Do You Hate Self-Promotion? Read This Amazing Book To Change That!

Before I read Show Your Work!, I used to think of self-promotion as something that was dirty and unwholesome. I was afraid of annoying people with too many updates and thought that I might come across as indulgent or arrogant if I posted too much about what I did.

But this guidebook was written for “people who hate the very idea of self-promotion”. Reading it has dramatically changed my perception and I now view self-promotion as simply sharing what you do – thinking of it in this way makes it seem less unsavoury somehow! In fact, sharing what you do – with regards to your work, thoughts and ideas – is really just being transparent about who you are as a person.

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While reading Show Your Work!, I made key notes that I will definitely refer back to in the future. If you are someone who struggles to self-promote or have trouble speaking about what you do, then I highly advise you to check out this book. It is packed full of practical advice and really does help to shift your perception. The main lessons I learned from it are as follows:

  1. Share something small every day, whether it be something that inspired you or an idea that you had. Anything from your creative process that might be insightful or interesting to others.
  2. Document everything that you do. Take photos, keep a work journal etc, so that you have a wellspring of material to draw upon when blogging or posting updates.
  3. Focus on your work and get good at what you do. Don’t waste your time and energy trying to gain followers or network. People will come to you if you are good at your craft.
  4. Don’t hoard your ideas. Post about what you’ve learned and help your fellow creatives, encouraging support and collaboration.
  5. How to deal with the dreaded question: “So what do you do?”
  6. Appreciate your guilty pleasures (i.e. that TV show that everyone else thinks is lame) because maybe it will lead to something that inspires/influences your work.
  7. The vampire test. If something drains your energy, cast it out of your life. Keep the things that boost your energy.

There are so many other things that I learned too. There was also a lot that I already knew deep down, but I just needed some reassurance and encouragement. It is precisely the book that I needed to read and I am enjoying incorporating its methods and techniques into my life. Thank you, Austin Kleon, for a fantastic guidebook!

If you wish to check it out further, then click here: http://austinkleon.com/show-your-work/

 

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Writing as a linear process

For me, writing is a linear process. I cannot jump ahead and write future scenes if I’m stuck because the unfolding of a story is so organic that unexpected things happen along the way. New characters can come into the fold, the plot may take a different direction or some scenes may no longer feel necessary. None of this may happen if you begin to time-travel.

Of course, writers are the creators of their own worlds and ultimately can time-travel if they want to (indeed, it may be part of the plot). But from experience, I have found that I never fully stick to my plan as my story comes to life on the page.

I tend to stay true to the main essence of the plot, but often the best parts of my prose come from nowhere. So travelling from A to B, from beginning to end, is the way that I operate. No chopping or changing, no jumping ahead to future scenes, just staying there with my characters from the first page to the very last.

Writing Fever

Once again, I have been bitten by the writing bug!

When you are in this state, you are constantly daydreaming about your story and itching to write the next part, and then the part after that, unable to rest until it is finished. It is a fever that can only be cured by spilling words onto the page. And even when I complete a book, it is never long before I yearn to write another!

Some people call it the writer’s curse, but I think that it’s a blessing. A lot of people struggle for their art (i.e. some writers need to be drunk or heartbroken or swinging upside-down), yet I can usually sit and write with minimal effort. Of course, insatiable writing fever makes it so much easier to get into the zone, but there are times when this fever dwindles, especially if you are writing for many months.

With my first book, which took eight months to write, the fever came in peaks and troughs. There were times when I was very productive and other times when I barely made any progress at all. But I was patient and I kept on going, one word at a time, putting one foot in front of the other until I reached the finish line. Whenever the fever came, I took full advantage and went along with it, allowing it to spur me onward like wind blowing into a ship’s sails.

Some days, I only have to sit down at my desk before I get lost in a trance and sucked into the story. But even when I’m not being productive, the story is always at the back of my mind, urging me to carry on. The main blocks for me come in the form of self-doubt and fears that my work isn’t good enough, but these concerns are usually bypassed by writing fever, which makes writing a matter of utmost urgency!

Blessed are the days where writing is as easy as breathing. Not so blessed are the days where writing is like chopping through a dense jungle with a bread knife! But we must make do with what we’ve got in any particular moment and we cannot always wait for the wind.

Being An Intuitive Editor: Knowing What Is Right For Your Project

In your heart, you already know what is right for your project.

Trust in your instincts and know when something is just so. If you want to improve something, then ask yourself whether this is out of fear or necessity. Learn to be the judge of your own work and pay no heed to the criticism of others.

Some criticism can be useful, but a lot of it can be discouraging, especially if it comes from people who don’t understand what you’re trying to achieve. You are the person who can envision your project the clearest, so trust in your own criticism and judgement. Unfortunately, a lot of artists are overly critical and beat themselves up too much, but it is through evaluation that we create masterpieces. The trick is to find the right balance and go easier on yourself where credit is due.

Lately, I have surprised myself with my intuitive editing. I just seem to know when something is as it should be or when it needs to be tweaked. I suppose it helps that I tend to whip up pretty good first drafts, but even so… my editing skills have definitely improved! I am currently sorting out my third book and I can say with full confidence that you definitely learn more about the craft as you go along.

