Before you post, read my 12 tips for social media

I see brands trying to use social media for marketing, and sadly wasting their effort and their content. I see them trying so hard, and getting nowhere.

I say, no more! No more posting into a void where no one reads what you write, you post too much, you post in the middle of the night when no one is reading, you aim for viral and will always fail, and you devalue the relationships with your audience that you already have. 

Let these 12 tips for social media be a checklist, a guide, a light on your social media marketing path. Comments and corrections welcome. 

1.       Take a photo, write a caption that’s relevant to your own brand, and tag someone, a place, or a business that’s relevant to the photo. Then, hold on for a minute.

2.       Ask yourself, “Would a real person talk this way?” Edit accordingly.

3.       Next, ask yourself, “Do my clients, customers, or community care about this?” Edit accordingly.

4.       If your community doesn’t care about it, then don’t post it. It’s that simple.

5.       If it’s a weekday between 9 AM and 5 PM in your time zone, share it now.

6.       If it’s before 9 AM, after 5 PM, or the weekend, save it for later. Don’t waste your content by posting it at times when no one will read it.

7.       Post that photo with caption and tags on all of your social media accounts. Yes, all of your social media accounts.

8.       Don’t worry about posting the same thing everywhere--the people who follow all of your accounts are your biggest fans, your best friends, and/or your stalkers. They want to hear more from you, so give them what they want.

9.       Unless you’re live-tweeting an event, spread out your posts through the day or week.

10.   Give up on going viral.

11.   Be satisfied with building relationships among your followers. Those relationships are no small accomplishment. And relationships, in whatever form, are still the reasons we all buy things.

12.   Every fifth post should promote yourself or your brand. No more, no less. Provide value and delight most of the time, and you earn the right to promote yourself. If you don’t earn the right for my attention, I take my attention elsewhere.

Some things can't grow until they've burned

Let’s review. What is burnout again? (You can read my first post in this series, "You can't grow from burnout," here.)

Burnout is overextension. Burnout is depletion. Burnout is a burned building that has been so ravaged by fire, there is no fuel left to combust. Burnout is a fire that puts itself out because there’s nothing left to burn.

Burnout is something we want to avoid, clearly. It’s entirely unpleasant, uncomfortable, and feels very useless, especially to those of us who run on passion and want to do a lot of important things in our lives. Getting to burnout means that you can’t keep doing the things you want to do, in the way you’ve been doing them.

To share from my own experience—I started writing about burnout a month ago, and then I hit burnout. I have to laugh at myself! I already knew I didn’t have this burnout/balance thing figured out, and what a timely reminder. I don’t have perfect answers for myself or for you, my dear readers, but what I do have are tales from my own error-filled experience and the desire to share ideas and images that help me move forward.

What keeps repeating in my head is: some things can’t grow until they’ve burned.

Photo, “Tree mortality” by NPS Climate Change Response, 2012. Text by Christine Bryant Cohen, 2015.

Photo, “Tree mortality” by NPS Climate Change Response, 2012. Text by Christine Bryant Cohen, 2015.

I find a lot of guidance for myself in the natural world, and sequoias—the giant trees that can grow over 300 feet tall and live for 3,000 years—especially fascinate me. Sequoias are a type of redwood, and they are very fire-resistant. They commonly survive forest fires and grow new bark over their blackened, burned places for the tens of hundreds of years of their lives. I visited Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in 2009. Being in their presence, I felt very, very small, very, very young, and connected in the web of an ecosystem that I can hardly grasp.

Particularly meaningful to me is the way that sequoias reproduce as a species, especially because the reproduction of organisms that live thousands of years seems so unimportant to the scale of time I can understand. Honestly, do they even reproduce? They live thousands of years! But they do, because even if they exist on a time scale that far exceeds my own, they are not immortal or eternal. They will each die, and so they produce offspring in a new generation to keep their species alive as a whole.

