Develop Your New Reading List!

It’s getting toward the end of 2017. December is an awesome time for readers – it’s late enough in the year that all of the “best books of the year” lists start to roll in. I use this time to scan through those lists for books I might find interesting. Then I compile a catalog of books to read in the next year.

Hands down the best list is from Largehearted Boy (David Gutowski). Annually he aggregates all the online year-end book lists and places them in a single post on his blog. As new lists appear, he adds them to this master list, updating it daily.

Add a little energy to your upcoming New Year’s Resolution to read more – survey these lists and develop your own personal list of new books to check out in 2018.

http://www.largeheartedboy.com/blog/archive/2017/11/online_best_of_75.html

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Free Time Calculator: Do You Really Have Time to Write?

If you're like many writers, you've probably convinced yourself that you don't have enough time. Whether it's finding time to send out submissions, edit your work-in-progress, set new writing goals, finish your novel or just about anything…we often give up before we even start because we believe it's just not possible to fit writing into our busy lives. 

Well, the interesting thing is, if you sit down and do the calculations, you'd be surprised at just how much time you really do have. 

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To make it easier to figure out how much time you actually have to write, check out the Free Time Calculator at the link below. It's a simple, but effective, spreadsheet that will reveal the time you actually have to work on things you've been putting off - such as your writing. And it will help you identify the time blocks you can use to your benefit each day.

Quick Instructions:

1. Simply open the spreadsheet and you'll see all the days of the week across the top and then 60-minute time blocks on the side. These time blocks should start from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, so you may need to make adjustments. You can also switch to 30-minute increments to be more precise if you prefer.

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2. In each time block, mark all the times you are busy. For example, include time at your job, exercise, family time, church, meal preparation and eating, commuting, etc. 

3. Then for open blocks, write in “1” for each hour block that you have free. If you switch to 30-minute blocks, enter “0.5”.

4. Once you've completed these steps, you'll see how much free time you have each day AND the total free time you have each week.

Of course, this calculation is just the first step in getting more done with your time and possibly reaching those writing goals you never thought you had time for. From here, you'll need to connect that time to the writing goals you want to achieve.

http://www76.zippyshare.com/v/qCoImh3d/file.html

Contingency Plans.

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It is something writers would rather not think about, even if they should – protecting your writing from a computer emergency. Most writers have faced this at least once. The struggle to recreate that perfect short story you lost because you didn’t backup your work is almost as painful as losing the story in the first place.

So check out Triona Guidry’s article “How to Protect Your Writing from a Computer Emergency” over at The Writer. It gives some great hints on how to protect your writing from that inevitable data crisis.

https://www.writermag.com/2017/10/30/computer-emergency/

A Blogging Gameplan.

Writing content for a blog isn't always simple, To make it easier, I follow a set process.

1. Decide On A Topic

Develop a list of things you’re passionate about or you can write on authoritatively. It could be a mix of not only your expert subject-matter, but also topics related to productivity, motivation, work/life balance, etc. Also, think of questions you’re constantly answering. What common problems/concerns do people have? What info do you often seek? Pinpoint areas that others face difficulties- then you can create a benefit to readers by solving their problems. Keep a list of potential subjects to write about to fall back on when you don’t have new ideas.

2. Develop an Outline

I suggest using a traditional outline like we all learned to make in grade school. Break out the primary points of a post and create a list of what you want to include in the order you plan to address it. A traditional outline helps you work out the flow of a post and organize ideas in a logical manner.

3. Fill In The Holes

Next take your outline and start filling in the blanks. Add supporting evidence, research, sources, examples, and stories. Just write. Don’t worry about how it sounds. Since writing and editing are different skills, trying to do both at the same time hinders your process. Just focus on getting your ideas out and conveying what you want to say.

4. Edit

With a first draft down, read your post out loud to help identify any writing awkwardness, typos, wrong words, sentence fragments, and anything else that hinders the flow of your post. If you have a hard time reading it, your readers will also have a tough time getting through it.

5. Create a Title

Coming up with good blog titles is hard. A title needs to not only summarize your post and hint at what you’re about to say, but it also needs to be engaging to readers and descriptive for search engines. To become better at writing blog titles, I’d recommend following some exceptional blogs and note how they come up with their titles.

6. Toss in an Image

Adding compelling images to your content will enhance your story and affect how users perceive it. If you use stock photography, select photos that add pizzazz to your content. Choose images to set the tone for your post and pull people in. One place I use for images is https://unsplash.com/, which has artistic images from amazing photographers for free.

