S.T.A.R.T. 7: Timing

  
Timing 

Know when and how to share

 A very wise man, and friend, Pastor Denny Livingston has taught me that timing is everything, and I wholeheartedly agree. You must pick the proper moment to share your story, video, book, or website. In evaluating your timing, you should consider the most appropriate method.

For example, As of this writing, the majority of PruittWrites eBooks are sold through the Kindle store on Amazon. Initially, our reason for this was no upfront cost. Let’s be honest, in business, cost is a factor. It must not be the only one, but it is one.

We chose this means, not only because of price, but because the market is massive. Our books are on sale in India and the United Kingdom. In addition, there are wonderful promotional tools to aid in the marketing of our products. The format is almost universal in it’s availability across electronic devices.

If design is not your strong suit, seek out experts that can help you to get the most out of your product. Businesses such as Ninety Nine Designs or a freelance Graphic Artist can be a key factor in your success.

Before you publish, post, or upload, seek out input from those you both trust, and have confidence in. If they say it isn’t ready, or it isn’t clear, listen. It won’t hurt if it takes a little longer, but starting to soon countries e detrimental t 

When you start, be prepared to wear multiple hats, and seek as much counsel as you can. Establish in your heart, to continually be a student, don’t allow an expert attitude to rob you from crucial input. Over time, you’ll learn many things, but always remember, there’s more to be learned.

One of the things that you must be committed to, at the start of your journey, is change. Change, not for the sake of change, but for the the success of your goal. Please understand, people confuse methods with message. Your message, your core values, should never change, but your methods are only the means to an end. View them as only a vehicle to carry your message, and when someone provides you with the right opportunity, upgrade your vehicle.

At it’s launch, what is now PruittWrites.com was a free site, now we’re self hosted. I have a technical background so I enjoy serving as the technical crew currently. Still, we seek input on everything from writing to marketing to where we’re planning to go next. As your projects expand, you can take on more help. At first, in their infancy, new projects can require more hands on attention.

We recognize that not all opportunities are upgrades. That new car, (i.e. web technology, piece of equipment, etc.), may turn out a lemon. Test drive it first. If you are thinking about changing something, do a beta version, and then have it evaluated. In television, they always make a pilot before they make a series. 

One of the most important areas of marketing is an email list. This is a way to allow interested people to opt in to a weekly email/newsletter from you. It will give you an accurate idea of the size of your base. 

The statistics will help you learn how to post regularly enough to keep readers interested. I use a plugin that makes this easy. It takes the last four posts, automatically puts them into a preset newsletter template, and mails out each week. 

PruittWrites is still building our email list, and we hope to offer a new tool that will enhance the lives of our readers. Learn what you do that brings the most value to your customers, and then seek to fill that area with important content. 

By valuing your customers, you’ll learn when to launch project a, b, or c.  Over time you can instinctively know what they need, and how to fill it.  Connect with your base, listen to their problems, and fill their need. In so doing, you’ll not only S.T.A.R.T. strong, you’ll finish stronger.  If that is, your timing is right.

S.T.A.R.T. – The Writing Circle

  In this month’s S.T.A.R.T. Workshop, I want to share with you a simple way to put pen to paper, or fingers to keys, and start writing.

Writing isn’t a solitary journey, it’s an invitation for friends to take a road trip together. I love writing, more importantly, I love what it can do in the lives of people. It touches both the reader and the writer in a profound way.

At the risk of getting a song stuck in your head all day, it is truly a circle of life. A person experiences something, they share it by telling their story. A reader reads about it, learns, adds their own journey to it, and then shares it again.

Of course not everyone has to read your story to make the telling of it beneficial. Journaling and diaries allow you to move what’s either trapped in your heart, or stuck in your head, to a physical place. Once written down, many times, you can leave it there.

Articles, and blogs are two way methods of communication that invite a conversation. Especially blogging, that’s the wonderful thing about modern technology. Input and output are no longer localized. People in Portugal and America can have a conversation almost instantaneously.

A life experience or story bottled up inside you can be like a stallion at the gate. He is kicking for the chance to run his course. What is inside you that may instruct someone else? Where have you walked that might prevent another’s missteps?

It’s at this point you hear, “But I’m not a writer.” Even if that’s true, you have something to contribute. The worst case scenario is that you have to have help crafting your words a little, but then most writers do. Name any famous writer, and they’ll give you a number. That’s how many times they had to edit what they wrote.

If you’re uncomfortable, but have an urge to transfer your thoughts and feelings, start a journal. You don’t have to keep a written one, although that’s fine too. It can be a text file on your computer, or a voice file on your phone.  

