Happy almost New Year, everybody. Hard to believe that another year has passed already, but it has. I look forward to what the new year will bring. In the meantime, I am still struggling with my Christmas cold, which came upon me a couple of days before Christmas and has hung on pretty tightly since.
It’s been a fun fest of cough medicine, tissues and late night coughing. I mean seriously, how much snot can one head hold?
I don’t know about you but I can be a pretty big baby when I’m sick and even I wish I could leave the room when I’m like that. The incessant whining, the sad eyes, the stooped posture. Yikes. And ironically, since it’s one of those bad head colds I can barely talk, so all my complainng comes out in Minnie Mouse like squeaks and squeals. Not a pretty thing, my friends.
However, it’s gotten me thinking. In my quest to beat the cold into submission, to meet it headlong in battle with light saber raised and determination glinting in my somewhat crusty eye, I realized it’s a losing battle. Yes, I can take the meds, get rest, drink fluids, and eat chicken soup but the thing is, the cold will take its course no matter what I do. All my focus on dare I say obsession with it, doesn’t do much to change it.
And from there I thought, it’s kind of how life is. We get slapped around and we fight back and then we get slapped some more. We get up and rattle our light sabers but then somebody kicks us in the head. It’s messy. It’s bloody. There’s lots of drool involved. And our all consuming focus on the problem only makes things seem more futile.
So I wondered if maybe it was a smarter to just let it be. You know what I mean? Just say, “Well, okay, that sucks.” And then move on. In fact, when I have been able to do this, often the problem works itself out.
Okay, what’s my point? Yes, I should definitely get to the point. The point is that what we focus on is what we get. Right? If we focus on problems then problems we get. But what if we focused on the good things that happen to us every day? And I promise you, no matter how bad you may think things are for you, good things do happen to you every day. You may not notice them, but they happen.
So maybe the trick is to start noticing those things. All those tiny little, lovely things that happen to you every day, like:
- The email you got from an old friend because you sent them a Christmas card
- The unexpected gift from a friend that arrived just when you were feeling low
- The wag of your dog’s tail or that special purr from your cat
- The snow on the mountains that you can see out your bathroom window
- The guy who let you into to traffic or the lady who let you cut in line at the grocery store
- You sold a book
- You got a review
- People you don’t even know read your blog or make a nice comment
- Somebody retweets you
- Starbucks sent you a coupon for a free coffee
- The freedom to get on the Internet and bitch and moan about anything and everything
- A great new book to read
The list goes on and on. Every one is really, truly a tiny little miracle. To be celebrated and appreciated and paid forward.
So, I don’t know about you, but I’m going out to look for the good things. Tiny as they may be, I know they’re out there. And as long as I have tissues to daubs my runny nose and eyes, I think I’ll be able to see them.
How about you? Do you notice all the little good things that happen to you every day? How did it make you feel? Feel free to share.
There are times in our life when everything goes right. So magical is this sudden stroke of luck that it feels like fate, destiny, and kismet. It seems there is nothing we can do wrong. Things just flow.
This smooth sailing can make you feel like you’ve finally arrived. You know where you’re headed. The path is so obvious that there is no need to plan or analyze. No need to look and for the cause and effect. You just know that you’ve finally found that sweet spot and you will never lose it again.
And then one day it changes
At first you don’t believe it. You think it’s just a little hiccup. Things will go back to normal – that smooth, effortless place where everything lines up and you move forward, making tremendous headway.
Except that the hiccup turns into a cough and the cough then turns into car accident and then the next thing you know, you’re sitting by the side of the road wondering what the hell happened.
That obvious path eludes you. And you haven’t a clue what you should do next. You seriously wonder if you should change course. Go in a different direction. You can feel frantic, desperate, anxious, and utterly confused. The urge to change everything is overwhelming because you don’t want to be in this terrible place of not knowing.
And it is human nature to change because life around you changes. To believe you are making a mistake. That you were wrong. That all arrows point in a different direction and you should follow those arrows. Follow the pack, where it’s safer and easier. To panic and do what everyone else is doing. To listen to those older and wiser than you.
