Weight

Photo by henri meilhac on Unsplash

They say it’s the ones with the dirtiest hands pointing the finger. That the world is fake on social media, where we hold our masks together long enough to log off. People pointing fingers and laughing at their neighbors while they pretend to be someone else…until no one’s looking. We forget that integrity is less about what you post and more about your heart. Is it in sync? What of our actions behind each others backs? Studying is not for taking pictures of scripture but for showing yourself approved. Bibles are not meant to be in pictures and blamelessness is not a selfie. To be upright for the sake of a post is not integrity. So unless your presence here is a reflection of your true self, that armor you’re carrying is not armor. It is weight. The unnecessary burden of trying to fit in when you were meant to stand out.

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Be my guest: Yecheilyah Ysrayl – Platforms Made Easy – A Simple Look at Platform Building for Aspiring Authors

My guest post on building platforms. (I am off today. Will share across social media tonight).

*Comments disabled here. Meet me on the other side!*

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

a-simple-look-at-platform-buildingNote: This article can apply to ANYONE just starting a business, not just writers, who would like to understand more about platform building. Just replace writer / author with your profession.

Platform building is not something we writers want to hear about AGAIN. Honestly, we all really just want to write books, publish them, and then crack open bottles of wine to celebrate. Next, we wait. And wait. And wait. What are we waiting for? We’re waiting for the readers to come of course, isn’t everyone? No. Some people have readers before they even come out with a book flocking to their Amazon pages or Author websites to buy. Some people do not have to build a fan base after they’ve published a book, tweet until their fingers ache, or spam their family and friends on Facebook. Some people seem to just have thousands of readers already lined up at…

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Basics Every Indie Author Needs Before Publishing a Book – Guest Post…

I need to get my time zones right! Lol. The Story Reading Ape has surprised me once again with the publishing of my Guest Post. *Comments disabled here. Meet me on the Ape’s blog!*

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

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When I published my first book, I didn’t see my writing as a business. It was just me doing what I’ve always wanted to do. However, as I began to learn and as I continue to learn, I quickly discovered why Self-Publishing requires so much work: It’s a business.

That doesn’t take away from the fun of it, but the realization did help me to become more organized. I quickly learned why no one was buying: I wasn’t working! Writing is working, technically, and I was doing plenty of that. However, I was not working on the skill of writing, researching my industry, understanding tips to help me to write better books, promoting, marketing, and everything in-between. I was writing, sure. But the business of writing? I didn’t even know it existed. I was a writer and that was all. When I got into the business of writing however, that’s…

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How to Personalize Your Posts (Without Telling Your Business)

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If you’re like me, you’ve wondered how to be as genuine as possible in writing online but without being too personal. I understand some people are extremely open but I’m not. Telling my personal business is not something I do in real life, let alone online. However, to relate to people does require some level of openness. How does one balance this? Here’re some things I’ve tried doing on this blog to help you to relate to me personally without being too detailed:

  1. Talk to Us, Not at Us

You are not my fans and this is not a stage. We hear it over and over again the importance of writing in a conversational manner. This means to approach your blog as if the people reading (that’s us) are actually sitting right across from your breakfast table sipping coffee or maybe sitting on the couch laughing and you’re having a conversation. This is recommended because it makes your posts read more genuine than the business-like tone (unless your post is strictly business-like). I’d recommend this for your email lists as well.

  1. Share Experiences / Admit Mistakes

This really helps us to remember that you’re not a robot programmed to schedule posts. We’ve all been through things in our life that has provided us with much to share. I’m sure many of us are over twenty-one and have tons of stories and life lessons to give. There’s no such thing as being “qualified” to give advice. No one has walked your shoes so no one can tell the stories or share the wisdom that you share. It’s like writing. While we can certainly share information, resources, and tips, why you write is a separate matter. No one can define this for you. It’s a different journey in and of itself. In any event, sharing experiences certainly gives your blog a more personal feel to it. With this comes admitting to your mistakes. It will take lots of courage to admit to a mistake you made in private let alone in public but this can be balanced with what you are learning from that mistake to create a nice personal touch. In this way, you’re not just whining but offering something of value to your blog without over doing it. It also showcases humility.

  1. Show Emotion

I’ve found that some of my best posts are the ones where I am showing emotion. This isn’t to say that I’m writing you tears or cursing someone out. That’s extra. Showing emotion just means that you are being real. Even the strongest person is going to get frustrated sometimes or hurt or experience doubt. It doesn’t make you weak or unfaithful, it just makes you real. It’s OK to use your blog to vent a little bit. Not to the point where you’re out of control but just enough to show vulnerability. Again, this isn’t weakness, its realness. We struggle every day and hiding that struggle only makes you look like a phony. No, you do not have it all together and even if you do some days are not going to be easy. Readers can relate to this kind of stuff and it helps to build a stronger bond with us. You never know who is reading your blog and gaining from your strength.

