One of the reason I enjoyed Isabel Parlett the SoundBiteShaman‘s day of planning so much was becasue of her take on goals. The long and the short of it is she’s found it much more effective for her to think in terms of the projects she wants to get done, rather than working with very specific goals.
I felt my whole body relax when she said that!
On this solstice day I’ve decided this next year I’ll work with projects instead.
I get the idea that objectives should be Specific, Measureable, Action oriented, Realistic, and Timely and the acronym that results, SMART, frankly makes me want to gag.
Some of my favorite writing friends advocate goal setting. I actually like Lori Widmer’s One Easy Method for Reaching Your Freelance Writing Goals. John Soares is quite eloquent with his 13 Top Techniques For Achieving Your Goals. Obviously goal setting works for some writers, maybe even most.
I have two problems with goals
When I look deeply into my feelings about goals I find two objections:
It’s so easy for me to make myself wrong when I set a goal and don’t make it
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I participated in an Annual Planning Day with writer and coach Isabel Parlett who is known on the web as the SoundBiteShaman. She was delightful and one of the things she said so clearly was we should all follow our own hearts. Which is, after all, one way to say there are no writing gurus.
It’s so tempting, particularly when starting out, or later when things get tough, to decide we don’t know enough and look for a guru or to some other writer who claims to have all the answers – or even most of them. We forget we’re the expert on our own lives and look outside ourselves, hoping for a magic key that will make our problems go away.
The truth is there are no writing gurus
Of course, the real definition of a guru is a spiritual teacher who gives some sort of (often) secret initiation. That term, however, has come to mean in popular parlance someone who has specialized knowledge about something – even freelance writing, knowledge that few, if any others seem to possess. These are the folks who wildly over-promise to turn you into a best selling or high ranking or 6-figure earning writer if only you do exactly what they say to do.
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Amanda Lin, Global English Editing & The Expert Editor, offered the infographic below. I looked at it and realized I’m guilty! I’m not sure I even understand the comma splice.
Although I know the difference between its and it’s, and your and you’re, my typing fingers often lead me to make those grammar mistakes – as some of you probably know.
I’m not sure using the passive voice is actually a grammar error, but it sure can be a mistake and results in boring prose.
Take a look and see if we should send the grammar police after you or if you’re use of language is, if not great, at least darn good.
If you want to confess to some grammar mistakes or goofs, you can do so in comments.
Write well and often,
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Once you find an idea to write about, chances are you’ll need to hone it. Even experienced writers need to sharpen ideas so they become marketable.
Truly, it’s rare for an idea to arrive fully formed, including the market that will buy it once the piece is written. It happens, but you can’t count on it.
Start with the idea
One of the 10 ideas I listed in Ideas Are Everywhere was: One large cat. As I recall that one came about because my 20 pound tabby, Toulouse, wandered into my office just when I needed another idea.
While there are maybe a million things I could say or write about that large cat, or any other, the idea really doesn’t have any context. I haven’t even put up a picture of him to help things along. (Be patient… or see below.) [click to continue…]
I don’t know how many times someone who wants to write asks “but where would I get ideas I could write about?”
Here’s a truth about ideas: Ideas are everywhere.
Ideas are everywhere
Let me demonstrate by simply looking around my office and seeing what ideas I can spark right now:
- Vision board
- One large cat
- Litter box
- Magazine holders used for files
- Ergonomic keyboard
- Desk I can stand at
- Desk I can sit at
- Kneeling chair
- Almost empty cup of coffee
Okay, that’s 10 and I haven’t moved away from my desk- and it probably took me 3 minutes.
Here are those 10 ideas repeated, but I’ve added how each might become an article, blog post, or even a chapter in a book [click to continue…]
Years ago now, Rev. Guy Williams (see below) challenged a class I was in to count out 100 things we were grateful for every day. Although with some practice I was able to list many things I was grateful for, counting them out proved to be a real dilemma for me.
Sure, I could do it on a computer using Word or Excel or WordPress as I’ve done here, but I wanted to make this part of a morning meditation. It came to me that my mala or Buddhist rosary had 108 beads, so I began to use that. I was given a Sufi string of beads to count out the 99 names of God – I used that for awhile too.
It’s become a Thanksgiving day tradition for me to sit down at my computer and right out at least 100 things I’m grateful for. Today it turned out to be 107 – so I added one more to make up 108 items.
I could probably double this, or even triple it – there truly is much to be grateful in this crazy world we live in. I love this as a practice – it’s really hard to be upset or unhappy when I do this.
You’re welcome to adopt and adapt this for your own purposes if you’d like.
- Dudley, the tuxedo kitty that lives with me
- Toulouse the tabby cat that lives with me
- My computer keyboard – it’s ergonomic
- So is my kneeling chair
- My moniter
- My desk
- The connection to the internet
- My modem
- My router
- My vision board
- My land line
- My smart phone
- My best friend
- My other best friend
- My online writer friends
- Clean water
- Hot water
- Good coffee
- The forum
- Roshi Seisen Saunders
- Rev. Guy Williams
- Sangha members
- World Beat Center
- My mobile vet
- My chiropractor
- My daughter
- Her twin brother
- My youngest son
- My oldest granddaughter
- My oldest grandson
- My youngest granddaughter
- My youngest grandson
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Nicotine Anonymous
- Debtors Anonymous
- Underearners Anonymous
- Bill W.