Now you’re ready to take the next step and share your writing. First, put it in a format that is sharable, preferably electronic in form. Don’t edit, just write. Then rewrite at least once, you do this, not for perfection, but to make you feel more confident when you show it to others. Next, it’s time to phone a friend.

Reach out to someone who’s opinion you value. For best results don’t select either your biggest fan, or your worst critic. Find that balanced voice who rests somewhere in the middle. Explain up front, that you need three things from them.  

First, you need to know what they heard when they read it. This tells you whether or not your message, or voice, is coming through properly. Second, where or what confused or lost them? Third, a general proofing of your content, another set of eyes will spot what you’ve missed.

If you don’t have someone that can help you with this, there are online tools that can help. You’ll be surprised how freeing, and how empowering writing can be. Complete the circle, write what you’ve seen, and share it. Share it with not just anyone, but someone who can appreciate how personal your journey is.  They know, because they’re on the road with you.

S.T.A.R.T. 5: Meet The Story Tellers

 

It’s rare that you meet two people as talented and as committed as Jason Potter and Brittany Livingston Potter. Whether you’re looking at starting a streaming cast, YouTube channel, or blog, the principles they share will enhance any project.  Their story will inspire you to share your story at a higher level than before.

To understand a story completely, you have to understand the story tellers. Those people behind the camera who have lived and breathed what you and I are now watching. When you know their story, it makes what you’re viewing more magical.

Jason Potter and Brittany Livingston Potter help connect Point Of Mercy.net’s message through live streaming and around the clock access, this includes both YouTube and Vimeo. A wonderful example of this is “The Rhythm” video which conveys the theme God gave our Lead Pastor Denny Livingston for the year of 2015.

Like any great storyteller, they are as much jugglers as they are anything else. To understand what they do, it’s important that you know the volume of it. Along with the interview, I’d like to give you a glimpse at their personal story.

What began as two teenagers dating developed into much more. Over time, they fell in love, married, and are now a few months away from their sixth anniversary. Not only do they share a life together, they work together on a daily basis.

They also have become expert at the art of storytelling. At it’s core, it’s about communication. These two individuals are as adept at both as anyone I’ve ever been privileged to know.

While one grew up in a Pastor’s home, the other began as a star athlete. The journey each traveled may differ, but both have a heartfelt passion for what they do. Each were influenced by family and mentors who care about them. They have embraced the lessons that were modeled for them, and are striving to pass them on to those they influence.

Brittany grew up in a Pastor’s home that was also very talented. Her parents, Lead Pastor Denny Livingston and Alonna McCool Livingston, passed along a passion for both God and music to their eldest daughter.

She watched as her parents filled the needs of a congregation, even when that meant learning a skill they had never had before. What was equally wonderful was the fact that they gave Brittany the freedom to choose where and what she wanted to do. They didn’t place a guitar in her hands because a guitarist was needed, they gave her one because she asked to learn.

[tweetthis]”It needed to better, because it could be better.”[/tweetthis]

This desire for learning though was a gift, one that she has utilized completely. Countless hours were spent, not watching music videos, but tutorials. Learning how to excel in Photoshop, Final Cut, and Adobe After Effects was the way she spent her evenings. I’ve never seen anyone as skilled, or as brilliant as she is.

She explained to me that “Design was a passion because of it’s ability to convey a vision.” At the time, she knew that there were no open positions in media, so she learned, and waited. Brittany was drawn to design because of what she called “the ability to captivate.”

Jason, who I’m convinced, knows every aspect of production, came to video for a different reason. A concrete, math loving, structured young man didn’t necessarily have the desire to run a video department. He did however want to make sure that those who couldn’t attend service could watch it from where they were.

When asked to comment on it, he explained it this way. “It needed to better, because it could be better. I didn’t know where to start, so I started somewhere.” What you and I call skills, he views as solutions to a problem. These two spend their weeks finding creative, and visual solutions to those problems, and love doing it.

To Brittany, the most challenging part of her role, is also the most rewarding. That is the ability to help someone share their vision. More than anything, they view themselves as servants. Whether it was a Minister, or one of the business she also works with, it’s about helping others. She loves nothing better than giving shape to someone’s dream.

The two of them compliment each other, and their staff very well. Brittany being a more abstract thinker, and Jason’s concrete analytical approach build one on the other. I think it’s because of the attitude they bring to a team.

Jason explains that he appreciates what creative people bring to the table. He views the two types much like a right and left arm. The two groups work, not on a turn based system, but in tandem. Their gifts parallel and enhance the other. Brittany agrees, she enjoys the diversity of thinking that this corroboration brings.

The two have brought this type of thinking to training too. Jason explained that, while the equipment differs, the principles of video work are the same. Frames per second, aperture, and sound quality are all constants. They are also secondary to the relationships that are built as you work on a team.

