How do I know if it’s God’s will? Sticking to your beliefs in work and creativity

Can we know the will of God when making decisions? How do I know if I’m doing God’s will? How do I know if my feet are on the right path for God’s plan for me? How can I honour God with my work? How can I honour God in my writing or my art?

I was asked this recently by a friend and I’m going to answer it here as well because I think this question fundamentally affects our decisions when we’re living out our faith.

I went to the Planetarium recently and re-discovered that we are all just specks in this giant universe – no, less than specks. We cannot be seen from the moon. Our planet cannot be seen from outside the Milky Way.

We are miniscule – but God loves each of us as individuals, and Jeremiah 29:11 says God has a great plan for our lives. I can’t claim to know the will of God. But here’s what I think about when I’m trying to live out God’s will in both my paid work and my creative projects.

My feet at the labyrinth in Sydney Centennial Park.

About to start the labyrinth in Sydney Centennial Park. Image source: My camera.

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Best books and media I’ve found in 2016 so far

We’re only a few days into 2016 but I have found some AMAZING reads in my first days of 2016, which have also been my last few days of annual leave.

As a writer and editor, my “to read” list is too long for me to ever actually read, if it’s really true that you can only get through about 3,000 in the average lifetime. In my Google Docs “Books” folder, the list of all the books I’ve read in my life (only about 600 that I can remember so far) is far smaller than the list of books I would like to read (about 1 million). So I’ve told you how I chose the books I read last year, and I can definitely say I’m sticking with that strategy in 2016.

If you don’t know what to get yourself in the Boxing Day sales, and you have money left over after purchasing some truly meaningful gifts from Gifts of CompassionTEAR’s Useful Gifts, Christian Blind Mission’s Meaningful Gifts, or some other world-changing charity … then please consider the following reads for belated Christmas gifts to yourself.

Get ready.

They’ll knock your socks off.

Best books made of paper and stuff in January 2016

My January 2016 reads lined up. Image source: My camera.

My January 2016 reads lined up. Image source: My camera.

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Vote on your favourite blog rebrand ideas

I’ve identified the major themes that I’d like to write about in the future, so I made a survey so you can vote on your favourites among these blog ideas!

It is here: Survey Monkey TJ Withers-Ryan

I can’t say the survey results will make my decision for me re blogging, but I would 100% appreciate reader feedback on what you are most interested in reading about.

God bless,

TJ

Image source: TJ Ryan photo, icanhascheezburger lolcat builder

Image source: TJ Ryan photo, icanhascheezburger lolcat builder

Why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year

I was very touched to look up my blog statistics today and see that, gosh, pretty much as many people are reading my blog this month – when I’ve posted literally nothing – as any other month. In my head, this could be caused by many possibilities, all of them fairly positive – you actually find what I wrote in the past interesting, so you came back to reread it, or you told other people about it; or new people found the blog on Google and read something; or you all missed me and kept checking the blog daily to see if I’d written anything new yet.

Well, I haven’t written anything new. But I don’t feel bad about it – and here’s why you don’t need to feel bad about it either.

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What self-care looked like for me this winter

Some of my self-care helpers.

Some of my self-care helpers.

I’ve been reading about self-care. Here’s what it looks like for me this winter.

In the picture above, you can see some of my dedicated self-care helpers: Aloe vera tissues, cuppa tea, soy cheese crackers, inspiring documentary about miracle healers, a trip to the movies, a big, warm, fluffy blanket, and in the background, you can just make out my adorable baby CD player.

This year, I just read this post by Mrs Modern Darcy on what self-care can look like, this post on The Peaceful Wife about taking care of yourselves to love others better, and this post on Propel Women on how women in leadership can make time for self-care.

These posts are good reminders that self-care – taking care of yourself and doing a few things every day just to make yourself happy – is not just for you. It’s for everyone around you who needs your love and attention. You can’t give anyone love and attention when your needs haven’t been met and you feel out of sorts.

And the things that wear you out don’t need to be bad things. Even good things like serving, caring, and giving friendship, can all take energy. If we’re not recharging, we soon run out of love to give.

Stress from doing too many good things is not a new thing. Even Moses in the Bible got told off for trying to do too much at once without taking care of himself. His father-in-law Jethro warned him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” (Exodus 18: 17-18, NASB)

Remember how on the plane, they say to put on your own oxygen mask before you put on your kids’? They say that because if you don’t save yourself, you cannot save your kids. It’s not selfish. It’s essential.

And creativity? Forget about it! If you’re stressed, you are waaaaay less creative.

So I was inspired me to write out my own list of what helps me stay sane and productive on a daily basis, and helps me to love and work better. I hope it inspires you like it did me!

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8 writing tips for memoir and biography

A sunset I captured with my camera in Sydney.

A sunset I captured with my camera in Sydney.

I saw the most awesome documentary last week about healers all over the world. Within 2 minutes, I had tears leaking out because of what a good story a healing makes. Before, broken and hurting and helpless to do anything about it; afterwards, healed and whole and grateful to God. The best part is that the story is true.

This post – and my free ebook you can download below – is for the life writers of true stories who want some “back to basics” reminders for how to get your story on paper. Whether you’re writing memoir, autobiography, or biography, a few simple principles hold true. And most of them are fairly easy to spot in your own writing, so you can save a lot of time by referring back to these principles as you write.

