Anna's Alcove

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Category: Words

What is your niche?

When you want to write for a website or guest blog, or even when you manage a website of your own, you need to have what is called a “niche.”

“What is a ‘niche,’?” you may ask.

The definition in the dictionary is as follows:

1. a shallow recess, especially one in a wall to display a statue or other ornament.
2. place or position (something) in a niche.

Ok, so to put something on display is kind of like showcasing what you know (so to speak). When a person knows a lot about a certain topic and is passionate about it (or at least very interested in learning more about it), they usually try to find a way to share it with the world.

When I started my blog for an editorial college class, I wasn’t sure how or when I would use it in the future. But then I started posting the articles I wrote as they were published in the school newspaper and moved on to writing about whatever came to mind, whether it be biblical, book-based or whatever inspired me to write.

That seemed to work pretty well at the time and helped to boost my readership as posts were published month to month.

Now comes the tricky part. I want to get into freelance writing, but most websites that are looking for guest bloggers/writers want us to declare a particular niche, a certain topic that we’re specialized in.

My husband sent me an article titled “The Surprising Benefits (and Pitfalls) of Being a Jack-of-All-Trades,” which talks about those of us who are interested and knowledgable about a variety of topics.

What was the solution?

“Take your time and pick a couple things to focus on.”

Just because you’re interested in a number of topics and activities doesn’t mean you can become a short-term specialist in that area. Pick a topic and start researching. Make that your hobby for several weeks or a couple months and see what you can learn.

DSCN3678Do you enjoy food? Then cook, take photographs, jot down notes of the things you changed in the recipe and write about it! Are you into photography? Then go out into the world and snap some pictures, research terms like “aperture” and “depth of field” and post it online with a short (or long) explanation about what you did for each picture. Enjoy playing with kids? Then write some tips about what you do to keep them entertained, healthy snacks that they’ll enjoy and educational games that enhance their thinking process.

There’s a world of opportunity out there waiting to be studied! The only thing that will make it stand out from similar posts on the Internet is by making it your own. No one can think like you do, see the world like you do, crack jokes like you do or explain an interest like you do.

I encourage you (and myself) to start becoming a short-term specialist in one of the many areas that catch your interest 🙂 Who knows… you may discover something you just can’t get enough of!

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Adding “Home” and “Blog” pages to your WordPress

It’s taken me a little longer to get to this point that I expected, but I finally started working on getting my “Home,” “Hire Me,” “Blog” and “Contact” pages set up for my WordPress site! Yes, there is only the basic information there, but it’s a start and I do plan to embellish it a little more over time.

As I was looking at my site, I realized that I didn’t want my blog posts to be the first thing my visitors saw. I knew that one of the ways to catch a client’s eye is providing them with an idea of what you can offer, but while my posts can be helpful and encouraging at times, they don’t always display my true potential as a freelancer.

What I needed was a “Home” page, but I had no idea how to create one, much less what to feature on it.

So, I started researching and this is what I learned:

Static Home Page

Go to your Dashboard and select Pages. Click “Add New” and type “Home” in the title section of the page. If your template has a default home page template, you’ll find that drop-down menu on the right, under “Page Attributes” (not all templates have this feature). Scroll to the bottom of the page and uncheck “Allow comments” and “Allow trackbacks.” Click “Publish” (you can add information to it now or later).

Blog page

Go to Pages and click “Add New.” Type “Blog” in the title section. Scroll down and uncheck “Allow comments” and “Allow trackbacks.” Click “Publish.”

Set up

Go to Settings and select “Reading.” Under Front Page Display, select “a static page.” You’ll see two drop-down menus: Front Page and Posts Page. Select “Home” for Front Page and “Blog” for Posts Page. Save your changes.

Go to Appearance and select “Menu.” Your two new pages should appear on the left side of the page. Click the empty boxes next to them and click “Add to Menu.” You’ll see them appear on the right side of your screen. Save your work.

What to write?

So, now what? You’ve got your Home and Blog pages all set up, but what should you feature on your home page?

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.44.56 AM

Remember when you wrote an essay or short story for class and you had to come up with a hook that caught your reader’s attention? Think about the audience that you’re trying to reach, what they may need and how you can catch their attention. Why should they keep looking at your home page? What do they need that you have?