“The most rewarding accomplishment isn’t the technical success, but the relationship that develops between those you work with. A project is important, but it is never more important, or more valuable than the relationship.” Brittany and Jason’s approach to people has always been to be very kind and patient.

For Jason, he credits this partially to his sports experience. “If you have good people working for you, then kindness is easy. To motivate someone that you value, especially if they’re struggling, is incredibly rewarding.”

Whether it’s a Youtube channel, audio or video podcast, or a blog, their advice is to start with the need first. “Why are you doing it? Just because others are, just because its good in theory, doesn’t mean it would apply to your situation.”

Their belief is that anything you do, should be about adding value to others. For example, if you’re considering beginning a Youtube channel, will it add value to the people you’re reaching? The concept they live by is “Don’t do just anything, do the best thing.”

At the end of the day, when you’re trying to determine what to do next, you must figure out who you are. Do what makes sense for your situation. From where to start, to even knowing when to monetize a blog, involves the same mental approach.

The key to it all is learning, realizing both what you do know, and what you don’t know. Knowledge is power, discover what you need to learn to fulfill your dreams. Find out who, what, or where has the knowledge you need to get you there. Once you’ve equipped yourself to accomplish your goal, and you’re confident that you can do it correctly, if the timing is right, go forward.

[tweetthis]”Don’t do just anything, do the best thing.”[/tweetthis]

The formula they bring to the table is a combination of four things. The first is attitude. Yes, they get tired, yes they sometimes need a day off, but they are always willing to do what is needed to make something excellent. The passion in their spirit is always greater than either the energy or the fatigue in their body.

Second, the dedication to detail is what makes the work that they do cutting edge. When you view a video or a broadcast they’ve participated in, it’s always complete. From lighting to the choice of shading, nothing is left to chance.

Third is the value that they place on their team. If you cherish the people that you work with, they will cherish you. If you are committed to their well being, they will commit themselves to you first, and then to your project.

Last of all, is a willingness to constantly learn and enhance what you do. They never limit themselves to the software, hardware, or the process that they are currently working on. Jason and Brittany both want to do the best work. They fall in love with what they do, and not the current way they do it.

This approach has helped to take our Church from a static website to a constantly growing means of sharing a life changing message with the world. Doing things well, doing things better, and doing them with the best attitude will ensure an excellent experience for your entire audience.

S.T.A.R.T. 4

R stands for many things, but most importantly R is for reach.  It’s time to talk about your next step.  You’ve got an idea, you’ve setup a website, and you’ve established your social media channels.  What’s next? Content, consistent, weekly content is your next step.

If you’re a podcaster, how often are you going to post, weekly or monthly?  Either way, remember content is king.  Every episode needs to be interesting.  

They also need to maintain a good audio quality throughout the episode.  If you’re a Mac user, then GarageBand will be a wonderful choice for creating your podcast.  Windows users have various options, but Audacity is a wonderful free program that will work for you. 

Once you’ve made your audio file, it needs to be submitted to a provider.  Some choices are iTunes, Soundcloud, and Podbean, but there are others.  You will also need to create an xml file known as an RSS feed.  This sounds complicated, but it’s much easier than you think. There are even tools that will step you through it.


An RSS feed is basically an xml file that creates the metadata and instructions you need to package your audio file for distribution.  Here is a link to Apple’s own instructions for creating a podcast, and to the free program Audacity. (https://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/specs.html – http://audacity.sourceforge.net)
 
On top of this, you’ll need a quality image to represent your podcast. Make sure that you have the rights to any image you use.  This will be the image that is the face of your podcast.  It’s one of the most important images that you will choose.  
 
A quality microphone, like the Pyle-Pro PDMIC58 Professional Moving Coil Dynamic Handheld Microphone will help you with sound control.  Music for your opening and ending needs to be original or public domain for copyright purposes.  
 
Quality sound is vital, but the most important part is your own voice.  Your voice doesn’t have to sound like a radio DJ, but it does need to avoid a monotone feel.  People will tune out a voice that doesn’t excite them. 
 
Fluctuations are important, as long as they are natural.  You never want to sound like a vocal roller coaster either.  Your voice needs to be inviting, entertaining, and interesting.  The best way to do this, is to have passion about what you’re saying.
 
This will also go a long way towards building your audience.  They will be interested, only if you are.  Can you generate enough regular content for a weekly podcast?  If not, a monthly one may be a better choice for you.
 
One way to do this is to have guests, but that comes with challenges also.  People’s schedules will dictate that you pre-tape some interviews.  It will also mean that you’ll have cancellations, and need to reschedule. 
 
