Monthly Archives: September 2014

These Things Will Kill Your Creativity: Warning for Freelance Writers

creativity warning for freelance writers

Creativity can be a blessing and a curse. Riding the wave of inspiration can feel like the most glorious sensation in the world. However, when inspiration wanes and the work becomes more an exercise in brute force, it can be difficult to push on and continue being productive.

It’s not a secret that being a freelance writer requires something akin to a monk’s caliber of self-discipline. However, even the most disciplined writer is prone to moments of slacking. As writer John R. Perry describes in his book The Art of Procrastination, it’s possible to develop habits that will inspire you to work again by enhancing your mental stamina and imagination. On the other hand, there are some common habits that will only serve to deaden the senses and keep you even further from meeting your deadlines.

Here are some habits to avoid when you’re blocked:

1. Watching television

As American writer Gene Fowler once stated, “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” With all that mental stress and concentration, it can be very tempting to turn off the brain for a while and turn on the television. Don’t do it.

There are enough studies that have proven that watching television lowers intellect, dulls the senses and even impairs the metabolic system. According to a study published by professors at Tohoku University in Japan, it’s even been held responsible for producing brain damage in children. So, come on, put the remote down. There’s nothing for you there.

2. Surfing the internet

In this age of digital technology, with constant status updates and tweets providing a never-ending source of news and entertainment, many writers (like George RR Martin and Zadie Smith) have opted to chop temptation off at the knees by writing on computers that have no access to the internet. Writing and staying motivated to write are hard enough tasks, without adding to it the task of self-monitoring your internet addiction. Take advice from the experts and get rid of the internet while you’re writing.

3. Don’t allow interruptions

Zadie Smith advises “Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.” And Susan Sontag claims, “One can never be alone enough to write.”

Whether you realize it or not, taking a phone call from a friend or spouse, replying to an email, or attending to your children all take you out of the mental space you’ve created for your writing. It’s hard enough to create that space in the first place. Harder still to get back in once you’ve left it for the noble task of scrolling down your Facebook newsfeed (see rule #2).

4. Clutter/Ritual

Clutter can be as much a temptation as the Internet. When you sit down to write and the mind starts to wander, it will find any excuse not to write, including cleaning up clutter. Before you know it, you may not only have cleaned up your study but set about defrosting the freezer or degreasing the floor under the stove (which hadn’t been done since you moved in). And there’s nothing wrong with that besides the timing and motivation for doing it which is to put off writing.

Many writers create a ritual where they prepare their space for work before sitting down to write: removing clutter, sharpening pencils, putting on some classical music. Find anything that works for you. Friedrich Schiller kept a drawer full of rotten apples that he claimed inspired him. Collette picked fleas off of her dog and hunted them around the room until she was inspired to write. Alexandre Dumas had a rigorous color-coded system where he wrote his poetry on yellow paper, fiction on blue paper, and articles on pink. Woody Allen used to write while standing up in the subway in New York. Whatever works.

5. Don’t be a perfectionist

As Anne Lamott puts it in not so mild terms, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” Everyone wants to do well and get it right. But perfectionism rarely leads to good work, and most often leads to the abandonment of potentially wonderful work. Just get the words out. You can change them later.

Don’t try so much to control the flow, otherwise you’ll end up strangling it completely. Every word you write is practice. By censoring and editing before there’s even something to censor or edit, you’re not only failing to write but depriving yourself of the practice you need to write well.

There you have humble advice of professional writers to get you creating and keep you creative. Use it well and good luck!

5 Self-Publishing Myths Debunked by Writers

self-publishing myths debunked

It’s confusing, isn’t it? There’s so much written on both sides of the fence about self-publishing, it’s hard to know fact from fancy. Myths and stories abound about the pitfalls and pinnacles of the independent authors’ efforts to publish their creative expression.

There’s no doubt that self-publishing has gained enormous popularity. In May, 2013, Publishers Weekly reported that “Total e-book sales rose 44.2% in 2012, to $3.04 billion and accounted for 20% of trade revenue”. Impressive, for sure, but just how difficult is it for the average writer to have a measure of success as a self-published author?

