Category Archives: On Writing

10 Things Learned Through 10 Years of Blogging

Hard to believe that 10-years ago today, I launched this blog. I have vivid memories of 2009, and I don’t recall all those memories with fondness. In fact, a series of disruptive events changed the course of my life that year. 2019 has brought its share of disruption as well. My 10th anniversary is the perfect opportunity to reflect on my journey as a blogger and end with a big announcement!

In 2009 we were amidst the Great Recession, during which I got fired. That’s a whole different blog post but suffice it to say I was somehow both blindsided and expecting a change in occupation. Amidst the suppressive heat of Texas in July, I joined the band of the unemployed. I was humiliated, humbled, and learning some tough lessons. But I also knew that God had another plan.

If that wasn’t enough, life decided that other changes were due. I went through a breakup, my phone died, and was in a car accident where I was at fault. I think a root canal may also have been in there (painful to the pocket and the mouth), but you get the point.

I remember how challenging that time was, especially as a single woman with 100% responsibility of the bills and mortgage. But I also recall how significant challenges opened up great opportunities for God to move and work. Just a couple of brief examples of how God showed up big:

  • I made a road trip to Louisiana to visit dear friends there, as I had lived and worked there right before Dallas. While visiting my friend and former boss, she offered some work and got to travel with her to New Orleans. That got me rolling once again.
  • While praying with my BFF, I felt God ask me to invite her to come to live with me. A few weeks later, after prayer and some clarity between her and God, she interviewed in Dallas and accepted a job 10-minutes from what became our Condo! We lived together there until I met my husband and got married, and she was our Maid of Honor. She later met her husband in Dallas, and I was her Matron of Honor and my husband their groomsman.
    The crazy events of 2009 managed to reinforce Maria von Trapp’s view that when God closes a door, he opens a window. Hence this blog’s name: “Closed Doors Open Windows.”

God had my full attention amidst all of those big life events. The suffering that broke my heart urged me to begin to open it more to let Him speak to it. I started working on myself again, which included attending inner-healing sessions at my Church. I also began to discover how I could do things that I loved and build new skills while getting paid for it.

I may have been on unemployment, searching for a job amidst a terrible economic downturn, but God always provided.

I was at some networking event when a recruiter that I met recommended starting a blog at that time as a concrete way for me to begin pursuing my passion for writing. I’m glad that I followed her advice.

One needs not just to love writing to maintain a personal blog, but also be willing to be committed and work on it. While I share below some reasons why my writing here has been less than prolific as of late, I still hope that this space has provided things that have resonated with y’all, and even caused some folks to ponder more themselves in these past ten years.

In honor of my blog-anniversary, here are 10 things that I’ve learned about blogging over the past 10-years. And don’t forget about my exciting news at the end!

