Doubling up: Maximizing your writing, and more

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So I am getting ready to start summer school–another semester of work-study, a class I don’t care about, and Intermediate Algebra, which is very scary indeed.  I made a D in it about 15 years ago, and I allowed my fear of failure–that I wasn’t smart enough to finish college–keep me from finishing.

Like Buddy Sorrell on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” who could make a joke out of any word (including “milk bath”), I can write a poem on the spot about any word, but algebra has always been the bane of my educational existence.

Except this time, I am so close, with only a handful of credits left before I can work as a copy writer somewhere in the medical field.

This time, I will have access to free, on-campus and virtual tutors.

This time, I will have a few hours a day at work to focus on this class I will never use again, but will help me get to wherever I am going–that place called Career Contentment. I don’t know where that is yet, for I am still following the map, but I have a pretty good idea of what I will be doing when I get there.

 

My time is more limited than ever now, so I’ve decided to cut most of my weekend posting (I’d just had enough of dealing with self-inflicted “homework” first thing in the morning).  The one exception is a single #SundayInspiration Instagram post (see bottom) with what I hope will be considered “thinking outside the candy box” (https://www.instagram.com/sarahleastories/?hl=en).

I’d forgotten I even had an account until a recent Facebook friend followed me, and I thought, well, I do have one of those phones now, and I can take a shot of virtually the same thing (which will help establish my “theme”).  I’d tried Pinterest, but it’s more for consumers than creators, and I like the cleaner, sleeker look of Instagram.  Pinterest also seems like it’s more for crafters than writers or photographers.  Furthermore, Instagram seems much more personal, more real.  It has a freshness Pinterest does not.

 

Streamlining your writing process is a form of minimalism, and it can help you focus on the more important aspects of writing (like improving your craft and getting paid).  It’s good to have a social media presence (any publisher expects this if you’re unknown), but the thing that will get you noticed is submitting, submitting, and submitting [quality] work.

 

Instead, I will be posting two writing “workshops” (basically, writing tips) the first and third Mondays of the month, and two book reviews the second and fourth Mondays (as I will be dropping the Micropoetry Monday segments at the end of the year).  The latter will help me read more (as I’ve been reading poetry this semester, mostly), and the workshops are bits I post on my Facebook author page, so they’re already “baked in.”

This is one way of maximizing your writing.  To come up with brand new content for every social network isn’t worth it, because chances are, your friends, fans, and followers won’t catch your post on every network anyway, so it won’t seem like you’re repeating yourself.

One Instagram post a week is much more doable than six a week on Twitter–that’s too much time taken away from submitting.  LinkedIn is limited, because it’s what I call “businessy-boring.”  I rarely write a post specifically for the network but if something I write works on there as well as my blog, I’ll post the whole piece on there (as people hate being redirected to another site).

LinkedIn is basically Facebook-lite, complete with memes.  All too often, I see “connections” sharing someone else’s quotation.  Have an original thought in your head, for goodness sakes!  It doesn’t do anything for your brand, only the person’s you are quoting.  Though I haven’t been guilty of posting such things, I have been guilty of sharing them.

 

For me, it’s all about creating content.  The only new blog post I have to create is on Wednesdays–the Writer’s Digest poetry prompt.  Fridays are taken care of, because the posts are based on my novel, rewritten in verse form (which I’ve decided to make a separate, promotional chapbook out of called Mormons on the Beach).

I plan on spending the writing part of my weekends writing new work, editing existing work, and submitting to publications.  I haven’t been doing enough of that lately, but then when I come home from work and school, my daughter’s just gotten off the bus and I only have about about three hours with her till it’s time for her to go to bed.  I need that time with her as much as she needs my attention.  If I didn’t have her, I’d be spending too much time clacking at my keyboard, my eyes glazed by the glow.

 

Social media has its place, but it should be used wisely and sparingly.  Though Twitter is the equivalent of a bathroom wall, it isn’t a complete waste of time, as one of my friends hooked up with a local philanthropist through it who self-published her book; I got a guest blogging gig.

