1950s that demonstrated the power of conformity in groups. These are also known as the “Asch Paradigm”. In one such experiment, there were five men who were to perform a very basic task: Match the line on the left with the line on the right. It was something your three-year-old can do. Four of the men were agents, people in on the program. They matched the line on the left with the incorrect line on the right. The subject knew they were all wrong but because they were the majority he chose the same wrong answer.

Even though he knew everyone’s answer was wrong, because they were all on accord and he wasn’t he doubted himself and chose the wrong answer. Remember, let no one make a prey of you through philosophy and empty deceit. But as it happens, as soon as the majority shake their heads and say to themselves, “How foolish of us”, that’s it. One minute you’re confident and hopeful and as soon as the slightest wind of a disagreement comes along we are done. Boom. Over. Joy depleted. Spirits crushed. Dreams deferred. However, remember this if you remember nothing else: Beware when all men speak well of you. Every great person who has ever stood for something was mocked, laughed at, teased, and assumed to be foolish by his or her contemporaries.

  1. No Support – Usually from feeling isolated, almost just as bad as disagreements among others is no support at all. This can leave a big gaping hole of doubt in our minds. The feeling is so great that it can lead to sadness and depression. This causes a doubt that can be very dangerous as we can miss our purpose putting off what we were built to do because a lack of support gave the perception that it was not for us at all. The truth is that it just wasn’t the right time. Why wasn’t it the right time? Well, that depends but it could be that you were not in a place to do it. Could be that you were not mature enough to carry it through. There is always a reason for why things happen in our lives and if we stop trying to change what we have no control over we won’t be as stressed. As Einstein once said, “I am thankful to all those who said NO. Because of them, I did it myself.”
  1. Mistakes – A big cause of doubt is failing. Mistakes leave huge stains on our spirit and sometimes cause us to give up altogether. It also ceases us from trying again or thinking we had it in the first place. The truth is that sometimes you have to be torn down to be built back up. Remember that it is not being knocked down that makes the difference but staying down. I believe the man who has fallen seven times and stood up eight is a greater man in the end than he who has never fallen.

Holding onto Hope – Owning Your Blog / Writing

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I decided to take a much-needed break from revising my manuscript and sat down to watch a couple episodes of Fringe (now my new favorite TV show. Yes, I know, it came out years ago but I’m new to this). After retiring to my bed and scrolling through Pinterest I was forced to deal with the thought that has been lingering in the back of my mind. The thought was doubt and as I struggled to ignore it, I knew eventually I’d have to face this beast, stop being lazy, and rid it from my consciousness.

As I sit here, typing this, I know I would reread it gazillion times before drafting it in WordPress. I will then preview it a billion more times when it’s drafted in WordPress and I’ll be sure to choose the Justified button for my paragraphs so they look nice and neat. If it’s anything like my usual posting, it’ll be revised in the draft five to six times before I actually push publish and even then I’ll go back to reread it as if I’m not the person who wrote it. I’ll read it on my laptop and then again on my mobile just to make sure it’s formatted correctly. I’ll probably then proceed to share it on social media and go look at it. You know, just to see if it looks right.

If this sounds a bit OCD, then diagnose me now because it’s not an embellishment. Yet despite how hard I strive to ensure the proper crafting and delivering of content online, I sit here and find myself the victim of “what if?” The truth is that I am on the brink of stepping outside of that comfort zone and I’m starting to wonder if I’m good enough. Will the confidence I know I need as a writer be mistaken for arrogance?

Can I be trusted with the responsibility of giving advice or do my readers scan my posts and think that I’m a fool? Yes, I know these thoughts aren’t true and yet, I found myself embracing the possibility that maybe I look silly writing about things that others are so much more knowledgeable of. I sit here and I publish a post with the passion and the authority necessary to own it and yet, I cannot help but wonder.

But then I got a wake-up call. One from Emily Dickerson and one from Verily Mary.

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

I realized as I read these words, that if I am to accomplish anything of significance at all, then I must buckle down, rooting myself in hope, the songbird of my soul. As one of my sister’s so eloquently put it, “Hope is your anchor. Stay tied down in your faith.”

Additionally, this was solidified by a post I ran across prior to writing this post. As I stated, I was scrolling through Pinterest and discovered the blog of Verily Mary. Specifically, her post on:

Truths Every Self-Expressive Writer with a Blog Needs to Hear

…brought me back. I’ve always published posts on this blog with a certain level of ownership and I realized after reading Mary’s post that it’s not about being puffed up and proud (which I make a consistent effort to stay away from at all cost), but only that writers must own their writing with that same level of authority and devout seriousness or we won’t make it.

Tonight I was reminded that if you know you put your all into something (not just your C work, but your genuine all), then there is no need to feel shame. Mary’s words, like my sister’s, spoke life and I offer them to you with the hope that they’ll inspire you the same as they inspired me. Hold onto Hope and never give up:

“I say all of this to say be gentle with yourself when you write online. Aim for excellence while understanding that you are a different beast altogether when it comes folks like you writing in the blogging world. Your writing may be just as meditative and self-reflective as it is logical and analytical. And just because your type of brand or niche is not as saturated or mainstream does not make it less valid. Keep playing your heartstrings and continue to let their songs spill over on your blogs. Whether 10 people or 1000 people hear them, they still make a sound. And in the end, that is what truly matters.” – Mary, Writer, Blogger