Writing, Self-Promotion, and the Gong Show

Image courtesy of ImageryMajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of ImageryMajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My name is Tim Knopp, and I’m a struggling writer. (Now you say, “Hello, Tim.”)

Since I re-launched God’s call on my life to use words, I’ve come to realize three things: 1. Current writers, unless they have a team of paid promoters, have to do a lot of self-promoting to make it in the industry, B. I don’t have a team of paid promoters and self-promotion makes my teeth itch, and 4. I’m not very good with lists.

A very patient and down-to-earth agent recently told me that most first-time novelists need (among other things) an online following of at least 1,000 people. My first reaction was, “I don’t even know 1,000 people let alone those who want to ‘follow’ me.” But I understand why a social media presence is a prerequisite for agents and agencies to give writers a first chance.

However, one of the reasons I stopped blogging a year and a half ago—aside from the fact that newborns are surprisingly needy—was because I didn’t feel I had anything valuable to say and nothing to promote. Put down the phone; this is not a cry for help or a ploy for compliments. It’s an honest assessment of my state of mind at the time. I was afraid of adding more noise to the already raucous blogosphere. I didn’t want to be another voice shouting to be heard, posing like a celebrity, filling up friends’ walls with my inane thoughts.

(If you like Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec and have a minute, check out this very funny clip:)

To be honest, I was trying to avoid becoming what I don’t like.

Instead, I wanted to write and blog out of a fulfillment of what God had placed in me to say, and to do it out of love. I think of 1 Corinthians 13:1: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

To borrow a phrase from Shakespeare, the tool of social media can easily become “a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.” Really, if you haven’t already, watch the Nick Offerman clip above for an example.

My prayer is that I use my words to add value to people’s lives, that I speak from a heart close to Him who gives me breath, and that when I no longer do these things I’ll have the sense to hear my own “resounding gong” and pause the writing, the blogging, and the self-promotion (ugh, I reallllly hate that I have to think about it this way) until He gives me words again.

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Manly Month

Image courtesy of Salvatore vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tomorrow is Flag Day AND Blood Donor Day, two holidays that just scream “Manly.” I don’t know how many men are like me, but I can’t remember dates to save my life. Because of this, the holidays I’d like to enjoy often skate by without me even knowing. To help my male readers (yes, both of you) and to entice ladies to share with the men in their lives, here’s a look at all the manly holidays in June. Thanks Edie for compiling a helpful list.

16 – Father’s Day (Nothing’s more manly than being a dad.)

18 – Couch Potato Day (No joke. I wouldn’t not make this up.)

20 – American Eagle Day (We’re talking bald eagles here, not overpriced clothing.)

21 – Take Your Dog to Work Day (Man’s best friend at the job site? Yes, please.)

24 – Fairy Day (How’d that get in there? Fairies are sneaky; I don’t trust ‘em.)

25 – National Catfish Day (It’s only manly if you catch it noodling.)

28 – Paul Bunyan Day (I may celebrate by buying an ax… or an ox. Can’t decide.)

30 – Log Cabin Day (Good thing I got that ax.)

So there it is. A few manly days to celebrate in a manly way. Celebrate one or all of them, except Fairy Day. Those evil sprites better watch their backs… somebody wants their manly baby teeth back.

Pull Your Weeds Ten Minutes at a Time

The girl's a pro

Hard at work

Each day after work, I stroll around our house with my wife and one-year-old daughter. We stack blocks in the driveway, tweet at birds, and wave at passing cars. Sometimes my daughter does these things, too.

But really we’re on a mission. Since three-quarters of the house’s perimeter is mulched flower beds or garden, unwanted weeds have a lot of room to show their ugly heads.

It’s my job to stop them (cue heroic symphonic music).

As I take ten minutes to pull unwanted weeds, my daughter mimics me, kneeling beside the mulch or the little garden. I teach her which plants belong and which need to be uprooted.

Although it’d be easy to let the weeds go for a while, I’ve learned that this daily routine saves me from hours on the weekends spraying poison, kneeling in the afternoon sun, and taking time away from my family. It allows me to focus on the important things, including the really big projects when they come up.

So how often do our lives fill up with weeds? How often do we let worry and bad habits and envious consumerism take root in our thought lives? Unfortunately the weeds that grow in our lives don’t pull out so easily. If we wait too long, if we let them take root, they can choke out the promise of the good things that should be in their place. Luckily a few small activities can save some big trouble:

Pray – Make it part of your daily routine. Before meals, as you go to bed, and on your way to work, a little quiet time with God can go a long way.

Read – The Bible is Round-Up for your soul. Let this be part of your daily walk and see if pesky weeds stand a chance.

Talk – Build in time to talk about your challenges with your spouse, your children, your spiritual community, and a few friends who will hold you accountable. There’s nothing like having someone ask you, “Have you pulled your weeds this week?” to keep you on track.

Ten minutes at a time these habits give me the focus, energy, and encouragement I need to tackle my weeds. The hope is that as my daughter watches me nurture my spirit, she learns how to tend her own as well. And that’s the kind of growth I think we’d all like to see.

So how do you pull your weeds?