As for WordPress, don’t waste time reblogging (people never return the favor), unless you’re reblogging your own guest post.  Don’t waste valuable real estate on your blog with someone else’s work.  Again, this is elevating their brand, not yours.

What’s more, it’s one thing to use stock photos on your blog (I balked for the longest time, but I’m just a fair photographer with a lousy camera), but photography is Instagram’s focus (pun intended).  Strive for authenticity.

 

The moral of this post:  Write, edit, and submit–that’s the real work.  That social media stuff is a hobby.  A blog is the best of both worlds–a hybrid, of sorts.  Someday, I hope it will make me money (either directly or indirectly), but in the meantime, I’m having lots of fun doing it.

Below:  My first Instagram post

Improvise Dove #1

Her life was one of improvisation—
of the kind of spontaneity
that, unlike planned events,
made the event itself,
not the planning,
more fun.

#Micropoetry Monday: Apocalypse

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People became ashes,
buildings turned to dust,
& out of the rubble,
the remains of humanity emerged.
Rather than 2 of everything,
there was but 1 of every vocation,
& mankind began again.

They chose their babies from the AutoMat,
& all that could be wrong was wiped out,
though what was considered wrong,
was simply different.

When everything became automated,
humans had time enough to contemplate & create
even more things that would phase them out.

Creating art, writing with imagination,
& speaking from the heart,
were the skills of the non-automatons,
the year of our NewTech Millennials, 2100.

Their lives were lived through a screen,
& in the mypoic pursuit of chronicling them,
they missed out on what was going on
in their peripherals.

2016, A Year in Review (and a few resolutions, too)

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Twenty-sixteen was my best year yet when it came to writing (not so much the number of words, but the number of finished projects, publications, and contest wins).  I’ve decided my minimum is 300 words (Stephen King’s is 2000, but unfortunately, I’m unable to write for a living yet).  If I want to go over that, that’s wonderful, but the overage won’t count towards the next day.  I have to keep myself accountable.

I have several New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Get more organized.  This will waste less of my precious time.  I have spent part of the last day of the year clearing out my favorites, deleting e-mails, organizing my USB drive, transcribing my notes that are scattered from pillar to post, polishing the drafts in my blog account so I can either “plush or slush” them (this I’ve done over the last week, explaining my prolific posting).
  2. Do more, and by that, I mean trying different things (especially physical ones, liking biking, climbing, etc).
  3. Plan meals so that I never have to wake up needing to cook.  (I hate cooking in the morning; I’d rather have fish for breakfast…and I have.)
  4. Write something using dictionary.com’s “word of the day”.  This will help me remember it far more than simply memorizing it.
  5. Don’t start writing any more books until I’ve finished (and edited) the ones I’ve written.  (This will take all year.)
  6. Keep coupons in the car or purse.  I am just too forgetful.
  7. Don’t respond to outlandish status updates on Facebook or you will be expected to post one.  I’m sorry, but these really piss me off.  Just like the ones that say “If you love Jesus, you’ll share this”, and others of its ilk.
  8. Include, in my daily to-do list, all the activities I want to do with my daughter.  This includes not just reading stories at bedtime, but other books during the daytime.
  9. Make at least one video of my daughter a week.  I’ve slacked on this as it’s harder to edit videos (or take good ones) than it is a photograph.
  10. Wear less black and gray (yes, it’s slimming).
  11. Do different things with my hair (it’s one of our greatest accessories).  I dug out my old crimper (I’m an eighties girl) and got many compliments on my new look; got a snood for Christmas and if you don’t know what that is, look it up.
  12. Work on Christmas gifts all year long (which would include trying a new recipe weekly).

And that’s just the beginning, but it’s a start.

~

One of my proudest moments this year was winning first place (in the same contest I placed in second twice last year) for my story, “The Punch Drunk Potluck”, about what happens when a saucy girl brings pot brownies to a Mormon Church party and spikes the punch.  Let’s just say everyone’s spirits were lifted.  (I will post the link when the online newspaper editor has it up.)

