Why You Are Feeling Embarrassed For Being A Writer

You are in a group — it can be your friends or it can be your family — and suddenly someone points to you and tells everyone that you are a writer. You’ll see a few eyebrows raise up, but mostly you’ll see a room full of unenthused stares. One member of the collective will turn to you and ask, “Oh yeah? What do you write?”

I rarely feel embarrassed, but it is in this very moment, the moment before I tell people about my work, where I feel the most ashamed in my choices. What do I write? A little of everything… I write stories and I write researched articles. I write press releases and I write scripts. I write emails and I write text messages. Where do I even begin?

What I tend to say is just that, “I write everything,” which is the most nothing answer one can give.

Imagine it this way. Someone asks you, “What kind of music do you like?” To which, you respond, “Oh, a little of everything.”

While that might be true, it doesn’t entice the other person to learn more about you. Instead, you are making them do all the work. Interest can fade very quickly, but here is how you can spark it rather than defuse it.

But first, let’s understand why we gave that answer in the first place.

A Writer’s Self-defense

Giving a really broad explanation like “I write everything” is a defensive response. You are afraid that the more information you give, the more it will reveal about you — opening you up — making you more vulnerable.

Let’s stick with music for a moment longer. For example, someone asked you what kind of music you liked, and you responded with, “Folk.” A potential return for that is that the other person hates folk, and they will be ready to lay down all the reasons why they hate it.

All through my life, I have encountered people that hate the stuff I like. I’m sure you have too unless you live in a really tight bubble. And I believe that if you like something, you will stand up and defend it. However, at a random social event where I’m suddenly put on the spot, I don’t feel much like standing up for my little creative projects.

“Oh what do you write?” someone will ask.

“I write short stories about travelling,” I could respond.

“Oh, I don’t like those,” people will say, “I don’t read. It’s boring… I’ll just rather go travel. I don’t care what other people think…”

Well… then… I guess I’m just an idiot. Sorry for not being able to amaze you.

Even before they have read any of your work — or even given it a chance — people can shut you down. That feeling is crushing. Suddenly you are in the middle of a group, with a stupid smile on your face, wondering where to move forward from that awkward exchange.

This, of course, happens with a lot of other creatives. When you find out that someone is an actor, you’ll ask, “Have I seen you anything you’ve done?” A wonderful guessing game that actors love. And since they aren’t Leonardo DiCaprio, they will feel awkward listing off their credits like this is some sort of audition for your approval.

Is there a way to remedy this awkward feeling, when you get put on the spot as a writer? Or after announcing your work in progress?

Yes, of course, there is.

Don’t Talk About Your Projects, Talk About Your Mission

What is the one job that gets criticized the most? The showrunner for a hit television show perhaps. Maybe… But in my mind, one of the toughest job in the world is being a politician. You are selfishly climbing ladders, but also selflessly defending causes. As a writer, you have to see yourself in much the same light. As much as you want to write the best work for yourself, it is really the influence, change, and reflection you want to cast upon the world.

It’s time to start thinking of your stories as more than just mere tales for entertainment. A good story is transcendent. It is designed to make the reader or listener think. It is designed to inspire. It is designed to make people feel empathy or find relatable. A story is here to change a life.

Think about the mission you want to accomplish by writing. Surely it is more than just selfishly being published, right?

Think of any good story and the theme, history, or moral behind it. There are only so many stories in the world after all, and most people have seen and heard them before. However, what matters and what last are those themes that remind people that beyond their own perspective there are many more — yours.

So when someone asks you what you write. Don’t be embarrassed that you are using a platform to express your thoughts. Don’t even talk about the writing itself or the story. Talk about the mission you want to accomplish with your writing. What in the world do you want to change with your words? Who are you wanting to inspire and influence?

Take a look at some of the most recent Academy Award winners for screenplay and see how most of them, when receiving their prize, don’t even talk about the craft, but rather, what they were trying to communicate.

You are not simply a writer, you are a voice for your readers, those who have chosen you and believe in your world view. The only thing is… they might not have chosen you yet. But there is still time. You are early. And that’s okay because what a pleasure it is for the people gathered around you that day at the random party to see you at such a humble state with such a bold mission.

Rehearse What to Say, The Next Time Someone Asks You What You Write

Let’s role play. Pretend that you are attending one of those many annual parties. Your friends happily introduce you to a guest you have not met before. You friend says, ”This is _____, she’s a writer.”

The guest asks, “Oh… what do you write?”

To which you respond not with details of your current work, but the objective you want your writing to have on the world. If you can’t think of what that may be… take a moment to really consider it. What do you really want your work to do?

There are many people writing about dragons, romance, and swords. There are many people writing about their last moments with their grandma or the dog from their childhood. There are many people writing about spies and seductive lovers. So don’t talk about that stuff… talk about something beyond that. What does your writing do besides attempt to entertain? Once you can find the answer to that, say it… and I’ll assure you, that you will feel less embarrassed as the guest will start to engage you in a deep conversation.

