advice

“Don’t ever count yourself out”

Just watched a gripping documentary on BBC about Gene Cernan, astronaut.  If you’re in the UK, and pay a TV licence you can view it at:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0b3gd8g/the-last-man-on-the-moon

“Don’t ever count yourself out.  You’ll never know how good you are, unless you try.  Dream the impossible and then go out and make it happen.

I walked on the moon, what can’t you do?”

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advice on starting a blog, at www.commaand.co

“I’m thinking of starting a blog….” 11 tips

A friend of mine is considering beginning a blog, so I passed on some tips for the warmup lap, so to speak:

“As with all of my advice, it is unsought, possibly unwanted and unnecessary, but it comforts me to distribute it.

I am a bit of a natural teacher/preacher.  And of course it is entirely possible to be a naturally bad teacher – all’s I’m saying is that the impulse to pass on info is there.

You are in the pre-launch era.

But you can start straightaway with gathering content – your words, your pictures

You can never have too much.

It becomes like a library so that you are never beginning with a blank screen, a blank page and a blank mind.

Write down somewhere your ideas for topics – develop them as much as possible.  It’s useful to have a phrase, it’s better to have 100 words already written.

Collect snippets you’ve written to friends or others which can be seeds of longer articles

Every now and then do word searches on the internet – or just potter around – and find interesting articles or topics – immediately bookmark them so you can find them later

Potter through your photos, pulling out ones you like, putting them into a folder you can draw on

Go to youtube and search for videos on your subject area – bookmark these

Physical resources: get a box file (preferably in some pattern or colour that makes your heart sing) and keep throwing into it articles in magazines, papers which are of interest (you obviously research updates on what is in them, at the time of writing, so the info is current).

The choices of theme/layout are immense and bewildering – as you potter around other people’s blogs, worth keeping an eye out for features you like on a blog page, or even a whole page layout which you would like to emulate.  Note these down.  Then when you’re faced with a thousand choices of layout, you will have your guidelines to help.

Is there a trade show or exhibition on your chosen topic, so you can visit it and include in your blog/instagram?  Practice blogging it.  Do you have the tools you need to blog?  Or is there some tools you can buy to help you work easily on the trot?

Have fun with making content.  Know that it will take time and won’t earn you money right off the bat.”  

Start listening to podcasts by Problogger

ProBlogger recommended as great resource for starting your own blog, recommended by www.commaand.co

Darren Rowse, head of ProBlogger

This can take you step by step through the whole process from the beginning of an idea to monetizing it, with a healthy readership/followership.

*On 10 January 2018, Problogger begins a free course on starting a blog – so if you know someone considering blogging, this is a great time to link in with Problogger.  Details of this course and podcasts on their website.*

It covers all your decisions, and gets experts to advise.

Problogger was begun and still runs via Darren Rowse – an Aussie guy who has got the right mix of warmth and expertise to deliver useful info pleasantly and in that Australian twang that makes it fun.  He is easy to understand and doesn’t use unnecessarily technical language.

He has recorded over 200 brief podcasts (about 20 minutes each) on how to blog well, so far, and counting.  The earliest ones are how to get a blog running well in 30 days.

Confession: I haven’t listened to all his 200 podcasts, but I aim to get through a fair few as time goes on.  The ones I have listened to have taught me a huge amount of what I know.  They’re also amazingly brief and concise – you can learn a great deal just from listening for 20 minutes, making notes and then doing the actions he recommends.

He made it into a major business – but it did take him 12 years to go from beginning, through hobby to part-time then to full-time paid work.  He now employs a team to work for him.

Check out Melyssa Griffin

Advice on Starting your own Blog at www.commaand.co Look and get going from the getgo!Melyssa Griffin is a social media phenomenon – she began blogging while also working full-time and frankly found it hard work with little reward.  She also tried some ways of monetizing her blog, without success – so worth hearing her wisdom on that particular area.  Her goal was to earn her living by blogging – and she has accomplished that.

Check her out on Youtube.  Her website will immediately suggest you should be on her emailing list, so approach it with caution.

One of her key insights is that you can use Pinterest as people use it as a search engine – so run a Pinterest page and anytime you write a blog article, create pins from it – this gives yet another place for people to find and engage with your blog content.

