We’ve moved into another calendar year. As per a long-standing tradition, I spent New Year’s Eve with my sister and our cousin eating lots of yummy food and drinking sparkling grape beverages (Moscato d’Asti this year). And per a tradition established just last year, today I’m sharing post highlights from my blogging year.
I started doing this type of post last year with Top 5 lists. I’d wanted to do top 10 then, but there hadn’t been quite enough traffic to make the posts that didn’t make the top 5 lists stand out from each other. As you can see in the graph, there was quite a bit more traffic this year. And I’m really close to 1,500 followers now, so that’s exciting!
Posts With The Most Traffic
The INFJ User Guide remains firmly at the top of this year’s list. In fact, all but two of my most popular posts are directly relate to INFJ types. It’s so cool to see “Religion And The INFJ” on the list for this year. It’s become the most commented-on posts on my blog and I’ve been thrilled to have so many INFJs with different religious (and a-religious) backgrounds sharing their stories.
I’m so excited to see that several of my posts where I interviewed Christians with different Myers-Briggs types about their faith were so popular last year. And while most of the high-traffic posts on the list above were from 2015 and 2016, the newer ones did pretty good this year as well. Only the last one on this list was under 1,000 views. The top one had over 12,000.
2017 has been a year for narrowing the gap between the two sides of my blog (Christian and Myers-Briggs). Saturday’s Bible study posts still aren’t eclipsing the Monday posts in terms of traffic, but some of the most popular ones have over 500 views this year. Here’s the top 10 list:
The top 4 stayed the same, as I’d expected. And like last year, I have quite a few readers from south-east Asia. It’s interesting to see more people from India, Germany, and South Africa joining us. I’ve also heard directly from several readers in South America, which is pretty cool.
Even five years after graduating with my English degree, I still describe myself as an “English major.” Do non-English majors do that? or do they all switch from “art major,” “accounting major,” or “biology major” to artist, accountant, and biologist? Maybe it’s because the English major can go so many different directions. Writer, teacher, editor, lawyer, journalist … the list goes on. So if you want to connect with other former English majors, you need to describe yourself as an English major.
Whatever the reason, I still think of myself as an English major. And apparently, people I meet do as well. New acquaintances, and even people I’ve known for a while, make certain assumptions when they hear I’m a writer and my degree is in English. With those assumptions comes a few predictable questions and comments that I’m sure other graduated English majors are all too familiar with as well.
“Can you edit my __?”
I need to preface this section by telling all the friends who I have edited things for, “No, I’m not mad at you.” I’m perfectly happy to look over the new about page for your blog or proof-read your extremely important email. What I’m talking about is the larger editing projects.
I am a professional writer. That’s how I make money. Just because I like writing doesn’t mean I can do it for free all the time. If someone wants me to read every post on their blog before it goes live, or proof-read their new e-book, or edit a story or novel, we need to talk about compensating my time. Maybe we trade critiques, or you use your website to market my e-book, or maybe it’s a per-post editing fee.
You wouldn’t ask your friend who’s a dentist to clean your teeth for free, or your friend who runs a farm to give away their produce because you’re buddies, or an accountant to do your taxes in their spare time. Ask us for an occasional favor, but don’t put your English major friend in the uncomfortable position of explaining they don’t work for free.
“I’ll probably write a book one day”
Yes, tell me how you’ll just pop out a book some day when you have a little extra time. Go ahead and imply writing is easy or something anyone can do if they cared to bother. I dare you. Because the next person who catches me in a bad mood when they say this is going to get a lecture on how much work it actually involves to draft, edit and re-edit a manuscript, then find good beta readers, edit again, and finally decide it’s ready to publish. And then if they haven’t run off yet they’ll get to hear about how the publishing industry actually works.
“I know you’re judging my grammar”
In-person, on Facebook, here in the comments section …. people are constantly apologizing for their grammar, spelling, or sentence structure. (Strangely enough, it’s not usually the people whose comments are actually hard to read.)
I do think people should make an effort to use good grammar, especially in something they publish, and I am a word nerd. But I don’t just sit around judging and resenting my friends for not proof-reading their Facebook message dozens of times before having the audacity to send it. Am I really such a scary grammar Nazi that you feel the need to make jokes about your terrible writing before communicating with me? That just seems weird.
“How do you spell __/What does __ mean?”
