Writing in Spite of it All

Since the dawn of the ebook I have bought several of them, had a lot given to me for free but I’ve yet to actually read any one of them all the way through. My brother got me an ereader for Christmas (2013) but even with that I have not gotten into an ebook.

Maybe I’m just old fashioned, or just old. I like a book I can take with me everywhere, one that doesn’t need a battery to be read and can take being bashed around in my purse, under the groceries I’m carrying home in the shopping bag and so on. I think technology is going to have another big shift soon. People are going to realize they are paying for a cell phone they don’t need because texting is really just a more expensive way to send an email. This will change publishing again. I’m not sure how but I don’t think books and writing will ever be lost to us, in whatever format.

As far as having to promote and sell your own books. I don’t think this is all bad. As a web publisher I’m DIY, other than using WordPress and paying a web host, those standard things, I don’t have help. I often wish I did. But, I don’t make enough to pay anyone a living wage.

Publishing is like a doughnut. There is all the icing and cake stuff around the edges – everyone makes it seem so simple and even glamorous. But when you get into it you are alone in the doughnut hole. It’s not easy being DIY. I’ve proved that to myself endlessly. I’m not successful and I won’t be making any trips to Paris (unless I write it for myself).I got burned out two years ago and I’m on the upside of self recovery.

I can’t not write and I can’t stop feeling I have a persistent need to teach the world. So, I keep on publishing, the web is good for that. I can almost afford to keep writing while paying the bills with a real job.

Everyone has their own unhappiness, I’ve picked mine. Not everyone can say that.

via Love and Noir in the Time of Ebooks « ASCII by Jason Scott.

Tidy Repo Launches WordPress Plugin Recommendation Service

Picking a WordPress plugin is very hit or miss. No guarantees the plugin will work at all, do what you expected and not be harmful to your site in some way. WordPress themes are given more testing and scrutinity before being listed on the site. Plugins… no.

So the idea of paying for plugin suggestions is not so far fetched. I have spent hours looking for the plugin I wanted to work with the idea(s) I had in mind. Often I come up without what I wanted/ hoped to find.

Would I use this service myself? Not likely. Not a full no but, I do enjoy the plugin shopping, even when I don’t get results. Also, I don’t really think I can communicate fully everything I want to someone else. Being a polite Canadian I would accept the results and then go along and try to find what I really needed on my own.

However, I do think this is an idea/ service which will work. If you are willing to pay for a premium WordPress theme… why not pay someone to help you get the plugins you need? Give you something of a guarantee that the plugins will work for you and help you get them loaded, installed and working too. They don’t claim to be hand-holders but they will give assistance with the recommended plugins. A very good idea for people who don’t want to DIY all the time.

“To be frank, this is a total experiment for me. There are times when it is incredibly difficult to keep Tidy Repo going, but enough people appear to find it useful that I want to keep it around. Maybe that’s just a long way of saying Tidy Repo would be a dream full-time gig for me, if I ever had the opportunity to do so,” he said.

It’s not uncommon for those who have created a helpful tool or community resource, such as Tidy Repo or GenerateWP, to try to find a way to monetize their efforts. Is there a market for the Tidy Repo co-owners’ experiment? Or will WordPress users continue to stumble on the best plugins through trial and error?

via Tidy Repo Launches WordPress Plugin Recommendation Service.

What to do with Broken Books

book drunkardBooks get broken. Some can be repaired. Some aren’t worth repairing but could be repurposed/ upcycled instead. Book art is nice to see but, I think it needs to be practical so we aren’t just creating clutter but something useful too.

I don’t have many hard cover books these days. I miss them.

When you buy a book now it’s either a paperback or a bigger sized paperback book. Very few books are published and distributed as real hard covers any more. In stores they seem to think those big sized paperback books are the new hard cover books. They’re wrong. I think they just don’t want to reduce the price. But, do they really think we are that easily fooled?

The old hard cover books, the real hard covers, needed some extra looking after once in awhile. The old bookbinding sometimes came a bit unravelled if the book were well read many times. We would recover the book. We used wallpaper left over from a home decorating project, drawing paper from architectural drawings my Dad didn’t need any more, or plastic which was intended as drawer liners but worked very well as book covers too.

