I Challenge You

Make me cry
Make me wonder
Give me chills, my
assumptions sunder.

Make me bellyache
and slap my lap, not
wince. Convince
me you’re the real deal.

Mix me a drink
Hold the sugar. I have
expensive taste, please –
richer, fuller

Teach me something high
or low, so much I don’t know
We don’t have to be in sync
but do make me think.

Quick! Erase the cliché
Wayfarer’s on her way
Oh mercy: rain…heaven’s tears?
She’s had it up to her ears.

Easy on the adverbs
Her sensibilities disturb
Impress or bless, but don’t bore her
when she’s willing to concur and confer.

But no one’s responding, you lament
Well, compel HW to comment.
Learn from her, this poem her worst yet
but see here the footprints of those who tread.

There is hope for all. Turn
around, if you’ve hit a wall.
If you knew how busy she is, this
challenge you wouldn’t dismiss.

Don’t post just to post. Wait
’til you can give your utmost.
Oh, don’t ring hollow
if you want her follow.

Seven Mental Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers

1. Think big.
I really have to start living the the way I’ve come to blog. On unsure terrain in those early days, I put out safe posts, ones within my interests. On homeschooling, for example. I felt assured I was “doing the right thing” looking like other bloggers. But gradually, I began to tap deeper into the ideas that really grabbed me. Last year, blogging stopped being a train of posts I shot out one at a time wondering what I’d write about next. Rather than post linearly, I started architecting this blog, figuring out how many floors (that is, topics) I would erect in the next six months, going backward to furnish the rooms (the posts for each topic). The blueprinting gave me direction, control, and purpose. But I didn’t stay bound to these plans. Plenty of posts arose from whimsy and those moments where life happen.

2. Stay flexible.
Stay tuned to your hot topics and see what you can do with them. Moving into 2014, I watched the post on Black Santa generate enthusiastic discussion and was reminded that everyone has something to say about race. It is, after all, as close to home as you can get. So I bit the bullet and launched the ambitious Race Around the World. The cultural tapestry we pieced together those 80 days gave way to more series. On class, identity, belonging, guilt, shame, money, opportunity, hope.

3. Stay happily discontent whether it’s wanting more out of your content or your subscriber base.
We never arrive, do we? And success, especially in cyberland, is an endless stretch of horizon. A word on unfollows. I’ve seen funny posts with bloggers screeching that they lost three followers. I value every reader, especially the active supporters, but feel dependent on none. You will get unfollows. It’s the ease and democracy of blogosphere where people come and go. Don’t pin desperate hopes on anyone. Set your sights higher, and higher still. I tend not to reach out to readers who seemed to have stepped away. I don’t want to obligate them to visit if they’ve moved on, though I often discover life pulled them away for a season. Or WordPress wiped me off their radar, an unfortunate glitch in our system.

4. Don’t play it safe.
The empty post page is a blank check I write myself. Create opportunity, for yourself as well as others, which can birth more opportunities. Twenty-two months ago I never imagined I’d host a forum where a worldwide community of artists and thinkers could share their history, fears, and dreams. Blogs are a safe place to test the boundaries that in life you may not be able to play with. Experiment, try new projects. You’re limited only by fear and imagination. Staying static is like painting your whole blog one color and keeping it that way.

5. Remember how small you are in blogging and in life.
There’s always someone with more readers, someone faster, smarter, more talented and savvy. You’re not all that, and neither am I. That’s why I try to keep it real. For all the rewriting I do here, I don’t want to end up editing my image when you’re coming to me with a level of trust in my honesty.

zimbio.com

zimbio.com

6. Know how big you can be.
Not only are quantity and quality not mutually exclusive, they can feed one another. Have you thought about why it is you want to grow your readership? The answer can be more meaningful and fulfilling than your own popularity, your ego. There is a satisfaction that comes from resonating with a larger crowd, degrees of insight and perspective a larger following can offer. You expand possibilities for yourself, viewers, and your community.