We’ve turned to the experts for some answers – writers who have published traditionally and self-published, to see what we can glean from their experiences in busting through some of the more persistent myths about self-publishing.

Myth # 1: Success in self-publishing is a lottery, and you have to be lucky

Not True. In a post on Problogger, authors Johnny Truant and Sean Platt refer to this myth as “one-title thinking”. It’s the idea that in order to be successful you need to have a smash hit, a blockbuster that will bring fame and fortune.

Messrs. Truant and Platt refute this idea, believing that you don’t need a mega hit in order to be a “successful” author. Rather, a work ethic based on consistency, perseverance, and sound business sense will bring success over a period of time. Not the overnight, mega-hit success of celebrity pop culture, but the success that comes from focus, persistence, and constantly moving toward your goals.

They don’t really see it as a matter of luck, and offer a formula for producing consistent revenue: produce a book that earns just $200 per month, and repeat 20 – 30 times. What independent author wouldn’t enjoy an income of $4,000 – $6,000 a month?
As Emerson pointed out “Luck is tenacity of purpose.”

Myth # 2: You have more control as an independent author

True. In a recent article on the Huffington Post, hybrid author Holly Robinson gives this myth a “somewhat true” rating.

Ms. Robinson’s experience as a self-published author supports the position that you’ll have complete creative control over the writing and publishing process. The independent author has the final say in everything from writing to formatting, publishing and promotion schedules, release dates, pricing, design and cover art, marketing and branding – without interference. You’ll never have to compromise your work in order to suit a market that’s been chosen for you.

However, with that control comes all of the responsibility of making solo decisions. Yes, mistakes will be made, but with a bigger slice of the revenue pie, they’ll be easier to accept and learn from.

Myth # 3: You don’t have the right to be published if you’re not good enough to get an agent

Ouch. Not True. This myth drives right into the heart of many writers’ low self-esteem issues, and is cited in an article by Joel Friedlander, author and self-publisher. Mr. Friedlander lays this myth of unworthiness at the feet of hierarchical thinking, the concept that others are better qualified than the individual to determine what does and doesn’t get read. And that this “gatekeeper mentality” has been a cornerstone perspective of old business models, including those of publishing houses.

He goes on to point out that with the changing of the guard in the publishing arena, each individual writer is now responsible for what does and doesn’t get published. And this leaves the decisions of worth to the readers, who will have the final say in which author “rises to fame and fortune”.

Myth # 4: It costs more money up front to self-publish

True, but qualified. Posting a rebuttal in her blog to Kensington Publishing’s CEO Steven Zacharius’ article in the Huffington Post, hybrid author Laura Kaye agrees that initially, it can cost the self-published author more money to set up.

Covering the traditional publishing costs of cover art, formatting and editing are expenses that “most of the self-published authors pursuing publication of their books as a business are paying for”. But, as she explains, the upfront costs are compensated for in higher royalties; and gives us a detailed accounting of sales percentages for ebooks priced in the “sweet spot”, between $2.99 and $5.99.

Myth #5: Indie writers can’t get their books into bookstores

Not true, according to hybrid author Dean Wesley Smith. In his blog series Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Indie Publishing, Mr. Smith refers to this as “the biggest myth to hit indie writers”. According to Mr. Smith, it’s simply a matter of knowing what to do; and lays out the following steps as being key for the independent author to get their books into bookstores:

  • Have a great cover, branded to genre.
  • Have a great sales blurb.
  • Have a publisher name. (Not your writers’ name, which bookstores will shy away from.)
  • Have a publisher website, and a separate author website.
  • Publish the discount schedule of a major bookseller on your publisher site.
  • Ensure your paper books are priced correctly.

Based on his experiences, following these basic steps is the secret to getting onto the shelves of bookstores – but it does require the willingness to learn and apply these techniques to enter into standard trades channels used by booksellers. And, as Mr. Smith points out “It’s easy, but it isn’t.”

There you have the opinions of five successful authors on some of the pervasive myths that surround self-publishing. Some debunked, others upheld. But one thing is certain: all of these writers believed in themselves enough to push past the stories and determine for themselves what is and isn’t true.