  1. Family Photos / Updates

No, I’m not talking about why your sister in law’s baby cousin Tracy slept with your best friend. That’s telling you and someone else’ business. I’m just talking about a little family update now and again. (Maybe you just got married for instance) Posting family photos or giving family updates is a great way to connect with readers. Again, it’s a personal thing but not over the top. Maybe you just had an anniversary, bought a house, or took a family trip. What was it like? Did you enjoy yourself? This makes readers feel closer to you and as a result, closer to your blog.

  1. Personality

This seems obvious but it really can pass us by as we settle into our blog niches and routines (I don’t really do the niche thing. I blog about whatever moves me). Your personality is your character and not many people showcase their character in their post but this is a nice personal touch without going all out. Even in business type posts, it’s OK to implement some persona. Are you funny? Sarcastic? Serious? These attributes should come across in your writing because it’s you. It helps readers get to know you in a very personal but not too personal way. By very personal I mean that people understand what you like and what you don’t like. They know what makes you upset and what makes you laugh. They get to know you because who you are  will shine through your writing.

  1. News Articles and Third Party Links

They say 90% of communication is non-verbal. This means that most of who you are do not come through in your words but in your actions (i.e. actions speak louder than words). When you share content from others, even news, you are showing a part of yourself. If you pay attention, you can discern the persona or the thoughts of bloggers who rarely blog about how they are feeling because you can see them in the third party information that they share. I can see it in your quotes, your re-blogs, and your links. You may not say much, but I see you. I see you in your actions. I feel when you are in disagreement because the contention is dripping from your energy. I can feel your nose turned up into the air and almost see your head shake. I know because I can smell the aura on your breath and not even the best perfume, cologne, or craftily arranged words will hide it.

  1. Music

What is more personal than music? If actions show your true self, then music is a mirror. The inspiration behind my Throwback Thursday Jams is my attempt at showing another side of myself on this blog other than writing. It is my way of opening up. Not to the extent that I’m talking too much, but just enough for you to get to know me a little more. If you’re still not sure how to be more personal, talking about the kind of music you like or any kind of art is a great way to connect with others.

I can probably think of so many other ways in which we can get personal in our blog post (sharing recipes is another one) without telling our business but I’d like to hear your thoughts as well so I’ll stop here. To be clear, when I say personal I’m not talking about personal in the sense that we tend to think of it. I’m not saying to gossip about your neighbor or tell us that your nephew is homeless. I’m not saying to “sneak diss” someone you didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to approach personally, and I’m not talking about posting about how your rent was due but your husband or wife couldn’t pay the bill. By personal, I just mean to incorporate a dash of persona, a pinch of emotion, and a sprinkle of humility in each post. Let us know that you’re real.

4 Simple Ways Not to Headline Your Blog Post

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I’m writing you on my phone as I am in the midst of travel. This is my second city this weekend, transitioning from The Windy City to Memphis TN before back home again. So you’ll have to excuse any grammatical errors in this post. I’ll edit this later (don’t judge me).

Last year, I wrote an article on 5 Creative Ways to Headline Your Blog Post.

Today, I feel compelled to follow up. No, I’m not a blog expert. I am however tired of seeing poor blog headlines. A blog is not your personal diary. A blog is public. Yes, this means hundreds and thousands of people are potentially reading it. Yes, this means you may want to rethink your presentation. No, having thousands of followers doesn’t mean you’re doing it right either.

I know people blog for fun, that’s cool. I also know people blog privately. I don’t understand that. Blog and private just aren’t compatible. Nothing online is private, not even what you think you deleted. Think of a newspaper headline. Your blog is today’s newspaper. Its also your first impression.

#1. Capitalize

At minimum, be sure to capitalize the first letter in your first word and the first letter in your last word.

Ex. I love Cookies

I tend to capitalize the first letter in all of my words (with the exception of a “to” here or a “the” there). It looks neat and professional this way.

Ex. I Love Cookies

#2. Spelling

If you proofread nothing else, proofread your headlines. If words in your headline aren’t spelled correctly its a bad first impression to the rest of the article. Blog Headlines are the first thing that draw readers in. In every post I open daily, it begins with my interest in the title. What makes me click onto the blog site? The title alone begs me to ask one question: “Why should I read this NOW?”