I love words. But I’m not a walking dictionary. This question feels good when I know the answer, but when I don’t it’s usually followed up by some variation of, “So what’s your English degree good for?” *facepalm* Apparently I have failed in my life calling. Here, why don’t I Google the answer for you using a mobile device like the one you’re currently holding in your hand?
“I hate writing/English/reading”
… and we have nothing in common. I spent four years of my life reading and writing things in the English language, and most graduated English majors are still doing that at least to a certain extent. But the main reason I don’t like hearing this comment is because it instantly shuts-down avenues of connection. I don’t care so much about the fact that you don’t enjoy these things. What I care about is that you’re basically telling me not to talk about my career because you didn’t like that subject in school.
Nobody likes to be told their passions have no value. Regardless of what your conversation partner majored in or does for a living, it’s generally not a good idea to tell them you hate it. Much better to say something like, “Wow, that’s cool. I have no talent for it. Can you tell me more about why you enjoy it so much?” Now we’re having a conversation.
Bonus: “Are you making any money?”
Or any related questions including “Do you still live with your parents?” or “Do you have a real yet job?” That’s just not any of your business, especially from new acquaintances. I’ll tell you about my living situation and finances if and when I want.
My fellow English majors, what are your other pre- or post-graduation pet peeves? Any questions or comments you’re tired of hearing?
Another year on the Gregorian calendar has come to a close. I never really feel like a new year has started until spring comes, but since the rest of the world wants to start a new year in the middle of winter I roll with it (though I may still wish you a happy new year on Nisan 1, when the Hebrew calendar’s sacred year begins 14 days before Passover).
Anyway, for the first post of this year I wanted to look back on the top posts from last year. Turns out, only one of my top 5 most visited posts was written in 2016 (which is good, but doesn’t make for a good snap-shot of what I wrote last year). So I’m also doing top 5 lists of the most popular posts written in 2016. And, just for fun and because I was kind of surprised by it, the countries where most of my visitors came from.
Posts With The Most Traffic
Wow — had not realized that in just 6 months the INFJ User Guide become most popular post for the whole year. And I think it’s pretty cool that the INFJ Dark Side post from almost 3 years ago is still in my top 5.
Not at all surprised by the top 4, but Singapore wasn’t what I expected. And if you take southeast Asia as a whole, they actually passed Australia in number of views. So let me take this opportunity to say “Welcome” to all my international readers — I’m so glad to have you here 🙂
As I was going through blog posts in my inbox yesterday, I noticed two of my fellow bloggers were writing about reading recommendations and lists. Juni Desireé was posting about the top 10 books on her reading list for this year, and Socratic MBTI offered three quick recommendations for “enriching” books to read. In the past, I’ve shared a couple lists of my own, including my favorite fantasy books, but that was way back in 2013 (I’ve been blogging that long!?!). Sounds like it’s time for another recommended books post! Fiction That Tells The Truth
I’m taking the title of this post from one of my favorite ideas — that even though “fiction” is defined as imaginary or untrue it is, in fact, a vehicle for telling the truth.
“That’s what fiction is for. It’s for getting at the truth when the truth isn’t sufficient for the truth.” ― Tim O’Brien
“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” ― Albert Camus
“A fiction writer weaves a fabric of lies in hopes of revealing deeper human truths.” ― Wally Lamb
That’s my favorite kind of fiction. Any good story can teach you something true about yourself or other people, but truly great stories are going to get at a “deeper human truth” than is often isn’t possible in any other form. Child-labor laws would have passed in Britain without Dickens, but would it have happened as quickly if people hadn’t read Oliver Twist? Would the phrase “Catch-22” have entered our vocabulary if Joseph Heller wrote an essay instead of a novel?
Many books exist to share truths or make us think about something we’d otherwise overlook. One of the more famous is 1984 by George Orwell, which I’ve never actually finished reading (I know, I know — I’ll go hide in the corner now). Many others teach us truths seemingly by accident while telling a story. Here are just a few examples :
*note: there will be spoilers for all these books.
The Lord of the Rings
Tolkien insisted his The Lord of the Rings trilogy was not allegorical or inspired by his personal life, but I think we can at least say that his faith (Catholic) and his history (serving in both World Wars) influenced his writings. It’s a classic battle of good verses evil that set the stage for every epic fantasy adventure written since.