blogging tips

  1. Millions of blogs are still published daily. In March 2019, it was reported by Worldometers that over 4.4 million blog posts are published every day! That’s a massive amount of web content, WOW!
  2. Be patient, grasshopper. Building a blog and gaining readership takes consistent effort realized over time. If you’re willing to put in that time and effort, your patience will be worth it.
  3. Blogging well and consistently takes incredible discipline. Planning solid content, taking /editing/finding photos, creating branded graphics, writing, editing, posting – i.e., all the back-end work takes time (energy). Reserving the energy needed for that and then expending it on something that could be anything from income-driven to passion project (aka non-paying) requires discipline.
  4. Sometimes (or a lot of times) you may wonder if your blog makes an impact. Especially if you’re not a social media influencer with 10,000+ followers or content writing for a well-known brand; however, if you love it and it gives you a purpose – then do it regardless of if it’s meant for the masses or one soul.
  5. Be wise. If everything becomes too much at some point, it’s good to step back and take a break from blogging. Usually writing here is my outlet, but I haven’t written on this blog in over a year. While I previously blogged during my Mother’s illness and death, it was simpler and more effective to use Facebook to keep my family and friends updated on recent life events. The past few years have brought a series of significant transitions for us. Caring for my Dad through serious illnesses until he died this past March was my calling and increasing became my focus over the past two years. Since I was his only child/family member in Austin, those responsibilities required a great deal of my energy. I’m working on being gentle with myself amidst the grieving process, so while I have plans and projects, I’m trying to take it slow. I treasure and have no regrets about the time I spent with my Dad and am glad that put writing and maintaining a blog on the back burner.
  6. Know your readers. Who are the people that actually visit your blog? And what do they love and hate? As writers, we want to share our story, our expertise, and opinions. Blogging is only words on a screen unless someone reads it and can connect to it, and hopefully find it helpful or inspiring in some way. So, while it’s important to share, it’s also essential to know your people. What do they value or find inspiring? Knowing who they are and what matters to them is how best to connect and support them. Checking which of your posts are the most popular is a simple and effective way to do this.
  7. Be authentic. I’ve worked for people who wanted massive blog results yet weren’t fully transparent with me about the true purpose of their blogging. Whatever your goal is – whether it’s trying to build up your business or to share your journey through cancer – articulate it and then work the plan for your blog outwards from there. To be authentic requires vulnerability, which is uncomfortable – so some may hold back a little or a lot. Holding back may serve your comfort level but won’t create a lasting impact. We may think we need to blog Pinterest perfect, and while content needs to be well-crafted, people want something authentic. Real people that are flawed can relate to flawed bloggers.
  8. Share your passion. Can you tell the difference between bloggers sharing about things that they’re passionate about versus writing content because it will have good ROI? I can. It feels like the difference between staying up to read a page-turner book and skimming an informative article. Write about the things in your wheelhouse that you’re passionate about – and that will attract others who are curious or excited about the same thing.
  9. Take some risks. I shared this graphic that I made yesterday on Instagram/Twitter (Hey let’s follow each other! Hit me up on the ‘Gram: @lisanch + Twitter: @LSanMartini)writer quotesGreat writers are willing to push the envelope as needed. But writers are also artists. Art comes from feeling deeply, so please don’t confuse all of us with a tribe of ego-maniacs who feel 100% comfortable putting our craft out there for public praise or trashing. Sharing our writings allows people to know us – our thoughts, feelings, and opinions – and once posted, it’s out there. The world is a hyper-sensitive place right now with offended people making their voices boom through the media (social or news). One dumb tweet can obliterate your career. Be smart in your risks — draw from the other points (wisdom, authenticity, passion, etc.) Risks are worthwhile to those who stay humble and continue to grow wise.
  10. Cultivate your voice. Writers need to work on our craft to improve. Find resources and methods that help to cultivate your voice. I’ve found it helpful to read books about writing by successful writers and follow blogs – especially about writing or by writers. Writing is like other skills – you have to work at it to improve. Be willing to adapt. If what you’re passionate about doesn’t resonate well with others – then it’s time to reassess your approach which requires being receptive to feedback. If you want excellent output, seek the best input.

I’ve learned a lot in these past ten years that has shaped and prepared me for what God has next. Speaking of, here’s that news I promised earlier.

I’m excited to share that I’m writing my first book! An item on my bucket list for years, it feels good to be making positive strides towards this goal. The topic is not something that I ever dreamed of writing about, nor something that I’ve shared little to nothing about publicly. The book will be about infertility.

Often silent suffering, God has reaffirmed that it’s needed. But it’s not just my story or another resource book; it’s going to be different. God has placed it on my heart that wants to give a new voice to this age-old problem and bring solace and solidarity to the women who carry this cross. We cannot heal things unless we expose them to the light; so I’ve been doing more healing work and writing along the way.

Whatever you’re going through, please know that you’re not alone on this broken path to restoration, friends. We’re all traveling it in our own way – whether it’s trudging or learning to fly.

More changes and exciting announcements to come in due time. I hope y’all continue to join and share with me too along the journey!

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Blog Birthday Bash

happy4BdayBlogTime to blow out the candles, cause it’s my Blog Birthday at closed doors open windows! Four years ago I really began to dig into my journey of self discovery with some major doors closing in my life, leading to some incredible open window opportunities. I’ve shared things across the gambit here: joys, sorrows, updates, my family life, recipes, crafts, home decorating, business tips… I’ve shared some of my life’s lows — from my Mom’s battle with Cancer and her passing — and highs — my Engagement and starting out as an Entrepreneur. Wow, how life has changed in these past 4 years, and its gratifying to look back and see some life-defining moments captured here!

It is my hope that in a world where we are bombarded with information, that at some point these ponderings by yours truly have brought even a bit of delight or a moment of reflection. Thank for joining me in my little space on the interwebs, for celebrating my Blog’s Birthday, and for taking time to share some of yourself with me here. Writing is one of my first loves, and using it to connect with other people one of my greatest joys, so sincerely…I’m grateful. I am blessed.

Happy Birthday closeddoorsopenwindows.wordpress.com!

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Spring, Getting Down to Business, and BIRDS!

