Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

Both as a fiction writer and as a freelancer I need to be connected in to social media. Sadly I can’t rely on the quality of my writing alone to sell it, or on the structures of a traditional workplace to provide me with productive, paying things to do. As a naturally humble person this is something of a pain. I don’t want to be getting in people’s faces, but I need to. And it can lead to interesting conversations and opportunities, as well as helping me grow by getting outside my comfort zone.

But there are so many ways to do social media these days it feels overwhelming. Should I be tweeting, linking or pinning? Is Google+ the great leap forwards its advocates claim or the backwater some still believe it to be? If I tried to follow every piece of advice I’d lose my mind, not to mention every waking hour. It feels ridiculous, but it’s the life I’ve chosen, and I must pay the price.

I’m sure in a few months, once I’ve spent some time properly testing social tools for my current lifestyle, I’ll feel a lot better. But right now I just long for verbal conversations and sales by merit.

Of course I’d also like a golden house and an endless supply of chocolate biscuits, but that isn’t happening either.

Anybody got any advice? What works well for you? What do you love or hate social media-wise? Help me find the forest, because right now all I can see is these blasted trees.

There’s a difference between enjoying the process of writing and enjoying the thing you’re writing about. I’m always going to enjoy writing stories because they’re something for which I have a passion. But the risk, when I decided to try to make a living by writing, lay in whether I’d enjoy writing about other things. I couldn’t know for sure whether I’d enjoy writing for its own sake, regardless of the content.

Fortunately, it turns out that I do. Over the past week I’ve written about toothpaste, sunglasses, the Battle of Agincourt, and those special drugs for men that anonymous Canadian pharmacies keep emailing me about. I’ve applied for work writing about recipes, chiropractic technology and new developments in the world of HR. And while there have been moments that have strained my brain – 400 words about a wooden cube, for example – I’ve enjoyed it all. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of finding interesting ways to write about uninteresting things. I’ve enjoyed the learning that comes from quickly brushing up on a subject for an assignment. And I’ve really enjoyed putting one word before the next, working out the best ways to say things, going with the flow of the words.

Get out there and write. Enjoy letting the words spill out onto your screen, no matter what it’s about.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go research vegan cheesecakes. The words demand it!

As I mentioned yesterday, it can be hard to get into good habits. Even with the best of intentions, it’s difficult to stick at something if there’s no immediate payback, but rewarding yourself with a treat every time you put pen to paper is impractical. In trying to turn myself into a writer, building up habits is crucial – there’s no-one else to kick me into line if I get lazy. That’s why I’ve recently become a fan of Habit RPG.

Habit RPG is a web-page, and now an app, aimed at the nerdier sort of habit-former, which definitely includes me. It takes the compulsive parts of computer and tabletop roleplay games – the urges to keep your character alive and to see them advance – and turns it into a system for rewarding good habits. You set the tasks that you want to get done, and use the app to earn points towards rewards. Stick with it and your cute little adventurer avatar will become tougher and better equipped. Fail, and he will die. Oh no!

me and my shadow lion companion prepare to slay the blog

me and my shadow lion companion prepare to slay the blog

Gamification’s a fascinating area. The psychology of gaming is used these days in marketing, management, and of course those time-sapping adverts dressed as games on facebook. These techniques create emotional responses that are more powerful than any amount of reasoning. It’s why Habit works so well for me. It’s got me writing fiction nearly every day, and I’ve been flossing for 97 days straight (Habit tells me so).

I’d recommend it to anyone who’s trying to write, or to develop any other sort of habit. It’s free, it’s nifty, and it works.

And of course, writing this blog today – one of those good habits it reinforced.

I guess it was inevitable, now that I’m spending more time blogging, that I’d revert to my old-tech habits and pick up a book on it. The book in question – The Huffington Post Guide to Blogging (HPGB from here on out) – was recommended by Jeff Vandermeer in Booklife, a book I found a lot of other useful stuff in.

I’ve said before that my initial approach to this blog was a bit haphazard. I started because I knew that a writer should have a web presence, and this was an easy way to achieve that. If over time I got some grasp on what I was doing, that was through instinct and piecemeal advice, rather than the grunt work of learning. This made HPGB a useful step forward for me.