Sequoias reproduce by placing their seeds in cones, like other evergreen trees, but sequoia cones are not the wide-open cones that we know from common pine trees. Sequoia cones have a thick outer layer, and the seeds are buried inside that thick covering—where they can remain viable for up to 20 years. To get any of the sequoia seeds out of the cones, either insects or fire are necessary to crack open the cones and get the seeds free and onto the forest floor.

Fire is the best tool for healthy reproduction in a sequoia forest because it does several things at once. Fire opens the sequoia cones so that the seeds can get out, and it simultaneously prepares the soil for receiving new seeds by loosening and heating the soil, increasing the likelihood that a newly freed seed will germinate into a seedling (Kilgore, 1972). In addition, fire clears out brush and overgrowth in the forest’s understory, so that new sequoia seedlings will have space, light, and nutrients for their own growth (CA.gov, 2015).

Photo, “Female cone” by California State Parks.

Photo, “Female cone” by California State Parks.

The measurable benefits of fire for sequoia seedling germination are staggering. I read an article about all this published in 1972—and, not surprisingly, a 43-year-old article about 3,000-year-old trees is still relevant. They don’t change that quickly! What hit home for me was the result of a controlled burn study, which compared seedlings per acre on burned plots vs. unburned plots of sequoia forest.

In the Redwood Mountain Sequoia Grove in Kings Canyon National Park, one experimental burn took place in August, 1969. This allowed two months of seed fall before winter snows came. On plot 3, which burned hottest, more than 40,000 sequoia seedlings per acre were found during the first year after burning, while about 13,000 per acre germinated on lighter burned plots 1 and 2. The three burn plots averaged nearly 22,000 sequoia seedlings per acre the first year after burning. Not a single sequoia seedling was found on the unburned control plot.

Let me emphasize this again: On the three burned plots, an average of 22,000 sequoia seedlings per acre were found after a year—a year of snow, of weather, of insects, all that. And on the unburned plot, not a single sequoia seedling was found after the same year.

Without the fire, you get zero sequoia seedlings. Those very old trees will not produce a new generation without fire. But that necessary fire? The fire is terrifying. It takes over the whole forest it consumes. Some trees will survive, and some won’t. In the study I quoted, results were taken from controlled burns, where foresters intentionally set fire to 3,000-year-old trees that are over 300 feet tall. Can you imagine lighting that fire? Stepping back into safety, locking eyes with your coworkers, and hoping that your hypothesis holds true—that fire is what this sequoia forest needs to keep surviving.

Back to burnout. Fire in a sequoia forest is clearly necessary for the trees’ lifecycle. But is the fire of burnout necessary to our own metaphorical lifecycle, as passionate people doing important things in writing, business, nonprofits, or any other part of our lives?

Again, that repeating thought in my head: some things can’t grow until they’ve burned.

Some things have to get burned up, so that new seeds can even have a chance to be planted. The brushy undergrowth has to go. The soil needs to be loosened and changed by the fire’s heat.  And before those seeds can even get to the ground—the fire has to break those thick cones open.

If some things can’t grow until they’ve burned, then the fire of burnout can break you open.

Burnout, then, is a pivotal moment of transition. The old has been used up. (And I did it to myself.) The new is emerging, hesitant, unknown by the old way. (My old self could not see my new self. My old self had to be cleared out first.) Of course, the new growth isn’t the same organism. It’s the next generation. The new growth that comes after the fire of burnout—that’s what keeps us alive.

The burnout-self can’t carry us forward, no matter how passionate we are. Getting to burnout means that the course we took has already failed—and I know that’s hard to hear. But now that burnout’s fire has consumed and depleted our old way, the new seed-self that comes after the fire is what can survive. The hard old self, in its old way of being and living, has been burned and cracked open by burnout’s fire. And now, new seeds are free and ready to grow.

Questions for you to take with you:

1.       Now that I’m free of the old way, what do I notice?

2.       What space is now open in my day, in my body, in my mind?

3.       What newness can I step into, now that the old is gone?

Works Cited

CA.gov. Fire and the giant sequoia. April 23, 2015. http://www.150.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=27588.