It wasn’t just book covers that took abuse. We taped up pages and made home made repairs to the book spines too. Tape wasn’t the best choice for fixing pages though. After time the tape would get yellowy and sometime after that it would eventually lose its stickiness and fall right off as if it were just an ordinary piece of plastic. I guess, by that time, it was.

Helpful Links

Books Beyond Saving Can be Upcycled

Not all old books can be saved.

Sadly I lost a few boxes full of books when the water heater tank leaked and eventually cracked down in our basement at one house. No one noticed right away. So there was water on the floor awhile. The boxes were in the same room, sitting in the water. The water was soaked up into the cardboard box and into the books.

The books on the bottom were the worst off. Some were mildewed and I wasn’t even able to pick them up due to allergies to mould and mildew. Books in the middle were water logged, thickened with wavy pages. They couldn’t be saved. No store would have taken them in trade and I couldn’t keep them due to the allergies. Most of them were past being readable anyway. Some books on the top were not too bad. But, I was so disheartened I wrote them all off.

We burned them all. At that house we had a large backyard on the edge of a small rural town. So burning out in the back garden was ok.

Burning isn’t the only option for books beyond saving. If the pages are okay still you can do a lot in creating book art. Books in bad shape can still be used, just in different ways.

Be Creative but Practical Too

I think there is one very important thing to keep in mind when we repurpose books or anything else. That is to keep the repurposing functional. Yes, a lot of the book art is cool or interesting to see, but where will it be a year from now even? Will we still like it, want to keep it and want to give it space in our home – or will it just become one more piece of stuff we have around adding to the clutter?

There should be new value added to anything we repurpose. If we are just creating mindlessly or for the joy of the moment then are we really repurposing and upcycling at all? Or are we just giving the book a temporary stay of execution?

I think it’s very important to find new uses for old things but they should actually be useful.

If you can’t fix them… repurpose them!

Writer’s Block Is More Than The Fear Of White Paper (Or Screen)

Guest post by Deanna Dahlsad.

One of the things I now find myself doing in my consulting work is providing clients with a Writing Prompt Service. It was born, like any good service, from client needs. In working with my clients, it quickly became clear that whatever their reason for having a website or blog, writers, bloggers, marketers, etc. all struggle with coming up with fresh ideas to write about.

I shouldn’t have been surprised; I’ve been stuck there myself with my own writing for my own sites. *wink* Some days, you just feel like you’ve said everything you can, you have no spark of inspiration. But when someone else hands you the task — a task that is suited for your own goals, it is much easier.

As a freelance writer, I do provide custom written content; but this Writing Prompt Service is a less expensive, DIY option. My Writing Prompt Service is pretty simple really: I provide my clients with an idea to write about.

What makes this service something worth paying for is the fresh set of eyes. I see what their site or business is all about, what they are trying to do, and what is missing for readers and/or potential clients and customers. I take all that information and provide them with a prompt for writing. It may be a question, an inspirational photograph, a news story — anything to get them talking (writing) about an idea or issue their website should be covering.

Because I approach this the same way I do with my freelance writing — from the point of view of the client’s goals and the needs of their site visitors, the prompted posts provide engaging organic SEO.

For those who feel stuck with their writing, but do not wish to pay for writing prompts, here’s a quick little list of ways to get ideas for writing:

1) Get out of the office or house. Often, part of feeling stuck is largely due to feeling stuck in the same old place. To rid yourself of that funk, get away from your computer, out of the office, out of the building. The fresh air will do you good and bring you fresh ideas.

2) When out — even just running errands, open your eyes and ears. Notice what people are talking about in the checkout line. Look at the headlines on newspapers and magazines on the sales racks. What are people wearing? What are they doing? What are they not doing? What about the houses, buildings, roads, businesses, etc. Are the flowers in bloom? Is it snowing? What might any of this mean to you, your readers, your business? From larger trends to tiny minutia, there are things you can observe which can spark your writing.

3) Consume media. Listen to the radio, watch TV, read books and magazines.  And read online. Really read. Don’t just scroll past the links on Twitter and Facebook, but read the articles and posts. I know this can seem tricky…

On one hand, we fear disappearing down a rabbit hole of lost or wasted time. You can overcome this easily by setting an alarm for say an hour or so.

