Living Creatively: How to create a website to start blogging

Living Creatively: How to create a website to start blogging

Well, hello there and welcome back to the Living Creatively series. I’m your host, Dronile, and this is part numero dos of how to start a blog as a freelancer, social entrepreneur or socially responsible organization. If you’re brand spanking new to blogging (or this site) then I encourage you to rewind and start with part one here 👉🏽 Living Creatively: How to Start Blogging and Do What You Love👈🏽. It’ll help you nail down the very first step to starting a blog. Cool? Cool.

Alright loves, so when we last met we spoke about our why. The reason behind your blog. This will be the guiding light for your content topics, your kick a** marketing strategy (We’ll get to that – pinky promise! 😉) and who your blog will be great for.

Even if you’re a creative sharing your personal brand or an entrepreneur launching an enterprise, it’s important to get clear on your blog and where it fits into your online presence. For instance, are you an aspiring designer giving others a looksie into the face behind the WordPress themes? Or an eco-fashion brand detailing your sustainable fabrics, and community of diverse artisans? Whichever you decide on, knowing from day one will ensure your content aligns with your reader.

In this second part we’re going to focus on how to:

  • Commit to your blog (it’s not as scary as it sounds. pinky promise #2!)
  • Decide between self-hosted or hosted sites
  • Get your snazzy new URL
  • Set up your website
  • Dress your blog
  • And share your site with le world (or you know, mom + dad)

Weeee! Sounds like fun right? (The nerd in me says yes. Humor me for a second will ya?) If you’re scared of getting techie, don’t worry. I’ve provided fun (and pretty?) pictures for you to follow along. Plus, if I can do it you can definitely do it. Let’s get started:

*Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Say whaaaat? That means if you click on a link and make a purchase I get a small commission. There’s no extra charge for you. Rest assured, I only share what I know + love to help you make your dreams come true.*

The C Word: Making a commitment to your blog

So… anyone else get the heebee jeebees when the word “commitment” gets thrown around? I know I certainly do. But it’s actually – in my opinion – one of the BIGGEST things you can do for blogging success. Up there with all those other heebee jeebees words like “consistency” and “discipline.” Eeep.

Before you even think about getting technical we’re going to pull out our handy-dandy planners and pencil ourselves in. Starting a successful blog will take, yes, work. Depending on what your week already looks like it might feel like this is just one more thing to add into an already busy schedule. Rather than seeing the challenges this presents, we’re going to see the opportunities available to us. Such as working on a really fun project during lunchtime. Or switching out episodes of Stranger Things to connect with your newfound community. Basically, where can you make time to commit to your dreams? Scheduling that time in will make your dreams and goals even more real.

One thing that tripped me up a lot was not knowing what to do during this block of time. If you’re anything like me, everything needs to get done – right now and to perfection (ah, there’s that Achille’s heel!). Before I would write a blog post, then immediately try to edit, find photos, create a newsletter, write the social posts… I’d feel as if I was on a hamster wheel! Scrambling to get it all done.

Then I stumbled across this great post from Dana Nicole on why batching needs to be part of your blogging strategy. It’s changed my life. With batching, you can use a project management tool like Trello, Asana, or Airtable and tackle a specific aspect of your blogging on a certain day. For instance, I like writing at the very beginning of the week or the end of the week because it gives my mind time to refresh. In between, I work on other tasks like brainstorming, researching and reading my favorite blogs, designing PDF resources for you, posting to social media. Batching is great if you need a bit more structure to your blogging. Plug in specific tasks instead of leaving that block of time open-ended.

Q: Self-hosted or hosted?

For the most part, I like figuring out how to do things myself (there’s that Achille’s heel again). If I’ve spent hours researching and still can’t find a way to do it, then yes the white flag goes up in surrender. But my inquisitive nature wants to know how to do it. Starting a website is one of those things I wanted to know more about. And you know what? It’s surprisingly easy to start. You’ve got two potential routes here: a self-hosted site or hosted site.

Self-hosting means you pay an outside company (like GoDaddy, BlueHost, SiteGround, etc.) to keep all of your files and data – think graphics, writing, documents – on a personal server. That allows your blog to stay up and running and not crash due to massive web traffic. Websites and blogs often have a lot of data especially if you like uploading and sharing pictures (which, who doesn’t right?) Now, there are also hosted blogs that allow you to create a blog for free or an affordable price. These include sites like WordPress.com, Blogger, and Tumblr. How do you know which one is for you? Well, consider…

Pros of self-hosted vs. hosted

  • Professional web address: Would you like your web address to be www.yourblog.com or www.yourblog.blogger.com? If the goal is to build a career off your blog, it will look more professional and legit with self-hosting.
  • Freedom: Self-hosted blogs give you more creative reign over the look of your site and access to additional plugins and tools you can use to modify your blog.
  • More opportunities to monetize: Some hosted platforms automatically advertise on your blog and even limit which outside advertising/affiliate partners you can use.
  • Own your content: On a hosted platform you’re ultimately at the mercy of the company’s rules and policies.
  • Branded email: Gone are the days of Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo! 😉 Again, professional. Legit.
  • SEO: Here’s something I didn’t know – a self-hosted blog allows you to optimize your website, and ultimately get more eyes on your content. Because hosted blogs are a subset of the main website, getting credit for your posts on search engines will require a bit more in-depth planning. Bummer.

Cons of self-hosted vs. hosted

  • Budget: Your investment will be higher with most self-hosted blogs. You’ll pay for your domain name, a hosting plan and if you don’t know design then you’ll also be paying for a web designer or a custom made theme. With a hosted site you can start for free.
  • Self-maintenance: If you don’t like the idea of having to update plug-ins and occasionally self-troubleshoot then self-hosted is not the most ideal option. This’ll be an added cost otherwise.
  • Slower Community Growth: Some bloggers have taken to spaces like Medium to share their content, where there is already an established community. With a self-hosted blog your community will grow much slower and will be a much more intentional process.
  • Longer set up: On a hosted platform there’s the added plus of signing up and getting right to work! Self-hosted platforms have a longer set up – you sign up, then you connect your domain name with your host, then you have to install your blog platform onto the host. It can get a bit technical and scare off newbie bloggers.
  • Fun-ability: If blogging is a fun way for you to share your passions + your work then a hosted site will fit the bill.

Ultimately, I chose to self-host. The first blog I created in 2014 was a health & fitness blog that I ran on WordPress.com. I wanted more freedom in themes, layouts and design. So when I re-branded I was stuck between WordPress.org and Squarespace. Squarespace has incredibly beautiful layouts and makes it super easy to design a site, and I recommend it for anyone who wants a visually appealing website with little setup and low maintenance. If you’re more hands-on or open to collaborating with a web pro, go for WordPress.org. If you’re stuck between the two, like I was, here are some things to think about:

Pros of WordPress.org

  • Customization to the MAX: If you’re a developer or really good at code, you can create something really unique.
  • Content management: On WordPress.org you can adjust the HTML of your post and have a media library (with stored graphics + docs) available to you.
  • WordPress Plugins: From email marketing to social media share buttons, you can find just about anything on the platform to boost your website and blog.

Pros of Squarespace

  • Fully hosted: So you get design, maintenance, and a nice content management system (CMS) all in one place.
  • Visually stunning design: Squarespace websites are absolutely *beautiful.* 😍
  • Affordability: With hosting, paid plugins and an e-commerce integration Squarespace’s pricing is a more affordable option.

Getting your snazzy new URL

{Insert web link here}

Now, once you’ve decided on a platform the next thing you’ll want to do is purchase your domain name. Thankfully, we already covered in part one how to come up with a business name. If you haven’t already now would be a good time to make sure your domain name is available both on the web and on social media. You wouldn’t want to get all excited about the perfect name and come to find out it’s already been snagged. (Been there many a times!) WordPress.com and Squarespace let you purchase your domain name straight from them when creating your blog.

If you decide to self-host, you’ll have to purchase your own. I purchased mine using Namecheap (they have domain names for as cheap as $1 per year. Steal.) Before you buy your domain name, give some thought to the extension (.com, .net, .org, .store) you’d like to use. With niche domains, there are a number of options now available for folks creating their own website.