Kilgore, Bruce M. "Fire's role in a sequoia forest." Naturalist 23, no. 1 (1972): 26-37.

You can’t grow from burnout

If you are asking yourself, “Is this burnout that I’m feeling?” The answer is probably yes.

If your next thought is, “But I have so much more to do! I have to go beyond this! It’s already not enough! I have to grow!” I have a hard truth for you to hear. You can’t grow from burnout.

Photo by Jason Rogers, "Burnt out Barn," 2009. Text by Christine bryant cohen, 2015.

Photo by Jason Rogers, "Burnt out Barn," 2009. Text by Christine bryant cohen, 2015.

Burnout has been coming up lately with several of my clients, both writing and consulting clients--people in small businesses, in nonprofits, in the academy. I have been through it myself several times, and I make it an ongoing practice now to stay in a creative flow and out of the dangerous path to burnout. I want to share what I know about it with you.

First, to start with the central mission of why I do what I do—the preassumptions:

·         I believe that the world runs on ideas.

·         I believe that the world needs each of us to bring our own vibrant ideas into being, so that we can make an immediate, and lasting, impact for the good of humankind, our planet, our space in the universe. From the personal statement in your graduate school application, to your first academic book, to your scientific peer-reviewed article, to your 200 page memoir, to the marketing for your holistic health practice—the world needs what you do, your vibrant idea, to come into being, for the good of all of us.

·         I believe we are each a unique combination of experience and skills, that you are uniquely suited to do what you do, only in the way you can do it.

·         And if the world needs you, then it becomes your responsibility to provide what you are uniquely suited to provide.

That’s pretty heavy. I get that. And having gifts and experience that are unique to you does not mean that delivering your own vibrant idea is easy.

Passion for what you do doesn’t make it easy to actually do it. You may be fueled by passion, by a deep desire to serve others, to bring forth that game-changing idea, practice, technique, research, or lived experience. It keeps you awake at night, you think about it when you’re in the shower, and your friends are bored with how often you talk about it.

The more you run on passion, the more susceptible you are to burnout. The more you run on passion, the less likely you are to notice the cues of your body, and your mind, that are telling you to slow down, that this isn’t a sustainable pace, and that you won’t be able to achieve your goals if you keep this up. All that gets you is burned out.

So what is burnout? And why can’t you grow from it?

Burnout is overextension. Burnout is depletion. Burnout is a burned building that has been so ravaged by fire, there is no fuel left to combust. Burnout is a fire that puts itself out because there’s nothing left to burn. An object, or a person, who has reached full burnout becomes completely useless—useless in all areas of their life, because all of the fuel is gone, and there is no way to add fuel at this point. The fire is gone.

It is impossible to grow from burnout, to deliver your gifts, to achieve your goals, to finish your project, to fulfill your passion for your work, because there is nothing left to give. Once you have hit burnout, you are all the way depleted.

So, if you run on passion, and you are susceptible to burnout, and you feel like you’re on the way there, or have already arrived there …

What can you possibly do? You have gotten yourself into a terrible bind.

I feel pretty certain that you are reading this not by chance, but because we have this in common. I have hit complete burnout, too, several times, for different reasons. It is excruciating, it is full of grief and rage, and it renders me incapable of doing the things I wanted to do.

The truth is … I burned myself out. Every time.

·         Yes, the demands were great. The need was great, and the stakes were high. But I saw a stark challenge, and I rose to it, come hell or high water.

·         Yes, I overcommitted myself, and people asked a lot of me. But I didn’t say no.

·         Yes, I have health issues that are out of my control. But I did not recognize the limits my own body has, and I chose to not work within those limits.

·         I can feel so worked up by passion, by creating, by serving others, by doing things that I think the world needs … that I will ignore my own body, again and again, and use up all my fuel. That’s how I get to burnout.

