Reading time: Just over 4 minutes
Here is a brief summary of the top pubcoach blog posts for 2019. Happy New Year to all my readers!
I write each installment of Power Writing with high hopes about how it might interest — and help — my readers. Some topics, I can tell, are right on the nose. Others, it seems, are something of a near miss. And still others are what might be called “lead balloons.” They sink to the floor of the ocean of reader interest with barely a trace.
It always intrigues me to see which ones resonate most powerfully. And, interestingly, they are almost never the ones I expect! But I can always tell when I’ve hit a nerve because I either get lots of comments on the blog or a plethora of personal and delightful emails delivered to my inbox.
Over the last year, here are the top five posts that you most clearly appreciated. (And if you missed the post the first time around, here’s your chance to catch up, in summary form.)
I am so happy and proud that I was able to release my latest book this fall, Your Happy First Draft. It was a project more than five years in the making and the final weeks of the work happened to coincide with a difficult time in my personal life (a sick family member.)
I assume this post was popular because people are usually especially interested in hearing about how and where other people screw up. I don’t mean to suggest that my readers are especially mean or nasty! (No schadenfreude here!) Instead, I understand it’s comforting to know that even people who appear to have expertise in certain areas can still make mistakes. In fact, mistakes are part of the human condition, and the sooner we can recognize that reality, the happier and more productive we’ll be.
Here is a summary of the mistakes I made with my book:
- I mismanaged the research
- I didn’t allow enough time for testing the shopping cart
- I left hotlinking too late
- I made too many assumptions about the ease of creating e-books
- I failed to plan adequately for success
- I didn’t think hard enough about mailing logistics
To learn more details about my errors, read the post. And if you’re thinking about self-publishing, consider getting some coaching from me so you can avoid the mistakes with which I am so achingly familiar. And if you want to read the first chapter of my book at no charge, go here.
Why don’t more people write? They just don’t have the time. Or so they tell me. But a surprising number of these time-strapped people can still manage binge-watching Game of Thrones, or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. (Preference depends on age, I find.)
As I say in this post, the secret to finding time is to build a writing habit. If you feel too busy to write, look at your schedule and try to identify a time that’s your own, that you can protect. I’m not going to suggest you get up at 5 am (unless you’re naturally a morning lark.) Instead, figure out a time that will work for you. Mornings are great if you can manage them but, if not, no problem. Consider your lunch time. Could you spend 15 minutes of that writing? (Even if you have to go hide somewhere so that no one distracts you.) Or your after-work time, maybe before you head home to the demands of family life?
Make a deliberate choice to protect some writing time in your life. And note that this means more than just time, it also means the mental space to feel easy enough to generate the words. Words won’t come if you’re feeling stressed and worn out.
Keep the deliberate choice small — somewhere between five and 15 minutes, so that it’s easy to accomplish. Then, when you’ve maintained your writing time every day for somewhere between 18 and 254 days — or, on average, 66 days — you will have a habit that will sustain itself.
Yes, it’s really that easy. Read more, here.
Many of my fans are deeply committed readers. I can tell because my posts about reading — whether my annual book list, or individual posts on the topic — generate more comments and emails to me than just about anything else I write.
Before starting this popular post, I found an article from the Guardian promoting the concept of allokataplixis — a recently invented word designed to convey the combined idea of “other” + “wonder.” The scientist who invented the word meant it to apply to the natural world and the human-made one, but I thought the term was equally useful for readers/writers. If you want to give your reading a jolt of allokataplixis, here’s what I suggested you do:
- Read outside of your typical genres
- Focus on one aspect of writing (e.g. metaphor) that particularly interests you
- Finish a book you hate
- Keep a diary of the books you read
If you explore this post, be sure to scroll down to the comments section. A reader named Philip reported a list of reading challenges from the Toronto Public Library. The list of 20 creative ideas includes suggestions like: Read a book in translation and read a book by an author with a disability. There are some great ideas in here!
I hadn’t taken a 35-day holiday since I got married in 1979. But this year, my husband and I decided to visit Australia/New Zealand, and a short visit didn’t make sense given the enormous distances involved.
Our busy trip included visits to family and friends and hiking, driving, lots of flights between cities and even a few days of sailing. One of the games I play when travelling is trying to find writing lessons associated with either the trip or the destination. This holiday didn’t disappoint. In the lessons department, I learned five:
- Writing always has its own fashion (what ‘works’ in one country is different in the next)
- Nothing is forever (not seasickness, not writing troubles)
- We should write and edit like hawks (gracefully)
- After a break, get back to writing gradually
- Depend on your sustainable writing habit.
For more details on any of these lessons, read the post. If you’re a fan of sailing, you might be amused to read of my terrifying experience in the Whitsundays.
I hear regularly from freelance writers who are struggling with too much work or too little. The situation is a bit like Goldilocks and the three bears. Too many bowls of porridge are too hot or too cold. And too few are just right. If you want to find the sweet spot for your freelance writing career — in terms of volume of work — be sure to take some simple steps to prevent feasts and famines. You can do this by:
- Deciding how many hours you WANT to work each week,
- Learning to estimate your writing and editing speed
- Working during your most energetic, highly productive hours
- Paying close attention to your cash flow
- Cultivating long-term clients, and
- Always marketing
See the post for more details. And if you find yourself struggling with a feast, or needing to survive a famine, this post also offers some tips for dealing with those two situations.
I wish everyone a very happy New Year’s Eve and a prosperous and rewarding 2020. I will resume blogging on Jan. 2, 2020.
You’re seeing this post in time for me to remind you that tomorrow, Dec. 27/19, is the deadline for applying to my Get It Done program for Jan. 1. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to develop a better writing routine, this three-month accountability group will help you. To apply, go here and scroll down to the very end and select the bright green “click here to apply now” button.
I was a guest on a podcast last week. If you’d like to listen to Pete Mockaitis interview me on his How To Be Awesome at Your Job podcast, go here.
My video podcast last week offered advice on how to deal with a second book idea (when you’re still writing the first one.) Or, see the transcript, and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. If you have a question about writing you’d like me to address, be sure to send it to me by email, Twitter or Skype and I’ll try to answer it in the podcast.
What was your favourite blog post from 2019? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by Dec. 31/19 will be put in a draw for a copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!