ReBlog: Seven Things Every Writer Must Know to Thrive and Survive

notebook-173010_640Dear Readers,

I came across this blog post by Kurt Bubna quite some time ago, and the title says it all. I have tried to write my own response to this post, but I found that I would only be repeating what Kurt is saying. And besides; I don’t think I can say it any better myself. Enjoy (with a slightly condensed introduction)!

Seven Things Every Writer Must Know to Thrive and Survive: Kurt Bubna

To say that my life has been radically changed over the past eighteen months would be a gross understatement. I still pinch myself on a regular basis just to make sure it hasn’t all been a dream. I am humbled, grateful, and continually blown away.

Let me briefly share with you a few lessons I’ve learned along the way:

1. Don’t write to be validated; write for the benefit of others and God’s Kingdom.

It’s not just about you (or me). More than once, I’ve been tempted to write out of some foolish need to be approved by others. I’ve lived too much of my life with a performance orientation. Here’s an important question we all need to wrestle with: Why are you doing what you are doing? Why do you write (if you’re a writer) or sing (if you’re a singer)? If it’s truly an act of selfless love for the benefit of others, I believe God will bless you beyond your wildest imagination.

2. Have a humble heart and a hefty hide.

I wrote this note in my personal journal early in the editing process of my book: What’s black and blue and red all over? A rookie author and his manuscript in the hands of a professional editor! It was a bit painful at first. When you’ve created something and you’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into a manuscript, it’s like having a baby, and nobody wants to be told their baby isn’t perfect. However, one day it hit me: My editor is making me a better me. I learned to humbly listen, and I’ve grown because of it.

3. Stay the course and keep writing. You are not as bad, or as good, as you might think.

Dealing with the emotional aspects of writing is critical. I’ve finished a couple of marathons in my life, and I know from experience that you have to put in a lot of time and miles to prepare for 26.2 miles of running. Frankly, I’m a better writer today than I was a year ago, and I will continue to grow. I have no idea how Epic Grace will do in the market, but I’m excited about my next book (already in progress with the working title of Epic Life), and I believe it will be better.

4. If you don’t ask—the answer is always no.

No one likes to be rejected. Asking professional people and successful authors for an endorsement can be emotionally risky. You had better learn how to deal with rejection. But if you don’t ask for the support, you’ll probably never get it. No one called me and offered to write an endorsement; I called them. You’d be surprised to know who I asked. Admittedly, I got a little too bold and crazy. Yet Epic Grace ended up with twenty-four amazing endorsements. The list includes several bestselling and award-winning authors and a number of megachurch pastors.

Here’s what you need to know: I asked more than fifty people. Do the math; that means I had more than a 50 percent rejection rate. It’s okay. Deal with it, and just keep asking. It’s good for your character.

5. If you don’t manage your time well, you won’t manage to survive.

We’re all busy. I pastor a large church. I have a large family. I already have a very full and fulfilling life. At first, I had no idea how I was going to meet all the demands and keep all the plates spinning. It was a serious concern. It’s like the line in John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy”: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I did not want that to be true of me. My goal has always been to live with intentionality and purpose. So I prayed hard, “God, give me the wisdom to know what to do, what not to do, and when to do it.” He answered my prayer. (I also learned how to live with less sleep!)

6. There’s a right and wrong way to use social media to promote your book.

People hate advertising, unless there’s something in it for them. As cool as your book might be, most people won’t be interested in getting bombarded by your pleas of desperation: “Please buy my book.” That being said, if you can show them why they should read your book and what they will gain from it, they’ll be lining up to make the purchase.

It’s also extremely important to engage people in conversation. Ask them questions in every post and be sure to respond with your thoughts or insights.

7. How we define success has everything to do with how successful we’ll be.

Our culture tends to define success in some very obvious ways. You are a success if your book becomes a bestseller or wins an award.

In God’s economy, however, success is defined differently:
a. Success is obedience.
b. Success is faithfulness (using your gift with diligence).
c. Success is defined as one changed life at a time.

Whether you have an agent or book deal or not . . . let me suggest that you define success as making a difference in the lives of others through faithful obedience to your calling to write.

Author and friend Mary DeMuth told me, “If you are going to persevere and be in this for the long haul, you have to know you are called to write. Keep writing and God will honor your faithfulness.” I treasure those words.