·         When I hit burnout, I am incapable of serving others, and this is a grave hurt to those who need my gifts.

I have a long history of perfectionism, imposter syndrome, chronic health issues, of work-related disabilities, overachievement, Protestant work ethic--you name it, I have it. None of this is impossible to change. This is only history, and I get to make new choices in each moment about how I spend my work time. It is a ridiculous amount of privilege that I have so much self-control, and self-direction, in my own life. This means that I have the possibility of creating an immediate change in my daily life, moment to moment. I cannot take that for granted, because it’s a gift that I’ve never deserved.

But what can I do about burnout? What can we actually do?

First, you can take a break from reading this, take three deep breaths all the way into your belly and all the way out again, eat a snack, drink a glass of water, and set a hard time today at which you will stop working. Tell a friend that you’re going to stop working at that time—just send them a text message or email and say, “Hey, you don’t even need to respond, but I’m telling you that I’m going to stop working today at X time.” Just telling someone you’ll actually stop will give you a little bit of social accountability to actually stop working. If you stop working, then you can have a chance at resting, recharging, and adding more fuel to your fire.

Consider this Part 1. Next week, I’ll publish Part 2: But the fire of burnout can break you open. After that, I’ll publish Part 3: And once you’re burned out and broken open, something new can be born, beautiful and strong. If you want to make sure you get all the posts, sign up for my email newsletter here.

Stay with me, have compassion for yourself, and, really, try these three things right now:

1. Take three deep breaths.

2. Eat a snack, and drink some water.

3. Set a time you'll stop working today, and tell a friend. (Then actually stop working at that time.)

And if you know someone else needs to hear this? Send them to this blog post. You have my blessing! Listen to your gut, and be of service to that person who comes to mind. 

P.S. Book a free, 30 minute chat with me to talk about where you are, where you want to be, and how I may be able to help you get there. Don't be in burnout alone when we can get you through it together. 

Consistent marketing gets results, you say?

I do say, because it's making my clients thousands of dollars.

Why? Your perfect customers (or readers, or buyers, or students) want to hear from you. And not just once. They want to hear from you consistently, clearly, speaking to them and delighting them with what you have to offer. They want you to remind them that you exist, and that you have what they are looking for.

That’s the essence of my perspective on marketing strategy: Delight them (as I learned from Seth Godin); speak their language in their own words (learned from Ramit Sethi); and be authentically yourself in your content and delivery (thanks, Jennifer Lee, for that one), because your perfect customers are interested in your uniqueness.

My additional advice is to do it consistently. If they are open to hearing from you (via email newsletters, social media, in-person meet ups, whatever it is), use their permission and their interest to your advantage by being in touch regularly.

I’m happy to say that this strategy is working well for one of my clients, Kelly Clancy, an occupational therapist here in Seattle who offers in-person and online continuing education for other health professionals. A student of Kelly’s wrote her recently, unsolicited, with the best news:

Thank you for your regular communications about your classes. I'm looking forward to taking the Fascia Journal Club, and I think my coworker will sign up. Additionally, I'm looking forward to pursuing the Holistic Structural Therapy program and plan to take the LIFT classes next.  You are doing a great job of marketing your program and communicating with students and potential students.

We were THANKED for sending regular email newsletters!

And simultaneously told that she looks forward to pursuing two additional higher-cost courses!

The marketing and communicating that the student refers to are our email newsletters. We send them out once or twice a month. We use our newsletters to deliver valuable content to our subscribers—essays, tools, and tips they can use to address their needs—and to highlight one or two classes that are relevant to those subscribers. We are not hard-selling in these newsletters. We are clearly communicating things that we believe can help or at least interest our subscribers, and we are reminding them that we offer what they are looking for.

So, the basic marketing strategy that is getting results for my client—results that make her thousands of dollars—can be summarized as follows:

1.  Delight them—with content that helps address their current needs and makes their lives better.

2.  Speak their language in their own words—listen to your customers describe their issues, and then discuss their issues with their exact language. That’s how they recognize what you have to offer.

