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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Review of Star Wars Episode VII from a literary standpoint (spoiler alert)

***Contains some spoilers. Watch the movie first.***

I’ve spent a while waiting for the rest of Australia to get to the cinemas and see Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens for nearly a week now, since the midnight screening that my engineer husband took me to while I yawned my head off. Post-Boxing Day, I figure enough people have seen it – and enough spoilers have already been posted all over the internet in reviews and Facebook posts. Here’s what I thought of Episode VII, from a strictly literary standpoint.

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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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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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Book Review: On Track by Kathryn Apel

I have been waiting and waiting for this book to be released! It was still in the editing process while I was working in marketing this year, so I didn’t get to work on it, but I got to read the final manuscript and OH MY GOODNESS.

This one was simply amazing! I’m not a crier but I cried for joy over this happy ending.

Here’s a quick peek inside the book and how/why Kat Apel wrote this uplifting story.

On Track by Kathryn Apel: A heart-warming children’s book about sports, sibling rivalry and the courage to be yourself.

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Why creators need to care less what people think

74 - Skeleton Keys with Locks - from The Journey's End on Etsy

Image source: The Journey’s End seller on Etsy

Today a tradesmen came to do the front door to replace the broken lock on our door. That’s right, burglars, don’t even bother trying. We’re Fort Knox, baby.

But he came to the door and my brain immediately thought, Aaaargh I forgot you were coming today. The place is a mess and I haven’t even vacuumed yet.

He was there less than half an hour to do the job and we’ll never see him again, and why would he even care what our place looks like? Gosh, what a waste of mental energy it was to stress about it.

It led me to wonder, if I’m letting my poor brain stress out this much – even momentarily – over what a total stranger thinks of me in a non-creative situation, how much am I stressing my brain out about what readers are going to think about what I write?

Have I been writing a terrible novel because I’m worried that readers aren’t going to get it?

Then I read this post by Tim Urban today and just laughed because it explains everything. It’s called ‘Taming the Mammoth: Why you should stop caring what other people think’.

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