Why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year

I was very touched to look up my blog statistics today and see that, gosh, pretty much as many people are reading my blog this month – when I’ve posted literally nothing – as any other month. In my head, this could be caused by many possibilities, all of them fairly positive – you actually find what I wrote in the past interesting, so you came back to reread it, or you told other people about it; or new people found the blog on Google and read something; or you all missed me and kept checking the blog daily to see if I’d written anything new yet.

Well, I haven’t written anything new. But I don’t feel bad about it – and here’s why you don’t need to feel bad about it either.

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What self-care looked like for me this winter

Some of my self-care helpers.

Some of my self-care helpers.

I’ve been reading about self-care. Here’s what it looks like for me this winter.

In the picture above, you can see some of my dedicated self-care helpers: Aloe vera tissues, cuppa tea, soy cheese crackers, inspiring documentary about miracle healers, a trip to the movies, a big, warm, fluffy blanket, and in the background, you can just make out my adorable baby CD player.

This year, I just read this post by Mrs Modern Darcy on what self-care can look like, this post on The Peaceful Wife about taking care of yourselves to love others better, and this post on Propel Women on how women in leadership can make time for self-care.

These posts are good reminders that self-care – taking care of yourself and doing a few things every day just to make yourself happy – is not just for you. It’s for everyone around you who needs your love and attention. You can’t give anyone love and attention when your needs haven’t been met and you feel out of sorts.

And the things that wear you out don’t need to be bad things. Even good things like serving, caring, and giving friendship, can all take energy. If we’re not recharging, we soon run out of love to give.

Stress from doing too many good things is not a new thing. Even Moses in the Bible got told off for trying to do too much at once without taking care of himself. His father-in-law Jethro warned him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” (Exodus 18: 17-18, NASB)

Remember how on the plane, they say to put on your own oxygen mask before you put on your kids’? They say that because if you don’t save yourself, you cannot save your kids. It’s not selfish. It’s essential.

And creativity? Forget about it! If you’re stressed, you are waaaaay less creative.

So I was inspired me to write out my own list of what helps me stay sane and productive on a daily basis, and helps me to love and work better. I hope it inspires you like it did me!

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Using the right words matters – a lesson for companies big and little

Last week one of the juniors at work said, “What’s SEO?”

Bless his little heart. He’s in his first year of journalism and they haven’t covered search engine optimisation yet. If you don’t know what it means either, it basically means using the right words so that people can find the content they want easily, in the place they expect it to be.

Here’s my case study on why using the right words is important for businesses big and small.

Last week for work I was researching which service station chains had environmental repair programs, community support programs or sponsored worthy charitable causes. (These articles coming soon to an interwebs near you.)

Most of the chains I researched made that information really easy to find: “Environment”, “Community partnerships”, “Sponsorships”, “Giving Back”, or even “Why you can trust Our Company not to screw up your world”.

But some of them didn’t list the information at all, or they buried it in their corporate reports under “Governance structures” or “Company policies”. Um, hello?

Imagine if I was a prospective customer instead of a journalist – they just lost themselves a sale because I couldn’t find the information I wanted.

So today’s big lesson is for everyone in a company, whether big or small. From web designers to corporate writers to CEOs:

Write for the customer.

Nobody else matters.

And even if this non-customer person does matter, you don’t write stuff for them on the public website; you put what they need into a report and give it to them in a professional package.

Otherwise, all you’re doing is causing frustration and driving potential customers away from your company. Like singing opera when your audience came to hear a musical – a similar concept in most ways, but very, very different in terms of user-friendliness.

The opera 'La Boheme', being performed at the Teatro Solis in Montevideo in August 2005. Image source: Foto te Casur, Ireland's Own

The opera ‘La Boheme’, being performed at the Teatro Solis in Montevideo in August 2005. Image source: Foto te Casur, Ireland’s Own

What are the “right words” that I mentioned? They change over time, unfortunately, so you need to always be on the ball, checking what other people in your field are up to. Regularly view your competitors’ websites and do a “spot the differences” with your own website.

This won’t be a long post about SEO or copywriting or web design. All of that is pretty boring if it’s not your passion, and you can pay someone else to do it. (I’ve done a stack of copywriting in my career so far because I love it.) I just wanted a chance to vent about companies whose websites aren’t user-friendly.

Phew.

