Ongoing Opportunities in Blogging

This entry is part 17 of the series Build a Better Blog

Welcome back to our series on how to Build a Better Blog. As part of the A to Z Challenge we have reached the letter O.

O is for Ongoing Opportunities.

Blogs are in themselves great opportunities as well as they create opportunities to reach out to the community.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is a list in no particular order of opportunities in relation to blogs. read more


Bible 7Some months ago, I had a phone call from a lady who lives on the other side of South Africa. She had read my article in the Reader’s Digest and gone to great lengths to find my phone number. It was just a letter to the editor; yet it opened doors for me to come alongside a desperate lady trying to cope with her husband’s advanced cancer. I was able to pray with her and give her encouragement. She planned to use the contents of my letter to make a difference in their lives. read more

Exceedingly Abundantly More

BibleWe all know the story of how Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana. The question is why. So the wedding party ran out of wine. This would have been a huge embarrassment for the host family, and a disappointment to the guests. How good of Jesus to work his first ever miracle to save the situation. The guests would leave the wedding talking about the happy occasion, and the great wine.

Yet this miracle is about far more than wine and a rescued wedding celebration. read more

Do writers need an agent? by Peggy Tibbetts

Writers generally accept the fact that to get a contract with a major publisher we need agent representation. Combining common sense and humor, E. Hanes summed it up the best: “The question is something akin to: Does a human being need a doctor? The answer, of course, can be ‘no,’ but it begs the question: why would you want to doctor yourself?  read more

Seven Ways to Control Your Inbox!

Today I came across an anonymous quote for writers.
“Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the internet.”

How true is that for you?

And perhaps the biggest distraction of all is the never-ending stream of email popping into our inboxes.

According to a case study by Loughborough University, it takes an average of 64 seconds to fully recover from being interrupted by an email.

Yet we have a little alarm that religiously calls our attention whenever an email arrives! If that isn’t bad enough, we may also have a little popup designed to interrupt our thought process each time. And perhaps we have our program set to download email every five minutes. How crazy is that?

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote an article entitled7 Ways to Control your Inbox” It received well over 2,000 hits, so I guess I’m not the only one with an email problem. I used the suggestions I made on my laptop, and emails are still under control on that machine. Problem is, I never got around to doing it on my desktop computer–and quite honestly the problem there is so out of hand I don’t know where to start. The other problem is that I am so easily distracted. And that’s where this post is going . . .

Time to learn to say “No!” Perhaps you want to travel along with me?

Here are seven ways to break the distraction of emails, and win back the time they try to steal from you.

Many of these you may recognise from the previous article, in which case, “Well done!” If you haven’t taken these simple steps, now’s the time to take them, plus a number of other suggestions that will help you . . . me . . . us . . . find more time and become more productive, by cancelling out this major distraction to our daily schedule.

  1. Sort Your Settings: Each mail program is different, but they should all have a way to cancel the alarm that rings when a new email arrives. Uncheck that checkbox! Also the one that says, “Check for new mail every X minutes”. Why do you need that?
  1. Divide and Designate: Create folders in your email program, so you can see at a glance where the important emails are likely to be.

Some examples are: Family and Friends, Newsletters, Links, Store, Junk, plus a separate folder for any email group you belong to that is likely to send more than one mail a day. (I have one for TWV, one for CWOSA, one for CWGI. You get the picture.) You don’t want them all in the same box, as you’ll waste time looking for a specific topic. This way, you can see at a glance when new mail has arrived and where it is.

  1. Filter to Folders: Learn how to set filters in your email program. Create message rules (filters) that will send the routine emails to the relevant folders. Leave others to go straight to your inbox which you check three times a day. (Set a time limit to how long you’ll take to do this. That will make you work quicker, and also save you getting bogged down. Leave more complex mail until the last session of the day.)
  1. Deal with Downloads: Limit the number of times you download emails to three times a day, and don’t check allemails three times a day. Select the best time (usually first thing in the morning or last thing at night) when you will look at the non-urgent folders, for example your newsletters. Once a day is sufficient for these, or even twice a week. Any new ones that arrive today will still be there tomorrow and the next day. Your junk box—check it once a day or even twice a week.

Check first thing in the morning in case anything urgent came in while you were asleep. (This is especially relevant to those in the west of the globe. You need to see what those American friends have been up to during your night!) Limit your time, and then switch off your email program. That’s what I said. Switch it off!