Namecheap - domain name

Namecheap

Hosting Services

Okay, now you’ll want to brown paper bag your domain name and carry it on over to your hosting site. A few years back when I started my first blog, I chose a hosting company that had really great servers but wasn’t what I’d hoped for in terms of customer service. This time around I chose SiteGround. From my research, it seemed to be the one that provided me with what I was most concerned about: easy to use, great customer service, and free WordPress assistance. Because it’s what I know and recommend I’m going to show you how to set up a website using SiteGround. If you’re interested in setting up your own self-hosted site with them, grab my code to get 60% off.

Though there are other options too. Bluehost, GoDaddy and HostGator are equally as popular and great for website hosting. You can host your blog for as little as $2.99 a month. So like cheaper than those Pumpkin Spice Latte as Starbucks – anyone else obsessed with all things pumpkin? *insert heart for eyes here*

A friend of mine had a great question about what to do if you want to start a blog but your computer’s not in service. Well, you have a number of options: sign up from a smartphone, sign up from a tablet, ask a family member or friend to use their computer. Most of all, I definitely wouldn’t suggest signing up at a library – safety first.

Creating your website’s home

Ooooookay! Now, we’re making moves. First, to set up your website, you’re going to choose a plan. SiteGround provides three options: StartUp, GrowBig or GoGeek. For most freelancers and entrepreneurs just starting out, the StartUp option will work perfectly. Organizations will want to look more in-depth at the GrowBig or GoGeek options.

SiteGround Hosting Plans

Next, register or add in your domain name. If you’ve already purchased your domain, click the second option “I already have a domain” and proceed to create your account. Once you’ve created your account and username click pay now and get excited to show your blog off to the world!

After registering and creating your account, log-in to SiteGround. Go to your cPanel under the “my accounts tab” and find the Autoinstaller for your platform. SiteGround lets you autoinstall platforms like WordPress and Joomla straight from your cPanel. You can also contact a customer service rep for assistance. Installation will usually take just a few minutes. You can then go back onto your blog platform and log in with your account details. For WordPress.org this would be yourwebsiteurl/wp-admin/. This is going to be where most of your blogging and customization will come in.

Making your blog pretty

I love this part. Picking a theme, choosing fonts, and designing the website look is my fave piece of the puzzle. You can either choose to use a free theme or purchase a customizable theme for your website and blog. If you don’t consider yourself design savvy then I’d suggest making Creative Market your new BDF – blog design friend:

Loading Preview…

Powered by Creative Market

They offer everything from graphics that can be used to customize your social media icons (for example) to fonts and website templates. It’s basically a one-stop shop for all of your design needs.

Go to your admin panel to customize your theme. For WordPress, this’ll be on your left-hand panel under “appearance.” Here’s a great tutorial on how to install a Joomla template, too, if that’s your jam. From the drop-down panel, you can choose “themes” to choose a WordPress theme and then hit “customize” to adjust any colors, add in a logo, and make sure your page is to your liking.

WordPress.org Admin Panel

Choose Your Home Style

The last step in setting up your website is adding and editing your pages. Most blogs and websites have at the very least an About and Contact page. You can choose whether your posts will double as your Home page or if you’d like a static Home page instead. For example, Fashionista Jean Wang at Extra Petite allows her blog posts to take center stage on the first page while Online Marketer + Biz Blogger, Kimberly Ann Jimenez uses a static Home page to share more about how she helps entrepreneurs and online business owners.

The nice thing about a website is that you can start with one and see which one works best for you in the future. So don’t feel like you have to absolutely get your blog design perfect right now. Do make sure to hit “Pages” on that left-hand sidebar and add in a page where folks can learn more about why they’ll be interested in your blog and how they can get in contact with you.

The About Page of Your Blog

The About page tends to be misleading, because while it usually says “About Me” or “About [Insert Your Name Here]” it’s actually about the reader. Wait whaaaaat? *Head nod* Your reader wants to know what inspired you to start blogging and why it’d be of interest to them.

Think of your About page like… that interview question we all know and love “so tell me a little bit about yourself?” 😰 The interviewer doesn’t want a whole novella on your love of puppies and dinosaurs (but they’re so cute! 🦕). What they want is an overview of your background and what inspired you to apply. Same gist, different application here. Melyssa Griffin has a great guide on how to write a killer about me page for your blog.

The Contact Page of Your Blog

Thankfully, the Contact page is pretty straightforward. Most will want to know how to reach you. A simple way to do so it add in a contact box, or provide direct info like a phone number or email. For organizations, this is a great spot to add in when you’re open.  If you offer products or services through your website then throw up a “Work With Me,” “Services,” “Hire Me,” or “Store” page.

Finally, if you’ve created your social media handles (which I suggest you do now) make sure to share those as well. Add these “above the fold” which means at the very top of your website or on the sidebar in a place where people can see it before they scroll. Add them again to the very bottom of your page as well to encourage social engagement.

Now, share your new blog with the world!

Alright Rockstar! You are on fire. *Cue Alicia Keys* The last piece of this puzzle is to let friends, family, and the world know you created a thing. Before then though you may way to skip on over to part 3 and create content.

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Best Business Books: The Book Lover’s Holiday Gift Guide 2018

Best Business Books: The Book Lover’s Holiday Gift Guide 2018

The holidays are my absolute *fave.* Despite the fact that I always draft up long lists for Santa 🎅🏾, chock full of the best business books and must-have techie toys (I’m looking at you Canon EF 24-70mm Zoom Lens), my family loves to grace me with makeup and clothes. Probably ‘cuz they know me just a little too well – like the time my sister-in-law bought me a portable eyeshadow palette because she said I’m a (and I quote) “nomad.” Okay, yeah… so I carry my whole living room and home office in my bag BUT ’tis the perks of being a creative entrepreneur.

I digress though. The point is I was drafting up yet another list of the best business books to share with Santa and figured I’d share it with all of y’all instead. While, yes, Christmas is an overly-commercialized way to SELL SELL SELL it is also a lovely reminder to celebrate the people in our lives. Or you know… cat. No judgment here. I’m personally praying for a cute little golden retriever puppy *hint hint family* this holiday season but they’re not exactly the most ideal stocking stuffers. 😋

Now, in an ideal world, this is what I’d find under the Christmas tree. You may know a dope creative business owner who would love to find one (or four) of these books under their tree too! These are the best business books I’ve read thus far and would recommend to just about any creative, entrepreneur or hustlin’ Harry.

Aaaaaaaand just so you know, there are affiliate links in this here bad boy which means if you click a link and make a purchase I get a small percentage. Like small small. And no, you don’t get charged extra (‘cuz I know you was thinking it! This ain’t guac!) Here’s the thing though: I love the products and services I’m sharing and truly believe they’ll help your business become the best it can be. I’ll never sell you on something I myself wouldn’t buy, haven’t bought or recommended to a friend. (And books are like my best friends. 😍) Okay! Enough nerding out. Let’s get to gifting.

Best Business Books Holiday Gift Guide 2018

Dronile Hiraldo is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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For the Spiritual Warrior

You know her: the one who speaks from her soul and just *vibrates* with love. She’s uplifting, enlightening and the sweetest there is. This woman loves balance, in every aspect of her life. If one part of her life is out of whack, she’s sure to feel it, and will quickly do everything she can to get centered. When it comes to gifting the Spiritual Warrior, focus on books that will help her in areas of personal development, spiritual success, and holistic wellness.


1. Own Your Glow: A Soulful Guide to Luminous Living and Crowning the Queen Within by Latham Thomas

In her second book, celebrity wellness/lifestyle guru and birth doula, Latham Thomas, delivers the ultimate guide for soulful mamas. Each chapter in Own Your Glow: A Soulful Guide to Luminous Living and Crowning the Queen Within is full of enlightening tales about Latham’s own spiritual growth and powerful meditative practices. From creating a vision journal to supporting women in re-vamping their wardrobes for greater confidence, Latham provides an easy to read and soulful manual that you (or a friend) can return to time and time again for encouragement.


2. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz

This is one of those reads you can pick up and take on-the-go (perfect for all you nomads out there 😉). The agreements provided here by Don Miguel Ruiz are useful for any human – business owner or not. Tapping into deep wisdom from his own Mexican culture, Ruiz dives into 4 ways we can unlock personal freedom not only for ourselves but for others as well. It’s one of those “do unto others as you’d like done unto you” with spiritual insight on why these agreements are important and actionable tips on how to make them part of our everyday lives.
3. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams by Deepak Chopra

Before Deepak Chopra, I’ll admit I laughed at self-help. I’m actually an avid fan now having created my own spiritual life and relationship with Jehovah, but had you told me 6 years ago that I’d be merrily pulling titles from the self-help section of B&N I would’ve given you the side eye and laughed. Some of the best business books I’ve read have been titles that actually tapped into my spiritual life and development, like this one from Deepak. Laws like “The Law of Giving” and “The Law of Detachment” can help any entrepreneur create space in their lives to genuinely do what they love. It’s great for those who appreciate affirmations and speaking their dreams into existence.

