Category: Writing

My Guilty Pleasure Revealed

Life is stressful. If you’re me, you’ve got a kid, you’ve got a business, you’ve got appointments, and you’ve got to deal with people on a regular basis. It is critical that you take time to unwind. Take time for yourself. Get your head out of the real world. At least that’s what I have to do to get through each week.

Allow me to admit my guilty pleasure. Brace yourselves! I watch TV series in marathon sessions, thanks to instant video streaming. That’s right. I’m a Netflix junkie. And Amazon.com. And whatever else works.

I’ve watched Breaking Bad in a shockingly short period of time, Dexter, Melissa & Joey, and Star Trek. And I hate to admit it, but I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy, all the seasons, more than once. More than twice. Okay, okay. I have no idea how many times I’ve watched it. But living in these fantasy worlds, day in and day out, gives me something to do on a regular basis that has nothing to do with my life. It’s a relief, even when the subject matter is a bit…extreme.

Clearly I don’t work and watch my shows at the same time. That would obviously defeat the purpose. But I will break out my crochet hooks or knitting needles, and even sometimes my exercise bike, and settle down for mindless entertainment. And with Smartphone technology I can even take my shows with me wherever I go. Not necessarily a good thing, but if I’m waiting for my daughter to get out of a homeschool class that’s too short for me to get actual work done, I have something to pass the time.

I’m sure we all have our guilty pleasures. What’s yours?

Freelance Timekeeping

vintage parking meter

So you’re a freelancer. Maybe you write for businesses. Maybe you’re a graphic designer. Whatever kind of freelance work you do, it’s essential that you keep track of your time. You need to know how long it takes you to finish a 3-panel brochure. Otherwise, the next time you quote your project, you may estimate incorrectly. You might also need to work on an hourly basis from time-to-time, so of course you’ll need to know exactly how much you should charge the client.

The wonderful thing about freelancing, from your client’s perspective, is that they pay you only for time on task. You’re not paid for phone breaks, laundry time, or the 20 minutes it took you to wash your dishes. If you work from home, these little interruptions can add up. Unless you’re able to work for uninterrupted blocks of time, you need a system to keep track of your time.

Now, how fancy do you want to get? There are lots of cool tools you can use on your computer. Check out this list from Freelance Switch. Or you can use a stopwatch that allows you to stop it for breaks and restart it from the last time when you’re ready. You can download a stopwatch application for your smartphone also. Or you can just take note of the time on a piece of paper, and write down when you stop, and write down when you start again. Later, you just add up all the time.

After you’ve done timekeeping for several projects, you probably will need to have some system in place to keep a log of total time spent. This is great for future projects of a similar nature that you want to price, and it’s also a good idea for your tax records (in case anyone ever asks).

What methods for timekeeping do you use? Have you tried one method, only to realize it didn’t work? Share with us!

Should grammar and spelling count?

Right or wrong?

Are correct grammar and spelling relics of a happier, gentler time? It seems that with texting and online social media, grammar and spelling have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Everything is shortened, misspellings are acceptable (even celebrated), and no one seems to bother with sentences anymore.

I recently had a discussion with some teacher certification classmates. We were debating whether or not students’ grades should be based, in part, on their use of correct English. I argued that content was more important. For instance, if a student is taking a science or history course, it’s more important that they show their understanding of the topic, despite how they write (unless they’re misspelling “mitochondria” or “civil war”). A classmate argued that if he were doing the grading, he would grade the subject matter separately, and then decrease the grade by a minus “point” if the writing were terrible.

I’m not so sure. I think grading based on the correct usage of English puts some students at an unfair advantage. In my certification program, because it’s an online course, we are graded solely on what we write and submit to our professor. As a professional writer and editor, my submissions are easily “A” work, yet I don’t have to break a sweat. Other people may actually be working much, much harder. They may be taking an hour to write what only took me five minutes (I can also type fast). Is that fair? While I’m glad that I don’t have to work so hard, I realize that others my actually have a better understanding of the subject. But there’s no way for them to show it.

On the other hand, I find it disturbing that many bad writers don’t even know that they’re writing incorrectly. They use “their,” “there,” and “they’re” interchangeably, they misspell common phrases like “hear, hear,” and they couldn’t tell you the difference between an adjective and an adverb (and thus, they would use them incorrectly). It’s one thing to misspell on purpose for the sake of writing a text or a Tweet, but is it okay that so many have no clue?

What do you think? How important is grammar and spelling in a world where it doesn’t seem to matter?

A little bird told me…

coloured chick

I started Tweeting almost one year ago. And boy, has it been an interesting journey! Twitter is a fascinating tool, and I’ve met cool people and learned new things. One of the things I love most about it is connecting with people in my local area. It’s also great for marketing your blog and, by default, your business.

There’s a lot of power to harness with Twitter, so if you haven’t yet given it a try, you’ve simply got to start! Here’s what you do. After you sign up, start following a few interesting people you know (like me), and take a look at who they’re following. Follow a few of them, and also start looking at some local people (like a local radio or news station). You’ll start getting followers as you start following. And be sure you actually Tweet too.

For more ideas, check out my first post on the subject of Twitter.

If you’re not already following me on Twitter, go ahead and do so. There’s a link to my CrayonWriter account under my picture.

Do you use Twitter a lot? How do you use it?

Writing with limited time

Sundial

Being the parent of a small child can mean that time is a rare and valuable commodity. In my case, my daughter is now four years old, but we’ve had challenges finding adequate childcare. Part of the reason is because, in my heart, I’d rather not send her to school. My dream is to be a homeschooler. But I recognize that she loves being with other kids, and I’m pretty boring since I’m on the computer all of the time.

