Archive | Blogging

Automating Posts Without Being an Asshole

hootsuite automating postsThere are a lot of tools out there to help you be more consistent with social media by automating posts. If you’re looking for options, you need only type “social media scheduling” into Google. Sadly, it seems that a lot of people (and companies) are using these tools to bombard people.

If social media is like a cocktail party with many discussions going on, scheduling app abusers are like the asshole who barges into a conversation and starts talking about himself. Don’t be that guy.

I will admit to using schedulers. I’ve used a few different ones, and always come back to Hootsuite. For the money, I’ve found it to be the best option out there. The main benefit is consistency. I schedule posts for myself and for clients in Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

The goal in using a scheduling app should be to stay in touch with your online community while not alienating followers.

Here’s how I find the balance:

  1. Just because you can schedule a post for every five minute interval, doesn’t mean you should. Constant posting is a dead giveaway that a robot is doing your posting for you. Try to schedule posts to match the frequency with which you post when you’re having a spot-on social media day. For me that’s two or three times a day tops. (Unless I’m at a conference, in which case I tweet a lot more, but that’s a topic for another post.)
  2. Set up your phone to alert you when someone shares or comments on something you posted. For instance, if I schedule a post asking what people are planning to read this summer, then don’t respond for a week because I’m not paying attention, I kind of look like an asshole. So I set up my phone preferences to alert me when someone responds to my posts. When I get the alert I open my social media account and respond.
  3. Think of automating posts as a backup. For instance, I schedule a post or two a day for Twitter because I know I often get busy and forget to tweet. But just as often, I don’t forget. When I remember to, I tweet in real time, but if I do get swamped, I don’t have to stress because I know a tweet or two will go out on my behalf.
  4. Don’t schedule retweets to go live a week later. Social media, and Twitter in particular, moves fast. You can retweet hours, maybe even a day later, but retweeting content a week later screams robot and makes you look like an asshole.
  5. Make conversation. You can’t do this until you’re set up to do number 2, but it’s important. You can’t just go online and start telling everyone about what you’re selling. This goes double for the slut-bags who want to send me pictures of their punani. People will just stop following you, or worse, report you as spam (and if you’re hocking dick pics, they’re right to do so).

So there you have ’em, my top five rules for not being an asshole while making the most of the scheduling technology available to you.

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Why I Love Instagram

notebookAs I mentioned in my last post, my one goal for 2015 is to start actively taking notes about the world around me. As writers, the one thing we must be is observant, and I think the practice of actively looking and (most importantly) taking notes is critical.

So I found myself a lovely little notebook that fits easily in my purse, and I’ve taken a note on SOMETHING almost everyday. Like everything else in life, I find that the more I do it, the easier it gets – the more I begin to notice things that I need to jot down. It reminds me of the reason I love Instagram.

I’m a social media dabbler. I have a Facebook page, and I sometimes tweet, but my favorite platform by far is Instagram. My love for it developed pretty quickly when I found myself looking for beauty, everywhere I went. I still take the obligatory head-on shots of the kiddos posing arm in arm, but I dig a little deeper when I start to think about how something might look with an interesting filter. I’ll try a different angle, wait patiently for an unusual shot, or set up something in the background to give it depth. And I’m a novice compared to a lot of Instagramers. Truth be told, the results are fun, but it’s the frame of mind that I love the most.

It’s like a much simpler form of my writer’s notebook, which works the same way, insofar as it pushes me to consider things, to look more closely, to try to find the story, but with Instagram, once I’m done, I tap a button and share the moment with my friends. Honestly, I wish all of my friends were on Instagram. It’s the best.

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Writing Goals for 2015

xmas walk
I am so excited for 2015, mostly because 2014 sucked – culminating in a broken wrist that had me out of commission for almost a month. Well, out of commission is relative. The truth is, I already had a week of vacation time planned for Christmas, so I was able to rest the hand and not type, but there were cookies to bake and ornaments to make. My whole family rented a house on the coast in Oregon so we could spend the week together – the photo above is from a walk we took on Christmas morning, during a break in the rain. It was so beautiful.

