Tag Archives: Blogging

Blog Birthday: Two Years Old

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Blog Birthday: Two Years Old

Two years ago, I posted my first article on ARHtistic License. Yes, I am now entering Terrible Twos territory. No, no, no!

Last year I discovered that most of my popular articles were responses to photography challenges. This year all ten of my top ten posts were photo challenge submissions. (See below for some samples of my photographs. Click on the images for a slideshow of enlargements.)

Why? Why aren’t the articles I spent days researching and writing getting the attention my random photos get?

I’m especially proud of these articles:

Do I receive more feedback for my photo posts because photographers check out other photographers and are very generous with their encouragement? (Thank you, by the way.)

Or does my writing really suck?

Or is nobody interested in the arts and the creative process?

Or do readers not want to go to the trouble of signing up for a Gravatar account just to be able to click the “like” button? (Please reconsider. There are so many fabulous WordPress blogs and so many authors just dying to hear how they touched your heart. If you don’t tell them, they’ll go to their graves never knowing that their lives had meaning. Do you feel guilty yet?)

Anyway, I really want to know how to improve ARHtistic License, so that I can inspire a large community of creative readers.

This is where you come in. Please help by doing one or more things for me:

  1. pointing-finger-right-800pxIn the sidebar on this screen, scroll through the TOPIC menu and see if you can find an article you’re interested in.
  2. If you read something you like on ARHtistic License, please hit the like button.
  3. If you have something to add, write a comment. (Other readers also might be interested in your opinion.)
  4. If you know someone who might want to read an article, please share it through social media and/or email.
  5. Please take the ARHtistic License Second Birthday Survey and let me know exactly how I can improve my blog. The survey consists of four mandatory questions, which take maybe five minutes to answer, unless you’re very indecisive. Then there are five more optional questions which you can skip if you want.

Thank you. Writers work in a vacuum. We thrive on feedback. When we don’t get it, we have no idea if we’re on the right track or missing it altogether.

Meet and Greet

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Meet and Greet

Welcome! I’m borrowing this blog sharing idea, which I’ve seen on several different sites. I’m especially interested in seeing new blogs devoted to the arts and the creative process, but everyone is invited to participate.

Meet and Greet

Here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your blog or or to a post and tell a little about yourself in the comments section below
  2. Read a bunch of the links other participants shared. Comment on them, and share them.
  3. Share this post on social media.  Non-blogger friends will love you for posting Meet and Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new blogs to follow.
  4. Keep the love going. Reblog this post, edit it to suit you, and add tags.

Weekend Writing Warriors: Snippet #48

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Weekend Writing Warriors: Snippet #48

Every Sunday, the Weekend Writing Warriors share 8-10-sentence snippets from their works-in-progress on their blogs for others to read and comment on. Join the fun! Click on the link to see the full list.

The Unicornologist ~ High school freshman Hillary Noone, on a field trip to The Cloisters, receives a prophecy: she is destined to save the unicorn. Though she shrugs it off as being preposterous, soon life imitates art, and she finds herself in mortal danger.

Hillary’s been camping in the woods by herself, protecting the unicorn. Discouraged by the difficulty of her endeavor, she decides to go home for a day or two.

A deep rumble alerted her the weather was about to change. She shivered and hugged herself as the wind picked up and heavy drops of ice-cold rain pelted her. If that weren’t bad enough, within moments the rain turned to hail the size of walnuts. She ran for cover, finding it under a large tree.

The wind changed direction, and the hail changed to rain again, now coming down in sheets. Water penetrated the spaces between the leaves of the tree, making it as useless to Hillary as a torn umbrella. The roar of the rain sounded like Niagara Falls. Wherever she looked, water swirled angrily, gravity forcing the water to rush downhill.

She slogged forward against the tide, but the water got deeper and deeper until it passed her knees and its power threatened to knock her over. Defeated, she turned away from her homeward direction and allowed the flow to propel her back toward camp.

I know it’s short (the limit is ten sentences), but what do you think of this small excerpt from Chapter 23? Any suggestions on how I can make it better? Please comment below.

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Good Sources for Free Images for Your Blog

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Good Sources for Free Images for Your Blog

The right illustrations can make your blog more attractive and inviting. Readers are more likely to stay awhile if they’re not faced with unbroken print.

