I’m No Friggin’ Mary Poppins AKA: When Writer’s Block Suggests To Friends And Family You’re In Dire Financial Need

I like to keep it pretty positive, but there’s something I need to address. This isn’t just for my sake, this is for all of my friends and the friends I have yet to meet who have started their own business. This is also for everyone that seems to think “owning a business” means “excessive free time,” “in need of money,” and “unemployed.”

I was asked this morning, for about the third time in six months, if I wanted to nanny this summer. The exact sum up upon asking was, “you mentioned looking for a new client or two on Facebook so I thought you could use the money.”

Woah. Let’s back the jolly trolly up a bit.

On the one hand, this person and I don’t speak regularly. She probably thought she was being nice. Helpful, even. But let me just get one thing straight: my business has never included nanny work. It is a writing service. It is a social media management service. It is writing copy for large and small businesses on a variety of topics including law, healthcare, automobiles, non-profit, television, marketing and more.

By working for myself, I am not unemployed. By working for myself, I’m not looking for any available opportunity that will put money in my back account. By working for myself, I’m not skipping out my front door at 11:00am every day singing “I’m done! Time to go shopping!”

By working for myself, I’m employing myself because I know my own value is worth more than the 40k salary and “great benefits” a big business thinks they can recruit me for. By working for myself, I take on clients that are in line with what I do and only what I do: writing and social media. By working for myself, I have 60+ hour weeks and I have 20- hour weeks. Business ebbs and flows as it does anywhere else on the planet. It doesn’t mean I’m writing 500 word articles for $5 on About.com and it sure as hell doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly become a nanny.

My seeking out new business is just that: seeking new business. It doesn’t mean I’m circling the drain pipe. It means that if you have a referral, send it my way because I’ve got the time to help new clients this month. It means I’m growing as a business. Branching out.

So the next time you have the urge to offer your self-employed friend an odd job that makes them a fast twenty bucks, think: have they asked you directly for such an opportunity? If not, hire the help from outside your friend pool and call up your self-employed buddy to ask them out for a drink.

Starting a business isn’t easy – it takes guts. But the truth is that for me, life without guts is nothing more than a death sentence.

 

 

 

 

 

Kissing Comfort Goodbye

One thing that paralyzed me as a writer, for years, was the idea of sharing my work.

Wait.

That’s a lie.

One thing that paralyzes me about being a writer (present tense) is the idea of sharing my work.

There are those who say writer’s block is simply a matter of severe anxiety. In some instances, I fully agree. This is one of those instances. In fact, the idea of sharing my work with the general public can send me into such terror that writing itself becomes impossible. After all, what could I possibly write that everyone will love?

The answer? Nothing.

I will never write something that everyone in the whole entire world loves and agrees with. It doesn’t happen for the Poet Laureate and it sure as hell won’t happen for me.

And actually, while we’re going down this road, let’s clarify further.

Not only will some people hate my writing to begin with. Some people that start out loving my writing will come to despise it.

Heck, even you’ve been there. Perhaps not with me, but with another creative.

Think of, for instance, that new song on the radio. Gosh, it’s really catchy. Every time it comes on, you can’t help but sing along. Then, a month or so in, it starts to feel a little old. By month three, you swear that radio stations are tracking your movements and only playing the song when you get into your car. Gah! YOU HATE THIS DAMN SONG, TURN IT OFF!

The reality of writing anything, and then sharing it, is that you will encounter a fair amount of criticism. Some immediate. Some down the road. But hey! You did something a lot of people are far too terrified to ever do. That includes your critics.

Criticism is made worse by the internet. The anonymity that haters today can have is rivaled by… nothing.

Frankly, you shouldn’t give a flying bird about any of it.

Being a writer – being an artist – being someone who creates – is reliant upon your ability to kiss comfort goodbye and just make.

And that is something both beautiful and unique about artists of every kind. This is art, my friend. This isn’t rocket science or brain surgery. This isn’t perfection. There is no right or wrong answer. This is expression. This is beauty. There is never complete comfort in the unknown.

We kiss comfort goodbye the moment we choose to create.

Is your inability to write caused by a lack of known factors? An inability to know and control the outcome?

I’m here to tell you that, that will never happen. As an artist, as a writer, you must release the anxieties that follow sharing your work with others. In doing so, you may find that your writer’s block falls a bit by the wayside, too.

 

 

 

 

Why “Write What You Know” Is Terrible Advice

For some of us, anyway.

“Write what you know.”

