Choosing a Niche for a Blog

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After 153 blog posts and 4 years of blogging, I have finally decided on a niche for this blog. Empowering women (as well as all the men who read this blog anonymously) will remain the overall objective, but I have now decided to narrow the focus of this blog to a specific subject: coping with challenges and even more specifically, with change, whether planned or unplanned.

Interestingly enough, a huge number of my previous blog posts fit snugly into this category. I have decided to write more or less exclusively about coping with incessant change without losing the will to live because that is what I have been doing, more or less exclusively, these last 10 years. I am well are truly qualified to write about this subject. I have learned a lot this last decade and I have distilled what I have learned into my workshops and books, so it only makes sense to share my discoveries and experiences on my blog also.

To celebrate the fact that I have finally gotten a grip on where I want this blog to go, I have given it a proper name of its own. I have two websites, my author website MargarethaMontagu.com and this one, EquineGuidedGrowth.com, aka Empowering Women, book by book and workshop by workshop. The blog never had a clear identity, it was just a collection of musings, after all. Now that it has finally got direction, I decided it deserves a name as well. From now on, my blog will be called SemperEquus, which means “always horses.” You may wonder what hoses have to do with coping with change…to me, absolutely everything. My horses have stood by me through thick and thin, these last 10 years, and a lot that I have learned about coping with change, I have learned from them.

They have taught me a lot about self-confidence, effective communication, maintaining friendships, mindfulness, gratitude, generosity, resilience, patience, assertiveness, determination, perseverance – all useful attributes to anyone who has to cope with the challenges that often accompany change. All subjects that I have written about in the past.

You may remember If you want to be Happy, be Grateful from November 2015 and I am writing a Gratitude Journal,  from December 2016. I was so surprised when I stumbled across this post this afternoon, a full 2 years old! I have only just now finished the book I mention in the post, a book I started in December 2016. The current working title of the book is Thriving on Challenges and Change with Gratitude and Generosity. You can follow (and even take part) in its creation at Patreon. Gratitude is not Enough, in 2017, was a very popular post and so was How to connect with a Horse in 2018. I wrote several posts about writing: the Challenges of an IndieAuthor in 2015  and A Writer’s Life in 2016, and I will most likely continue to write about writing, as it is such a huge part of my life.

A couple of blog posts are a bit off-subject but so popular that I cannot regret having published them, like this one from December 2015: What is wrong with the south of France? And this one from September 2016: Don’t forget your fur coat, diamonds and high heels!

How far I have come since those early days…

WordPress informs me that this blog now has, via Twitter, 12 388 followers. The mailing list has more than 3000 subscribers, via Mailchimp and MailerLite. It seems to me that while I was distracted by coping with the debilitating challenges that came my way these last 2 years, this blog has come of age. It is only fitting that it should now have an identity of its own.

From now on, my blog will be accessible here: SemperEquus

If you find these blog posts useful, please subscribe to my mailing list by CLICKING HERE. You will receive my 10 Simple Steps to Instant Self-Confidence Guide immediately – for those very difficult days – straight from the horse’s mouth! You will also receive notification new life-enhancing blog posts, new book/e-course releases and early-bird discounts/last-minute special offers on my workshops, available only to mailing list subscribers.

Surviving as a Writer #IWSG

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“I am not what I think. I am thinking what I think.”
Eric Butterworth

I have been thinking (watch out for the flying sparks.) I am writing a book about gratitude journaling, because I profoundly believe that reminding ourselves what we have to be grateful for, on a daily basis, will attract more to be grateful for into our lives. I also believe that journaling can be a therapeutic exercise, that can help us identify our fears, our limiting beliefs, our incorrect assumptions and our blind spots.