End vent. 🙂

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2015. Re-blogging is always highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

Read faster, write more

Let me start with a disclaimer: I’m not boasting, just hoping to show you how you can be as fast a writer as I am, too, if writing more content more quickly would be useful to you in your role as a creator or a creative professional.

So at the moment I’m writing about 6 to 9 articles a day at work. That’s about one an hour, including time spent researching the topic. To give you some perspective, I won’t tell you what my colleagues are averaging, but rest assured that I am fast.

How do I do it? What’s my secret? It’s simple, and you can do it, too.

I’m about to share with you one of my biggest secrets.

I read super fast.

Scarily fast.

So fast The Flash shivers when he hears me open a comic book, because he’s afraid he won’t be able to tell the story fast enough.

The Flash Comic #2: The Fastest Man Alive. This is the new cover variant. Image source: Comic Mega Store

The Flash Comic #2: The Fastest Man Alive. This is the new cover variant. Image source: Comic Mega Store

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Cultivate your curiosity

Me hard at work in the new Canstar office in Brisbane CBD. I took this photo using my new Windows phone.

Me hard at work in the new Canstar office in Brisbane CBD. I took this photo using my new Windows phone.

I’ve been thrashing out the articles for my current contract employer, Canstar Blue. You can view all of my articles at this link, and I’ve compiled a ‘Best Of’ compilation at the bottom of this post…

Have I mentioned lately how amazing it is to be writing for a living? I am thoroughly enjoying every day. And thankfully they like me, too, so I get to stay on for another 6 month contract. So thankful! Praise God.

So here’s two of the things I’ve been thinking about this Friday…

Every morning at 9am we start our day with an editorial team Brainstorm Meeting. Depending on what day it is, 3 to 7 of us get together in one of the meeting rooms and say, “Tomorrow’s product releases are 4WDs and pharmacies. What are some articles we can write today about that?” Then we chat about it and get a list of 5 to 10 ideas, divide them among us, and report on where we’re up to with our other article lists that we’re each responsible for.

I love these meetings because writing is largely a solitary task, but for 15 minutes every day, we’re all part of a team working together. We’re all having our work and our ideas acknowledged and validated. Team managers, take note of the first thing I’ve been realising:

Short, positive team meetings more often make for happier staff.

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News from TJ

I’m delighted to let you all know I have a new temp contract for the next 3 months, praise God!

I’m working for Canstar Blue in writing content about the many products that they research for Australian consumers on their website. This week I began by writing about how to recycle your old vacuum cleaner.

This is Henry the Numatic HVR200A Commercial Vacuum Cleaner. Made in England.  Image source: Vacuum Cleaners Plus

I’d like you all to meet Henry the Numatic HVR200A Commercial Vacuum Cleaner. Made in England.
Image source: Vacuum Cleaners Plus

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The benefits of writing at different times of day

Painting attributed to Valentin de Boulogne: ‘Saint Paul Writing His Epistles’

Painting attributed to Valentin de Boulogne: ‘Saint Paul Writing His Epistles’

Earlier this week we talked about devotions to help you start and finish the day well, so that you can be more creative. Today is all about what time of day you spend creating, whether that means writing or painting or sketching or crocheting.

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Why we should get to play jigsaw puzzles at work

Image source: WHSmith 1000 Piece Jigsaw: ‘Hidden Tigers’ by Steve Read

Image source: WHSmith 1000 Piece Jigsaw: ‘Hidden Tigers’ by Steve Read

So where I work, we share a building with a biology research lab. It sounds cool but I never get to see them apart from a shared “hello” in the hallways. But the best part is that the path to the stockroom takes me near enough to see their staff room… which is filled with jigsaw puzzles!

Every morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea, you can spy them all in there, sitting or standing around a massive boardroom table covered in the latest masterpiece.

Tigers in the jungle.

Castles on the moors.

Uluru at sunset.

I swear I saw a Harry Potter puzzle once.

This is how they incubate their ideas, and I think it’s genius.

“Well, it sounds like we’ve hit a wall. Let’s take a break and come back after morning tea. To the puzzle room!”

But let me tell you, the puzzles have more benefits than just having a nice little break from work.

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Why editors can – and should – keep writing

Graphophobia - fear of writing. Image source: WeirdPhobia.com

Did you know this is a real thing? Woah!
Image source: WeirdPhobia.com

I recently interviewed for a position at a great publishing house (the dream job – ah!).

As the head editors were interviewing me, at one point, they said:

“So, it says here that you are also a writer?”

