Can you please explain this to me? Can you please sit me down in a chair, one that doesn’t face the window, because I’m obviously easily distracted, and use small words, because clearly I’m a bit dim in the “I get it” department, and tell me what is going on?Continue reading “About Yes And”
When you were a little kid, remember how exciting it was to think about Christmas morning? All the commotion, the gifts, the noise, the screaming parents. Well, maybe not that one, or the barfing dog, but you understand what I’m saying – the anticipation. Oh, how great it was gonna be…Continue reading “On Going Big or Going Home”
You’re a writer, you know how it goes. You create, create, create, and some of it’s pretty good.
I got this new idea. Actually, my wife got the idea, and I’m going along with it. Actually, I got the idea quite some time ago, and she shot it down, rediscovered the idea on her own, and, well, I’m going along with it.Continue reading “Hey, Fred!”
First, admissions: I’m sitting on a folding chair in a gym in Anaheim, CA, surrounded by at least a hundred screaming, volleyball-playing teenage girls. I have not had enough sleep, and I’m terrifically annoyed by the itty-bitty keyboard on this phone that keeps recommending words I don’t want to use.Continue reading “Take Your Day”
Wow, sustainability is a buzzy word, isn’t it? Was this taco sustainably produced? What about that triple-spice latte? It’s an overused word in these times of growing awareness, but it applies here.
If you’ve followed along in my sustainably-produced diatribe, you know that Year One was the Year of No Regrets, Year Two was the Year of Confidence, and Year Three was the Year of Accomplishment. All these years are aimed at helping you, the hidden artist, bring your talent to the fore, that you might live your life as the creative individual you truly are.
So, here we are at Year Four, the year with the trendy name. What does it mean? How can talent be sustainable. It’s not like coffee, after all.
This whole five-year program is about building and counting artistic success. You stopped denying that you were talented, you adopted that talent, and then you went out and proved to the world that you are an accomplished talent. I am so proud of you.
The Year of Sustainability is all about doing it again. And again. And again. This is the year in which you make your artistic existence real. It’s a subtle, but very important difference from the Year of Accomplishment.
In that year, you did the big thing – in my case, I leapt away from the world of never-ending, soul-stealing customer service jobs and became a technical writer. A writer, a real writer! Look! It’s on my business card!
The Year of Sustainability is the year in which you prove that your success wasn’t a one-off wonder, a Looking Glass/Brandy hit. This is the year in which you build the structure to keep repeating that success.
In my Year of Sustainability, I proved to the world that I really was a writer by getting myself hired as a technical writer. But then I had to prove it to myself and the company that I was worthy of the title. I did it by staying really focused, being willing to learn, and always open to growing in the job.
That’s your job this year. You must embrace your accomplishment, and make it repeatable, reliable.
Where we go from here is The Year of Independence, in which you let go of the previous you and launch into the abyss of success. Whoa, there’s an image, huh?
Now, the Year of Sustainability, like the Year of Accomplishment, may take more than one year. While it may have taken you a while to reach your accomplishment, it may equally take a touch more than a year to make your success sustainable.
But, the whole point of this exercise is to get it into your head that you are a successful, talented person. You can be the creative individual that you’ve always thought you were. You can do it.
So, get your head around that fact that you have made a huge accomplishment, but it was just the first of many. This is the year in which you prove, to yourself and the universe, that you are a successful, talented individual. Your art is your life.
Okay, true story: my road from empty customer service rep to fulfilled writer has a caveat that we may as well look at.
I’ll admit it: technical writing is not a glamorous job. It does not fulfill my need to tell the stories in my head. It doesn’t sell my novels, and doesn’t bring me fame and fortune.
What this job does, and the reason I count it such a big success, is that it establishes me, my name, my talent, as those of a writer. Yes, it’s technical writer. But the second word in that title means everything.
In this job, I’m surrounded by writers, most of whom are journalists. I speak the language of writers. My work, albeit assembly instructions, is read all over the world every day. These are not the stories that I want to tell, but they are stories that I am paid to tell, and they make my house payment and send my kids to college. That to me is a success.
When I look in a mirror, I don’t see a customer service rep. I look at a writer.
When you look in a mirror, this year I want you to see a writer, or a dancer, a singer, a painter, an actor… I want you to see the you that you know you are. Even if, like me, it’s just a version of who you want to be.
I’m very proud of you. Keep going!
You’re a writer, you know how it goes. You settle on a project, or maybe two, and you burn the midnight candle until it’s just a smoldering stub, and you tell everybody what your project is and how it’s your end-all-be-all raison d’etre and stuff…
But it isn’t. You fight the words and wrangle them into place. You beat yourself silly trying to find that structure, that style that sets you apart.You work until your mind bleeds to find the description that’s never been made.
But it doesn’t come.
It’s all the same hack.
I know. I’ve been hacking at the same project for, like, ever…
What to do, oh what to do.
Here’s something terrible that I shouldn’t tell you, but maybe you’ll see it.
I invented a producer, my writing boss. I gave her, (she’s a she) the complete and total task of managing my writing.
With Sydney (her name’s Sydney) in charge, I can mentally offload the task of managing my production to her. It sounds crazy, and I’m certain that is, but it has made my writing much easier.
Sydney’s a breeze to work for, because she doesn’t really exist, which means she hardly ever yells at me!
Yes, it’s nice to have a boss in the writing biz, even though, and I know you’ll agree, it’s crazier than a bag of wieners.
Now I just have to figure out to hit her up for a raise!
Nothing beats a good hissy-fit. You know the kind, where you pull your hair and stomp your feet and get so red in the face people think you’re a thermometer? That’s a really effective way to scare off bears and stray pussycats. I tried it at the office… not so effective there. I guess I can sort of kiss that raise goodbye.