On the other hand, we fear reading articles and blogs by those in the same industry. Will you be accused of copying someone’s idea, of not having your own ideas? If you participate in the conversation (by linking to the source of your idea when you write about it), you won’t be lambasted. And you can also bypass this issue completely by simply not reading industry publications.

4) Get fresh (free) eyes. Ask a friend or family member to ask you questions about your business, work, or the “beat” you cover.

We are often too close to our own work. Too often we don’t write about something because we believe that “everyone knows that” or we think that we’ve already addressed something; but they don’t and we haven’t. Too often we mistakenly believe that we aren’t good enough, interesting enough, smart enough, etc. to write about something. Pessimistically we think, “No one wants to hear about this from me.” But that’s nearly always wrong. If a friend or family member is asking you, likely your readers want to hear about it too — and from you.

Great Things to do While Unemployed (or Underemployed)

I read a sensible post about things you can do while you are unemployed. It was sensible. Probably practical even. But, it did not deal with the issue of keeping your soul alive, your spirits up and your creative energy high while you go through the ups and downs of being unemployed.

Being without a job is bad enough. You need that nice, lovely pay cheque. (Yes, that’s Canadian spelling).

However, the worst part about being unemployed is how it makes you feel. Some days you just don’t want to do anything. You don’t want to talk to anyone or be seen by anyone. These kind of days you could happily wear your pajamas and check email from under the blankets in your bed all day. But, that won’t be a good thing.

The more you close yourself off the more you disappear from the world and become cut off from everything. At the time it feels like this is just what you want. But, really, it isn’t what you want at all.

We all want to be vital and important and someone who is up and coming and out there. We all want to be a somebody!

Just because you are unemployed, somewhat financially challenged and feeling kind of down… that doesn’t make you an instant hermit.

So, this is the time in your life when you most need to push yourself out there into the world. Like a baby chick just leaving the nest, you have to step out of your comfortable, reliable nest and dodge cats, watch out for cars and other hard objects in your flight path and find your spirit again.

This is a time to bring yourself out again. Dust off who you really are versus the person you became to suit the job you used to have. We all change to suit, like a chameleon. Now is a great time to snap back into your non-chameleon self.

Rediscover who you are.

I know it sounds kind of silly, but take some personality quizes. There are lots of them online. Take the silly ones and the serious ones. Try the Myers Brigg personality test and find out your four little letters.

Use all this information. Weed out the stuff that doesn’t sound like the real you. The stuff that is leftover from the employed you.

Now go do something that the real you would like to do.

Rediscover your hobbies, your passions and the things that make you want to get out of bed in the morning.

Think back in your life, what did you love when you had time to love something outside of your regular family and work life? Think all the way back to when you were a kid if you have to go that far back. Did you write penpal letters, did you fly remote controlled airplanes, did you crochet?… Somewhere in your past there is something you love and have had to put aside while you focused on work, career or business instead.

Bring your old passions back into your life now, when you need some passion and motivation.

Keep a plan, a schedule of some kind each day too.

Writers can spend one hour writing each day, for instance. An artist can go to a new location each afternoon and paint, photograph, etc. Read up on new skills in your area of work. There is always something new you can learn. Join a local group involved in something in your field of work. Get out there and attend the meetings.

Or, become involved in local issues. Go to the town meetings, find out about the issues in your area. Become involved in change. Be a voice people will hear. (But, don’t be a jerk about it).

Volunteer somewhere. Don’t look at lists of places actually looking for a volunteer and leave it at that. Go to community groups, associations, societies, etc. and ask if they would like a volunteer. Suggest things you could do, things you would like to do and things you are good at doing. Yes, it’s a good way to keep involved and you can keep on top of skills you have and build up your experience, those are all good, practical reasons to volunteer. But, really, it’s about having something to do, a schedule and people who will be counting on you to appear and accomplish things.

Even if you do nothing else – get out of your home area at least one hour every day. Don’t become a gradual shut-in hermit type. That just isn’t you. Plus, you’ll get that weird smell.

Meet new people.

Just smile at someone as you pass by, for a start. When you buy a coffee, start small talk with the cashier. Cashiers are great at small talk. So you don’t have to do much once you start the ball rolling and begin the conversation. A short, simple conversation while you pay for your coffee, groceries, lumber, whatever. A small thing like that can make a big difference in how you feel. Without some kind of social (real, not online) contact you can start feeling disassociated, cut off from the rest of the people on the planet.