We didn’t do much for New Years Eve. I had to work, and it’s impossible to get a babysitter, so really, Christmas week was the big deal this year. I’m hoping it marks a turning point, away from the sucky suckness that was 2014 and into the wonderful world of 2015, gravid with potential.

I usually do resolutions, but this year I’m lowering expectations. I have only one goal for this year and it is to revive my writer’s notebook. I used to be so good about jotting down ideas and observations. Any line I stood in was an opportunity for a character study. I wrote about the way light hit different scenes and the nuances of unusual smells. Anything. It’s been years since I did this on a daily basis, and I truly believe it is critical for a writer. So that is my one resolution.

Of course, I also hope to finish “The Feathered Tale of Tallulah Jones” and finally start sending it off to agents. In my wildest dreams I also complete a rough draft of the new novel, the one I have all outlined. Then there’s the blog. All while working full time, raising two kids, and you know, spending the occasional bit of time with my guy.

As usual, I am overcommitting.

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My Broken Wrist

castThere are not a lot of injuries that can take a writer out of commission. Broken ribs, cracked femurs, severed toes – I’m not saying I want any of these troubles, but the truth is, a broken wrist/hand/finger is particularly frustrating to me as a writer because I need to write. It’s how I make my living.

So you can imagine I’m pretty upset to report (with the most un-fun one-handed typing I’ve ever struggled through) that I fell last week and broke my wrist. Honestly, I have a lot to say on the topic, but every freaking word is a labor of love at this point.

The doc predicts I should have the cast off by Christmas, which isn’t so bad. I’m going to take a pass on blogging for the time being, and focus on work, as I can only type so much before it really starts to ache.

Grumble, grumble…

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A New Look for My Blog

So long MojaveLovely readers, it’s been too long.

About a year ago, I posted that I was feeling overwhelmed and that something had to go, to make space for my top two loves (family and fiction) as well as work (boo).

Since that last post, I’ve found myself writing blog posts in my head. Very clever little things, believe me, you would have loved them, but the point is not all the wonderful blog posts I never wrote. The point is that I was missing my blog.

So I am very pleased to announce, here in this post, that it’s BACK!

Yeah!

I have redesigned it, as you can see. No more desert images. I still love the desert, but I am working on a new project, one more broadly based in California, and I wanted a design that wasn’t as locked into a theme.

And as for what I’ve been writing, it’s been an interesting year. I spent the first six months of 2014 outlining a new project. I’m very excited about it. It’s about parenthood, and love, and what it means to grow older. It took me six months to outline it because I did three rounds. At this point the outline is over 50 pages long, but then, in June, I had to set it aside and come back to Tallulah Jones.

I just couldn’t stand that I had abandoned my first novel, so close to the finish line. Taking six months away from it allowed some much needed breathing room, and I’m so I’m back to it again. It is getting close, but wasn’t quite as close as I thought. I am giving it my full attention (that is to say, this is what I’m working on from 5:00 to 6:30 every morning), but I’m getting sick of it again and I find I’m just itching to dive into writing the new project.

As a compromise, I am taking the next couple of weeks to continue working on it, but as of January 1, I am setting it aside again to start drafting the new novel.

I’m finding that I rather like having two larger projects in the works. It feels like I have options.

So that’s that haps. It’s good to be back.

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Not-A-Performace-Review Update

I promised to tell you how my performance review went last week.

As suspected, it was not a performance review. He never said it would be, so it’s not like there was any false advertising. Mostly we just talked about the company and our current projects. He did ask what the three worst parts of working for the company have been, but he said it laughing, so I couldn’t tell if he was joking. I was honest, but gentle.

There was no mention of a raise – again, not that I really suspected there would be. That conversation will come eventually.

So work continues on. We have some great clients, and I have many fun writing projects on the horizon. That’s one thing I really love about my job. In one week I can write about tree maintenance, the downfall of redevelopment, water recycling and Twitter’s new emergency alert system. And we might maybe have a new client that I am super excited about. I can’t say anything just yet, but if it happens, I will let you know.

So that’s the haps. More than anything, this post, and the one last week, are a test to see if my boss reads my blog.

Boss man? You there?

