s-art-urdays

On Saturday, I pulled on some fleece-lined leggings and gloves and adventured into the city with my friends Jill and MacKenzie. We’re all community art students, in one way or another, and we wanted to make a trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art together. This blog isn’t about opinions or advice or essays. It’s about thoughts and memories and the tangled bits and images of days. So while I know I can’t do justice to the stories we made together on Saturday, this is the place where I can record some of those conversations and hold onto them for a bit as something precious.

Our college sits right next to a train station, so we bundled up after brunch and meet by the tracks just in time to catch the 10:57 train. It rolled in on time and we barely made it, climbing the steps to the higher seats and sitting above the heads of everyone else. It’s about a forty five minute ride from our campus to the heart of the city, and the only time I like to make the trip is when I have someone to sit and talk with. On this day I had two people on my right–Jill with her pale skin and pom pom sweater and MacKenzie with layered scarves and snow boots. We spent the train ride talking over and around each other. We took turns practicing listening. I think it’s important to have friends whose words you value.

Getting to the museum was a breeze, and they gave discounted $7 for students. To be honest, I didn’t know what it would be like to go to an art museum with artistic friends. I’d been to numerous art museums with other friends in the past and it was a blast. But I’d still always felt a little alone in the room, like everyone else was focusing on seeing and liking and I was focusing on seeing and being.

MacKenzie and Jill are both community art majors though, and they have a deep passion for feeling art in and with their bodies. Jill is a dancer–just over five feet tall with wide eyes and a constant desire to move. “I have this thing I like to do,” she said in the first room of the museum. We were standing in front of a huge canvas that towered over our heads. It was several inches thick with paint, blotted and spread and layered in a myriad of colors like the backside of a tapestry. “Sometimes, when I see a piece of art, I like to move in response to it.”

“Oh, I love that,” MacKenzie almost jumped in excitement. “Let’s approach each new work together and count to three, then we can all move in an immediate response to it. Okay?”

Someone counted to three and, with slow, unhurried limbs, we moved in response to the large canvas of layered paint. Then we took a few steps toward the next piece and did the same thing. Within the course of the next half hour, we’d covered the majority of the room with footsteps, spins, curls, and bends. Some pieces made us hurt, caving inward with hands gripping our stomachs and hearts. Framed works created out of colored pencils and crayons sparked our inner sense of play. A hanging mobile made us gently turn beneath it, imagining the object to be a bird suspended in flight. Something made us sad and we might stop. A few feet over, something might make us laugh. The gallery was full of us.

I had a thought in all of this. By physically reacting to art, are we, in some way, becoming art ourselves? 

I don’t think art is meant to be hung and examined in galleries. Don’t get me wrong–I love galleries. I love sharing a space with people who are fully experiencing enjoyment and pain and play. But I’ve found that what I enjoy even more than standing in a gallery is moving in a gallery. I enjoy touching things. I enjoy rawness. I enjoy being art.

Jill made a comment near the end of the day that made me laugh. I’d just been talking about how I go to art galleries to feel inspired to do something–to write or create in some way. “Yeah,” Jill said. “I like to leave an art gallery feeling like I’ve just eaten a meal. My belly is full, you know?”

We obviously don’t look to art to fill us. I realize that art can’t fix all the brokenness in the world or make us whole. But art can capture the wonder and play that we are too often scared to release. Recently I’ve been looking at photographs cave paintings in an art history class. One in particular strikes me as whimsical. It’s the smudged into stone portrait of a pregnant deer. There’s something breathlessly beautiful about that. When you look at a photograph of a cave wider than an IMAX theater, covered with bright paintings of red bulls somersaulting through the sky, you can’t help but be reminded of the physical nature of art.

Creations made in the image of a Creator are full of movement. They are full of play. And the moment you start to think of art as something sterile, something protected, something glass-covered–you’ve lost the ability to experience it.

Here’s to moving in the MCA Chicago. Maybe someday we’ll all go dancing in the Met.