7. Know why you’re here.
I got chills watching him carve in the sky the triple somersault and half-twist before slipping clean into the water. Last summer, the commentator said of Gary Hunt who was known for his inventive cliff diving, “He knows exactly why he’s in the air.” The power, the grace. The hours and hours Hunt devoted in the search for his best self. In the writing, dreaming, collaborating, I’m exploring my capacity as an artist and a community builder. I create something bigger than me, something that extends beyond the bounds of my own life. The extraordinary discussions, synergy, stats were not my goals but the unexpected payoff of one simple purpose: excellence. I’ll never be a medalist but my blog is where I test my reach, and enjoy visible and lasting rewards for the time I put in. Know why you’re in the air and why you want to get there. Doesn’t have to be serious or profound but if you don’t know why you’re here, we don’t either.

 

But Everybody’s Doing It

This happens not to be how I view my blogging but this metaphor is built into every one of our blogs. You’ve all done sales. Every time you’ve recommended a book, movie, or restaurant, you were doing it. And every referral of yours that someone’s followed through on showed either your delivery was good or the product sold itself. Well, here you are self-employed as a blogger, your currency not dollars and cents but time. So why isn’t your blog growing as you’d like?

1. They don’t know you’re there.
I’ve seen you put up 800, 1200 impassioned words and I’d love to see you earn more than four likes. You obviously care about your blog. It looks good. You’re open for business. But it sure is quiet. If your livelihood were at stake, what would you have made sure to do before the Grand Opening and kept up? Right, advertise. I didn’t think this needed to be said again but are you visiting and engaging bloggers? Do better than I did. When I stepped out on WordPress, it was just my nose pressed to my words. I didn’t know to look up. Twenty-one months later, giving to get is how I neither blog nor live but if you’re offering decent material, Natural Cyber Law says you should enjoy some support back.

2. But they’re not buying.
There is a sense in which we’re all peddling our blog and asking passersby for their time. Our FOLLOW ME button betrays us in this hope. If your business plateaus, what do you do? The question really is what should you do differently? You change the marketing, move, rethink your niche or product. The product would be the last thing you touch in blogging because there are so many of us out here that a decent presentation should connect you with like-minded viewers. Through the wide range of topics I have covered, my offering comes down to my writing. My product – though I wrinkle my nose to say it that way – is every word I lay as carefully as a mother does her newborn in his cradle. If the idea of sales is too crass for you as it threatens to be for me, think of sponsorships. Sales is really the business of eliciting support for merchandise, service, or information, and sponsorships seek patronage usually on a larger scale or for artistic enterprises. Whether small or big, quantitative, or qualitative, patronage is payment in various forms for work considered worthy. In blogging, what you’re asking of us is our time. You either convince us you’ll make it worth our while or you don’t.

3. There’s nothing in it for them.
Remember, you’re not filling a private journal but seeking an audience. You scribble away zealously. You really want to write this, share that. But will it grab us? If you were someone else and stumbled on your blog, would you be impressed? Would you follow? I’m not talking about subscribing to your own blog to raise the count. I’m asking if you’d find any amusement, entertainment, beauty, insight, inspiration, intrigue, laughs, provocation, stimulation, information that’ll make you want more on that blog. Leave you actually looking forward to more.

the leaves of my poem

i chew the leaves of my poem
they fan green and spirited
in the height of their hour
veins visible like these 
that inscribe my hand, run
with the life of dreams 
that have nowhere to go but 
back  down   to the 
branch to the root
you don't see

look:
        their asymmetry of being

red oak stained with rain pollen
much like the blemishes on my face
t o r n  by time and caterpillars 
that become f u l l   and
bloom into butterflies

the leaves testify to all the seasons

green ash have weathered the wild 
waltz of wind and rain
hungry for the sun 
they drink from the clouds

i feel the laugh lines on the maple
and swallow their history -
    this one, curled copper
    like rusted edges but it's
just the candor of time 

grain and weave of memories 
cru n ch between my teeth
composition on my tongue
i chew the leaves of my poem


Poem Leaf

Blogging: I CAN Have It All

I started this blog as a writer and now am writing you as a blogger. Did you know I care about my numbers? Did you know I think my readership rocks, not just for the depth but for the size? I have readers who have bolted their seat to this blog. Anyone who wouldn’t want that, raise your hand. Anyone who would rather have 500 subscribers over 5000, feel free to leave the room. You’re not for real. In my miniseries on successful blogging, I said almost a year ago:

I discovered my blog would be an art gallery – at least an attempt at one. Not with paintings or photographs, but with words. And so the way I give birth to my posts fits that vision. If I had to choose between searching for the perfect word and befriending 20 new bloggers in a given window of time, there’d be no competition. Because my goal isn’t to bust the roof on my stats. My art will always trump the blogging.