Just in case you’ve escaped reading or watching LOTR, the formerly-vanquished dark lord Sauron has come back into power in Middle Earth and is attempting to regain control of a magic ring that will let him subdue all lands and people under his power. Though there are great warriors involved in the fight, the final victory hinges on two little hobbits from the middle of nowhere who hiked a very, very long way to destroy the ring.
By taking us outside of our own world, Tolkien shares universal truths about what makes a real friendship, the sacrifices required to do the right thing, and the importance of resisting evil even when it seems hopeless. One of the truths that hits me the hardest when reading or watching Lord of the Rings is how helpless we are to resist evil on our own. Frodo was incredibly strong on an emotional and psychological level and he carried the ring longer than any other character could have, but he still couldn’t make it up to Mount Doom by himself. Sam carried him the rest of the way and Frodo still wouldn’t have destroyed the ring if Gollum hadn’t fought him for it and carried it into the fires when he fell. Even heroes are susceptible to evil’s pull and they can’t overcome alone.
I’ve read the whole Hunger Games book series and just watched Mockingjay Part II this past weekend. Suzanne Collins grew up learning about military history from her father — a Vietnam veteran and history professor. She didn’t go the history professor route herself, though, instead majoring in theater and telecommunications, then earning a master’s degree in dramatic writing.
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay all take a good, hard look at what the article linked above describes as “necessary and unnecessary wars.” They quote Collins saying, “If we introduce kids to these ideas earlier, we could get a dialogue about war going earlier and possibly it would lead to more solutions.” In this case, the writer approached her storytelling hoping to convey truths about and get a dialogue started on ideas relate to war.
My mother, brother and I were talking yesterday about how Mockingjay is a story that sticks with you. It’s not something you can just read/watch and move on from. This is largely owing to what is probably Collins’ least popular authorial choice — killing Finnick Odair. In the book I actually read right over his death the first time and then had to go back and figure out what happens to him. His death isn’t the driving force in a major plot point (like Prim’s death) and he doesn’t have a dying scene all of his own (like Rue does in the first book). He just dies senselessly and tragically while the action moves on without him. And that’s the point. In real life, death doesn’t always make sense or serve a specific purpose.
This book could have so easily been nothing more than a story about a futuristic society that trains children to kill aliens. But Ender’s Game was written by Orson Scott Card (one of my all-time favorite writers) and there’s much more to it than that. The real story isn’t about the alien threat — it’s about human nature.
Ender’s Game wrestles with the question of how far it’s “okay” to go when you’re at war, and it does so from the perspective of a child who’s been immersed in a militaristic system for the bulk of his formative years. Just in case the military training isn’t enough to make him comfortable with genocide, though, he’s taught the entire thing is a game — that none of the aliens will actually die if he wins.
As the story unwinds, we’re forced to confront ideas that can spill over into our own world. How violent can games become before they start affecting reality? When, if ever, are large-scale preemptive strikes an acceptable form of self-defense? What is an adult’s responsibility toward children?
Somewhat less obvious is the question of an individual’s responsibility within society. Ender was raised from a young age to think of the Buggers (this name was changed to Formics in later Enderverse writings) as enemies you must destroy at all costs. He should have been thoroughly brainwashed into believing this, and yet learning he’d succeeded in wiping out his enemy in real life rather than just in-game nearly destroyed him. He devoted the rest of his life to making others understand the Hive Queen’s perspective and trying to set things right by bringing back the Formics species. Perhaps that’s the real take-away truth from Ender’s Game — there are at least two sides (and often more) to every story and it’s not always easy to see who’s right.
Your Turn: What are some of the truths you’ve discovered in and through fiction?
Every girl who wants to be married has dreamed about what he will be like. Many of us have written lists of the traits our ideal man will have. Over the years, we’ve also heard various views on writing husband lists. Some people say you should have a list, so you know what you’re looking for. Others say that having a list makes your focus too narrow and that you’re “limiting God.”
I had a nice long list when I was in my teens, then a short list of “must haves,” and now a more specific idea that’s not written down. Recently, though, a married friend encouraged me to write a new list to pray over. She had a list, and when she was in her 30s she met a man who fit every thing she’d been praying for (right down to the kind of car he drove) and married him 2 weeks after their first meeting (yes, you read that right. They’re still happily married and have two teenage kids). I know other girls who’ve been told their standards were “too high” yet found guys who matched everything on the list they were praying for, and there are also ladies like blogger Lucinda McDowell who prayed for 24 things in a husband, and God gave her 23. Writing a list doesn’t make you “too picky” — it means you have standards, and that’s a good thing.