If you have a digital camera or a smart phone, you can take your own pictures. You are your best source of free images, because (unless you’re taking a photograph of a person without their permission, or of something that discloses proprietary information) you aren’t infringing on someone else’s rights.

But sometimes you just can’t snap the picture you need. Maybe, for a particular post, you need a tropical scene, or an aerial view. Maybe you need snowy mountains, but you live in the desert. Lots of photo services will sell you what you need, but if, like me, you blog for love, not money, you need to keep your expenses low. (Like, $0.00.)

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Found on StockSnap.

Here are the best sources I’ve found for free images (totally free to use, no attribution necessary):

  • Unsplash. High-quality, high-resolution photographs. You can sign up to periodically receive pictures in your email. Unsplash also has a search feature.
  • Death to Stock. I subscribe to their free email service, and download all the freebies I think I may actually use. To have access to their entire library (1500+ and growing), you have to sign up for their premium plan, $180 per year.
  • StockSnap. If I’m looking for a particular subject, I often look through this searchable database first.
  • Pixabay. Sometimes you envision a tall, skinny picture to border a list. Pixabay has an orientation filter on their search engine that will select vertical shots for you, and leave out the horizontal ones (or vice versa).
  • Ivorymix. These are fashionable, stylized shots. You can sign up to get a free packet every month by email. I find their site difficult to search. Here’s their infomercial:
  • FancyCrave. I just discovered this site. I signed up to receive 14 free photos each week by email.

If you can’t find what you need among those sources, try these:

  • Wikipedia. Search for the subject you want a photo of, like Winston Churchill, unicorns, etc. Virtually all the photographs on Wikipedia are either in the public domain, or usable under a Creative Commons license. Click on the image you like, and click on the More details Scroll down, and you can read whether the picture is public domain, if you’re allowed to alter it in any way, or if you need to attribute the photographer or artist, and any other requirements.
  • Bing. When you hunt for images on Bing, I strongly recommend you click the Filter button, and under the License option, choose either Public domain or All Creative Commons. Even so, the picture might be still copyrighted, so only use it if you are sure you’re not infringing on someone’s possible rights.
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From Death to Stock.

What do you do for illustrations for your blog? Do you like a source not listed here? Please share in the comments below.

Creative Juice #29

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Creative Juice #29

Fourteen articles, guaranteed to spark lots of creative ideas.

A Poem and a Blogging Prompt

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A Poem and a Blogging Prompt

I recently wrote this poem as an exercise for a book I’m reading and working through, poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge. The assignment was to think of a time when an irreversible change took place in your life. I chose to list them:

 

Life shifters

New friendrandom-art-supplies
Car purchase
Graduation
Job loss
Job change
Marriage
Birth
Move
Debt repaid
Resignation
Illness
Death

Here’s my challenge to you: Consider the events in your life that made you change your direction, or select one from the list above. Express your experience and thoughts in the medium of your choosing, whether poem or prose, photography, drawing, painting, zentangle, music, or whatever. Post it on your blog, and add your link in the comments below.

ALCGC2017: February Check-in

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ALCGC2017: February Check-in

“The ARHtistic License Creative Goals Challenge for 2017” is quite a mouthful. I’ve created a shorthand nickname for it: ALCGC2017. Let’s use the Twitter hashtag #ALCGC2017 to tweet about our goals.

One month down. How are you doing on your creative goals?

I think I’m off to a good start. I’ve tweaked my intentions a little in January.

The biggest adjustment is musical practice time. On January 1 I discovered I didn’t want to give up my piano practice for a day to practice recorder instead. (And the teacher in me knows that practicing any instrument only twice a month is insufficient for any skill development.) So now the goal is to spend 30 minutes a day practicing either recorder or guitar, and then an hour on piano. I’ve been able to do that almost every day, except when I’ve been fatigued. I practice in the evenings Thursday through Monday. (Tuesday is my folk dance night, and Wednesday night is bible study.)

