Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Build a Better Brand Platform: 30 Day Challenge (Day 23)

23 Sep

First take a moment to congratulate yourself.

horloge Musée d'Orsay

horloge Musée d’Orsay (Photo credit: Stephen Rees)

After today, there is only one more week of posts left in this 30 Day Challenge modeled after Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge and if you have been with me this far then there is no reason you can’t hold out one more week. Today’s task is…

Develop a Time Management Plan.

It is a challenge that all of us face; there is only so much time in a day. Strict management of that time is a must. As a writer, we must make our platform work for us and not the other way around. I will terribly paraphrase Neil Gaiman who said he had discovered one morning that he was someone who answered e-mail for a living and wrote as a hobby. Each minute spent on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn is one that you could have been writing.

Social media is a Time Sink!

It is a very useful tool for self-promotion and networking but it is very easy to spend much more time than you mean to with it. Not every comment needs an immediate answer. Be sure to block off how much time you will need for your social media platform and then use only that much time. Set alarms if you have to. Block out your day. Use calendars,planners, alarms, and whatever bells and whistles are necessary to keep you from spending too much time on any one task. Develop a time management plan that allows you to be active on your social media while still spending the majority of your writing time…well…writing!

Develop routines.  Block out time for your writing, your social media, blogging and make them fit with your lifestyle. Remember that a platform is a marathon not a sprint. Develop habits that will last.

Reward Yourself.

If you are addicted to the social aspect of social media and can’t leave a comment unanswered or a tweet without a reply then choose to reward yourself with an extra fifteen minutes of social media time after you complete one of your assigned writing tasks.

Or if you detest social media then do the opposite reward yourself for spending at least 15 minutes every day on your social media with time doing something you enjoy such as bike-riding, reading, playing a game with the kids or whatever.

Be deliberate. Plan your day to have at least a little time for everything you need to focus on then work to that plan.


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Build a Better Brand Platform:30 Day Challenge (Day 2)

2 Sep

This is the second day of a 30 Day Challenge to build a better platform. If you have done my first challenge then you are well prepared for today’s challenge. If you haven’t done it yet then it isn’t too late. Go back now and finish the first step.  Okay, get on it then.

The rest of us are going on to Day 2.

We are not going to divert too far from Robert Brewer’s second day challenge. Today’s platform building task is to set goals. I want you to think about your goals both short-term and long-term plans. We are going to make three lists; the first list is things we need to accomplish this month, the second is goals you have expectations of finishing within 12 months, and the last is your “bucket list” or goals you would like to accomplish before you die. These are your goals so really think about them. It is important to set a purpose before you can set about accomplishing the purpose.



Very Short-Term (One Month)

Finish Very Novel’s 30 Day Brand Platform Building Challenge

Prepare and Write my Music Spotlight for Moore Monthly

Prepare and Write my Movie Review for Moore Monthly

Have my Novel Planned and Plot Outlined for Start Writing in November

Attend at least one Writer’s Group Meeting

Short-Term (One Year)

Move Hosting for Blog to Registered Personal Domain

Monetize Blog

Novel Writing Finished and Begin Publishing / Marketing

Be Active Member of Writing Group

Outline Second Novel to Start Process Over

Long-Term (Before I Die)

Be Successful Writer with Many Books Written

Successful Well-Followed Blog (that Makes Money as well)

Be Considered an Authority on Writing

Debt-free and Financially Independent

Be Able to Travel and Adventure with My Kids

See My Top 10 Favorite Musicians in Concert

Work on a Movie Script

Work with David Lynch and/ Or David Fincher

Make a Science Fiction Movie with Duncan Jones

Write a  Dr. Who Episode

Work on a Comic / Graphic Novel

See a Movie with Roger Ebert and Discuss It After

Have Tea with Neil Gaiman and a Beer with Stephen King

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay, so I got carried away with the last list (you should see the full list)!

What does all of this have to do with building a better platform?

Everything. Before you can broadcast who you are and what you are here to do, you must know it yourself. You must see your destination before you can plan the route there.

It’s another easy challenge,right?

Leave Comments. Ask Questions. Make Commitments.



Morning Rituals and Routines for the Writer

27 Aug

How important is the first hour of every day? It can be very important as it sets the tone for the rest of your day. How you spend the first hour of your day largely defines the approach you will take to the rest of that day. Successful people have realized this and manage a morning routines that prepares them for the rest of the day.

If you’re having trouble getting your writing done, try creating a morning writing ritual.

How you prioritize the first hour of every day is important. Here are a look at a few tips for developing a successful morning routine. Knowing what to do (and in some cases NOT do) can be key to how your day of writing follows.

Prepare the Night Before.

This is a habit that my mother began for me as a school child. Each night before bed, I had been instructed and was expected to lay out my clothes for the next day, have my homework complete and any permission forms signed, put together my books in my bag, make my lunch for the next morning, and know what I needed to have before I left the house in the morning and sit it near the door.