When in doubt, don’t panic
It may well be that you’ve missed something. You didn’t notice a change you made. You failed to spot the real cause and effect of something. You didn’t notice this or that. So instead of panicking and deciding to sign up for some thousand dollar course or pursuing some ‘secret’ trick to turn things around, step back.
Analyze the period when you were doing well:
What were you doing? If you go back to the time period when you were doing well, you can often see that you were doing specific things that contributed to the success. And you may also notice that some things you were doing, you stopped doing. For example, a business may send out a promo piece, which results in more business. In the hurry to deliver, they drop out the promotion because they couldn’t do both.
How did you do it? Did you change your approach? Perhaps you hit your production early in the day then when things starting going well you decided that you could slough off a little. Take a longer lunch. Not work at all on some days. Lower your standards in the interest of getting more done.
Who helped you? We rarely succeed without help. There are always people who offer support, back up, and help of one sort or another. Are those people still around? Did you decide you didn’t need them anymore? Fail to acknowledge their contribution? Have a spat?
What led up to the sudden upswing? Sudden improvement in your sales, production, or even your personal life may appear to be magical but it isn’t. As with anything worth having it requires a lot of work and attention to improve and keep going. The chances are you put in enormous effort in marketing, promotion, networking, communication and more to cause the upswing. Go back and figure what you did and do it again and more of it. Chances are you backslid on those actions.
Review your notes, stats, production. If you aren’t keeping notes, stats, journals or somehow documenting the actions you are taking you will not be able to analyze what you did right and what you did wrong. Keep a journal, stats, production notes, and files – whatever works for you that documents your actions. Otherwise, you will always feel like your future is left to chance.
While it may be true that we all have a path and purpose in life, it is the rare human who can always just know what to do next.
What about you? Did you ever feel like you were on an obvious path? Did the path suddenly disappear? Did you panic and change everything or did you stay the course? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
Not long ago I read a blog post about fear. The blogger went to great lengths to rant against how the government, media, and capitalists were all manipulating us with fear to get what they want.
Ironically, during the rant there were a few fears thrown in for good measure – global warming, government intrusion and guns. These apparently were the good and legitimate fears that we should all believe in.
After reading the comments, I could see that by and large the readers agreed with the post and related some of their own experiences with fear being used as a manipulation tool. Various solutions were suggested – though nothing new or startling.
What’s missing here?
But here’s the thing that the post seemed to miss. There is a reason fear is used in anything from news reports, politics to selling widgets – it works. So then, rather than just ranting about fear and manipulation perhaps we could drill down into the topic further and examine not the use of fear, but why fear works as a manipulation tool.
Fear works because:
- Everybody has a bias. If you can tap into that bias, then that person is yours for the asking.
- Most people hate being bored and modern life creates a lot of boredom. Let’s face it, modern technology has taken much of our critical thinking away from us. We don’t need to pursue information in earnest anymore, we have Google and Wiki. And they are happy to do our thinking for us. Hell, we don’t even have to drive or parallel park our cars anymore. Technology will do it for us.
- Sensation is king among humans. This is a bit of an extension from the boredom bit. Humans love to feel stuff. They love the rush. It interests them, it kicks in endorphins, and it relieves their boredom. Otherwise, no one would ride a roller coaster, sky dive, mountain climb, read horror novels, or go to horror movies or truth be told, watch the news. Sensation makes humans feel alive.
What to do about fear manipulation?
You could do many things about it, if you had the will to do so. If you are the kind of person who is strong willed you can simply refuse to give into it and go about your business
Though the better solution might be to find a hobby or activity that interests you and creates more sensation than the lookie-loo joy of watching blood and guts parade of the nightly news.
But above all else, and you’ll hate me for saying this, I think we need to stop seeing ourselves as victims. So what if capitalists, marketers, and politicians lie and use fear to manipulate? None of them is holding a gun to your head. You don’t have to take the bait. You don’t have to see yourself as a victim. You can actually take responsibility for your own fate and pursue what is important to you in life.
