Saturday, April 23, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: T is for Time

T is for Time

Time. That elusive quality in which we are immersed, yet cannot be seen or felt. Physicists assure me that we all have been aloted the same amount of time--that each day contains exactly 86,400 seconds. Why then does time speed up and slow down according to some unseen clock from within?

Why does time pass in flash when I am writing and slow to a standstill when I am waiting for my writing to be reviewed?

As writers, we have a unique relationship with time. We travel forward and backward with each penned word--entering the future or delving into the past. We are time travelers shifting freely from era to era. Why then does it feel as though there is never enough time?

A to Z Blogging Challenge: S is for Sometimes . . .

S is for Sometimes you need to surprise yourself. We become so accustomed to planning out what we should write, to laying the ground work for articles or blog posts that we forget that sometimes our greatest work comes from a place deep within that doesn't require a map. If you are anything like I am, and I assume you are if you are reading this, you may have fallen prey to "following the formula"--whatever your particular formula may be--and sometimes forget there are other ways to write.

Predictable is good when it comes to providing exactly what the client wants or meeting the particular need of the reader, but it isn't always inspired. Sometimes, going with your inspiration leads you to new areas you hadn't thought about.

Although I don't recommend writing everything on a whim, I have found that several of my articles that were written "off the top of my head" have faired much better that those I slaved over to get just right. It could be coincidence, of course, but I prefer to think that listening to my inner voice is the reason for their success.

Last night, I was talking to a writer friend who was working on a serious list for List My Five about the best degrees for online writers. On a whim, I wrote one too, but mine turned out a little differently than hers. The Top Five Degrees for Online Writers summed up my thoughts at the moment.

It's not great literature and not even great writing, but sometimes you need to surprise yourself with something different, just to keep the creative juices flowing.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: R is for Relaxation

R is for Relaxation

Many online writers become so caught up in writing for new sites, finding new gigs and simply trying to become successful that they forget the value of relaxation. I don't mean laying around all day doing nothing. I mean relaxation that renews the soul and rejuvenates the mind.

Purposeful relaxation can inspire you to reach new heights in your writing, for it is in these moments that insights come and thoughts gel.

Make time for relaxation. For me that means quiet time in the garden or long walks in nature. It means watching the sunset or the sunrise, star gazing or sitting quietly beside the babbling brook. 

It may mean different things to you, but the bottom line is; relaxation is the fuel that ignites the writer's flame.  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Q is for Quit Worrying About It

Q is for Quit Worrying about everyone else.

When you write online there is a tendency to measure your success according to how well others are doing, but this is wrought with difficulties. There will always be those who manage to produce mediocre work but seem to fall into opportunities that bring them success. If you compare yourself to them, you will always find disappointment-- so quit worrying about it.

There are also those who would have you believe they are wildly successful who really aren't. Many are hesitant to say this ... but ... They LIE. I know it's not politically correct for me to say that, but it's the truth. People lie about how much money they make and about the number of page views they receive. 

Unless you know the writer personally, or have personally seen their earnings, you have no way to know if what they are telling you is the truth. So, quit worrying about it.

A to Z Blogging Challenge: P is for Popularity Contest

P is for Popularity Contest
If you are in the habit of writing for one or two sites and frequent the forums of those site, you may have noticed that "some people" are a bit more popular that others. In some cases, this may be because they are skilled writers and are genuinely interested in helping others, but most of them aren't. Many are self-appointed experts who think that being popular is a reflection of their writing ability. These people are still in high school--at least on an emotional level--and will drag you into their drama if you let them.

Writing isn't about being popular. It isn't even about being liked. Don't get sucked into an online clique--unless of course, that's what you are looking for.

If you are looking for help and support from other writers, choose your online friends carefully and guard against turning it into a popularity contest.

O is for Oops

Apparently, following  the alphabet is a bit more difficult that I anticipated -- but then it gives me the opportunity to address those moments when "we writers" make careless errors.  We all do it. Sometimes it goes unnoticed and other times it turns into a major issue, but it happens. If you are writing professionally, chances are you have an amazing editor that catches your errors for you.

If you don't have an editor, enlist the help of another writer -- or a grammar Nazi  if grammar is your weak point-- to read your work for you to catch those pesky errors that evade the writer's eyes.

If that isn't an option, set your work aside and review it the next day for errors.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: M is for Making it Matter

M is for Making it Matter

Over the past few years, I've seen many a writer become so wrapped up in making money from what they write that they have lost sight of why they started writing in the first place. I'm not naive enough to think that making money from what you write isn't important. It is. At least for those of us who choose to make a living from our writing. But, it shouldn't be the only reason we write.