 

For the Artistic Maven

The Artistic Maven is always coming up with new visions and ideas. From cutting up her overalls to spewing out new stories, this little lady is brimming with otherworldly narratives. For her, being able to hone in on her craft and deeper understand how to be a better artist is a much-desired necessity. Pick out memoirs from her favorites, reads full of applicable tips and titles in line with her artistic pursuits.


4. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (10th Anniversary) by Stephen King

Ah, the writing master himself. Stephen King’s ability to weave rich details into a suspenseful narrative is no mystery to any of us. (See what I did there? 😂) King takes us through his early days at college, his wedding and even the days his first manuscript got sold while also highlighting the habits that helped him become the writer he is today. One key nugget from the book?

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen King

Tis true Mr. King. Tis very very true.


5. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (25th Anniversary) by Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way is the book that changed it ALL for me. Before picking up this creative guide, I was WAAAAAAAAY blocked. Like not writing a lick type blocked. I read this book nearly a year ago, right before landing my first freelance writing client *yay!* and starting this blog. Because of it, I’ve started to let go of my fears, doubts, worries, and anxieties about following my dreams. And here we are ladies and gents! 😄 It’s a 12-week “course” with exercises and creative homework at the end of every chapter. If there’s ONE book I’d suggest for the creative in your life *and yes, that means you too* this would be it.


6. Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker with $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player by Robert Rodriguez

So, in a past life (and by past life I mean 4 years ago lol) I worked in film production. As a young college grad hoping to 1) become a screenwriter and 2) break into Film & TV this made me think long and hard about the Hollywood we see today. To think, Robert Rodriguez edited his first movie back when digital editors didn’t exist! Yup. He used a VCR to create the final “cut” of El Mariachi. Today, we have a lot more tools readily available to us for video production but this goes to show, if there’s a will there’s most definitely a way.

For the Hustlin’ Boss

She’s the money makin’, selfie-takin’, on-the-go C-Suite professional. If there’s a deal to be cut, she’s sure to be at the head of the table leading it. For the Hustlin’ Boss, learning how to master sales, business, and marketing is at the top of her list. Share with her stories of inspiration, practical guides from previous business owners, and how-tos for her career aspirations.


7. She Means Business: Turn Your Ideas into Reality and Become a Wildly Successful Entrepreneur by Carrie Green

You know when you have like a million ideas and try to do all of them at once to only find out that actually, you need to sit down and focus on ONE idea before moving onto the 100 others? That’s what Carrie helps entrepreneurs do in her book. If there are a thousand ideas swimming around in your head and you’re wondering “hey…wait… how do I make these a reality?” Then this is the book to pick up. Carrie even includes a 28-day She Means Business challenge to help you take action and move your dreams into real plans.

8. Fully Alive: Using the Lessons of the Amazon to Live Your Mission in Business and Life by Tyler Gage

Last summer, when I decided to finally take a chance on going into business for myself, I volunteered at Life@Work, a company culture conference for the team development brand Live Grey. In my goodie bag was a copy of Tyler Gage’s book which details how he and a few friends from business school created RUNA, an organic energy drink made from the Amazonian plant guayusa (gwhy-you-suh). Tyler’s willingness to be all the way R-E-A-L about entrepreneurship – like that time the board of RUNA almost fired him… from his OWN company – is really refreshing as a creative business owner. Goes to show being your own boss is oftentimes a roller coaster, with big twists that will make your stomach drop and sudden turns that will make you giggle with delight.


9. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In The Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

Ever tried saying YES for a whole year to everything that excites your soul? Well, Shonda Rhimes did. The creator and executive producer behind such hit medical dramas as Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice use to actually avoid doing interviews and public appearances. Finally, she noticed how much of her saying “no” had seeped into other areas of her life – including her love life! If you’re ready to live a life of Y-E-S then pick up Shonda’s read or slip it in as one of your picks for Secret Santa this year. It’s a read that is sure to positively alter anyone’s path.

For the Essayist At Heart

For this outspoken believer, even a trip to the salon can become a 1,000-word essay on why today’s blowout goes against feminist ideals. She’s all about the culture and at heart, is a true changemaker. Her book list is brimming with books centered on empowerment, justice, and hope. Go for the non-fiction section or literary pieces centering on identity.

10. Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture by Ytasha L. Womack

Okay, so Ytasha L. Womack’s Afrofuturism isn’t a business book *per say.* BUT it is a thoughtful exploration into the world of sci-fi and fantasy culture considering the growing representation of people of color in today’s media: from Black Panther to Ava Duvernay’s A Wrinkle In Time. Womack traces Afrofuturism through music, art, and even literature. For the Essayist at Heart, this is a book that is sure to spark inspiration and a number of cultural essays.


11. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

This.This.This.This. 💝 Funny. Raw. And oh so Issa Rae. Between the pages of Issa’s debut book, she shares how growing up as a Los Angelean without “style” or “cool points” can fuel your passions. Through humorous vignettes of life as a Senegalese-American, Issa Rae brings to life what it means to be a Black woman in today’s U.S. of A. It’s inspiring to read how Issa has taken her culture, personality, and upbringing to create a career that is all her own. This is the kind of book that will have any changemaker ready to tap into themselves deeper to figure out how to make that much-needed change in the world.


12. Running: A Love Story: 10 Years, 5 Marathons, and 1 Life-Changing Sport by Jen A. Miller

This one is a double whammy for anyone who is a runner and a lover of words. Jen A. Miller found the love of her life on the pavement. Through her love of running, Jen A. Miller found not only her life’s calling and purpose but also a sense of self. It’s a beautiful tale about how one sport can be the catalyst we need to open the door to a new world. You may even find yourself wanting to strap on a pair of sneaks too by the end of it!

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Any books you’re hoping to see in your Christmas stocking this year? Tell me which ones and why in the comments below. I may just give Santa a list after all!

Living Creatively: How to Start Blogging and Do What You Love

Living Creatively: How to Start Blogging and Do What You Love

Woo! Yes! Congrats on taking your first steps to live a creative life. Doing what you love and brings you joy can seem daunting. It’s what we’re taught NOT to do. Today, nearly half of the world’s population is online. And looking for a way to break free from the monotony that has become much too common.

You may worry that with so many writers, designers, social media managers, etc. etc. that what you want to do is already being done. Or the highlight reels may make you think you just don’t have what it takes. You want to do something from the heart, something that makes you jump out of bed in the morning and that you’re passionate about. You may wonder if it is even worth it to start blogging.

First, let go of fear & comparison.

Fear and comparison are two silent killers that are always after our dreams.

But think about this…

Two sparrows sell for a coin of small value, do they not? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.

But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.

So have no fear; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:29-31

Do you really think there’s someone out there who is exactly like you? Down to the way you think, the experiences you’ve had, the hairs on your head? Sure, you’ll find similarities. But the specific, minute details of who our Father and Creator made you make you and your life uniquely yours. You see things differently. You have your own perspective.

Like those two sparrows, your value and what you have to offer is not defined by the sell, but by the knowledge, the Maker himself has embedded in you. And that’s what this world needs. Besides, do you really want to look back on your life and say “man, I should’ve done that really scary thing that could’ve made me really happy?” Hmmm… yeah, nope. Exactly. SO. Sweep all of those doubts and fears and worries and anxieties into the trash bin (where they belong, thank you very much) and rip a page out of Nike’s playbook. Just do it.

Next, why do you want to start blogging?

There are a number of reasons why you may want to start blogging. For example, are you a young professional looking to explore your career interests, build your expertise and create a solid portfolio? Or are you a 9-5’er looking to build your own freelance biz? I mean jeepers, you could even make blogging your career! Whatever your reason blogging can be a really fun and rewarding experience.

Creating consistent content – whether that be in the form of blog posts, videos, or even social media – is a great way to connect to your community and potential customers. A blog can show that you know what you’re talking about and can help position you as an expert in your craft. In this four-part series, I’ll share exactly what you need to know to start blogging and get your biz off the ground!

