Last summer, we saw this amazing man perform in Key West. He someone managed to train cats to fly through hoops.
Photo: Bird Sanctuary Key Largo
Getting ready for my yearly Florida adventure and was looking over some pictures from last year when I came across this photo taken at the Bird Sanctuary in Key Largo, FL. I might have to revisit this place again this year.
A week ago, I spent a fun evening with a bunch of entrepreneurs in Milwaukee. Chris Gillebeau* was in town promoting his recent book “The $100 Startup” and seeing that I’ve been a fan of Chris’ work for awhile now, I decided to head to Milwaukee to see him. Over the years I’ve purchased a couple of his guides (Art + Money and The Empire Building Kit), his previous book (Art of Non-Conformity) and have learned quite a bit from him over the years. If nothing else, his work has provided me with the motivation to continue working for myself while generating new ideas along the way.
I think it’s important for those of us who work for ourselves to continue learning and associating with like-minded individuals. When I first started out on my own, I found myself sitting at my computer all day long, rarely venturing out and interacting with others. Even though I am somewhat of an introvert, it didn’t take long before I began craving human interaction. Without regular contact with others, I found myself becoming stale and stagnant – and the ideas that had previously come so freely slowed to a trickle. Thus, I then made it a point to get out and socialize with like-minded folks whenever possible.
Hearing Chris speak the other night and talking with all of the interesting people there reinforced this for me. I arrived home that evening energized, motivated and full of new ideas that I am looking forward to implementing in my own business. While many of us consider ourselves writers first and formost, we are also business people and like it or not, some of us have to make an effort to market our work. Gathering with other business folks may give you new ideas and new perspectives in helping you get the word out about your own business or your own work.
So if you are feeling stuck, in a rut or feel that your writing business lacks momentum, try putting yourself out there with other writers and/or entrepreneurs – perhaps attend a local Meetup or join a group of entrepreneurs and/or writers. You might be pleasantly surprised.
*I am not an affiliate nor do I receive any financial kickbacks from any of Chris’s products. I just like his work and feel that it is worthwhile.*
I’ve been a fan of the author Neil Gaiman for many years now and have enjoyed such books asAmerican Gods, Anansi Boys, Coraline and Stardust as well as the Sandman comic collection. So I was more than delighted when I stumbled across his 2012 commencement address to the University of the Arts Class in Philadelphia.
The talk was inspiring, motivating and a worthwhile view for anyone in the creative fields, especially novelists. Below are some of my favorite points of his talk.
LACK OF CAREER PLAN
Neil states that a career implies some sort of career plan and that is something he never had. I could relate to this on so many levels. Each time I tried to plan out my future career-wise, I would inevitably fail (mainly due to losing interest) and instead, I simply ended up doing what my heart directed me to do. I tried computer programming, teaching at a University, finance – “proper jobs” in other words, only to end up following my own dream at the end of it . So I kind of ended up doing what Neil did: creating a list of things I want to do and scratching them off when done. This kind of leads into his next point:
IT’S BEST TO HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE DOING
When you have no idea what you’re doing, then you don’t know that what you want to do is “impossible”; thus, you cannot be limited. If you don’t know that your idea is impossible, then it’s easier to accomplish because you don’t know it’s impossible. In the rapidly changing businees world of today – especially in publishing – there are many of us who have no idea what we’re doing. While that can be scary, it is also freeing.
DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
In his talk, Neil said that if you have an idea of what you want to do, you need to go ahead and do it! But be prepared: you may have to do things in order to reach your goal. For example, in order to learn to be a writer, Neil spent time being a journalist. One cannot simply decide to be a doctor or dentist without obtaining proper training (you’d get arrested and/or sued). Thus, if one wants to be writer, one needs to put in the time writing and learning about the craft. I personally am always reading some book about writing or taking creative writing workshops when available. One never can be “finished” with learning.
DEALING WITH THE PROBLEMS OF FAILURE
This is advice that I’ve heard several times – Learn to be thick-skinned. That is a lot easier said than done, especially when your work is the brunt of a scathing review. But we do have to realize that not all of our projects will succeed; hell, some of them won’t even make it out the front door. I remember one author saying, “Keep putting stuff out into the world. The more you put out, the more likely one of them will be a success…and the more your put out, the better your work will become.”
DEALING WITH THE PROBLEMS OF SUCCESS
I had a good chuckle when Neil talked about “The Impostor Syndrome” – the idea that others will figure out that we nothing but a fake and not really qualified to be a writer, an artist, or whatever. Once we start becoming successful, many of us feel as though we are getting away with something and that sooner or later, people will figure us out. I remember feeling this way for years when I was a French teacher at a university – I feared that someday, someone would come up to me as say, “What are you doing here? You’re not qualified to teach French. Why you cannot speak French at all!”
