May 1

Transformational Writing

Transformation

At the Ottawa Writer’s Fest, I had the pleasure of hearing Cherie Dimaline speak. She restored my faith in fiction, saying that it can be transformational. I take that to mean that it really changes a person in a core way. It’s not like when you see photos of chocolate then you eat nothing but chocolate for a month. I mean, that will transform you, but not in any positive sort of way. Transformational fiction is writing that makes you think about real life situations, and sometimes you’ll want to help people or join a cause because of it.

I didn’t really think of fiction as transformational in the past. I love to write it and read it, but I often think of it as a bit of waste of time. You can write a story that parallels modern day horrors on this planet and subtly or even brutally put your readers in a scene that causes enough discomfort to spark a change in ideology or practice.

From now on, everything I write is going to start with the condition that it’s transformational, and I hope you’ll give it a try too.

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April 8

Punishment vs Reward

Writer

Writing should be fun and inspirational, but how do you do it more often. I often think of writing like exercise:

  1. It’s something I want to do;
  2. It’s something I need to do;
  3. It’s something that will benefit me;
  4. If I build it into my routine it becomes easier;
  5. It’s something I don’t have time for;
  6. I just don’t feel like it right now.

Number 5 and 6 can make you go years without writing. Either you don’t have the time or just don’t feel like it. A lot of people will set about to punish themselves. In almost every case, this is a bad solution and won’t work in the long term. Sometimes punishments can masquerade as time management or self improvement. Some examples of punishment might be:

  1. I’ll stop watching television;
  2. I’ll spend less time hanging out with my friends;
  3. I won’t play video games ever again.

Taking something out of your life that you enjoy isn’t a permanent solution. You might find yourself writing more, but you might also end up being more unhappy. Certainly if there are things that waste your time that you don’t enjoy, cut those out. That would be a reward, so go for it. Otherwise, think about rewards that work for you.

  1. Once I complete my first chapter, I’m going to buy myself that new pair of shoes I’ve been wanting;
  2. I’m going to watch an hour of television right after I write a poem;
  3. Once I’ve completed that short story, I’m going to play video games.

For those who have very little time, keep in mind the time where you wait. Almost everyone has to wait for something at some point. You wait for the doctor, the dentist, friends, business meetings, family members, husbands, and wives. For those who take buses, trains, or planes, you can write while you’re commuting. In all of this time you spend waiting, you might be able to get a full novel complete within 2 years.

Good luck, and starting writing again. Feel free to contact me if you want to chat about your next project.

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December 1

#Write everyday – no excuses

Here I am writing a blog post between sets on my phone. So what’s your excuse?

Whatever your excuse, I understand, truly, no judgement. For the last twenty years, I’ve had more excuses than actual time writing. I did manage to squeak out a couple of novels, some poetry and short stories, but the real key to writing is routine, at least for me.

I’ve probably gone a whole year at a time without “putting pen to paper.” If you can set aside time to write, even if it’s between sets while working out, five times a week, that accumulates. That’s a novel every year or two.

Careers in writing are built in years not months. Whatever your excuse to not write, find time. Find five minutes before bed. Take 15 minutes at lunch. Keep doing it frequently. If you really don’t have five to fifteen minutes a day to spare, reach out and get help. I mean that seriously, not to make fun at all. Everyone needs some free time. Find the time and write.

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September 9

Writing is the Cure for Everything

Are any of the following true for you?

You:

  1. Can’t sleep at night.
  2. Feel to sick to do anything.
  3. Are currently unemployed or not working enough hours.
  4. Are suddenly bored all the time or find yourself with a lot of free time.
  5. Have been injured and can’t do much.

Is writing really the cure for everything?

  1. Writing your thoughts and feelings down might help you to resolve things, calm down, and sleep better at night.
  2. Writing can help take your mind off of feeling sick.
  3. If you’re writing for money, that will help get you out of the unemployment slump.
  4. Writing something very unique and adventurous will help cure boredom and kill some free time.
  5. Writing can help take your mind off of your injury.

The reality is, writing won’t really cure everything, but it can help. More importantly, people often think they don’t have time to write, but they still spend time being injured, bored, unemployed, sick, and unable to sleep. These are opportunities for anyone that normally doesn’t have time in their lives to write. For instance, I don’t have any work to do at this very moment, so I’m writing a blog post about how writing is the cure for everything.

My answer to free time is always to fill it with television until I find something else to occupy my time. Then work, family, exercise, or sometimes even texting and Facebook come along and take any little bit of free time I have left over. The real question I have for myself and any other writer/procrastinator out there is, what the hell are we waiting for?

Let’s show the damn world that we can write. Even if it’s not perfect and they don’t love it. You have a better chance of writing something great if you try hundreds of times than not at all.

Here is what free time could equal in writing:

  1. 1 or 2 hours a month: a poem a month, 12 poems a year, 120 poems a decade.
  2. 1 or 2 hours a week: a short story a month, 12 short stories a year, 120 short stories a decade.
  3. 1 or 2 hour a day: a novel a year, 10 novels a decade.

Finding just a little bit of free time in our day to day accumulates to massive gains in terms of writing. Let it be your cure.

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June 10

Write What You Feel

If a tear rolls down your cheek, write about it. If you clench your fist or grind your teeth, enraged at the world, write it down. Next time you smile, smile on paper. Capturing your real emotions is so much easier than trying to invent emotions for the piece you are writing.

