Many people were amazed and impressed that my web address matches my name: PeterDeHaan.com. I’ve had it for almost twenty years. When I registered it in 2000, it was not hard to procure a domain name matching one’s given name. (At the time, DeHaan.com was also available, and I vacillated on which one to register.)
Please forgive the hyperbole in the title “Websites I Can’t Live Without.” The truth is, yes, I can live without them. However, I use them so frequently than not having them at my disposal would create a void.
Google: I use Google for all my Internet searches and online research. I launch it from my toolbar in Firefox, which takes me to Google for the search results. I can quickly zero in on the exact information I need and only seldom get distracted.
TheFreeDictionary: For online dictionaries, this is my favorite. If I’m writing anything, there’s a good chance that I have this site open. It allows me to quickly verify the correct usage of a word, as well as point to synonyms. (Random trivia question that was recently posed to me: “What is a synonym for euphemism?”)
IMDB: For all my movie, television, and actor information, I immediately go to imdb (“Internet Movie DataBase”). I tend to spend too much time there: I suppose that it is my guilty pleasure—no, wait that might be…
BibleGateway: This is a great site to read or study the Bible. Search by verse, key words, or topic. Plus it has lots of related tools and resources. It also has more Bible translations than I knew existed.
The Weather Channel: Yes, I’m fixated on the weather and weather.com is my go-to source. Though lately, I’m more inclined to use their app.
Amazon: As a writer, it seems I’m often looking up books and checking authors. Though I’m not there every day, it’s close.
For my first blog Musings, I wrote about anything and everything, whatever came to mind. One day I’d blog about family and the next, politics. Following that might be a post about my yard and then, sports. I wrote about nature and weather, about geeky things and spiritual things; sometimes I’d be funny and other times, serious. Other topics included entertainment, travel, holidays, business, animals, writing, the seasons, and more. I was all over the place, and at one time, my tagline was “the musings of a meandering mind.”
My blog failed to find an audience; even the family eventually gave up. I needed focus. Though my original blog is still there and receives an occasional update, I’ve started two other blogs to address specific topics I’m passionate about.
My primary blog addresses biblical spirituality, where I post multiple times a week. This is my other blog and covers writing; I post each Saturday. For both, their respective themes focus my writing and present readers with consistency.
It took time to find my theme. First, I listed topics I was passionate about and what I enjoyed covering. Then, I eliminated those I didn’t want to regularly write about and those where I didn’t have much to say. Of the five remaining items, I asked, “If I had to pick only one, what would it be?” The answer was biblical spirituality. (Writing was second, so I do this blog for fun and variety.)
If your blog doesn’t have a theme or focus, it will likely flounder as mine did for years, but when you follow a theme, you will build an audience.
One of my graduate classes was on mentoring, albeit focused on Millennials and spirituality. The principles I learned, however, apply to any type of mentoring, for almost any age.
The reality is those good mentors are hard to find. The best-qualified ones don’t usually have time to mentor, whereas the people with time often have less to offer. Expertise and availability usually exist in inverse proportion.
Instead of just waiting for someone to offer to mentor you, here are seven ideas:
1. Look at Existing Relationships
If you have a connection with an author you respect, ask if he or she is willing to consider being your mentor. But don’t make this person feel obligated; provide the space for him or her to say “no.”
2. Form New Relationships
Network with other writers and see what develops. However, don’t approach this with an agenda; if you do, you will fail. Instead, seek to help others, give to others, encourage others, and support others. You may catch the attention of a potential mentor who will approach you. And even if that doesn’t happen you will learn, grow, and feel good about yourself in the process.
3. Be Patient and Pray
Yes, I said to pray that someone will offer to mentor you. I could have said “wait and hope,” but prayer is so much more effective and maybe your best option.
4. Consider Peer Mentoring
You can seek a peer mentoring relationship, where two writers help each other. There is strength in traveling the writing path with a friend. If one of you falls down, the other can pick you up.
5. Offer to be a Mentor
Often when we give to others, what we receive back is more valuable.
6. Use Books
Books allow mentoring at a distance, be it over space or time. Of course, the information is one-way and more general, but this may be the only way to receive guidance from a famous author.
7. Respect the Process
If you find a mentor, honor his or her commitment to you: prepare for each meeting, take diligent notes, follow through on every suggestion, be easy to work with, and seek tangible ways to give back. Also, always arrive early and never cancel.
If you don’t have a mentor, what are your thoughts on finding one?
Although I do not make New Year’s resolutions, I do set annual goals. (The two are different, but I won’t go into that here.) I set personal goals, spiritual goals, financial goals, and writing goals. Not only do I form new goals, but I also review last year’s goals.
Last year, I made four writing goals. (I also had several other secondary goals.) I want my goals to stretch me. Between pushing myself with my writing, the distractions of life, and other opportunities that arose, I only completed three of my four goals. Although disappointed over the missed goal, I know it was quite a reach, so I celebrate my three successes.
Now, I look forward. For this year, I have these writing goals.
To land an agent: Technically, this is an ill-advised goal because the outcome is outside of my control. Yes, I can query agents (one of last year’s goals), but I’m not able to make them decide to represent me.
To overhaul my website: Yes, I did this two years ago, but it’s time to do it again. It needs a cleaner look, with easier navigation, more substance, and less minutia.
To self-publish some of my existing writing: I know, this is a vague goal. I should make a list or at least quantify it by stating how many. The reality is that I want to do at least one and hope for more, which one I pick doesn’t matter. This could include publishing my research, repurposing blog posts, and reworking speeches. At least a dozen ideas come to mind.
To rework my dissertation into a more accessible format: This is a carryover from last year.
To repackage and republish How Big Is Your Tent?: I picked the wrong name for this book, which resulted in the wrong cover. The book was judged by its appearance and found lacking. I believe in the content and need to give it the package it deserves.
To relaunch The Blog Pile into an author anthology blog: The basis for this transformation is in place. I simply need to put in the time to make it happen.
I share my writing goals to encourage you to make your own (and for some self-accountability).