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!

Motivation for a natural escape

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

— John Muir

It’s true, being outside is good for mind. When I walk, I think. About everything and anything. Walking allows time for reflection. Movement, sights, sounds, smells, thoughts – they all combine to clear the head.

Perhaps more importantly, walking is good for the body. As a writer, I sit – a lot. New research shows that we all need to move more. Looks like I’ll have to walk more than once a day – aw, shucks!

In love with the outdoors. (Credit: M. Kopp)

In love with the outdoors. (Credit: M. Kopp)

What do you get out of walking in nature?

Plans for the New Year

It’s just a flip of the calendar page, but the new month that faces us is full of promise. Of lives lived stronger, of work done harder, of promises kept better.

One of the promises I made to myself was to focus on this blog and make it matter. It is a reflection of one writer’s life, but it is also a tool for motivation – whether for writing, or getting outside, or travelling to new lands.

With this in mind, I’m going to blog 3 times a week. Tuesdays will tackle writing-related topics. Wild Wednesdays will be all about the great outdoors. Thursdays will focus on travel themes.

The posts may be a simple as a photo, a link to a published article, or a new market for writers. They may be long-winded pieces about epic mini-adventures. They will be all me.

Hopefully you find something to make you smile, to make you think, or to make you do.

What is on your horizon for 2015?

What is on your horizon for 2015?

The Christmas Journey and a Writer’s Mind

I’m a sucker for moments that touch the heart. They make me cry, they make me smile, they make me want to write! I’m not sure of the connection, but there is something about good things that makes me happy… and when I’m happy the creative juices flow!

It was a commercial – of all things – that lead to this latest burst of emotion and desire to pen a few words. A simple, elegant commercial about the joy of giving. Watch “The Journey” for yourself.

There is something magical about the joy that comes from go above and beyond to give from the heart. This Christmas season, I plan to keep it going with random acts of kindness – from shovelling my neighbour’s walks, to donating a few of my children’s books to the local library, to sharing tips for helping, as yet, unpublished travel writers break into the market. I’m going to give from the heart.

Care to join me? How are you going to spread the magic this holiday season?

Stampede 101: Come Hell or High Water

Metal entry banner at the Stampede Grounds (Photo: M. Kopp)

Metal tipi sculpture at the Stampede Grounds (Photo: M. Kopp)

It’s over… but it won’t be forgotten.

The 101st showing of the Calgary Stampede wrapped up on Sunday with over 1.1 million guests coming through the gates. In the wake of the city’s worst flooding disaster, Calgarians rallied and sweated and slopped and pulled off something just short of a miracle.

I was there in the middle of the festivities, wandering the grounds and wondering when I’d see signs of the disaster. Yes, the banks of the Elbow River were littered with debris and tracks of mud. True, the shutttered Saddledome was a tourist attraction if only for a glimpse in closed doors at the damage caused when water rose to flood up to eight levels of seating.

Oh, the timing! (Photo: M.Kopp)

Oh, the timing! (Photo: M.Kopp)

But the only pool of water was in the – rather ironic – Bell water show. There were no traces of mud on the roads or walkways and only the odd patch of spongy grass in Weedickville. Water trucks actually had to spray down the dusty track – covered with over 2.5 metres of water just two weeks before – in between chuckwagon races.

“Come Hell or High Water” t-shirts dotted the crowds at the Stampede grounds the day I attended. The phrase became a slogan as the floodwaters receded and the Calgary Stampede adopted it and encouraged a community-funded campaign to support the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Flood Fund through purchases of the shirts.

Monday morning, as the Midway packed up and the grounds were cleared, the Stampede presented a cheque for $2.1 to the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Flood Fund on behalf of the community.

Isn’t it amazing what we can do when we work together?

On the banks of the Elbow,  old and new stand strong. (Photo: M. Kopp)

On the banks of the Elbow, old and new stand strong. (Photo: M. Kopp)

Echoing words from Corb Lund’s “Blood, Sweat & Water” tribute:

The banks of the river have crumbled,
  And the currents uprooted the trees.
  But in my eyes no city has looked quite as pretty,
  As when Cowtown rose up from its knees.

Change is the Air!

If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself…

– Ray Bradbury, from Zen and the Art of Writing, Capra Press, 1990.

Empty and ready for change!