Practising what I preach, I keep a bullet-point gratitude journal. I also use my journal to write about anything that is upsetting me on a given day, and once I have written it out of my system, I look for something to be grateful for.  No matter how dark the clouds overhead may seem, there is always a silver lining to be found. I am quite convinced that it would have been impossible to survive the trials and tribulations that came my way these last two years if I were not in the habit of using my journal as a confidante. Putting my distress into words on paper first, has also made it easier for me to talk about it to my closest friends, something I found very hard in the past.

Journaling enables me to capture my thoughts, emotions and perceptions so that I can examine them and evaluate their worth. Rationally. Exposing my thoughts, emotions and perceptions to the light of day allows me to take a hard look at them and instead of reacting mindlessly, I can adjust my reaction to ensure an outcome that does not cause more distress.

Lately, while writing my book, I have been thinking about how journaling can help us survive as writers.

Personally, as a writer, I find journaling an indispensable aid. The writing I do first thing every morning, my morning pages to use Julia Cameron’s expression, serve many purposes:

  • It jump-starts my writing day. When I wake up, I do not immediately start writing brilliant prose (if ever,) it takes me a while to get into (writing) gear.
  • It is an exercise in mindfulness, when I redirect my wandering mind time and again to what I am writing about in my journal.
  • Journaling, for writers, is much like physical exercise, it builds our “writing muscles.” Writing for 10-20 minutes without worrying about spelling, grammar or even making sense, is liberating.
  • It stimulates my creativity. My journal is a veritable treasure chest of creative musings, captivating ideas and personal anecdotes. For inspiration, I use the Q&A a Day Journal by Potter
  • I used my journal for research. When I am writing, I often look back at past entries in search of coping strategies to add to a book I am writing.
  • Writers, by nature, are an introspective lot, more given internal pondering, than a steady outpouring of our innermost thoughts and feelings to a counsellor. Journaling can be a writer’s therapist. As Susan Sontag said, “In my journal, I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.”
  • Journaling can cure writer’s block. Daily journaling can help me to work out how and where I got stuck. Journaling provides with a record of my writing efforts and routine. I can look back and try to work out how and why I got stuck. My journal also shows me where I was and what I was doing during my most creative periods so that I can recreate a particularly productive environment to get rid of writer’s block.

It is so easy to keep a journal these days, there are even apps that you can download to your phone like Day One, Dario and Narrate.

Following fast in the footsteps of my thought about the use of journaling to authors, came another thought: I host walking and wine tasting workshops for writers here in the south of France, especially for writers who suffer from writer’s block. I do not presume to be able to teach anyone how to write, I depend entirely on the inspirational effect of walking the 9-century-old Camino de Santiago de Compostela to inspire, as it did Paulo Coelho, my visiting writers to start writing again. For that reason, it is a short workshop, a maximum of 4 nights – half-a-day to arrive, 2 days to walk the Camino, one day to sample some of the delectable wines of this region and half-a-day to leave.

Now I am thinking (duck the striking lightning) that I might be able to teach writers something after all – how to use mindful journaling and vision boards to improve their writing. Madeleine L’Engle advised, ‘If you want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you,’ so I am thinking about creating a 7-night workshop, alternating walking, wine tasting and journal writing, with one or more equine-guided mindfulness meditation classes thrown in for good measure. I think I would love to host a workshop like that.

Before I ignite my mind to spontaneously combust, I think I had better stop thinking and get on with the morning’s “serious writing,” so back to the chapter about the physical benefits of regularly expressing one’s gratitude in my new book.

 The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself.
Joan Didion

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Writer’s Life: Doing Research in the 21st Century

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Gratitude: The ten best Books, TED-talks and Apps

I am doing research at the moment for my new book Thriving On Change with Gratitude and Generosity (new working title.) Research is a tedious process, but it has to be done, even if only to avoid saying the same thing in the same way for the 30th time. I watch a lot of TED-talks and I am very grateful to my friend Tia for introducing me to these talks. I have subscribed to the Ted.com website and now they send me regular e-mails with recommendations. Whenever I do research for a book, this is where I start.