My mother’s early instruction has sat a routine that I try to follow now as an adult in my writing career. The night before I set up my desk for the morning, anything I might need for research is laid handy by my computer, my prewriting is done, and I am ready to set to work with very little morning preparation.

A little time before bed each night spent setting up a successful morning can reap huge rewards like more time to relax later in the day.

Beat the Funk Out of It.

Have you been waking in a “funk” and don’t know why?  Set a positive waking attitude.

English: Salvador Dali with ocelot and cane.

English: Salvador Dali with ocelot and cane. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you wake up with a grumble or jump out of bed? The face you put on your morning could be the face you wear throughout the day.

Your waking attitude can have a lot to do with the amount of time you give yourself to rest of a night. Be sure you a getting a healthy amount of sleep and this can vary depending on age and person.

Attitude can be key to the tone of your morning. Your morning is effected much less by the morning commute, how your eggs were cooked or where you found your morning paper than by how you look at these things.  Wake with joy and an attitude of gratitude. If for no other reason than that you are alive. Salvador Dali certainly had a bright outlook:

“Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure – that of being Salvador Dali.”

It is not just sublime surrealists who realize waking with joy and gratitude are important. Tony Robbins, self-help guru was talking about the importance of first hour rituals since the 1980’s. Robbins and his devotees maintain a need to dedicate an hour every morning to light exercise, motivational incantations and to gratitude. Express your thankfulness for everything in your life that you benefit from such as yourself, your family, and your career. Robbins suggests following this with focused concentration and visualizing “everything you want in your life as if you had it today”.

Your attitude in the morning can set the autopilot for the rest of your day.

Move the Body.

Let’s be honest, most writers spend a lot of time with their butt firmly glued to a chair. An hour at the gym may not fit into your daily schedule. However choosing one healthy exercise to practice each morning can get your blood flowing to your brain and help you achieve mental acuity and clarity easier.

Meditate and Think.

Give yourself time each morning to think. Just think. It won’t happen unless you allow it. Plan for it. Give yourself an extra fifteen minutes to focus on your subconscious mind and direct its flow.

I do this through meditative freewriting. Develop flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, noted psychologist and author of Flow—the Psychology of Optimal Experience speaks of redirecting your subconscious flow of thoughts and almost sounds like he is describing the process of freewriting. Consider:

Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”—Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Plan an additional amount of time into your morning for quiet meditation and freewriting practice.

Take Time Over Your Coffee

Allowing yourself a moment to make yourself a small breakfast and enjoying your coffee (or tea) is an important cue mentally that you are as important as the day of work you have planned.  Enjoy a quiet moment to yourself.

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto: Taso de kafo. Français : Photo d’une tasse de caffé Español: Taza de café (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Answer Fewer Email.

For many of us, checking email in the morning seems like the main priority. This is not true of David Karp, the founder of Tumblr. He explains his morning routine in this Inc profile of him. Karp explains the priority he puts on email (which is little) “I try hard not to check e-mails until I get to the office, which is usually between 9:30 and 10 a.m. Reading e-mails at home never feels good or productive. If something urgently needs my attention, someone will call or text me.” Karp explains that he uses filters so that the only email that goes to his inbox is that email that most urgently requires a response. Everything else can wait.

How much time you dedicate to email in the morning, may really effect how much time you have for writing in your day. Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods says this, “There was a day when I looked up and realised that I had become someone who professionally replied to email, and who wrote as a hobby.  I started answering fewer emails, and was relieved to find I was writing much more.”

How much time of each morning is spent just answering emails? Is there any way that you could cut back on that time? Would filters help you to see the emails that really need an immediate response allowing you to put the others aside until later?

Creative Work First.

Mark McGuinness wrote an article called The Key to Creating Remarkable Things in which he lays out some tips for how to prioritize your first hour of work and suggests “Creative work first,reactive work second”. Start your day working on your own personal projects first.

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931...

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931), Museum of Modern Art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Give your “real work” priority and begin your day with it. Hold off clearing off the desk, answering emails and phone calls, or following up on leads for work until you have taken some time to create. A day can get busy fast and you will not have time for your own personal projects unless you make that time.

Set a Time to Start

The rest of your workday has to come sometime so set a definite time that you will switch gears and begin those other tasks that need accomplished. Set a fixed time to get started and allow for no excuses. This is the time to put away your personal writing and take on those assignments that must be finished that day. Whatever time you choose but be firm and you must start working at that time.

Practice Makes Perfect

It will take time to set your morning ritual and adjust your first hours to reflect your own personality, psyche and needs. However, you must try to set some usual routine and work from it. Adjusting a routine is far easier than not working from a routine at all.The first morning won’t be perfect. It may take a week or a full month before the routine is second-nature.  In time, however,your morning will begin to be a time that you look forward to rather than a time you dread.



Freewriting Friday

24 Aug

Freewriting (Photo credit: Eemah)

Writing is Communication. Effective Writing is Effective Communication.