The other reason adequate childcare has been an issue is because I don’t have the most compliant child in the world. She prefers to do things her own way, which can be a challenge in the preschool setting. Her idea of fun is to do the opposite of what she’s told. Not usually in defiance (though sometimes), but usually because it’s just more interesting for her.

I refuse to “break” her and make her comply for the sake of complying. So I’ve changed schools a few times, and I recently changed teachers. I think this new teacher “gets” my daughter’s spirit, and so things are working out beautifully (for now). Unfortunately, this teacher only has an opening two days a week.

How do I find time to write/work/make money then? It’s tough! And with a child who wakes up at the crack of dawn, I am up early. And I’m not a night owl like I used to be in my younger days.

Here’s what I do.

I do what I can. And I try to push myself to do a little more than I think I can. My latest plan involves scheduling certain activities for each day. Not a rigid schedule, but I won’t try to write on my blog, cold call prospects, follow-up with prospects, write articles, edit articles, and go to the zoo all on the same day. Whenever I try to do that I often wind up doing absolutely nothing. It’s too overwhelming.

How’s it working for me? It’s still a bit overwhelming to try to make myself pare down my million-things list into smaller, more manageable chunks, but it’s a learning process and I’m trying. I think that’s what counts.

What about you? What are your strategies for writing with limited time?

Am I a Guru?

Gavel

One of my favorite ways to find writing gigs is through freelance job blogs. I recently applied for a job, and it turns out the client uses Guru.com to correspond with and pay their freelancers. I’d heard of Guru.com before, but a lot of writers say that with the bidding, pay gets watered down. So I never looked into it.

The gig I was applying for sounded cool, so I went on over to Guru.com to sign up (for free). Now that I’m there I’ll go ahead and fill out my profile and see if I can land some gigs this way too.

The more, the merrier. I’m beginning to realize that even though my goal is to work one-on-one with businesses that value writers (and are willing to pay accordingly), making no money is a quick way to get discouraged. “Right now” money takes the edge off.

Have you joined any bidding sites like Guru.com? Share your experiences with us.

Just keep writing. Just keep writing.

nemo's friends

Finding Nemo is one of my daughter’s favorite movies, and Dory’s cute little song, “Just keep swimming” came to mind. As an aspiring full-time writer, the only option is to just keep writing.

Controversial though it may be, I’ve decided to write for one of the lower-paying “writing mills,” Demand Studios. I’m not writing prize-winning articles, but I need to have some type of income while I market my “real” business. Demand Studios has been one of my staples along with my substitute teaching gigs. Their highest paying articles pay only $15 each, but I get to choose when and if I’ll write articles at any given time.

Demand Studios pays twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays), so as long as I can find articles interesting enough to churn out, and as long as I find the time to write them, I will definitely make some money. They do have editors, so you have to write well enough for your copy to be approved, but I haven’t had too much trouble with that.

For whatever reasons, they don’t accept everyone who applies, so if you’re interested check them out and see if it works for you. So far I haven’t checked to see if my accepted articles are published on the web yet, but all of them are slated to be on Ehow.com. I’ve written several bird-related articles, some home safety ones, and even some I just had an interest in learning about.

Writing good articles does require some research, and it can be argued that that time would be better spent marketing for your own business. But marketing brings future money, and, like me, you may need to get some “now” money. If you do write for Demand Studios or similar companies, just be sure to continue working toward your primary goal. Just keep writing and just keep marketing.

Also, writing consistently also allows me to exercise my writing mind. That’s always a good thing.

Do you write for Demand Studios? Have you? What do you think about writing for low pay?


Waiting for blogging inspiration? 6 ways to write anyway!

An idea.... recycle!

Blogging often and well requires a bit of blogging inspiration. But is it wise to wait until that next “big idea” hits you? This has been my problem lately, so that even when I have time to blog, I just can’t think of what to write.

But there is help for blogger’s block! Here are 6 ways to getting something written on the page (in no particular order).

1. Open the posting page, or whatever program you use to write your blog.

2. Start writing something. Anything!

3. Look at some old posts from your stash of feeds (you do subscribe to others’ blogs, right?)

4. Go to your Twitter or Facebook pages and read what your followers/friends talked about recently.

5. Read your own past posts. You can recycle old posts, perhaps putting a new spin on them, or even re-analyzing what you thought in the past.

6. Open your favorite stock photo source and glance at a few pics. Sometimes a pic will give you an idea about what to write.

7. Now that you’ve written something, go back and check it over for errors. And make sure it actually makes sense.

And that’s it! Don’t spend too much time researching, thinking, or agonizing over what to write. That’s why it’s important to at least get that writing window open.

How do you find inspiration to write new blog posts?

Writing on the go

Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t fit in writing, especially if you take advantage of modern technology.

I just got a new cellphone with a keypad, internet, and all sorts of cool features, so I can quickly type out blog topic or even a blog post while I’m out and about. When an idea pops into my head, of course I can write it on a piece of paper or in a notebook, but that hasn’t worked for me.

So now I’ll be writing my quick ideas on my phone. If I have enough time, I’ll even login to my blog and write a whole post while mobile!

Have you used your mobile device to keep your writing “on” even when you’re out and about?

Start at the very beginning

Running track 1

As “Maria” from The Sound of Music says, starting at the very beginning is a very good place to start.

Recently I wrote Anne over at AboutFreelancing.com because I realize I feel like my freelance writing career needs to start over. While I don’t have to start over from scratch (I do have a good portfolio), I do need to get started again.

One piece of advice she had for me was to start writing on Crayon Writer again, even if it’s just a little bit, so here I am.

Next, I need to figure out what’s holding me back from being the writer I know I am.

What about you? Are you living your dreams? Any advice for those of us who aren’t quite ready?