Be sure to list some of your areas of expertise, maybe feature some sample photos if you’re into photography and sell yourself (promote your new blog page too)! Don’t be shy about what you can offer to the business world, but don’t make it too wordy either. Too many words can potentially scare people away.

Want more pages?

It’s easy! To create more pages, such as “Contact” or “Hire Me,” go to Pages and “Add New” and fill in the title with whatever you want.

Once those are created and published, go to Appearance and select “Menu.” Be sure to click the empty boxes by your newly created pages, select “Add to Menu” and they will appear in your menu list on the right. You can rearrange the menus by clicking and dragging. Save your changes.

And that’s it!

If you want more information, I suggest you check out wpbeginner.com, as they have several great resource videos on how to get things set up on your website.

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Everyone Has a Story to Tell

“Hi, how are you?” 

“Good. You?”

“Good.”

Believe it or not, this could considered to be an actual conversation. It may be short, but this is all the interaction some individuals need in order to feel like they’ve done their duty in acknowledging the existence of someone they may pass on the street or in the hallway.

What could that say about our society today?

To me, it seems like communication and real conversation has gone downhill lately for several reasons:

1. People may feel as if they’re going to get stuck listening to someone’s life story if they stop and ask them how they’re doing.

2. The other person may be unsure as to how much they should share and whether or not the other person really wants to hear about it.

3. Nearly everyone has some type of technological device that keeps them in constant contact with their family, friends, co-workers, etc… without actually having to talk with them face to face.

This kind of reminds me of the song “(Everybody’s Gotta) Song to Sing” by Group 1 Crew:

“Everybody’s got a song to sing, so won’t you come now and sing with me,
It doesn’t really matter where you’re from or what you’ve done.
Everybody’s got a story to tell, times we’ve tried and times we’ve failed,
So when you feel like hope is gone, keep holding on
This is your song.
Everybody’s got a story to tell.”

I love that! And it’s something that our culture has shoved to the wayside. Not many of us actually take the time to intentionally ask how someone is doing in order to find out how things are going in their life.

We all like to put on a face when it comes with interacting with other people. Technology helps a lot with that and people have gotten so used to hiding behind their cyber personality, that it’s hard for them to have a real, face-to-face conversation with someone.

While surfing the Internet on this fun site called StumbleUpon (you click the “Stumble” button and, according to the interests you selected in your profile, it takes you to random sites that you may be interested in), I came across a website called Humans of New York.

This site has a homepage full of portraits of people the photographer had met around New York City: old folk, toddlers in brightly colored outfits, men with six-inch gauges, women with full-sleeve tattoos… you name it, he’s probably met someone like that.
Each individual featured in their own photo and each photo has a quote from that person. Some of them are longer than others, yet even some of the shorter ones can be very profound and moving, such as:

“I’m afraid of sliding back to a place when I didn’t have the tools to be strong.”

“Sometimes, when I go home to see her, I think: ‘Nobody should be this happy on a Tuesday.'”

“When I was 20, I made a plan to get a good job and be secure. Now I’m 35 and I need a plan to be happy.”

“I’m trying to keep him away from all the negativity so that he has a fighting chance. There are so many cracks to fall through. But I already got his older brother to college.”

See what I mean? This is what you get when you take an interest in someone’s life. You discover that there is more to someone than what you first see.

You ever hear the saying “Never judge a book by its cover”? It applies to people too!

That creepy guy on the corner? He has a story to tell.

That group of young boys skating down the sidewalk and attempting tricks that they’re not quite ready to do yet? Each of them has a story to tell.

That shy girl you pass in the hallway every day at school and who everyone else seems to avoid because she seems odd? She has a story to tell.

That NFL football linebacker who seems to be living the dream? He has a story to tell.

As Group 1 Crew says,

“Yo, everybody has a story and it needs to be heard,
So let it play and resonate from the hood to the burbs,
Whether your sky is gray and you been through it all,
There is somebody on this earth that is singing the same song.”

Each person in this world is on a journey. A journey to find themselves, to discover who God is, who He wants them to be and a journey to find out what life has for them.

Each journey results in a unique story. We may go through similar trials and experiences, but each person has a different perspective on life which brings about a variety of results. No one experiences life in the same way and it’s interesting to hear how others see the world.

So take the time to be intentional about the questions you ask. When you say, “Hi, how are you?” try actually making eye contact and stopping to talk with the other person instead of rushing off to the next thing on your schedule.