This is not to say that I don’t sympathize with people who are truly victimized. Crime, abuse, violence, natural disasters, illnesses, and accidents are all equal opportunity victimizers and there is usually no rhyme or reason or discernible why. But that is the exception to the rule. Most things you can walk away from and refuse to be victimized by:
- Mean words
- Critical comments
- Being cut off in traffic
- News reports
- Celebrity spats
- Opposing political opinions
- Stupid things said by public figures
You can trade in that fear for something that excites and interests you. By doing so you might find it makes you happier in the long run.
How about you? Do people in your life try to make you afraid? Do you take the bait? Or do you ignore it and go about your business? Regale us with your stories in the comments.
Copyblogger shocked a lot of people when they turned off comments a while back. The post they wrote explaining why was reasonable and let’s face it, Copyblogger is one of the biggest blogs around. Their business model has probably changed twenty times since they started and well progress, right?
But it got me thinking and maybe wondering if they just weren’t acknowledging a trend or perhaps even predicting one. When I started blogging there weren’t many rules but there were a few common practices, among them, responding to comments.
It made sense. You write a post, someone comments on the post and you respond, if only to say thank you. You started a dialogue and sometimes that dialogue grew into a connection. Maybe you visited their blog and commented, or added them to your blog roll, introduced them to other blogger buds, linked to their posts. It was nice. Cozy. Friendly. I made a lot friends that way.
These days though it seems that perhaps a “like” is supposed to suffice for a comment. An electronic ‘atta girl’ if you will, that at least lets you know somebody’s reading. And given the many types of feed readers there are out there, getting someone to even visit your blog can be feat.
Too big to respond or interact?
In the case of Copyblogger, perhaps they are too big to respond or even allow comments. I imagine they had hundreds of comments daily. And realistically, they’d have to hire someone to answer the comments. Probably….
And of course this may be an issue for many of the popular blogs that get a lot of comments. And I’ve certainly noticed that some of the blogs I read follow this business model. Funny though, I tend not to comment on those blogs anymore – even though I do read them somewhat regularly. On the other hand, there are some very popular blogs that still seem to not only manage to respond to their comments but do so with warmth and and good humor.
So maybe it boils down to preference on the part of the blogger.
Old school or new school?
Personally, I’m old school. I feel that If somebody makes the effort to come to my blog and make a comment it seems only right that I acknowledge that comment with a response. Nobody likes talking to themselves, do they? I know I don’t. And really don’t we blog to start a conversation and exchange views? Or is it just a one-way street where we’re all supposed to just be talking at people instead of to them? Are we so wise and such experts that we don’t need to respond?
If you listen to any of the experts they all say you must give value with your content – wouldn’t a response to a thoughtful comment be valuable to the commenter? Anyway, I think I believe it would be. So, if you comment, rest assured, I shall respond
What do you think? When you make a comment on a blog, do you expect a response? Do you go back and check to see if you received a response? If there is none, do you feel disappointed? Are you less likely to make a comment in the future on that blog?
I’d really like to know what people think about this.
There’s an old saying that everybody has a least one book in them. And if you consider the explosion of self-publishing in the last few years thanks to sites like Amazon and Smashwords, I’d say people are writing that “at least one book” that is in them. Quite possibly with dreams of being the next J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, Stephen King or Michael Connelly. Especially thanks to the self-publishing revolution.
And plus, there’s all that money that indie authors are making.
And you don’t have to bother with finding an agent or a publisher.
And fame is cool too.
I’d never discourage anyone from writing because well, I think writing is cool and a great form of self-expression. And hell, I make my living cobbling words together for other people. Also kind of cool.
So why then should you be scared?