The office

Another Friday at "The Office"

Ahhh, April in Dallas!  The wild Blue Bonnets cascading across the fields, the trees flaunting their new emerald plumes, the wild Spring wind whipping around, and Birds fluttering both IN and OUTside of the home.

I’ve got nothing against birds, really.  My Grandmother raised me to be very conscious of their wellbeing, actually. She was always gathering up bits of food for either my Grandpa or to feed the birds.  To this day, loaf of bread “butts” are considered bird food.  And just last weekend, my husband and I rented, The Big Year, the recent Birding movie featuring Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson — and I enjoyed it!

See, I am a bird advocate — when they are outside of my house.  Let’s be honest, I doubt that they are all too fond of my stuffy, small attic or our dark, spooky chimney either.

So the Property Manager sent out her Maintenence “guy”, (I really love when people have A GUY) this morning to scope out our Bird Invasion situation and take action.  Gosh, I hope it works.

As is the Sanchez family norm, there is a long saga that is much funnier shared in person with waving arms, silly sound effects, and a nemesis.  In this case, it was a guy named George from a local Extermination company. Albeit friendly, George proceeded to chatter on for more then an hour of my hubby’s time walking around the exterior of our condo, theorizing about the “infiltration”.  He discussed, in great depth, all the possibilities of what could be in our attic and all the ways it could have gotten there.  This was all done without ever actually getting up in the attic to SEE.  Things got worse from there, but I digress.

Today I prefer to join the birds outdoors, on this lovely Spring afternoon. A city girl has got to take advantage of the mid 80 degree weather when possible, yes?  Not a bad office space either. It’s time for me to write. I’m doing my weekly warm up here.   Friday, I love you.  OK, going to get down to business.  Or at least try 🙂  Just getting the writing juices flowing…

UPDATE: Back inside the house. Unhappy bird is STILL in the Chimney. UGH! Dick van Dyke & Mary Poppins, where are you when I need you??

“Chim chiminey
Chim chiminey
Chim chim cher-ee!
A sweep is as lucky
As lucky can be”

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Best Books on Writing

I have been on the lookout for good books to guide me in the writing process as of late. As a member of Informed Ideas for Writers, a LinkedIn group, I started a discussion asking for recommendations from other writers. There has been a wonderful response from the group (thanks, fellow IIFWs!), so I thought I would compile their responses into one very helpful list and post it here to share. It also helps me to break it down and have an easy reference point to return to, as this is not a light summer reading list, but an inspiring list to tackle over the writing years ahead!

I have hyperlinked the book titles to GOOD READS when possible so that you may read further reviews and gather more information on these great finds.

I’ll try to keep the list update it as more suggestions roll in…

HERE WAS MY POSTED QUESTION:
What is your favorite book on writing?

I’m wondering what are writers’ favorite books about writing? I’m particularly interested in books that discuss writing from life. I know that there are all kinds of blogs, magazines, etc. too, but nothing like a good ol’ concise book that you can keep pulling out, highlight, etc.

RESPONSES FROM IIFW GROUP MEMBERS:

TOP 2 SUGGESTED BOOKS ON WRITING:

Currently a tie between these top two picks

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

On Writing by Stephen King

What did writers have to say about Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD? I compiled a few of their comments:

“It’s simple, practical and the focus is on progress rather than shoulds.”

“I, too, like Bird by Bird. The only thing better was hearing Ann L. discuss writing in person.”

Bird by Bird definitely” and “it’s the best!”

What did writers have to say about King’s ON WRITING? I compiled a few of their comments:

“Part biography, part How to. Some really informative techniques. I found it a refreshing change.” –Ian R.

“I recommend On Writing by Stephen King to all beginning authors. He gives great advice, not just on writing but on the business of writing.”

“Stephen King’s On Writing is excellent. Since it’s been 10 years since I read it, I probably ought to pick up a copy and re-read it.”

Story by Robert McKee was recommended by a couple of different writers as well.

Other suggested books, in random order:

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

Writing with Precision by Jefferson D. Bates

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Finding What You Didn’t Lose by John Fox

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

Act Natural: How to Speak to Any Audience by Ken Howard

The Weekend Novelist a Writer’s Digest book (I couldn’t find this book)

Reference Books:

Fowler’s Modern English Usage (I linked to the NEW Edition)

Screenwriting books:

2000+ stage Hero’s Journey And Transformation Through A New World / State by Kal Bashir
Screenplay by Syd Field
Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters
Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
Save The Cat by Blake Snyder
Anatomy of a Story by John Truby

For Fiction Writing:

Writing Basics for Beginners by Jeanne Marie Leach

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