- Dr. Bob
- Natural gas
- My espresso machine
- Organic milk
- Trader Joe’s
- Coffee from Cafe Moto (yes, they do mail order and they roast with solar power and most of their coffee is fair traded.)
- Washing machines
- Thrift stores
- Atlantic Magazine
- Mother Jones magazine
- The New Yorker
- Bloomberg’s magazine
- Rolling Stone
- Daily Kos
- High Country News
- Thom Hardman
- Popcorn! (Did you know you can pop popcorn in small brown paper bags in your microwave with no oil of any sort?)
- Facebook – sometimes
- Air Conditioners
- A home
- Hardwood floors
- A stove
- A shower
- Grocery stores
- Trucks that deliver so much
- Farmers, particularly organic farmers
- Grass fed beef
- Paleo eating
- Herbal teas
- Skipping Black Friday
- Online shopping
- Local non-chain stores
- My real estate investment recruiting with my daughter (Ask me.)
- My car
- A good mobile mechanic
- The Pacific Ocean – all of it
- People working to stop the environmental damage to our planet
- People working for environmental justice
- Cathy Miller’s list of thanks
- Cleo the cat
- Other people’s dogs
Write well and often,
As we near the end of the year, which is coming way too quickly in my opinion, I often get the itch to look for new and better ways to get organized. I was looking and thinking about to do lists just now.
I use Todoist as my main to do list. It’s a web based tool and since most of the time I’m working I’m actually sitting in my home office at my desktop computer it works like a charm for me.
You can also use their apps for your mobile devices. I haven’t done it yet, but I can also integrate Todoist with either or both Gmail and Google calendar. If you upgrade to Premium – which currently is less than $30 a year, you can do even more.
Todoist is also perfect for collaborations. It also allows sorting of items into categories you create and you can tag these with different colors..
The value of a to do list
I love to do list in part because I can cross off or mark a check box and see that I’m actually getting things accomplished.
Of course, when I really use a to do list, I’m also making sure I’m reasonably well organized. I plan the day, and even the week, in advance. This helps me be sure I’m getting done what I need to get done.
The trick is finding a system that works for you. A paper calendar is fine as long as you use it. [click to continue…]
I’ve been reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. It’s one of those books that annoys the heck out of me… because it’s working.
The idea, paraphrased, is that we always get more of what we do. If we procrastinate, that leads to more procrastination.
If, on the other hand, we, for example, write 10 minutes every day, we’ll actually do more writing.
The idea isn’t to try and make massive change all at once. Instead, change works most effectively if we do it in small, even tiny increments – consistently.
Here’s how it’s working for me
The book is helping me make some changes. For example, as the day wears on I’m often tempted to take naps. Naps for me are mostly a chance to read and doze, and in my view there is absolutely nothing wrong with naps. The problem happens for me when I extend a 20 or 30 minute ‘nap’ into a couple of hours. That’s a lot of non working time, which may be okay, or not. Now, when I start thinking nap I’m asking myself ‘what will move me toward what I say I want?’ Usually the answer is to do more on my to do list.
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When it comes down to it, there really is only one secret or technique to finding freelance writing jobs – you keep applying.
It really is that simple.
Assuming your write pretty well and you’ve got some credits, and you’ve got a professional website, keep looking and applying and sooner or later you’ll land a new gig.
Let’s look at these one at a time.
You write pretty well
You don’t have to be the next Pulitzer Prize Winner to land a freelance writing gig. In fact, it may be better that you don’t write in a literary style, or academic style.
There are far more writing jobs out there that want a simple and direct approach than want a style that sounds stilted or strange to the average ear. It also helps, if you’re aiming for the American or English markets, if you’re a native speaker – although you that isn’t an absolute requirement. You want to be able to write more or less like other people, only a bit better. And most of the folks who visit this website and others aimed at helping freelance writers find writing jobs can write well enough. [click to continue…]
Writing clients seem to fall into two categories when it comes to pay:
- Those who argue over every penny.
- Well funded writing clients who recognize they’ll get what they pay for and want quality.
Obviously we all want more of the well funded writing clients who pay well without a struggle. The trick is to learn to ferret out who is who when it comes to paying writers well. The key is to listen carefully.
Writing clients who argue over every penny
There are some writing clients who are reluctant to pay no matter how much money they have. Although I can’t prove it, I suspect they treat all vendors the same way. Typical identifiers include:
- They start or ask early about your rates, often expressing they can’t afford much.
- Counter whatever rate you name with less – often arguing that they understand the standard pay is…
- Come back to you an hour or a day later explaining why they can’t possibly pay your rates.
- Mention someone they know who will write for less
These folks are quite different than those who simply state they can’t afford your rates. Those you can sometimes have a successful negotiation with. [click to continue…]