I’m still growing, still learning, and still amazed at the goodness of God. And I wouldn’t trade this past year for anything. It truly has been epic!

May Jesus lead and bless you in your journey.

 

Thank you all for reading. And thank you, Kurt, for this wonderful post.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

 

In the Name of Knowledge and Creativity

apple-256261_640Dear Readers,

Once again, my friend and follow blogger, Vera of Verawrites.com recommended a very interesting blog post. This time, it was by Beth Byrnes titled “Cherchez la Faim.” Like some of my blog posts in the past, this article focuses on education and discusses the absurdity of placing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education above the humanities.

I particularly enjoyed this article because it’s such a wonderful feeling to know that I am not the only person who sees the many flaws in the education system. Beth actually states that “We cannot put the humanities, i.e. art and literature especially, on a back-burner.” No, we CANNOT.  Some of you may remember previous blog posts of mine in which I discuss the difficulties that students have in writing a simple 5-paragrah essay or how grammar is a significant issue even amongst adults.

Beth talks about an example from historian Adam Gopnik in which he credits Apple’s success to not just great engineering but awesome creativity. Now think about that and then think about the significance of language and words as it relates to business and beyond. For example, did you notice how “Global Warming” suddenly became “Climate Change” or how people take notice to the word “Free” in sales ads? Where would businesses and technological corporations be without the power of language and creativity?

It is unacceptable to believe that society can thrive on STEM education alone. The humanities need math and science, and math and science need the humanities. And Beth’s article provided another excellent example when she told us about how her niece’s love of signing, acting, painting, and knitting prepared her for a career as a scientist.

Although Sooryan is a fictional kingdom, much of its design pertains to a reality that I wish to have in education. My book’s concept of multidimensional learning takes subjects like math and history and “combines” them with other subjects to make educational more meaningful and exciting. The purpose of this teaching strategy is to not only show that every course is significant but that each subject can relate to the other in some way. Multidimensional learning is seen when a teacher incorporates math and art or when an in-depth study in English class discusses a novel’s historical significance as much as its literary.

Towards the end of this wonderful post, Beth discusses the argument by Gopnik that “We are impelled to study the humanities because we are human” due to our desire for understanding of ourselves, our history, and the world around us. The example that she provides pertains to the significance of studying 19th century literature and how it relates to our current issues.

For me, I see Gopnik’s concept a little differently. I believe that we need to study the humanities because of how we live as humans:

We Think: The humanities teaches us to analyze

We Speak: The humanities teaches us how to articulate our words properly. Am I the only person who cringes when someone says “omg”?

We Write: We cannot downplay the importance of writing and grammar. Most adults may not have to write essays or reports on a daily basis, but knowing how to properly write an email is certainty not that common.

We Read: We must never take literacy of the English language for granted.

We move and we are moved: Words and art give us the power to impact, influence, and touch the lives of people we may have never seen or spoken to.

Education of the humanities impacts how we see ourselves and the world, and how we interact overall. So tell me, isn’t this just as important as learning the basics of math and science?

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

The Chains of an Educator

chain-196821_640

Bind-by-the-constraints-and-constrains-because-they’re
Blinded-by-the numbers-and-false-meaning
Bound-are-your-hands-and-your-words
Building-limits-to-their-minds-and-their-dreaming

Bought-I-am-not-to-the-idea-that
Being-one-is-being-all-and-the-same
Bought-I-am-not-to-the-idea-that
Being-an-educator-is-just-someone-to-blame

Being-bound-by-blindness-begs FREEDOM

For  educators  to  teach  and  students  to learn  and  all  to  be  heard  for
Fires  of  greatness  will  rage  and  burn
For  they  will  no  longer  be  quelled  and
Flying   and   soaring   will   be   their   minds   and   hearts   when   you   are

Finally    and    truly

FREE

Ariffa

Education and the Flawed Systems: Interview with Scholar Abel Godfrey

photo-4Hi Everyone,

Today, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and do something very different which is interview a character from my novella Kingdom of the Sun. His name is Scholar Abel Godfrey, a favorite character of mine because of what he represents and stands for. Enjoy!

Me: Thank you, Scholar Godfrey for joining me today! I am both honored and slightly embarrassed.