I share the writing of this book in more detail on my Patreon Page, where I include details of the marketing plan that I put into practice before I typed the first letter of this book. Any aspiring Indie Authors and Authorpreneurs, hop over to Margaretha Montagu is creating horse-inspired life-enriching Books and join the Club!

The 10 Best Gratitude Ted-talks

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
Oprah Winfrey

Below you will find the 10 Ted-talks I found most informative while writing the Gratitude Journal chapter of my new book.

Hailey Bartholomew: 365 Grateful Project

Mike Robbins: The power of appreciation

Jane Ransom: Discover the Three Keys of Gratitude to Unlock Your Happiest Life

David Steindl-Rast: Want to be happy? Be grateful

Shawn Achor: The secret of being happier at work

Dr. Kerry Howells: How thanking awakens our thinking

Robert Biswas-Diener: Your Happiest days are behind you

Louie Schwartzberg: Nature – Beauty – Gratitude

Katia Sol: The transformative power of gratitude

Brian Doyle: 365 Days of Thank You


The 10 Best Gratitude YouTube Videos

Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
Charles Dickens

I also look at YouTube video’s in general, and I have found the 10 below the most inspiring and illuminating.

Get Grateful

Janice Kaplan: The Gratitude Diaries

How and Why to Start a Gratitude Journal

Gratitude Is Good For You

The Four A’s for Expressing Gratitude

Gratitude Works!: The Science and Practice of Saying Thanks by Robert Emmons

The Gratitude Experiment

The Science of Gratitude

An Experiment in Gratitude: The Science of Happiness

Oprah’s Gratitude Journal

The 10 Best Gratitude Books

“Happiness, the sheer joy of being alive, is within our reach. All we need is an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude creates happiness because it makes us feel full, complete; gratitude is the realization that we have everything we need, at least in this moment.”
MJ Ryan

I read loads of articles, mostly online, and I add them to the Bibliography Section of each book I write. I also read books and I have found the 10 below very useful.

  1. MJ Ryan and Daphne Rose Kingma’s Attitudes of Gratitude in Love: Creating More Joy in Your Relationship
  2. Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons’ Living Life as a Thank You
  3. Br. David Steindl-Rast’s May Cause Happiness: A Gratitude Journal
  4. Gary Fiedel and Karie Jacobson’s Stop-Look-Go: A Grateful Practice Workbook and Gratitude Journal
  5. Julie Saffrin’s BlessBack: Thank Those Who Shaped Your Life
  6. Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts
  7. Robert A. Emmons’ The Little Book of Gratitude: Create a Life of Happiness and Wellbeing by Giving Thanks
  8. John Kralik’s 365 Thank You Notes
  9. MJ Ryan’s Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life
  10. Charles M. Shelton’s The Gratitude Factor: Enhancing Your Life through Grateful Living

The 10 Best Gratitude Apps

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Melody Beattie

I do not have many apps on my phone and I certainly have not tried all the apps below, but I chose the ones with the best reviews. The ones I have tried did not disappoint.

  1. The Gratitude Journal
  2. Thankful for
  3. Live Happy
  4. Grateful
  5. 365 Gratitude
  6. Zest
  7. GratitudeStream
  8. Thankful for
  9. DailyGift
  10. Attitudes of Gratitude

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Book Give-away

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A couple of years ago, I did a very successful Book Giveaway of my book, You ARE Good Enough – a 10-Step Strategy to Stop Sabotaging Yourself, on InstaFreebie.

It is high time that I do another book giveaway, this time of my book Self-Confidence made Simple – 16 French Womens’ Self-esteem Secrets and what better occasion to do so than for Valentine’s day?

Three lucky participants in this book giveaway will be able to download an e-book copy of their own, on Monday morning the 18th of February, after the book giveaway closes at midnight on Sunday the 17th.