I can’t tell you how many times this advice has been lobbed at me. Sometimes I feel like it’s all I can do as a writer to fight my way through the phrase. First of all, I don’t feel like I know much of anything. Secondly, that which I do positively, absolutely, no doubt about it know…well, I find that I don’t bloom with desire to share it. Any of it. I know a lot about chocolate, but I don’t want to write about that. I know how it feels to be bullied as a teen, to suffer debilitating depression, but I don’t want to write about that, either. I know that there are people that can – that DO. I applaud them.

But that’s not me.

And frankly, dear Writer, it might not be YOU either.

If people only wrote what they knew, there are a lot of really amazing works that wouldn’t exist. Part of writing is exercising the imagination, thinking creatively, researching and learning and trying and failing and picking yourself up and starting again.

Maybe you suffered from disease. Perhaps you were abused. There’s a chance you lived despite horrible odds. Maybe you had your heart shattered into a million pieces by the person you thought was “The One.” If you want to share that story and you want to find and provide support for fellow survivors – bam. Write your story. I can’t wait to read it.

Maybe one or all of those things happened to you, but what you want to write about is a serial killer or a dude on roller skates or penguins. Then write about THAT. Just because you don’t have personal experience dealing with a serial killer or a dude on roller skates or penguins doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about it. Write what you want to write because that’s what is going to be passion-filled and beloved by your followers (or future followers, as it may be).

Perhaps your writer’s block is due to not giving yourself artistic license to write about whatever the hell you want. 

Quit asking for permission.

Stop looking for a way to incorporate what you know into your story.

Just write.

SEO Assignments

There are very few writing assignments that make me shudder. Since the age of five, I’ve written short stories, newspaper columns, magazine articles, ad copy, photo captions and more. Despite this, I’m constantly a student. Frankly, you could master every rule in the English language but be a terrible writer. In my opinion, it isn’t how well you understand a language – it’s about continuously challenging yourself to use it differently.

Has a writing assignment ever arisen that felt – impossible? For me, writing 10,000 words is not nearly as difficult as writing a 500-word SEO article. I wish I were joking.

In my personal experience, SEO articles consist of writing 500-word explanations of items I don’t use or understand. Parakeet Cage Gyms and 3.7V 3800mAh 18650 Rechargeable Batteries are just two of the examples I have in my cache. Did I mention you have to use the exact search phrase (in the above example, Parakeet Cage Gyms or 3.7V 3800mAh 18650 Rechargeable Batteries) at least four times in a 500-word article in its exact order? For instance, you can’t describe Parakeet Cage Gyms as “Gyms for Parakeet Cage” or “Parakeet Gym” and have that count toward one of your four uses.

In a nutshell, the 500-word article is a long (sometimes disjointed) description of the item. Properly researching your keyword or phrase before you begin is incredibly important – you can’t fake your way through these. And leaving them awkward and disjointed won’t win you any favors with your client, so that’s not really an option when you get frustrated with how little information there is on these items. Interestingly enough, the Internet CAN lack insights. I was surprised, too.

Writing an SEO article, for me at least, is no picnic. Nonetheless, good SEO makes a HUGE difference (as you may be aware) when a company is looking to expand its audience. SEO helps raise your website or item in search results. Everyone wants that number 1 spot. According to the research, Rank #1 gets 36.4% of clicks while the #2 rank gets just 12.5% and the numbers get more dismal from there. There are plenty of job opportunities for individuals with strong SEO article portfolios because everyone wants their descriptions to take that #1 slot. Plus, taking on difficult assignments, I believe, help make me a better writer.

Want to practice? I’ve included a few SEO phrases below. Write 500 words on one or on all and feel free to post them below.

40000 Dogecoin

DIN Touch In-Dash Stereo Radio TV

Vintage Mid-Calf Lace Dress S-M

Garden Solar Lights

1620

When I typed 1620 into Google, I was thinking in terms of the year. I had pictured corsets made of whale bone and gentlemen throwing their waist coats over a puddle for their lady friend to walk over. Romance. Chivalry. Historical. I can write about that. Here’s what I got:

I laughed. I actually backed out of the search and was prepared to type in something far more safe. Victorian, perhaps, where the strangest thing I would get would be an image of a house. Unfortunately, as a writer, you have to write about things outside your comfort zone in order to become better. I will probably never write a non-fiction book about cars. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be able to write a few words about them. In fact, learning to write a few words about cars, even if I don’t write directly about them but rather, tie it in to my overall concept, is going to make me better. I find that when I’m writing only a handful of words (25, 50, 100) about things I don’t understand, I’m much more careful- each one counts.