Scholar Godfrey (laughs): Why is that?

Me: Well, I did create you, so I feel like I’m talking to myself in a way.

Scholar Godfrey: If you created me, then how are you talking to yourself? Is there part of you in me?

Me: Well, no. Actually, you were my hardest character to create because of that. I guess that’s why you’re my second favorite. The others were either variations of myself or combinations of people that I have known or heard stories of.

Scholar Godfrey (smirks): Ja, is there or is there not part of you in me?

Me (pauses and thinks): I believe that we are part of each other. Although you do not possess some of my traits, you are what I want to be and represent. You were created from my passion and desire for true education… You are what I created. And I create what you are whenever I teach others through my words.

Scholar Godfrey (smiles wide and nods): De wa, Mrs. Bevin, it is also an honor to be here with you and part of you.

Me (smiles shyly): Thank you so much, Scholar. So, let’s start with the first question. How would you describe your teaching style?

Scholar Godfrey (leans back and folds his hands onto his lap): I would say it’s personalized and interactive. I enjoy getting to know my students and learning how to pick their brains and bring out the best in them. I don’t like simply talking or lecturing; rather, I enjoy interacting and talking with them and not to them.

Me: So, would you say there’s one certain way or method of teaching? And what I mean is, do you believe there to be one standard of teaching that all should abide by?

Scholar Godfrey: The only standard that a Scholar, teacher, or professor should abide by is the need, desire, and will, to fulfill your purpose which is to influence, inspire, and invigorate a life so much that when a student leaves your classroom, they leave brighter and stronger and the imprint of what you have done is with them forever.

Me: Beautifully said, Scholar.  I’m sure our readers would love to know what it’s like to be educated in the kingdom of Sooryan.

Scholar Godfrey: The biggest difference in comparison to the American system is that the kingdom of Sooryan does not remove God from its schools and government. Sooryan’s education system is also structured to suit the needs of its people in a way that is practical, honest, and effective. For example, there is no purpose of a student taking four years of study for a trade like cooking or construction that is better served with hands-on experience in the field.

Me: Indeed. One of the many flaws with the American system is that it tells our students to go to college to receive a good job, and when they graduate, employers expect them to miraculously have the experience that is required.

Scholar Godfrey: Yes, that is what I understand.

Me: I have once described America’s teachers as unsung super heroes who are expected to do so much more than what should be asked of them. The pressure for them to conform to a system that forces them to treat students generically is unbelievable. What can you tell us about Sooryan’s Scholars?

Scholar Godfrey (glances at his gold robe): Our Scholars are like rays of light from the sun. We give hope, guidance, and warmth, and our people give us the same in return. The people of Sooryan are nothing without the Scholars, and the Scholars of Sooryan are nothing without our people. This is understood and recognized by all.

Me: So would you say that the Scholars are treated like royalty?

Scholar Godfrey (smiles softly and nods): Benar.

Me: Scholar, my absolute favorite quotes from you are “History is a powerful weapon,” “History and truth are not always one and the same,” and “There is always more than one story.” What you said rings so much truth in today’s world and time, and I get so frustrated with people’s inability to see that.

Scholar Godfrey: Well, I am not surprised. History is powerful weapon because of people’s inability to see it as one. Imagine the lives that would be changed if people would simply question…if all sides of a story were told.

Me: Sticking with the same topic, Scholar, may I tell you one of my life’s dreams?

Scholar Godfrey (chuckles and leans forward): Of course.

Me: I want to change the name of Columbus Day and call it something like “Native Peoples Day” or “Indigenous Peoples Day.”

Scholar Godfrey: In this life and the next, I think that would make bring honor to many.

Me (laughs): And make many upset as well! But that is all part what it means to light up the darkness.

Scholar Godfrey (laughs): Agreed. There are many in the dark who wish to remain there and keep others there with them.

Me: Then, let us continue to light up the darkness, Scholar.

Scholar Godfrey: I shall be with you all the way.

Me: Thank you so much for joining me today, Scholar Godfrey. And to my readers: peace and love.