If you would like to participate, please fill in the form at the bottom of this page and answer the question “Name one or more French Women that you admire…” It can be any French women that you either know or have heard about – an actress like Catherine Deneuve, an author like Simone de Beauvoir, a scientist like Marie Curie…the choice is yours. The 3 successful participants will be selected at random.

Giveaway Rules

  • You can only participate by filling in the form at the bottom of this page.
  • This book giveaway is open to subscribers to my mailing list only. If you are not a subscriber yet, your e-mail address will be added to my mailing list, so that I can let you know about new blog posts, new book releases and further giveaways. You can unsubscribe at any time.
  • This giveaway ends at 11:59pm GMT on February the 17th.
  • Participants must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway participants agree not to attempt to cheat the system – any suspicion of fraud will be decided on by this blog’s owner and participants may be disqualified at my discretion.
  • Successful participants will be personally informed by e-mail and their names will be announced in the comments below this post, on Twitter, on Instagram and on my Facebook Page.
  • Successful participants have 48 hours to claim their book from Bookfunnel.

Can’t wait? Grab your copy of Self-Confidence made Simple today by clicking here!

About the book
French women are famous for their effortless elegance, their enchanting independence, their irresistible charm and their unshakable self-confidence. Would you like to discover the secrets of these consistently confident women?

In Self-Confidence mad Simple, twelve of Dr Margaretha Montagu closest French friends share their confidence secrets with you. Margaretha has lived in France for part of her childhood and for most of her adult life. She has spent nearly twenty-five years, first as a medical doctor and more recently as a workshop leader, empowering women to live long, happy, healthy and fulfilling lives, full of purpose and meaning.

Discover the secrets of 12 supremely self-confident women.

In this book, you will meet twelve French women, Anaïs, Inès, Lisa, Marie-Therèse, Claire, Régine, Amèlie, Corrine, Béatrice, Annie, Monique and Eloïse who will share their stories with you. As you share these women’s joys and sorrows, you will discover how they remain unconditionally self-confident, serenely sophisticated and perfectly poised no matter how challenging the situations are that they find themselves in.

To each story and to every secret, Dr Montagu brings her extensive knowledge and experience, with practical suggestions to help you incorporate each of these potentially life-changing strategies into your own life.

Self-Confidence made Simple is a guide to becoming a woman who knows exactly who she is, who takes excellent care of herself, who leads a balanced, purposeful and fulfilling life, who has a solid support network, who can laugh at herself, who knows she has a lot to be grateful for, who knows how to forgive, who competently handles stress, who knows how to say NO without apologising and who knows that being ageless is all about attitude.

If you too want to master the skills you need to develop rock-solid self-confidence, this book is for you.

About the Author
Reading is one of my all-time favourite things. I mostly read historical mysteries – don’t you just love that feeling of so completely losing yourself in a book that when you stop reading you feel bereft? I also read non-fiction, mostly self-help books. I am always looking for new strategies that I can use to help the participants of my equine-facilitated personal empowerment workshops here in the south of France. Of course, being convinced that equine-assisted experiential learning is the next best thing to sliced bread, I also read a lot about that.

A few years ago, the writing bug got me. I loved writing right from writing the very first (very badly written) blog post. Eventually, I thought that it may well be an idea to write a book or two based on the knowledge and experience I had acquired by presenting my workshops and reading all those self-improvement books. Obviously, I didn’t just want to repeat what had already been written much more eloquently than I could ever manage. So I started writing from my own experience of living in France, owning and caring for horses, fighting the ever-present threat of losing my sight and presenting my workshops.

I am an experienced medical doctor, a certified NLP practitioner, a medical hypnotherapist and an equine-assisted psychotherapist (EAGALA level II). Articles about my work have been published in Horse and Rider, in Chronicles of the Horse and in the Guardian newspaper (UK).