Memoirs and biographies need to feel real for the reader. They need real drama.

Yes, it’s your story, but it’s still a story. Your story – or the story of the person whose life you’re chronicling – has already captured your attention and imagination and heart. It needs to be written in a way that also captures the reader’s attention and their heart.

Here’s my 8 basic tips – one for every day of the week, plus an extra.

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Using the right words matters – a lesson for companies big and little

Last week one of the juniors at work said, “What’s SEO?”

Bless his little heart. He’s in his first year of journalism and they haven’t covered search engine optimisation yet. If you don’t know what it means either, it basically means using the right words so that people can find the content they want easily, in the place they expect it to be.

Here’s my case study on why using the right words is important for businesses big and small.

Last week for work I was researching which service station chains had environmental repair programs, community support programs or sponsored worthy charitable causes. (These articles coming soon to an interwebs near you.)

Most of the chains I researched made that information really easy to find: “Environment”, “Community partnerships”, “Sponsorships”, “Giving Back”, or even “Why you can trust Our Company not to screw up your world”.

But some of them didn’t list the information at all, or they buried it in their corporate reports under “Governance structures” or “Company policies”. Um, hello?

Imagine if I was a prospective customer instead of a journalist – they just lost themselves a sale because I couldn’t find the information I wanted.

So today’s big lesson is for everyone in a company, whether big or small. From web designers to corporate writers to CEOs:

Write for the customer.

Nobody else matters.

And even if this non-customer person does matter, you don’t write stuff for them on the public website; you put what they need into a report and give it to them in a professional package.

Otherwise, all you’re doing is causing frustration and driving potential customers away from your company. Like singing opera when your audience came to hear a musical – a similar concept in most ways, but very, very different in terms of user-friendliness.

The opera 'La Boheme', being performed at the Teatro Solis in Montevideo in August 2005. Image source: Foto te Casur, Ireland's Own

The opera ‘La Boheme’, being performed at the Teatro Solis in Montevideo in August 2005. Image source: Foto te Casur, Ireland’s Own

What are the “right words” that I mentioned? They change over time, unfortunately, so you need to always be on the ball, checking what other people in your field are up to. Regularly view your competitors’ websites and do a “spot the differences” with your own website.

This won’t be a long post about SEO or copywriting or web design. All of that is pretty boring if it’s not your passion, and you can pay someone else to do it. (I’ve done a stack of copywriting in my career so far because I love it.) I just wanted a chance to vent about companies whose websites aren’t user-friendly.

Phew.

End vent. 🙂

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2015. Re-blogging is always highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

Read faster, write more

Let me start with a disclaimer: I’m not boasting, just hoping to show you how you can be as fast a writer as I am, too, if writing more content more quickly would be useful to you in your role as a creator or a creative professional.

So at the moment I’m writing about 6 to 9 articles a day at work. That’s about one an hour, including time spent researching the topic. To give you some perspective, I won’t tell you what my colleagues are averaging, but rest assured that I am fast.

How do I do it? What’s my secret? It’s simple, and you can do it, too.

I’m about to share with you one of my biggest secrets.

I read super fast.

Scarily fast.

So fast The Flash shivers when he hears me open a comic book, because he’s afraid he won’t be able to tell the story fast enough.

The Flash Comic #2: The Fastest Man Alive. This is the new cover variant. Image source: Comic Mega Store

The Flash Comic #2: The Fastest Man Alive. This is the new cover variant. Image source: Comic Mega Store

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Cultivate your curiosity

Me hard at work in the new Canstar office in Brisbane CBD. I took this photo using my new Windows phone.

Me hard at work in the new Canstar office in Brisbane CBD. I took this photo using my new Windows phone.

I’ve been thrashing out the articles for my current contract employer, Canstar Blue. You can view all of my articles at this link, and I’ve compiled a ‘Best Of’ compilation at the bottom of this post…

Have I mentioned lately how amazing it is to be writing for a living? I am thoroughly enjoying every day. And thankfully they like me, too, so I get to stay on for another 6 month contract. So thankful! Praise God.

So here’s two of the things I’ve been thinking about this Friday…

Every morning at 9am we start our day with an editorial team Brainstorm Meeting. Depending on what day it is, 3 to 7 of us get together in one of the meeting rooms and say, “Tomorrow’s product releases are 4WDs and pharmacies. What are some articles we can write today about that?” Then we chat about it and get a list of 5 to 10 ideas, divide them among us, and report on where we’re up to with our other article lists that we’re each responsible for.

I love these meetings because writing is largely a solitary task, but for 15 minutes every day, we’re all part of a team working together. We’re all having our work and our ideas acknowledged and validated. Team managers, take note of the first thing I’ve been realising:

Short, positive team meetings more often make for happier staff.

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News from TJ

I’m delighted to let you all know I have a new temp contract for the next 3 months, praise God!

I’m working for Canstar Blue in writing content about the many products that they research for Australian consumers on their website. This week I began by writing about how to recycle your old vacuum cleaner.

This is Henry the Numatic HVR200A Commercial Vacuum Cleaner. Made in England.  Image source: Vacuum Cleaners Plus

I’d like you all to meet Henry the Numatic HVR200A Commercial Vacuum Cleaner. Made in England.
Image source: Vacuum Cleaners Plus

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