Monday, October 25, 2010

Blogging Tips from Bryan Allain

Today's post comes courtesy of the very talented Bryan Allain. He would absolutely qualify as one of those bloggers I wanna be when I grow up. :) You can subscribe to his podcast here or check out his blog here...

7 Things You Should Know as a Beginning Blogger

1. No Blog Writes Itself - Behind every blog post you read on someone else's blog is a person just like you doing the writing, editing, and publishing. They have other stuff to do, but they find time to blog.

It won't be different for you. You will never wake up to find out that your blog has done the work for you while you were sleeping. The Keebler elves make cookies, not blog posts. Expect to work hard.

2. Blog Posts Are Not Like Kids - You might love all your kids the same, but you won't be able to say the same thing about your blog posts. Some posts will be home runs that take hours of writing. Others will be opposite field singles that you bang out in 10 minutes as you're headed out the door.

Would this happen in a perfect world? I guess not. Ideally you want each blog post to be as good as the last one, but that's not reality. If your readers expect 4 posts a week, I'm of the opinion that it's better to give them two homers, a double, and a single than to give them just two homers. If you start only posting your best work, eventually you'll stop posting altogether.

3. Consistency is #1 - Building off that last point, the most important thing you can do as a beginning blogger is be consistent. It will help you develop good habits and it will develop a bond between you and your new readers.

The FIRST thing I look for when I visit a blog is the dates of the last few posts. If they seem too spaced out and erratic I'm already gone. If you want me to be a consistent reader you need to be a consistent blogger.

4. Don't Fear the Crickets - Don't be afraid to post something because you think no one will respond. So you only have 20 readers? Who cares, go ahead and ask them a question at the end of your post. I promise you, no one is going to come to your blog, see that no one responded to your question, and laugh at you.

If you never ask for comments because you are afraid people will see that no one is reading, then guess what, you won't get many comments. The worst that could happen is that no one leaves a comment. Really, it ain't that bad. Even the best bloggers get disappointed from low response numbers all the time. Get used to it so you can brush it off and keep writing.

5. Your Most Important Reader is You - I'll read a blog on just about anything if I know the writer is passionate about the subject. If you're writing about stuff that you know well, but bores you, then guess who else is going to be bored? Answer: everyone.

The only chance you have to write an interesting blog is to write something that interests you.

6. You are Whispering at a Rock Concert - Don't expect to be heard right away, no matter how many important people you know or how many links you get. There are so many voices out there blogging about so many different things, it's almost impossible to be heard.

Discouraged? Don't be. Just because it's tough to be heard doesn't mean you don't have something to say. Your voice is unique, so stay true to it and trust that everyday more and more people will find it and stick around if it resonates with them.

7. It's Your Gig - The best thing about being a blogger is that it's your creation. You decide how often to post, what to post about, and every other detail that goes into making a blog unique. Have fun with it, invest yourself in it, and if it's not working out for you don't be afraid to shut it down.

A blog shouldn't be a burden you carry around all the time. If 90% of your thoughts about your blog are "man, i really need to post something", then take a break from it and see if you want to start back up or not.

Blogging isn't for everyone, but for some it will be an amazing experience. You might discover that you don't love writing as much as you thought you did. Or who knows, you might discover a voice you never knew you had and an audience excited to hear what you have to say.

Truth be told, there's only one way to find out, so get your butt in a seat and start creating.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cover Band Essentials?

I'm in a cover band here in Tulsa (no, really... I know I'm not in the pic, but that's cuz I just joined the band), and we are just starting to play here and there. We play restaurants and festivals, and it's generally a lot of fun and an opportunity to make a little (very little) money from time to time. It's a fun gig, and I'm grateful to get to song some pop songs and work with great musicians. We consist of a rhythm section (guitar, bass, drums, keys), horns (trombone, trumpet, sax) and three singers (two guys and a girl).

Here's my question:

In your opinion/experience, what should every cover band be able to play at the drop of a hat? What are the songs you want to hear at a New Year's Eve party or a wedding reception?

Here's the list of the songs we currently do:
  • Always Entertaining Me (The La-La Song) - Original
  • America the Beautiful - Ray Charles
  • Back To You - Original
  • Breathe (2AM) - Anna Nalick
  • Bright Lights - Matchbox 20
  • Come Together - Beatles
  • Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
  • Don’t Know Why - Norah Jones
  • Drops of Jupiter - Train
  • Everything - Michael Buble
  • Everything You Want - Vertical Horizon
  • Fly Away - Lenny Kravitz
  • Fly Like an Eagle - Steve Miller Band/Seal
  • Freedom 90 - George Michael
  • Harder to Breathe - Maroon 5
  • Heaven - Los Lonely Boys
  • How To Save a Life - The Fray
  • I’m Yours - Jason Mraz
  • I Don’t Wanna Be - Gavin DeGraw
  • I Forget to Breathe - Original
  • I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near) - Michael McDonald
  • I Wish - Stevie Wonder
  • If I Ain’t Got You - Alicia Keys
  • Iris - Goo Goo Dolls
  • Isn’t She Lovely - Stevie Wonder
  • Josie - Steely Dan
  • Just Haven't Met You Yet - Michael Buble
  • Life Is A Highway - Rascal Flatts
  • Listen to the Music - Doobie Brothers
  • Living in America - James Brown
  • Love Shack - B-52s
  • Love Song - Sara Bareilles
  • Lucky - Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat
  • Madly - Tristan Prettyman
  • Many the Miles - Sara Bareilles
  • Minute By Minute - Doobie Brothers
  • Mustang Sally - Wilson Pickett
  • Need You Now - Lady Antebellum
  • One Week - Barenaked Ladies
  • Peg - Steely Dan
  • Pick Up the Pieces - Average White Band
  • Pink Houses - John Mellencamp
  • Please Don’t Leave Me - P!nk
  • Pony (It’s OK) - Erin McCarley
  • R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. - John Mellencamp
  • Saturday in the Park - Chicago
  • She Is - The Fray
  • Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours - Stevie Wonder
  • Smooth - Santana & Rob Thomas
  • So Much To Say - Dave Matthews Band
  • Superstition - Stevie Wonder
  • Unwind - Original
  • Vertigo - U2
  • Walking in Memphis - Marc Cohn
  • What a Fool Believes - Doobie Brothers
  • What Would You Say - Dave Matthews Band
  • You Make Everything New - Original
  • 25 or 6 to 4 - Chicago
So what do you think? Given our instrumentation, current repertoire and aspirations, what should we cut? What should we add? Talk to me.