Connect with Margaretha
FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and The Mpowering Women Community PinterestInstagramYoutubeGoodReadsPatreon

 

Writer-Introvert Insecurity

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It is estimated that the owners of the blog Wait but Why earn up to $30 000 per month on Patreon. This, I think, answers the question in my blog post Attending the Birth of a Book from last week, Can one make money from blogging? My next question is, How do the owners of Wait but Why do that?

The answer is very simple: the writer of the blog put in the hours needed to create unique, high quality and well-researched blog posts, kept at it diligently, build up his following exponentially (186k followers on Twitter and 16k subscribers on YouTube) and monetised the blog cautiously. Wait by Why was founded by Tim Urban and Andrew Finn and has 371 000 subscribers. There is a very good article on Shopify that explains how the blog was monetised called “The Right Way to Monetise a Blog (With Lessons From Wait But Why.)”

In the not-so-good old days (for artists, in any case) if you wanted to make a living from your art, you needed a patron. Several famous artists, like Mozart, Beethoven, Michelangelo and William Shakespeare, had one or more devoted patrons who supported them financially and thus enabled them to create their masterpieces. Today, artists are still supported by patrons, but instead of one or two very wealthy patrons, artists can now have thousands of patrons who each donate a small amount per month. Wait but Why has more than 3600 patrons, some donating as little as $1 a month, others much more.

The platform that has made the support of singers, songwriters, screenwriters, filmmakers, writers, bloggers and painters possible, by anyone with an interest in their work, is called Patreon. At Patreon, artists share their work with their patrons, on a monthly basis and get paid, on a monthly basis. Patreon has over 1 Million patrons and 50,000 creators on its platform. It is estimated that Patreon paid their creators $150 Million In 2017. The 35 top creators on Patreon earned over $150,000 In 2016.

Does everyone on Patreon earn lots of money? Certainly not. Less than 2% of creators on Patreon earn the monthly (American) minimum wage. The creators who earn the most, are those who are willing to invest the time and energy needed to attract and keep patrons. So very few creators make a living on Patreon, but a huge number make a tidy sum that helps them make ends meet at the end of the month.

This is what I set out to do when I created The Friesian Fillies Fan Club on Patreon. I want to earn enough to provide for my horses – my horses supply the inspiration for my books and I cannot do my day job, host my Connect with Horses personal empowerment workshops, without them. A substantial number of writers, and a small number of bloggers, already earn a decent amount on Patreon every month, so I decided to give it a go as well. For me, it is another way of earning income from the books I write – in addition to the money I make by selling my books, Patreon enables me to make money by writing my books.

I do have a bit of a problem, though. One of my favourite authors, Brené Brown said, “The easiest way to think about vulnerability is the willingness to show up and be seen when you can’t control the outcome.” I spent nearly every waking hour (and some half-asleep) of the last week creating my page on Patreon and now that it is ready to launch, my “Margaretha Montagu is creating equine-inspired life-enriching Books“-page is making me feel vulnerable. Because it does mean putting myself and my work out there on a substantial scale, doesn’t it? My half-finished, yet-unpolished work (in as far as I ever manage to get it properly polished.) This is about more than my usual writer-introvert insecurity.

I think I have created a very good page, but when I look at some of the other writers’ and bloggers’ pages, I think, ‘This is so exceptionally good. The writing sparkles, the ideas are beyond innovative, the books already published of such incredible quality…Why am I even bothering to put a page up? Why would anyone want to support me when they can support these amazing writers?”

Is there any truth in what Neil Gaiman said? That “the one thing that you have that nobody else has, is you. Your voice, your story, your vision. So write…as only you can.” That I can do, but will anyone be interested enough in finding out how I write books to become my patron? Time will tell.

Next week, I will blog about the process of creating a page on Patreon (subscribe to my mailing list so that you will be notified of new blog posts and book giveaways.) In the meantime, you can have a look at the Friesian Fillies Fan Club on Patreon here: Margaretha Montagu is creating equine-inspired life-enriching Books.