-Rachel

Something Tiny, Something True

I’m taking an acting class this semester. I don’t really know why I’m taking an acting class, because I don’t believe I have any kind of future on or off Broadway. But I’m taking an acting class this semester and already I feel it is teaching me more about life and even writing than anything I’ve studied in a long time. In this class, we move a lot. We also sit on pillows and ask questions. We give opinions but not really answers.

Yesterday, after a simple exercise reading a set of vague lines with a partner with no story or background whatsoever, our professor challenged one of us in each pair to raise our hands. “You,” he said to the volunteer, “Are a child. The person sitting opposite you is your parent. Now do it again.” After repeating the exercise under this guise, he asked us to give feedback on what we noticed. I raised my hand again and he called on me. Fifteen pairs of eyes turned to the back corner of the room where I was sitting next to my partner by the window. “I realized I still had no idea what the story behind this was or what was even going on,” I said, glancing at the sheet of paper in my hands. “But I did know that this was my mom and that meant I had the potential to be very loved or very hurt. And I felt like doing this scene was a little bit scary because I didn’t know what would happen either way.”

The room commented on this a bit and, after a few minutes more of work, we gathered in a circle in the center of the room and sat. The key of this exercise, my professor explained, wasn’t to tell a grand story. It wasn’t to create an amazing and completed piece of theater that stunned the audience and showed just how well you understood the scene. The key was to figure out the next thing. 

In that corner of the room, I was just a daughter talking to her mom. It was work free of affectation or contrived acting. I wasn’t concentrating on a set or props or a climax or the backstory of our characters. All I knew was who I was and what I needed: to talk to my mom. My professor insisted that this was the heart of the work. All we, as actors, can do is figure out one thing at a time. In that moment, my work was to talk with my mom. Maybe in a bigger play with weeks and weeks of rehearsals, I could figure out more. I could determine who I was, where we were, what was going on, and where we were moving. But that wasn’t my goal in the moment, and I should only concentrate on one true goal at a time.

I raised my hand at this point in the discussion and threw out a thought about writing. “I don’t really know if I’m an actor or not,” I admitted, “But I’m a writer. And this is what I know to be true about writing: That, at any given moment, the best you can do is write one true thing. When I start worrying about my plot and my word choice and my impact and my dramatics, the story gets lost. I have to save it for editing, you know? But if I can sit down and just get out the bare words necessary to get a point across and say one true thing, I’ve done something I can actually like.”

My professor nodded in agreement and stated how much all art is really like this. We tend to want to make things bigger and better and perfect, and we forget about the small, significant dream. The most interesting thing that we are creating is the thing we are creating, not the fact that we are creating it for and in front of others. When we let the grandiosity of what we want to accomplish overshadow the smallness of what we need to say, it gets lost. Real art, and real storytelling, is baring our small ideas and our little stories. There is no room for perfection. There is only room for discovery, for truth, for digging deeper, and for making layers.

These are good thoughts for a Friday morning.

-Rachel

The Act of Storying

The act of storying has been on my heart this week. On Thursday, I auditioned for Workout, the theater company here on campus. Preparing my audition, I focused intently on understanding the context of the scene. What were the technical intricacies? How should this line be spoken? How should these words be read? I went into my audition feeling prepared but shaky, and left completely undone. It turns out, the director didn’t care about technique. He didn’t want the specifics, didn’t want perfection. He told me to crave the story. To be willing to sacrifice jumbling, butchering, or even forgetting the words for the sake of the person behind them. He explained that the truest stories are felt before they are told. Before I can tell a story well, I have to understand what the story is and why it matters. If I feel and care, I can begin to share.

Coming home from my audition, I sat on the couch and looked through the table of contents in “The Christian Imagination”, a collection of essays and narratives from great storytellers and creatives in history. I was at a loss for where to begin, so I decided to start from the end and work my way back. The first essay I read was “In Praise of Stories” by Daniel Taylor, and was so affected that it took me over a day to move on to any other sections.

