How I Overcame My Fear of Writing (And How You Can, Too)

“Ma’am, can you please pass me?”

I muttered these words sheepishly under my breath while my senior high English teacher looked at me with a contorted face.

After these words left my mouth with a lack of confidence, there was a long moment of silence fit for a memorial.

While looking down at her desk—apparently trying to avoid making eye contact—she began shuffling some papers around, placing them neatly on the right-hand corner of her desk.

My hands began to sweat and my heart race. “If I don’t pass, then I have to go to summer school. If I have to go to summer school, then I can’t play football in the summer at college,” was the line of reasoning racing through my head.

As each second passed by if felt like an hour. I was beginning to lose all hope.

But then, against all hope, I was pardoned as a free man, set free from my failing grade—though I was guilty of not applying myself.

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It’s Time to Spill the Beans

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Does Your Website Make Your Readers Think?

Many websites lack something important.

It’s not a sleek design, a cool feature, or state of the art coding.

It’s making their objective obvious.

This may sound ridiculous to you at first. But think about it this way.

People are browsing the web at lightning speeds. They are quickly scanning webpages, following a litany of links from a variety of sources, and rarely reading what’s in front of them.

“So, what does this have to do with my website?”

Well, I’m glad you asked.

You have 15 seconds before the average online reader decides whether or not they are going to stay on your website.

The time you have available to connect with your readers does not leave you with a lot of options. In fact, the only option you really have available is this: Don’t make your readers think. This is arguably the most important principle when it comes to determining whether or not your website works.

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Ensuring that your website doesn’t make people think is not about being simplistic—like displaying fingerprints from your kids as opposed to paintings from Monet. It’s about being simple. So simple that the objective of your website is plainly obvious to people.

Currently, I’m in the process of updating my website. I’ve found that my objectives have changed from when I first began. So, to help me think through these changes, below are three questions I’m asking myself. I hope these questions help you to also think through your current website and even prepare for future updates.

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4 Reasons Why Your Link Posts Are Probably Worthless (And What To Do About It)

Link posts have been around since the dawn of the Internet. And for good reason, too. They’re easy to develop and the most shared type of post on the Internet behind infographics.

But wait one minute before you quit reading so that you can create a litany of link posts.

All link posts are not created equal. Some of them—if not many—are a complete waste of time, thought, and digital space. And these are three things you want to avoid.

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What follows are four reasons why your link posts are probably worthless. Allow these four points to serve as guideposts for your next link post. They will help steer you in the right direction and avoid cluttering the Internet, and our lives, with more noise.

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5 Tips to Help You Craft Clear & Compelling Messages

From my guest post at Inkliss:

There was a moment of silence.

Not the type of silence that deafens a room during a memorial service. Nor the type of silence preceding a lame scare tactic in a movie.

But the type of deafening silence that fills the room when you’re waiting for feedback from your manager.

“He hates it. He’s going to hate me. I’ll need to look for another job”

These exaggerated thoughts didn’t necessarily run through my head. But they do capture an element of what I was thinking.

Honestly, I don’t recall the specific task I was working on. But the feedback I received stuck to me like a Velcro ball to a Velcro mitt. And it went something like this: “Tell people exactly what you’re talking about.”

Fighting Two Devils

Clear communication is a difficult task—especially within the church.

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Christian communicators wrestle with the temptation to use Christian clichés, $20 theological words, and pithy Christian platitudes, while fighting the pressure to be hip, cool, and relevant. It’s like trying to think straight when you have a devil on both of your shoulders telling you what to do.

Crafting clear messages is one of the most important tasks of the church. Connecting the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Bible to the Average Joe sitting in the pew is of eternal importance.

Here are five practices to help you cut through the clutter and craft clear, concise, and compelling messages for your audience. 

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6 Reasons Why Content Marketing for Authors Works

Marketing your book is no joke.

You are vying for the limited attention and dollars of readers within an extremely crowded marketplace.

In 2013, there was nearly 1.5 million books (new titles and non-traditional) published. And this doesn’t include the number of books in circulation. Needless to say, that’s a lot of books.

Now, when you consider that the median number of books read by adults in 2013 is 5, you have a small percentage chance of your book being one of the five bought by adults. But hey, look at the bright side. You’re chances of selling a book are better than being killed by a lightning strike.

Unfortunately, the challenges of promoting your book haven’t stopped.

Publishers and authors are not only competing with one another. They’re also competing with the entertainment industry for consumers time and money. And the amount of money being spent to market products and services today is mind-boggling:

You have your work cut out for you when it comes to convincing someone to purchase—let alone read—your book.

My goal in sharing this with you isn’t to dash your dreams of successfully publishing your book against the rocks. It’s more like waving a smelling salt under your nose to wake you up after being knocked out.

Hope is the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Reality checks are important,

Clearly seeing the current publishing landscape will help you best prepare, write, and market your book.

Though I just painted a dark picture, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The light you see at the end is not an oncoming train—it’s hope.

As an author, you can rise above the noise, cut through the clutter, and connect with your readers. And you don’t have to take out a television ad during the Super Bowl, a billboard in Time Square, or have a multimillion dollar marketing campaign, either.