But a wild hissy-fit might just be the thing that puts your book over the top. What would happen if, like, you started getting into the world’s grille about something – racism, climate change, dirty diapers, you get the drift – and made some sort of a big hissy-fit. Your fit gets on YouTube, you go viral, and, oh, hey, you also wrote a novel that now we all have to read because, goodness, what a vibrant person you are!
It could work.
Sadly, if you threw a hissy-fit over something really nice, like the West African success against ebola, you wouldn’t get any coverage at all because the world doesn’t work that way.
Sadly, if you threw a hissy-fit over the nastygram items listed above, you might get branded as a tantrummy sort of bozo, because that is the way the world works. Seriously, who wants to read a book written by a bozo, unless you are the REAL Bozo, and then, hey, that might be kind of cool. A book on clowns by the master clown himself – you could make it really scary…
Step One in the Gorilla Marketing Plan is to avoid Hissy-Fit Marketing (HFM), because it only garners negative attention. I get enough of that at work.
Step Two is to make things big, which is sort of a parallel to HFM. Make things big – broadcast yourself. Spread yourself out. Do LOTS of stuff, and tie it all together. Yes, it takes a little effort, which is anti-gorilla, but it simply has to pay off.
You are publishing your book online, right? What’s the magic word there? Nope, not bozo. It’s online, bozo. Search engines and crawlers and robots troll the WWW every single second, making links between this and that, him and her, it and, well, it. The more connections you have, the bigger you are.
You don’t stop dancing with the 600 pound gorilla when you’re tired – you stop when he’s tired. Dolly Parton wears those outrageous wigs to make her short little self not so much. Say what you will about the other parts of her, at least the wigs make her look taller.
So, no on the hissy-fit, yes on the broadcasting yourself all over the WWW.
If that doesn’t work, well, then, ding-dang it! What THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE??? WHATSA MATTER WITH THE DING-DANG STINKING WORLD…
Writing online is tough. Not wrestling with a live python in your underwear tough, or figuring out how a python got in your underwear in the first place tough, but pretty difficult just the same. You write some wonderful, brilliant, exquisite piece that could not possibly be more perfect, you send it off to the publishing site, and you wait. And you wait.
If the site was Associated Content, you knew that a board of editors, or some guy sitting in his pajamas horking down a tuna fish sandwich, or a piece of software that simulated same, scrutinized your work to see if it was worth a nickel in SEO. Son of a cricket, that could take a week! At the end of that agonizing, just-beat-me-in-the-head-with-a-frozen-pizza wait, you got an offer, maybe $1.06, maybe some amazing amount, like $14.23. Martha, we’re buying a boat!
If the site was Triond, dude, you could be published within, like ten minutes. The money was not an issue – gee, son, those are pretty small wages… it’s okay, Dad. I’m gonna publish a gazillion of ‘em! – but you were right out there in the big old world, and there was always the possibility you, or your work, could go viral.
In those days, which seem like maybe twenty years ago but was in fact just last year – old school is so, like, last week – that was how you did it. But the year went by, the rock-out died, Susie went and left me for some other guy, and writing online got tougher. How can this be, you ask… didn’t Al Gore invent the Internet with a capital I to make life easier?
Scratchin’ for online work, I hooked up with Writers Access, which is pretty cool. Real, live editors look at the stuff they challenge you to write – here, describe a filing cabinet in 150 words, be chatty, professional, and make it sound interesting. Oh, and don’t use the word “filing” – nobody does that anymore – and we’ll toss some shekels into your PayPal. Some of their challenges are quite that – we’d like you to create a web page devoted to offroad motorcycling – and they’ll pay you $50 to do it. I go there every now and again.
But, for the creative soul, the Internet with a capital I should be a place where you can set your work free, just like Free Willy and Butterflies are Free, and Schindler’s List… you get the idea. So you start your own site.
Dude, you need content. So you write your brains out and publish it yourself – yeah, that looks pretty good – and you buy your own URL and get a hosting plan. Here I am!
Maybe, and this is huge maybe to which I am not willing to commit, maybe the days of schlock are over. Maybe you can’t just pen what you want and push it out to the greedy masses who are waiting to devour it, because maybe the masses never really did that in the first place.
Maybe your work has to be good. Maybe it has to be better than good – downright the best work you’ve ever done. And maybe you submit it to legitimate sites, and there are dozens, that pride themselves on publishing excellent, well-wrought work.
Fade out crickets, fade in the sound of thoughtful, interested people that select a very narrow band of input, reading your work and thinking, yes, thinking about it.
Wow. That’s even better than $14.23 upfront.
I think I’m discovering that there is no overnight, get uber-rich uber-quick, slick Willy scheme to make a fortune as a writer. The secret is good work, excellent, hard work.
Writing online for certain publishers is always a great rush. I enjoy watching the number spiral up at ScienceRay.com whenever there’s a chance to post an exoplanet piece. And getting published at Examiner.com is always a delight.
Examiner does a great job of making you feel like a part of their writing team. You get the job title of “Examiner” for whatever city you live in – I am the Santa Barbara NASA Examiner. At $.12 in earnings, the title hasn’t quite justified the expense of business cards, but it is nice to have one. Here’s the latest of my pieces published by them, the first in three years!: http://www.examiner.com/article/nasa-announces-forum-on-manned-missions-to-mars-1
The world for writers has changed, and will remain so just as long as the Internet stays free. When access to the world wide web is taxed, this wonderful opportunity to share your thoughts with the world will be lost.
On a slightly different note, the folks doing all that exoplanetary research have made an outstanding discovery: an Earth-sized, rocky-core planet orbiting another sun. You can find more about it here: http://scienceray.com/astronomy/earth-sized-exoplanet-discovered/