Did I have any desire to do a writing exercise this morning wherein I had to create 50 words about the car pictured above? No. I wanted romance, damn it.

So I did both. I did something solid about cars – a sales pitch with a love angle. Exactly 50 words. No more. No less. Not great. Not terrible. You have to make a concept work for you. Be willing to think outside the box.

Now it’s your turn. Please feel free to share your 50 words in the comments. Trust me when I say that this not a judgmental space.

Just like first love, this car is strong, sturdy, and prepared to steal your heart. Recently restored, it is suited for collectors, first time owners or old souls. Relive your childhood or make memories to share with your children. Take it for a test drive today – you won’t regret it.

What We’re Doing Here

Let’s discuss writer’s block. I find that the opinions on this vary quite a bit. There are those who say that writer’s block is not a real thing – that muses are folly. Personally, I’m of the belief that writers block is a real thing.

“Pish posh!” You might say. Or perhaps, you screamed out a resounding “yes!” in your head upon reading those words. Either way, you’ve made it this far. You may as well keep reading.

I’ve spent countless hours, sitting in from of a notebook or a computer, writing, crossing out, rewriting, standing, stretching, walking around, cursing the heavens, sitting back down and having my mind still be totally and completely void of words. Or perhaps the words are there in a jumbled lot and they kind of trip and stutter their way out onto a page and then – no. Delete. Delete. Delete.

That’s how it went – for years and years and years. I had these high aspirations – writing a book was by and far my largest. And while it was a beautiful idea in theory, I could never write more than a few sentences or a few paragraphs before I’d read back through it, sigh in frustration and tell myself that I was a terrible writer, delete it, shut down my laptop, and writhe around in my disappointment for a few weeks before I tried again. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. For years.

Then, one day, I read some advice that totally changed my perspective on writing. It was in an interview done with one of my favorite authors. She said – quit deleting things or you’ll never finish. Just write it.

Well, gee, I’d never thought about that before. It seemed so obvious. So easy. So simple.

The problem then came down to my terrible writer’s block. It was one thing to write something so awful that you wished only to burn it, but it was an entirely different matter to have nothing to hate on. I had to fix this.

I didn’t know where to begin. I began taking notes. You know, like, when you’re out at dinner and inspiration strikes so you scribble your idea on a napkin, take it home, and turn it into a bestselling novel. The trouble was, by the time I’d get home, I couldn’t get beyond the idea that I’d scribbled down.

I started to do exercises for the old brain. I would wake up a full hour before I had to get ready and go into work. Sitting in front of my computer with a cup of coffee, I’d just type a random word into Google. Fish. Cow. Fire. Purse. Cup. Sing. Apothecary.

From there, I’d click on that handy dandy “images” link. Closing my eyes, I’d pick a random number from one through 10. Then I’d open my eyes, choose that photo (even if I hated it, and more often than not I really hated it) and write 25 words about it. After doing that for a week, I raised that number to 50. Then 100.

Around that time, I started to think, “hey, this whole writing thing is coming to me pretty easily now. I need a bigger challenge.”

That’s about the time that I got it in my head to do 365 with A Twist – a photo/short story challenge. It sucked. I’m not going to lie, I agonized constantly over my words. I freaking hated almost everything that I wrote – but that didn’t stop me from publishing them on my blog.

And then, one day, I decided that I was going to turn one of those short stories that I actually quite liked into a book.

And that took me weeks and weeks to actually begin. In fact, the only thing that got me to start AND finish was a challenge I discovered through a publishing company. Without it, I can’t say I wouldn’t still be sitting on my laurels. The truth is, however, that I have two books out and I’m working on a third.

So now we’re to the point where you say, “well, gee, that’s great, but what does this have to do with writer’s block and making me a better writer?”

Maybe something. Maybe nothing. The thing is, I deeply wish I’d had a mentor during this time of writer’s struggle. I could have saved myself years of agony if someone had just sat me down and said “you’ve got the ability, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice. And here is how to do that.” Writing is like anything else – a sport, learning to cook, learning to dance. Practice makes perfect. Or, if not perfect, better.

I plan to offer advice on here. Advice as a writer, advice as a woman, advice as an almost 30-something that will hopefully show you, man or woman, that you’re not the only one feeling like your writing sucks. I also hope to offer various free exercises for my readers that can help them hone their own writing skills.

The advice and the exercises aren’t professionally backed. You’ll be participating of your own free will because maybe you think this crazy red-head can help you out a little bit. You game?