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

One of my favorite Ted Talks is with author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek. In his talk, “How great leaders inspire action,” Simon shares that moving people to action is all about understanding your motives and intentions. Your why. Keeping your “why” top of mind will be what keeps your drive high when the honeymoon period wears off. And yes, the honeymoon period will wear off. But if you clearly identify why you do what you do the spark will come back every time.

Some reasons to start blogging:
  1. To entertain: Creating a blog to entertain can keep readers on their toes. Many online publications and magazines use their blog for this purpose. This could be a fun way for a filmmaker to share their inspiration and tease out an upcoming script. Exhibit A: Issa Rae‘s blog. If you find that you really love lifting people’s spirits and providing entertainment then this could be the way to go.
  2. To sell or promote a cause: Do you primarily sell goods or services? Are you creating a non-profit? A blog here can help you get your idea out into the world. For folks who are very passionate about a cause or craft, a blog provides you with a platform to connect with people of similar interests.
  3. To network: Sites like LinkedIn, Medium and DeviantArt have created ways for us to share work online. Displaying your expertise and networking with others is another reason why you may decide to blog. Say you’re a finance professional building a Styling agency. With a blog you can begin actively sharing fashion news, developing your brand voice and letting people know about your new venture.
  4. To build community: By tapping into what’s going on nearby, a blog can work as a catalyst for why your work exists. A local artist can benefit really well from having a blog that highlights how her drawings are inspired by the surrounding community.  Your customers will appreciate knowing the background and history attached to your craft.
  5. To teach: Are your friends always asking you how you make those delicious apple pie turnovers? You may just have a skill that others want to learn or know more about! Educational blogs range from social media managers sharing “how-to” create a personal brand to life coaches helping others develop self-confidence.

Which one of these 5 do your blog fall into? I love getting to talk to other writers and creatives about how to stay healthy, master social media and see the world while doing what we love. For me, it’s really fun to be part of a community, share and collaborate. Keeping this why at the center helps me stay motivated. Once you’ve got you why turn it into a pretty quote or poster and put it somewhere you’ll see every day. That way, you can always keep motivation high!

Living Creatively: How to Start Blogging and Do What You Love via Dronile Hiraldo

Ok, so… what will you blog about?

Whew! You’ve sacked your fears, you know your why, and you’re ready to start blogging. Now you’re wondering what do I even blog about? Good question Padawan. This is where knowing your business and being totally YOU comes into play. The first and most important thing to think about: Why’d you start your business? Ha! See, why your why is important now? 😋 When you start blogging, to do what you love, put yourself in your reader’s shoes.

Think about:
  • What made them look for your blog in the first place?
  • Are there challenges or problems they’re currently dealing with that you can write about?
  • What questions do they have about your goods and services?
  • Who would your readers like to hear from or know more about?
  • What resources (books, podcasts, events) would your reader be really interested in?

For instance, say you’re the girl who’s always got the freshest sneakers. You know where to buy for the best deals, you know how this brand is really changing and stepping up the sneaker game, and you know they come in 3 dope colors. It may seem obvious to you because it comes naturally, but to others (hello 👋🏾 moi) style and fashion may just not be a forte. And that’s ok. That’s why your fashion knowledge and expertise are needed.

You could… create style guides on how to wear this season’s hottest kicks, interview up and coming designers, share a recap of a cool fashion event you attended with inspiring quotes, create a Christmas shopping guide for sneakerheads based on personalities… and on and on… Really, the sky is the limit when it comes to deciding what to blog about. Looking to your own challenges and lifestyle can provide tons of inspiration. Ever stop to think and wonder why mommy blogs are so popular?

Life experiences help us connect with one another. They offer us opportunities to swap ideas and tell others what we know. There will always be people interested in trying that new fusion Japanese place down the block with the really good fish tacos. Or learning how to create a budget for their next trip to Italy. Digging through your own interests, hobbies and challenges can provide you with blogging gems.

Cool. Sounds like you’ll need a name.

Once you’ve settled on what you’re going to blog about, you may be wondering what the first step is. Do you dive straight into blogging? Create social media channels and then start blogging? These are all really great questions.

First though, take a step back. You actually want to iron out what your blog name is. This will be the domain name or website address that people will use when looking for you. Mindset coach and business strategist, Melyssa Griffin, has a great guide on how to choose the perfect name for your blog or business that you’ll definitely want to read. It’s what helped me ultimately decide.

When thinking about your name refer back to why you do what you do and what you’ll start blogging about. You may decide to give your blog a title, the way Contently does or you may just allow the blog (and your potential business) to fall under the same name.

A name may define your values such as, Soul Lipstick Mavens, for women who use makeup as a form of self-love. Or your name could hint at what you do. “In The Air Virtual Assistants,” a virtual assistant biz for high-level execs in the travel & hospitality industry. Most of all, have fun and let the name you choose reflect you.

And who will your readers be?

Sure, you may be creating this blog because you’re an aspiring author or because you’re really good at creating graphics and want to help others create pretty posts. But your reader is the cornerstone of what you do! A wellness blog, for instance, will attract others who are into healthy living and taking care of themselves. Similarly, who will your blog attract and why?

Some things to consider:
  • How old are they?
  • What’s their lifestyle like? What are their hobbies and interests?
  • What do they do for work? How much do they earn? Where do they live? (City, Suburbs, Farm?)
  • Are they single? Married? With kids?
  • What are their challenges? Why are they reading your blog?
  • Where do they shop? What magazines or publications do they read?
  • Do they read your blog from a laptop? A tablet? A phone?

Mhm, you’re gonna want to get real personal with readers. Think deeply about who this person is and how you can reach them. As a freelance writer, attending blogging conferences and participating in writing communities has been a saving grace! Take to MeetUp, go to local events or even try marketing on social media to find your community. Attend events you love with the kinds of peeps you’d like to work. As you start blogging you’ll make friends who share your experiences and who you can collaborate with.

Make your friends your colleagues

Dope! Now, what’s next?

Before you start blogging and start doing what you love you need to nail down your why. Let go of fear. And stop comparing yourself and your work. You’re well on your way to living creatively! In the next post of this series, we’ll talk about setting a blogging schedule, creating a website, and sharing your page with the world.

I’d love to hear why you started a blogging or why you’d like to start one. What’s been your motivation? Share in the comments below!

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Meditation City: Why You’ll Love the Relaxing Be Time Bus

Meditation City: Why You’ll Love the Relaxing Be Time Bus

I could feel my boots kicking up water as I bobbed and weaved down the sidewalk. Man, I hate that, I grumbled as I tried to keep my umbrella from poking any innocent tourists in the eye. How fitting, I thought, that as I was making my way to a mobile meditation and relaxation studio I’d become so aware of the small pet peeves that clutter our minds. Letting the zen sounds in my earbuds fill the space between thoughts, I pleaded with myself to slow down, but not be late.

When I finally made it to the BE TIME bus quietly perched on 42nd street between 6th avenue and Broadway, I was mesmerized by the glow of the serene face painted onto the black exterior. Even in the hustle and bustle of New York City, amidst grey clouds and downturned faces, the bus looked peaceful on this little corner of the Earth.

Entrepreneurs are always on the go. Finding time to be still can at times be hard to come by. BE TIME is on a mission to change that. When you first see this quiet sanctuary it smiles and calls gently to you. I remember discovering the mobile meditation and relaxation studio as it sat quietly near Madison Square Park one June day. The flow of sunlight illuminated the rays of the smiling decal, and beckoned for anyone passing by to step in.

Be Time Bus Exterior - Black
Photo Courtesy of Be Time, by Matt Roy

BE TIME just celebrated their New York City launch this past January with family and friends testing. In February they opened the doors to their classes and the team, led by CEO and Founder, Carla Hammond, has been steadily spreading the joy of meditation and mindfulness ever since. As an entrepreneur and mother of twins, Carla has seen the importance wellness plays in staying grounded.

I had the pleasure of experiencing the bus first hand and chatting with Carla about how BE TIME is bringing bliss to one of the busiest cities around. In a day and age where getting peace of mind is becoming more and more sacred, having 15 to 30 minutes to vibe out is a blessing. I hope you’ll enjoy stepping into this gem with me and learning more about the inspiration behind the BE TIME bus below. For more chill vibes catch their meditation memes on Instagram.