” ‘Tell me a story.’ These words make up the oldest invitation in the human experience. They are an invitation to participate in those things which make us human.”

As I read Taylor’s essay, I was struck by his plea: to see stories as the most crucially human thing one person can share with another. Stories aren’t simply words and they aren’t simply emotion. They’re a language of events and beliefs that, according to Taylor, “do far more harm in the world than bombs and bullets, and more good than all the charities and humanitarian schemes put together.”

I thought about my theater audition as I considered his words, and pondered the significance of stories in Christians’ lives. I’ve always advocated the importance of stories revolving around people instead of events, but his comparison of plot-based fluff to emotional prostitution still struck me. How many times have I picked up a book because it was entertaining—popular—clean? As I prepared my audition, I focused on what I could define. What scenarios seemed safe and do-able? How could I bring the story down to a level that could be dissected and performed? Now, sitting on the couch, I was shaken by another question. Was I prostituting the story here? Taylor’s words called to attention my need to feel comfortable. As a reader, as a writer, as an artist, I was choosing the safe over the raw.

This week, I also started truly understanding how important and interconnected literature, music, theater, and art are in the Christian life. The average American walks past a Rothko without pausing to look at it. They change the station when concerto challenges them. They could never sit through “Waiting for Godot” or check out a Salinger novel from the library. Why? Because these things are difficult. They hurt a bit, pressing into the cracks of what we know to be good and beautiful and nice.

But true art tells stories. It asks questions. It demands the partaker to stop and pay attention. To forget yourself and consider something strange. We don’t admire Rothko because of his brush technique or Beckett for his simplicity. We seek out these things because they seep bloody humanity. Because it is God-honoring to acknowledging something full of otherness. The stories we tell with art, music, motion, and even words are worth more than entertainment. They’re worth the truth we are capable of.

“The stories we choose for ourselves define who we are. Every story defines a community–at least a community of two, teller and listener, at the most the community of all humanity.”

To me, that means my story has weight. It also means my story has responsibility. I’m responsible with the weight of my words, with the meaning of my life. I’ve been entrusted with this glorious, multi-colored thing and I must find my way to release it without dimming its beauty. When we choose to highlight only certain colors or strains of our stories for the sake of comfort or temporary excitement, we are chopping up what God has delivered whole. Taylor has convinced me that my story is beautiful in its rawness, with its cuts and stitches.

“There is a link between what we do and what becomes of us.

It matters that we have been here.”

I’m here. I take up space. I matter. And the act of storying calls me to acknowledge that and use my words, my body, my art, to set truth free.

-Rachel

[All quotes come from the essay "In Praise of Stories" by Daniel Taylor, published in "The Christian Imagination", 1981]

Now Offering: Skype Sessions With Rachel

DON’T YOU WISH WE COULD HANG OUT? Like, actually hang out, with chai lattes and bare toes and pieces of pie over a kitchen table. You could talk about your stories and the ideas you have and the characters that live inside your head. And I could tell you about my books and my experiences and tips I’ve picked up along the way. We’d laugh and probably make Taylor Swift references and get blueberries in our teeth. It’s all good.

Unfortunately, I’ve only had the chance to actually meet one or two blog readers, as this is a fairly big country/world and we don’t have all the time or money in the world. My Dream Factory Workshops have offered incredible opportunities for me to connect with blog readers on a personal level, giving me days to pour into them and immerse them with encouragement and storytelling advice. And while I do have two spots left for the Spring 2015 Workshop, I realize that not everyone can fly out to Virginia and spend a weekend with me. (Sad day)

THAT’S WHY I’VE DECIDED TO OFFER MINI SKYPE SESSIONS, for readers who would still like to have an opportunity to talk to me about writing/storytelling/life, but aren’t able to physically come see me in person.

What I’m offering is simple:

I WANT TO BE ABLE TO TALK, JUST YOU AND ME, WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS, FOR AN HOUR.

