Napping Your Way To Better Writing

Credit/TheAwkwardYeti

Credit/TheAwkwardYeti

It’s okay to do nothing.

No, really. Sometimes you just need to give your brain a little rest.

I was spending a quiet Friday with my wife the other week, and I decided I should probably catch up on a little sleep. I readily admit that I’m a night owl and I am also, by necessity, an early riser. At times, this doesn’t bode well for my productivity.

I really enjoyed this article by Daphne Gray-Grant of Publication Coach. Ms. Gray-Grant has endured a number of sleep problems at various times in her life, and she came to the conclusion that among the extremely valuable health benefits of getting enough sleep, it does a great deal for your creativity as well.

You’ll come across articles all over the internet that say a staggered sleep schedule is best, and that Tesla slept for only tow hours a night. There’s absolutely no reason to burden yourself by employing an eccentric sleeping pattern just because it happened to work for someone else. Remember what happened to Kramer.

Whatever you do, whether it’s writing, answering phones or chopping trees for a living (especially then!), you need your sleep. 7-9 hours will really do your body a lot of good.

Going back to my quiet Friday, I dozed off on the couch and kept a notebook nearby in case I had any ideas when I woke. Not only did I wake up feeling recharged, but I had a bit of inspiration to work on a side project to boot. Even if you can’t sleep, I’d really encourage you to find some time in the day to simply rest and do nothing. Ideas tend to creep up on me in the quiet times.

Giving your body rest is crucial to creative success. Fuelled by a constant need to improve himself (and God love the man for it), best selling author Jim Collins once told the New York Times that he studied his sleeping habits over a period of time and found that if he didn’t get 70-75 hours a week, he could go about his daily routine, but creativity simply can’t happen.

If I don’t get enough sleep or am without the opportunity to catch up on much-needed rest, I’m not focused on my writing; I’m focused on nodding off.

While the image of a writer typing the next great American novel into the wee hours of the morning is romanticized, I don’t find it to be particularly true and agree with Mr. Collins and Ms. Gray-Grant both: the best way to sleep and maintain creativity and inspiration is to get a good, full night’s sleep. You may not be up and awake for as many hours as before, but the productivity you’ll achieve by being fully rested will more than make up for the difference.

What are your thoughts on sleeping and creativity? Discuss in the comments below!

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here

My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see, and I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam

I’m sorry, Mr. Hemmingway

**FILE**  Ernest Hemingway stands on the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy, in this 1950 file photo taken by his friend Aaron Edward Hotchner and released by the Library of Congress. Singing a takeoff of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" helped a Texas commercial property developer win an Hemingway look-alike contest during a festival honoring the author that ended Sunday, July 23, 2006 in Key West, Fla.  Sporting a khaki hunting outfit, white beard and bushy eyebrows, Chris Storm, 55, hit Cash-like low notes as he sang a plea for contest judges' votes during the highlight of the six-day Hemingway Days festival. The competition drew 130 other bearded entrants who paraded across the stage at Sloppy Joe's Bar, the author's favorite watering hole    (AP Photo/Library of Congress, A.E. Hotchner, FILE)

**FILE** Ernest Hemingway stands on the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy, in this 1950 file photo taken by his friend Aaron Edward Hotchner and released by the Library of Congress. Singing a takeoff of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” helped a Texas commercial property developer win an Hemingway look-alike contest during a festival honoring the author that ended Sunday, July 23, 2006 in Key West, Fla. Sporting a khaki hunting outfit, white beard and bushy eyebrows, Chris Storm, 55, hit Cash-like low notes as he sang a plea for contest judges’ votes during the highlight of the six-day Hemingway Days festival. The competition drew 130 other bearded entrants who paraded across the stage at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, the author’s favorite watering hole (AP Photo/Library of Congress, A.E. Hotchner, FILE)

Hello, my dear readers out there, whoever you may be!

I’m going to deviate from the normal flow of the blog to address an issue that inspired me while writing an e-book for one of my clients.

In the process of writing the book, I came to three critical realizations:

  1. Writers need not apologize for their tone or subject matter; each writer has a unique voice and should be allowed to address the world in said tone.
  2. Speaking plain English (or whatever language in which your work is written) is more accessible and often more powerful than flowery prose.
  3. Ernest Hemmingway is a better writer than I once believed.

The realizations came to me in more or less that order. I remember reading A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea several years ago. I enjoyed the stories themselves, but at the time, I couldn’t for the life of me understand what was so great about the way Ernest Hemmingway wrote. The language didn’t appear to be anything special. He was a blunt, raw curmudgeon of an author whose macho posturing and at-times abrasive attitude rubbed me the wrong way.

It was only recently I came to realize that it was exactly the way Ernest Hemmingway was that made him such an enduring, classic writer. His words were visceral, real, something with which most every reader could relate. In writing in plain speech, he essentially grabbed the readers by the lapels of their figurative jacket, forced them to read the words he’d written and said “Look, here’s what happened, here’s the way I’m telling it. I’m not sorry. Deal with it.”

