Finding Focus as a Freelance Writer

Being a freelance writer is awesome – you get to pick when you want to work, do what you want to do, and go where you want to go. As I’ve said before, you drive the bus – or ride the mule!

Being a freelance writer is horrible – work never comes when you need it the most, almost always hits when you’ve planned to take time to travel, and because the paths are endless (fiction, non-fiction, travel, children’s, anthology, blog, e-book…) it can be hard to get traction to get moving. Sometimes, the mule gets a little stubborn and slow.

I don’t set goals or make resolutions in the New Year anymore because they always seem to start off big and fizzle out fast. This year I’m not making plans. Instead, I’m simply digging in to a steep learning curve to get this blog on track.

Hiking Northern Spain. (Photo: M. Kopp)

That doesn’t mean I’m not working on a e-book, still writing children’s non-fiction, and penning travel pieces – I am – but it does mean I’m focusing spare time on becoming a better blogger.

Let’s face it, I suck at consistency when it comes to non-paying projects. My aim is to make this blog a passive income machine. Pay it forward. Possible? Apparently. Over the next few months, I’ll post occasional updates on my progress.

First Steps – or how to get that bus moving again! I am starting slow and learning to walk before I run. Step one: sign up for a little education on the topic. I chose “From Blog to Business” by Wonderlass Allison Marshall. Part of her package is support and additional training opportunities, like a productivity party. Trust me, it’s not fun and games. It is all about sweat equity and it comes with a 25-page workbook. I’ve just finished p. 2 – Celebrate.

Celebrate – it’s time to write down your accomplishments over the past year. I was hesitant at first because it didn’t feel like I had a productive year in 2016. Well, colour me happy! I was pleasantly surprised when I took the time to look back at what I’d accomplished.

Deep thoughts. (Photo: M. Kopp)

Work

  • wrote 9 work-for-hire children’s non-fiction books
  • penned 9 articles for paying markets
  • taught 2 travel writing courses
  • submitted a post to new paying blog market
  • wrote a book review for a paying market

Training

Travel

  • long weekend ski trips to Panorama and Assiniboine, BC and Waterton Lakes National Park, AB
  • multiple day trip skis and hikes
  • 6-day mule trip into the canyon of Sierra de la San Francisco, Baja MX
  • month-long hiking trip Northern Spain and Morocco
  • 6-day canoe trip on Bowron Lake Circuit, BC

A little slice of paddling heaven! (Photo: M. Kopp)

And More Travel!

  • 12-day trip to Vancouver Island for family and backpacking
  • 6-day backpack across the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska and the Yukon
  • 6-day trip to Northern BC to spend time with a girlfriend
  • 5-day road trip to Tofino with my daughter
  • 11-day bike/hike trip to southern Nevada and Utah

Write down your accomplishments last year – go ahead, give it a try. Your accomplishments can be related to writing or work or fitness or travel or whatever it is that you do. The act of writing it down not only feels good, it gives you a clearer picture of what actually happened and it gives you “the motivation to keep moving forward.

Keep moving forward! (Photo: M.Kopp)

Bring it on 2017!

Teaching Kids about Writing

Head down, office door closed, the last couple weeks of September and into October have been full of work. With seven books to wrap up, two magazine articles to write and travel queries to send out, there hasn’t been a lot of spare time.

Okay, maybe a little spare time… but not a lot!

So when I received a request for a school program late last week, I had to turn it down.

Not!

I jumped at the chance to talk writing while soaking up the positive energy that comes from a roomful of kids. It didn’t matter that taking another afternoon out of the office meant working late that night, those two hours were full of excitement and interest – and I think the kids enjoyed it, too 😉

Spending an afternoon with these keen kids wasn’t a chore, it was a privilege. Pushing my ability to multi-task when my plate was already full showed me that I was capable of more than I thought. In the words of Nelson Mandela: “There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

3 Tips for School Presentations:

  1. Start strong with a hook. I began telling the kids how I wanted to write a novel full of adventure and drama when I first started writing. The problem was that I wasn’t any good at writing fiction. I pulled out a copy of my first Reader’s Digest article and read a paragraph of Marianne trapped on a ledge, yelling into the wind at her rescuers in the distance, and watching the lights disappear. I wasn’t good at writing fiction, but I was skilled at writing non-fiction. They were hooked!
  2. Circulate. I always make sure that there are several hands-on activities for the kids to do. Instead of twiddling my thumbs at the front of the room, I wander through the groups, offering suggestions and answering questions. The kids enjoy the one-on-one time.
  3. Break it up. Be sure to build in bathroom and stretch breaks. Everyone will be happier and better able to focus.