Response to “Praise, Smarts, and the Myth of Self-Esteem”

iraq-81479_640Dear Readers,

Last week, Vera, a long-time follower of mine and a wonderful blogger, recommended that I read a blog post from A Holistic Journey titled Praise, Smarts, and the Myth of Self-Esteem. As the title suggests, the article discusses the theory and the author’s belief that it is more effective to praise a student’s efforts as opposed to their smarts.

My Story:

Before I tell you my opinion about this theory, I will share a bit of my background in education. Before I even started school, my mother made sure I was well prepared…very well prepared. Before I even started kindergarten, I knew how to read, write, and spell at a level well above kids my age. When I was not in school, I studied and read, and I read and studied.

In middle school, my mother did set a standard for grades: I was to get As and some Bs. Did this stress me out? No. Because ingrained in me was something very important: if you work hard, your efforts will be rewarded. So each time my mother read my straight A report card, she would say “keep it up,” or “if you keep it up, maybe you’ll get a scholarship.” It was not “keep being smart” or “if you stay as smart as you are now, you’ll get a scholarship.” Because the concept of hard work was ingrained in me, I believed I was smart because I worked hard, and because of that, I believed everyone had it in them to get the grades I did if they worked as hard as I did. And yes, I received multiple scholarships.

 Do I Agree?: Yes and No

Diana’s post states that “when we praise children for their intelligence, we tell them that this is the name of the game: Look smart, don’t risk making mistakes.” This is something I respectively don’t agree with fully. I think parents tell their children they’re smart because 1) they truly believe it and/or 2) they want their children to believe the same.  There also needs to be a distinction between praising and complimenting. Why shouldn’t we honestly compliment our children and students for being smart? Everyone likes to feel good and should always feel that way.

Setting up for failure:

When it comes to praise, feedback, and the like, there is a BIG difference between the realistic and the ridiculous. For example:

1) I believe that girls should not be told they’re princesses. I’m not talking about affectionately calling a child a princess (every girl is a princess), but instilling in their heads that they are indeed royalty above everyone else. There has actually been a study done about the negative personality effects of this. I’m sure you can imagine; however, see the “Not every child is the same” section.

2) Students are told at a young age that college will get them anywhere, that a college grad is superior to one who is not, and so on. Yet, when we look at the percentage of unemployed and heavily indebted college grads, what should we think? Yes, college grads should of course be praised, but they must be prepared with a realistic view of the world.

3) Parents need to teach their children that they are not the greatest in the world, that there will be someone out there who is better at something, that they will be competing against many, many other people, and that the only way to be truly successful is honest, hard work. I will never forget the story about a teacher’s graduation speech that discussed these very same topics and the backlash he received from parents who were blind to the reality of the world.

Not every child is the same:

Diana’s post states that praising a child’s smarts can cause stress and pressure. This may be true, but I believe that the way praise and feedback affects a child depends on their personality.  Yes, some may feel pressure, while others may just let it roll off their shoulder, and others may take it humbly or to the head. Isn’t the lesson of humility, maturity, and comfort with one’s self all part of growing up and getting older?

I cannot stress the significance of individuality. And what I mean is, not everyone who works hard will receive the same results. This was something I learned the hard way. Before I was an English major, I was in pre-med and no matter hard I studied, cried, and prayed, I got Ds, Cs, and Fs. Up until that point, I always got As because of my hard work. And it took some time to understand that no matter how hard one may try at something, if they’re not good at it, they’re just not good at it. Another way to put it is like this: I have a horrible singing voice. No matter how hard I may try, no matter how many lessons I may take, I will never be able to sing beautifully.

Bottom Line:

As Diana’s post states, “I absolutely believe in the inherent worth of every individual, and that no child should feel unloved or unworthy – because there is no higher glory than that we bear the very image of God.”

Yes, I do believe that it’s more effective to praise a child’s efforts. I also think that it’s okay to compliment a child on their smarts, being realistic about it and their future. We are all not the same. Not everyone who goes to college is smart, and not everyone who doesn’t go to college is stupid. We are all capable of doing great things…in our own way, in our own time.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

The Definition of a “Good” Education

Dear Readers,

Two blog posts ago I discussed the words that came to mind when I saw two men giving free education to impoverished, homeless, and orphaned children in India. As promised, I would like to continue the discussion.

Take a look at the first picture and the ones below. Then ask yourself this: “What is the true meaning of education?” “What is a ‘good’ education?”