Sure, sometimes he was offensive, sometimes he was brash (which upon further research doesn’t appear to be much fault of his own due to some serious mental issues), but his lean, unsubtle, unapologetic way of speaking had a major influence on writers after his last words were written, and the influence continues today.

With that said, Mr. Hemmingway, I’m sorry I scoffed at your work. I was young, I wasn’t as in-tune to what your style really meant to the literary world until now. While you’re not my favourite author, I can see now why you were held in such high regard, and rightly so.

What do you think of Ernest Hemmingway’s work? Discuss in the comments below!

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here

My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see, and I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam

The Fluff Balance

Credit/John Short

Credit/John Short

Hello, my dear readers! I hope your week is going well.

I’m currently working on a book for a client about excellence in writing. In my research, I’ve had something of an epiphany.

For years, I’ve been a concise writer. That might be fine for journalism, but for other types of writing, maybe I’ve been looking at it all the wrong way.

There’s a popular adage that tells us when it comes time to edit an article, a full-on novel or even a script, it’s a good idea to cut down on words wherever you can. For example, trade out adverbs for stronger verbs so you won’t need them, maybe get rid of the more boring parts of the book or at least cut them down to a level that makes the story flow easier.

I try to keep my stories and other such writings as concise as possible, but doing research for my latest endeavour leads me to the conclusion that there really isn’t anything wrong with a little fluff.

I guess it’s not really fair to call it “fluff” so much as adding a dimension to your characters to make them more realistic; it’s just shorter to say “fluff.” Let’s take a script I was recently working on as an example. It’s a sci-fi story in which the protagonist is haunted by dreams of his untimely demise to the point where it’s affecting his sense of reality.

When he’s not wrestling with the big questions of life, what does he do? When a detective needs a moment to get away from his case, what does he do?

As a writer, you shouldn’t be afraid of the mundane. My protagonist liked to bake. He appreciated the routines in life because they felt normal, comfortable and feeling useful was all he ever wanted (well, that, and to rid himself of the hellish nightmares that plagued his every sleeping hour).

By adding the fact that your heroes or villains go through the humdrum of everyday life and delving into their routines, likes and dislikes, it humanizes the character and makes them feel more alive.

That’s not to say you need to go into great detail into every aspect of every day, even when nothing in particular happens. No, peppering the details particularly toward the beginning of the book before the plot really starts to ramp up would be the better way to go. You have to walk the line; strike a balance between routine and plot points.

In journalism, where I worked for several years, fluff has its proper place and time, namely in human interest stories. In writing fiction, blogs and works outside of journalism, the rules are the same. So don’t be afraid of the mundane; there’s a place for the everyday in your writing.

How do you handle the more mundane points in your stories? Discuss in the comments below! 

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here

My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see, and I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam

Staying Social and Sane

Credit/ Lifehacker.org

Credit/ Lifehacker.org

Hello, my dear readers!

I often joke that since I went freelance I’ve become something of a hermit who occasionally exits the cave to forage for food.

I was inspired to write on how to maintain a more social life as a freelancer by a post from PeoplePerHour. It’s a fine site to work through. Thanks, PPH!

Thanks to the following tips, you, too, can have a social life and work freelance!

1. Go Outside

This doesn’t mean take your laptop, coffee and various and sundry work items to get things done on your porch or deck (not that that’s a bad thing). Angela West of Web Designer Depot says she tries to take a little time each day to re-socialize, whether it’s leaving the house for a workout, a coffee break, a quick walk or drive…whatever. I think it’s fair to say we could all use a little human interaction throughout the day. Even if you can get out for a few minutes, it’s good for you. Little investments of time add up, after all.

2. Volunteer

A volunteer organization is an excellent way to become more socially aware, especially if you’re like me and have spent a majority of your waking hours writing, alone. I’ve never really considered myself a terribly socially anxious person, but I know for some, that’s a problem. West recommends the Toastmasters as an organization that can help you brush up on your public speaking skills, which may help considerably in easing your nerves when meeting other people or introducing yourself in a number of settings.

3. Pick up a Hobby

If there’s anything I’ve learned through my research for this post, it’s that I’m not alone when it comes to devoting too much time to my work. So, what is one to do if one isn’t working? I’ve been fortunate enough to find among my wife and I’s things a saxophone she used to play. Now, once a day, I take a break to play a little bit and learn something new. A change in activity really awakens the mind and helps multiple aspects of your life.

In your pursuit of work, it’s really important to keep your personal life well nourished. Taking time for yourself to reconnect with your loved ones or to try something new will do your body, mind and heart a world of good.

What do you do to stay sane as a solo worker? Discuss in the comments below! 

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here

My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see, and I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam

Rush Jobs – Good or Bad?

credit: http://www.ehmac.ca

credit: http://www.ehmac.ca. I’m so sorry about the pun.