Consider for a moment why you chose to be a writer in the first place.

Why do you write? For some the answer may be to educate or to inform, for others it may be to bring enlightenment to the world, for still others it may be to silence the voice that cries out in the silence of the night. Consider that reason and get in the habit of making it matter.

Focus on your reason for being a writer today and strive to serve that inner drive in a way that really matters. If you are in the habit of writing "content" that a client requests, you may have lost touch with your inner voice.

Step outside that role today. Breathe deeply and consider what you really have to say to the world. Infuse that purpose in everything you write today.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: N is for Never Say Never

N is for Never Say Never

As an online writer it is easy to get lulled into the habit of sticking with the "tried and true" or to assume that if something doesn't work the first time it will never work. We all know that to find success online we need to keep our options open and be willing to try new sites and new approaches--yet somehow we always fall back on what is familiar.

I've tried Squidoo for a few lenses and although I've had some success with gaining readers, the money hasn't followed. This has led me to draw the conclusion that I will Never make a go of it on Squidoo. Today, I decided to forget my resolve to stay clear and to try a few stand-alone lenses to see what happens.

It isn't like it cost me anything--other than a few hours of my time--but truth be told, they were my play hours. I actually had a little fun putting together a quick lens. Feel free to stop by Healthy Brain Tips: It's Only a Thought.

And remember to Never Say Never to an opportunity just because it didn't work out in the past. People and circumstances change. What may have seemed a waste of your efforts in the past just may prove to be a big success now.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: M is for Money

M is for Money. Let's face it. If you are an online writer looking for tips to become more successful online, money pays a big  part in your decisions. Although how much money you make may not be a good indication of how skilled you are as a writer, it does reflect how skilled you are in the business of writing.

Over the past few years, I've discovered some amazing things about writers and their money. Some aren't going to like me for what I have to say, but I would be remiss if I didn't warn new writers of this tiny quirk. Writers lie. Especially when it comes to money. Many would have you believe they are wildly successful and raking in the money for their work, when they really aren't. 

Maybe it stems from those who see writing online as a hobby and really think a few dollars a month is making a lot of money.  Maybe it stems from the belief that if you see and present yourself as successful others will see you that way too. Maybe it stems from the belief that no one will know the difference so embellishing is okay. I really don't know. But I have seen writers who wouldn't dream of lying about nearly anything else, lie about the money they make.

Guard against measuring yourself against the money claim to make with their writing. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Loosen Up a Little

Writing can be serious business, but when it becomes so serious that you no longer have fun with your writing, its a sign you need to Loosen Up a Little. Find a fun project to do, write a silly article, cast caution to the wind and stop worrying about the grammar Nazi's out there who fill find your misplaced comma.

I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't do your best and you shouldn't take the time to proofread your work. I'm just suggesting that you stop obsessing over it. Give yourself permission to Loosen up a Little today and see what happens.

A to Z Blogging Challenge: K is for Know Your Audience

K is for Know Your Audience

We've all been told how important it is to Know your audience, but some new writers make the mistake of thinking they have "one" audience and that everything they write should be geared towards this imagined audience. This simply isn't true. Each piece, unless you are writing a column or a blog geared toward a specific group of people, has its own audience. I write on a variety of topics from gardening to the paranormal. Each niche has its own audience.

Its okay to write for multiple audiences, in fact, it can be a lot of fun. Just keep in mind the audience you are writing for at the moment and gear your work to meet their interests and their needs.

A to Z Blogging Challenge: J is for Judge Not ...

J is for Judge Not

As a writer it is easy to fall into the habit of judging yourself against the accomplishments of others. It's easy to think that others are more successful than you are. Sometimes that comes from not being able to view yourself clearly--sometimes it comes from other writers inflating their worth and implying that they are a bit more successful than they really are--or misinterpretations along the way. What I might call a booming revenue share base, you may consider mere pennies.

Guard against judging your work and your accomplishments against some real or imagined success of others.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: I is for Inspiration

I is for Inspiration
Sometimes, inspiration comes when we least expect it. Other times we need to help it along. I've devoted a blog to inspirational quotes, a personal reflection and expressions of gratitude called In the Direction of Dreams.

This blog's focus is the power of gratitude in activating the law of attraction in your life and working toward reaching your goals. If you find yourself needing a bit of inspiration or simply encouragement to work toward you goals, stop by In the Direction of Dreams.