Try something new to you.

It may be an art like photography, or a craft like knitting, or skill you can learn like bookkeeping. Keep your brain evolving. Trying something new and having to make your brain work is a good thing. Failing and then learning and continuing to try are also great things for you now. You won’t like the learning curve while you work on this new skill but the accomplished feeling you get once you become good will be well worth the momentary frustration of learning something new.

Create a Crazy Resume

You’ll be writing and rewriting and editing and re-editing your resume countless times. So take one of those times to go crazy with it. Play and have fun with the whole resume thing. Break the rules.

Add colour to your resume. Doodle on the margins, Highlight words, whatever you like. Print it on coloured paper. Use coloured fonts. Draw in crayon on it if you want to.

Add silly skills to your resume. Add things like master teeth brusher, independent car washer, amateur kite flyer, anything you have actually done but would never add to a resume. You may even find yourself discovering a skill worth adding once you stop being so serious about analyzing your skills and experience. But, that isn’t the point. Make yourself sound all puffed up and important for the bits of nothing, the silly skills and all the other stuff we take for granted about ourselves.

Stick your crazy resume up where it can be seen. Someone will laugh about it. Someone will be slightly jealous over your creativity and someone will copy the idea. It’s all good.

You probably shouldn’t send that resume to anyone, in a professional sort of way. But, aren’t you curious about what would happen it you did? You might actually hear back from some of those stuffed shirts who never reply to anything. Kind of tempting isn’t it? Of course, I can’t officially recommend anyone actually sending a crazy resume…

It’s Just a Silly Job Interview

Get together with friends and do job interviews for jobs you make up or would never actually apply for. Go big and interview to the the new owner of McDonalds or WalMart. What does it matter? Go small and interview to be the under-manager of shower curtain inspection. Something silly and non-existent (I hope. Surely there isn’t someone going around inspecting shower curtains in people’s homes).

Do all the really awful interview questions.

  • Why did you apply for this position?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • What do you consider a weakness in yourself?
  • Are you a team player?

But, have fun with it all. Poke fun at the interview process and the questions they ask. Laugh about it all.

Freelance, Consultant or Start your own Business?

Consider going freelance, setting yourself up as a consultant or starting your own business. This is a time when you might find DIY works for you. Sure it’s a risk and you could fail. But, you have time to make plans, find resources and see how much you can do without spending a lot of money.

Go to the library and read information online about freelancing and consulting. What areas of existing business could really use your skills, not as an employee but an outside contractor?

Look around your neighbourhood, what service is needed that you could provide? Where do you see a need you could fill? Keep it practical. Don’t go over your head when it comes to the money you would need to start up or the time and energy it would take to maintain your business/ service.

Start with a business plan. What do you want to do and how feasible is your idea? A well thought out business plan can really help you understand what you are doing, the risks, the chances for success and how other people with similar businesses and services can fit in with your new business or service.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to start the next Tim Horton’s (huge Canadian coffee shop), or be your own Mr. WalMart, etc. Your business just needs to bring in the income you need for your needs. It’s perfectly ok to think local and think small. You don’t have to go in for a world domination plot. Leave that pressure for the next generation.

It’s All About YOU!

Bring, and keep yourself, out of your shell. Don’t sink into a depression, or a decline like a romance novel heroine of old.

Use this free time to your advantage to build yourself up and bring back the creativity, inspiration and passion you had to suppress while you were being a devoted worker bee.

Not only will you feel better emotionally and physically but you will sound better when you do apply for a job and write a real resume. It’s funny how your attitude and emotions leak out even when you think you are being the perfect professional. So, keep yourself feeling strong.

Best wishes to you!

Real Book Lovers Make their own Bookmarks

bookmarkI became more interested in bookmarks after my friend, Deanna, asked to use one of my drawings for a bookmark she wanted to print out for the First Annual Bookmark Collectors Virtual Convention. Before that I never put a lot of thought into bookmarks. I had a few, I lost a few and a few were mangled when they fell out of my book and into the depths of my purse. Most of the time I stuck something in my page, whatever was around: a restaurant napkin, a store receipt, or a candy wrapper.