So what did I learn? From the first half of the book, a lot of fundamentals that I should have researched years ago. Models for structuring a post. How to encourage people to read it. A lot of dos and don’ts that I won’t go into here, partly because I don’t usually blog about blogging, partly for fear that, like a magician giving away his tricks, once you see through the technique you’ll lose interest.

The second half of the book, a brief history of the Huffington Post and a selection of their favourite posts, interested me less. If you’re heavily into news media or American politics it might have more for you. But what I did learn was that you can make any subject interesting if you write about it well. The Post doesn’t matter much to me, but I read that whole section, read it quickly and never felt bored. I may pick over it for writing style later, because these folks clearly know what they’re doing.

So HPGB was worth my time. It’s gone in the shelf of useful writing reference books, and I’m already applying some of its lessons. If you’re blogging, and like me you’ve never done your homework, it’s worth a look.

One blog at a time

Posted: June 14, 2013 in writing life
Tags: ,

A friend and I were discussing my blog last night, and he suggested it was good for me to have somewhere I could easily do a little writing to keep me going. He’s right, but the funny thing is I’d never thought of it that way.

I started this blog as my web presence, for people who’d enjoyed my stories and wanted to know more. I knew it was something a writer ought to have, and though I didn’t plan on pushing it I started writing posting.

After a while, it became somewhere I could put down interesting thoughts that crossed my mind. It stopped just being me saying ‘hey, I wrote a story’, and became more me writing about books.

And this year, even before writing properly took over my time, it became something more. I started posting regularly. The blog became a goal in itself, something I enjoyed doing in its own right and wanted to develop.

Now it is exactly what my friend said – a good way to keep my writing going. On days when I’m struggling to get started, when opening a story document or starting a search for work is just too much, I’ll blog first. I enjoy it and it gives me a sense of satisfaction, of a task well done. It gets my writing muscles going, puts me into the flow. It means I’m writing.

It’s been a month since I left my job and started trying to write full time. Seems like another good point for some self-reflection on what’s worked and what hasn’t.

Overall, so far so good. Working on something I love has left me far more relaxed and happy than I would otherwise have been. I’d be happier if I’d sold more of the stuff I’ve been working on this month, but hey, I always knew I wouldn’t see those benefits straight away. Hopefully that’ll pick up before I start getting really anxious about it.

I’ve hit nearly all my goals for the first month. I’ve written a new story every week, blogged more here, done some blogging for other websites, and reviewed my old draft novel for edits (turns out it’s much better than I feared, which is a big relief). The only target I haven’t hit is tendering for freelance writing work. I’m a little annoyed at myself for putting this off, but not surprised. It was always the most daunting objective, and my confidence isn’t not notch at the moment. But I’ve signed up to a couple of freelance websites, so it should go smoothly this coming month.

I’m also learning to pace myself – to get more done while I feel enthusiastic and take things easier when my brain screams no. Being able to do this is one of the great advantages of working for myself, and over time I’ll get better at making the most of it.

Overall? So far so good. I’m not exactly rolling in heaps of money, but I’ve made a little, I’ve improved my peace of mind, and I’ve laid the groundwork for future months. So far so good.

I’m near the end of my first week writing full time, and I feel like I should sit back and reflect on how it’s gone. Self-awareness is one of the most important skills in achieving anything, and that starts with self-reflection.

Overall, the week’s been good. I’ve stuck with my full working days. I had to adjust some targets mid-week when a re-write proved more substantial than anticipated, but that’s part of learning to pace myself. I’ve managed to stay focused, hit my adjusted goals, and may even have time today for things that were dropped from the plan.

This week’s achievements include:
– blogging every day (sometimes here, sometimes for other sites)
– a big story re-write
– first draft of a new story
– reading three chapters of my novel for revisions
– my first tentative steps into networking via writing forums and other blogs

I’ve slept the best I have in weeks, and had the energy for the household chores, so there’s definitely some good side effects.

Downsides? Though I don’t feel like I miss the company yet, my behaviour says otherwise. I’m easily distracted by text conversations, facebook and checking my email. It’s not a problem yet, but I’ll need to keep an eye on that. I hit my first demotivated moment yesterday afternoon, struggling to re-engage with a story, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. It’s another good sign that considering the alternative – back to office work – was enough to focus me.

So far so good. Now to get down to some writing.