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Yes! National Student Writing Competition

I am super proud to announce that Yes! Magazine is using an article I wrote for them to act as the prompt for their annual Student Writing Competition.

image_previewThe piece dates back to 2010, and outlines a very difficult month in which I impulsively tried to go for thirty-one days without eating, drinking, wearing or washing with any Monsanto products. Being all writerly, I blogged about the adventure, and it got me a lot of attention – some good (I landed an agent), and a lot of it not so good. The biggest lesson I learned was that people do not take their food politics lightly.

Seeing this article take on a new life has brought up some old anxiety that is reminding me of all the reasons I have since distanced myself from the project:

1. I got my very own angry stalker. A very nasty man (?) posted repeatedly on my blog using all caps, and words I will never repeat. The same individual sent frequent tweets about how I was a Monsanto plant and that I have a funny-looking nose. Why do I care what that a-hole thinks? I don’t, but the words he chose to express himself were upsetting nonetheless.

2. Numerous publications asked me to write for them – for free. While I don’t mind a little pro-bono work when I believe in a cause, I am also a professional writer, and I simply cannot spend all my time writing for no money. Mostly I just ended up telling them to republish the Yes! article (and a couple others I wrote), and then felt guilty for not doing more to educate people about their food.

3. People started calling me The Monsanto Girl. While a more appropriate title would have been The Nonsanto Girl, it wasn’t the monicker that bothered me so much as the creeping sensation that I would never be known as anything else. If you read my blog, you know that fiction is my true passion.

4. I was misquoted. A lot. Just for the record – the movie Food, Inc. did not inspire the project, the project was not a boycott in the traditional sense (I had no illusions that my not consuming Monsanto products would in any way make the company change its ways), and I am not an activist (at least not by any traditional definition).

5. People got really crazy about equating Monsanto with GMO and held me up as their poster girl. I actually think GMO’s may have a place in our food system, but I also believe that our government doesn’t do nearly enough (anything) to test GMO’s before they are fed to the masses and that scares me.

When I realized I was continually explaining myself and clarifying misconceptions, I decided it was time to take a step back, for the sake of my own sanity. I was in the middle of a very difficult pregnancy at the time, and I needed a little more calm in my life.

The funny thing is, the project has taken on a life of its own. I joined forces with a friend of mine who is very much into food politics, and we started the Digging Deep campaign which now has over 4,000 followers on Facebook. (My “Storyteller” Facebook page has just under 200 – you should go Like it.)

At this point I more or less feel like a traveler who strolled over a hill and happened upon a war. I fought a battle or two, then looked around, decided this was not where I wanted to die and got the ef out of there. I have immense respect and gratitude for everyone who continues to fight the good fight, and if an article I wrote two and half years ago can help spark discussion, well, I am truly honored.

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Writing Every Day – Serioulsy

Okay, so I know it looked to you like I just kind of forgot to post for the last two weeks, but I was actually experiencing a complete WordPress meltdown.

Two days after I posted my last entry, I went online to draft my next post and I got this crazy error code. Couldn’t even get a login page. Arg! I mean, I’m pretty good with WordPress once I’m in the back end, but if I can’t get there, I’m lost. Luckily, a friend from the Kleverdog co-working space gave me a good rate on some FTP magic and viola! I’m back online.

So, let’s see, what have I missed telling you about since the 18th? Well, we’re still in the process of moving offices. So I’m currently working on a round conference table, with my keyboard WAY too high, which sucks, but it’s temporary. I’ve become a bit of an ergonomics Nazi, but frankly, I don’t know how people work long days without good positioning. I just ache and ache if things aren’t set up right. Which reminds me, I just discovered a new mouse called the RollerMouse. It’s awesome. You can read my review of it on the company blog here.

I continue to plug away at the novel. I’m currently doing a pass to fine tune the language. Really nit-picking stuff. Some mornings I plow through three pages, other mornings, like this one, I spend an hour and a half on one paragraph. It would be discouragingly slow if I didn’t see a real difference in the pages before and after. Certain sections are expanding, gaining detail and nuance, but mostly I’m cutting. Trim, trim, trim.