(And in the meantime, enjoy a couple of vids from a performance we did at Utica Square last July... Pretty lo-fi but maybe you'll get the idea.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Found Art: A Glimpse Into My Daughter's Heart

Sometimes the little glimpses into our children's hearts and minds are so precious. I found this written on a sheet of notebook paper this morning:

I've always wanted to be a sinetest that waches the clouds or a storm chacer. most kids don't think about being a storm chacer but I do. I have my jurnals or some kind of paper always with me. I love listening to music I foces more on the sunde track than the singer. I've always wanted a sister me and my three brothers don't get along the best. I love Drawing, writing, and reading. I speand a lot of time out side observing or writing in my jurnal. I'm learning incorsive. I'm in theard grade.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rumor Has It...

So, rumor has it that a famous blogger will soon be guest posting right here on my humble little blog. I'm not going to say anything else. I'm not even gonna tell you when it's gonna happen. But it's SOON.

(Can you feel the expectation in the air?)

My question to you is: If you knew a famous blogger was going to do a guest post on YOUR blog, and you had the potential to have hundreds, if not thousands, of people poking around your site for the day, what would you do to prepare?

Would you do a "Who I Am" post? A blog re-design? Would you try to pimp your music or your church or your Big Idea? Would you try to look as absolutely cool as possible in the attempt to draw these one-time readers back for a second visit? Would you try to write The Best Post of Your Life? Would you switch out your profile photo?

Or would you think to yourself, "This is stupid. Why do I care what So-and-So's readers think of me?"

Decisions, decisions...

Loved and Cherished

My mom has been going through all of the old family slides, converting them to jpegs and putting them on CD-Rs. Eventually, all of us kids will have copies of all of these slides. It's a cool project.

She recently send me some pictures of myself as a little boy, and I was unprepared for the waves of emotion that rolled over me. Nostalgia? Sure, but I don't think it's just that.

Is it that I have kids of my own now and I see myself reflected in their faces? Yes, I think that is a big part of it...

But deeper than that, I think it's reflecting on my own life and loss of innocence. When you're a child, things are simple. Playing in the sprinkler on a hot summer's day is about as complicated as it gets. But of course we grow and live. Our lives become more and more complex. We find ourselves in situations we never imagined. We lose heart and hope. We see the dark side of life. We lose, we fail, we let ourselves and others down. Childhood dreams are let go.

And then, sometimes, we find grace. And we realize that God is bigger than our failures and the boxes we've put God in. We find that there is hope for redemption, that Jesus came because we're screwed up, because eventually we all fall, we all fail, we all break. And that we are loved beyond anything we could ever hope, dream, ask or imagine.

So thanks, Mom... For loving me (then and now) and for sending these photos as a reminder of who I was and who I am in the eyes of God... a precious, innocent child. Loved and cherished.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Celebration of Freedom

Last night my family held hands around my computer and prayed as they started bringing the miners to the surface. Wasn't it incredible? As they brought the first man, Florencio Avalos, to the surface and his son started bawling, I gotta admit there were some tears in my eyes too.

A friend of mine on Facebook just said, "I was cynical about the Chilean president photo-opping at the rescue at the beginning but have mad respect that he stayed the whole 24+ hrs." I agree. One of my choir members at Redeemer was talking about this tonight. He and his family were missionaries in Chile for many years, and he talked about the incredible unity of the Chilean people. He said that was one of their most highly valued national traits... the ability to pull together and be unified in the face of danger or hardship.

Last night on Facebook Chris Seay said something that's been on my mind all day. As we rejoice with our brothers and sisters in Chile, let us not forget that we have been freed too. Freed from the darkness and bondage of sin, brought into the glorious light of Jesus Christ.

Grateful tonight for freedom.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

To Save A Life

Perhaps we've reached the tipping point in this dialogue. All I know is that something must change. I don't care about your or my theological/biblical/philosophical thoughts on the "issue" of homosexuality. We can certainly have those thoughts, and we can discuss them peacefully and lovingly.

What must begin NOW - especially among us Christians! - is to stand up against the persecution of LGBTQ people. Because that's what they are: people. Just like you and me.

Lots of people have written about it. Here are Eugene Cho's thoughts. Here are Jay Phelan's. Here's Ellen's video:

Let's agree, people of faith, to get involved in actively loving the LGBTQ people who are all around us, every day. Support The Marin Foundation. Read Love Is An Orientation. Speak up when people around you use derogatory terms like "fag" or say "That's so gay." You may save a life. Maybe it'll be your own daughter or son's.

One final thought: I'm praying tonight for Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei too. What a terrible burden to bear for these young people. Their whole lives are ahead of them, and they will forever be marked, forever shunned and hated for their roles in this tragedy. May God grant them peace, forgiveness and healing as they seek him.
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