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I was also published in Bella Grace magazine, for which I wrote a narrative poem about the magic of childhood.  The magazine seemed tailored just for me, with its almost “Pollyannish” take on life (Pollyanna being one of my favorite movies).

I also got published in the anthology below.  This site, http://writingcareer.com/, has been a great help to me in finding places to submit.

I wrote for the student newspaper this fall semester, am writing still for a parenting blog (https://getconnectdad.com/?s=sarah+richards&lang=en), and help write and design the newsletter for a local veteran’s organization.

As far as my personal writing goals, I got on a blogging schedule, where I only have to create new content once a week (the Writer’s Digest Wednesday Prompt); for the months of April and November, I successfully produced a poem a day.  My Monday and Friday posts come from what I’ve tweeted out, which I artfully compile.  I’ve started a Facebook page with writing tips and truths (https://www.facebook.com/sarahleastories/), also of which will someday end up on this blog (waste absolutely nothing you write).  All of these things have helped me become a better, and more confident and prolific writer (and it all counts towards my daily 300).

Though I’ve enjoyed this year immensely, I am never sorry to see it go, because every year just gets better and better:  I learn more, I become more.

Cheers!

Sarah Lea

Self-Help: Auditioning for the Job Before You Apply

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Social media, like anything, when used in the right way, can be a great tool for laying the foundation for a future job, for making connections that might come in handy after earning a degree.  Using a LinkedIn account to post a resume (and keep it updated) and upload papers written for school is a great way to start; posting scholarship essays, sharing interesting articles about subjects that would be taught at a University, and networking with those in the field one has majored in elevates a person’s status and visibility.  Connecting with someone first through LinkedIn is also a great way for introverts to break the ice.

That said, it is important to keep one’s profile professional, so here are 20 tips for getting the most out of an account:

1. Using a professional headshot.  No full-body poses.  People are less likely to add someone as a connection if they cannot see their face.  Same principle applies as to why would a person invite someone into their house if they were wearing a mask?  The headshot is not the place to get artsy (i.e. no black-and-white photographs or pictures with “props”, such as cigarettes or sunglasses).

2. Using their actual name.  No Twitter handles or blog names.

3. Customizing their public profile URL.  It’s the difference between myblog.wordpress.com vs. myblog.com.  Less is more (i.e. like how much more appetizing a food seems when it doesn’t come with a list of all those hard-to-pronounce ingredients.)

4. Including as much information about themselves as possible.  Just as employers don’t like to see gaps in an application, a future employer might find a spare profile a red flag.  However, never post addresses or telephone numbers, for safety reasons.

5. Adding a background photo to personalize their page and make it stand out.  Never use a photo with writing on it, just as one should never wear a T-shirt with a message on it to a job interview.

6. Posting only professional content.  Nonfiction book reviews, articles or links to articles on writing, public speaking, education, business, finance, medicine, design, and any of the STEM fields, are some of the kinds of topics LinkedIn Pulse is looking for.

7. If a blog is set to auto-post to LinkedIn, making sure the article is appropriate for the audience.  Recipes and articles on parenting are generally no-nos, but articles on drafting a resume or tips on dressing for success are typically better received.

8. Being timely with posts.  According to LinkedIn, weekdays during business hours are the best time to post.  (Specifically, Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.)

9. Leaving issues like politics, religion, race, sexual orientation, etc., off of LinkedIn.  That is what Facebook or Twitter is for.  Discussion of current events are at one’s discretion.

10. Upon receiving an endorsement, returning the favor or sending a thank you note via private message.  Always acknowledge an endorsement.  Follow the rule of reciprocity, but be sincere.  (Don’t endorse just to get an endorsement.  Also, always respond to comments, and seek to read what they have written and comment on theirs, as well.  This is one of the easiest ways to build a connection.

11. Always screening one’s profile before adding as a connection, as it is much more awkward to accept, and then reject, than to never accept at all.

12. If planning on meeting a connection in person, always meeting during the daylight hours in a very public place.

13. If selling make-up or insurance, not pitching the product or service except through one’s feed (a.k.a. “soft-selling”).  Do NOT sell via Private Message, and do NOT cobble together connections simply for the sake of selling them something.