It’s hard. Despite what people who confuse conversation with writing may say – it’s damn hard to write a novel. It’s an 80,000 – 120,000 word commitment. That’s a lot of words. Whether you use an outline or write by the seat of your pants you still need a plot, subplots, characters, secondary characters, character arcs, good guys, bad guys, tension, and it has to make sense. People have to care. They won’t read it if they don’t care. And while writing it you may:
- Experience tremendous doubts
- Probably have to give up your social life (including TV and Facebook)
- Have no guarantee it will be any good
- Realize that somebody else will always have a better book
- You may decide not to finish it
Tremendous competition. The very thing that may be convincing you to write the novel, the indie publishing explosion, is the very thing that could defeat you. Everyday, thousands of books are published on Kindle alone.
You have to sell it after you write it. That’s right. You’ll have to promote it and sell it. The world won’t even know it exists if you don’t tell anybody. So you’ll need to know or learn marketing, sales copy, landing pages, ads, social media campaigns and more.
Before you can sell the book, it needs a lot of stuff. Like babies, books require a lot of extra stuff – covers, formatting, editing, proof-reading and beta readers ain’t a bad idea either.
The odds are against you. Even before self-publishing became the new black, your odds weren’t good. Now the odds a thousand times worse.
If you do write it
You’ll often feel that people are conspiring against you to prevent your masterpiece from seeing the light of day—your spouse, your beta readers, your cover designer, proofreader, editor, friends, family, your kids. They won’t be but you’ll feel like they are.
And no matter how hard you work on it, how many times you edit, polish, spit and shine the damn thing – no one will ever love it the way you do.
So you see you’ve got to be a little crazy to want to write a novel. To put yourself through all of that without any kind of guarantee or promise of even a modicum of success.
So why do it?
While writing a novel is absolutely not a get rich quick scheme (and if you’re in it for that maybe finding a cool widget to sell on Amazon might yield better results) and in fact may not enrich you at all, there are reasons to do it anyway:
- Because it’s in and you must or you’ll explode
- Because it matters to you deeply
- Because it’s your calling and what you were meant to do
- If you don’t write it the story won’t get told
- No one will understand the need to tell it but you
- You’ll always wonder what could’ve been
So while writing a novel may scare the crap out of you, and rightfully so, do it anyway. If you must. If you will self-combust if you don’t. If it’s in you so deeply that it won’t let go. Go ahead. Do it. Do it now.
Not long ago I read an article that discussed writers’ incessant need for perfection. And the subsequent disappointment we feel when we finally see what ends up on the page. Somehow that pure concept doesn’t translate. Doesn’t get from the special lofty real estate in your head where all things perfect live to this clunky, messy, noisy dusty rock we all live on.
The trip from concept to language is definitely imperfect and probably includes lots of fender benders, side trips and a flat tire or two.
But so is the human experience. Imperfection is the essence of human nature, isn’t it?
And I’m thinking that even if we managed to get that perfection on paper, or in a book or a story or some nifty commentary it might not land anyway.
It might be that perfection is something that can’t be appreciated or even understood in this human universe.
So writers curse and bang on the keyboard and spit out some herky-jerky version of that perfection in hopes that there will be some kind of connection. Because that’s the thing isn’t it? The connection from writer to reader. That says, ‘hey I’ve been in your shoes,’ or ‘I’ve seen that, I’ve felt that, I’ve tasted that – sucks don’t it?’ or “Damn, is this awesome or what?’
I don’t know this for a fact but I think we humans are pretty perceptive and those who love to read are well-versed in reading between the lines. And believe me, there is plenty there.
And when it comes down to it, maybe that’s all writers are meant to do – to keep trying – to keep spitting out that perfection inside us in whatever way we can.
I read somewhere that Michelangelo thought the Sistine Chapel was crap. So do I have a chance of perfection? Doubtful.
So how about it folks, do you try to be perfect? Are you forever seeking the perfect sentence, paragraph, phrase or description? Did you get there? How’d you do it? Is perfection over-rated?
Yup, I think I’ve done all of them.
