Tag Archives: writing

filling in the cracks

aj It is time…

Last year, part of a major self-care overhaul in my life included buying tickets to a women’s writing conference in South Carolina. I leave again early Thursday morning… on a plane… just me and my books for 4 days.

Molly and Miriam are helping me split the hotel costs. Both are old souls to me, but we’ve never lived together for more than 12 hours. Curt thought it might be a good idea to let them in on a few particulars:

  1. There will be no sleep for Katie before 1am. She may get IN bed at 9:30pm, but that means Scandal is on, baseball is on, or she is reading. Or all three. Very possibly all three.
  2. Speaking of the tv- if you turn it on, Katie will adjust the volume so that it’s on an odd number.
  3. Katie wakes up slower than any other person on earth. It’s not personal. There will be no complete sentences within the first hour.
  4. Katie wakes up super slow but can be ready in about 4 minutes. Hold the elevator. She will not be late.
  5. There shall be no whistling at any time.
  6. Coke and Chinese food are the go-to saves for a rough day or incredibly awkward moment.
  7. Katie can read minds, body language, and between the lines. It’s super annoying.
  8. Large crowds can cause unexpected bailing. Do not be alarmed if your roommate disappears for a bit. She’s in a hallway somewhere or taking a nap.
  9. If you have candy, she will eat all your red and orange pieces.
  10. Katie is not fan of ironing, but it’s her spiritual gift. If you need to be fancy and you show up with a Coke in-hand, she’ll work her magic for you.

Fall has been a wild ride for this family. I feel like we haven’t really stopped to breathe since August. I’m so excited for a little time away to clear my head, do a little focused writing, and sit with friends. I need to eat food I have not made myself and be out of arm’s reach of small sticky fingers. I would like to use a bathroom that locks and take a shower without stepping on foam alphabet letters.

I need to fill in a few minor cracks in the self-care department, amen? I can’t wait to hear stories that challenge me to be a better storyteller, meet other women building tiny kingdoms, and laugh late into the night over chips and salsa.

What are you doing to fill in the cracks?

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and then came the light

daisy

The only reason why anything virtuous or lovely survives in us is this: ‘the Lord was there.’ -Spurgeon

Oh, but there is unfiltered beauty in the broken church. It’s a living, breathing thing with seasons of change like everything else. It is a collection of flawed people carrying not he work of a flawless God. There will always be disappointment, failing, and selfishness. I know this because these things thrive in me… why am I surprised to see them in the church at large? Being dedicated to Good does not protect you from harm. It only means we will not be lost forever. Just when you think there is no revival left,

Your child speaks truth and gives new life to the dying.

The widower calls and offers you more than flowers your time of need.

A friend binds your physical wounds.

Your flawed service helps unpack a new home for old friends.

The imperfect church shows up, every day, in grand and minute form. As difficult as it is to have those fiery conversations, to feel the bruise of neglect… I count it all joy to be on this journey. May it lead me ever closer to Christ.

The damage has been done because we have listened to others talk about Jesus and have stopped reading the Scriptures. – Father Mike Endicott

Most of us don’t need peculiar insights into new truth as much as we need to be reminded of the things that have been taught to us for a long time. -Alistair Begg

In the midst of both inner and outer chaos, I am reminded to sharpen my view. To look up instead of around. To go back to the basics. He is not hidden, He is risen. And we are not doomed to failure but, God helping us, destined for glory. It is a bumpy and winding and long journey.

It’s simply time to resole my shoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Branding 101

The writing conference I attended last month offered sessions that wandered through every area of writing: faith, publishing, iPhone photography, earning money with ads, WordPress setup, telling hard stories. The options basically broke down into to categories: the practical and the abstract. Naturally I migrated to the wild and dreamy… the digger deeper and tell better stories. I went to the sessions that offered information and heart I couldn’t look up on google.

BUT

I did attend one pragmatic session. I did. Pick yourself up off the floor. I even took notes for you.

I always placed “branding” in the realm of unnecessary unless you are selling something. So when I saw that Holley Gerth, a virtual mentor of mine and co-founder of (in)courage, I was intrigued. What could branding possibly have to do with me-a girl with no agent, no market savvy, and no dreams of earning a living through blogging?

Holley says branding is simply about being trustworthy. THIS? This is a concept I like. A brand is a promise that you will be the same wherever readers find you… be it your blog, a guest post, an etsy shop, or a facebook or instagram or twitter post. Being consistent builds trust.