3. Be authentically yourself in your content and delivery—focus on content that feels right to you, and deliver it in ways that make sense to you and your customers, whether that’s writing, visual art, audio recordings, graphic design, or short videos.

4. Be in touch consistently. Your customers need to know you, understand what you offer, trust that you’ll deliver what you promise, and then remember that you offered it in the first place before they buy anything from you. The shortest path to accomplishing those relationship milestones, from my view, is through regular communication that promises something of value and then regularly delivers above and beyond, done consistently over time.

I’m developing some tools that I believe can help simplify the marketing needs of small businesses, artists, and nonprofits, and as I do, I’ll be sharing tidbits here. I want your valuable ideas and products to be out in the world, the sooner, the better.

My writing advice good enough to steal

My husband stole my writing advice.

Noah (a business consultant who also makes games) recently met with a friend for beer and interview tips. Part of her interview included writing a consulting case study, and she was stuck. Just stuck. No traction on writing the thing, and it was due in two days. If she didn’t write and submit the case study, she wouldn’t move forward in the interview process.

He told her: “Here’s what you do. Write a list of 10 things that you want to cover in the case study. Spew verbiage on a page about all those 10 things. It’ll be terrible writing, but that’s okay. Then, sleep. Tomorrow, edit the verbiage into something presentable, and then you’re done.”

He came home, told me the story, and said, “Thanks, wifey!” in his most chipper way. I’m still amused to be worth stealing.

So, why not give it away for free to all of you? Here’s my slightly more involved version of this advice:

Imagine the writing project you need to finish as already done. You wrote it, it was great, you submitted or published it, and now everything is fine again. Now, accept that you are at least three writing sessions away from that feeling of finishing the project.

Session 1: Write a list of all the things you want to cover. 10 things is a nicely round number for a few pages of writing. If you’re writing something that is less than two pages long, aim for three to five points to cover.

Session 2: Write it out. Spew verbiage. Write a shitty first draft, something that no one will see but you. One approach: Set a timer for 20 minutes, and write as many words as you can, as fast as you can. Repeat as needed to cover all your points. Another approach: Going point by point, write out all your thoughts related to Point 1, then Point 2, etc. You’ll repeat yourself several times, but you will end up with enough writing to revise later.

You are now free to sleep off your post-writing exhaustion.

Session 3: Revise as needed. Delete what doesn’t need to be there. Make paragraphs, if you didn’t before. Put it into the format it needs. The key to this part is to sculpt the raw material of yesterday’s spewed verbiage.

 

When clients' writing makes me cry

It always makes me cry in a good way. Happy tears. 

It doesn't happen that often, this crying when I read something that one of my clients has written and I'm reviewing. It happens maybe once a year, or once every two years. If my clients weren't confidential, I'd tell you whose writing and which piece of writing, but confidentiality means that I can just describe my end to you.

1. The idea is vibrant. It started out as vibrant, but now it exists as vibrant. The writing and the execution of the idea demonstrate the full strength and complexity of the idea with excellent structure and flow. The idea now exists in the world because the writing and delivery transmits that idea completely. A reader will read it and get it. There's no hindrance left in the communication, in the transmission of the vibrant idea. A reader reads it, and the idea exists.

2. We have worked very hard together for a very long time to get that idea into the world. Many drafts. Many revision strategies. Many meetings, video chats, emails. Every time that client writing makes me tear up, we've been working on that idea together for at least a year. One book chapter comes to mind that had been nearly two years in the making. One product idea that got me tearing up had been over a year in the discussion and drafting stage, with two years before that of dreaming.

3. My tears come up independently of publication. Independently of anyone else reading the writing besides me. (This is where it gets a little embarrassing, that I am tearing up in my office in my apartment in Seattle, and there's no book deal, there's no copy on a website, there's no buy button. Just me reading a final or nearly final draft.)