Hello, my dear readers! I hope this week finds you well.

I’ve been busy with various and sundry projects. Most at this point are longish-term, but I’ve also picked up a couple of rush jobs here and there.

Personally, I have mixed feelings regarding picking up rush jobs. Let’s take a look at the good and bad, shall we?

Pros

  • Rush jobs are quick. If you have a good, attentive client, you’ll get that money as soon as the job is done.
  • Rush jobs entitle you to charge more. If you can’t be free with your time, it’s permissible to make your client pay for it, and most of the time, they’re willing to do it if the deadline is absolutely not negotiable.
  • Rush jobs might not be as rush as they initially sound. If the deadline is negotiable, it’s okay to work with the client to see if you can buy yourself a little more time. If you’re going to offer your services to an already-warm client, you might as well milk it for what it’s worth.
  • It’s an opportunity to impress a client. James Chartrand of Men With Pens makes a good point when he says “In 95% of all rush cases, people sound urgent but almost all of them won’t blow at you when you say you can’t get to it right away. They want reassurance someone can help. They want to know they’re not alone to deal with this problem. They just want to be heard.Typically, people don’t really expect you to drop everything anyways – they’re just flustered and grabbing at any quick solution that comes to mind, or they’re not thinking about all the possible options they have at hand, or maybe they’re just trying their luck to see what you’ll say.” Yes, on one hand, the job might not be as urgent as it sounds. It’s always possible that it is. Either way, I think if you can pull the job off, you’ll look all the better  in the client’s eyes, and who knows where that could lead?

Cons

  • Rush work is stressful. I’ve learned this from experience; often times, there will need to be some changes made, and without enough time to do it, each change, edit, tweak takes priceless minutes (or God forbid hours), which has the potential to sour the client’s experience and the client-freelancer relationship.
  • Rush work is risky with new clients. It takes some time to develop a good freelancer-client relationship. When you first meet your client, it’s not a good idea to take rush work as the first job. This likely doesn’t do the first impression justice on either end. People act differently than normal when faced with an especially stressful situation. You really don’t want to start off on the wrong foot if at all possible!
  • Rush work could lead to more rush work, which leads to more stress, a more sour work relationship…it all snowballs downhill!

So the lesson in this brief article is if you’re going to take on rush work, pick and choose it on a case-by-case basis. And don’t be afraid to say no!

What are your thoughts on rush jobs? Discuss in the comments below! 

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here

My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see, and I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam

Cooling it – Staving Off Workplace Stress

stress-543658_1280

Hello, my dear readers!

It’s been so nice to have some more visitors to the site recently. For those of you who don’t know, one of my articles has been featured on Upwork. So thank you, Upwork, and you, my new readers!

It’s hot in Canada right now; it’s far from the stereotypes of igloos and dogsleds (at least not where I live). No, it gets pretty bad.

Since the heat’s not going anywhere, maybe it’s time to talk about a different kind of cooling off – chilling out at the workplace.

Stress is a killer, so don’t let it get you! Take a look at a few tips here.

1. Make Friends With Your Stress

No, really. Look, unless you’re the luckiest so-and-so around and everything is provided for you the moment you need it, you’re always going to experience some level of stress. It’s just going to be there.

The Freelancers Union suggests we look at stress another way. Stress can be a driving force, a vehicle to get you where you need to go. With a combination of stress and a strong cup of tea, there’s nothing that can’t be done!

2. Communicate

This not only applies to your everyday relationships outside of work but with your clients as well. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid by asking too many questions. I don’t think it detracts from your professionalism or mine when we pose multiple questions to our clients in order to make their experience with us better.

The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask!

3. Budget

We all stress about money. I’ve had some tough months and I’ve had some great months. If you find yourself dry on work, keep trying to find it. When you do and when (not if, but when) you find yourself in a good month again, set aside some money and keep it for a dry season. It’s not always easy, but it’s certainly possible, and I’m living proof!

4. Keep Marketing

To avoid slow periods, even when you find yourself slammed, keep sending out applications and queries to clients and prospects. Slow periods can be very stressful, but if you’re careful and keep at it each day, you can make that stress a thing of the past.

5. Stay Healthy!

I can’t stress (get it?) the importance of your health. When you find yourself stressed, it’s always  good to get enough sleep and exercise. They might seem like wastes of time at first, but don’t think of it that way. Think of it instead as a long-term investment for your well-being. Sure, at the moment you might not be getting work done, but maybe a little time away is just what you need.

Stay stress-free, fellow freelancers and readers!

How do you extinguish workplace stress? Discuss in the comments below! 

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here

My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see, and I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam

Happy Canada Day!

Freepicsimages

Happy Canada Day! I’m happy to celebrate life in this new country.

Happy freelancing this week, and for all you Canadians out there, enjoy the day off and enjoy your home and native land!

– Adam