Monday, January 16, 2017

3 Reasons Why You Need a Blog Break

Anyone who's been blogging for a while knows that it takes time, energy, and good doses of inspiration and creativity. If you add blogging duties to all those other items on your normal to-do list, it can be overwhelming sometimes. This is why I'm a firm believer in blog breaks. Here are my top 3 reasons:

1) We need to get away to maintain health and peace.

My husband and I have been self employed for 30 plus years. While there are many benefits, running a business is taxing, and time off is essential to not only our well being, but for relationships with family and friends too.  Our business runs from our home, so despite taking days off, its presence is ever near, a reminder of constant, necessary tasks. My point - we learned early on that "You don't really get away unless you get away."

I think this is true with blogging, too. There are constant reminders everywhere, from Facebook to Google+ and beyond. Taking a break helps us to step back and "get away" by setting healthy space between us and our blogs. For that matter, a break from social media is probably a good idea too. But that's a topic for another post. :)

2) We need time to rediscover our creativity.

Combined with other commitments, blogging's constant demands can dry out the creative well. Keeping up often crowds out creativity, and can cause stress and a drop in productivity. A break provides opportunities to work on other projects, and to rediscover our creative side in fresh, new ways.

3) We need mental and physical space. 

Between my laptop, tablet, and smart phone, I'm potentially connected 24/7. While this isn't a bad thing in the right measure, it can be detrimental to my life and worldview. I compare it to a vacation - sometimes we need a change of scenery, to get away from the "screens" of everyday life.

Distance from the blogging world can be therapeutic. So whether taking a walk, cleaning out a closet, or meeting a friend for lunch, you're gaining healthy space, hands on life experience, and perhaps some writing ideas too.

That said, what's the best way to take a blog break?

1) Just do it. 

Tell your readers you're taking a break. Follow up on prior commitments, such as guest posts or interviews, of course, but make a break a part of the regular schedule. For example, I schedule a 3-4 week break at the end of the year. I look forward to this break - it's delightful! It's not that I dislike my blog friends, it's just that by this time of year, I need a breather. My online classes are on hiatus as well, so it's a good time to kick back, read more, work on projects, etc.

2) Be disciplined.

Determine that this is your time off from blogging. Set boundaries, even limiting time on social media if that aids in your escape from daily demands. Make a list of items you'd like to accomplish if that facilitates staying focused and motivated. Don't put too much pressure on yourself, though. The break is meant to reap healthy benefits.

3) Get off the treadmill.

The blogging treadmill, that is. Sometimes we don't know what we're missing until we hop off. There's a whole other world out there for us to explore. We know this, but sometimes we get wrapped up in cyberspace and forget to direct our energies elsewhere. That "elsewhere" produces plenty of writing ideas for future use.  

4) Remember that it'll all be there when we return.

The blogging world will continue to spin in our absence. And our friends will be there when we get back. Unless they're taking a break, of course. :) 

A postscript of potential interest - after I wrote this, I spotted these related posts:

Grammarly's You Need a Break: How to Ease Into a Productive 2017
Pen and Prosper's 8 Tips to Maintain Your Blogging Appetite

Do you take blog breaks? Do you think they're important?

Happy writing,

Photo: Free Images

Monday, January 9, 2017

Meet the Blogger with Ceil Ryan

It's Meet the Blogger Monday! This month I have the pleasure of hosting Ceil Ryan, of Surrounded by the Spirit. This lovely writer and I met through blogging, of course, and if there's one thing I've noted about her, it's that she has a genuine heart for others. Her wise and often witty posts always seem to address a need or offer an encouraging word - or both.

Welcome, Ceil! So glad to have you visit. Why did you start blogging? How long have you had your current blog?  

Hi Karen! Thank you so much for including me in your Meet the Blogger Series. I have enjoyed reading about the other bloggers you’ve featured, and I’m honored to be here!  

In 2012, I finished writing four chapters of a book on the Parable of the Talents.  Then I figured it was time to investigate how to get published. Well, that was an eye-opener. I found out I needed: an advanced degree, publications, a speaking career, a blog and a Twitter account before I would even be allowed to submit a manuscript. Yikes. Getting published sounded impossible. I quit writing the book (which was a good move because it was terrible) and started my first blog, Evangelize to Me, in 2013 on the Google Blogger platform. The next year I migrated the blog to Wordpress, changing the name to Surrounded by the Spirit.

The publishing process can be a complicated one, that's for sure. Maybe a revised version of that book will find a home someday. :) What is your current blog about?

I reflect on the events of my life, or the lives of those around me, trying to figure out what God is trying to say. God constantly speaks through our friends, our families, our day-to- day chores, and us. And He keeps speaking, whether we are listening or not, telling us the love story of how we belong to Him and to all created things. His spirit surrounds us!

I agree. That's a great comfort. What benefits have you gained through blogging?