4. The first time, the crying took me completely by surprise. Much more often than crying happy tears when I read clients' writing, I get chills, or that spidey-sense that something big is coming. Something good, and solid, and full of impact. I know it's a vibrant idea, but it's early. The writer doesn't see the full idea yet, and neither do I. We can tell it's on the way, and I'm supporting them as they get closer to it.

5. Now, I recognize the feeling, I let myself well up with those happy tears, and I get back to work. I feel and name the gratitude that I have the honor to support people who are bringing such amazing things into the world. I figure out a way that I can share my excitement with my client, without being too startling in my enthusiasm and more articulate about what is working so well.

I'm going to keep writing regularly about vibrant ideas. What makes them great. How I know them when I read them. What it takes to get there.

I'd love to hear from you, too, about the last time you read something that left you with awe. (I know not everyone cries happy tears when they read ... but you probably feel awe.) Comment here, or tell me about it on Facebook.

Are you writing the book report, or the book?

What are book reports like?  They are written documents that prove you read the book. That’s it. Perhaps you give a little analysis and offer a small new idea at the end, but the goal is to summarize what you read.

And if you are a student, the papers you write are essentially book reports. You write these papers to demonstrate that you know the material, the data, the semester’s readings, the relevant theories, and the trend of criticism that matters to your field. These papers tell your reader (who is your professor), “I know what I’m talking about. I have a small idea about it. I understand the field.”

You are writing book reports.

Grad students write book reports. Undergraduate students write book reports. Most people who are new to their job or industry write book reports. The goal of book reports is to show that you know what you’re talking about. It’s establishing credibility so that you can later go on to say more interesting, new things in your writing.

Book reports lack confidence, an empowered voice, and a new idea.

In contrast, books say something. They are clear and emphatic in their arguments for what they say. They are structured around a central idea, the smaller thoughts that make it up, and the implications of their idea for the field. They add something new to the conversation.

Books are the conversation.

Let someone else write the book report on your book. You have a book to write.

A Last-Minute Local's Guide to AWP in Seattle

Writers, publishers, the time is nigh! AWP 2014 begins TODAY. Look at the sunshine I got for you!

The most useful knowledge I can give you of my town is food and drink recommendations, and two things to do.

 

Within walking distance of the WA State Convention Center:

1. Coffee: I've heard good things about Caffe Ladro but haven't been. Same deal with Victrola, a walk up the hill--Victrola is next to many other things I'm going to recommend.

2. Alcohol: Pine Box has been heartily recommended as a bar. For fancy wine bar, I like Purple.

3. Lunch or dinner: 

     a. Lil' Woody's burgers and milkshakes are wonderful. Noah recommends getting the Big Woody with peanut butter. I recommend the milkshakes, because they are made with awesome local ice cream from Molly Moon's, and this is the closest Molly Moon's available near the convention center.

     b. Homegrown makes expensive, hipster sandwiches, and I recommend them both because they are delicious, they use lots of vegetables which you should load up on between beers at AWP, and they are very Seattle. Very local ingredients, know your source kind of eating, which is hard to find in downtown for less than $20 an entree.

     c. Taylor Shellfish Farms for the freshest seafood you will have in downtown, that you don't have to cook yourself, and you don't pay crazy money for. Oysters, crab, chowders. Very local.

4. Free things to look at: Seattle Central Library. It's beautiful. It's modern. It's free and quiet. Take the escalators all the way to the top. Check out the automated book sorter thing in the front lobby. Wander around the rare books on the top floor. Sit in the window-filled rooms.

Within a long, hilly walking distance:

1. Le Panier at Pike Place Market.

Skip the original Starbucks and go to Le Panier, where the croissants are all made with real butter, the bread is perfect, the macarons are great, and the coffee is good. The almond croissant is my favorite; the chocolate is second in line.

2. WA State Ferries to Bainbridge Island (35 min. trip to the island, 35 min. back, $7.85 per adult passenger (walk-on) round trip ticket). Here's the schedule.

