Write Your Heart Out

RedPedalCar

My earliest memory is of my second birthday. Mom and Dad gave me a shiny red pedal car. I can’t describe the joy I felt at having my very own car, I must have been glowing. I climbed inside to take it for a spin, only to find my feet didn’t touch the pedals, but I that was okay, I knew I would grow into it.

“I’ll trade it for a tricycle,” Dad said, and Mom agreed.

“No! I don’t want a trike, I want the car, my legs will grow,” I thought, but for some reason, I didn’t tell Dad. I was terribly disappointed when he took the car away.

That positive attitude has stuck with me all my life.

If I want to do it, I find a way to make it work. But even though I have confidence in myself, it hasn’t been easy for me to be confident in how others perceive me. I have always worried that others will think I’m silly for believing myself capable of a thing.

When my first marriage ended in divorce, I felt as if everyone looked down on me.

Even God. I focused on my failures. Though I condemned myself, and thought God could no longer use me, I still prayed and read my Bible daily. Then one day God spoke to my heart, “Martha, I never intended for you or anyone else to divorce, but no one is perfect, including you.

I still love you, and have a plan for you.”

That day, I know for sure I glowed with happiness, as tears of joy ran down my cheeks. The words of Psalm 139 that I was so familiar with, took on new meaning as I read them that day. And today, as I read the psalm again, I am assured that God knows everything there is to know about me. He knows all my thoughts, my  plans, my desires, and my fears.

God knows me better than I know myself, and He accepts me as I am.

Several years ago God gave me a desire to write. I had always used writing as a learning tool, but this was different. Now I was writing with purpose. I asked God to show me what He wanted me to learn as I read my Bible each morning…and I wrote. I found myself writing bits and pieces of my thoughts and my life. I poured my stories out on the page, a little at a time.

This isn’t a Bible study,” I scolded myself, “This is about me.”

But it seemed God was saying to me, “You’re writing what I want you to, just keep writing.” So I did. An amazing thing happened. As I read my writings, I saw the protagonist, the main character of those stories, through different eyes. As she shared her heart, I related to her. I understood her. I accepted her.

As I began to understand myself, I found my writing voice.

I quit shaming myself and instead, asked God to show me how to use my experiences to help others. My mission statement is “helping others find their passion by sharing my own.”  I propose to do this by accepting and encouraging others any way I can. If you haven’t already done it, I want to encourage you to do as I did, and—

Write Your Heart Out!

by Martha Jane Curtis

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Baby Steps to Blogging—Part 4—Don’t Let Delays Discourage You

No matter how hard I try to write my post ahead of time, life finds a way to thwart my efforts. It’s not just late posts that cause me grief. No matter what my plan, how early I get out of bed, or leave for an appointment, I seem to be just a little late.

This has always been a source of embarrassment for me. I have obligated myself to post a new section to my Baby Steps to Blogging series each Thursday. I work on it throughout the week, with big plans to have it ready to post Thursday morning.

This goal has not once been met by me. In fact, most Thursdays, by the time my post is finished  and submitted, the date on it is not Thursdayat all–but Friday. Three a.m. is still Thursday night to me. It won’t be Friday until I go to bed and get up the next morning.

As I hit the publish button, whether it’s 3:00 a.m. or not, relief floods over me. I view the published page and look at the calendar of my posts, hoping it will say Thursday, but no… it shows Friday as the published day. Sigh. But then I think, “This is nothing new for me. It’s the story of my life.”

Each time, this thought goes through my head, “Give it up. Let the series end. You look silly. This is embarrassing!” But, each time, after nursing the discouragement for awhile, I answer those thoughts: “You cannot give up! You have a purpose and you are going to stick with it. Quitters never win. You are not a quitter. You are going to win!” So I suck it up and continue on, pledging to myself to do better next week.

 

Do you ever feel like quitting?

Have you stopped believing in yourself?

Have you come to the conclusion that it’s no use to try?

 

Yes, YES, and YES!!! I have done all three—more than once. In fact, I am more consistent in doing this than I am in blogging. Discouragement has a sleeping bag behind my couch and a towel in my bathroom.

I have two things to say about this:

WINNERS NEVER QUIT!

QUITTERS NEVER WIN!

When you find yourself thinking these derogatory thoughts, stop them where they start. You can do this! Remember the old cliche, “Better Late Than Never?” Some of my best work was done after I gave up, but somehow I coaxed myself into taking one small step—a baby step. In fact, that is what I did with this post.