Don’t pretend to be texting/talking on your phone in the hopes that the person walking past you won’t try to strike up a conversation.

Take the time to listen. I can tell you from my own experience that it’s a really awesome feeling knowing that someone cares enough to listen to what you have to say.

Like I said, everyone’s got a story that’s worth listening to 🙂

Oh, and if you’re interested in that Humans of New York site (it’s completely worth checking out!!), I recommend the first story I read: The Boxer. Check it!

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“Counterfeit Gods”

“You might say, “I don’t believe in God,” but the Bible says, “Not possible,”
Everyone has a God, whether or not it’s the God of the gospel…
Even the dictionary defines God as “whatever we make supreme.”
It’s a theme, a thread, it’s inside of all human beings,
The fact we all worship, and no it’s not just about singing.
I know some of you already like “Jeff I don’t worship, I put that on the shelf,”
But I say technically we all do, we just worship ourselves.”

This is the beginning of “Counterfeit Gods,” a spoken word piece by one of my favorite artists, Jefferson Bethke. He has made a number of videos that touch on a lot of hard issues that we, as Christians, face in our every day lives… tattoos, sex, identity, relationships and idols.

Many of us don’t like to admit it, but we tend to place our own personal interests higher in our priorities than God at times (and I’m speaking from experience here):

The anticipation of logging onto the social networks to see who commented on a post or who has the most “likes” on a photo.

The adrenaline rush movies and books provide; giving you the opportunity to escape from the real world and go on crazy adventures all without leaving the couch.

Having a knight in shining armour (or in a really sweet sports car) come whisk you away to live happily ever after!

It may not seem like we’re outright worshiping idols, but think about it… what are we really doing when something of the world takes priority over the God of the universe? Aren’t we just gently pushing Him to the side and asking Him to wait for when we have time to spend with Him.. special time that we set aside for devotions, prayer or journaling… when, in reality, He should be infiltrating our entire existence?!

“Yet, we mock and we laugh at the Israelites Golden Calf,
But we do the same right back; it just looks different than that.
So question, what’s on your throne?
What do you chase so you don’t feel alone?
So what defines you, what do you give ultimate worth?
And what if taken from you would bring ultimate hurt?
Now see, that is your God”

I know I’m getting deep on this one, but God did state in the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:4-6
“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God”

Did you catch that the second time? Our God is a “jealous God”! He can’t stand the thought of anything taking higher priority in our lives. Yet, we do it over and over again, sometimes without realizing it.

“And you ladies, no guy can love you more than Jesus already has,
So stop getting your worth from Magic Mike. Jesus is so much better than that.
I know you’re thinking,  “So Jeff, are you saying we should hate money, hate drinking, and never have sex.
No, I’m not saying that. The Bible says enjoy it all; in its proper context.”

While God is over here trying to tell us that we’re the most beautiful thing He has ever seen, we end up comparing ourselves to the friends in cyber world who have the most “likes” or settling for the fact that we’ll never live up to the Hollywood version of “perfection.”

Without even realizing it, we get so caught up in dreaming about what lies ahead for us (boyfriend/girlfriend, marriage, a career, fame), that we tend to forget that God is already taking care of our past, present and future.

So I ask you… does God have the priority spot in every little part of your life, including your things, friends, social networks and countless other way that you connect to this world? Have you given it all to Him? What would happen if it was all taken away in the blink of an eye? Would your world shatter to pieces around you, or would it stand firm on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ?

“He exchanged himself for us, absorbing all our sin.
God put on flesh and do you see how we treated Him?
The ultimate war veteran, because He was killed for our freedom.
Nonetheless, He was thinking of you and me, with every whip that beat em,
And to think he did that knowing full well we’d say, “Nah, we don’t really need Him.”
But like a Father, He couldn’t bare His children to not be free
So He thought up that tree, paid our fee, for specs of dirt like you and me.
So my plea is let Him restore His proper place,
I promise you He loves you right now. Just trust in His grace.
Because before I leave, I’ll leave you with this:
What of those other things you worship took nails in their wrists?
Or how about when was the last time money or sex forgave you?
When’s the last time your boyfriend set you free from all you’re enslaved to?
What else is there that died so you could be made new?
Or when’s the last time the world promised satisfaction, and actually came through?”

I’m still learning, just like you… so I ask that, as brothers and sisters in Christ, please pray for each other to not become to attached to the world around us. While it may be enjoyable for a while, it’s never gonna last.

