Tue Cent Twosday – The Pen vs. the Keyboard

In my writing group, I often hear complaints when I suggest we try a written exercise as opposed to one with a laptop or other computer device. I have said it before and I’ll likely say it again: writing by hand is important and valuable to anyone working with their own creativity, be they writers or other artists. In fact, I would argue that writing by hand is useful for everyone, and not just creatives. That does not mean that writing with a keyboard isn’t valuable in its own way too, but that one shouldn’t avoid handwriting altogether.

Here are the five most common complaints and suggestions on how to address them:

“I never write by hand.”

I’m surprised by how many people say this to me. What’s even more surprising is how many of them aren’t Gen Y folks. The stereotype is that Gen Y folks only type, and that Gen X and Boomers are more “old school.” I haven’t seen this stereotype borne out.

My response to it is simple: give it a try. Even if you only use it for writing exercises, think of them like you do the gym or music drills. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

“I write too slow, and forget all the things I want to say.”

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Our minds become fragmented by technology. I watch people try to have a conversation during writing group, or even just write. Smart phones buzz and people immediately look at them, even mid-sentence, to see what they say. Like coffee-fueled five-year-olds, we have lost the ability to carry one thought in our minds for longer than a few moments before we are distracted, like the dog in the movie “Up.” This isn’t healthy, nor is it good for our intelligence.

Writing by hand slows us down so that we can catch up with ourselves. Typing on a computer means that we are staring at a clock, are prone to distraction from Facebook, email, and other programs, and that we can go at the speed of hyper instead of the speed of the hand. There is a reality within us that we can only hear when we slow down enough to listen.

“My hand cramps.”

This is a reasonable complaint. Like any other physical activity, stretch often and build up your strength. Maybe only write for fifteen minutes the first time, then work your way up to a longer session.

“I can’t read my own writing, so why bother?”

It’s like when we were taught to write way back when we were kids. Just practice. You’ll get better with time and attention.

“It’s more efficient to type.”

The objective isn’t to be efficient, it’s to see what we have to say. Efficiency is not the most important goal for a writer; clarity is.

Give it a try. You might be surprised what you learn.

Next time:  “In Defense of the Pen”

Tue Cent Twosday – Why “Guerrilla” Marketing?

Why “guerrilla” marketing?  It lies in the definition of the concept of guerrilla warfare. First coined to describe the rebels in South America fighting better funded government adversaries, it means a small force, well-coordinated, using every tool at its disposal for maximum effectiveness at minimum cost – of life, time, resources, and money.

Guerrilla Marketing is a term coined by author Jay Conrad Levinson in the 80’s and is a way of thinking about marketing for small businesses, as they compete against bigger, better funded corporate adversaries in the market. His books are wildly popular and I highly recommend them. The one I have in my own library and love is Guerrilla Marketing Excellence: The Fifty Golden Rules for Small-Business Success, by Jay Conrad Levinson, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York, 1993. It’s probably been updated since then, but the concepts are the same.

In short, it’s figuring out how to market what you’re trying to market in the most effective and targeted way possible, without spending a lot of money and time that you don’t have. How does that affect us?

What are our priorities as writers?

Writing books. Duh. You can’t market what ain’t writ.

What’s the next priority?

Work/Life balance. Why do this if we become frazzled, unpleasant to be around, and bitchy? That’s not the way to happiness – nor is it the way to continued writing, unless perhaps you’re Hemingway. And we all knew how HE turned out.

So. Here, in 5 steps, is Aunt Noony’s Guide to Guerrilla Marketing for Us Writers:

1. Figure out what time you do have. When are your working hours? An hour before you go to the office for your day job? While the kids are napping or after they’re in bed? Figure out what time you have available to you.

TIP: I recommend literally writing a list, like this:


Then fill in what you have as standing commitments and what time you have available for writing.

2. Realize there are two parts of being an author: part 1 is being a writer, and all the creative stuff associated with it; part 2 is being an author, which is a business and all the left-brained stuff that implies. How much of the time available to you, do you want to spend on each? 50/50? 60/40? 100/0? Then parcel out the time you’ve found in Step 1 accordingly. If you have an hour a day, that’s 7 hours a week. 50/50 is 3.5 hours on writing, or 30 minutes a day, and 3.5 hours on marketing/business/accounting stuff, or 30 minutes a day.

3. Figure out what marketing stuff you want/like to do. If you aren’t currently doing any, then pick ONE. Yes, I said ONE. Not ten. Not fifty-gabillion. Not message boards, and Facebook, and Twitter, and Pinterest, and Google+ and the other zillion “this is totally required for writerly success” social media whizbangs that come down the pike tomorrow. One.