When that happens, you’ll still need to have content ready for your post time. If you’re supposed to post on a particular day, again, be consistent.  Once you get regular listeners, they’ll expect you to produce shows regularly.
 
If you’re a blogger, consistent means at least two posts a week, every week. Obviously there will be exceptions, but as much as possible you need to maintain a schedule.  This will keep your followers engaged in what you have to offer.
 
Whether it’s audio, text, or video, your Reach will be determined by how consistently you produce something.  If something isn’t working, be open to change. At the same time, do not allow common obstacles to stop you.  Once you S.T.A.R.T. your project, follow it through until the end.
 
Next time, we will look at video content on S.T.A.R.T. Workshop!
 

S.T.A.R.T. III

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 A is for assembling, in this month’s article in particular, it’s about assembling your social media presence. Now that you have a website, you have somewhere to point to, a place to invite people to view. That invitation will play out mostly through social media. The way you handle social media will affect your traffic. It is your advertising and marketing campaign outlet.

Most of us have limited budgets, so view your social media presence as your pitch man. Let’s pause for a moment, perhaps what you’re sharing is not commercial. As a Minister, I firmly believe that anything we do should be founded on our principles. This however doesn’t mean silence anymore than it means shameless promotion.

Your message needs an eloquent messenger. The Lord Jesus promoted, not Himself, but His Message. He wanted all men to know that He offered Salvation to a lost world. Remember, you’re not promoting yourself, you’re promoting your message. If it’s a noble one, then don’t be hesitant for the wrong reasons. Be cautious, but go forward!

With that in mind, you’ll approach the diverse outlets differently. There are multiple resources that can help you with this. One of the greatest is the website of MichaelHyatt.com. Another is SethGodin.com. They have been an invaluable source to myself and others.

It’s also good to keep up with the most relevant websites, not only about your interest, but the technical aspects of site design. You don’t want to appear out of date because you’re behind on a technology change. It only takes me about five minutes a day to get the current tech news. I also listen to two weekly podcasts which help as well.

Let’s look at each social media channel separately. First, let’s look at Twitter. Twitter is one of my favorite channels, you can access important information quickly. Twitter is a favorite for input, but as far as output, you want to be selective with its use. Your viewers will get annoyed when you over share. At the same time, you want to have a balance. It’s not a good idea to under share either.

As in life, everything must be balanced, especially marketing. If all of your Twitter posts involve selling something, then you may need to rethink your strategy. However, that is different than announcing your blog post, or something you’re giving away for free. Free items add value to people, and they welcome those types of posts more readily.

A good rule of thumb when promoting something, is to tweet once in the morning, and once in the afternoon. Other posts, like personal reflections, quotes, etc. can be more frequent. You have to find what works for your audience of people.

Twitter is like a highway, Facebook is more like an interstate. This allows a higher volume of sharing, as long again as it is balanced. It lends itself to more visual promotions, such as graphics and video. Here caution must be used, you do not need a huge budget to produce quality graphics, so it’s not about the money. What it is about, is high quality. If you don’t have the time to create a high quality graphic, or video, then I would wait until you could produce a high quality product.

Facebook also is a wonderful vehicle to interact with your viewers or readers. Construct your posts that they’ll be able, should they choose, to highly interact with you. This is also true of Google Plus. In many ways, the use of both of these social networks would mirror each other. They are both high trafficable venues.

[tweetthis] Quality work is the only type worth attempting….[/tweetthis]

Instagram is a wonderful outlet for anyone that can provide high quality, interesting images for their viewers. If you can produce quality images, they will follow multiple posts a day. Your audience will most likely be as varied as any other, meaning some will be attracted to more of one than the other. This is why the more outlets you provide quality content for, the more people you’ll reach.

Lastly, Pinterest is also a personal favorite of mine for consumption. It is also a wonderful tool for distribution. Whether your medium is visual or written, audible or video, it can be pinned. Your followers can easily view all four through the medium of Pinterest.

Two important things should be mentioned here. Even though your social media presence reflects what you’re doing, it must not be self-centric. In other words, before you share anything ask yourself, will this add value to someone else? This also relates to sharing content other than your own. If you’ve read, watched, or listened to something that made you better, pass it on. Create a hub of value for your viewers, and they will frequently return to it.

Ecclesiastes 9:10

“10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do [it] with thy might;…”

Secondly, it starts and ends with quality. Quality in the sense that it is well thought out, entertainingly explained, and visually pleasing. These three are essential to anything you will do. It goes back to a principle found everywhere from the Bible to any civilization that produced anything still standing, quality work is the only type worth attempting.