•••

As the door opens and I climb into the quiet sanctuary, I watch all my thoughts float away. Light sweet scents of jasmine fill the interior, and a vibrant pink glow from behind the white curtains summon me and another attendee into the space. The interior of the BE TIME bus opens with cubbies and flows into two rows of lined meditation seats. I glide down the aisle, taking note of the neatly folded charcoal blankets, wheeled cushions and seats with back support.

Our instructor, Prerna, greets us warmly and fills us in on the two different seat options. To keep my legs from falling asleep, she suggests I grab one of the cushions. Once I take my seat, she explains to me and the other woman, seated towards the back and to the left, that the weighted blankets are to provide an added measure of grounding. The blanket feels secure and soothing across my lap. Which makes sense, considering Prerna also shares that the blankets were originally designed to imitate human contact for autistic children who find touch too intense. Ah, safety. I can get used to this.

Inside Be Time Studio (Pink Lights)
Inside the Be Time mobile meditation and relaxation studio!

I run my fingers across the interior of the bus, feeling the small metal etchings through where the soft rose LED light beam out. The orb, or oculus eye, where Prerna is seated unifies the entire space. Raindrops gently ricochet off the bus. It’s a nice rhythmic lullaby.

Prerna asks us to close our eyes and begin to let go, to let the city meltaway. Begin breathing gently, she encourages us. In and out. In and out. With my eyes closed the jasmine scents begin dancing on my nose. The raindrops sound closer, and the swish of cars seems to draw ever nearer. With her melodic voice, she challenges us to forget the outside and create space. Today’s practice Be Love, focuses on patience and compassion. The breath is just the first step.

We sink in with creative visualization. Seeing ourselves sitting across from us, we send out a blessing from our heart to this mirror image. Then to a number of loved ones: a friend or family member we love deeply, a spouse or partner we miss, someone we care for, a buddy we aren’t necessarily on good terms with, an acquaintance we don’t know well but would recognize.

Wide view inside Be Time meditation studio - pink lights
Meditation seats and cushions.

As we cycle through each visualization, I feel the tension rise up and out of my body. My shoulders droop down, my breath finds it’s pace, my crown begins to tingle. My thoughts start to wander away, and I let them go. I let them circle around as I see parents, siblings, exes, friends appear before my mind’s eye, smiling and full of joy. One or two of them even sticks their tongue out at me. My cheeks find their way up to my eyes, my smile spreading as I send them a blessing heart to heart. The inside of the bus hugs me gently. I feel the love walking through my body.

The thought of lightly falling asleep in the middle of New York City, in one of the busiest cross streets, without a care in the world is lost on me. When I finally come to, it’s to the gentle notes of Prerna’s telling us to wiggle our fingers and our toes. In that moment I realize my foot has hit the snooze button, and I thank it for the power walk it put in to get me here. Following one more in and out breath, I let my eyes flutter open the way Prerna suggests.

The hustle and bustle of New York City come floating in, softer, kinder, a bit more easeful this time. How lovely, I think, to be able to take this time out in the day. I thank our instructor and step back out into the rain, letting the drops soak me in their serenity.

•••

Dronile: Hey Carla. Thanks so much for being open to talking with me and sharing more about the BE TIME mobile meditation and relaxation studio. The first time the bus caught my eye was right near Madison Square Park in the middle of the summer. I’d never heard of or even imagined a mobile meditation and relaxation studio. A lot of our creatives and entrepreneurs want to create something meaningful and different like your meditation bus, but have yet to found that *spark*. I’d love for you to share with the community what inspired you to start BE TIME?

Carla: I practice at home so 4 years ago when my twins arrived, and it got a little crazy I found myself wishing for a quiet, cozy space where I could visit at least once a week to do my thing. There weren’t any formal meditation studios back then and the meditation classes that were offered were at inconvenient times or locations, so I realized there was an opportunity in the market for studio/space like this. I then started noticing the food truck movement and it suddenly clicked – imagine creating a mobile meditation studio?! That way we could serve more people and more locations… and BE TIME was born.

Dronile: That’s such a beautiful visualization! A meditation space that comes to you. As you mentioned, apps like Headspace and studios like MNDFL are just the start of the meditation movement happening now in our culture. You’re really passionate about giving people “time to just be.” I love that it’s reflected in the name. How did it come about for you? Did it come organically or were you mulling over the name for some time?

Carla: It actually came about pretty organically – I was always inspired by having a space where we could all have some “me time” and just let ourselves disconnect, reconnect and BE. Because that is what I believe meditation offers us. I feel like we forget to set that time aside for ourselves in the midst of our busy lives. So, in the spirit of mixing “being” with making time, the name BE TIME came about.

BE TIME Studio Interior (Blue lights)
Photo Courtesy of Be Time

Dronile: As a society we definitely don’t take enough “me time.” We’re constantly plugged in, turned on and connected. Based off this idea of disconnecting, BE TIME offers 6 different opportunities to do so: Be Creative, Be Here, Be Intention, Be Love, Open Space, Quick Rest. Tell me more about these classes. How’d you zero in on what to offer and what was needed?

Carla: We wanted to make sure that we offered people the opportunity to explore different meditation techniques – mantra/intention repetition, mindfulness, creative visualization – so we integrated that into these thematic focuses for everyone to try out.

 The Open Space was created for people who might have their own practice and prefer to enjoy that or use their favorite app while in our serene environment.

 Quick Reset was made for people on the go – it has been proven that even 10-15 minutes of meditation practice per day does wonders for both mind and body!

Dronile: That’s dope. I had a chance to try out the Be Love practice with creative visualization and it was really calming and peaceful. The space plays a huge role in that as well. The interior of the bus looks absolutely stunning! Architects Rolando Rodriguez Leal and Natalia Wrzask of AIDIA Studio created a very futuristic vibe with laser-cut wall paneling and high-tech LED lighting. Clearly, there was a lot of intention behind how to mix mindfulness and wellness into the space. There’s aromatherapy, there’s chromotherapy, there’s weighted blankets. What was the interior design process like? What were you hoping people would feel when stepping onto the bus?

Carla: I’m so glad you enjoy it! The idea was to create a unique and unexpected space where you can walk out of the city hustle and walk in to a sound-proof and expansive-feeling cocoon that welcomes you to take a breather and promote a deep and personal experience.

 An oculus serves at the far end of the studio acting as a focal point – the third eye of centered consciousness and the interior lining pattern derived from studies of sacred geometries and fractals, taking cues and inspiration from nature and the universe.

 The fruit of life symbol was used as the base module for the wall pattern. McKenzie then helped this design come to life incorporating efficiency, safety and durability elements including: an efficient diesel ten-kilowatt industrial generator to comply with NYC’s strict idling laws, high durability flooring, kinetic switches, air purifiers, and insulated walls for temperature and noise control, amongst other key elements.

Be Time Studio Pink Lights
Photo Courtesy of Be Time, by Matt Roy

Dronile: Wow. I actually didn’t know you’d need ten-kilowatts of diesel in NYC! That’s a lot. Food truck entrepreneurs take note. :-p I’d love to transition now to your journey, Carla, as a business owner. You started in the non-profit world as an International Relations professional and shifted to entrepreneurship. What was that like? Did you have business experience beforehand? How’d you navigate the leap?

Carla: I had a career in the non-profit sector and, somehow always landed at start-ups. That really gave me great insight and experience into how to build an organization from the bottom-up and those skills have helped me tremendously in starting out this new venture.

 That said, I had no idea the amount of learning and challenges I would be facing! There has been a constant learning curve that I am trying to adapt to everyday. It can be overwhelming at times but it is also part of what makes it fun and keeps me on my toes!

Dronile: Your story is really encouraging. Many business owners fear that they need to come out of the gate already knowing it all. But you’re affirming that someone can build their dreams while still learning.

When BE TIME launched with classes this past February, you’d been meditating since the age of 15. Which is incredible! And you’re a mom to twins. What role has meditation and mindfulness played in your life since starting? How do you keep both at the center of your day as an entrepreneur and a mother?

Carla: My first experience meditating at 15 has been a practice that I keep on coming back to, having it be a constant presence in my life. This project, along with my children, has been one of the best ways to truly use my practice: when things seem like just too much and/or there is a problem to troubleshoot I make a conscious effort to come back to my breath and focus on the present moment, on what I can do now. That is how I try to go about my every day.

Be Time Exterior 2
Photo Courtesy of Be Time, by Matt Roy

Dronile: “Focus on the present moment.” Love! We’re seeing more and more mothers strive to create that work/life balance and be present. Have you seen motherhood affect your role as a business owner?