What I usually do is read through my manuscript and highlight any bits in red that need fixing later. Other things, like typos and grammatical errors, can be fixed straight away. I very rarely have to do much major restructuring because I plan my stories in advance, so my editing mainly involves tightening up the prose and removing redundant words.

Whatever project you may be working on, remember that it is your creation and you should know what’s best for it. There’s plenty of advice online if you’re unsure  what to do or need to brush up on your technique, but you’ll learn a lot with experience. Just keep at it and keep sculpting your project until you sense that it is complete.

The Importance of Having a Writing Space

The saddest part about moving house was saying goodbye to my dear writing desk.

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It was the place where I wrote three books and spent many hours of my life. I developed a very special connection with the corner of that room and instantly felt at peace and ready to create whenever I entered that space. But all good things must come to an end eventually…

In all honesty, I was ready to move on. Life in that stuffy flat had stagnated and fell to ruin, so I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to start afresh. The writing desk was the only thing I was sad about leaving behind, but I have now set up writing desk in my new house and began working on my fourth book!

I think that it is very important to have a designated writing space. Psychologically, it helps you to get into the zone more quickly. I am still waiting to develop a special connection with my new writing space, but I think that we will forge that bond through writing. As I give birth to my latest story, my writing desk will come alive with creative energy, which in turn will help to spur me on even further.

Bouncing back from failure

There is no shame in failure.

Confucius said that ‘our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.’ There’s a lot of power in that quote. We all have setbacks or make mistakes, but you’ve just got to pick yourself up and carry on. There are lessons to be learned from every situation in life.

Last year, I tried to set up a business, but it didn’t work out. It’s been difficult for me to move on from this because I invested so much time and energy into it, though ultimately it was my dogged pursuit of this venture (and refusal to rest when my body and mind were screaming out for reprieve) that caused me to crash and burn.

It is here that I offer the analogy of a sinking ship. When my project began to founder, I was faced with the choice of trying to salvage it or let it sink to unfathomable depths. I decided to abandon ship, but I nearly drowned in the process. Afterwards, I was in a terrible state of shock and it took me a while to get over what had happened.

Luckily, I have managed to bounce back. It’s the hardest knock that I’ve ever taken, but I’m back on my feet now. Even when there seemed to be no light, I kept on trying to shine and reconnect with my true self. Eventually, I rose up again.

These days, there is so much pressure on young people to succeed. At school, we are conditioned to think that failure is bad thing, thanks to the never-ending onslaught of exams. But it is only when we make mistakes that we can truly learn and improve… when you first pick up a guitar or learn to cook, it takes time and dedication to master your craft.

Many successful people experience setbacks and failures, but they keep on pushing forward. Albert Einstein failed at many things in his life, including business and politics, but of course he made huge breakthroughs in the scientific community. If you can learn to embrace failure, then you will be less afraid to pursue your goals. And if you fail, then you can just keep on trying or learn from the experience and move on. Of course, you can always abandon ship if something isn’t working out for you.

The most important thing to remember is never give up. Whether you’re pursuing a goal or recovering from a setback, you must keep moving forward and stay true to yourself. Do not allow yourself to drown. If something is causing you pain, then maybe you should cut it from your life. If you have a dream, then maybe now is the time to make it a reality. Whatever your situation, failure is nothing to fear.

How To Choose The Right Title For Your Project

Choosing a good name for your project is very important. If you don’t label it correctly, then you might mislead people or fail to capture its true essence.

Whether your project is a book, film, play or other medium, make sure that it is named correctly. The name is the first thing that most people will see, so it should stand out and be intriguing. Ensure that it is attention-grabbing!

There is no right or wrong time to come up with your title. Some people have their title ready before they even start a project and others leave it right up until the project is finished – it has varied for each of my books so far.

A lot of people find it difficult to sum up their project, as it often has many themes and messages running through it, but you’ve got to get to the heart of what its about. How would you describe your project? If your project was packaged in a box or a tin can, what would you write on the label? Try to be clear and keep it simple.

Some titles have double-meanings, which can be very clever indeed, but the trouble is that a lot of people try to be too clever with their titles. Don’t overthink it and try to avoid being too pretentious, unless that’s the feel you’re going for. Ultimately, you should go with what feels right. You can usually tell if a title feels slightly off-kilter.

I’ll use The Secret Life of Walter Mitty as an example. This title just doesn’t ring true with what the film is about. I wouldn’t say that Walter’s life is particularly secretive, but he does work at Life Magazine, which I suppose is meant to be a double-meaning. The film is actually about the search for a missing photograph, so why not call it The Search for Negative 25? I have a sneaky feeling that Ben Stiller wanted the film to be called The Quintessence of Life, which is the nickname for the missing photograph, but the film studio probably told him that it was too pretentious.

So there you have it, folks! There’s my advice for naming your project. Do yourself a favour and give your project that name that it deserves!