It’s been almost two and a half years since I’ve played recorder. First I played through Recorder Karate, which is the book I taught my fifth grade students from, and luckily I can still play all those songs. Then I started working through The Sweet Pipes Recorder Book, Book One. I’m up to Unit 6. My tone sounds like a fifth grader (sigh)But I know that with practice, I’ll improve.

I haven’t played guitar in at least three years, and I’m back to square one. My poor finger tips on my left hand are so sore; it still feels like the razor-sharp wires are slicing through them. But I know from being a beginning level guitar player for the last four decades that the more I practice, the sooner I’ll develop calluses, and the pain will stop. I’m practicing chord progressions from a guitar seminar I took eight years ago, and I’m working through Essential Elements for Guitar by Will Schmid and Bob Morris. I’m up to page 23.

I haven’t gone on an artist date yet, though I have several ideas. It’s just been too stinking cold. (50 degrees in the Arizona desert is bitter cold. Don’t judge me unless you’re used to it being 118 in the summer.) I’m hoping February will be warmer. For now I’m staying home, bundled in my blankie and sipping hot cocoa.

I wrote five poems in January, and sent three to one contest, and one to another. It doesn’t add up to a poem every other day, but I hope to do better in February.

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An in-progress page from my coloring journal.

My daughter Katie gave me a coloring journal for Christmas. I hope to fill it with poems written in calligraphy, and color all the beautiful designs. I’ve also started another art project which I’m hoping to unveil on ARHtistic License on February 14.

I’ve been fairly successful at starting my work sessions with a chapter of scripture and meditation. I think I only missed two days. I’m blessed by the time spent in the presence of my Lord. It fuels me for writing.

I’m finding it challenging to keep a month ahead on my blog working essentially only three days a week at it, but I really want to devote the other days to my other writing projects. My books are even more important to me than ARHtistic License. I made some modest progress on them; it would be nice to pronounce them done before the end of the year.

Taking a closer look at the old pieces in my file cabinet these past five Sundays, I realize much of my early shorter work is either dated, stupid, or just not what magazine markets are looking for anymore. Some of my old, unpublished books could be rewritten, but The Unicornologist and The God of Paradox are my priorities for this year. I’m going to keep searching, though–just one more drawer to go.

Last Saturday I attended a Christian writer’s mini-conference with guest speaker and author Allen Arnold. (Oh, I guess I could consider that an artist date!) He reminded us attendees that the Creator who calls us to write also invites us to create with Him; He desires an intimate relationship with us. As I review my notes, I feel inspired, invigorated, and recommitted to my writing. If you have a chance to go to a writer’s conference or retreat, whether a small local one or a major national one, take advantage of the opportunity to get a fresh perspective and do a little networking.

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Now it’s your turn. I’d love to know how all of you are doing so far in 2017, so I (and ARHtisticLicense readers) can encourage you. If you’re keeping accountable on your blog, paste a link into the comments below. Or if you don’t have a blog, just tell us your successes and your challenges this past month. ARHtistic License was created to help the creative community keep refining their skills. Check in on March 1, 2017 to share your progress during February.

For Bloggers: How to Post Every Day

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For Bloggers: How to Post Every Day

In 2016 I published at least one post on ARHtistic License every day.

I’m not bragging. I’m just saying it’s doable.

Is it necessary to post every day? No.

Then why do it?

  • Because I’d like to reward my loyal followers by giving them something new to see every time they show up.
  • Because meeting a daily deadline documents an established consistency.
  • Because posting everyday has made me a content-generating ninja.
  • Because I want my blog to stand out. (Most of the blogs I love and follow regularly—see “Blogs I recommend” in the right-hand sidebar—post new articles daily.)

Isn’t it time consuming? Yes, but you can learn to work efficiently.

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Steps to daily posting:

  1. Determine the purpose of your blog. The innovators who invented the web log (blog is a contraction of those two words) in the early days of the internet conceived it as an online diary. However, bloggers soon realized that the medium has limitless potential. It can be used to transmit ideas, information, and opinions. It can also be used to sell stuff. In my case, I use ARHtistic License to connect with other creative people. Also, I’m hoping to establish a following of readers who enjoy my writing and might want to buy my future books.
  2. Kristin Gallant color-creative-ideas-design-illustration-brain-colorful-7c6fc3d21551e01f7804e2e675f2a63e-h

    design by Kristin Gallant

    Choose a theme. What is an area that interests you, that you wouldn’t mind working on to achieve a degree of expertise? Although you can post about anything you want, even if it doesn’t apply to the theme, having a focus will help “brand” your blog, and can attract the readers you’re hoping to reach. ARHtistic License’s theme is the arts and the creative process.