  1. Judge the Junk: Today’s email programs usually come with message filters to send messages that look as if they could be spam into the junk folder. Check this folder twice a week, but don’t just delete the baddies or open the good ones. Train your program to recognize the true junk messages that you don’t want to get, so you don’t waste time on them again.
  1. Delete the Deleted: Periodically clean out your email folders, especially Deleted (Trash) and Sent. Email takes up a lot of space on your computer, and will cause your machine to become sluggish.
  1. Revive and Restore: Baydin has produced a 21-day program that it claims will help you:
  • Acquire new tools and strategies to handle email more effectively
    • Improve your communication skills
    • Identify your email personality
    • Be the proud owner of a healthy inbox
    • Eliminate the causes of email anxiety
    • Enjoy more free time

This program includes an email scheduling tool that helps you focus on messages that are important now. And The Email Game that helps you go through messages faster. I can’t say much more except that I’ve signed up! You can even choose what time of the day you want to receive the message.

According to them, today I ” took an important step: email no longer has the power to interrupt [me] when [I’m] doing something more important. Tomorrow, we’ll work on reducing the amount of email coming in.”

Sound good? Who’s going to join me?

OVER TO YOU: “Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the internet.” To what degree is your writing routine distracted by the internet, and in particular email? Any comments?

OTHER READING: 7 Ways to Control your Inbox



Bible 4“Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.” 1 Peter 3:4   (CEV)

Two days ago, we looked at the magnitude of God in His role as creator. Today I’d like us to see Him as a God who loves adding finishing touches to His work.

Have you noticed how sometimes your most drab piece of writing becomes a real treasure? You study it and come close to giving up on it. Then you add an illustration, or another angle occurs to you, and suddenly your writing creation comes to life. read more

The Gift of Creation

Bible 6How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory! How plainly it shows what he has done! (Psalms 19:1 GNB)
Some years ago, my husband and I sat in our campsite in Africa, miles from civilization, and stared in awe at the night sky. The sky seemed darker, the stars brighter and far more numerous than when we looked up from our home in the city. I knew that, according to people who study the heavens, there are over a hundred billion stars in our galaxy alone—and new ones developing all the time. How can I begin to relate to the God behind such creation? read more

Christian Writers of Southern Africa

On 10th. March 2004, a new cyber baby was born: CWG S.Africa. On 15th May 2011, the name was changed to Christian Writers of South Africa (CWOSA for short – pronounced QUO, as in quota, – zuh).

Click to join CWOSA

As South African writers we have many problems and challenges unique to us, hence the need for a group such as this.

The group’s goal?

To be a source of support, information, online fellowship, encouragement, and learning. We started with four writers but soon started to grow. We were over 80 members when we decided to stop using emails and get our own Facebook page.  This is a private group and can only be read by members.

CWOSA foundation members

Some of our first members:

Here is a collage of some of our first members, many of whom are still with us today. > > > 

Val (top left) and Sean (2nd from the right at the top) now live in England.

Linda (1st left, 2nd row) is now in New Zealand.

Lisa (in the red top next to the logo) is my co-moderator and now lives in Mozambique.

As an online group we

* share our writing joys and frustrations
* tell one another about our successes and rejections
* ask questions and share opinions
* set goals and report back how we’ve done
* sometimes discuss TOTWs (Topics of the Week)
* hold occasional workshops
* form mini-support groups for special writing events, such as NaNoWriMo
* once wrote a hilarious novel by tossing the writing ball back and forward. No self-respecting editor would ever look at it, but it was fun!
* contributed devotions to the Winners at Work devotional book in 2008/2009 and again in 2012.

CWOSA seminar

Writing Seminar:

In October 2004, we held an all-day writing seminar in Cape Town.

Mary Lou Redding, Senior Editor of The Upper Room all the way from Tennessee was our speaker.

This was a real learning curve for Linda Bennett and myself as we sought to draw together writers and wanna-be-writers from around Cape Town. Following this, the question has often been raised,“Why can’t we have a full-scale Christian Writers’ Conference here in South Africa?”

It’s an interesting concept, and I’ve looked into it a few times. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it sounds. CTGetTogether(1)

End of Year Celebration:

Between Christmas and New Year, some of the Capetonians got together for an end-of-year meal.

It’s good we did it when we could. Not long after this photo was taken, Sean Young (extreme left), who has since become the author of the best-selling novel, Violent Sands, left for the UK, and Val Thompson(navy top 3rd from the left) emigrated there a year or so later.