I want to hear about your stories and ideas and plans. I want you to ask me your questions, one after another, rambling and messy and spilling out too fast. I want to be able to relate my life to yours and share with you the things I’ve learned and give you just a little taste of what it’s like to be in a workshop. It’s like putting a piece of really great cake on a plate. Obviously, you want to eat the whole thing (who wouldn’t?), but sometimes just a few bites is still good enough.

I’M BASICALLY OFFERING A FEW BITES OF MYSELF TO YOU. Bad metaphor, I know, but that’s the best way I can think of to describe it. I don’t have all day, but I do have one hour, and I want to spend it with you.

Logistically, I’ve been thinking about how to make this happen. Skype seems like the logical portal for this magical soon-to-be-besties conversation to take place. It’s intimate, it’s face-to-face, and it can happen just about anywhere. So by signing up, you would be agreeing to Skype with me for one hour and talk about whatever you want to talk about. I’ll guide the conversation and ask questions/share thoughts, but this is your time to get out everything you’ve been wanting to spill for ages and share it with someone who really cares.

ANOTHER THING THAT IS IMPORTANT IS THAT THESE SKYPE SESSIONS BE AFFORDABLE. Part of the reason why we choose the slice over the cake is so that we can save some money. We know that we won’t get nearly as much goodness, but we’re still excited for the bits we’ll get to chew on and enjoy. So I want these sessions to be something that anyone could afford, whether you’re a middle-schooler saving her allowance dollars or a high school student shelling out a summer paycheck or just a really great kid with really great parents who want to support your writing ventures. Either way, I know that these dollars are important to you, and I want you to get as much as possible for as little as possible. That’s why I decided to settle on $75 for an hour-long conversation. It’s an investment, so you’ll be sure to plan ahead to soak up as much as you can from the conversation, but it’s also an easy thing to save up or splurge on.

I ONLY HAVE LIMITED AVAILABILITY and won’t be able to schedule very many sessions, so please email me at rachelcokerwrites(at)hotmail(dot)com as soon as possible if you’re interested! Put “Skype Sessions” in the subject line and just tell me a little bit about yourself + your availability. I’ll get back to you and we can set something else! Then we can count the days until we get to gush and spill and share. So much can happen in an hour. I’m excited about what things I’ll learn and what people I’ll meet in that time.

Please email me if you’re interested or have any questions! And even if you can’t have a virtual date with me, thanks for reading my blog and always being my supporter. I wish I could give each and every one of you a piece of pie. Seriously.

-Rachel

GRAFTED MAGAZINE | Issue Five

Just a quick note for those of you who are interested in reading what I have to say on other parts of the interwebs…

This month I was blessed with the opportunity to write an article for Issue Five of Grafted Magazine! For those of you who have never heard of it, Grafted Magazine is a beautiful endeavor created by a community of talented young people who are passionate about spreading truth by creating a high quality online magazine. I’ve enjoyed reading the last four issues and, after exchanging a few emails with editor-in-chief Johanna Schnakenberg, decided to write a piece for this newest edition!

Issue Five is all about evangelizing our families with the Gospel, so inside you’ll find an open letter I wrote to my twelve-year-old sister, Ruth. There’s also poems, short stories, and passionate calls to action written by other incredible young people. I’ve already read through it, but I know I’ll be going back again and again to re-read my favorite pieces before the next issue.

So please, when you have a minute, check out the current issue here and tell me what you think! What was your favorite article?

-Rachel

Makin’ Moonpies

Want to know one of the coolest parts of being a writer? Getting emotionally involved in your characters’ lives. It extends way beyond research. Since I typically write historical fiction, there are lots of things I have to research in order to to feel comfortable with the settings in my books. Politics, world events, pop culture, technology, etc… I definitely read a lot of books and ask a LOT of questions!

But every now and then I find myself in a situation that no textbook or novel is going to fully explain to me. I’ll be sitting at my computer writing a scene and realize I have no idea how to do what I’m making my characters do!