There are multiple tactics for you to consider when marketing your book. But there is one strategy that you cannot afford to miss.

Enter Content Marketing for Authors

Content Marketing is not a new concept. It’s been around for years.

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It’s a strategy proven to be effective across every industry and many—if not most—products and services.

Today, for authors, content marketing is arguably one of the best means available in building an audience, creating direct relationships with your readers, and compelling your target audience to purchase your book.

It’s one of the primary strategies used with many bestsellers across multiple genres.

There are many factors why this is the case. But below are six reasons why I believe content marketing works for authors. (As an aside, I believe these reasons are applicable to other industries, products, and services, too.)

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1 Option to Consider Before Converting Your Facebook Profile to a Page

Facebook is the anti-social social network.

They cap the number of friends that über-popular people can have at 5,000. This means no more friends for you.

Even though you cannot have more than 5,000 friends, you do you have few options available:

  1. Maintain your current status
  2. Convert your Facebook Profile to a Page
  3. Keep your Facebook Profile and create a separate Facebook Page
  4. Provide people with the ability to follow you

Obviously you can keep doing what you’re doing. There won’t be any skin off of your back if you do. But there will be a lot of hurt feelings from people who cannot be your friend on Facebook.

There are a variety of reasons for you to consider converting your Facebook Profile to a Facebook Page, questions to ask, and a smattering of pros and cons to ponder. This option may or may not be for you. And that’s okay.

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Keeping your Facebook Profile and creating a separate Facebook Page can be an easy solution. If you go this route, then you will have to start from scratch. Yes, you can invite your friends to follow your page, but there’s no guarantee they will. Also, make sure that you’re in a position to maintain both accounts. You don’t want the sound of crickets radiating throughout either of your accounts.

There is one last option for you to consider before deciding whether or not to convert your profile to a page. And that’s providing people who want to connect with you on Facebook the ability to follow you.

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The Newbie’s Guide to Creating a Social Media Calendar

Social media can be overwhelming.

There is a growing number of networks and virtual communities to choose from.

The learning curve is elastic and regularly changes based upon user behavior, technological advances, and the introduction of new devices. These factors alone create a hurdle too high for many to cross who are interested in exploring social media marketing.

But this doesn’t have to be the case.

You don’t need an advanced degree, secret knowledge, or ninja skills to become proficient in social media marketing.

All you really need to know at the end of the day is that social media marketing is really about one thing: being social.

Yes, I know. This is easier said than done.

There’s an art to curating and creating content for the purpose of connecting with and compelling people to action. Thankfully, this art isn’t something you’re born with. It’s something all of us can learn.

One of the best tools available to help you organize your social media content creation and curation is to create a social media calendar. A calendar to help you connect with your audience—not shamefully promoting your own work.

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To help you get started, here are five-steps you can take to create your own a social media calendar.

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Live Together as Brothers or Perish Together as Fools (A Devotional Thought on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)

“We must face the sad fact that at eleven o’clock on Sunday morning,” began Martin Luther King, Jr., “when we stand to sing ‘In Christ there is no East or West,’ we stand in the most segregated hour of America.”

Much hasn’t changed for the church, or our nation, since these words were first proclaimed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the pulpit of the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. in 1968. A message that was proclaimed days before his untimely death at the hands of an assailant in Memphis, TN.

Today, these words unfortunately paint an accurate picture of the current landscape of our communities, culture, and the church. A landscape littered with dividing walls. Walls not made of concrete, bricks, or chain-links to physically separate us from one another. But walls that derive from the invisible force of the human heart.

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Walls that are temporal in nature.

Walls that can be erected at any place. At any time. By any man, woman, or child.

These walls have existed throughout history since the fall of mankind.

And these invisible barriers existed in the life of the early church before God tore them down.

God, Tear Down This Wall

God does not show favoritism to any one person or group (Acts 10:34). All men and women have been created in his image and the projected walls that separate us socially have no room in our world—especially the church.

In Christ, we are all brothers and sisters. Our race, ethnicity, or bank account is not the common denominator for social acceptance in the church—Jesus is.

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Church, Where’s Your Front Door?

Yesterday, I had the honor of publishing a post on ChurchMag: The #1 Resource for Church Technology + Creativity, 4 Things Your Church Website Must Do.

Here’s the opening salvo:

“If a church…can’t be Googled, for many people it doesn’t exist.”This comment was true when it was made several years ago. And if it’s possible for statements to become truer over time, then this one fits the bill.

Unscientific studies indicate that between 75% to 90% of people will visit your website before your physical location. Others indicate that people will visit over one dozen church websites before visiting a church’s physical location. And many—if not most—people visiting your church’s website will make a decision whether or not to visit your church’s physical location solely by their online experience alone.

What all of this points to is one simple conclusion: The front door of your church has been relocated.

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It’s no longer located at the physical address of your church.

It has been moved to your digital address. Your church website.

With this post, I discuss how a church’s website should serve as an extension of the local church. And as an extension of the church, a church’s website should do four very specific things—especially lead people from your digital front door to your physical front door.

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