Sometimes I turned down the corner of the page I was reading, at the top. But, I didn’t really feel good about marking my page that way. Mainly because it seemed to be contributing to the future dog-earred look the book would eventually get it others continued bending it’s pages that way when they read it after me.

I did find a really nice bookmark which someone had made, not the conventional long, slender cardboard bookmark. Instead this bookmark was stiff paper, folded over to cover the top corner of the book’s pages. It was like a page cap, decorated too. But, I thought this would make a fairly heavy bookmark. For me, it was too likely to wind up falling off and being misplaced somewhere. Plus, it wouldn’t do much to save my place in the book.

When I read Les Miserables (a lengthy, heavy book) I picked up an elastic which had been used on a small box of chocolates I was given for my birthday. (From my hair stylist, Megan). It wasn’t just a plain rubber band. Shiny and golden and just the right length to stretch over the pages of the book to rest in the spine between the folds of pages. The gold elastic worked very well but I retired it when I finished the book.

I’ve seen clever bookmarks made from envelope corners, repurposing them rather than putting them into the recycling bin right away. I think this idea needs some engineering work though. I can’t see the corner of an envelope staying on the pages of my book for long. This may be great for people who don’t get into bookpacking (those who keep their book in one place rather than those take it on the road, the bus, the coffee shop, etc.)

I like using whatever bookmark the book store is giving away when I buy new books. I’ve had some nice ones, depending on which books were lately being promoted. I had one for Dragonology. I was sorry to see that one get a bit wrecked from a rainy day. It was inside my purse, in the book, but the rain leaked in and got everything wet. I have one from a website SmileyWorld. But I bought that one.

It doesn’t seem right to buy a bookmark when there are so many available for free, so may ways to repurpose something else as a bookmark and so many ways (simple ways) you can make your own bookmark.

‘Why pay a dollar for a bookmark? Why not use the dollar for a bookmark?’ – Steven Spielberg

jewelbookmark

Bookmark Making Ideas

Your Business Does Not Need a Blog

senseless bloggingMost businesses need to reconsider keeping a blog for something which would work better for consumers and take less time and energy for the business to maintain.

Why Develop a Blog When a Static Page Will Do?

I was reading a post which encourages businesses to have a blog, as if that is all they need to do. The answer to life, the universe and everything for a business is to have a weblog. It’s not. It’s actually very wrong.

First, let’s sort out what a weblog actually is.

A blog (AKA web log) is an online record of your thoughts, activities and information you choose to share online. A blog is actively updated, which means the posts are dated so they can be read in sequence. A blog is a form of communication which requires frequent maintenance to keep it active. This is not the kind of online communication a business needs.

Secondly, people are not taking time to read everything you blog.

Any business starting online, whether they sell entirely online or just want to set up an online presence, needs basic information available for the consumer. Basic information is not likely to change. Your contact information, what you sell and how you sell it are not going to change daily or weekly or even monthly. Yes, you may have new objects to add to your catalogue but that is a catalogue, not a blog.

A blog is more likely to be information overkill and just make things confused and cluttered looking. What use is a blog if the consumer has to hunt down the address (or some other key information) for your business? A simple site presents the information upfront and keeps it easily visible.

Lastly, running a blog is going to take up too much of your time and energy.

A business online should focus on giving that basic information on a static website. Starting a blog is just putting in more time and energy than you need – especially in the beginning when you really just want people to find you online so you can tell the consumer who you are and what you have to offer. This is not the time to start a blog with articles about what you sell. Just give them the basic information they need. Not all the fancy stuff, the extras and the media hype. Keep it simple.

Don’t put your time and resources into developing a blog just because everyone seems to be doing it these days. Focus on your real goal, not impressing other people with how big your site is or how much traffic your blog gets. Your real goal for a business is sales, not marketing.

Consumers are not asking for more marketing. Less is more, in the eye of the consumer. Consumers want information so they can decide to buy your product or service. The more marketing clutter to add to your message, the less likely a consumer is to find it. So keep it simple. Create a simple site with simple navigation – keep the most important information to the consumer right out front and centre. If you have extras, like a catalogue, give them a link to take them directly there.

A Business Site Should be for the Consumer, not the Business

If you want to add extras to your site think about it in a practical way. What would your consumer really find useful?