7. Share the Post

Once you’ve done the work, post the article to your blog. Share the post via all of your social media networks, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and wherever else you participate.

This is one process for developing blog posts that people want to read. I’m sure there are other methods, but this one seems simple enough to help anyone get started. Happy blogging!

 

Think Like an Entrepreneur.

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“Not every entrepreneur is a writer, but every writer is an entrepreneur.” This is the premise of Benjamin Sobieck’s article “How to Breathe New Life Into Your Creative Career” over on the Writing and Wellness website. Mr. Sobieck chronicles how the same creative juices that fuel his writing practice also powered his efforts to roll out a new product and start a new business. It's a great read.

http://www.writingandwellness.com/2017/10/01/how-to-breathe-new-life-into-your-creative-career/?utm_content=bufferb40ae&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

How To Be Creative.

So you want to be more creative in art, writing, work, or whatever. Here are some tips that have worked for me over the years.

  1. Ignore others. The more original your ideas, the less good advice other folks will be able to provide. Plus, people tend to naysay and undermine new ideas, whether out of jealousy or fear. If you truly have a new idea, it’s often best to cultivate it internally before getting the opinions of others.

  2. Your idea doesn’t have to be huge – it just has to invoke a change in the world. The two are not necessarily the same, even though we often assume they are.

  3. Put in the hours and effort. Doing anything worthwhile takes an extra push. What separates the success stories from failed people is time, effort, and stamina.

  4. Everyone is born creative. We all doodled with crayons in kindergarten. We imagined impossible things and were happy doing so. In high school, society stole our markers and construction paper and replaced it with algebra and textbooks….and then our workplaces replaced them with mundane memos and company policies. Blah. Deciding that you want to be creative is just you taking back your crayons – the crayons you should have been able to keep all along.

  5. Don’t stand out from the crowd. Avoid the crowd altogether. Your plan to showcase your creativity needs to be as creative as your work itself. Don’t blindly follow the same methods others follow just because it’s “what you’re supposed to do.” Find your own path, even if it I winding.

  6. If you accept rejection, it cannot hurt you. You will hear “no” often. If you hear it enough, you’ll become numb to it. You might hear no because people don’t understand your ideas, or what you are doing is so different that they think it must fail. Accept rejection as collateral damage. Their rebuffs won’t sting for long if you are certain you’re destined for greater things.

  7. The world is changing. Your creative vision needs to change as well.

  8. Sing in your own voice. People can recognize a knockoff a mile away. Once you’ve been pigeonholed as a bootleg version of someone else, you’ll never crawl out from under that label.

  9. Don’t worry about finding inspiration. It will arrive, eventually. You’re better off not pushing the deal. If you really want to write but it’s not coming easy, go read for a while. If you really want to draw but have no ideas, scroll through some artistic photos. Your body requires food to have enough energy to workout. Similarly, reading or studying the creative work of others can fuel your own creativity.

  10. Always create from the heart.

These creative tenets seem to work for me. Maybe one or two of these ideas will ring true for you. Safe travels as you embark on your creative journey!

Need a Spark? Try Using Writing Prompts!

Even a motivated writer can need a jumpstart to get the creative juices flowing. Rather than staring at a blank sheet of paper waiting for inspiration to arrive, why not try using writing prompts? A single Google search can yield a plethora of creative prompts. These can serve as a starting point for your endeavors. The work that comes out of using prompts could prove to be your best stuff, or it might take you in a creative direction you wouldn’t normally head in. Or the prompt might result in your worst writing ever, but the act of pushing through instead of giving up could pull you closer to your next masterpiece.

Here’s a short list of writing prompts that I found over on the Submittable Blog – this can be a great starting point. Good luck in getting your derailed creativity back on track!

https://blog.submittable.com/2017/10/write-right-now-or-get-ready-to-write-later/

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“Nothing” at The Voices Project

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The Voices Project is a non-judgmental venue for women, and also men, to express their personal stories and observations through poetry to promote social change. They are dedicated to helping others feel empowered through self-expression. Recently, they published my poem “Nothing” on their website. Big thanks to the editors at The Voices Project for allowing me to contribute.

http://www.thevoicesproject.org/poetry-library/nothing-by-adrian-s-potter

So what does it mean to be a writer?

Lately, I’ve thought about what it means to be a writer. I’m a self-taught creative with a technical day job. I used to equate my worth as a writer to the number of publications my work appeared in. I felt as if I needed to legitimize myself in a world filled with accomplished MFAs.