Carla: I have had to be very strategic and careful with my time.  And I am going to be honest, it can be a lot to handle! I used to feel guilty sometimes when I missed my kids and I realized I am not spending as much time as I would like with them, but then I remember that I am teaching them how to work hard and follow their dreams; I remember how fulfilled and happy I feel by having the opportunity to do so – and that translates onto them.

 I want to offer them that example. Although I might have less time to spend with them at the moment, I make sure that I am being truly present during the time we are together. I believe that is the best gift you can give anyone: your mindful attention. Quality can be so much more valuable than quantity.

Dronile: What advice would you have for other women looking to start their own businesses and be their own boss?

Carla: I would suggest that they explore that spark. Sit down and write things out. Make it real. Transform that into a business plan. Look into the current offerings – how can yours be unique? Once you have that, take responsible baby steps into it. Find mentors who can help guide you along. Trust your inner compass. If all aligns – give it your all!

Dronile: That’s great advice Carla, thank you! BE TIME is “committed to providing meditation classes to as many people and in as many locations as possible.” With the huge success you’ve had so far in NYC, what’s next? What’s on the horizon?

Carla: We have exciting new things in the pipeline, starting with the launch of our merch line in the coming month! We are exploring the many opportunities presenting themselves for BE TIME to expand its offering in inviting people to meditate and make it a cool, essential part of their everyday wellness routine. We‘ll keep you posted and hope you will join the meditation movement!

Dronile: Thanks so much Carla! I’m really excited to continue to see BE TIME and the meditation movement grow. I hope more and more creatives, entrepreneurs and business owners will carve out space in their day to unwind and disconnect.

A Change of Heart: 8 Ways to Start Healing from Trauma

A Change of Heart: 8 Ways to Start Healing from Trauma

I begged God to kill me that night. I was laying on my parents’ couch ringing in the New Year and wishing for an end. Seeing trauma and abuse for what it is, comes and goes in waves. Like healing. It’s challenging to disentangle yourself from traumatic events and abusive relationships but not impossible. Many who end up in relationships with narcissists, for example, come to see the patterns that kept them hooked began within their own family or circle of friends. Being a highly sensitive and empathetic person can make you more attractive to individuals healing from trauma, even their own. The highs and lows of an emotionally and mentally debilitating relationship affects everything from your self-worth to your work productivity.

At times family, good friends, and beloved ones may not understand your healing process. The lingering effects of trauma helped me renew my faith and commit to a life with Jehovah. It has come with its challenges. Overcoming PTSD, releasing feelings of unworthiness and letting go of the cycle happen slowly. Relationships, in general, are challenging, and overcoming abuse – whether physical, emotional, verbal or sexual – will not be any different.

But there is hope.

The first and hardest step is to recognize the trauma and abuse. Seeing it for what it is will take listening to your own intuition and feelings. Over time, the patterns will become apparent. Acknowledging and accepting the events that brought on the pain will mean creating distance between yourself and the individuals involved. If it’s a family member, this can be a challenge because as a society we’re taught familial ties are sacred. Figuring out how to best protect yourself and your mental health will be a continuous process. There have been a number of things that have helped me in this journey and I hope will help you bring peace back into your life too.

Pray, pray, pray

If there’s anything that has pulled me through, it’s been prayer. My relationship with God has been a blessing in my life and has kept my spirits up in times when I thought I could not go on any longer. If you’re new to prayer, there are a number of prayers online or even within the Bible that can be encouraging in times of difficulty. The prayer cards at Prayer for Anxiety are my favorites. This site has prayers for healing a broken relationship, anxiety, and stress, even for family. You can also find prayers through Google or Pinterest. Creating a prayer routine first thing in the morning and the last thing at night can give you the spiritual nourishment to take on another day.

Find your spiritual community

Surrounding yourself with a positive, uplifting and loving community can provide you with strength and peace of mind. Your community may not know what you’re going through, and even if you don’t feel comfortable discussing it you can be encouraged that you have a community that cares for you, and welcomes you with open arms. Being surrounded by others of faith has helped turn around some of my most challenging days. As a result of community, I’ve felt more confident in using my voice and sticking up for myself. Finding your own tribe and people to turn to can help alleviate your recovery as well.

Listen to meditation music

Or switch on the affirmations. Trauma and the lingering effects of abuse can lodge itself deep into our bones, living in our subconscious for years and causing us to play out the same patterns over and over… and over After that New Year’s night, I realized there was a lot of self-hatred I needed to eradicate within myself. I struggled with thinking I deserved to be treated in a disrespectful and unloving manner.

These kinds of thoughts and feelings can take years to overcome, and meditation music is a very soothing way to heal those subconscious limiting beliefs. YouTube is full of music! From soft healing meditation music to open the heart and heal the chakras to positive spoken affirmations that you can listen to while sleeping. I’ve even begun running with affirmations in my headphones. They’re so powerful and can help you train your mind to focus on the positive life you desire and see for yourself.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Do something you love

Getting up and out of bed is probably the last thing someone in a depressive or post-traumatic state wants to do. As a result of your job or if you’re self-employed, your business may suffer greatly. What I’m about to say is crazy but… let them suffer. I know, that’s not what people will tell you but listen, if you can’t get through an hour of work without bursting into tears (*raises hand* hey, hello. My name is Dronile) or feeling intense physical pressure in your head then your body is telling you, you need a break. You need to focus on yourself.

In this day and age where we’re always on, we don’t often times have space to just let everything go, and focus inward. Bills require our attention now, that client from yesterday is still waiting for you to email them back, and time is money. Yeah, I get it. I also get that you and your life are way more precious than these temporary problems. So pick one thing, one thing that you really enjoy doing and let that motivate you to get up. For me, that was writing and reading. If I couldn’t get through the day, I would sit and journal. Mentally, give yourself the space to work through the fog and blocks to return with a strong frame of mind.

Get out in nature

Can I just tell y’all? Bugs and me… were not friends. Growing up, I’d squirm at the sight of an ant crawling up my leg. (Okay… so maybe I still do. LOL) Recently though, I’ve come to enjoy sitting in the grass or spending time by the water. Nature is full of serenity. Full of life and energy. Watch the way the leaves sway with a cool breeze, or how a dog bounces alongside its master. Surrounding yourself with nature can help take your mind off the challenges you’re currently experiencing and instead give you positive moments of reflection.

Sweat it out

It’s true what the wellness experts say about exercise and depression. Because of the endorphins, getting your body moving can be the 1-2-soccer punch your feelings need to take a hike. After a long hiatus, I’ve finally begun strapping my running shoes back on and pulling the yoga mat out! It’s something I’d been affirming for months, and finally found the courage to add back into my life. You can do this slowly at first. Dancing in your living room to that jam from The Weekend, or taking a brisk walk during lunch time. Over time, your body will thank you and even begin to ask you for more.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Read uplifting texts

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, The Four Agreements, The Artist’s Way… all of these texts were so powerful in helping me regain balance on this journey. (If you’re interested in even more suggestions, check out this list of best business books full of spiritual reads). Self-help tends to get a pretty bad rep. Though it’s incredibly important for us to learn how to honestly help ourselves. Especially since others may not often know how to help us, despite wanting to or their best efforts to. Finding books and texts that are positive, and can provide insightful guidance can help ease that feeling of being in it alone. It can also provide you with strategies that you may not have previously thought of. One of my favorite practices, which came from reading Latham Thomas’s book “Own Your Glow: A Soulful Guide to Luminous Living” was a dream jar! Every night, before I went to bed, I would write down one dream or affirmation. “I am joyful. Good things are coming. I matter.” Etc. Every morning during my meditation, I would pull one out and focus on visualizing it. What it felt like, looked like, sounded like. Small practices like this can be found in a wide range of nourishing reads.

Give yourself… time…

Finally, the hardest one of them all. Time. If you’re anything like me, you want to heal now. Actually, yesterday would’ve been best considering your packed schedule. :-p True healing is a spiral though. The further we move away from the pain, the hurt and the experience the more intensely we may feel it later when some of those feelings get dug up. Giving yourself time means understanding the triggers.