That moment, that single moment when you don’t really feel anything, that’s the moment to edit. That is the moment to look back objectively on your work and say, yeah, I want to cut down that rage scene a bit. It might not be realistic that I murdered him, cloned him then murdered him again.

Your work should honestly reflect who you are. If you’re sad, your work can be melancholy. Don’t try to be the writer you’re not. Be the writer you are. It makes life easier, and people will like your work much more if it’s honest.

So, I’ve never murdered a person, but I like to write about murder. Is that honest? Yes! Sorry for the preceding exclamation mark, but sometimes they are necessary. Just because I’m smart and compassionate enough to have never taken a life, doesn’t mean that I haven’t fantasized about leaving a few bodies in my wake. That’s the honesty that I work with, the feelings, not necessarily the actions.

Give it and try, and let me know how it works for you.

February 27

Content Ninja

Content NinjaA ninja is someone who is stealthy, patient, intelligent, and cunning. A good web writer is like a ninja, except we don’t usually wear cool costumes or intimidate people with sharp weapons.

Here are five reasons to hire a content ninja:

  1. SEM Plan or Ninja Infiltration Scheme – a content ninja will start out with a plan of the keywords that your site needs to target. There will be some separation between words you actually target, words you want to target, and words people are searching for. Having this plan ahead of time will create transparency, so anyone working on the site will know which words to and how to better target them.
  2. SEO or Ninja Sneakiness – every word a content ninja writes on a web site has value. A carefully crafted page can encourage search engines like Google to rank your site higher for specific keywords, like Content Writers for Hire. This follows the SEM plan to directly target the words that have the highest value to your business.
  3. Readability or Ninja Intellect – non-ninja human beings are reading your site, so it’s important to know that content ninjas don’t just stuff your keywords too full of things like Expert Content Writers. You don’t want someone to think that you grabbed content from a Japanese site and ran it through Google Translate. The messages must be clear, concise, and when appropriate, even thematic. Engaging readers is probably the most important part of web writing.
  4. Corporate Message or Ninja Throwing Stars – a good, consistent business message is the weapon of the content ninja. It lends the business credibility and builds trust. Without this strong and consistent site wide message, the ninja would be going in unarmed. Don’t worry though, a good content ninja can help craft this message.
  5. Call to Action or Ninja Exit Strategy – a ninja always has an exit plan. A content ninja has an exit plan for site visitors. A site with a strong and obvious call to action, is a site that gets results. For instance, a message that clearly states hire me now, with a link to a hire me form would be one simple example of a call to action.
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August 2

Free Web Writing and Editing

Cobbet Elementary School
Cobbet Elementary School (Photo credit: Office of Governor Patrick)

My old man used to tell me there is no such thing as a free lunch. Well I sure showed him when I literally won a free turkey lunch in elementary school. Even the contest was free, so it didn’t cost me anything to enter.

Although not as free as a turkey lunch, for a short while, I’ll be offering free web writing and editing services. There is no real “catch,” but this is a mutually beneficial situation. As long as you’re not peddling anything that I consider morally offensive, we’ll agree to the number of pages and amount of revisions that I’ll be writing or editing. In return, you will graciously offer me a small site wide link on the footer of your site that reads: “Written by: Son of Sappho” and links back to my site. I can even help you add it, if you need that.

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June 14

Father’s Day

The cool thing about father’s day is not giving or receiving gifts. The cool thing is having great people to celebrate with.

My dad and I don’t have a great relationship, but he did help me with my love for writing. Thank you dad and thank you to my wonderful wife and children for what I know will be a wonderful day.

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June 13

Writing Tests

I’m in the middle of applying to a few different writing sites. Although many will take your portfolio into account, most of them give simple writing tests. The great thing about a writing test is that if you actually write well but don’t have a great deal of experience, you can get some good paying jobs. So, for those of you taking a writing test, I recommend double checking your spelling and grammar. If you’re not asked to be objective, keep the writing positive, unless it is a critique.

Other than that, keep your tone consistent and make sure to read and read again.

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April 9

Ghostwriters

It's a ghost!
It’s a ghost! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ghostwriting is evil. Now that I’ve shared my obvious bias, let me try my best to give you my impartial views on ghostwriting.

Ghostwriter Defined by Son of Sappho

A writer who writes anything for remuneration (usually money) without receiving the official credit for it. This means that you do the work, sell it to someone else, and they get all the credit for it.

Three Reasons to be a Ghostwriter

  1. You should get paid a lot more money;
  2. You can do it as a second job without anyone knowing about it;
  3. You could get the opportunity to be paid for creative work that you might not otherwise get.

Three Reasons not to be a Ghostwriter

  1. You usually can’t use any of the work in your portfolio;
  2. It’s next to impossible to get ahead based on your name, since you are always promoting other people;
  3. You’re less likely to ever create the type of work that you envision, since you are always creating another person’s ideas.

I’ll certainly grant that there might be times a writer doesn’t care about having their name on something. Perhaps you wrote a boring manual that you don’t want in your portfolio, and maybe you got paid really well to write it. For me, if I write anything that is at all worth mentioning, I put that in my portfolio, and I’ve never had to hide any of the work I’ve done.

Imagine for a moment that I go to an artist and ask him to paint a beautiful sunset for me, but I tell him that I’m going to own 100% of the rights to that painting. I pay the artist accordingly, and I get to put my name in the bottom right hand corner and tell everyone I painted it. I’m not suggesting this has never happened in history, but the idea of it is preposterous, and I feel the same way about ghostwriting.

I can’t even begin to understand why anyone would want to let someone else take credit for their work.

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