Before I answer these questions myself, I will say that some of the greatest discussions and lessons have been in group circles with nothing but chairs. I actually remember being in my college poetry class and how my colleagues and I were so excited whenever we were able to have our session outside the classroom with nothing but the grass as our seats and our laps for our desks. Now I say, “whenever we were able” because we were not the only class with the same desire.

When I was a volunteer ESL teacher last year, I had nothing but flashcards, a 4 x 2 whiteboard on a pedestal and barley working markers. My classroom was in a small cafeteria with 15-20 students who I shared one bathroom with. And you know what? I couldn’t have been happier. And most importantly, they couldn’t have been happier and they couldn’t have learned any more than other students who were more “fortunate.” We were satisfied because the job got done.

So this brings me to what many may argue but what I believe in my heart and soul:

Education does not need technology

Education does not desks

Education does not need rigorous and pointless testing

Education needs teaching from teachers, not computers

Education needs passion and compassion

Education needs care

Education needs teachers to be judged by the difference they make, not by test scores

Education needs love

Education needs individuality

You know, I sometimes feel that if we come from less, things that others take for granted will be worth so much more.

So, if you’re wondering about what makes a “good” education, just take a look at the faces of those young children and you’ll know.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Humility: The Most Important Thing I Have Learned as an Author

Photo Courtesy of LiveLifeHappy.com

Dear Readers,

It has almost been a year since I first started blogging and since then I’ve met many amazing bloggers, published my first book, and learned many, many things. There is one thing in particular that I am reminded of over and over: humility. And it is these experiences, one very special one in particular, that I would like to share with you today.

1)   Because I was an English major in college, I assumed that Kingdom of the Sun would not need much editing. I had first treated it as a term paper in that I had assumed a read-through two or three times was enough. Four months and 150+ reads later, I was still making edits.

2)   In an attempt to save money, I wanted to create Kingdom of the Sun’s book cover on my own. I read how-to manuals and watched instructional videos to no avail. There actually came a point where I was concentrating so hard on my computer screen as I was trying to make a perfect cut around the sun that my eyes started to water. That’s when I knew I needed help.

3)   Back to number 1: Even though I had spent all those months self-editing my book, I had tried on numerous occasions to find a professional editor. However, I kept finding ones that were much too far out of my price range. So in an attempt to submit copies before the close of school for the summer, I read through the book again, made more edits, and sent out several copies. Two weeks later, I found out that there were still typos in the book. I sat down for the sixth time that year and tried with all my might to find a decently priced editor. I finally did.

4)   Now for the special experience I mentioned. In the past month, I have been doing a lot of outreach for book reviews. There was one reviewer in particular who came off as very snotty and condescending, so I somewhat knew what was coming. After I received his response to my book, I was not shocked that he did not like it, but it was more of a shock that he was the first person that didn’t as well as the fact that this man sent me his response on Christmas Day. There was so much that was going through my mind and so much that I wanted to say, but my exact response was: “Thank you for taking the time! If you celebrate Christmas, I hope it was absolutely wonderful.”

Overall, these are the lessons that I have learned in humility:

1)   I cannot do everything on my own.

2)   I am not perfect.

3)   No matter how many people will like my book, there will always be many that hate it.

4)   No matter how rude, condescending, or disrespectful someone may and will be, always treat them with the kindness, compassion, and respect you wish they had.

So, why am I telling you these things? You see, I was never a fan of critiquing poetry. When I wrote poetry, I wrote from my soul because that was where the words freely, easily, and purely came from. I’m sure other poets and authors experience the same. So when it came to critiquing an author’s work, I could not help but feel like it was their soul that was being judged.

Throughout the years, I have met many people who were afraid to write or show off their work due to what others will say or think. There are people out there harboring fear of following their dreams due to failure or rejection. I am here to tell you that there is no need to be afraid because:

1)   If you believe in yourself and all that you do, everything will most likely turn out okay.

2)   There will always, without a doubt, be someone who will not like your work. Move on.

3)   There will always, without a doubt, be someone who was touched or influenced by your work. Remember them.

4)   If you are humble, patient, and kind, success will follow in the eyes of God, yourself, and others.

Do not be afraid. Write what’s in your soul.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa