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Quick and Free Way to Relax and Unwind

You’re a busy person. And, most likely, you’re an exhausted and stressed person, too. But what if I told you there was a way to change that? Because there is…

I receive a commission from links in this post. And I never recommend products I don’t believe in. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

It’s April, which means it’s still Stress Awareness Month. So let’s bust some of that stress together, okay?

I invite you to take a short journey with me.

First, release as much unnecessary tension as you can. Think the back of your neck, your shoulders, your face.

Excellent.

Now take a few slow, comfortable breaths.

In……..

 

 

Out…..

 

 

In….

 

 

 

Out…..

Breathing is a powerful way to calm our bodies. And there’s something even MORE powerful, according to decades of scientific research. It can bring us peace, happiness, and a general sense of well-being. Even better? It’s 100% free.

So, what is it?

GRATITUDE.

Think about it. You’re breathing. And you can read these words, which means you’re educated. You have access to electricity and technology. I’m willing to bet you have clothes, too. Most likely, you’re in control of your body as well as where you go and when.

You probably have food to eat. And access to exotic foods and quick, worldwide trade routes that bygone civilizations never even dreamed of.

There are health, and nature, family, and friends: so much to be grateful for.

NEWSFLASH: Thanksgiving isn't the only time you should be thankful. Click To Tweet

It’s easy to focus on all the negative and scary stuff in our lives. Because it’s usually really painful, loud, and annoying. But when we take the time to remember the parts of our lives that aren’t screaming like they’re on fire, something incredible happens.

GRATITUDE.

You might be wondering what brought this post on. And the answer is honestly pretty strange.

I was researching Zazzle (by the way I’ve got tons of coupons for you at the end of this post), and I came across something I’d never heard of before: the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 (SB 657). As a former resident of Georgia, this act never entered my corner of the world. But Georgia is no stranger to the reality the act attempts to address: inequality, trafficking, child labor, and slavery.

You might be thinking— no way. That stuff only happens in other countries.

Oh no, my friend. Slavery never really died out. It’s alive and thriving around the globe, right under our noses. In fact, right before I moved to Canada, a human trafficking ring had been exposed right in the middle of my hometown.

But instead of getting depressed about the horrors that still happen every day, I choose to be grateful for what I’ve been given. And I like to invest in companies that support equality and respect human dignity— big organizations that remember the forgotten and stand up for the “little” people.

If that’s something you’re interested in, too, here are the deals I promised you earlier:

Cards!

40% Off Cards + 15% off sitewide – Use code: APRILDEALZAZ – Starts: 04/09/2018 Expires: 04/11/2018 11:59 PM PST

Mothers Day!

Up to 50% Off + 15% off sitewide – Use code: ZSPRINGDEALS Starts: 04/12/2018 Expires: 04/16/2018 11:59 PM PST

  • 50% off canvas prints, photo blocks, posters, serving trays, mugs (steins + travel mugs not included)
  • 40% off binders, bunting flags, totes, necklaces, photo cubes
  • 30% off aprons, gift bags, leggings, pillows, puzzles, watches, select wrapping paper

Disney Stuff!

20% Off Disney Store – Use code: ZAZZDISNEY20 – Starts: 04/01/2018 Expires: 04/30/2018 11:59 PM PST

Wild Apple Stuff!

25% Off Wild Apple Store – Use code: WILDAPPLEZAZ – Starts: 04/01/2018 Expires: 04/30/2018 11:59 PM PST

Rainbow Brite Stuff!

25% Off Rainbow Brite Store – Use code: 25RAINBOWZAZ – Starts: 04/01/2018 Expires: 04/30/2018 11:59 PM PST

Other April Sales!

April Product Deals – Use code: ZAZAPR18DEAL – Starts: 04/01/2018 Expires: 04/30/2018 11:59 PM PST

  • 40% off sunglasses and temporary tattoos
  • 30% off scarves, OneUpBands headbands, bound journals, dog tags, and mason jars
  • 25% off Fuji notepads

****Sales and codes subject to change****

Please note: I am not a psychologist, counselor, or physician. If you fear that you or someone you know may harm someone, please contact 911.

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Relax, Don’t Stress. Here’s How:

Woman reading a book while seated on a dock.

Edit: NEW COUPON CODE! Valid until April 30, 2018. Applicable to first box, only. Code: OXFORD4

April is Stress Awareness Month. This is an excellent time to get off the old hamster wheel and review your life.

Are you scheduling time in your day for self-care? Click To Tweet

According to The American Institute of Stress, there are actually four different kinds of stress that you can experience:

Acute: intense. Takes the body 90 minutes to recover. Chronic: slowly builds over time. Eustress: positive stress (promotions, graduation). Distress: negative stress (job loss, divorce).

I receive a commission from links in this post. And I never recommend products I don’t believe in. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

Here are some quick statistics from 2017:

  • Job Pressure is the number one stressor in the U.S.
  • 77% of people regularly have stress symptoms
  • Over half of Americans experience fatigue as a result of stress

But chances are you’re nodding your head to a lot of this information. You can feel it in your bones. The unfocused fog-brain, the aching limbs, the pounding headaches that never seem to end. And if you’re a mother on top of that? Well, you’ve got a whole extra level of stressful inputs.

And that’s one reason why I’m so excited about the grand opening of Oxford Momma. You may have noticed it from the top of my new sidebar on this blog.

Oxford Momma delivers a self-care book box for moms like you! Get it at oxfordmomma.com

How Oxford Momma Helps Reduce Stress

Oxford Momma is a monthly subscription self-care box. Each box contains one bestselling book for moms (either fiction or nonfiction), an aromatherapy candle, a postcard/print with inspirational art, and at least one more handmade item.

If surprises make you anxious or you’re worried you might get a book you already own, they release a sneak preview just before the box goes out. So instead of getting an extra copy of something you already have, you can email them for a substitute in your box.

You also don’t have to worry about shipping. Each box comes with a tracking number that you can check from your computer or phone.

And if expenses are tight one month, you have the option of skipping that month instead of having to cancel completely. They’ve thought of everything.

But What if I’m Not a Mom?

You absolutely do NOT have to be a mother to join Oxford Momma. It’s not like there’s an exam to join. As long as you don’t mind reading mother-themed books and feminine self-care items, you’re welcome to join.

Sign up by April 7, 2018, to get $4 off your first box!

Code: FIRST

Treat yourself to a little "me" time every month with oxfordmomma.com

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Affirmations to Boost Your Mood

As busy, stressed people, we could all use a little self care every now and then. Here are some truths that might help you reboot and reconnect.

💜Your worth isn’t tied to what you do. You are infinitely more valuable than that.
💜 You are allowed to make mistakes. We all do. Mistakes don’t mean you’re incompetent, stupid, or weak.
💜 Every atom in your body is the same age as every other atom in the universe. You are timeless stardust.
💜 What people say about you tells you more about them than it does about yourself.
💜 You are more important than you realize.
💜 You have the right to exist, take up space, have a voice, and you matter a whole hecking lot.
💜 Everybody struggles with their body. Everybody.
💜 Most people aren’t as successful as they seem on social media. Everyone has burdens.
💜 And most people want to help you, too. All you have to do is know how to ask. That takes practice.
💜 No heartbreak, no matter how intense, stays as dark and vivid as it initially feels forever. (This wisdom comes from experience. I’m a survivor of child abuse. And a couple of my friends were murdered.)
💜 Mental illness isn’t imaginary. Taking medication and seeing a therapist doesn’t make you weak or dangerous. It means you care about your health. Anyone who mocks you for this doesn’t care about your health as much as they might say they do.
💜 Whenever possible, stay away from negative people both in real life and online. Especially if they like to tear you down.
💜 The music you listen to, stories you read, and shows you watch affect your mood and energy more than you may consciously know. Choose wisely.
💜 You are more than your thoughts and feelings. You have more control than you might realize.
💜 It is okay to rest. It is okay to go slowly. It is okay to fail. Failure is the beginning, not the end.

I hope these words brighten your day. ☺️

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10 Business Terms with Surprising Origins

The terms we use in business today didn’t always mean what they do today.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

I love etymology (the history of words), don’t you? It peels back the layers of time and allows us to peek at the origins of terms we use every day without even blinking. Here is a list of business and work-related words whose meaning has changed significantly over the course of human history.

1. Desk

This term comes from the same Latin (and before that, Greek) root as the word disk. The modified word originally meant “platter or dish.” (So that’s why working at your desk always makes you so hungry.)

2. Calendar

Like many ancient words, this came to us from Latin and Rome. But did you know that the root word is even older? It actually used to be a Proto-Indo-European word that meant “to shout.” And that’s probably why my calendar always gives me a headache.

3. Staple

This humble office classic comes from a Proto-German word that means “pillar.” What’s even more interesting is that root word transformed in other ancient languages to mean: a candle, a tub, a tooth stem, a foot-rest, a beam, and an execution block. Yikes! Let’s put the staple gun down and talk this out, okay?

4. Boss

The origins of this term are a bit murky, but it’s possible it came from an old Dutch word that means “uncle.” Oh, how times have changed.

5. Manage

This familiar term comes from a Proto-Indo-European root that means “hand.” The French language shaped this word to refer specifically to handling horses before it settled into the word we know and love, today. Carrots, anyone?

6. Business

A term we all respect today had its roots in an Old English word which meant “anxiety.” As in, I’ve really gotta do something with my hands right now to stay busy. In fact, this word didn’t relate to work at all until the latter part of the fourteenth century. Now you know why work makes you so anxious. 😉

7. Salary

Now, this word surprised me. As a Spanish speaker, the root word was so obvious once I saw the entry in the Online Etymology Dictionary (which is a fabulous resource, by the way). Yeah, but salt. Salary comes from a Proto-Indo-European word for salt. Tasty.

8. Negotiate

This term comes from a Proto-Indo-European word that means “lack of leisure.” Got to keep that hustle up, right?

9. Plan

Here is another word whose origin became more obvious when I saw it. This term comes from a Proto-Indo-European root that means “flat; to spread.” Like a mathematical plane. Duh.

10. File

Finally, this term paints a vivid image of what record-keeping must have been like in the ancient world. The word originally meant “a string or wire upon which documents are strung,” and that’s why we sometimes hear people say things are kept on file. The ancients must have hung up their paperwork like laundry on a clothesline. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

PS: Don’t forget to share this post with your friends!

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How to Write Effective Letters for Every Situation

Uncapped calligraphy pen on a sheet of paper with some handwritten text.

Whether you’re searching for a new job, applying for grad school, or something equally as important, writing and formatting is only half the battle.

You don’t want to just write any old letter: you want to know how to write effective letters that increase your chances of success.

Luckily, this post has exactly what you need.

Uncapped calligraphy pen on a sheet of paper with some handwritten text.
Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash


Here’s a quick table of contents to help you get to what you need faster:

Page 1: History of Letter Writing
Page 2: Cover Letters
Page 3: Business Letters
Page 4: Letters of Introduction
Page 5: Letters of Recommendation
Page 6: Letters of Resignation
Page 7: Letters of Complaint
Page 8: Letters to the Government
Page 9: Letters to Save a Life


Does the thought of writing a formal letter make you break out in a cold sweat? If so, you’re not alone.

Most of us don’t spend our days crafting handwritten correspondences like our forebears did. In this modern world of instant communication and bite-sized exchanges, letter writing is a skill that no longer comes naturally to most of us.

But there are several instances where we are required to compose a formal letter in order to achieve the desired result. Before we get to that, let’s take a look at the history.

The History of Letter Writing

If you want to learn how to write effective letters, it may help to understand a little about the practice and how it has evolved over time.

Though the origins of written correspondence is a bit murky, ThoughtCo. cites 2400 B.C.E. as the first mail service for which we have historical proof. This was in Egypt, and many developed cultures also utilized messengers before the Common Era. As for the first handwritten letter, Handwrittenletters.com claims it’s an epistle written in 500 B.C.E. by Queen Atossa of Persia (now Iran). But ThoughtCo. states the oldest surviving piece of mail wasn’t written until 255 B.C.E. in Egypt.

And honestly, they could both be right.

Perhaps the Persian letter was hand-delivered and not mailed. Maybe the Egyptian letter was stamped instead of handwritten.

Either way, one thing stands out: people have been writing letters for a long time.

Bonus: This post by Buzzfeed on letters from history is fascinating. And if you’d like to read historical letters with a more romantic slant, read this post by Co. Design.

On the next page, we’ll tackle the type of letter most of us will face at least once in our lives: the cover letter.

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The Mystery Man Who Helped to Improve American Literacy

Silhouette of a boy reading a book outside by a tree during sunset.

This little-known WWII veteran and highly accomplished educator contributed to the literacy of generations of Americans. So why don’t we hear more about him?

Silhouette of a boy reading a book outside by a tree during sunset.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

A remarkable man was born on February 5, 1924, in Independence, Kentucky. In 1943 he became a fighter pilot with the U.S. Army Air Corps and flew sorties into Iwo Jima, Japan. After the war, he remained stationed in the Pacific as an Information-Education Officer. When he left the Air Force in 1946, he made a choice that would impact the rest of his life.

If you buy something through these links, I get a commission. I never recommend anything that I don’t believe is an interesting and high-quality product. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

William K. Durr earned a B.A. Degree in Elementary Education and promptly began teaching third grade. (Along the way, he met and married his wife. Together, they had and raised three sons.) He completed an M.A. Degree in Elementary School Education by 1951. And in 1955, he received a doctorate in education and started teaching at Michigan State University.

Durr was a proponent of the basal reading approach. This approach encourages children to learn literacy through books, workbooks, and other educational materials that build on skills they’ve already mastered. Basal reading is slightly different from the phonetic reading approach made popular in the 80s and 90s (if any of you are old enough to remember “Hooked on Phonics) and the whole language approach being used today. Instead, basal reading had more of a “See Spot run. Run, Spot, run.” quality to it.

You may not be surprised to discover Durr became the senior author of the Houghton Mifflin (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Reading Program. In fact, this is how I first came across his work. But more on that later.

Dr. Durr went on to become president of the Michigan Reading Association, the International Reading Association, and the Reading Hall of Fame. And that last one is no insignificant feat.

In order to become a member of the Reading Hall of Fame, you need to have been actively involved in literacy work for at least twenty-five years! In addition to that, only members of the Reading Hall of Fame can nominate people to apply for membership, and they stress the importance of being well-respected in the professional community. And William Durr certainly met all of those requirements. In addition to the large body of educational materials he produced through Houghton Mifflin for classrooms across the country, he also wrote two professional books and spoke to educators in every state— and on four other continents. He passed away in 2009.

A Life-Changing Moment

Remember earlier when I mentioned the first time I came across Dr. Durr’s work? Imagine a shy and short six-year-old girl living in West Germany during the last days of the Cold War. She loves school and enjoys learning even though it’s difficult to concentrate sometimes. This is partially because she has borderline-aphantasia. Oh, did I mention this girl was me?

Learning to read was incredibly difficult. And I wasn’t a slow learner in most things. (In hindsight, a phonetic approach would have been more effective for my type of cognition.) This was the first time I had ever attempted something with seemingly no success. (Okay, yeah. I was tiny. And impatient.) My mother sat with me day after day with my reading book in her lap, trying to help me through it.

It’s funny. I remember the unsuccessful attempts and the ensuing frustration. And I remember being able to read with ease. Whichever switch got flipped in my brain got totally erased, as did most of my memory of every single story in that book. But one part of that book always stood out to me. The cover, with its enticing title. It soothed and comforted me. And now, by the power of the internet, I have found my dear friend once again.

Moonbeams

by the late Dr. William Kirstely Durr

Gone, but never forgotten.

PS: Did you learn something new? Great! Here’s my tip jar. 😉

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1 Simple Way to Fight Inequality

One Simple Way to Fight Inequality

Instead of riding waves of scandal-spurred activism from one news cycle to the next, do this to fight inequality and create a lasting impact.
One Simple Way to Fight Inequality
The world is full of creators. Business owners, inventors, artists, performers, writers, the list goes on and on. And now, well into the 21st century, we still have issues with underrepresentation. Acting roles for disabled people keep going to able-bodied actors. Creative works that “look” a certain way get downplayed as dangerous or low-brow. The landscape of our media is littered with harmful stereotypes that many of us are assaulted with every day.

If you're a person of color, a woman, a queer person, a poor person, a disabled person, if you struggle with mental illness— the world's a vicious place. Merely existing is exhausting. Click To Tweet You have to push three, four, maybe even five times as hard to access the same resources as someone in a more privileged position. And it can feel like no one cares. Like no one listens. Like your voice doesn’t matter.

How do I know? I belong to multiple of the aforementioned categories. And I have battled for recognition over the years. I still do. Maybe some of you do, as well.

And that’s why this post is so, so important. We need to support each other.

And allies, you need to support us. Sure, those profile pic filters and marches are nice and all. But. They don’t feed us. And they don’t buy our life-saving medication. Heck, they certainly don’t allow us to rise up from subsistence living so we can thrive. If you want to really support us, use your voice. Give our businesses and creative endeavors reviews. Click To Tweet

1 Simple Way to Fight Inequality

Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash

Obviously, it’s amazing whenever you buy our products, creations, and/or services. And that’s the equivalent of giving a hungry man a fish, as the proverb goes. If you want us to stop going hungry completely, get up on your soapbox and lift that voice. Small businesses require word of mouth to succeed. If you have a friend struggling to start a business that you know is solid and you're not shouting on the rooftops about them, shame on you. Click To Tweet

Take the Time

Like the book you’re reading? How about the movie you’re watching? A well-written news article, great video game, fantastic song, [insert rad creation here]? Take a couple seconds of your life and rate it. Especially if it’s by a lesser-known minority. Want to support the local minority-owned store in your community? Go online and rate them. Write about them. Talk about them. Tell the world what makes this shop so wonderful. These acts may seem small, but they can be the difference between staying afloat and receding into obscurity.

When it comes specifically to books, rating on Goodreads is okay. But for most self-published and indie authors, reviews left on the store site (Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, etc.) can make the difference between whether or not we can afford dinner. Yes. YOUR voice is that important to us. And there’s an ocean of phenomenal yet under-represented businesses and creators out there who are begging for your input.

Can you hear them calling?

I can. I’ve made a personal commitment to leave reviews for every lesser-known business I come across, especially ones run by minorities in my neighborhood. Will you join me?

PS: Don’t forget to share this post!

 

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5 Ridiculously Useful HTML Codes for WordPress You Might Not Know

5 Ridiculously Useful HTML Codes for Wordpress You Might Not Know

While you don’t need to know how to code to create a good WordPress blog post, some HTML knowledge can come in handy. This blogging how to will get you off on the right foot.

5 Ridiculously Useful HTML Codes for WordPress You Might Not Know
Photo by Christopher Gower on Unsplash

I’ve created (and deleted) various blogs on WordPress since 2006. (I had some phases, okay?) Since then, there have been significant changes in features, code implementation, and UI.

For example, here is the “classic” post editor:

Visual Editor:

5 Ridiculously Useful HTML Codes for WordPress You Might Not Know

Code Editor:

5 Ridiculously Useful HTML Codes for WordPress You Might Not Know

Even this basic editor has changed over the years— especially when Medium opened up shop.

However, I prefer to use the Admin Editor.

Visual Editor:

Code Editor:

5 Ridiculously Useful HTML Codes for WordPress You Might Not Know

Lately, when I make new blog posts, I find myself searching for the same kinds of code over and over and over again. So, this post is one part selfish attempt to have everything all in one place, one part helping my fellow bloggers out. Win-win, right?

If you’re a beginner and have never dabbled with any code before, you should read this post by WordPress.com.

Okay, so here are the:

5 Ridiculously Useful HTML Codes for WordPress You Might Not Know1.

Function: Hide photos inside a blog post.

Why it’s useful: You can include variations of your blog post images without crowding up your post. This allows you to do some A/B testing on which kinds of photos your readers share more. And you can share images that are tailored for specific social media sites (vertical for Pinterest, square for Instagram, etc.)

Code: <div style="display;none">YOUR IMAGE HERE</div>

More Info: This post by Pinch of Yum


2.

Function: Center iframe

Why it’s useful: Some affiliate programs give you bits of iframe code to embed in your blog and promote their products. These are automatically left aligned which sometimes makes them look really out of place. *Note* If you have a free WordPress.com blog, you will not be able to use iframes. However, self-hosted WordPress.org blogs AND Business Plan blogs hosted on WordPress.com can use iframes.

Code:
<iframe class="aligncenter" style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="YourAffiliateLink.com">
</iframe>

All you have to do is add the bolded text. 🙂 It took me ages to find this one. Scraped it off of an IT forum I only half understood and doubt I could find again if I tried.

.

.

.
Yep, just tried. Had absolutely no luck. Although, apparently “align=middle” works, too. I haven’t tested it out yet, but it’s an extra option in case the first one doesn’t pan out for you.


3.

Function: Create columns in a blog post

Why it’s useful: You can create rows of iframes and images without turning your post into a tower of doom (reducing bounce rate).