So I started work on my new list. And I thought perhaps other girls might find it useful to read about how I decided what to include. There are articles out there offering lists of non-negotiables for you to base your list on, but even the essential qualities are going to look a bit different for everyone. For example, if you’re Christian, some form of “He’s a practicing believer” is probably at the top of your list, but what does “practicing believer” mean to you?
Just a quick note … guys can write “wife lists” too, and I suspect that much of what I talk about here might be useful for that as well. Since I’m a girl thinking about a future husband, though, that’s what I’m going to focus on for this post.
I’ll be honest — I actually didn’t start with this step, but I think now I should have. You want your list to reflect the things you feel like you “should want” as well as what you truly desire, and so there’s often a feeling of not being able to ask for “little thing” or mention appearance at all. But if we’re honest, things that might seem shallow at first glance are still there in the back of our minds, which means they do matter on some level. Starting with free writing gives us a chance to put those little dreams on paper without feeling bad about them.
Grab a piece of paper and just start writing the first phrases and descriptions that pop into your head when you think about what kind of guy you would like to marry. Think about guys (real and fictional) you’ve had crushes on and list the things about them you found attractive. Think about guys you’ve dated and list things that you liked about them, and the opposite of the reason you broke up with him (i.e., if you’re boyfriend didn’t respect your boundaries, you might add “respects my boundaries”). Think about happily married couples you know and list things you want to see in your own marriage. Write down literally anything that you think of, no matter how unrealistic it sounds.
Now look back over your list. Circle anything that 1: doesn’t have to do with physical appearance and 2: you consider absolutely essential in a relationship. You’re looking for things that have to do with who he is as a person, like “loves God,” “good communicator,” and “we worship together.”
Next, look at the things you haven’t circled yet. Cross-out anything that you know is 1: not essential for you in a relationship (I crossed out “rich singing voice”), 2: only related to physical appearance (such as “taller than me), and/or 3: completely unrealistic. While you’re doing this, you might find that you can replace an unrealistic goal with a related realistic goal. For example, instead of “rich as Mr. Darcy” you might list, “able to provide financially for a family.” I would encourage you to pray about the things you want but know are unrealistic. Sometimes, we use unrealistic expectations to push other people away and shield ourselves from being vulnerable in relationships.
Now you have a sheet of paper with things crossed out, things circled, and a few things that are neither. For now, set this list aside.
Red, Yellow, Green
There’s a book called True Love Dates by Christian relationship counselor Debra Fileta that recommends writing three separate lists, and that’s where we’re going to start. Before you spend any more time writing down the things you want in a relationship, we’re going to write a list of things that are never okay.
“Stop” and “Slow”
The first thing you’re going to write is a Red list of traits that always mean “stop” when you notice them in a relationship. If a guy has any characteristic from your Red list, you do not pursue a relationship with him (no matter how many good traits he has). My Red list includes things like “does not believe in God/won’t respect my belief” and “refusal to communicate,” along with others like the examples Debra Fileta gives in her book:
Abusiveness (physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual)
Dangerous and uncontrolled temper or displays of aggression
Pattern of dishonesty or betrayal
The next step is writing a Yellow list. This is for things you’re not sure about and would need serious consideration and discussion before moving forward in a relationship. They give you pause, but don’t mean the relationship can’t work. A few on my list are “previously married” and “trouble handling money.” Here are more examples from True Love Dates:
Family of origin issues and problems
Unhealthy habits or behaviors
Lacks motivation, goals, and dreams
“Go” For It!
Now for the fun part — the Green list or “husband list” of things you want to have in your relationship. If Red means stop and Yellow means slow down and reevaluate, Green means you can feel good about going forward with a relationship. Here’s where we get to go back to the free writing exercise.