Stop blogging about what you want to blog about in favor of the advice of experts whom you do not know. The problem with experts on the Internet is that everyone is an expert. This can confuse us. While there are many people who do give sound advice on Internet marketing you might want to check them out before taking their advice.
Worry about value to your readers so much that your blog posts are incomprehensible and even you don’t know what you’re saying. I remember a few months back I was trying to get back into regular blogging and so read tons of articles and advice, most of it stressing value. I became so stressed out about my ‘value’ that when I wasn’t in apathy about writing a post I was chewing my fingernails down to the stubs worried that whatever I produced was not valuable enough.
Imitate what the big bloggers do so you are a poor imitation of them. I think we’ve all done this. Tried to imitate CopyBlogger or some other big blog in our niche. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t pull it off. Can you say disaster?
Blog about what you think others think you should blog about because what you want to blog about you don’t think anyone will think is cool. Look, you started your blog because you had an idea. You had something to say in your own voice, from your own point of view. Now after reading all the how-to articles, that enthusiasm, that joy of creating that you felt is like a cold super-sized side of McDonald’s fries churning in your stomach. See if you can go back and find the thing that excited you when you first started.
Write about a topic as though you are an expert but about which you know nothing or you know something but not enough. Lots of people think, well I can (fill in the blank) so I can assume the view of an expert – and in fact I’ve seen that suggested in marketing advice. But when you try to write the post it doesn’t fly. It doesn’t sound authoritative or experty enough or whatever. Might work better if you approach the topic from the view of ‘this is how I do (fill in the blank).”
Write the same post everybody else is writing. Is this tempting or what? You subscribe to lots of blogs, read a few of the big ones and everybody is posting about a certain topic, news story or current event. So you figure you’ll do it too. I’ve done it and it didn’t work. I say, so what if everybody is talking about the fight with Hachette and Amazon, if you want to blog about red-haired girls and their best looks then write about that. It’s your blog, your voice, your little condo on the Internet. Do it your way. Who knows you may even set a trend.
Write posts based on titles you get from a title generator. Okay, I haven’t done this one but you can tell who does. Because you see the same titles/headlines everywhere, slightly edited but still…
Write nothing about which you have an opinion, feel passionate or have any interest in. Can you say instant death? Blogging about things you don’t have any strong feelings about is about as exciting as watching milk go bad. If you don’t love it, chances are nobody else will either.
Write a blog for the sole purpose of collecting readers for your future books. I know, I know, most of us are writers. Most of us write books, stories, and poems and we want people to read those books, stories and poems. But people can tell if you’re just trying to sell them rather than have a conversation with them. And who knows if the conversation goes well, they might want to buy your books, stories and poems.
Have lots of ads, pop-ups, flash animation and everything else you can think of to keep people from being able to read your posts. This one I did for about five minutes. I didn’t go full-bore flash animation but I ran the ads. I made no revenue whatsoever and even I was irritated by them staring back at me.
So my friends, there you have it, ten surefire ways to ruin your blog. Have you ever done something that ruined your blog? What happened? Did you fix it? How?
Oh yeah, and Happy Tax Day to one and all 😀
Are manipulation and persuasion the same thing?
If not, how are they different?
Is one better than the other?
More ethical, more fair?
If so, how?
I just read a post by writer I really respect. He was commenting on another writer whom I’d never heard of and had some controversy swirling around him. I have to admit I had no idea what the article was talking about until I followed the links provided at the end.
The topic was sexism and an off-handed remark the author made about his books and writing. Apparently, many people were extremely offended. And a few got on their righteous indignation horses and rode them all around the neighborhood screaming at the top of their lungs about the utter gall of this author. Hmm…
In my opinion what the accused author said wasn’t offensive. It may have been a bit of a cop out, or maybe he was kidding or maybe he just didn’t want to answer the question but it didn’t denigrate women. If anything, the author seemed to be putting himself down for being somewhat clueless about women.
Yet, surprisingly a shit storm happened anyway. And now this author may be branded as a sexist. Sad. Really sad. Because based on the description of his books it sounds like he is one helluva writer.