Over time I have evolved – I’ve had work published in at least 200 periodicals, both in print and online, and won or placed in contests for both poetry and fiction. I know that I’m not a hack anymore. My work has faced off with some exceptional creative minds – sometimes winning, more often losing, but I’m sure my writing deserves the chance to compete. I’m not the most polished. I don’t have MFA connections or a book deal (yet). But I’m humbly certain my writing deserves the little bit of attention it steals from time to time.

With that manufactured confidence, my personal writing focus shifted from just getting work out there to crafting better writing on a daily basis. That transition has helped my growth, energy, quality, and work rate. Not to mention that spilling new ideas on paper is immensely more satisfying than obsessing over amassing empty publication credits.

All of this self-reflection fell in line with my thoughts as I read “What It Means to Be a Writer—and to Emerge as a Writer”—guest post by Albert Flynn DeSilver on Jane Friedman’s site. This article presents some unique insight on the term “emerging writer” and the transformation many writers experience as we hone our craft. It is a great read.

So what does being a writer mean to you?

https://www.janefriedman.com/what-it-means-to-be-writer/

So what should you blog about when you’re blogging on your blog?

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Just like with any form of creative writing, blogging presents the challenge of generating ideas. This is especially true if you want to keep a steady flow of new content for readers.

So how should you go about creating new ideas for blog posts? This article by Vicki Krueger on the Poynter website provides some examples of basic constructs that can be used to spark successful blogging. Read them, implement them, then bask in the glory of your awesome blog!

https://www.poynter.org/news/7-ideas-writing-blog-posts

Bacopa Literary Review.

Big thanks to the folks at the Bacopa Literary Review for including three of my poems in their 2017 issue, including “This Is Not a Protest Poem,” which won Honorable Mention in their annual contest. I appreciate the chance to contribute!

Here's the Amazon.com link to Bacopa Literary Review 2017 if you are interested in checking it out.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1973979454/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1504416981&sr=1-1&keywords=Bacopa+Literary+Review&pldnSite=1

Putting it together…

If you’re looking for guidance on developing a book of poetry, check out this blog post in which Marilyn McCabe shares everything she can think of on the subject of putting together a manuscript of poems. It’s easy to read and has some solid advice. It just might inspire you to piece together your poetic masterpiece.

https://marilynonaroll.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/putting-together-a-manuscript-of-poems-everything-i-can-think-of-a-megablog/

Roads & Bridges.

This is a different kind of publication credit for me, but one that I am certainly proud of.

Recently, through my day job, I had a chance to write an article for Roads & Bridges magazine. It’s about using AVL technology to track roadside mowing operations, and much of it is based on a research paper that I helped develop for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. I appreciate the chance to contribute to the magazine and enjoyed flexing my non-literary writing muscles to publicize the innovative approach to mowing that MnDOT is taking.

https://www.roadsbridges.com/land-scoping

100 Books a Year? You Can Do It!

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I was proud that I’ve read 25 books so far this year. That was until I read Srinivas Rao’s article “How to Read 100 Books a Year.” Now I feel like an underachiever.

But seriously, this article does contain some solid strategies on how to hit the lofty goal of devouring 100 books in a year…and consequently reap the benefits of becoming a more interested, cultured person. For me, reading the work of others is key to me making strides in my own writing practice, so I will be employing these suggestions to step my reading game up in the future.

https://www.thriveglobal.com/stories/12283-how-to-read-100-books-in-a-year

The Poem as Political Protest.

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The most powerful poems can carry a political message by re-enlivening and reactivating language. The idea of a poem as a vehicle for political protest is discussed over at the Bacopa Literary Review Editor's Blog in an insightful post. There is also a brief mention of my poem "This Is Not a Protest Poem,” which will appear in the October edition of the Bacopa Literary Review. Check it out!

http://bacopaliteraryreview.blogspot.com/2017/08/this-poem-is-not-political-protest-or.html

Give Up These Things to Become a Better Writer.

Over on the Grammarly Blog, you’ll find a great article by Karen Hertzberg called “9 Things You Need to Give up to Be a Successful Writer.” In it, Ms. Hetzberg gives us all nine real tips that can help you become a better communicator right away.

https://www.grammarly.com/blog/things-you-need-to-give-up-to-be-successful-writer/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=Facebook_org&utm_content=&utm_campaign=Blog_Lifestyle&utm_id=eHbQju92hhYtkA

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