If you’re already doing marketing stuff, like a website, blog, FB, or Twitter, then figure out which ones you want to focus on when. For example, in our 30 minutes a day model: Sundays and Tuesdays, blog posts; Mondays and Wednesdays, FB posts (learn TweetDeck or HootSuite, they’ll save you lots of time and energy); Thursdays and Saturdays, Twitter posts and responses; and Fridays, respond to comments (or join a social board like Coffee Time and interact with folks).

4. Once you know what outlets you’re focusing on, figure out what you’re saying. Sloan mentioned she doesn’t know what to blog about. Start with what stuff interests you. Me, it’s this: writing, editing, publishing business, marketing, character development, creativity, journaling, knitting, cats, coffee, and dark chocolate. THAT is my platform. My readers know what they’ll find when they come to a Noony post – something informative, sometimes funny, focused on writing, knitting, coffee or chocolate. (If you don’t believe me, check out my “essays” section on my website, and that’s pretty much how I’ve organized them.)

TIP: You know how to write, and you know what to write about, or you wouldn’t have started writing books in the first place. Essays aren’t any different than fiction, really, in the sense that you’re telling a story about something. That “something” just happens to be in this real world around us, as opposed to our fictional worlds in our novels and short stories.

EXAMPLE: Here is the schedule for my own blog, that I came up with myself (meaning, you can come up with one that fits for yourself):

  1. Sunday Box Talk (the 3 Boxes of Life)
  2. Monday – I have guest posts on other blogs on this day; stories and novels and stuff – NWO, Rachel Carmichael, IPO.  So keep this day for that.
  3. Tuesday – Two Cents day?  Talk about publishing and writing, and my work with it? Remember to keep it focused on the readers.
  4. Wednesday – Walking In This World.  How are things going today?
  5. Thursday – Thursday 13
  6. Friday – Flash fiction.  Use prompts?  Maybe on Twitter?
  7. Saturday – The Noonhour podcast.

5. Do what’s fun. If you like talking with others, and talking about writing or your hobbies, then do that. Don’t wait for others to tell you what’s interesting, and for the love of Pete don’t listen to those who say that no one wants to hear what you have to say (and if you’re the one saying it, tell your Inner Critic to fuck off). It’s like writing books – trust yourself, and trust your voice.

TIP: Come up with a list of five or six topics you can write about at the drop of a hat. These are the topics from which you’ll pull when you do guest posts. I might be writing M/M from a woman’s perspective, or character development, or any of a bunch of things that you’d talk about with other writers at a conference. When in doubt, here’s a list:

  • Why I write what I write 
  • How to develop a sympathetic character 
  • My four favorite writing tools 
  • Coffee and tea – which is more important for your writing? (This gets surprisingly many comments, since people are passionate on both sides of the fence) 
  • Common mistakes writers make and how to avoid them – even better if you include your own booboos and how you fixed them 
  • Research techniques you find useful 
  • Your favorite websites – no, really, the ones you go to when you’re supposed to be writing, and why 
  • Anything else you like to talk about or write about or argue about
Let me know about your own ideas on guerrilla marketing or social media in the comments!

Tue Cent Twosday

Publishing and writing are two different parts of the puzzle.  They’re not the same thing and shouldn’t be approached as the same thing.

Writing is a creative art.  It’s image-intensive, using the imagination to create stories and poetry.  Even non-fiction is as much art as science, as connections are made between facts and figures.  There are many tools to help us keep the channel clear as we create.

Publishing is a business.  It’s about producing product that customers want to buy.  It’s changed a lot in the last fifteen years, from the consolidation of traditional publishing houses to the explosion of ereaders and ebooks.  Genre definitions have blurred and fractionated because the internet allows authors to give readers many different tags for a particular book that would be impossible to duplicate in a brick-and-mortar store.  

It’s important to remember that these two “jobs,” if you will, aren’t the same and that they require different skills.  Luckily, there are many places to learn the skills that will help you succeed at both, but the firs step is to recognize the differences between them.

My Tue Cents for Twosday

I think it’s easy to get sidetracked.  I talk to authors who complain, “I don’t have time to write.”  While I don’t think they’re lying, I do think they’re not speaking completely honestly – to themselves, at least – about what their time is like.

When we settle down and are honest with ourselves, the reasons for not writing aren’t, usually, about time.  They’re about fear, or block, or the inner critic saying that we have nothing worth writing.  But they’re not about not having any minutes in the day to set fingers to keyboard or pen to paper.

So today, ask yourself this:  What would it take for me to get onto the page today?