He also said that when we get to the point where you feel that you are exposing too much of yourself to the world, that things are getting too personal, too raw, that is is the moment where you are starting to get it right.
Get out into the world and make mistakes. While addressing the class of 2012, Neil said to them, “I hope you make mistakes. Making mistakes means you’re out there doing something.”
DON’T DO IT ONLY FOR THE MONEY
Don’t do it only for the money because you will end up getting bored with your project and losing your enthusiasm for it. Neil said that anytime he did something only for money, it rarely ended up being a success. Instead, do work you are proud of – and the success (and money hopefully) will follow. I have found this to be true in my life on more than one occasion.
FINDING YOUR OWN VOICE
Neil stressed the importance of finding your own voice. While copying the technique of others is okay in the beginning (many of us copy the style of others without realizing it – it’s how we learn initially), eventually, we need to find our own voice and make the kind of art of which only we are capable – or as Neil put it “Write as only YOU can.”
The best piece of advice that Neil ever received was from Stephen King who said, “Enjoy your success.” I think that this is helpful advice for many of us. Instead of worrying about the next deadline, the next project, what the reviews will be like, etc., we need to relax a bit, let go, have fun and enjoy the ride. Revel in your successes!
THE NEW WORLD ORDER
Neil closed by talking about how the nature of distribution is changing and how the distributions channels for creative people are in flux. As he put it, the gatekeepers are leaving their gates and now we can be as creative as we need to be to get our work seen. Today, there are new rules but nobody as of yet, is quite sure what those rules are. So we make our own rules. This can seem frightening and intimating – but also intensely liberating, as Neil states. That’s what I’m finding, is the most fun of all!
You can view Neil Gaiman’s Commencement Address in its entirety HERE
I’ve been a Mac guy pretty much for the past 12 years (please – no ‘Mac vs. PC’ rants: I’ve heard them all) and had been working with a 2008 Macbook Pro. Over the past few weeks/months, I’d noticed that the machine had really begun slowing down, especially since upgrading to Lion, the latest version of the Macintosh operating system. It was taking forever to carry out routine tasks and I was beginning to get frustrated. I performed all of the required computer maintenance, ran various cleanup scripts but the darn thing still chugged along like a locomotive with three broken wheels. I looked into adding additional memory but sadly discovered that 4 gig was as high as I could go.
Now in addition to being a fiction writer, I also write technical manuals so I tend to need quite a bit of computing power. Finally, I decided to break down and get a new computer. But instead of buying directly from Apple’s main online store or one of their retail stores, I thought I’d give their Refurb Store a try. I checked back daily for awhile until a listing finally caught my eye. It was a speedy New iMac that was greatly discounted — almost four hundred dollars less than the list price (the price found on the Apple Store). After hemming and hawing (and fearing the inevitable buyer’s remorse), I finally pulled out my credit card and bought the darn thing.
But I wasn’t finished yet. The machine shipped with only 4 gig of ram (the same amount as my old Macbook Pro). I I headed over to Crucial’s Web Site and purchased 16 gig of ram (it was quite a deal!). A couple of days later, my computer and ram arrived and since I have been one happy camper. I couldn’t help but wonder why I had endured so much frustration for so long? I knew for awhile that it was time to upgrade some of my aging equipment as it was taking me longer and longer to get my work done. I am now considerably more productive with less anxiety.
The moral here is that we need to evaluate our tools from time to me to make sure that they are still working for us. Take a look at what’s out there and see whether it can make your workload a little lighter, a little easier and a little less frustrating. Sometimes, upgrading to the latest version can make all the difference in the world. I know it did for me.
December vacation all wrapped up. So now it’s time to get back to work. I have to admit that it’s been a tad difficult getting back into the swing of things. I did spend some time reflecting on the past year and have decided to work on goals for the upcoming year, Chris Guillebeau style (I think he calls it his annual review).
At first, I felt that I did not accomplish that much in the past year. But once I started thinking about all that I did, I realized that I wrote 15 books last year. OK, so they weren’t great novels but rather computer courseware manuals for Office 2010 (I’m a technical writer in my other life). While it may not seem like a huge amount for work, each manual runs between 250 – 300 pages. So it is safe to say that I did, in fact, have a productive year. I also did finish my fiction novel – working on the edits now.
Looking forward to another good year. I have a lot on my plate for 2012 – which I’ll talk about a little at a time as the months progress.