When I wrote “Chasing Jupiter”, I realized I had never baked a peach pie before. So I went to the store, bought a bag of peaches, and made two pies that afternoon. I jotted down notes like “slippery”, “slimy”, and “strong smell” so that when I went back to working on the story I could make the scene more realistic with the first-hand knowledge I had acquired!

So yesterday, when I began working on a scene revolving around two characters making homemade moon pies and realized I had NO idea how moon pies were made, I made a quick Walmart run for some much-needed supplies! A box of graham crackers, a jar of marshmallow cream, and two bags of chocolate chips later and I had my afternoon cut out for me. I spent two hours making homemade moon pies in my kitchen, jotting down notes so that my characters could experience it the same way I did.

So, yeah. Being a writer is fun. There’s nothing deep or meaningful I have to say in this post, other than that moon pies are GREAT and that you should have your characters make some yummy food so you have a chance to indulge…

{Enjoy the following dorky photos of me with “moon pie eyes”}

Oh and I should mention that I started a Pinterest board with some inspiration for Book No. Three, so you should check it out if you like stalking my life and want some clues as to what I’m working on! I also occasionally talk about it on Instagram, so you should follow me there too!

-Rachel

Contest Winners

Hey guys! Sorry I kinda went MIA the last week. Elaini texted me to ask what blog post I was working on and I had to respond a very rushed “Who has time for blogging?” kind of answer while I hurried to get stuff done. Lots of fun stuff coming up. Roadtripping this weekend, and then posting info on the next Dream Factory Workshop later this month!

But anyway. I wanted to announce the winners of the contest I hosted last month! I challenged my readers to create something based on one of my books. The top prize was a $50 B&N gift card, and the two runner-ups got signed book sets!

First place went to Jenna, who wrote a song, “Rocket to Jupiter”, based on Chasing Jupiter. You can watch it here!

I feel like this girl is the next Taylor Swift. Check out some of her lyrics below…

I’m gonna build you a rocket to Jupiter

Who says it’s impossible? 

We can fly away and live amongst the stars

I’d do it, I’d do it, for you

I’d do it, do it…for you.

I mean, wow. Jenna sent a little note along with the song that said,  ”My song focuses on Scarlett and Cliff’s relationship throughout the story and how she wanted to do whatever she could to make sure that he was happy. Even if it meant making a rocket, no matter how impossible the idea sounded.”
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Second place went to Josie, who created this beautiful hidden meaning portrait of Allie Everly from Interrupted.

 

Josie said, “ I wanted to tell about Allie Everly’s life using pictures but wanted it to be more than just a portrait of her. I wanted my picture to have second meaning. To do that I created a hidden meaning portrait. It’s like a caricatures, but instead of exaggerating the most prominent features, one takes pieces of a persons life (dates, people, likes/dislikes, hobbies, etc. ) and incorporated them, using doodling, into that persons portrait….At the second, third, and even forth glance you will notice more than the time before. ”

If you look closely, you can see all kinds of little doodles from the book. Allie’s name, her cat, piano keys, the moon, Emily Dickinson, phrases like “my miracle.” It made my mouth drop open to see a reader pay this much attention to the details of the story and capture it so well!

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And third place was rightfully won by Lindsey, who created this adorable model “rocket” from Chasing Jupiter.

According to Lindsey, “It’s made from a Pringles can, the top of a water bottle, and some cardboard for the fins. The picture in the center is Cliff, Grandpop Barley, Frank, and Scarlet in astronaut outfits.” Remember how the book ends with Cliff revealing the faces of the people he loves in the rocket? I imagine it looked exactly like this. It’s totally my vision, come to life.

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I couldn’t just end there, though. There were so many amazing entries and I feel like I should share some of the others for you guys to enjoy, even if I can’t give as much detail on them!