The cool thing I’ve discovered is there really is no competition. I can have it all, stay as demanding of myself (and guests) in the art and keep drawing new readers who appreciate the masochism. Hec, I can even laugh. I realized my writing was a a bit stiff last year. As a reflection of my ease as a blogger and a way to bridge any distance between me and the reader, I now try to say something more simply where I did it more formally before. I’ve also allowed myself more liberty, not insisting that I hurt my brain in every darn post. I discovered it’s called having fun. With you. Who cares what I did, where I went this week? Many of you let me know you actually do, in this thing known as relationship. A reader graciously praised me for keeping my ego out of this blog. That’s not been hard, as A Holistic Journey has become something bigger than me.  Yes, I’ve worked my butt off but I can’t take full credit for what it’s become. I almost couldn’t name what I was seeing as I watched it grow. My blog was alive, this worldwide community of artists and thinkers who share their history, fears, and dreams. I feel closer to some of you than I do with people in my day-to-day. As I evolve, I’m seeing that quality and quantity in blogging can be friends.

So the 133 views on my About in the last seven days tell me I had a good number of new readers. This view count is our speedometer. Your comments will often come from faithful readers, your likes from them as well as the pop-ins. But it’s the stat on your About that marks those who’re checking out your blog and tells you if you’re walking in place or going somewhere. Sure, people can follow you without reading your intro but that number can help you gauge your growth. Whether folks are just passing through or staying depends a lot on the content of that page.

I tend not to make promises to myself because life happens. But a goal is not a promise that you’ll make it. It is a hope you launch into the air with the commitment to keep it in trajectory. When a year after I gained 100 followers I found myself with 3000, I shut my eyes and then dared to peek into the sun. I set a hesitant goal of doubling my subscribers by the next June. A pie-in-the-sky aspiration, with these time constraints.

Turns out I’m terrible at dreaming.

What I’d considered a goal laudably higher than my reach was more than doable. I see the sign for 6000 feet up ahead and climb steadily to touch the milepost in two weeks. I hope this encourages you in your blogging. Remember, I didn’t know which way was up when I set out last year. You’ve shown me enough love; I’d like to hear if anything here is helpful for your own blog. Though I’ve seen people plateau in the higher numbers, I think success feeds success. With some notable exceptions in our midst, it seems to get easier for most of us after the first 1000 followers. But I will never compromise my standards in a chase for numbers. My exacting nature, which becomes a liability at times in my personal life, has served as an asset on this blog. The fastidiousness is what I’ve built this blog on. I want to offer content that would compel a visiting editor or publisher to pull up a chair.

And I wouldn’t be here without you who’ve done just that. It makes me happy to see you grow. I want your blogging to be as bright, deep, and expansive as you want it to be. I hope you feel the heartbeat of your blog as I do mine.

In My Fantasy

1. I eradicate the flu, cancer, and the bad grammar virus.
2. I’m Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago. No, not talking about what lands her in prison. I mean the moves, her look, her zip and tang.
3. I wiggle my nose and the dishes disappear from the sink.
4. I sing jazz in a red dress. A Korean Ella Fitzgerald. Yeaah.
5. I’m a kick-butt Lindy hopper out of the 30s.
6. I finally get that PhD in language, literacy, and culture.
7. Time rolls itself out, an endless runway under my feet when I write. No interruptions.
8. I work on my books in a mountain cabin: poetry, my mother’s story
9. which Random House has signed me for
10. and there are no women around.
11. I expunge the Christian landscape of American contemporary worship ditties, I mean music.
12. I am editor-in-chief of a vibrant writers’ platform and host of my own TED talks.
(How stinkin’ awesome is that? If this is a dream, don’t wake me.)

What I’m Not Sorry About

While I’ve been sad and frustrated, I am not sorry about having broken my record for the longest breath I’ve held (not writing, that is) on this blog.

“I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while.” I shake my head at these earnest apologies. Sweet and courteous of you, I think, but you really believe people were sitting there drumming their fingers, waiting? For you? Everybody. Is. Busy. With their own blog, their own drama.