14. Never using profanity anywhere, and, if disagreeing, always doing so tactfully by backing up a comment with a fact or personal experience.  Never get combative, and keep in mind that letting someone have the last word is not an acknowledgement of being wrong.

15. Scrolling past things one doesn’t like.  It’s not worth the argument.  If the person is inappropriate, it is entirely appropriate to quietly remove the bad connection.

16. Focus on skill sets, and not just previous employers.  Skills are portable, companies, not necessarily.  Be sure to add any certifications, publications, or volunteer experience.  The more one know, the more valuable they are to a future employer.

17. As for resume references, leave them “upon request”, because it is discourteous to publish one’s friend or colleague’s phone number on the Internet.

18. Join groups and follow companies of interest.  Everyone are in the business of selling, even if it’s only themselves.  After all, that’s what candidates do at job interviews.

19. Frequency matters.  Hiring managers are 10 times more likely to look at a profile from which something is posted weekly.  Also, 10 minutes a day on LinkedIn is better than 70 minutes in one day.  (Just like every day physical activity is better than one big workout.)

20. Article posters should write what they know.  If too much research is involved, they are probably not the one to write it.  Use links (when applicable), images, and tags in posts—the image brings a post to life (i.e. pulls in some eyeballs), and the tags help people find the post.  Don’t click-bait people with headlines, and don’t post an article that is nothing more than a link to a personal blog.  Just like on the telephone, people do not like being re-directed; doing this comes across as simply someone trying to drive traffic to their site.  Simply post the entire article on LinkedIn, as one would on their blog.  Posters can always add their blog address in a brief bio at the end of the article.  Also, focus more on being interesting rather than trying to “show-off” (i.e. using complicated jargon).  Posts should be no more than 600 words, which is recommended for blogs.  Listicles are also preferred over long paragraphs.  People like their information like they like their cake—bite-sized and easy to digest.

Think of LinkedIn as a formal cocktail party.  Act like a guest who wants to be invited back.  Generally, whatever is acceptable “watercooler talk” is acceptable on LinkedIn.  Though only 13% of Millennials use the social network, 98% of recruiters and 85% of hiring managers use it to find candidates.  Finding a job, or even getting an interview isn’t just about resumes anymore, but also relationships, and LinkedIn is the web that connects these two worlds.  Use it.  It’s free.

*originally published in The Corsair (the Pensacola State College newspaper), Nov/Dec 2016 edition.

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Poem-a-Day Writer’s Digest Challenge #24. Theme: Imitation

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Imitations of Life

“Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.” — Alfred Hitchcock

Dioramas,
miniature dramas;
Paintings,
scenes fading.
Books,
an unreliable narration,
Music,
a canorous condensation.
Plays—
life’s sincerest flattery,
and television,
where books go to die,
where smash cuts and sound bites—
like hors d’oeuvres that do not satisfy—
but ferment,
fomenting discord;
but the best depiction of all,
is posted on our pages—
the CliffsNotes editions
of our life stories,
putting friendships in remission.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2016-november-pad-chapbook-challenge-day-24

Poem-a-Day Writer’s Digest Challenge #5. Theme: Wire

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Better Things

She was held together by wires,
rather than ligaments or tendons.
She was animated by button-pushing,
rather than physiological stimuli.
She was covered with a soft plastic,
rather than rapidly-dividing cells.

She made for her johns, a good kink,
then, for her master, a good home,
and, for his children, a good mother,
but the day she became real,
she found another to take her place—
a plastic girl like she had once been—
for there were better things out there.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2016-november-pad-chapbook-challenge-day-5

15 Blogging Prompts

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Bloggers, have “theme days” or regular “feature articles”.  It will help you stay on track, as it’s easier to write a continuing series than a stand-alone piece every single time; this will also help you blog purposefully, rather than simply posting whenever inspiration sparks (as inspiration doesn’t always happen on a regular basis).  Serious bloggers should blog at least twice a week, or no less than once, and preferably on the same days.  Make your own deadlines, and meet them.