The thing I’ve most wanted to blog about though is that I’m re-reading a book called The Writer’s Portable Mentor, by Priscilla Long. If you’re a writer, you really must check it out. It’s by far the best book I’ve come across about writing as a craft. It’s full of exercises, most of which I ignored the first time I read it, but now that I actually have a project in full swing, it’s giving me some great insight into how to hone my skills and really look at every sentence for structure and sound and meaning.

The most basic lesson is to write every day. I’ve heard lots of writers say that and I’ve thought “yeah, totally, every day, except days I  oversleep, or weekends, or you know, if I don’t get around to it,” but something clicked this time when I read that. Every day. Long says to set a timer and write EVERY DAY for 15 minutes in a journal. This is meant to be totally separate from any other writing you do, and it’s a safety net. This is my new understanding of it. It’s that, even if I don’t get to my  novel on any given day, or week, I will still be writing, even if it’s just those few minutes before bed, or on a coffee break. Every day. I’m about a week into it, but I’m telling you, something clicked. I intend to write every day for the rest of my life. Seriously. Every day.

So that’s what’s been happening. I’m very excited to be back online.

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Why I Blog

When a classmate of mine in the MPW masters program at USC told me that I just HAD to start blogging, I thought he was crazy. Blogging’s not for everyone. That’s a fact. Some people just want to go about their lives, write in their free time and leave it at that. Personally, I had lumped myself into the “it’s not for me” category, without really thinking it through.

But then, I had professors and agents all tell me that the best thing I could do while finishing my novel was build my platform. Ug. What a distasteful thing to do. As a writer who considers this work an art form, starting a blog simply to promote myself felt icky. But, since I figured they knew more about it than I did, I set up a blog and started writing about the one thing I felt I could speak on with authority – writing. And here I am.

Since I haven’t yet finished my novel, I have no idea how this whole “building my platform” thing is going, but I do know one thing for sure: a large percentage of the freelance work I get comes directly from people who have seen this blog. It turns out I’m promoting myself in a way I never even realized.

Forget my platform. This little blog of mine is building my livelihood.

The truth is, as a freelance writer, you have to do a lot to reassure people that you can put words together in a coherent way before they’ll even pick up the phone to call you. So I have my business website, my LinkedIn profile, my Facebook page, blah, blah, blah. The number one thing new clients tell me over and over is “I read your blog.”

I tell you this, dear readers, because I know a lot of you are writers too. It’s hard finding clients, I’m here to testify. But it’s MUCH harder if you don’t represent yourself in some way.

So if you’re looking to start into this whole freelance thing – take my advice: start blogging. It doesn’t even matter what you blog about. You just need to put interesting (hopefully) words to your screen, again and again. And really, if you’re a writer worth a damn, that’s not such a hard thing to do.

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New Gig

One of the perks of living in LA (and I have to admit that there aren’t many) is that I get to meet famous people.

Okay, maybe meet is a strong word. I get to notice famous people, as they live their lives and our paths occasionally cross. And it’s the strangest thing, because you see someone, and you’re thinking “I know this person,” but then, after you’ve been staring at them for an uncomfortable period of time, you realize, no, you don’t actually know this person, you just recognize their face from your favorite TV show or something. Then you feel kind of like an idiot for staring. Then you tweet about the famous person standing next to you. Then you go on about your day.

But sometimes I actually do get to meet said famous people, either because my guy is working with them, or their kid plays on the same soccer team as ours. And sometimes you actually get to know them a bit. Which leads me to my latest news – I have my first celebrity ghost-blogging gig!

I just turned in my first post, and I actually enjoyed working with him(her?) quite a bit (can’t give you any hints as to who it is or I wouldn’t be a very good ghost blogger now would I?). I hope this turns into a long-term, reoccurring assignment, because it really was fun to write. No offense to the executives I ghost blog for (not that I think any of them actually read my blog), but writing for a celebrity is much more fun. They have pretty glamorous lives.

As much as I enjoy bashing LA, I have to admit, I never would have made the connection that landed me this project if I lived in, say, Portland. So I guess I’ll have to take that into consideration from now on (but I still miss the REAL stars).

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