Linda Bennett (black top, next to me in the white top) is firmly settled in New Zealand. So our group is spreading across the globe. Gerald (extreme right) sadly passed away during 2015.


As a group, we have some good times of learning and sharing. Best of all is the encouragement we receive from one another.

We have shared in the excitement as people have grown in their writing. Members have submitted where they haven’t before. Some new writers have had articles accepted for publication, and many books have been published. A new opportunity has arisen since the start of the group and a number of e-Books have been published. One of our members, Lisa Harris (co-moderator) won the coveted Christy Award in 2014 and has been runner-up a few times.

If you are a Christian writer, or even a “wannabe” writer, and live in Southern Africa, we’d love you to join us. Perhaps you are from overseas, and you want to publish in South Africa. You’ll find there are many differences. In fact, do you know how to spell and punctuate the South African way? Come and join us and we’ll put you in touch with the right people. This group is also open to South Africans living abroad, and oh yes! Most important. There’s no charge for membership.

Click to join CWOSA

Take Those Emails

If you’re anything like me, you have a huge waterfall of email coming in daily.

Every time you go back there, the numbers are greater, and your head starts to swim. You try to paddle through them, answering, or marking them to answer, as you go. Some you delete. Some you leave to “read later”. Okay -forget that one. You won’t. If you can skim it now, do so. If you don’t really want to read it now, you probably won’t ever. So delete it. If it’s one you DO want to read later, highlight it. According to the programme you’re using, you’ll find something you can click on to “Watch” it. That should turn the title red, so that it stands out.

Start your plan to wrestle control from the sanity-threatening mass by setting up a series of folders for the big sections of your emails. e.g. if you are a member of CWOSA (Christian Writers of South Africa) you could make a folder called CWOSA. Do a number of these, for each main group of your emails. You may want to do one for Family or for any other group that writes to you frequently.

Next look for how to make Message Rules. It will be among the options at the top of your Email programme. Now set up corresponding rules for each box. For example, if you’re a member of CWOSA, you would arrange for all emails with the subject line CWOSA to go direct to the folder of that name. If you’ve called a folder “Family” then your rule would be something like all email from . . . and give a list of the email addresses that come from family. Click on AND after each one and you’ll be able to add another address. If you forget someone, you can always return to the “message rules” and modify that one.

Every morning (or whatever time you set aside to “Do Emails”) do a quick sweep through your folders. If there are new posts in the folders, the title of the folder eg. CWOSA should be bold. Click it open, and skim through the mail.

  • Some may not be relevant. Delete them immediately.
  • Delete adverts, appeals for money, forwards – I hate the way people see an email with a beautiful message and feel they HAVE to send them off to everyone in their address book. I delete the lot. The only ones I glance at is if they come from one of four people, folk whom I know won’t waste my time.
  • Some of the emails in the folder will be ones you want to come back to. Mark them as “WATCH”.
  • Those you can answer quickly, dash of a reply, remembering that this is NOT the time for long emails. The only messages I read are those from senders I know and/or with subject lines that catch my attention.

Once you’ve done this, or at a scheduled time later in the day, go back through the folders and deal with / respond to all the emails marked red. If it’s something you want to remember or need to keep track of, see you have a folder marked _Check monthly_ or something like that. (Then don’t forget to check monthly!)

I’ve been doing this with my new laptop since I got it about 5 months ago. The result is a laptop with NO – read that again – NO emails in my inbox. I’ve recently started to clean up my desktop but oh how I wish I had done this from the start.

Oh, one last point. I don’t have the computer downloading email during the day. It shatters me when I hop onto my email programme to send off a quick email and discover 45 emails waiting for me. That’s a guaranteed recipe for instant distraction. So I only download email when I’m ready to deal with it.

It doesn’t matter your system. The important thing is to find what works for you so you don’t waste time searching for emails or sorting through hundreds of messages of no consequence to you.

So – challenge for today.

Set up some useful folders, and make the rules to send the mail to them.


Looking at FaceBook


For the next few posts, let’s look at FaceBook. This is not going to be in as much depth as the Twitter sessions were, but if you’re a writer, you need to be on FaceBook. If you have family across the world, you need to be on FaceBook. If you like to communicate with your friends and like the thought of getting in contact with friends from long ago, you need to be on FaceBook.

So, let’s make a start. read more