A to Z Blogging Challenge: H is for Help a New Writer

H is for Help a new writer.

It's easy to forget that the world of online writing can be confusing to the new writer--from choosing a site to publish their work to mastering the templates for submitting their work. Being ready and willing to help them out goes a long where toward their success.

If you are a new writer, or new to online writing, check out my free lessons listed on the right of this blog. I hope you find them helpful.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: G is for Goals

G is for Goals

Some of you may be aware that my writing goals for the year include writing more about the things I love and am passionate about and less for the almighty dollar. That shouldn't be confused with writing to earn a living. Obviously there are needs to be met and money to earn--but I am in control of how I do that. 

So often, online writers get caught up in the rush for page views and revenue share, following the direction of the current winds, that they forget why they started writing in the first place. This year, my  goal is to write less because I think it will be popular and more about things that I know are important to people's lives.

That's not to say I won't continue to fulfill assignments and do my best to meet the needs of the client--but that work will be carefully scheduled and done during "office hours". That work will pay my bills. But, I will also schedule time for my other writing, as it fuels the writer within.

Setting goals to include both your high-paying work and work that you are passionate about helps maintain balance in your life as a writer. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: F is for Fun

F is for Fun

Writing should be fun, at least some of the time. Sure, there are times when you simply need to bite the bullet and give the client what he wants, but when you forget to take the time to have fun with your writing, everyone suffers.

I've already written on this topic, so I won't repeat it here. You can read all about why writing for fun is important in 10 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Writing for Fun.

I'd love to hear what you think about today's topic.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

E is for Engage Your Reader: A to Z Blogging Challenge

E is for Engage Your Reader

If you are new to online writing, you've probably heard a lot about the value of engaging your reader and may even be wondering exactly what that means. Many new writers mistakenly think engaging the reader means giving a call to action. Sometimes, a call to action is needed to engage the reader, but that isn't always the case.

According to Merriam-Webster,  Engage is defined as:
5. a : to hold the attention of : engross <her work engages her completely> b : to induce to participate <engaged the shy boy in conversation>

Your job as a writer is to hold the attention of the reader or induce them to participate. So how does a reader participate?  Readers participate when they connect to with your work. They participate when they entertain your ideas and thoughts or when they make connections to things in their own lives.

Tips to Engage Readers

  • Write in the language they understand. Readers don't engage with pretentious words and jargon (unless of course that is the language of your audience)--they engage when the language  is easy to understand.
  • Add personal experience. Readers engage with writing that springs from personal experience. It builds a bond between the reader and the writer, at least for a moment. Never under-estimate the power of personal experience to engage readers.
  • Keep it relevant. Personal experience is a powerful tool to engage readers, but when you wander off to stories of Great Aunt Edna's false teeth, readers tend to disengage.
  • Give them something to think about. Even that article about cleaning the bathtub has room for thought. Present your information so it allows the reader to draw their own conclusions instead of telling them what they should think.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: D is for Don't Get Discouraged with Writer's Block

D is for Don't Get Discouraged with Writer's Block

As writers, we all know the effect getting discouraged has on our writing. When writer's block strikes, as it sometimes will, cultivate the habit of walking away before you get discouraged. Every writer has his own way of dealing with writer's block, but here are a few that have worked for others.
  • Go for a walk. There is something about combining physical activity with the world of nature that frees both the mind and soul.
  • Take a hot bath. Relaxing the muscles often brings about relief for writer's block.
  • Watch a movie. Focusing your attention on someone else's story often does wonders for freeing your own.
  • Play. Take some time to play.

C is for Connect with Other Writers

As an online writer, you probably deal with friends and family members who simply don't understand what you do all day. They may even think you are "playing on your computer" while the rest of the world rushes off to work. Other writers understand your frustration and can ease the isolation you experience from writing from home--but that's not the only reason to Connect with Other Writers.

When you Connect with Other Writers you can . . .
  • Learn from their success.
  • Share writing resources.
  • Find writing leads.
  • Offer your support.
  • Share ideas.

B is for Be Ready: A to Z Blogging Challenge

B is for Be Ready

As an online writer it is vital to Be Ready when opportunity knocks. Sometimes, opportunity comes bursting through the front door and announces, "I'm here!" But other times it sneaks in the back door with hardly a squeak. As a writer, you need to be ready to seize opportunity when it arrives.

  • Write every day whether you have a paying gig or not. Writing keeps the juices flowing and keeps the mind focused.
  • Try new writing styles. Skilled writers don't rely on only one style. They try out new voices, play with new topics and explore new ideas. 
  • Explore your options. Just because you currently write for one writing site doesn't mean you can't write for others, too. 