One thing said to me often is that writing is hard. That is a lie. Writing is not hard. Writing is very easy. Most of us learned to write in grade school. Writing is communication. Effective writing is effective communication. Effective communication takes practice. Infants don’t begin learning to speak by orating like Winston Churchill. They make nonsense that sounds like the “coo” of pigeons. It takes practice to speak like a Churchill (or an Obama). So why would anyone expect to sit down and write like Hemingway (or Stephen King) the first time they place fingers to a keyboard? Writing isn’t hard. Writing takes practice. In the beginning, just like with an infant you might make nonsense but with time, you will find your voice.

Writing takes Practice.

As with any skill that you want to learn, you must be willing to practice. You must practice to improve your ability. You will not start out writing perfectly. You will start out making many mistakes. Making mistakes is the best part of learning. Every mistake is a teacher. There are times when we don’t even care about the mistakes. Mistakes make us better. Mistakes can make us more creative.

Neil Gaiman said this about mistakes in a keynote address at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia:

I hope you’ll make mistakes. If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful. I once misspelled Caroline, in a letter, transposing the A and the O, and I thought, “Coraline looks like a real name…”

Neil Gaiman turned that mistake into a character, Coraline and wrote her into adventures worthy of a Hugo , Nebula, and Bram Stoker’s  awards. Our mistakes can make us better. Give yourself permission to make plenty of mistakes.

One time to explore the mistakes we will make is in freewriting. Freewriting is a form of brainstorming. I am a real fan of brainstorming and have suggested techniques before for brainstorming. I really encourage brainstorming. In fact, I equate brainstorming to creative thinking. I want you to become a “brain stormtrooper”.

Brainstorming = Creative Thinking

Freewriting is one of my favorite forms of brainstorming. Freewriting  can be done at any time of the day. Many writers make this a part of their morning routine. Julia Cameron suggests this with her idea of “Morning Pages”.

Click the link that says “Morning Pages”. If you follow no other link in this post, follow this one. Go ahead. I’ll wait here. Watch the video too. No,really…it’s okay. I’ll be right here.

See wasn’t that worth it?  I laugh when I watch her but she explains the importance of freewriting in a really easy way to relate to yourself.  I have not yet read The Artist’s Way. I do find the idea of “Morning Pages” to be a sound practice. I do freewriting any time that I am stuck in my writing but it has become a part of my morning routine. Freewriting can be a useful part of any writer’s routine and is really good for clearing out some of our mental clutter.

Not a single care was given this day

Freewriting Baby

What is Freewriting?

Freewriting is a pre-writing technique in which you write freely without a care for spelling,grammar or topic. Freewriting as a term was coined by Peter Elbow. Freewriting allows the writer to forget the rules and write without regard to how the writing looks on the page.  Freewriting is used to conquer blocks and to release negative energies. Does that sound to “New Age”? Do you expect me to follow it up with talk about cosmic vibrations. I won’t. I won’t go all Natalie Goldberg on you but think of writing as a meditation. Consider how releasing it will be to your writer’s blocks of apathy or fear of critique to allow yourself to just write. Write whatever comes to mind.

Joel Friedlander has an excellent post on freewriting called “Unleashing Your Creativity”.  That is another link that I give you full permission to follow now or later.  He talks about the idea of prompts. Let’s explore that.

Using a prompt.

A prompt is a suggestion to get your mind started. It is like priming  an engine with oil. It helps a cold engine get started. A prompt could be anything. Example prompts:

Write about:

  • the room you are in.
  • shoes..
  • a bird’s nest.
  • why they say cat’s have nine lives
  • that smell coming from the other room

Need more? 

Whether you use a prompt is totally up to you and you don’t have to. Remember freewriting is supposed to be freeing and if the prompts jam you up then dump them. You don’t need them.

Three handwritten pages is about 750 word. 750 Words is also the name of a great site for freewriting that I use daily. I encourage any writer of any level to try it if they are not currently freewriting in another way. I know that I am more comfortable freewriting at my keyboard than I am at writing three long scribbled pages in a notebook (although I do that when I am not near my computer).

Bloggers know we are all one click from being abandoned. However, I encourage you to follow the links I suggested especially on “Morning Pages”, “Unleashing Your Creativity”, and 750 Words.

So What is “Freewriting Friday”?

If you are not making freewriting part of your daily routine whether in the morning or any time that you get blocked up, then at least commit to yourself (and me) that you will join me here every Friday for “Freewriting Friday”. I will suggest a prompt and you will take it and blog it on your own blog. You do blog? Everybody blogs.

I will also share my freewriting from the week before. It will not be edited. It will likely contain many mistakes. It will be an example of what freewriting is like for anyone who is interested in taking this tool into their toolbox.

This week’s prompt for next week is write about:

“Writer’s Block as if it was something material and part of the physical world.”

If you are willing to take the freewriting challenge then follow this prompt and link in the comments. If you are going to take freewriting and make it part of your morning routine then just comment “I’m in!”

I dare you to take this challenge and make it a part of your daily (or weekly) routines as a writer.

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