  3. Create an editorial calendar. Here is the first secret to daily posting: not every post needs to be a major undertaking. A post can be 10 words—or 2000. 500 words is a good length—quickly readable, and long enough to achieve some depth. Occasionally a topic might call for 1000 words, but online attention spans are short, so don’t make long posts a habit. That said, how many major posts a week do you want to write? For ARHtistic License, it’s two. That keeps me challenged, but leaves me a little bit of time to work on my book projects.

On other days, I post a photograph I’ve taken, or a quote, or a meme, or a video. Many other bloggers are happy to share their work as a guest post if you give them proper credit and include a link back to their site (check with them to make sure). If you can’t reach the author, most bloggers appreciate links to their work being included in your related posts, or in round-up articles.

Here is the editorial calendar for ARHtistic License:
Sunday—Weekly feature: From the Creator’s Heart (a scripture quote); also, a snippet of my work in progress for Weekend Writing Warriors.
Monday—Weekly feature: Monday Morning Wisdom (a quote, usually relating to the arts or the creative process)
Tuesday—my first major article of the week
Wordless Wednesday—a photograph
Thursday—Video of the Week; also, a guest post
Friday—Weekly feature: In the Meme Time (it used to be one I found on social media; now, I usually make my own); Weekly feature: Creative Juice, a round-up of interesting articles about the arts and creativity I found online
Saturday—my second major article of the week.

You know those calendars businesses or charities give you? Devote one to your blog. (If you don’t have one, buy one, or google printable calendars and print one.) Use it to keep track of what you’ve already written and scheduled for your blog. It will help you quickly see what you still need, and help you plan your writing time wisely.

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  1. Work ahead. This is the second secret to successfully posting every day. It takes a lot of pressure off you if you don’t have to come up with something for the next day. I try to work a month ahead. For example, I started this article on December 28, 2016.

And those little quickie features, like photos and memes and quotes—I create those posts as soon as I come across them, and schedule them for a future date (you can do that on WordPress; I don’t know about the other platforms). I also save links to articles I read online that I like, and then I use those for guest posts and round-up articles.

I actually already have some posts scheduled for every month in 2017…

So, you see, using these strategies, you really can post on your blog every day without losing your sanity.

What do you think? How often do you currently post? Are you satisfied with that frequency, or do you want to ramp it up a little? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

How to Ramp Up Your Creativity and Your Blogging Power by Participating in Challenges

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How to Ramp Up Your Creativity and Your Blogging Power by Participating in Challenges

If you are a writer, a blogger, or an artist, an invitation to take part in a challenge can spur you to greater inspiration and output.  Challenges motivate you to try new forms of artistic expression or to set more ambitious goals.

On social media, writers and artists reach out from around the world to connect with like-minded creatives and issue challenges.

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If you’ve been meaning to blog more regularly, challenges can help you do that.

Some challenges come with an expectation that all joiners will commit to the entire run of the challenge. Others allow you to drop in and participate whenever you want. Rules vary. Some are very specific; others allow great latitude.

Why to participate in challenges:

  1. To try something new you’ve been meaning to do, but haven’t yet. Stop procrastinating. Move out of your comfort zone. Grow—as a writer, as an artist, as a person.
  2. To teach yourself discipline by committing to perform at a certain level for a specific (or indefinite) length of time.
  3. To become aware of the work of other creatives. Once you enter a challenge, you’ll probably be curious to find out how others are interpreting a prompt or responding to the challenge. Seeing other ideas will stretch your imagination in new ways. Usually you can follow a tag on social media to find other entries. Sometimes you’ll make connections with people whose work you admire. They can be sources of inspiration and support, as well as quality entertainment and education.
  4. To drive new traffic to your blog. See #3. Other participants may want to check out your challenge entries, and if they like what they see, they may become regular followers of your work.