“Yes, absolutely; I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen. My first words were literally, ‘Book’ and ‘Read’. I wrote my first ‘book’ when I was four years old. ‘The Adventures of Freddy Fish’.”

“Wow!” said one.

“How do you do that?” asked the other.

I was surprised. “Um, I just love writing. It’s why I became an editor at all; I love reading and writing and I just want to make stories better wherever I can.”

“Wow,” said the first again. “I don’t think I could write anything anymore. Probably ever.”

“I haven’t read a book for fun in years, let alone written one.”

“Yeah, I mean, you’re reading other peoples’ writing all day, it just gets… It would be completely intimidating now to try and write something of my own. Because I know what it’s like, who’s going to be reading what I write. I’m used to sitting on this side of the desk now.”

“I don’t think I could take the rejection. Writers are very brave, I think.”

“Well, thank you,” I said.

And we moved on. Phew!

My point…

Editors are afraid to write because of their inner editors – just like normal writers. But we shouldn’t be, whether we’re a writer or an editor!

'Fear'. Image source: Kathy Coatney and Lisa Sorensen via Jean Oram via fellow blogger Jodie Llewellyn’s blog:

Image source: Kathy Coatney and Lisa Sorensen
via Jean Oram
via fellow blogger Jodie Llewellyn’s blog post

Whether you’re a writer or an editor, you should also be an editor and a writer. (Ooh, see what I did there?)

Writer, I really hope you’re self-editing your stuff before you show it around to people. Otherwise, I’m sorry, but you’re probably a really really poor writer. Sad face. 😦

And Editor, I really hope that you read and write as well. Otherwise, you just don’t know what it’s like for us writers. You don’t know what it took to get our babies – I mean, books – out of our heads and into the world, so you don’t treat our babies – books! (Wow, that keeps happening!) – as kindly as you could.

(Hey, if you could use the extra push, why not use NaNoWriMo to get you writing again this month? It’s fun!)

Editors in big firms and magazines don’t usually have time to write, I know, if you want to have any kind of home life and actually speak to your family once a day. You work long hours at the office and you don’t always get home for dinner. But J.K. Rowling was a waitress supporting her kids as a single mum when she wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, so not having enough time is not really a good excuse.

If you want to write, you don’t have time to write; you make time to write.

For more info, the Department of English at Florida Atlantic University pointed me to this great post, ‘Who edits the editors?’ by Mark Medley, which talks about famous editors who have become published authors. Cordite Poetry Review even published a poetry collection, Editorial Intervention, entirely made up of the poems written by poetry editors.

So, in summary, writers, take a deep breath and get to that self-editing; editors, be bold and get writing again. As the great Mark Twain once said:

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

'Just Write'. Image source: Trent M Kays on Rhetorical Rumination

Image source: Trent M Kays on Rhetorical Rumination

 

 

Writers, how do you get past your fear and start editing your own work? Editors, how do you get past your fear and start writing?

 

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2014. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

Pros and cons of being a freelancer

Everyone has their own assumptions about what it’s like to be a freelancer.

 

Here’s what it is like for me and for the friends I know who are freelancers:

 

Pros Cons
I set my own schedule.I can take a break when I need to. I set my own schedule.That means I become a workaholic, working 6 days a week when I can because I know I need money for the weeks when I don’t have work.
I negotiate my own contracts and pay. Because I negotiate my own pay, I sometimes end up being paid “mate’s rates”.
I work from home or at my local library, so I’m more comfortable than in someone else’s workplace.I get to work in my PJs while listening to music! I work from home.I don’t get to “go in to the office”. I have to be responsible for my own time.I have to make sure my internet is reliable.
I get to choose my own contracts. I am constantly searching for new contracts.As outsourcing becomes more common, there are fewer contracts that pay a standard Australian rate.
I get to take a lunch break with friends. I can’t just “duck out” to take lunch with my friends who work in the city – there’s travel time involved.
Clients are sometimes unreliable when it comes to paying you or providing you with the right files to work with.

 

If you’re new to the creative workplace, what have been your experiences so far?

And if you need an editor for your novel, children’s book, memoir, textbook, website, company newsletter, or “other”, please let me know! Visit my freelance services page for more details on my services and to get in touch. I’d love to hear from you!

View my rates for editing, copywriting, or proofreading, on my Freelance Services page!

View my rates for editing, copywriting, or proofreading, on my Freelance Services page!

 

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2013. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.