Guest Post: 15 tips for a successful long distance relationship

Today’s guest post is used with permission from Monte Celia Parker – Caio, Monte! – who wrote this post for her personal blog, while studying Italian in Bologna, 4,000 miles from her boyfriend.  What she recommends for maintaining a good relationship longdistance is personal, but I thought there were enough great ideas to be worth repeating, to inspire others to personalise and adjust to the significant other in their life.  Also, I think a few of these ideas are superb for keeping in vital touch with close friends who don’t live nearby.  (That sounds a contradiction: close but far away!)

Here’s her post:

People have always told me that long distance relationships are hard–don’t do them. However, I found someone who I didn’t want to let go of even though I would be 4000 miles away, so lo and behold I would have to navigate the dreaded LDR (Long-Distance Relationship).

I’m going to say something right now that will shock you.

This long-distance relationship is incredibly EASY. That’s right, it’s not really a struggle for us.

Verona by Monte Celia Parker

Verona Photo: Monte Celia Parker

There are 2 reasons for this.

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poetry editing

50 ways to improve your poems

The first version of your poem is a first draft.  It’s exciting to have written it – but how do you make it the best it can be?  How can you improve your chances of getting it published and read by others?    I’ve pulled together some great advice from poetry professionals.

Simon Armitage – much-published UK leading poet (see previous blog posts on career tips here and videopoem here) has drawn together a testing kit for poetry at the Guardian newspaper: “How to write Poetry, Checklist”

Grace Wells – editor of American and Irish poetry magazines and Literary Festival organiser – has written a very down-to-earth list of 11 editing points at Advice on Editing Poetry

Magma Poetry is a well-known and well-regarded UK poetry magazine, inundated by manuscripts from hopeful poets – but they’ve got their head above tidal waves of submissions long enough to write: “25 rules for editing poems”

Robert Lee Brewer over at Writers Digest has scribed, revised and polished:

“5 ways to revise poetry”

 

Vital Beginning Advice

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Making art from a wheelchair

Chuck Close, in conversation,  describes his working process.  His interviewer is a particularly excellent interviewer and art commentator (and Artistic Director of the Royal Academy of Arts) – the knowledgeable and always watchable Tim Marlow.

Chuck is known for his immense scale portraits, his work has sold internationally for decades.  Mid-career, he suffered a sudden catastrophic paralyzing physical event – but continues to work from his wheelchair, very successfully, in his seventies.

“Virtually everything I’ve done has been driven by my learning disabilities.”

Chuck Close

This is a quote from a note to his younger self, in a 5 minute CBS special video.

 

Creative Takeaways

  • “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work”
  • “Every great idea I’ve ever had, grew out of work itself”
  • “Sign on to a process and see where it takes you”
  • “No one gets anywhere without help.  Mentors – including your parents – can make you feel special even when you are failing in other areas. Everyone needs to feel special”
  • “The absolute worst thing in life can happen and you will get over it, you will be happy again….”
  • “Losing my father at a tender age was extremely important in being able to accept what happened to me later, when I became a quadriplegic”
  • “If you’re overwhelmed by the size of a problem, break it down into bite-sized pieces.”
  • “There is always someone worse off than you”

 

 

Video Diary: NaNoWriMo

So National Novel Writing Month is nearly here.  What’s it like to work through the goal of writing 50,000 words of your novel in November? Kristina Horner shows us her 8th year’s experience of the programme – in only 7 minutes.

This video is a kaleidoscope of emotions in the life of a young person. I doubt if George Eliot had a similar writing process.  I am sure Virginia Woolf would have been horrified at the idea of 123,000 people viewing you in the process of writing.  But after all, this is a reflection on how the world of communication – written and verbal – is so entirely different now to classical ways of writing.

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Advice to novel writers

Just what we need for November, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – or whenever the decision to first draft a novel strikes – some very useful writing tips recorded online.  BBC World Service radio has made available an entire series called “Writing Time” – each episode a 13 minute recording.

Topics covered include:

  • advice for aspiring writers
  • how to start writing a novel
  • developing characters
  • setting (how to decide where to set your book)
  • establishing voice (how to find your own distinctive voice)
  • dialogue
  • endings
  • how to find an agent

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