When you start with social media, at least from the viewpoint of sharing something, it can be overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. No one is saying that you have to do all of these at once. You can start one at a time and add them over time. However, it is important to open up to as many outlets as you can without wearing your content thin.

Your content will dictate where it will and won’t fit. You may stretch yourself, but don’t force it into a setting that it can’t be sustained. Try a few things, experiment, and if it doesn’t work, discard it. Even in completing your overall vision, not everything you start will you finish. Part of completing isn’t doing everything, but doing the right things well.

Assemble what works for you, what makes your adventure better. Like David, you’ll find what doesn’t fit will only weigh you down. Over time, you’ll uncover tools that you’ll grow into. David couldn’t use Saul’s armor, but he could wield Goliath’s sword. At the right time, you’ll step into the arena that works for you. Just do not allow fear of failure to keep you from making a S.T.A.R.T. .

S.T.A.R.T. Workshop 2

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The letter that we want to concern ourselves with today is the second letter in our S.T.A.R.T. Workshop. Today our questions will focus on What you want to accomplish, who your audience is or will be, and what steps to take. Those steps may even include altering your strategy.

The components of our S.T.A.R.T. Workshop aren’t something that we only visit once. Each letter is a concept that has a continuing importance in your journey. The Tools that take you there, will not only follow you through to the end, your toolbox will, by necessity, fill up over time. The tool that we will focus on today is your website, and your social media outlets.

Last week, we examined the questions of why, and how to begin. This week, we will first ask what are you wanting to accomplish? Whether your goal is a book, a website, a blog, or a podcast, there are a few steps you need to take.

One of these steps is creating a web headquarters. In the early twentieth century, a person who wanted to start a business would secure a location. Whether it was a ten year old child’s lemonade stand, a lunch cart, or a storefront, it was about having a physical address.

In this day and age, it’s still about having a location, just not a physical one. You need somewhere to send traffic. If you have a podcast, people will want to interact with you. They’ll want to go to your site. If you’re a Writer, people will want to know more about you, they’ll go to your site. A web location isn’t a luxury, but a necessity.

This doesn’t mean that it has to be either expensive, or nerve wrecking. Two valid questions at this point have to be asked? The first is, “What is your project?” Next, “What is your budget, in both time and money?”

Some loved ones in my life have projects that are their business, while others have a project that is a hobby. Each group is valuable, and they both have something important to “Say”. The difference is, that they each will proceed differently, based on their goal.

Just because something is classified as a hobby, doesn’t subtract from its worth. The Apple TV was classified as a hobby, and then the profits rolled in. The question is not “What it’s worth?” The question is, “What is your current blueprint for this project?”

If the answer is that it is a hobby, then I would recommend starting with a free WordPress.com account. Perhaps a Tumblr blog, or a Facebook Fan page. If you want it to become more than a hobby, I would slightly alter my approach.

Either way, at this point, we have to address the second question. “What is your Budget?” If that isn’t a concern, then you may want to spend at least fifty dollars a year on a domain. If money is a factor, then a free WordPress account is wise option.

Even if your project is destined for more than a hobby, you may have a limited budget. If so, a free WordPress account is still a valid choice. It was actually the path that PruittWrites started with also. Now, we have PruittWrites.com, but at first, we had a free WordPress site.

Okay, you know which web option your choosing, that’s great. Don’t set it up just yet. You know why you’re doing this, you know how to begin, you’ve got your story, and you know what type of website you want. The next question, and it’s big, “What do you want to name it?”

The name is important, it’s not only proprietary, it can be permanent. Yes, there have been successful name changes, but why risk it? The identity you choose can take years to erase, if you decide later that you don’t like it.

For example, Agatha Christie created the character of Hercules Poirot, and readers loved him. The only problem was, Agatha didn’t. She, in fact, grew to hate him. So much so, that she wrote a story about his death, years before she published it.

Don’t allow your website to turn into something that you grow to hate. Take some time to evaluate your choice. Search for anything that is similar online. When you do a search for PruittWrites, you find our site, and our social media channels.

Our name communicates, on a broad level, what we are about. Even if you view it as a hobby, it will become your brand.  If you paint, if you write, if you are a woodcarver, you will have a style all your own.  People who see your work will be able to pick up on things that you do that are unique.  You will want to choose a name that does the same thing.

Once you’ve decided on it, it’s time to choose your web provider.  At PruittWrites.com, we are an Apple shop, so we used a hosting company that is also Apple based, we use Machighway.com.

The first step will be to review the different plans and choose which one works best for you, regarding pricing and feature sets.  This includes the storage size, and one very important feature, unlimited bandwidth.

If your website becomes popular, it will generate more and more traffic.  Unless you have unlimited bandwidth, which thankfully is much more common today, it could become very expensive.