Be Proud of What You Do

It isn’t easy to follow your dreams, especially if people don’t support you. But you’ve got to do what makes you happy, regardless of what other people think about it.

Doing something creative, such as writing or art, seems to raise the most eyebrows in our society. This is because being a creative person doesn’t fit in with society’s view of a ‘proper’ job. And if you’re not making money from your creations, then people find it even harder to understand your motivation.

Last week, I went to a socialising event where I met a load of new people. I’ve never been good at small talk, but I particularly despised it on this day. One of the first questions that most people asked was: ‘What do you do?’, which is a question that puts you in a box from the get-go. When I told them that I was a writer, this evoked many more questions, which I tried my best to answer, but I felt like most people were silently judging me for what I did.

Unfortunately, I was lacking in self-belief at the time, so the admission that I was a writer was very feeble. I came away from the event feeling dejected and doubtful, but then my partner reminded me that there was something missing from my life….. self-love. Until she pointed this out, I had not realised that my confidence and faith in my own ability had completely slipped away. But since that night, I have been reclaiming my self-assuredness and conviction.

Be proud of what you do. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do anything. Whether you have an obsession with unicorns or you like to make rude sculptures, then don’t be afraid to admit it! Your quirks and passions make you unique and if you take pride in what you do, then other people will love you for it. And if they don’t, then screw them… some people just like to judge.

If you find yourself feeling doubtful, then give yourself a pep-talk. Seriously. Get in front of the mirror and tell yourself that you are amazing. List all of the reasons why you are great. Remind yourself of everything you have achieved. If you can’t do this by yourself, then ask your friends and family to lend a hand. Sometimes, a little bit of encouragement goes a long way, whether its from yourself or somebody else. So go forth and believe in yourselves!

Patience Is A Writer’s Best Friend

Being a writer is a long-term commitment.

If you’re not patient, then you will get frustrated that things aren’t developing faster or even beat yourself up for not going fast enough! We writers can be tough on ourselves, right? But you’ve just got to relax and enjoy the process.

We can only ever take one step at a time, so try not to worry about what lies ahead. Focus on the task at hand and fully immerse yourself in it! If you follow your plan of action accordingly, then you will get to where you want to be in due course. Being impatient just causes lots of unnecessary suffering and stress.

Forgive me, for I’m about to quote a Miley Cyrus song (back from the days when she was a Disney gal), but here’s what she said about patience: “Ain’t about how fast you get there, ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side.. it’s the climb!”

This just clarifies what I said about enjoying the process. It’s all about the climb; it’s all about your journey from A to B. Rather than focusing on the end goal and becoming impatient, just focus on putting one foot in front of the other (doing one small task at a time) and get to the top of that mountain! Everyone seems to be in a rush these days, but speed isn’t everything… so sloooooooow riiiiiiiiiight down and revel in every step of your amaaaaaaazing journey.

Being more patient will definitely benefit you as a writer. Writing a book isn’t something that happens overnight, so you’ve got to be prepared for that. And if you’re more patient, then you’re less likely to cut corners, which will increase the quality of your work. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to write your book… what truly matters is that you’re willing to stick with it from beginning to end.

Finding a job that supports your passion

It is said that artists find it notoriously difficult to hold down a job.

I don’t know how true this stereotype is, but I have certainly had a few issues with employment. Not because I’m a writer and do too much daydreaming, but just because the corporate world is extremely messed up! On quite a few occasions, I have been blighted by the probation curse, fired on the grounds that “I’m not suitable” or not meeting ridiculous targets. A lot of the time, I believe that I am let go because I don’t fit into the workplace socially. And then there’s the suggestion that I don’t work fast enough… jeez, why is everyone in such a hurry these days?

Even though writing is my main passion, I do always try my best with whatever job I have to pay the bills. Unfortunately, society usually ensures that I don’t keep each job for too long. Recently, however, I have found a job that I think I might keep for quite a while. It is a casual job, which means that there’s no probation period and I also haven’t been pulled up for being too slow. In fact, we are encouraged to take our time so that we don’t make mistakes.

Just in case you’re wondering, the job is in a cafe! As a writer, it is good to get out of the house and interact with my fellow humans, as they are fascinating and provide fuel for my imagination. All of my stories feature people, so it is important for me to stay in touch with them. And I am not above working in a cafe, where there are many opportunities to be kind and considerate to customers.

Most importantly, I am still writing in my spare time. In fact, going to the cafe focuses my mind and fuels my writing. It is not a strenuous job and I still have plenty of energy when I get home, so writing still gets done. With other jobs, I have always been too drained or too beleaguered by workplace politics to give my writing the attention that it deserves.

So my advice to any fellow writers or artists would be to find a job that supports what you love. We all need to pay the bills somehow, but try to do something that helps with your passion, even if it’s completely unrelated. If you’re lucky enough to earn money from your art, then that’s great! But most of us have to do a balancing act and quite often we don’t have time for what we love.

Please don’t abandon your hobbies! Do what you love and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Life is meant to be enriched with the things that you love, so fight tooth and nail to incorporate them into your life. You know what you want deep down, so why deny yourself happiness?