I don’t think the Bill of Rights covers that
While the Bill of Rights ensures certain personal liberties the right to be offended and then to punish said offender does not exist within its confines. In fact, one of our guaranteed rights and liberties in this country is free speech. We in fact, have the right to say whatever we want in public. If it offends people so be it. If people agree with it, so be it. If people don’t agree with it, so be it. But we still have the right to say what we want.
However, what we don’t have the right to do in this country is to slander people. There are actually laws against it. You can actually be sued for doing it or attempting to do it. You could lose a lot – maybe everything – if you were taken to court for it and lost.
Still that doesn’t seem to stop some people from trying to stir up a shit storm and turn the masses against said offender. It doesn’t stop people from starting whisper campaigns and attempting to bully people out of existence. It doesn’t stop anyone from trying to destroy a person. God bless the Internet.
And in the end, this type of incident only serves to scare other writers and public figures from saying anything or writing anything of substance. Because they fear retribution. Because somebody might get offended and try to ruin them.
Small things are never the problem
There are many many things in this world that are truly oppressive, vile, disgusting and downright evil. And I believe as human beings we have the right and the duty to rail against them and if possible stop them. And oppression of women is on that list. There are cultures in this world that:
- Treat women as chattel
- Buy and sell them for sexual gratification
- Mutilate their bodies
- Stone them for having been raped
- Kill them because it somehow restores honor
- Beat or otherwise abuse them for fun
These things are wrong. Very wrong. Yes, we should try to stop them. Yes, we should try to help women in these situations. Yes, this needs to change. However, this author did none of these things. He simply said he was clueless about women.
And while there are many good examples of women being objectified in literature, 50 Shades comes to mind (a book written by a woman and read apparently widely by women) this author’s books (based on their descriptions) don’t seem to qualify. But apparently an absence of women now qualifies as offensive and God help the author who doesn’t include them.
Sorry but this doesn’t make sense to me. And in the reverse would we even be talking about this? For example, all of the thousands of books that explore and discuss and illustrate the trials and tribulations that women go through, are they sexist too because there is a sparsity of male characters? Or the male characters are bad, shallow, stereotypical? I haven’t heard one peep about such a notion. In fact, in modern literature, film and other entertainment venues male bashing, shaming and joking is not only okay, it’s expected.
The problem with this sort of situation (aside from the obvious) is that it’s not really the problem. Yes, there is oppression of women but this isn’t an example of it. And maybe it’s easier to fixate on this very tiny incident than it is to actually go after blatant, obvious real acts of oppression. Because it’s safer. And maybe you don’t think you’ll suffer retribution from it. Or maybe something else. And the problem this type of situation creates is that it doesn’t solve the problem you’re railing about, in fact, it ends up marginalizing it. It ends up having the opposite effect that you are shooting for, it ends up making the real problem disappear and killing the wrong horse, so to speak.
It’s like when a couple has a huge fight over the fact that the garbage wasn’t emptied. Now is the fight really about the garbage? Probably not, it’s probably really about the fact that one partner feels the other partner doesn’t listen to them, doesn’t respect them or care about their feelings. But that’s just too big a bite to chew. That’s too dangerous a topic to broach, so instead they have a knock down drag out about garbage for cripes sake.
Be the change you want to see
There is so much in this world that should be changed, could be improved or even brought to some ideal state. But bitching and moaning, complaining and attacking others does not bring about change. It only brings about fear. It only lathers up others into a feeding frenzy. And no one ever feels good afterwards. We all just feel crappy and then more crappy about it.
Beating up somebody about a negative real or imagined rarely changes anything. If you want change, real change, then you have make that change. If you see something that is wrong then change it. If we as authors want to change the perception of women in literature then we have to change that perception (and in fact, thousands of women authors are doing this everyday). As the saying goes, be the change you want to see in the world.
All the time, energy and effort that goes into attacking somebody for being a certain way or not being a certain way could be used to change the perception or even reality of a situation – and too there is less hate mail.