You could potentially take the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge, get off the ship, get on 20 minutes later, and be back at the Seattle ferry dock all in 90 minutes. Bainbridge has a cute town to wander around, Winslow, but crossing Puget Sound is the main attraction. The views of the Sound, the islands, the city, and (if it's clear) the mountains are spectacular. Worth the eight bucks.

I'll be at the Cooper Dillon table each afternoon, so come say hi!

Art Every Day 11.21 and a gift

I made a postcard project. And I'd love to mail you one. Sign up here

There are several postcards, and they all have text, and the text is taken from a published text ... so, after you receive one in the mail, I'd love for you to try to figure out what I've quoted, then take a quick photo of the postcard and upload it to the CBC Editing Facebook page. We can play detective together!

Here's one of them. I'd love to have you play along!

Postcard project by Christine Bryant Cohen for CBC Editing, 2013.

Postcard project by Christine Bryant Cohen for CBC Editing, 2013.

Art Every Day 11.14

A surveying control point set into the sidewalk in Seattle, WA. Photo by Christine Bryant Cohen, 2013.

A surveying control point set into the sidewalk in Seattle, WA. Photo by Christine Bryant Cohen, 2013.

I set out to take photos of the sunset. They turned out okay. I took photos of raindrops on plants. Also okay. But the best photo is this one, taken of a surveying control point set into the sidewalk on my block.

I notice boundary markers, frequently, in all locations, because I am a surveyor's daughter. My dad has worked as a land surveyor in Missouri for 35 years. When I was a kid, he would take us all on Sunday drives to subdivisions out in the boonies that were being constructed. On road trips, he would show us landmarks that are only significant to surveyors (have you been to the highest point in Kansas? It's called Mount Sunflower, and it predictably looks like a hill). He sends me emails about surveyors climbing the summit of Mount Rainier with GPS equipment that can measure how much the mountain has grown in the last decade (answer: about as much as you would expect for a stratovolcano on a subduction zone to rise).

The sidewalk in the photo is covered with Pacific Northwest moss, but it makes me think of my Midwestern home.

Tip of the Week: A Little Writing Music

I've been editing and suggesting revision strategies for a wonderful medical professional client this week, working on chapters that she is contributing to a book about one of her specialties. I love being knee-deep in someone else's brilliant ideas, especially when they're as paradigm-shifting as hers.

When I'm working hard like this, and writing so much (even in the form of feedback, it's still my ideas), I turn to music to help keep me on task. But I'm picky. Words don't help, and classical is sometimes too ... interesting. I get too into Mozart.

But I do have something that works. I love The Timeout Drawer and other wordless electronica. 

And when I'm proofreading citation pages, it's Nicky Minaj and other mindless top 40 dance music all the way, along with bowls of raw almonds and M&Ms.

What music gets you writing?

Tip of the Week: Project Management for Writers

My dear fellow writers, I have a confession. It comes in the form of a juggling metaphor. I'm not apologizing for that.

I have a tendency to throw several balls into the air at a time, and then to get really interested and focused on just one of the balls, at which point other balls crash down on my head. (Please know that, if I'm editing your work, your work is the ball that gets all my focus. I will dream about your writing, I will mutter about it to myself when I take walks, and I will think about it while I'm doing dishes. Your work doesn't crash on my head; it's my personal side projects that fall suddenly on me.)

The rest of the industrialized world (especially profitable businesses) have tools for this ball-juggling-and-crashing problem, and they are called tools for project management. Project management often involves budgets, deadlines, owning processes, managing teams of people, forecasting output, and optimizing efficiency. That's all great, but how does that help you or me as writers? 

Free project management tools exist, because of the needs of these businesses, and we can use them to help get our beautiful ideas into the world.

Trello is my current favorite project management tool. It is free. I keep a board for each editing client and each personal project of mine, so I have one place I can go to see all details related to one project ... or one ball. And all the other balls. And design checklists with deadlines for each component of each project. And I can color-code cards, and archive cards, and ... it is making my work life and creative life balance go much more smoothly than in the past. I'm a fan.