It is innocent narcissism to think it’s time to post. Don’t worry about it.

Disabling the likes on On It’s Your Fault was loads of fun. Comments disabled here. =)

Calling

old-door-handleWriter Elisabeth Elliot has said God’s NO is His mercy.  In this posture of trust I have seen that the doors that have shut on me have only led to portals that would swing wide open.

I have always felt barred from overseas missionary work. The door to service abroad that I tried and tried wouldn’t budge. In 1996, I set foot in California for the first time on a working vacation as a guest contributor to a Wycliffe Bible Translators magazine called The Sower. Through the research and writing, I was in part scouting the missionary landscape for my place in it.

Fast-forward about ten years to the night a church leader came over for dinner. I had gotten the sense that this man who was passionate for overseas missions, knowing nothing of the many challenges I’d faced, thought me complacent in my little world. He never cared to probe, to discover anything of the work abroad I had pursued but that had never panned out for me. That night, he picked up a copy of The Sower that happened to lie on the coffee table, and flipping through, caught my byline. Taken aback, he seemed to see me in a new light.

A deep, sweet realization emerged in a talk with a friend last week. When she expressed pleasure over my writing, I pointed out that my hands don’t have her creative touch and that I lack the verve and strength to serve people the way she does.

Then I suddenly got chills.

I saw that while the harvest of the Gospel is eternal, many things I arguably could have accomplished as a missionary would have remained limited in scope. But the words I have put down, here and in global publications, reach more people than I would teaching English or laboring to build a hut somewhere. I heard God’s answer to the judgment of the man who had wanted more…activity out of me. I don’t have to be going and doing – not the way God made me. My writing is my art and the art, my worship.

My worship, my calling.

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. Revelations 3:7

 

The Ten Commandments of Blogging

1. Thou shalt not waste readers’ time. Offer up thy readers a worthy sacrifice that they might take and be satisfied.

2. Thou shalt honor thy muse. Be prepared in season, out of season to seize inspiration when she comes that ye might write, dance, photograph, paint thy bliss. Be not caught without thy scroll, ink, pen, iGadget, camera. Thou wilt not redeem the moment the locust has eaten.

3. Thou shalt preview thy draft and spell-check before publishing that the Angel of Vengeance shall not fly over thy blog in the night.10commandmts2

4. Always speak ye the truth.

5. Thou shalt not take up the like button in vain, foremost on this blog. It is holystic ground. Thou shalt in integrity read the posts before clicking anything lest thou incite my wrath. Know ye that I see thou couldst not have read four of my brain-intensive posts in one minute. I be no fool. I do not need dross. Go ye find something better to do, ye bored soul.

6. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s likes, nor his comments, nor her following, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.

7. Thou shalt honor thy active supporters as ye best is able. It will go well with thee and thou shalt live long in blogosphere.

8. Go ye forth and support five new bloggers this day. Show unto them kindness. Thy blog shall also be fruitful and multiply.

9. Thou shalt count the cost of brain wear-and-tear and the bloody battle against time. Be ye a good soldier of blogosphere. To blog is to accept a high calling.

10. Thou shalt refrain from grumbling when Holistic Wayfarer tarries in her visit. She is likely beset in the wayfaring, climbing cybermountains, crossing desert valleys, caught in a maelstrom of words. Forget not that she also teaches her boy how to write that he might grow up to be a mighty holistic blogger.

Seven Signs You’re a V.I.P. Blogger

1. You laugh and cry with people you’ve never met. And if anyone tells you they’re not real friends, you know which friend is on his way out.

2. You feel like a superhero. Not because you’re out at night saving the world but because you have this whole other identity, a life some friends have no idea you live.

3. You burn your third pot in a month, preoccupied with the new post bubbling in your head that eclipsed the bubbling on the stove. No one can get mad when you’re…InspiRed.

4. You have not only given up on the dishes but quit stressing that they’re in full view of guests. No time, no pride, no shame.

5. “Sorry? I don’t follow” or “You follow?” isn’t something you can say in cyberspace anymore.

6. Your vibes with bloggers run in sync. Just when you’re thinking of a reader, a like from the dear soul comes whizzing through.

7. You’re reading this blog. (This suggestion from a follower on Ten Signs You’re a Real Blogger. I will say it again: I have the best readers!)