#3. Ditch The Hashtags

I know I’m gonna get a lot of flak for this but it is what it is and like I say, there are no rules for blogging. At least not that I know of. However, too many Hashtags in a headline are annoying.

Hashtags are great when it comes to sharing on social media, yes, but when you read news articles online, rarely do they include hashtags. It just looks extremely unprofessional in my humble opinion. Hashtags don’t belong in blog titles, they belong in the tag section of the post. Will they drive more attention? For social sites like Twitter, sure. Like I said, I’m no expert so I’m not saying it doesn’t work. Yes, your post title will come up if someone searches that hashtag. Possibly. And yes, word on the street is that hashtags help with auto tweets. The question is, however, if it works, just how effective is it?

I have not, to date, discovered data that indicates usage of hashtags in the blog title increases the visibility of the post beyond the tags we already have. Understand what I am saying here. I am not saying they don’t increase visibility. I am saying that thought Hashtags makes it useful for social sharing, there is no data that I’ve seen that indicates this these Hashtags (those in the headline) produces a better result  than tagging your blog post the traditional way. That is, attaching them to the tag portion of the post in the WP dashboard. The problem is not one or maybe even two hashtags. The thing that makes them so unattractive is the four, five, and six hashtags as the headline to a post.

Four, five, and ten hashtags in a blog post is a turn off. One hashtag is OK if you must include tags.

I know we use them to draw more attention to our blogs, but coming up with attractive blog headlines is part of the experience and using hashtags just seems like a cop out, especially for writers. Writing is what you do. Come up with an attractive blog headline for your post instead of a bunch of sloppy looking and unexciting tags.

#4. Too Lengthy

Entire quotes, complete sentences, and whole paragraphs don’t belong in blog post headlines. Its extremely unattractive to readers and makes us exhausted before getting to the article. The purpose is to create blog headlines that make us click on to your blog site. If you’ve given us the entire post in a title, what’s the point? Keep in mind also that even if we like the quote, we can do this through the reader. This means though liking the post, we have not visited the blog which defeats the purpose or at least to me.

I don’t just want you to preview me, I want to gain views by producing quality content that compels readers to click on to my blog site. If readers enjoy their visit with me, I hope to gain subscribers. I am not here to play games. I am here to win. Are you?

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Negro Spirituals

Welcome Back to Black History Fun Fact Friday. Today we’re talking about Negro Spirituals.

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“Go down Moses
Way down in Egypt’s land
Tell ole
Pharaoh
To let my people go!”

Negro Spiritual front 1638When you take someone and make them a slave, the first thing you must do is take away their identity. Starting with the removal of the name, you take away all traces of their former selves. You do not just remove a people from their environment, but you remove those things that influence that environment. The slave must have no connection to his former self least he realize he is a slave. If the slave realizes he is a slave, you will have a hard time keeping him in a perpetual state of captivity.

maxresdefaultDuring slavery in the United States, there were systematic efforts to strip the identity of the captive. As such slaves were forbidden from speaking their native tongue and generally converted to Christianity. When the so-called African was taken from the West coast of Africa, it was not a simple transition of country, to ship, to land, but he had to undergo an entire initiation process before stepping foot on the plantations of America. His name, being the most important, was taken from him, his way of life stripped from him, and his history book taken from him. In turn he was given the religion of his slave masters, and his new name reflected the name of their gods. He was made into a Negro.

Being unlawful for the Negro to read and to write, the Negro Spiritual becomes an intriguing study of its own. How did a people who were not allowed to read the bible sing songs with such deep spiritual concepts?

pickingcottonThe words of the earliest known Negro spirituals are taken directly from biblical scripture, are very much poetic, and can be considered in the truest form the literal Spoken Word. The passion in which these songs were sung most certainly adds to the rhythm, texture, melody, tempo, variation, and emotional depth of words. So much so that we must understand that the power in which these songs were sung did not come from a people who made stuff up along the cotton filled aisles of Mississippi and Alabama. These songs were sung with such power because of a people who lived them.

Wade in the Water
Wade in the Water children
Wade in the Water…
See that band all dressed in white….
The leader looks like that Israelite…
See the band all dressed in red…
Looks like the band that Moses led…

MosesIf one was to study the Physical Appearance of the ancient Israelites one will see that they were a dark skinned people. Moses, Abraham, The Prophets and even the Messiah, would have looked like your typical Negro had they walked the earth today. Wade in the Water is a very revealing song, and for this reason it has been revised over and over again. But the original song is a very revealing one. It even compares the captivity of the Israelites to the Captivity of the African who has been brought to a new Egypt, only this time in ships.

runaway-slaves-on-underground-railroadBut the Negro Spiritual did more than reveal factual information that talked about the Old Testament; it was also a way of communication for the slaves who could not otherwise communicate under normal circumstances. Wade in the water was one of those songs that gave hint to the runaway to go into the water when he is being chased. He goes into the water because the dogs will lose track of his scent. Therefore, if he is being hunted down he is being told to “Wade in the Water”.