Why Online Writers Should Aim for Their Best

Some of you may beware of the bloggers A to Z Challenge for the month of April. Quite simply, by joining the challenge you commit to posting with a topic or image from A to Z on everyday except Sunday through the month of April. Even though its already 4 days into the month, I decided to join today. If you are interested you can check it out on Tossing It Out or click on the Graphic to the right.

A is for Aim for Your Best

As an online writer its easy to get lulled into thinking that producing your best work really isn't necessary. Throwing a quick article together might seem like a harmless act, particularly if you are pressed for time. After all, we all know that what sells on the Internet isn't always quality. We've all met the wildly successful writer who writes pure drivel, but somehow manages to bring in readers. There are a number of reasons for that, but I won't go into it, now. The focus of today's post is you and aiming for your personal best.

Let's take a look at the benefits when you always Aim for Your Best.

  • Builds pride in your work. When you aim for your best, you produce work that you can be proud of.
  • Builds your portfolio. Aiming for your best adds quality pieces to your portfolio.
  • No worries. When you always aim for best, you don't need to worry that something will come back to haunt you someday when you apply for that dream position.
  • Keeps you honest. Aiming for your best in everything you write keeps you honest. It's at lot like handing in the shoddy piece of homework. If you get away with it once, it just gets easier from there and before you know it, you've lost your edge.
  • Builds your writing skills. Your work may not always be perfect, but when you aim for your best with every piece, you are continually building your writing skills.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chasing Page Views and Ad Clicks: Is it Worth It?

As an online writer you may have already discovered that the thrill of chasing page views and ad clicks dies long before you are in a position to retire. You may experience disappointment with your success and wonder if its even worth continuing. Believe me when I say we have all been there.

That first moment when you realize that "following all the rules" for online writing simply gets you in the door--but doesn't guarantee success--is the worst. It is then that we must face the uncomfortable truth that we have "sold out" to make the almighty dollar without even realizing it.

In our zeal to bring in readers, to build residual income or to be recognized by our peers, we often forget the reason we began writing in the first place. For some, it is easy. For them writing isn't about sharing a message or baring the soul--its about earning a living with a skill that comes easy for them. For those unfortunate souls, writing is merely the means to the end. Writing is a way to earn money online.

Finding Balance
But, for those of us who seek something more, the road is not as smooth. But there are ways to reap the rewards of both worlds and keep your writer's soul intact. I like to think of it two different kinds of writing. One is for money. I do that writing for specific clients. I set my hours, I put in my time and I consider it work. Writing for money pays my bills.

I always reserve time for writing for fun. That writing belongs to me. It has my voice. Its in my style and it expresses who I really am as writer. Sometimes, it is keyword-rich and aimed to a specific audience or written on a highly searched topic. Sometimes, it is obscure aimed at a small audience who I'd like to share with. Sometimes, it is a personal rambling that satisfies no one but me. But it is always mine, untouched by the obsessive chase for page views and ad clicks.

If you find yourself in the uncomfortable position where you question whether the chase for page views and ad clicks is worth your efforts, it doesn't mean its time to call it quits. It simply means its time to set some boundries on how much you give to the craft of making money online with your writing and how much you reserve for only you. 
  • Start a blog about something you really care about. It doesn't matter if it is lame or unpopular. Its your blog and it isn't meant to earn money, although it can if you choose to monetize it. I must caution you though, that as soon as the ads go up, your thoughts will shift and you will suddenly find yourself chasing page views and ad clicks. If you want to avoid that pressure. Don't monetize it. Create other blogs for money--but keep one blog for you that doesn't require censoring or isn't tainted by the almighty dollar. My blog In Due Time has never been monetized, it isn't about making money and it provides me with a place to write without concerns about page views and ad clicks.
  • Take risks. If you publish on sites that allow you to choose your own topics, learn to take risks. Write some articles just for fun or to share your views with the world. Don't worry that it might not bring in thousands of readers or earn hundreds in revenue share. Write them because they are fun. Write in your voice and your style. You may be surprised by the responses you get. My blog In the Direction of Dreams is a collection of inspirational quotes followed by a brief reflection and expression of gratitude. It's not searchable. It isn't SEO'd--but it is personal. I am constantly amazed by the readers it draws in and the reactions it gets.
  • Have fun. Writing can be hard work, but it can also be fun. Get in the habit of having fun with what your write on a daily basis.