I sorted my list into four categories: “Personal Values,” “Family and Relationships,” “Makes Me Feel …” and “Personality.” The circled phrases from my free writing exercise ended up in the first three categories, and many of the phrases that were neither circled nor crossed out ended up in one of the last two categories (you might even list a couple of the ones you crossed-out if they are still important to you). I saw the “Personality” category as representing things I want, but some of which could be negotiable. Here’s a few specific items from each list, so you can see what I’m talking about without me sharing a copy of the whole thing:
follows God and Christ first
uses his gifts to serve in some way
demonstrates integrity, commitment, faithfulness
Family and Relationships
respects and helps set boundaries
hospitable; welcomes guests and visitors to our home
Makes Me Feel …
protected and cherished
listened to and understood
like I’m valuable and contributing to his life
slow to anger
enjoys discussing ideas
Looking At Yourself
Now that you have your list, turn it back on yourself and ask if you have those qualities. Would the guy you’ve written about want to date, or marry, you? Some of this should match pretty easily — you wouldn’t list a guy who wants 6 kids if you didn’t want 6 kids.
Others might be harder. If you listed a man who spends time with God every day, will he want to marry you if you regularly forget to study? Or if you ask for a guy who will never cheat on you, are you prepared to be faithful to him? If you want an Ephesians 5 husband, will you be an Ephesians 5 wife?
I hope this post was helpful to you — writing the list that inspired it has certainly helped me. While we know that God knows exactly what we need without us telling Him, I think it is helpful for us to have something more to ask Him than “please give me a good husband.” You’re putting effort into pursuing a relationship by figuring out what it is you’re looking for. God bless you, my dear readers.
Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Ps. 37:4)
If you’re single (and you don’t want to be), you’ve probably asked yourself the question, “Am I being too picky?” There’s got to be a reason why you’re not in a relationship with someone, right? and you’re sure the reason has something to do with you. People of the opposite sex do exist, and if you’re not in a relationship with one of them you might think that 1) you’re not attractive and so they aren’t asking you out, or 2) you’re too picky and so you’re avoiding/turning down relationships with certain people.
As a 25-year-old single woman, I ask myself this question, too. And I’ve been encouraged to do so by much of the relationship advice I’ve read. You might have read some of this, too. I’m talking about those articles that tell girls to tear-up their “perfect man” list and give any decent guy a chance if he asks them out. Which sounds pretty good in theory, but that’s pretty much how two of the three dates I’ve been on were with guys literally old enough to be my father, and the third was with an atheist who obviously didn’t meet my first requirement that a guy I date have a strong, Christian faith.
Now, I’m not saying you should hang onto unrealistic expectations that will leave you like this skeleton over here –> but you do need to have some standards, and you don’t have to feel guilty for insisting people meet those standards. You are under no obligation to “pity date” anyone, or fling yourself at the first living breathing human who shows the slightest bit of interest in you.
This weekend, I spent a good bit of time catching up on Boundless.org articles that I’d missed and checking out TrueLoveDates.com. What stood out to me on Boundless was two articles that offer step-by-step guides for men and for women on how to get married. They can both be summed up in the deceptively simple advice “be more attractive.”
Well, thank you Boundless-author. Previous to reading this article I was going for unattractive. I’ll change that now, and dates will magically appear.
These articles are part of a three-part relationship series. The first article was devoted to debunking the myth of “the one.” I actually agree with most of what he writes in this one — many Christian singles are too passive, waiting for God to drop their perfect match in their lap or hit them with a revelatory bolt of lightning when he or she shows up. But usually when people tell you to stop looking for “the one”/”your soulmate,” they are also telling you “you’re too picky” (also see my article “Why I Still Believe In Soul Mates“). And I think it’s a little more complicated than this Boundless authors seems to think.
He says that if you’re a guy, there are only two reasons you’re not in a relationship: “1. You’re not asking. 2. No one’s saying yes.” The solutions are equally simple: “Man up” and “Be awesome.”
If you’re a girl, the reasons you’re single are “1. You’re saying “no” a lot” or “2. No one’s asking.” We’re given three things we can do to turn this around: “Demonstrate respect,” “Look good,” and “Be fun.”
Be (at least a little) Picky
Much as I love Boundless, TrueLoveDates.com had much more helpful tips this time. It’s a website run by Christian relationship counselor Debra Fileta. I’m really looking forward to reading more of her blog posts, and eventually her book. She has some great insight into the whole dating vs. courtship thing, but I won’t digress on that topic right now.
Even more helpful lists can be found in Fileta’s article What Women Really Want in a Man and What Men Really Want in a Woman. They are great, both for “this is what you should look for” and “this is the kind of person you need to be.” She says women want honesty, purity, strength, compassion, and humility. Men want realness, confidence, beauty, and passion. These aren’t impossible standards, and you really should be “picky” enough not to settle for less.