  • A catalogue of your goods or services.
  • A contact form with the physical address, email address and phone numbers for your business.
  • A list of prices for your services and packages available.
  • Any events you may be taking part in locally.
  • Specials or promotions or contests currently running.
  • A coupon they can print out. (Or refer to if they don’t have a printer).
  • Your mission statement.
  • Your guarantee or warranty.
  • Your returns policy.
  • A how to guide for using your product.
  • A list of relevant groups or associations locally.
  • Any health warnings or risks.

This is just a generic sort of list. Each business will have their own needs and limits in the information available or necessary for the public and consumers.

Most of the necessary information can be located on one main (index) page of your site. Extras like a catalogue of goods or services can be on another section of the site with a link easily found on the index page.

Make the contact information a priority. Think about your own experience using a site for a business you wanted to know more about. What was the most frustrating thing? For me it is almost always trying to find a way to contact the business. How stupid is that? What was the point of them putting up a site if I can’t ask a question or get some feedback?

If you Still Must have a Blog Make Sure it Adds Value to your Business

If you still must have a blog, spend time planning your goals and strategy for using it.

Make sure the time, energy and resources you will put into the blog will pay off.

Make sure you have the stamina, writing skill and the content to keep a blog active.

In short, make sure the blog is worth the expense of maintaining it. Chances are there are other things you could be doing which would bring you a better return on your resources.

 

If Google’s Panda Bit you Bite Back

HubPages CEO on Googles Panda algorithm: SEO doesnt work!!! | ZDNet.

As I was reading this post I got that too familiar feeling. The one where I wonder who made Google a God. Then I remember, the spammers. Spammer being short form for get-rich-quick bloggers and others.

Google is going to do what makes money for them. They have a lot of staff with a lot of great benefits and the promise of retirement in their own mansion on Google Island. So, Google isn’t here to be nice and fix how content is produced, published and promoted on the Internet. Google’s motives are not so altruistic as you may assume. Google sells ads. Did you read that the first time? If not, read it again.

Google sells ads. Google sells ads, on your site. You let them. Every few years you might even make the $100 limit to earn a payout from Google. Wow! Quit your full time job for that one!

Why do people take Google so seriously? Sure there are a few who do make enough money from Google to become ‘professional bloggers’. The keyword there (for you keyword lovers) is not money, it’s FEW.

So, what to do… what to do… what to do…. How about finding another solution? Skip Google – Google will be fine without you worrying about them and trying to cater to them. Google will be just fine without you.

Before Google people were looking at other methods to make money online. There were an assortment of ideas out there in trial stages. Since Google rose up and found itself put on a pedestal and made a God, most of those other methods and ideas have been neglected and passed over.

I’m not going to list the ones I remember or try to track down the few which are still left. The key is to think differently. Stand on your own feet and slowly back away from the Google mentality. Consider better ideas for making money online. Go back to the BG (before Google) days and consider what you have to offer to people who are selling products and services.

For instance, have you ever contacted a business and asked if they would like to buy ad space on your site? Try it. You will need to come up with a plan, statistics and information about your publishing schedule, your readers, your commenters and how your site is distributed. Look at other publishers, offline. How do they sell themselves to advertisers?

Your site is your own microworld, which you control. There is no reason you can’t become more than yet another blogger working for Google. Stand on your own feet, take the reins of control and sell ads on your site – just like any other print publisher. Of course, there will be differences, due to your format, your web medium, the audience you can reach, and so on.

However, rather than get bitten by Google’s Panda bear, take the other option and DIY. If enough people stopped catering to Google and began to do it themselves the entire web could change. The entire way business is done could evolve, again.

The Thesis WordPress Theme

I like to try different WordPress themes on my blogs. Maybe I just like having something new. But, usually I’m just looking for something that suits me just a little bit more. In the years since I bought Thesis for WordPress I have found a theme which I can stick with, or come back to.

It’s too bad there isn’t a user group for Thesis. I’ve looked and asked, there isn’t one (so far). I may start one but I don’t really want another project I’m committed to.

DIY Themes: Thesis Child Theme Starter Template

DIY Themes: Thesis Skin Starter Template

I’ve written a post on HubPages about Thesis.