All this week I had jury duty. Wednesday my fellow jurors and I spent eleven hours in the court room with just a few short breaks. We tried for three and a half hours to agree on a verdict. The vote was nine to three for a not guilty. Finally we progressed to eleven to one. It was so close– then it reverted back to nine to three. The case finally ended in a mistrial.

I am still exhausted from the long hours spent in the courtroom. Today I tried to play catchup, but there just weren’t enough hours. I was tempted to skip this post. When I looked at the clock and knew I’d never get it done before midnight, I would just write an apology for not posting Part 4 of the series along with a short explanation of why.

I took that baby step. Next I decided to at least give Part 4 a name so I could come back to it tomorrow and write it. Then, miraculously, one baby step at a time, I managed to write the post. I will publish it in a few minutes.

Yes, it is late. No,my post is not what I planned it to be. But I succeeded because I didn’t give up. I took one baby step at a time. This post, that I didn’t expect to be able to write tonight, is finished.

Seeing it finished is encouraging to me. I hope you can somehow find encouragement in it, too.

Don’t quit, but rather, take one baby step, then another, and another until you make it through the field of discouragement and on to meet your goal of success.

 

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you have been encouraged by this post. Don’t give up. Keep on writing.

Martha Jane Curtis, author of Baby Steps to Blogging.

 

Baby Steps to Blogging Part 3 — Keep on Writing!

Blogging IS NOT like riding a bicycle. If / when you fall, it does hurt! It isn’t easy to get back on and try again–at least it wasn’t for me. I had made up my mind that I could do this blog thing. I had the perfect subject–meaning I thought it was a great idea and clever, of course. I wrote the post and found a photo–it wasn’t perfect, but it would do.

IMG_0038After several hours of editing and tweaking, I hit the publish button. It was so exciting to be published!

I read that post over several times, then proceeded over to Learn WordPress.com to read the instructions for adding an About Me page to my blog. It wasn’t long until my About Me page was published. Not only had I started a blog, but with two pages, it was well on the road to becoming a website.

A few days later, I wrote another post. It was easy with my new found confidence. My 2nd post was finished, edited and ready to submit. Only… when I hit the publish button, my post disappeared. Refresh did not return it, neither did go back, or escape, nor messaging the wordpress help site. My brilliant work was gone forever! Hours of work were lost. Discouragement set in. I had fallen off. It hurt. I gave up.

Several times I went back to look at my abandoned blog. It was still there. One little post. One About Me page. No visitors. Not even graffiti–you know, ‘loser’, ‘quitter’…

It took three months for me to muster the courage to try again. During that time I learned some things:

1. Write your post on your computer’s word processing program. Save your work often. If you have deleted or changed something by mistake and try to close the program it will ask if you want to save changes. This is a warning that you may be about to delete something important. If you don’t remember changing making changes since you last saved your work, take the time to read the document over before closing. Don’t forget to save it when you are finished!

2. When you’re satisfied you are ready to publish the post to your blog, copy and paste it onto a ‘new blog’ on your site rather than writing it directly on the site. You are less likely to make mistakes this way.

3. If you highlight (make all the words have a blue background) something you have written / typed, do not hit backspace, enter, delete, or tab–accidentally or on purpose–unless you want to delete it. Yes, really! I finally realized this was how I lost my second post. The mistake that discouraged me from posting to my new blog for three entire months!

Three months of feeling like a loser, however, was not a total loss. It was during those three months I learned the importance of learning in baby steps. No two people are at the exact same level of knowledge. Some have been blogging for years. Others are just beginning. I am somewhere in between. I don’t pretend to know everything, but I want to share what I have learned with those who may need it. I share my struggles while they are still fresh in my mind.

There is no such thing as instant success. Don’t be discouraged. Rather, get up, brush off the dirt, and purpose to succeed.  Blog with confidence–one baby step at a time. Keep up the good work, you are doing great!

This post is part of a series titled Baby Steps to Blogging. I hope it will help you on your blogging journey. I encourage you to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section of this post. You are invited to come back next Thursday for Part 4 of Baby Steps to Blogging.

Choose to follow my blog by e-mail if you would like to be notified of new posts. Thank you for stopping in today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Steps to Blogging Part 2 — How to Begin a Blog

Baby Steps to Blogging Part 2 – How to Begin A Blog

In Part 1 of Baby Steps to Blogging, I talked about three steps to help you get on the right baby foot with your blog. Today I will start with an example—my own blog.

Platform. I chose WordPress.com as my primary blogging platform. WordPress has tutorials to help you get started. You can choose from over 150 free themes. Pick one you like and get started. You can always change it later.