Once you will request your site name, i.e. your dot com, purchase both it, and the hosting package that works for you. You can typically pay monthly, yearly, or bi-yearly. Congratulations, you now have your shingle on the web!

The next question is, what now? In my opinion, the only viable web solution today is some form of content management system, such as WordPress or Drupal. Just a few years ago, the complexity of this was overwhelming. Today, literally anyone can set up a successful WordPress site.

Many Internet Hosting companies provide an easy install for one or more cms (content management systems). An interactive wizard will walk you through the setup process. If they do not, you can obtain a free version from one of the cms sites.

My personal preference is WordPress. It has a very reasonable learning curve to it. One of the first choices you’ll make in WordPress is selecting a theme. What you choose will depend on your individual needs. A photographer will need a more graphic-centric site than a writer. Even in that case though, graphics will be a major part of any site’s success.

We will spend the rest of this article talking about your theme. Plug ins, marketing strategies, and content management are enormous subjects all their own. They will be featured in upcoming workshop articles. Today, we want to help you with your store window.

Have you sketched out, at least in your mind, what you want your site to look like?  Before you select the actual theme, imagine it in your mind.  Will it point to one particular project?  Is it all about pictures?  If you’re a writer, it will mostly be about the text, but it can’t be all text.  Graphics are not only your friend, they are your lifeline.  Even the image of your site in your head is a graphical one.

Your theme, especially the first page, is to you what the window on 34th street is to Macy’s. The theme you select needs to be big enough to grow with you. A few words to look for at the selection stage are, flexible, css, and widgets. This will ensure that you won’t have to suddenly change everything three months from now because your old theme was too small.

Once you’ve decided on your theme, you’ll need to pick the right colors. People will associate the colors you choose with your brand. You’ll want to balance your colors. If they’re too vibrant, they can drive traffic away. Too bland, and they will be boring.  Currently, one to two crisp colors on top of a white background is a popular, and successful strategy.

Regardless of what your site is about, you’ll need a good head shot of yourself.  People will connect with a brand, if they can see the person behind it.  I’m not a fan of my own picture, but it is a way of connecting with people.

In the end, everything that we have, or will talk about is about communication.  No matter what the medium, you’re sharing ideas.  It is your gift to someone else, and you want to present it in the best gift box possible.

Once you’ve added your header image, and your logo, you’re far from finished.  We are still just in the beginning stages, you’ll want a fav icon, and several other features that make it convenient for your customers.  One thing though is a must have, your social media links must be prominent.

PruittWrites has more than one way to connect with our Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and pages.  We currently feature our Instagram and Pinterest selections on our front page.  Try and think of these the same way that you think of an electrical outlet in your home.  Make them easily accessible, make them prominent, and have several of them.

In selecting your theme, you’ve added the store name on your window to the world. Even if you’re not completely ready for business yet, your store front is announcing to the world, “We are here!”

Congratulations on what you’ve accomplished so far. There is much more to come, but celebrate the steps. You’ve made a S.T.A.R.T., next month will go on from here.

 

S.T.A.R.T. Workshop 1: S.T.

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I’m excited to share the first article in our workshop with you. Whether you’re a writer, blogger, podcaster, or other online creative, we’ve got something for you. It’s called the S.T.A.R.T. Workshop.

Over the next few months, we are going to help you to S.T.A.R.T. that project you’ve been putting off. Whether you want to start a WordPress blog, write a novella, or start podcasting, we want to help.

Each letter in our workshop represents part of our action plan to help you on your journey. The first letter S, stands for Say, “Say what you feel, it’s about passion.” The second letter is T, it is for the “Tools that take you there”. One deals with why you wish to say something, the second is about how to say it.

There are more letters, but today, let’s focus on just these two. They cover many facets. Most importantly they deal with the courage to pursue your passion until completion. Whatever your dream is, these two letters can help bring clarity to your goal.

You have something to say, something that means a great deal to you. What is keeping you from saying it? For me, it was a combination. One part fear of failure, the second part, how hard I perceived it to be. Finally, I had to allow my passion to overcome my fear.

[tweetthis]The Human voice needs the vibration of your vocal chords to produce a sound.[/tweetthis]


To share my passion, I needed a vehicle with which to communicate it. The human voice needs the vibration of your vocal chords to produce a sound. Just as you need some tool to help vocalize your hopes, and to drown out your fears.

The tool I want to focus on today is that of Writing. It’s both a means of sharing your message, as well as the method to share it with. Writing is dear to my heart. It’s the building block of your project, whether a book, podcast, or a movie. It will help you figure out what does, and doesn’t work.