Funny the things you find when you gut your office after 15 years. Tucked behind my massive desk weighted down with a ton of books was a slip of paper that had fallen from the bulletin board many years before; it had that quote written on it.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve started to question the direction my writing career is taking. I’m busier than ever, but more and more of the projects aren’t challenging my creative side. I’m not writing with gusto, with love, or having a whole lot of fun. The work has  started to become… well… work.

Finding this slip of paper was just one more sign that I need to lighten up and get back to what made me happy with my writing career. I’m taking it to heart and I’m going to re-kindle the enthusiasm I used to feel about it.

Boxes in the bedroom, computer in the kitchen, desk in the living room – but the writing goes on.

So in the midst of chaos – with an office spread out over the kitchen table, boxes in the bedroom, and a desk in the living room – I’m ditching autopilot and taking back the controls of this flight. Change is in the air!

How does change affect your writing? Does it stimulate creative thought or make it impossible to get anything done?

Hiking stimulates the writer’s mind

If I said I hiked to the summit of Tokyapebi ipa today, you might be puzzled. If I said Yates Mountain, you might still look at me strangely. If I said Barrier Lake Lookout in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, you’d probably be able to find it on a map. It crossed my mind today that clarity is key in communication.

Barrier Lookout Summit

Stoney names are familiar to Stoney tribe members west of Calgary; not so well-known outside this close-knit group. While historians and ranchers in western Alberta might know of Emily Yates and the Diamond Cross ranch she ran (now the site of the YMCA’s Camp Chief Hector) below today’s summit, most hikers commonly refer to this hike as Prairie View and Barrier Lookout. Know your audience and write accordingly, I thought to myself.

I also realised that I would like to let other hikers know that Prairie View trail from Barrier Dam (7.7 km, 500 m elevation gain) was almost dry in the lower sections, while mud and snow patches are still prevalent in the upper. The short 0.6 km (125 m elevation gain) section up to the lookout saw 0.5 m snow drifts. Packing gaiters and boot crampons are a good idea. Need to blog, tweet and share.

Snow lingering in high country.

Now you’d think with all this climbing up the trail, trekking through snow, and thinking about posts and tweets, that’d be enough. Not so! Queries were drafted, snippets of articles were re-evaluated, and future blogpost ideas were stored. Seems this writer’s mind is fuelled by foot power.

What motivates you to compose in your head?

Smarter Social Marketing

Flatter me, and I may not believe you.
Criticize me, and I may not like you.
Ignore me, and I may not forgive you.
Encourage me, and I will not forget you
.”
– William Arthur Ward

It feels like school all over again. When one steps away from the familiar and into the unknown, learning is a given. Over the past year and a bit I’ve joined the Facebook fray, started several Twitter accounts, built a blog, and started learning how to promote my online presence. Not bad for a self-confessed techno-phobe. But I didn’t do it alone; I had great help.

When I posted on a question on a freelance forum about how to promote a new blog, I certainly wasn’t expecting this encouraging and pertinent response:

You can share links on Stumbleupon, Digg, Reddit, Yahoo! Buzz, Google Buzz, Netvibes, Sphinn, Delicious, etc. Adding the blog to Technorati can help.

I try to post links to Twitter and Facebook using bit.ly so I can see how many clicks the post has received, as directly related to my tweets and status updates.

Do you know your blogging platform? Is it Drupal, WordPress, etc?

If it’s WordPress, you can manually add your pingback services list, aka the Update services list. Go to Settings > Writing and add the following to the “Update Services” to the box at the bottom:

[rpc.pingomatic.com]
[
rpc.technorati.com]
[
api.feedster.com]
[
api.my.yahoo.com]
[
rpc.icerocket.com]
[
www.blogstreet.com]
[
ping.syndic8.com]
[
rpc.blogrolling.com]
[
rpc.weblogs.com]
[
blogsearch.google.com]
[
ping.fakapster.com]
[
api.moreover.com]
[
bblog.com]
[
blogsearch.google.com]
[
ping.weblogalot.com]
[
ping.feedburner.com]
[
ping.syndic8.com]
[
ping.bloggers.jp]
[
rpc.weblogs.com]
[
topicexchange.com]
[
www.blogpeople.net]
[
xping.pubsub.com]

Then these 20+ services will be automatically notified when you post something new.

Thanks Ron Doyle, I’ll never forget you. Gotta go now, I have to study up on pingbacks and Digg and ohhh… my head is starting to Sphinn.