I chose one I could add a picture header to. I used a photo I took while on a nature hike with Joe. I enlarged it and cut out the section I wanted for my header. I made several copies of it on my computer so if I ruined one, I would still have one to work with.

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Note 1: When editing a photo, NEVER use your original, or your last copy. ALWAYS keep a file of originals to work from and make more copies as needed.

Note 2: It is not essential that you use a picture header. If this sounds like a giant step to you, leave it out until you are comfortable trying it—even if that is never.

Focus / Mission Statement. Make a list of the subjects you have written or want to write about. From my own list I discovered that I am passionate about sharing the importance of having a relationship with God with others. I want to share it with family, friends and the world. I am passionate about doing this through other things I love: writing, photography and teaching.

With this in mind, I wrote my mission statement:

Helping others find their passion by sharing my own.

I added this statement below the name of my website on my header photo.

Martha Jane Curtis

Because I am passionate about encouraging others to find their purpose and go about performing it, I have added this statement to my header:

Spread your wings and write

You can scroll to the top of this page and to see what it looks like put together. It took a lot of patience for me to get my header the way I wanted it. I am not good with a computer. I have just made up my mind not to let it get the best of me. I take breaks when I get frustrated, but I don’t give up.

If you aren’t ready to get this involved, you can simply use the name of your blog and include your mission statement. It isn’t that big a deal. There is nothing wrong with simple. In fact, simple is often better.

Begin Blogging. Finally the easy part—what you wanted to do all along. Write!

Let your readers get to know you. Tell them your passions, admit your failures. Let them know what you like and what you don’t (without being ugly about it, of course). They don’t want to know how perfect you are, but that you are a real person, just like them, or their aunt or grandma… Write stories about something funny or embarrassing that happened to you. Tell how you learned from your mistakes—or at least what you are trying to learn.

The post International Coffee Day, was about a mistake I made—one I should have learned from. You can click on the link to read it if you missed it. The very next day, I made the same mistake again! It was aggravating. I felt like a dunce.

Now, with all this in mind, make a list of all the things you can think of to write about. Jot down a few notes about each story. I like to put mine on note cards so I can flip through them when I need an idea.

Find a time to sit down for a couple of uninterrupted hours and write about one or more of those subjects. Try to do it a few days before you intend to post. Make a habit of doing this and you will always be ready with something to post. Take the time to read through it and make any needed corrections before posting.

Your goal should be to give visitors to your blog something worth reading. Whatever you write, make it interesting enough that they will want to come back for more. It never hurts to add a bit of humor, even if the joke is on you!

You are doing a great job! It is work to set up a blog. Don’t get discouraged. After all, if you had never began to blog, you wouldn’t have made it this far. Give yourself a break. Ask questions. Keep writing. Blog with confidence—in baby steps. Your story is waiting to be told.

 

This post is part of a series titled Baby Steps to Blogging. I hope it will help you on your blogging journey. I encourage you to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section of this post. You are invited to come back next Thursday for Part 3 of Baby Steps to Blogging.

Choose to follow me by e-mail if you would like to be notified of new posts to my blog.

Absence Excused–Not Guilty!

This past summer has been full with grandchildren. I chose spending time with them over posting. At first I felt guilty for neglecting my blog.

“What kind of reputation are you making for yourself?” I asked.

“That depends,” the answer came, “on what your goals are.”

“My goal is for these children to know that God loves them even more than I do.” I said. “I want them to know the importance of having a relationship with God.”

“Then you better take the time to teach them and show them now. They are getting older. What if they don’t want to spend next summer with grandma? You can write and blog after they go home. Make the most of the time you have with them now. You may not get another chance.”

Guilty or Not?

And so, I made the conscious choice to spend as much time as I could with my grandkids. We went camping, hiking, swimming and played in the park. We ate pizza three times a week and had ice cream nearly every day.

We read books aloud to each other and talked about dragons. We played checkers and chess. We prayed before meals, and at night before bed. We talked about what they wanted to be when they grew up, and about remembering to read the Bible and pray every day.

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Then it was over. I had to take them back home, 600 miles away. The time we had together was so short. I no longer feel guilt over the posts I didn’t write. Instead, I am glad for the talks we had and the connections we made. I cherish the time spent with them and look forward to next summer for more of the same–and I pray they don’t grown up too much between now and then.

 

Originally appeared marthajanecurtis.weebly.com on 7-23-14 titled Guilty or Not?