Branding is sitting down sitting down and defining the basics of… you, in this case. As a writer who is not necessarily selling something tangible, branding is about creating a space that visually reflects your message, your heart.

The girl who loved the first day of school with the new backpacks and school supplies and possibility… that girl who geeks out on fresh notebook paper and felt pens and organizing? That girl was excited about this kind of thinking. It would help me… and anyone… be a little more focused on who I was and where I was going each time I sat down to write. Being a bit more intentional with defining my “brand” would help me weed out stories and threads that weren’t great fits and maybe open the gates to new areas I have been holding back on.

So here are my notes on how to carve out a space- a consistent, virtual space and brand– whether you are writing for your mom or your neighborhood or your world.

goodtimes

Ask yourself: what are your strengths in life? Are you brave? Smart? Funny? Capable? Consistent? Kind? A great cook? Encouraging? A decent photographer? Humble? Bold? Simple? Creative? Empathetic?

How do you love to express those strengths? Writing? Hospitality? Gift-giving? Music? Building things?

Who do your strengths most benefit? New moms? Women? Young families? Parents of teens? Working folks? Retired folks? People in mourning? Crafters?

What do others say about you? Ask people you love to give you three adjectives that describe you. Add these to your STRENGTHS list if they aren’t there already.

Now, as a writer… a blogger a journal-er a freelance wordsmith… who are your readers? Think about basics: gender, age, faith stage, heart characteristics. You have a hub- a network of people- that make up your readership. You’re the center of a wheel… what kind of people do you reach and overlap with? [resource to check out: GammaWomen.com]

Think about what those readers need. There is only one you. You fill a very specific void in this world, whether your voice is small, medium, or large. So think about those readers you defined up above and now consider what they are looking for: Encouragement? Teaching? Truth? Hope? Humor?

Why are you called to communicate right now? Holly says to write to the audience you have TODAY. You can only write about what you know.

Now that we’ve got a bit of a handle on your strengths and your general audience, let’s look at the brand part of things.

What promise are you making to your readers?

What 3 brands/authors/blogs do you love?  What key words come to mind when you think about them? What is it specifically that you like about them?

Who else is called, too? Who are the people driving the same wagon you are? How can you partner with them? Social networking is great for this: you love to cook and take pictures, you read/meet others who love to cook and take pictures, and suddenly you have a neighborhood of friends who can share ideas and information together.

What does your brand look like? Like, ACTUALLY look like? Think colors, patterns, photos. Think of your words and then how you would express those words visually. A new mom blog is probably not going to be decorated with construction clip art, you know? Not sure what your words look like? Make a private Pinterest board and starting saving photos of things you like: fonts, formatting, colors… anything. After a month, pull up that board and start looking for common threads. Those repeating themes you see are what you’re drawn to and are a great place to start.

What is your mission as a writer?

I [what] [who] through [how] so that they [why].

Holley fills in the blanks like this: I encourage women through words so they grow into all God created them to be.

She holds everything up to that mission to see if it fits. While there’s always room to stretch or even change it, having a mission statement gives you somewhere to start.

A brand is just a way to be consistent and focused. Don’t let fear or lies or comparison steer you away from the idea that a brand could be a very useful in creating trust and focus in your writing. 

And there you have it: Branding 101.

Next time we talk about branding, it will be from the farming perspective, which, funny enough, isn’t all that different from the writing perspective.

Now for a focus group study:

What comes to mind when you think of Apple Pie, Anyone? or TexasNorth?

An honest comment will enter you in a drawing for a giveaway of Gari Meacham’s new book, Watershed Moments.

[Comments are closed! A winner will be announced Monday, December 2nd.]


the view from here

There’s a game I do with all of my ropes groups… adults, kids, teachers, doctors, fellow guides, everyone. The people form a circle, and I bring out a huge box filled with huge wooden puzzle pieces. Each person grabs a piece and then the group puts the puzzle together. Sometimes, we do this several times, changing the rules with each turn. No talking this time. Boys are blindfolded. It’s an easy problem, and it’s always solved quickly.

The discussion afterwards can take much longer. Often we end up talking about it the rest of the day in-between other events and lunch and progress. There’s the obvious: everyone’s a piece of the puzzle. If someone opts out, it’s not complete. We all have a part to play, a purpose. And there’s the backseat question… the one that sits in your pocket and rides around for awhile:

What piece are you?