I started blogging to learn how to express myself, and to find focus. I think that’s all I expected, but I’ve gotten so much more than that. There’s such a large world of bloggers out there, all expressing what’s important to them. It’s fascinating to read different posts and learn new things, and new ways of thinking. But most of all, I love the relationships that form with fellow bloggers. I have had the privilege of meeting two blog-friends face to face, and it was like meeting old friends. Blog-land is big, but it’s also one of the friendliest, most encouraging places I’ve ever been.

The relationships are the best! "Blog-land" is big and small, isn't it? That's fun that you've met two other bloggers so far. What projects are you working on now? 

I’m currently writing two talks that are planned for the spring. One is a half-day retreat, the other a one-hour presentation, both for women.  I was recently asked if I’d like to speak at a Ministry Conference breakout session in April.

Sounds interesting - I'm sure you'll be a blessing to those attending. What might people be surprised to learn about you? 

1) I don’t like pie, unless it’s chocolate or pecan. Please, for the love of all that’s holy, stop putting fruit in my dessert!

2) Although I started out writing a book, I don’t think that’s something I should be doing now. I’m very happy writing for the blog, as well as designing talks and mini-retreats.

There are so many good things writers can do other than write books. Sounds like you are keeping busy. What advice would you share with a newbie blogger? 

Be gentle with yourself. When I started, I think I had a headache every day. It’s overwhelming at first, but you’ll get it. Take the time to read other blogs and comment on them too. To me, blogging is not only about developing your own voice; it’s about encouraging others while they find theirs. You’ll meet some wonderful people and make good blog friends too. 

Wonderful advice! It's an interesting journey with ups and downs, and the results are totally worth it. Thanks so much for coming by to see us. :) 

Thank you, Karen!  

More About Ceil

Ceil Ryan is a wife, nurse, mom and nana living in the Midwest. After working more than twenty years, she hung up her nurse’s cap to start writing, speaking and blogging full-time. Her passion is sharing personal stories with an emphasis on faith and encouragement.

Do you have any questions for Ceil? Have you visited her blog? What are you working on so far in the new year?

Happy writing,

Photo credit: Free Images

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Visit with Alex J. Cavanaugh

Need writing inspiration? Look no further. Prolific author and blogger Alex J. Cavanuagh is here, sharing valuable insight and news about his latest book, CassaDawn, the prequel to the Cassa series. It's a privilege to host the "Ninja Captain", as his followers call him, because he always has wise and encouraging words for writers.

Welcome back, Alex! It's always good to have you visit. Do you think blogging is important for writers/authors? If so,why?

Thanks, Karen! I think blogging is still important. It’s a platform that provides both friends and readers a way to connect. They don’t have to be a blogger or part of any social site to read what we write. Plus a good blog post can generate thousands of new visitors, exposing us to even more potential readers. The best part is still the connection of writers and authors within the blogging community.

Blogging is a good way to connect with readers and writers. It has so many benefits. :) Now that you have several books to your credit, what would you have appreciated knowing before you completed your first one?

A few grammar rules come to mind…I’d say knowing how much this journey was going to change my life. But then again, the only way to appreciate that is to go through it.

True words. Do you believe that fiction techniques can apply to non fiction writing? How so?

Fiction means enticing readers and drawing them in. That translates well to non-fiction, because then you can spice up a potentially bland subject. Those elements of intrigue, suspense, and humor help non-fiction as well.

Drawing readers in is a good thing! If you could offer one piece of writing advice, what would it be?

Stay true to yourself. Don’t bend the way you write or your values just to sell.

Wise words to live by, that's for sure. What's next for you - any more books in the works?

My short story, CassaDawn, just came out on December 6. And there’s still one more of my books coming out on audio this month – Dragon of the Stars. Otherwise, I have another story outline I’m kicking around. Focusing on the Insecure Writers' Support Group and my music takes a lot of time though. I never planned past my first book, so anything else I produce is just bonus at this point!

Congrats on CassaDawn and the audiobook as well! Thanks for visiting with us again. Wishing you much success!

Thanks, Karen! 

Find Alex

About Alex

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars. The author lives in the Carolinas with his wife.


By Alex J. Cavanaugh
eBook ISBN 9781939844354 2.99
Science Fiction-Space Opera/Adventure/Military
Release date: December 6, 2016

The prequel to the Amazon best-selling Cassa series!

A pilot in training...

Fighting the odds, Byron is determined to complete Cosbolt training. Poised at the top of his class, only one situation holds him back–his inability to work with anyone in the cockpit. Byron’s excellent piloting skills won’t be enough without a good navigator…

CassaDawn Links:


What are you working on as 2016 comes to a close? Do you have any questions for Alex? Have any special plans this week?