I currently have a board that is only for my distant, dream-like thoughts on academic articles I might someday write. One of my lists is titled "gender bias across citation style guides"; another is titled "trauma theory and trauma studies." On my "trauma theory" list, I make one card per journal article or website that I come across, find interesting, and want to remember. On the back of the card, I list a web address and citation information. This way, I'll never lose track of the World Psychiatry article I read today about the long-term costs of traumatic stress on the body.

Of course, any project management tool is only as good as it fits your style, and your work flow, and only as long as it doesn't take away time from actually working on the project that you want to manage. So, give it a try, but if it doesn't just fit in your brain, quit it and move on. Try Evernote, try keeping everything in Google Drive as a rambling document, or use Post It notes stuck to your computer. Whatever works for you is good. 

So, tip of the week: Try a project management tool like Trello to keep track of your current project and distant projects. See if you like it. And quit it if you don't.

Art Every Day: 11.1

It's Art Every Day Month. I'm starting with photography. I have a lovely camera on long-term loan, and I'm very grateful for that. 

I picked up this pinecone on a recent walk. 

Pinecone from a recent walk in Wallingford.

Pinecone from a recent walk in Wallingford.

Pinecone, innards.

Pinecone, innards.

And this is one of my aloe plants. Aloes and I go way back ... I've been given many and killed many more. This one, I forgot outside this summer, and it was happy enough. 

Aloe, one of two, 11.1.2013.

Aloe, one of two, 11.1.2013.

So, here we go, friends. Today had to be a quick day for me. I have much more than photos taken on my kitchen table in mind. I'd love to see your posts--point them to me on Twitter, or in the comments here. 

Art Every Day Month this November

I've decided to participate in Art Every Day Month (AEDM), something like a much calmer version of NaNoWriMo without novel writing. I'll be posting my pictures or documentation here throughout the month of November, along with regular blog content for CBC Editing readers.

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You are welcome to join in with me! Writing counts, cooking counts, knitting counts, drawing, making jewelry, decorating ... whatever appeals to you. I plan on making some jewelry that I've meant to make for years, drawing, taking photos, and I may include some cooking if I can make something more creative than my usual bean and split pea stews.  I may repair some handmade ceramics of mine that have broken in to many pieces. I may frame some art. I may ... paint a mural on my staircase wall, because my landlord is very lax about such things. Who knows! I'm excited to just make more things with less attachment to the making. I easily get caught into making perfect things or creating a huge, too-detailed plan that holds me back from just making already.

Comment below and let me know if you plan to participate. I'd love to follow your blog posts or Flickr page to watch your progress.

 Here are the AEDM guidelines.

The rules (which were made for breaking):
I keep the rules for AEDM really simple and very loose. I encourage people to make something every day, but my goal is to foster more creativity, so if you make just one piece of art per week or just one for the whole month, that's fine with me. The idea is to bring more creativity into your life, not to make you feel overwhelmed, pressured or guilt-stricken. Art is also loosely defined here. I mean art in the sense of anything creative, whether that be painting, drawing, knitting, sewing, cooking, decorating, writing, photography, clay, jewelry-making or whatever!
Look at AEDM as a soft nudge to add more creativity to your everyday life with a bit of group support. It's the group support that makes it so lovely I think. Every year, I meet new, wonderfully creative people through the process, which was an unexpected, but amazing benefit! Because my focus is on mixed media art, I tend to work on drawing, painting, and collage and I challenge myself complete a piece of art or do some work on a larger piece every day and post an image of what I'm working on on my blog.
I keep a link to a list of bloggers participating this year in my sidebar, so that you can check in on what others are up to and I'll have a Mr. Linky widget posted daily where people can leave a link to their blog posts. I've also created a Flickr group where people could share their creations  (it's free and fairly easy to use.) You can join up with the flickr group hereand post your images there if you'd like to, although it's not required.