But there’s one thing that can never be taken away… our awesome God who is overflowing with unconditional love and never-ending patience.

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Learning to Dance in the Rain

What is the first thought that pops into your head when you wake up to a steady rain? You know the kind… large drops of water falling from the sky – not too hard, not too soft – just nice and steady all day long.

Many people consider it an interruption in their plans or a nuisance, but, for some reason, I don’t see it that way at all.

I love waking up to the sound of rain and knowing that it’s going to last for a while. Nearly everyone thinks I’m weird for enjoying it, but think about it… when it’s raining outside, it makes being inside so much more satisfying!

That feeling of getting my work done and out of the way and knowing that I have absolutely no other obligations. I mean, come on… the rain is obviously telling you to save the yard work for another day and to stay inside as much as you can! You don’t want to end up like the Wicked Witch of the West from”The Wizard of Oz,” now, do you?

Ok, that was a tad corny, but let me try to explain…

You know that scene in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast where Belle and the Beast are sitting by the fire, enjoying each others company and reading a book while the snow came down outside? Or in “Little Women” when Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy sat by the fire either working on their sewing or enjoying a book and just spending time together while the rain poured down outside their house.

Those two scenarios (and I can easily name a bunch more) are exactly what my idea of the perfect afternoon is! Hearing the constant drumming of the rain on your roof while you’re all cozy and dry in the house is what makes it so great.

Even though you’re stuck inside, the possibility are endless: you can explore new worlds between the pages of a book, watch a movie you haven’t seen in a while, play games with your family and friends (like actual board or card games), enjoy a mug of something hot, make goodies to pig out on at night while enjoying a movie/TV show marathon 🙂

When it’s gorgeously sunny, you feel almost obligated to go spend at least a little time doing something outside, whether it’s driving to the store, going for a bike ride or getting some yard work done. Don’t get me wrong, I love the warm, sunny days and I’m definitely your outdoorsy-type of girl… but not when it’s rainy and deliciously wet outside 🙂

So, the next time it rains (which might be tomorrow!) instead of complaining about how gloomy and disgusting it looks… look on the bright side. Here’s an opportunity for a guilt-free stay-
indoors day to do whatever may tickle your fancy! Read a book, watch a movie, play a game, get that project done, be a complete bum for a day….

… or literally go dance in the rain (it’s completely worth getting soaked) 🙂

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Writing is…

What does writing mean to you? Think about it. When you think of writing, what comes to mind? The countless research papers that your professors forced you to write in order to keep up your grades? Or do you see it as an outlet? A way to express yourself?

These were the questions I was asking myself as I sat at my computer at work last week, trying to find the inspiration to start blogging again. Ever since graduating from college and leaving the student newspaper, I haven’t really written anything of my own. Well, I’ve spit out numerous facts and information that I’ve gleaned from the hundreds of press releases I deal with at work from week to week…

… but that’s not me…

… that’s not the kind of writer I want to be defined as.

What some people don’t seem to realize is that words carry a lot of power. They can bring to life whole worlds that exist in between the covers of a book. They can inspire an entire nation to turn against the king and fight for their independence. Words can be the window into an author’s mind and reveal their innermost desires and dreams.

For me, there is so much more to writing than just repeating the facts. Writing is expression, thought, feeling, sensuality… freedom! It’s a doorway into strange, new lands full of adventure… and the only way we can open that door and make it available for the whole world to see, is by letting the creativity flow through our fingers and discovering where it takes us.

Whether you’re sitting at your desk staring at a blank Word document, nearly at the breaking point because you can’t figure out what to write or how to even get started; or you’re curled up in a chair with your journal trying to figure out how to put your life into words, just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, no matter how silly it may sound, and go with it. Who knows? You might just unlock that creativity that’s just waiting to spill out.

It doesn’t matter if you have horrendous grammar or if your DSCN2516thought process doesn’t quite seem to line up at first… the only thing that matters is that you’re creating, constructing, expressing…

… you’re writing!

That’s really all there is to it. When you’re writing on your own, there’s no pressure of grades, getting the grammar correct and all that fun stuff you had to try to keep track of in school. No. Out here, it’s just you, the pen (or computer keyboard) and the blank sheet of paper just waiting to be filled with your words.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a pen or a laptop, your favorite drink and a snack, get comfortable and let your creative juices flow!

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