Where to Stay in Ireland?

Getting excited! (Photo Credit: A. Kopp

Getting excited! (Photo Credit: A. Kopp)

My girl and I are off to Ireland in the not too distant future. She sent me a link today for a possible place to stay – glamping in a country manor garden. ‘Glampers’ receive a ‘glamping box’ on arrival with matches, water, specialty apple juice, a jar of homemade chocolate cookies (sold!), maps of the estate and a torch and head-lamps. Cool!

Yes, it’s time to start the planning phase of where to stay in Ireland. We already know we don’t have enough time to explore Northern Ireland this go ’round. For now it’s a few days in Dublin before working our way west towards Killarney and north toward Galway before completing the loop back towards Dublin.

What are our accommodation preferences?

1. Budget… but does that mean a hostel? Possibly, especially if it includes an element of  number 2.

2. Unique... not a chain… but not so quirky we can’t sleep.

3. A place with intriguing backstory. It could be something about the building’s history or the owner/manager’s background and how they came to be running the place.

Okay travellers, I’m asking for your advice.

Where would you recommend we stay? Why is this the place not-to-be-missed?

Looking forward to your brilliant suggestions!

 

Twitter and the Writer

Tweet, tweet, tweet!

Tweet, tweet, tweet!

As a freelance writer, I enjoy Twitter. It’s a valuable marketing tool, a place to find inspiration and a vehicle for getting outside of my head and into those of other writers.

A good start is the Twitter Guide for Writers & Illustrators. Whether you are a tweeting fool or tweetless, Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s (@inkyelbows) guide is priceless. Wondering how Twitter can possibly help writers? Read this. Ready to start, but don’t know where? Answer’s here. Wondering how to make your Twitter feed more interesting? Look here.

The Ultimate Guide to Twitter for Writers is one long post – I mean, really long. Although it’s not quite as easy to use as Ohi’s Q & A format, it’s still full of stellar info. Learn how to customize your header, use gearshifts, or perfect your writing hashtags. Frances Caballo (@CaballoFrances) writes even more on the topic at her own site, Social Media for Writers.

Carol Tice (@TiceWrites) offers 15 tips for writers to get noticed on Twitter at Make a Living Writing. Personally, I think #7 “Stop constantly marketing yourself” is critical. Create a dialogue that isn’t self-absorbed and people will want to keep the conversation going.

As a writer, do you find value in Twitter?

Writing Old School

It felt clunky and awkward. Words fell onto the blank page only to disappear in fury of eraser bits and dust. Writing without a laptop or iPad was surprisingly difficult. I couldn’t edit as easily, I couldn’t grab a word and move it up in a sentence. I couldn’t make it work… at first. And then the scratching of the lead against fine wood fibres began pulling me back into the art of writing old school.

Mosquito Creek Hostel provided the perfect writer's retreat. (Photo: M. Kopp)

Mosquito Creek Hostel provided the perfect writer’s retreat. (Photo: M. Kopp)

Spending a long weekend away from the distraction of internet a mere keyboard click away forced this writer to focus on getting the ideas down, rather than editing or breaking the flow to deal with the business aspects of being a freelance writer. Long after the lights of the hostel dorm dimmed, my headlight shone brightly on the notebook tucked firmly in a little corner of my bunk. The blue pencil flew across the page as thoughts and impressions and ideas poured from mind to page.

Productive? Definitely.

Do again? Absolutely.

When was the last time you took a break from writing with a computer?