Healing from trauma and abuse may find you questioning every time someone shows affection towards you because you’re wondering if there’s an expectation you’ll need to fulfill or if it’s truly unconditional. Coming to see those patterns clearly will take honest introspection, and the willingness to sit with those challenging emotions. As they say “you repeat, what you don’t heal.” So don’t be angry, or upset or in any way frustrated with yourself if 6 months, a year, even 2 years in you’re still grappling with the challenges of abuse. Be gentle with yourself, and question where those emotions are coming from to get true closure.

Are you currently in or healing from trauma, an abusive relationship or a painful situation?

Whether it be romantic, friendship or familial – I pray the practices above while help you find peace and encouragement. Most of all I pray you reach out and find support. Often times the first things to go in an abusive situation is our sense of self-worth and security. In my road to recovery, I have found each day gets a little bit better. I find I have a lot more mental clarity and am able to better focus on or manage my day.

While this can take months of pushing out of your comfort zone and actively fighting the will to give up, it will be encouraging to see positive changes happening in and around you. It will be encouraging to once again have hope and to believe in a better tomorrow. At times we all just need someone to be there and I hope if you ever need a friend, you can find one in me.

I’d love to hear from you. Tell me in the comments:

  1. If you’re in or recovering from an abusive situation, what 3 practices or resources have helped you move forward?

Your recovery may just be what someone else needs to hear to find peace today. I love you all. <3

Forever Yours 💞

Dronile

Social Media Marketing 101 for Writers

Social Media Marketing 101 for Writers

So, you want to be a writer? Is writing from the beach G-O-A-L-S, goals? Today, social media marketing has made it easier than ever for word lovers to live the dream. Back in my day–the days of light up sneakers and grunge bands–writers had to rely on newspapers, radios, even billboards to get their work seen. Talk about ice age! amIright? 😂

Jokes aside, writers these days need to be triple threats: editors, marketers, and publicists all wrapped into one. Your writing can be in front of readers, agents, even fellow writers in just 280 characters. BUT with more than 200 active social media platforms deciding where to put your energy is still a challenge many writers face. Even trying to be on all the major players–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn–may not be ideal for a writer doing #allthethings.

Focus is power, sensei.

Now that you have to be your own agent to even get an agent where does social media come in? From branding, to strategy, to pitching and guest posting the wide world of social media marketing can bring on major anxiety for even the most seasoned writers. But, there’s no need to fret. I got you kid! Here’s a little story I like to call social media marketing 101 for writers:

*Note: This post may contain affiliate links. What’s that mean? If you click the link and make a purchase I get a small commission to help keep this blog and jet-setting dreams alive. I love sharing products and services that I truly believe in, and that will help you become the best you can be.*

Create Your Story: Branding

What’s the backbone to every piece of entertainment? From novels to music lyrics? Well… the story! (Sans of course Fast & The Furious). This might seem intuitive to some but what I mean is as writers there’s a vision that comes to us. Sometimes we hear a character or see a scenarios that sparks the whole thing. Then we flesh these visions out. We give characters motivations: a personality, a backstory, a journey. Creating your brand is no different. The very first step in becoming a master at social media is to create your own story. This means understanding the personality behind the brand, in this case YOU, and who you best connect with.

open notebook with pen on table with plant and chair
Photo: Createher Stock

Part of understanding your own story is understanding what you’ll most want to write about as well. While you may want to write about ALL the things and reach ALL the people (we’re very ambitious people us writers) it’s simply not possible. You won’t become J.K. Rowling by writing in every genre under the sun. The idea of a “niche” makes a lot of writers cringe. I myself have fallen privvy to the “but-what-if-I-pick-a-genre-and-want-to-write-about-other-things?” mentality.

When you’re putting together a social media plan, you need to think about what YOUR story is. The why behind your writing.

First off, let’s be real. Do you really want to write about all those things? Or can you pepper them into what you already enjoy and love? Branding is about authenticity. If you find yourself watching more Romance movies than Comedies, more Historical timepieces than Thrillers then my dear: your interests are telling you something. That doesn’t mean your 18th Century British Colonial (that is a thing right?) can’t have drama, romance, or comedy. Actually, you’ll notice that a lot of different genres influence each other and play well together–for example, the Romance Comedy, one of my favorites. Love is a funny thing especially when you love what you’re writing about. Getting clear on your own story will lay the basis for your brand. Which really means: who are you as a writer? as a person? Who is your reader? Why would they be interested in what you write? What makes you special? What makes your writing special?

I’ll share a personal example. I love empowering artists and creators of color especially female creators. Because I grew up in a predominately Black & Hispanic neighborhood (Wash Heights represent!) I saw firsthand how little opportunities young artists of color have to follow and pursue their passions. As a little girl, I always wanted to see people who looked like me on tv and in films! But Arts programs in my neighborhood were consistently cut from public school budgets. Since then, I’ve wanted to use my love for writing, media, and tech to help people of color follow their dreams and create a life that excites them.

You may like a whole bunch of things, but you’ll probably notice that what you already pay most attention to is what matters most to you.

So, who are you? What interests and hobbies are central to your backstory and journey as a writer? What has motivated you to write? Think of branding as the initial step in your character development. Let your character–yes, that means YOU!– shine. AND pick a genre. The genre that speaks most to your soul. I pinky promise showcasing who you truly are to the world will be worth it.

Research Your Story: Content Strategy

Alriiight. Now we’re getting into the fun stuff. Marketing, while all fun and creative is also about planning. Think of your content strategy as your writing roadmap. A content strategy, like a story’s research, is the backbone of the entire book or novel. You wouldn’t, for instance, have your character pull out their shiny new iPhone X if your story is set in the 1980s. It wouldn’t be relevant to the world you’ve created. As you begin to map out what happens to your character you add key events and experiences to the story. Same thing with branding.

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Photo: Createher Stock

Think about you: the writer. What is most relevant to your work, your values, your mission? What newspapers, magazines, publications would you like to connect with? Who in your field most inspires you?What events and experiences can you offer your audience and community that relate to your work? Take some time to dream and visualize your end goal. Include content within your strategy and marketing plan that puts you closer to your goals. For example, say you’re working on a new script. You can share behind the scenes to your writing process, create a live webinar on dialogue for screenplays, or share a freebie with your email list on the top 10 screenwriting niches. (Hope you’re all taking notes! 😋 LOL) Mix it up and get creative about how you’ll promote brand YOU. Your strategy is all about seeing what relevant topics and themes tie into your work.

What steps do you, the character, have to make in the beginning, middle and end to tie up the entire novella? That’s your marketing plan.

Your strategy will include a string of different mediums from a website to social media to email newsletters. As a professional writer, it’s your job to let your audience know you’re a master wordsmith. Creating a website is an excellent and fairly easy way to do so.

To create a website:

  • Decide on a name. Choosing a name, while challenging, is also one of the fun parts of starting a new website. First, decide what the purpose of your site will be. Are you looking to brand yourself as an author, novelist or screenwriter? If so, use the name you’ll be writing under. It will help readers associate you with your work. If you’re instead looking to create a writing business, think about what makes your business stand out. Have fun with your business name and be creative!
  • To Self-Host or Not? If you plan on self-hosting your own website–which means paying a company to store all the information, images and content from your site– then you’ll want to use a site like Namecheap to ensure the website name you want is available.

I personally chose to self-host because I enjoy the flexibility and control it allows me over my design and webpage. After switching from a different self-hosting company, I decided to go with SiteGround because their customer service is extremely helpful (especially for us non-web designer folks) and it’s one of the cheapest options out there. If you’re interested in setting up your own self-hosted site, use my code to get 60% off.

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  • Choose a Blogging platform. WordPress.com (not .org) and Squarespace great choices if you’re just starting out. If you’d like a website that’s easy to design and manage then a blogging platform is the way to go. As part of your package, you’ll also get to choose your domain name.
  • Decide on your “look.” While you are yes, a writer, the visual aesthetic of your website will matter. Think of it like your book cover. One of my favorite markets, Creative Market, allows you to purchase affordable website themes and get up and running in a matter of seconds!

Blogs are very popular and one of the fastest ways to share what inspires you. But they’re not your only option! A content strategy is where you get to pick and choose what happens to your character on the journey. It could include a vlog, a monthly newsletter, or even a fun-podcast you co-host for the community. Marketing and business mastermind, Kimberly Ann Jimenez, has a great post on how to create a content marketing plan for your online business over on her website that I suggest you check out to get started.