Along the way, there will be more than one obstacle. One of them is writer’s block, its cold, blank stare silently mocks it’s victim. My goal is to help you to silence it, by helping you find your voice.

Getting Started

I love writing, and in some way, I always have since I was a child. In writing, the trouble for me wasn’t getting started. For me, the beginning of an article, story, or essay was the easy part. One of my strengths was actually the beginning of a story.

Unfortunately, I found finishing them to be much harder. When I started I had both a good introduction and a good ending in mind. It was the murky middle that got in my way. It would stall me out, and more often than not, would trick me into giving up on that writing project.

As an adult, The Lord has helped me with this. Several eBooks later, it’s not the roadblock that it used to be. There are still times when the untamed interior and I wrestle, but He has helped me to combat, and overcome it. Whether your problem is getting started, overcoming the middle, or finding an ending, my desire is to help you to do the same thing.

There are two problems with getting started writing. One is the actual attempt at writing, we will deal with that in the section of this article called Writing Tools. Before that, I want to talk about the psychological barriers to writing.

Psychological Barriers:

Maybe it’s been your dream to write a novel, or start a blog since you were a child. Perhaps you tried in Elementary, or High School, and you were told that your writing wasn’t good. A lot of times, it’s less painful not to try, than to try and have someone laugh at your efforts.

I understand that. I cringe every time someone reads something that I’ve written. I also get excited. I’m thrilled at the possibility of bringing some enjoyment to them with my writing. Don’t you want to experience that? Isn’t the reward of that experience worth the risk?

It’s a question that you have to answer for yourself, or else you’ll never finish, because you’re afraid to start. I had to answer that question. I had to pick my pen up and write again. I had to submit it to someone who I knew could be critical. It was worth the risk. Once you’re ready to put your message to paper, you must find your place to write.

No, it doesn’t have to be a cabin in the woods, it could be a loud booth at your favorite restaurant. Silence works for some, noise works for others. Some people have a very carefully crafted place to work, others jot notes on a napkin during lunch.

Find the where that works for you. In writing, why, how, what, who, when, and where, are more than journalistic points, they are key stones. You’ve got to answer certain questions to succeed. “Why am I doing this?” If your why is important, than you must figure out your where.

Writing Tools:

How is next on your list, and the last question we will concern ourselves with today. How is different than why, how is about filling up the actual blank page. How begins your story. Here are a few tools to get you started.

These are not methods for everyone, but they will work for many of you. Tools come in different shapes and sizes. We forget that there are different methods for different times, and not only one tool for each person. Some of these may seem simple, and they are, that’s why they work.

Some people are more comfortable developing a plan before they start writing, and that’s ok.  Once you’re on your path, that can be a successful method.  I’m not as concerned about it now for this reason, you’ve spent hours, days, and years thinking about what you want to say.

Now isn’t the time for planning, that will come later.  Now is the time to actually start writing.  Forget everything else, and focus on it.  I know that writing may not be your ultimate goal, but it is a necessary step in the process.  It will shape your message in ways that nothing else will, essentially the writing itself, is planning for success.

Sharing your message is complicated, when we’re nervous, we make it more so. How is about simplifying it into a manageable state. As you read this, view these as exercises, which can also be simple. Cross fit is complicated, but walking isn’t. Even in the midst of cardio and zoomba, walking is still considered one of the greatest exercises ever.

Three Words

First, start by placing only three words on your page, that’s all. “Write the words you feel about what you want to say on your page.” Not the sentences, not the phrases, but the individual words. Words like pain, hurt, fight, battle, victory, and overcome.

They don’t have to make sense. They don’t have to be eloquent. They are your written first words. We don’t expect a baby to form sentences at first, just words. Give yourself the same time. Simply write a few words on the page.

It doesn’t have to be perfect at this point, it isn’t about that. It’s about getting the building blocks of what you want to say from your heart to your hands. Those few words say more than you’ve been able to say before. They are the raw emotions you feel, the abstract and concrete things that make up your story.

They are building blocks, just as with a skyscraper. The foundation of a skyscraper isn’t the gleaming layers of glass everyone sees. It’s the stone and concrete foundation that builds the building.

Was the coat you wore when it happened green? Then write the word green down. Later on, you can describe the green. Maybe it was hunter green, or maybe the light glistened off of it in the sun. We will deal with editing, it’s a vital piece of the puzzle, but we’ll focus on that a little later.

Now isn’t the time to worry about editing, much less a final edit. We all edit a word or a phrase as we go along, but complete editing comes after it’s poured from the vase of your heart to the vessel of consumption, either the page or screen.

Stop Thinking, Watch The Movie

Second, stop thinking for just a moment. Stop focusing on either your fear, or your opening sentence. Close your eyes, pretend what you want to say is a movie that’s already finished and playing in your brain. What do you see?