Fan fiction – Audrey

Sometimes I wonder what this world was like before.  Was it darker?  Did the sun rise brighter?  Other times I find myself wondering what I was like before, was I happier?  Did I like things I don’t now-such as artichokes?  What was this world-my world-like, before it changed?  I suppose these are things I’ll never find the answers to; except for the answers she can give me…

Mini paintings – Elaini

Poem – Rachel

Pencil drawing – Lily

Pencil drawing – Isabella

Fan fiction – Amelia

Sam reached into his chest pocket and pulled the piece of paper out. Unfolding it, he squinted at the feminine handwriting in the dark light of the landing craft. Even though he already knew the letter by heart, seeing the faint pencil marks on the paper made Allie seem closer. He scanned the cramped lettering, his eyes falling to the last line of the letter:

I love you. I truly do miss you, and think of you every day.

Photograph – Natalie

Poem – Grace

Sweep me into a rhythm of swinging and swaying joy

Lead me onto a dance floor as smooth as mahogany glass

Twirl me and spin me

Teach me the right steps

All as we dance cheek to cheek.

Dancing is made for partners, not lone girls in chiffon and silk

Songs like this one are meant for laughter instead of my tears

Together in cadence

We’ll forget there’s a war on

All as we dance cheek to cheek.

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A HUGE thank you to everyone who participated! I write because I have things to say, but I also write because people like you listen. Thank you for loving my characters like I do and gifting me with these creative projects. I hope that you all enjoy seeing what everyone has produced, and encourage each other to keep taking inspiration from your favorite books and creating new things!

-Rachel

Every Writer Has Something to Learn

When I was twelve years old, my mom signed me up for personal writing lessons with an author who lived several states away. We didn’t really know anything about him, or his work, or his credibility, but I was aching to write and my mom couldn’t offer much help. She read the first short story I wrote in sixth grade and realized that I was one of those kids with a gift, and that one of the best ways she could love and encourage me was to help me develop that gift.

So I took online writing classes and developed a really great bond with my tutor. He was a published author. His books were in libraries. He taught me about eliminating adverbs and setting up a scene and sketching out my characters and writing decent fiction work. A year after I stopped working with him, I was signed with Zondervan for the publication of my first book.

And a few years after that, I started offering writing lessons myself.

I love working with talented middle and high schoolers across the country, developing their natural gifts for writing and giving them a passion for storytelling. I’ve worked with over a dozen young people so far, and I’m opening up a few more slots this month for additional students who want to work on their creative writing skills!

The way it works is really simple. It’s an emailing mentorship, so it doesn’t matter where you live or what your daily schedule looks like! Once a week, you will receive a new assignment that you will have five days to complete. For most students, these are either short stories that they can come up with and write, or longer novellas and novels that we work for several months on. Each week, you, as my student, would be expected to write three to five pages or so (depending on your skill and amount of free time), and then send it back to me so I can look at your work and critique it. I offer personalized advice based on your strengths and weaknesses, so no two student’s assignments are the same! The weekly assignment would be based off of what I noticed in the your writing from the week before–I might talk about settings, characterization, speech tags, redundancy, etc. I’m very encouraging and would let you know when you succeed at something, but I would also critique you on your weaknesses and help you to grow in that area! (Hopefully by now you guys have realized that I’m not a super mean person)

It’s a fun program and has really allowed me to get to know my students on a personal level and help them reach their full potential as writers. Logistically speaking, I charge $95 a month (so it’s similar to taking music lessons) and usually ask that students agree to a three-month term to start off with. That means that if you took lessons starting in September, you would just agree to stay with me from September through November (although you would pay one month at a time). After that, you could just take it one month at a time for however long you wanted lessons!

Because the month of September is halfway through, you have a great opportunity to sign up at a discount for the first month. Just three months–September through November–isn’t that big of a commitment and is a great way to test the waters and see if there’s an improvement in your stories. Then you can jump back in come January and dig even deeper!

If you or one of your children is interested in lessons, please shoot me an email at rachelcokerwrites@hotmail.com. We can talk more about lessons, I can check out some of your work, and hopefully we can become great friends and better writers together.

-Rachel


Seriously. Be a Better Blogger.