In the year and a half that I’ve been writing ARHtistic License, I’ve taken part in the following challenges:

Photography ChallengesFun Foto

  • Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge Cee is a professional photographer and instructor who maintains a dynamite blog and issues multiple challenges. Fun Foto has a weekly theme.
  • Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge This is for those pictures that defy categorization. You felt compelled to click the shutter, but it’s not a landscape, not a portrait, not a flower, not really a still life, it’s just… weird.
  • Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge For anything connected with transportation: vehicles, roads, signs, etc.
  • Cee’s Flower of the Day Every day, Cee posts a flower of the day. If you create a blog post featuring a photograph you’ve taken of a flower, share a link in the comment section of Cee’s latest Flower of the Day post.
  • Tuesdays of Texture Exploring those visuals that make you want to touch.
  • A Photo a Week Challenge Nancy Merrill is the photographer behind this challenge. New theme every Thursday.
  • 52 Weeks Photo Challenge New theme every Monday. Scroll until you find the current post.
  • Wordless Wednesday For this informal challenge, post a photograph on any social media using the hashtag #WordlessWednesday. Theoretically, no words are necessary to explain your photo.
  • Daily Post Photo Challenge New theme every Friday.
  • Color Your World Jennifer Nicole Wells’ color challenge.

Writing Challenges

NaNoWriMo

  • My 500 Words The first challenge I ever took. This challenge changed my life by proving to me that I am a writer. Thank you, Jeff Goins.
  • NaNoWriMo Write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in November along with hundreds of thousands of other writers.
  • Weekend Writing Warriors We all want feedback on our work. Every Sunday, the Weekend Writing Warriors post 8-10 sentences of a work-in-progress. Participants also read and comment on each other’s snippets.
  • Share Your World Another of Cee’s challenges. Every week she asks several questions that you can answer, if you choose to.
  • OctPoWriMo October is Poetry Writing Month. The goal is to write a poem a day for 31 days. I managed to write three poems last October, but I will try again this year.
  • A to Z Challenge To participate in this challenge, you post daily in April (most Sundays excluded) featuring something that starts with the letter of the day.
  • Holidailies Post daily during the month of December.
  • Daily Post Challenge A new prompt every day.
  • And, this year I’m also participating in the Writing Cooperative’s 52-Week Writing Challenge to write one “thing” a week (which feels like cheating for me, since I post new content every day on ARHtistic License).

Art ChallengesICAD

  • Inktober An ink drawing every day in October. I managed three drawings last October. (Sigh.) I’ll try again this year.
  • Index-Card-a-Day Challenge Daily during June and July, do something creative on an index card.
  • World Watercolor Month Make a watercolor painting every day in July. I did mine on an index card to do double duty (see Index-Card-a-Day Challenge, above).
  • String Symphony Challenge A 2016 Zentangle challenge though a Facebook group, Zentangle All Around. This year there’s a new challenge, Taking It to the Next Level, and an art journaling study, and a Friday art journaling prompt. (I haven’t decided yet whether I will do any of these. I will probably “lurk” for a while.) You have to join the group first to be able to participate.

Do you have artistic goals that you want to accomplish this year? Then you may want to participate in the ARHtistic License Creative Goals Challenge.

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How do I find out about challenges?

I find out about challenges mostly when the bloggers I follow participate in one. Many blog hosts offer easy ways for you to find blogs that share your interests. WordPress has a Reader feature. You can list tags you’re interested in, and any WordPress blog post that contains that tag will automatically show up in your Reader queue. Here are some of the tags I follow: art, creativity, faith, piano, memoir, quilting, writing. You get the idea. I also add tags for whichever challenges I’m participating in at the time. When I find a particular blog that I like, I subscribe to it. I might not read it every day, but I’ll either get a notification through email or see it when I scroll through my Reader. I think I’m following about 200 blogs at the present time…

Here are some other sources of challenges:

What about you? Do you participate in any challenges? Which ones? How did it work out for you? Did you learn something as a result of taking the challenge? Share in the comments below.

Better Blogging Roundup

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Better Blogging Roundup

Whether you’re new to blogging—or an old hand—or just thinking about writing a blog, here is some great input to help you do it better.

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