If you’re not on a regular blog schedule yet (which I highly recommend) with “themes” filling in the slots on certain days, here are some blogging prompts to get you started:

1.Query letters:  I believe these are an art form in & of themselves, and should serve as an appetizer to the main work.  https://sarahleastories.com/2014/01/17/query-letter-to-missouri-life-magazine/

2.Rejection letters:  The good, the bad, and the funny.  https://sarahleastories.com/2014/05/08/an-interesting-rejection-letter/

3.Book reviews:  Analyzing a book and articulating why you liked (or didn’t like) it strengthens your critical thinking skills, which helps you become a better writer.  A well-written book review can often be as entertaining as the book.  If you’re praising the book, try to “sell it”; if you’re not, then state exactly why you didn’t like it. “It sucked”, or “it was stupid”, will never suffice.  Beware of spoilers—think of a book review as a movie trailer.  Whet the appetite, but don’t satisfy it.  https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/30181323-sarah-lea-stories.

4.”Blog your book”.  That said, don’t post 1000-word chapters at a time.  300 (or less) is perfect.  For a 60K word book, at 300 words per post, you will generate more than 260 posts, which you could stretch out over two years time.  However, read this (http://www.rachellegardner.com/should-you-blog-your-novel/) before doing that.

5.Author tribute.  This is different than a book review in that it “reviews” an author’s entire body of work.  As great as it is to find a good book, it’s even greater to find a good author and read everything they’ve read (as many authors are hit-and-miss).

6.Take something cute (or not) & turn it into something dark & sometimes inappropriately funny:  https://sarahleastories.com/2014/02/12/linsey-gordon-had-a-hatchet/

7.Haiku, limerick, or even a 6-word story with a stunning photograph; posts don’t have to be long, just good.  (A great suggestion I once read is that the first two lines of a 3-line poem should be opposites, and the last line should be a surprise that ties the two opposites together in a surprising or unexpected way.)  I often like to do short pieces in series of 3:  https://sarahleastories.com/2014/03/02/nonet-poems-my-geography/

8.Short, personal essay (300 words):  Myslexia (https://mslexia.co.uk/nonfiction/) does this using the ABC’s, which I thought a cute idea.  It’s easier to mine your life for material when it doesn’t have to be a full-length piece.

9.Writing tips:  I share these on my Facebook page Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday:  https://www.facebook.com/sarahleastories/?fref=ts

10.Writing prompts:  I appreciate these, as they are ideal for freewriting practice.  https://sarahleastories.com/2016/03/06/writing-prompt-the-memoirs-of-others/

11.Writing products you like (software, pens, free Kindle books, etc.): https://sarahleastories.com/2016/02/06/5-really-cool-things-about-kindle/

12.Favorite writing blogs (or Twitter accounts).  Mine are (so far):  https://twitter.com/WriterlyTweets, https://twitter.com/GHowellWhite1,  https://twitter.com/tablopublishing, https://twitter.com/writerswrite, https://twitter.com/Grammarly, https://twitter.com/AgathaChocolats, https://twitter.com/WritersDigest

13.Life Lessons:  A list of 10 life lessons (serious or silly) you have learned.  I consider this a “column piece”.  These are so “notebookable”.

14.How-To Article:  Did you know Microsoft Word can “grade your work”?:  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/03/20/writing-tips/

15.One Book, Many Forms.  Every Friday, I post a set of #novelines or #micropoetry from my book  (https://twitter.com/KatrynNolan).  Not every noveline is a true noveline because of Twitter’s character limitations, and the micropoetry is brand new–all of which I am going to repurpose into a pocket book called “Mormons on the Beach”, as part of my book promotion package.  Though you should always keep at least half of what you write under lock and key (until you become Stephen King and can charge for it all), make sure everything you put out there is your best work.

And here is 40 more from an author who has great content and isn’t just all about selling her books:  http://writerswrite.co.za/40-types-of-content-that-will-make-your-life-easier