I have lots of readers email or message me asking for blogging advice. How do I get more followers? How do I develop my own voice in the blogging world? How do I know what to write about?

Honestly, I can’t figure out the getting more followers things. So if any of you have advice on that, feel free to jump right in. I hear there’s this thing called Twitter? (You can follow me there, by the way) Also Facebook? (Guess what, I’m there too) But at the end of the day, I really don’t know anything about either of those social media havens. Maybe if I did, I’d have fifty million followers and Taylor Swift would be my bff.

But I do know how to write. And I know how to speak my mind. And, guess what? Some people seem to like that. Seven or eight hundred of you, at least. And while that doesn’t seem like a HUGE following to me, I’ll definitely take it. If seven hundred people are actually interested in my life, I’ve got to start putting some effort into this blogging thing. So while I still doubt I know anything at all about blogging, I’ll go ahead and share some of my thoughts for those of you who are just starting out (or already floating along) in the crashing ocean of the blogosphere.

First off, don’t worry about getting your own website. Yes, I do own www.rachelcoker.com, and I love it. But for years, all I had was a little wordpress site, and it was fine! I still had several hundred followers, I still felt “in control” of my blog, and it still looked good! I really miss my little wordpress blog sometimes, especially since I wasn’t able to transfer all of my old posts when I switched sites. (You can read all the good old stuff here) For those of you who are just setting out though, I wouldn’t worry about spending all the time and money on building a personal site. Just start up a wordpress or blogspot site and get to blogging!

I also really recommend the use of all original images. All of the photos you’ll find on this site are my own, unless otherwise noted. Even for most of the interviews or writing posts. If you’re not careful about borrowing images from other sites, you can risk getting reported or even sued! People can be really touchy about using their photos without permission, so don’t take the risk! Get a camera and start messing around with photography. Or ask your gifted friends if they’d like to contribute some photos! (And be sure to give them credit) It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Just learn how to take nice simple photos to go along with your posts. It will add visual interest, beauty, and originality to your blog.

One of the most important technique to develop in blogging is the ability to find your own voice. There are so many bloggers out there, and they’re all talking about the same things. What is it that makes you different? You don’t have to have an amazing story or be an incredibly unique person. You just have to be you. Are you funny? Good. Weave that sarcasm or dry humor into your blog posts. Have you always felt older than your age? Then roll with it! Write down your insightful thoughts and ask others what they think. Know what makes you unique and special and don’t be afraid to use it.

At the end of a day, though, your success as a blogger is probably going to be directly proportional to how honest you are. Are you covering up bits of your life and making everything seem glossy and perfect? Okay. You can do that. Just don’t expect anyone to feel connected to you. If you’re constantly searching to see what blog topics are “popular” and will “draw the most viewers”, you’re also setting yourself up for failure. Blogging for the sake of an audience never made any sense to me, and I don’t think your readers will be too attracted to it either.

But if you have a voice. If you need to tell a story. If you stay up late at night with thoughts and comments and painful, honest truths running through your mind that you need to let out, then start a blog. Be yourself, and don’t care about what others might think. Ask questions. Start dialogs. Admit your mistakes. Praise God for your successes!

Blog because the world is beautiful and your life is crazy and you just can’t keep it to yourself. It might take time for people to catch on. You probably won’t become an overnight sensation. But when readers do finally stumble across your humble little site, they’ll fall in love. You’ll find readers who will laugh, cry, and celebrate with you in every season of life.

That’s why I blog, and that’s why I’m always praying I can become a better blogger. A more honest blogger. Someone who doesn’t feel like she needs to share every single detail of her life, but who feels comfortable sharing what God is doing to rock her world. I just want to be a blogger who connects and reaches individuals’ lives. I can always get better, and you can too!

-Rachel

P.S. More helpful, mind-numbingly simplistic blog tips, since I know you wanted them: get a FB like button for the bottom of your page, have annual giveaways and get people to fb and tweet about them, reach out to people you admire and ask them to take place on your blog, and get on every social media platform that you possibly can.