You may have heard a rumor going around that “email is dead.” The truth? It’s actually the only form of marketing that you have the most control over: remember when you lost all your MySpace friends because Facebook took over? Unless you sell your domain and shut down your site, your newsletter will be a direct line to your readers! So, be sure to invite visitors to sign up for emails and share what you’re working on.

 Pick Your Agent: Social Media

Alright soldier: now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to pick how you’re going to deploy it. This is where your storytelling skills will really take center stage. When it comes to marketing, you generally want to find out where your audience is. This is similar to when you’re sending out query letters, and shopping around for agents. You wouldn’t send your fiction manuscript to a well-known agent who specializes in non-fiction. That’d be a real faux pas. Each social media platform has its own community and “specialization” too. Here’s a nifty social media for writers guide from Writer’s Cookbook that I love!

Photo: Createher Stock

Now, this doesn’t of course mean that if you’re a screenwriter you can only make good use of Twitter. With a little creativity, you could create a presence on a social media platform where most of your audience is not: that’s why your strategy is so important. Because you could, say, share a riveting script about the rise of a media mogul on LinkedIn, where members are always looking for thoughtful, leadership content. No matter what channel you decide on, remember it always boils down to the story: why would someone be interested in your writing? why would they read your book? Watch YOUR film? Catch my drift?

Think about what story would captivate that platform.

At the start you want to choose 1-2 platforms to work with. This’ll make it easier to manage and learn the platform. Once you’ve identified a social media platform’s audience, and the right platform for you it’s time to start sharing and promoting. With your content strategy in tow, start to put out original content and content relevant to the interest of your readers. What I see a lot of writers get wrong in this stage, is that they make their efforts 80% promotional and 20% informational etc. Instead flip it, so that your social media is 80% informational etc. and 20% promotional. How? Simple.

To engage your readers create content that speaks to their interests. Before reaching out to an agent it’s always smart to research what stories they publish and are interested in. On social media this means talking to and connecting with fellow writers, readers, and the community. One great source for learning more about your audience are groups, like Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups, as well as Twitter Chats. You may for instance find that your audience is really interested in learning more about the publishing process, or interesting historical places found in novels. By joining the conversation, you get to listen to what your readers and community really want. And deliver.

Do A Book Tour: Promote, Promote, Promote

Yes! You just:

  1. Wrote a story
  2. Found an agent
  3. Landed a book deal

Now it’s time to take that baby around the world! Guest posting for blogs and publications you enjoy is a great way to get your name out into the world. Websites like The Write Life, The Creative Penn, and Jane Friedman are always looking for relevant guest posts. As a writer though the sky is the limit for where you can submit your work. I, for example, love learning how to stay healthy as a writer and very often submit to wellness blogs and publications to share what I’m learning with other artists and creatives. Just like a book tour puts you directly in front of your audience, so does guest posting.

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Photo: Pexels

Another way to promote? Talking with podcasters and YouTube influencers. One of my absolute favorite is Marie Forleo. She invites writers, entrepreneurs, artists and creatives of all industries, backgrounds, and ages to share their story on her popular MarieTV. You may already enjoy a number of great podcasts or be Instagram friends with readers who would be interested in sharing your work. Or, you may want to invite your favorite writers to chat with you and share the conversation with their community.

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Whew! Congratulations! You’ve just completed your first lesson in social media marketing for writers. Figuring out whether to Tweet, Instagram or keep it strictly Facebook can be a MAJOR decision. Instead of spiraling down the marketing rabbit hole think of social media much like writing.

First you decide on your character (personality, backstory, journey, etc.) and key players (influencers, agents, etc.). Then you research your story and get to learn more about what topics and themes need to be included (strategy). Finally, you get it out into the world through an agent and promote!

What tips do  you have about using social media as a writer, artist or creative? Share them below in the comments. 👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾

Let’s Talk About Health, Baby: 5 Ways to Practice Positivity

Let’s Talk About Health, Baby: 5 Ways to Practice Positivity

Photo by Godisable Jacob from Pexels

The whole room was a buzz. I was sitting towards the back, taking in the scene as laughter and chatter filled the Tribeca hall. Being in a room full of bloggers, influencers, writers, and other creative entrepreneurs felt so refreshing. To kick-off 2018, I attended the #BlogHer18 Health Conference in January, and was incredibly inspired by the powerful stories of such women as Camila Alves, Arianna Huffington and Latham Thomas.It was motivating to hear how these creative entrepreneurs practice positivity. All these wonderful women shared stories about finding strength in the midst of challenging times. Overcoming depression, fighting for their dreams, getting through heartache.

Being an artist is challenging.

As a self-proclaimed (and proud of it!) writer, artist and creative entrepreneur, I’m no stranger to the challenges entrepreneurship brings. The journey is littered with obstacles, or tests, to weed out the non believers from the believers: dreamers who don’t care for being “realistic.” Balancing money with creativity is one of the fun (and no lie messy!) parts of following your heart. Is it possible to get your mind right and not let the negative nancy keep you from heaven? YES! Hearing all of these strong women talk about mental health, building their own businesses and overcoming challenges made it very clear to me that being tested is part of the artist’s journey– it’s whether or not we give the test a try that determines our success.

#BlogHer18 Health table sign

The line between work and life when work IS your life requires positivity and tons of self-care. Whether you’re a newbie freelancer, disciplined moonlighter or a well-spiced entrepreneur, be sure to care for yourself!

Here are 5 ways to maintain an equal footing as you reach for the stars:

  1. Journal: True story, I go through a journal every 3 weeks. If there’s one accessory I can’t live without it’s my journal. Journaling is so therapeutic. It’s a great way to vent, visualize your dreams and affirm the life you’d like to live. In those moments when you’re feeling really stressed out, or angry grab a pen or your favorite notes app. I’m a true believer that our words become our life. Instead of venting to a friend and circulating negative energy, use your journal to let out all of those feelings. Have you ever noticed how your keyboard gets the brunt of your anger when these emotions well up? Scribbling furiously into a journal is a healthy way to release those pent up sentiments. You’ll literally feel so relieved once you do it, that maintaining a positive attitude will be that much easier.
  2. Meditate: One of the best tools for gaining clarity, clearing stress and staying mentally well is meditation. Just a week of consistent meditation can greatly benefit your work and mood. There are a number of resources that allow you to get into the zone, from free recorded sessions on YouTube to paid apps like Headspace and Calm. You can even enjoy meditation on your own! If you don’t meditate already start by finding a nice quiet spot. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Count each breathe – 1 as you inhale, 2 as you exhale, 3 as you inhale, and so on and so forth. Count up to 10, then repeat. Do this for 5 minutes your first week. The next week, challenge yourself to increase your time and sit for longer.
  3. Get Creative: Allowing yourself space to “play” and get your creative juices flowing are so so so necessary for keeping a positive attitude while on the grind. Listen to one of your favorite podcasts, watch a video or even create something outside of your usual medium. As a writer, I love taking up my pen and pad to doodle! I always end up with some really hilarious drawings and illustrations. They make me laugh so much that I do it time and time again for the positive release. Not only is it a fun way to use your creative muscle, you also get to explore a new art form! Don’t worry about being good at it, just have fun with it. It’s okay to be silly!
  4. Do Something Nice For Yourself: Saturdays have become my favorite day of the week. Yes, it’s the weekend. It’s also the day I pamper myself like a celestial Goddess. When was the last time you treated yourself like the Goddess you are? Treat yourself to a nice at-home pedi or put on your favorite lotion to de-stress. Spend an hour a week doing something just for you to boost your mood, and free your mind. Taking time for yourself is not selfish, it’s a necessity. So go ahead. Love up on yourself!
  5. Carve Out Time For Learning: Is there a class you’ve been meaning to take? A skill you’ve wanted to add? Diving into a new subject or topic of interest is food for your brain and soul. No matter your medium, learning is beneficial to today’s hustle, hustle, hustle mentality. These days, you don’t even have to step outside of your home to take a class! Sites like Skillshare, Coursera and Lynda.com make it super easy to dive into new interests.

As creators, staying positive and maintaining a healthy mental balance can be a challenge. Taking care of yourself while hustling hard can do wonders for your productivity though. An imbalance in any part of your well-being can cause you to feel sluggish, unmotivated and even depressed. Affecting not just your work but your happiness as well. The first step is to check in with yourself.

Remember, you’re human. Not a productivity robot.

Has staying positive and maintaining your mental health been a challenge for you as a writer or artist? What helps you keep balanced? I’d love to hear your favorite practices! Leave me a comment below.