Code:
<div style="width:30%;padding:0 10px 0 0;float:left;">
Your content for your column #1
Your content for your column #1
Your content for your column #1</div>
<div style="width:30%;padding:0 10px 0 0;float:left;">
Your content for your column #2
Your content for your column #2
Your content for your column #2
</div>
<div style="width:30%;padding:0 10px 0 0;float:right;">
Your content for your column #3
Your content for your column #3
Your content for your column #3
</div>
<div style=”clear:both;”></div>

I will admit, this is the code that always ends up the wonkiest for me. Sometimes it works really well but the images for some reason wind up a little high or low, and it drives me batty. If you’re not nit-picky about details (because really, they are VERY minor) this should work really well. There are also several free plugins available that do the coding for you. I use Advanced Wp Columns which you can see in action in this post.

More Info: This post by Elegant Themes


4.

Function: Break up a blog post into different pages

Why it’s useful: Reduce scrolling tower of doom syndrome, present information to your readers in manageable chunks (hmm, I probably should have paginated this post).

Code: <!--nextpage-->

Some people use this as a way to “cheat” and keep readers on their site longer. But excessive pagination can be irritating to readers, so please use this tag with moderation.

More Info: This post by Jannah Docs


5.

Function: Show code

Why it’s useful: Allows you to insert code that “looks” like code. In case you want to make your “Useful Blog Codes” post. 🙂

Code: <code>YOUR CODE HERE</code>

Here’s the fun bit. Any section of YOUR code between the <code> tags that has a less than (<) or greater than (>) sign needs to be replaced with &lt; and &gt; respectively. At least that’s how it works on my site. If you run into trouble with this here’s some…

More Info: This post by WordPress.org

 

PS: Want to find more ways to improve your blog? Check out the Busy Writers’ Room.

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Your Imagination is Probably Better Than Mine: Here’s Why

Your Imagination is Probably Better Than Mine: Here's Why

You have such a big imagination! And you probably don’t even realize how powerful that gift is, yet. Read more to uncover how astounding your ability really is, and learn my deep, dark secret.

Your Imagination is Probably Better Than Mine: Here's Why
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Merriam-Webster defines imagination as: “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.”

And if you’re like the average person, this isn’t a groundbreaking concept. You form mental images all the time. If I veer off subject and start talking about rhinos spinning plates on sticks while dancing the mambo, you’ll probably have an entertaining vision of what I mentioned. And you probably create more mental images throughout the day than you even realize. How many times do you daydream or visualize a new concept?

Can you survive an entire hour without imagining anything at all? How about a full day? Most people would find this pretty difficult if not impossible.

Your Imagination is Probably Better Than Mine: Here's Why

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

But imagination isn’t solely used to think. It’s important when reading and writing, too. You could probably pick up a novel right now and create a mental image of the characters, setting, and perhaps even details like weapons and clothing. My brother, for example, automatically casts characters as different actors when he reads. How many times have you seen a movie adaptation of your favorite book and thought, “That’s not what they looked like in my head at all!”

And I’ve heard stories of writers who’ve seen their characters’ doppelgangers (complete strangers, mind you) months or years after writing their books.

But I, as an author, have a terrible confession to make:

Your Imagination is Probably Better Than Mine: Here's Why

 

I have no idea what anything in my stories looks like. Because I have next to no imagination. Don’t get me wrong, I’m more creative than a tornado wearing a cowboy hat to a clown’s funeral. But in the visualization department, I’m running on empty. In fact, sometimes I create character description lists when I write so the visual details won’t vary from one chapter to another. And I know I’m not the only author in this boat.

Because…

Imagination exists on a spectrum.

Human imagination ranges across two extremes: hyper-visualization and aphantasia. Most people fall somewhere in the middle. People, probably like you.

Hyper-visualizers can create intricately detailed mental images. When they were envisioning that tornado at the funeral, they could probably tell you what kind of rubble was blowing around, how many people attended the ceremony and how many rings they were wearing, and about the grey metal folding chair in the back with the chips of rust on the right-forward seat corner.

Aphantasia is a complete lack of visual imagery. If you’re having a difficult time wrapping your head around that, this short video does a fabulous job explaining it in about 5 minutes.

Most people with aphantasia think in words, concepts, or some of the other senses.