This isn’t a movie you’re writing or directing, your subconscious has already accomplished that. Just watch. When it’s over, go back, and watch again. Only this time, whether mentally or physically, take notes.

What is the first image that you see? Write it down. Who is in your movie? Write a brief description of them. What is the sequence of events? Jot it down. All of these are clips, cliff notes of what you haven’t written yet. They’ve been inside you so long, you’ve given them an identity.

Feelings have their own size, shape, and tone. Jot this down. Again, you have something more than you had before. Now you have more of your building material for the next layer. After this, look at that blank page that was mocking you earlier. It’s beat up, bruised with physical or digital ink. It’s no longer the intimidating one. You have left your mark on the first page of your story.

Where To Go From Here

Take that page, and decide where to go next. What tool will take you from your first page to your final page? One method is a classic, it’s an outline. It intimidates some, but for others, it’s the perfect way to start. You’re not writing a novel, you’re making a list. It doesn’t have to reference foot notes and other scary things that remind you of a college English project. It’s simply a list. If nothing else, start by writing the outline this way.

Beginning:

Middle:

End:

Now, split the words from your first page into where you think it will go in your story. Beginning, middle, or end. Those descriptions you wrote, plug them in to one of the three areas. It doesn’t have to make sense yet, just keep filling this page. It’s the second one you’ve written.

You are ready for a huge step. One that you should be proud of, it’s your first sentence! You are working towards your goal now, and not only dreaming about it. Transfer your first word, or point into a sentence. Grammar isn’t a factor yet, remember our point of reference, a baby’s first words.

Once it’s on paper, you can flesh out your first sentence with a second. Now, wrap up the first two sentences with one or two more. It may take the same procedure to get there, or you may find the next two sentences write themselves. Either way, before you know it, you’ve wrote your first paragraph.

See What You’ve Got

Now, look at the paragraph, but don’t look for quality, not yet. Look for periods. Are there any missing? Did you put a period where you should have used a question mark? I do it all the time. Any misspelled words? Guess what? You’ve just proofread your first paragraph!

After all of this, look at the word structure. Say your first paragraph to yourself. What’s missing? What would you have liked to say differently? Change a word, here or there. Look at your last sentence, if it matches the others, you’re good. You’ve just performed your first literary edit.

I know this may seem trivial, but it’s not. If starting isn’t your problem, that’s wonderful. For others that first paragraph can resemble your worst literary nightmare. You must conquer it, one word at a time.

Look back on what you’ve written, without being critical. It may not be perfect, but it’s your first step. Like a baby’s first words, a baby’s steps can be a little shaky, that’s ok. We cherish a child’s first words and steps because they mark a milestone, so does your first page.

Your work isn’t over, it’s just beginning, but don’t look now, you’re a writer. That pesky writer’s block is subdued in a corner. He’s not dead, you’ll face him again, but next time, you’ll be less intimidated. For now, even if it isn’t published yet, you’re an author!

Obviously, the road ahead is a long one, but this first page should help prove to yourself that you can accomplish your goals. The new worries in your mind will most likely be this, “Is it any good? Do I have any talent? Will anyone want to read it?”

[tweetthis]…we are all storytellers, and we all have a story to tell.[/tweetthis]


Those are important questions. Before we leave, let me address them this way. While it’s true that not everyone is cut out to tell their story in a literary way, we are all storytellers, and we all have a story to tell. You simply have to find the way to tell your story.

It’s not a matter of whether or not you have something to say, and by the way, you do have the ability to say it. How you articulate it doesn’t reflect your value. You are valuable, and as long as it comes from an unselfish place, you have something to say.

Not all of us will write the great novel of our time, but more of us are writers than we think. In the end though, you have to put it on paper, even if it’s only for yourself. An actor needs a script, an entrepreneur must have a business plan, and a teacher needs a syllabus.

No matter what format it takes on, you had to write it down. It will be your guide in this creative journey, we’ll build on it from here. It’s your goal sheet, your to do list, and your road map. Now that you have it, what do you do next?

That will be the subject of our next workshop article. What happens next? A free website, your own domain name, or recording a podcast? Future workshop articles will help you with WordPress themes, plug ins, and posting practices. The dictionary defines what as an interrogative expressing inquiry about the identity of a person. Why is about passion, how is the means, but what you do next can define you.

What you do next will shape your audience’s view of yourself.  This is important. It will help them to identify who you are by what you do.  What will produce your who, both who you are, and who your audience is. 

Thank you for allowing us this opportunity to aid in your creativity. Our goal here is always to add value through words and pictures, in this case articles and videos that will help you S.T.A.R.T. telling your story.