I’m taking a break, and will return on January 9, 2017. May you enjoy abundant blessings this holiday season and in the new year. Enjoy your time with family and friends! :)

Sending love and blessings,


Monday, December 5, 2016

Meet the Blogger with Jennifer Brown Banks

Most of you are acquainted with Jennifer Brown Banks and her award winning blog, Pen and Prosper. But you might not know why this talented veteran freelance writer started blogging, or that her latest book, The Success Checklist, is now available. So I thought it'd be fun to invite Jennifer for this month's Meet the Blogger.

Welcome, Jennifer! So glad you stopped by. When did you start blogging?

Thanks, Karen. I made several unsuccessful attempts at blogging but was able to seriously get a handle on things in June, 2009.

With several blog awards to your credit, I'd say you've gotten a good handle on it. :) What is your blog about?

Pen & Prosper is about helping writers of all levels and genres to know more and grow more through practical tips, tools, and tested strategies for success. It's not just a blog, it's a support system. :-)

It is a wonderful source of info and support, and I appreciate your efforts. What benefits have you gained through blogging?

Discipline. Friendships.  A broader platform. Awards and recognition. Pay. Joy.

Blogging is a great experience, isn't it? Congratulations on your new book series, The Success Checklist! What prompted you to put this series together?

Thanks for asking. Though we all start blogs for different reasons (to build a platform, to connect with kindred spirits, to rant, to showcase our work, to create awareness of a cause, etc.), many of us don't realize that success requires a strategic approach. My books help writers to "learn more and earn more." The series shares insider's tips to winning awards, earning money, maintaining momentum,  etc.

The end game is to help writers and bloggers to "work smarter, not harder." And to avoid common pitfalls and detours that often cause people to quit before they reap the rewards. 

Sounds like a good plan and a helpful series. What might people be surprised to learn about you?

Hmm...that in person I tend to be shy, serious, and reserved.

Our online persona can seem a bit different than our real life one, that's for sure. What advice would you share with a newbie blogger?

Learn from the best. Work hard. Have a game plan. Don't just blog because everybody else is doing it. You won't last. :-)

Great advice. Where can readers find out more about your books?

Visit my blog, Pen and Prosper, for book details and purchase info. 

Thanks again for visiting, Jennifer. Wishing you much success!

Thank you!

More About Jennifer

Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, award-winning blogger, columnist and author. She helps authors and entrepreneurs to grow their platforms and their bottom lines. Her work has been featured on top tier sites for more than a decade, including: Pro Blogger, Men with Pens, Tiny Buddha, Lifehack, Write to Done, WOW (Women on Writing), and The Well Fed Writer E-zine. Learn more at Jennifer's blog.

Do you have any questions for Jennifer? What are you up to this week?

Happy writing,

Monday, November 28, 2016

Turning Soapbox Rants into Writing Ideas

Ever have a moment where you want to jump on the soapbox and start ranting? 

From rude behavior to society's injustices, we've probably all been tempted. While I believe that these episodes are opportunities to build character and patience, I think they also offer a host of writing possibilities.

For example, while attending a funeral years ago, I witnessed an interesting faux pas by someone paying their respects. To be fair, it wasn't horrible; funerals are awkward and people are often at a loss as to how to behave. I was probably only attuned to this hiccup in decorum because the service was for my sister.

I wasn't upset, but rather, inspired. My thoughts turned to writing an article, perhaps entitled Five Things Not to Do at a Funeral. Once the brainstorming began for that idea, I had others, and was pleased that an event that could have sparked a soapbox speech provided a creative opportunity instead.

Another example resulted in my recent post, The Publishing Journey, Reflections and Lessons. The adventure with my first publisher yielded good things. It was also a bumpy road, with opportunities for soapbox rants. Months later, I penned the post, reflecting on lessons learned. My goal - to share insight and tips, helping writer friends make wise, informed choices.

Soapbox topics can be tricky. They generate a host of emotions. Tact, of course, is necessary. What purpose does a blistering speech serve if it turns readers off? An emotional and thought provoking commentary, done right, can speak to readers in a unique way.  Not everyone will agree with the stance, but well written prose should garner respect and offer takeaway value.

There are two key tips I heed before publishing any work generated by an emotional topic or event:

Give it time - Writing when emotions run high isn't a bad thing. But it's usually not a good idea to commit to a final draft in a highly emotional state. Whether a blog post or article, text, email, or social media rant, it's better to check those emotions and see how it looks after letting it rest a while.

Get another opinion - A perspective outside the realm of one's heart and head can offer valuable counsel and feedback. Even if this person shares your opinion, they can be the voice of reason, sharing insight, helping your written words convey a balanced message.

With care, caution, and class, pet peeves and emotional topics, whether big or small, can provide great opportunities for us writers.

What writing ideas do your soapbox rants generate? How was your Thanksgiving? What are you working on this week?

Happy writing,

Photo credit: Free Images -  Peter Galbraith