Personally, I’m not a true aphantasiac. My cognition is largely mechanical/kinetic/emotional/auditory, but I can visualize for split seconds at a time. I simply cannot hold onto those images long enough to do anything useful with them. And I can listen to my characters chat all day (which is probably why I enjoy writing dialogue). But I know that I’ll never “see” them the way most people do.

There’s an even deeper form of aphantasia where people don’t use any of the five senses to think. This is called total aphantasia. People with this think in facts, concepts, and other sub-sensory ways.

If you’d like to know where on the imagination spectrum you are, there’s a quick test here.

PS: Since your imagination is probably way better than mine, I’d LOVE to hear how you see my characters or anything else in Fillius Glint.

 

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Stress Free Images for Blog Posts

post images

Does the idea of finding images for your blog posts give you a headache? If so, keep reading.
post images
Serious blogging is a lot of hard work. There’s SEO, keyword research, data research, discovering effective ways of driving traffic to your site, writing, scheduling, editing, you name it. But there’s another vital element that may or may not be in your personal wheelhouse: image creation.

Why Images Are Important

The majority of people are sighted and highly visual. Images tell a story, set a mood, and reinforce your brand. They help create an emotional context that connects to your readers. And it helps them remember you, too. Most people only remember 10% of what they hear, but images bring the recall rate up to 65%. Plus, posts with images are more likely to be liked and shared across a wide range of social media platforms.

Social Media

Free and Easy Resources for Creating Images

The good news is that there are a lot of great free tools out there for bloggers. Here are the ones I use every day.

Canva

I’ve been using Canva since way back in my teaching days. Registration is free and can be done by linking your Facebook or Google Plus accounts or simply by using your email. Once you’ve registered, you have access to a host of free templates, images, illustrations, fonts, and other elements. There’s a Pro subscription plan available for those looking for even more access, and there are design elements and images available for a $1USD fee.

Gratisography

Gratisography

No registration required, just download and go. These weird and wacky images are 100% copyright free with no attribution requirement. You can read the full terms of use here.

Unsplash

 

Unsplash

Gorgeous photographs with zero copyright and attribution restrictions. You don’t have to register to download photos, but you can if you’d like to follow certain photographers. You can search pics by keyword or theme. Full info on their use policy here.

Stocksnap.io

StockSnap.io

Great images for travel, lifestyle, and food bloggers. You don’t have to register to download photographs. And all their pics are listed under the creative commons license listed here.

SplitShire

SplitShire

Nearly 900 photos as of this posting. You can search by keyword or category. No registration required. Pictures can be used as is or modified. More on their terms of use here.

Pixabay

Pixabay

This site has photographs, illustrations, digital artwork, AND vector images. Hands down, I use this site the most. Most images are free of copyright restrictions but that may vary per image so be sure to read a pic’s terms of use before downloading. You don’t have to register with Pixabay, but non-registered visitors have to complete a captcha code each time they download an image. Registration is free.

Pikwizard

Man and woman cooking dinner
If you’re looking for lifestyle, creative, and nature pics, Pikwizard a great site to use. It also has a built-in photo editor! Registration is free, and you can use your Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus account to login.

Why Getting a Photograph is Only Half the Battle

battle

So, you’ve found the perfect photo for your blog post. It’s copyright free so you don’t have to worry about getting sideswiped by legal issues. And that’s a great start! But have you noticed that other professional bloggers incorporate text into their featured images? There’s a really good reason for that.

See, incorporating text into an image allows you to include a call to action, or something you’re inviting people to do. And once you have an image like that, you can share it on just about any social media site and— you guessed it— bring traffic back to your blog.

Then, there’s Pinterest. Everyone in serious blogging circles has heard about Pinterest and how it can do wonders for increasing traffic. I was skeptical at first, too, but after doing some research I decided to try it out. And I’ve definitely seen an uptick in my traffic. However, in order to get going and growing via Pinterest, you have to give people something to pin. A standard stock photo won’t quite do the trick. There is a process for optimizing your Pinterest profile and pinning strategy to drive up traffic (and lots of amazing blogs out there have free tutorials on how to do this). But you’ve also got to have images that are optimized for pinning.

What To Do If You Don’t “Get” Visual Design And Words Like Vector Stress You Out

Take a deep breath. Use the free resources above. Do what you can. Ask others for their advice and opinions. Test drive different images with your blogging friends. You’ve got this.