The same is true for “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, which was also a song of dual meaning:

“I looked over Jordan,
And what did I see,
Comin for to carry me home
A band of angels comin after me
Coming for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Comin forth to carry me home;
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Comin forth to carry me home

Swing Low Sweet Chariot is a very powerful song. It is not a song about dying and going neither to heaven, but this song could only be sung by people who knew what they were talking about, and who had great biblical understanding. In brief, we see that it echoes the lyric of Revelations which talks about the New Jerusalem coming down like a bride adorned for her husband (‘looked over Jordan’ what’s over Jordan? Israel is over Jordan) and about the messiah coming down with his bands of angels in a chariot.

On the other hand, Swing Low was also a song about The Underground Railroad. Swing low, Sweet Chariot also refers to Ripley, a “station” of the underground railroad where fugitive slaves were welcomed. But this town was on a hill by Ohio River, which is not easy to cross. So, to teach this place, fugitives had to wait for help coming from the hill. “Swing low, sweet chariot.

“Halleluyah I’m a travelin

Halleluyah ain’t it fine?

Halleluyah I’m a travelin

down freedom’s main line”

– 1961 Freedom Song

Negro Spirituals did not stop at slavery, but for every movement of African American people, each was followed by a certain cultural theme. The times did not change without a change in tune, in clothing, in hair style, and in thought. From the plantations of chattel slavery to Jim Crow and Civil Rights, to Black Power and Revolution, every movement we have been or are a part of, has had its own unique sound that taught you something about the state of Black people during that time, about the movement and even how to move. Our music is therefore in a sense always an extension of The Negro Spiritual.

Thank you for stopping by for this week’s episode of Black History Fun Fact Friday. Here is last week’s episode in case you missed it:

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Blog Photos: I Scared Myself Away From My Own Post

OK, you may want to sit down for this one.

A couple weeks ago (or was it last week?? LOL), whenever it was, I had a blogger to comment on a post I wrote asking me to go into more detail concerning photos in a blog post. I never consider myself a “blogging pro” or “advice giver” so her question made me feel very positive about the post as feedback often does. Here’s her question and my response:

Q. Can you share more about your thought that sometimes pictures can take away from a post?

My response:

Sure. Pictures are a great way to compliment a blog post but photos in blog posts is about strategy and not just decoration. If the pictures don’t tie in well with the article it can take away from the written content and become a distraction. Photos chosen should have the potential to reveal something about the post even if there were no words because images set the tone for the post itself. Sometimes I decide not to include pics because I want the focus on the words and a photo in this sense can just be distracting. All in all bad image choices can have a great impact on how people see our blogs. 

This morning I did not intend on writing this post, but after scrolling through the reader I experienced something that validates just how important photos are in a blog post. I scared myself away from my own post.

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Yesterday, I wrote a post that included a picture of Flavor Flave. When I scrolled through the reader this morning I was shocked to see that photo front and center on my timeline associated with that blog post (go ahead, take a look). I startled myself because I would not have chosen for that picture to be the one used to feature the post. As I opened with “We all have our favorites…” needless to say Flavor Flave was not a good look. I do not nor have I ever been a fan. I do not take back my thoughts in the article and using the photo in the post did look good when I drafted it because it represents what I was speaking about, but it did not mix well with my opening statements or as an advertisement for the post in the reader.

Did I say advertise? Yes. It may not seem important at the time, but photos in blog posts tend to act as promotional items for our blogs before people actually click to see what the post is about. I wouldn’t say to stress out about it, but whether or not people are clicking to tune into our blogs have a lot to do with the way that people think in general and we all know by now (c’mon, say it with me) “Pictures are worth a thousand words”. Just keep in mind that the first picture used in the post will more than likely be the photo that stands front and center as representative of your post. My little experiment proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that image choices is not just about what looks good, but it is also about strategy because the photography tends to set the mood for the article itself. The photos you use in your post can have the potential to downgrade the quality of the article if it does not blend well with the written content.

Experiment: Conduct your own experiment. Write a blog post and use an image, any image. Go back to the reader and see which one shows up! If your not too chicken to risks a few likes and views, this can help you to see  how the pictures in the post shows up when people are actually scrolling through the reader.