Are you a corner piece? Visible? Easily distinguishable and placed?

Maybe your a border piece. You’re known, you lead, but your in-line with others.

And maybe, just maybe, your in the middle. Somewhere… with the majority of the pieces. Perhaps there’s a funny angle that sets you apart… but, for the most part, you’re in the middle. Not easily seen. Literally in the thick of things. Important, but not on display.

Do you like your piece? Do you dream of being more? Of being less?

the Colonel

This is a common view for me.

I am the person you call when you need someone to follow you home because your brake lights don’t work. I’m the friend who rides along to a Phish concert and (safely) escort you home afterwards. I’m really decent on a tow strap. I can steer and brake and coast appropriately, keeping the lines taut but not too taught. Giving room, taking wide corners.

I’m an excellent motorcycle passenger with no plans to drive alone. I’m the backup singer with no desire to be a soloist. I LOVE to be up there on stage, but do not let the moment ride on me. I will melt.

I’m solid in the garage, but keep me away from under the hood. You need a crescent wrench? I can find that for you. A Phillips screwdriver? I know the difference. I can’t fix your car, but I can hand you the right tools.

I can belay you up a wall or tower or pole and talk you through hours of communication exercises, but it’s you who does the work. I’m just the guide.

I stand somewhere in the middle. Not in front, but not last. Not unnoticed, but not irreplaceable.

I am so very ok with that.

I spent a lot of time thinking I wasn’t. This world credits the stand-outs, the book deals, the loud stories, the extreme, the visible. We are taught to fight for the front, and we ache to be seen.

I realize now I have no desire to be seen.

I would, however, crawl on glass to be heard.

I spent so much time when I was younger sorting through feelings of wanting to be more… more something. I assumed, like anyone would, that I wanted be seen. I sought the part. The clothes. The job. The microphone. The followers.

I’ve had those chances to be in front. To be the corner piece. To be on the stage in the spotlight. And they all fell short of the thrill of speaking and being HEARD. Of writing and making sense. Of sharing and being found. Of being just BEYOND the glare of the spotlight.

My heart hurts when I look back at that girl who thought she wanted the wrong things. Who thought what she wanted wasn’t big enough, important enough, fancy enough. Aren’t you supposed to want everything? Say that you don’t and people assume you’re selling yourself short… that you don’t believe in yourself.

What that girl wanted- all she ever wanted- was to be heard. To tell the stories. To write true and honest and funny.  And that, for her, is exactly the right thing.

It’s not always about believing in yourself, which can change day by day. It’s more about knowing yourself.

Anais Nin said, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

Yes.

My view from here is busy with people and family and school and kids and friends. I am finally finding my voice. It just took a little practice and a little courage to start speaking out loud. I am holding steady in the middle.

It’s where I never knew I always wanted to be.


good-year

goodyear

[photo by Katie Mulder • Michigan, 2013]

She is a good-year house.

Her rooflines are irregular. They jump and and skip and drop with every addition.  She stretches and breathes into new hallways, new bedrooms, new pantries as Providence allows. A new baby is coming. The crop was good this year. The old barn came down and there’s free lumber to build the pantry, the bedroom, the back porch.

She is still through the hard times, and plans are made. Needs are obvious. Dreams are prayed out loud with shoulders touching at the dinner table and shoes piling up at the door. Next year… next year, Baby will move out of the basement and into her own room. Next season, that root cellar will be dug. In a good year. In a good year, she grows. But for now, she learns. She rests and she plans.

All in good time.

She is uncontainable in good years, laying more foundation claiming new ground. Adding onto the old. Complimenting the family, the needs, and the blessing.  In a good year, she grows. There is always room for more. The siding doesn’t match and the floor is uneven, but she is strong. There is room.

When, exactly, did you realize that you didn’t have to be built perfectly- whole- to be useful? Or even, FULL. When did you breathe that sigh of relief after understanding you are a work in progress? Maybe just now? We do not start this life ready for the parade. We start with the framing and we add as we go. As we learn. As we pray. As we live.

I am a good-year house.

I am still in the hard times and wild in plenty.

Lord, may I be a student of both… but may I be a JOYFUL house in-progress.

I am built for life, with life, as it changes and allows.