What other areas of being a writer makes you embarrassed? I’d love to hear it… if you don’t mind sharing.

If you like this article, you might consider buying me a beer, it helps to keep me writing.

Is It Better To Do Nothing and Get No Result Than to Do Something and Get No Result?

Before we talk about results, first let’s talk about goals. Are you currently pursuing your goals? Do you even know what they might be?

If you don’t, you can even take some time and write down your top 25 goals.

Once you have a good idea of what your goals are, you can ask yourself again, “am I doing anything to achieve it?” Yes? No? Maybe?

Now here is the ultimate kicker — does any of it matter? Does any effort you put towards your goals even matter? In a year, do you expect to see any progress at all? If not, then why not stop immediately? After all, it’s better to do nothing and get no results, than to do something and get no results, right?

I heard it on a business podcasts. A highly influential person said that whatever you’re doing, make sure you are getting some results from it, otherwise, it’s useless — or some sentiment as such.

I understood what he was saying, but it didn’t sound, right. It sounded so discouraging. What’s the definition of result? How is it measured?

The same way all our goals are different, so are our result. Wait! What’s the difference between goals and results?

A goal is what you want to happen. If I say, I want to win the Stanley Cup — then winning the Stanley Cup is the goal.

However, once I start pursuing the goal, I might find that the best I can do is play for the Vancouver Canucks. That is the result. It’s great, but it’s not the ultimate goal.

Alternatively, my goal may be to publish a novel and my result is that I only managed to write a few paragraphs. Damn! Still not there yet.

The reason people like to think that it’s better to do nothing and get no results, than to do something and get no result is because they are confusing results with goals. You might not always achieve your goals, but you will always get a result if you try.

What I see in a comment like this is something along the line of, “I’m never going to win the Stanley Cup, so why should I even bother playing…?” or “I’m never going to be able to publish a novel, so why should I even bother writing a draft?”

They have defeated themselves before they had a chance to try. Yes… there is that dumb Yoda line, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Many choose do not. It’s easier. It’s safer. You won’t have results that people can point at and use as caution or mock you with it. “See, told you it wouldn’t work!”

If you are feeling a little down after hearing this, it’s okay. We all go through a phase of asking, “What’s the point? I’m not getting any results.”

That’s not true, though.

If you are doing something, then you are getting results. You might not be hitting your goals, but you are getting results. You are making things happen.

Quick. Change your mindset.

The act of doing should be the goal. Doing is the goal. Doing will lead to results and results gradually lead to bigger goals. My goal is to publish an article every week. My result, I’ve published this article. Not all goals need to be grand.

Additionally, the doing — the consistent action — will give you a better perspective of the path you’re need to go down. You’ll start to recognize challenges, obstacles, and gatekeepers along the way. You begin to understand how the game is actually played.

My goal in my early 20s was to be a filmmaker. I did it. I tried. I worked on set and I schmoozed. I realized what was required and I stopped. The result: I realized that I didn’t enjoy the journey. I didn’t meet my goal (well, I made some short films here and there, but not to the scale I imagined), but I got a result.

Of course, it is nice to have lofty goals. We all want to be world class, but it is not the goals we should strive for, but rather the results. Results are experiences. Results can be analyzed. Results can be adjusted.

Goals don’t need to be far beyond the horizon. Goals can be the steps you take each day — and the footprints are the results.

It is not better to do nothing and get no results, because as long as you do something, you ARE getting results. You might not be hitting your ultimate goal… but you are getting results, because you have created achievable goals. And they deserve to be celebrated.

Results are evidence that you have selected the right goal. Nobody knows what area in life they will succeed in. The only way to find out is to experiment and gather results.

What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for my mailing list. You won’t receive emails from me often, but when you do, it’ll include only work that I’m most proud of.

Warren Buffett’s 5/25 Rule and the Power of Pairing Your Goals

Warren Buffett, the investor — you know him — had given advice to his personal airplane pilot, Mike Flint, once. He told Flint to come up with a list of 25 things he wanted to accomplish in his career.

Flint went off to do that and came back with his list of 25 goals. Buffett told him to circle his top five and put those into Group A and then circle the bottom 20 and put them into Group B. In this, Flint thought, okay… well, Group A will be my primary focus and Group B will be pursuits I take on during my spare time.

No. Group B must be avoided at all cost, Buffett told him. Flint mustn’t touch any of those tasks until he was to finish all his goals from Group A. That was his advice and you can absolutely use it too.

It’s hard to argue against Buffett. He is, after all, one of the most successful investors in the world.

However, as a creative, you get to blend your goals together. Such as writing and video creation, like when I daily vlogged my NaNoWriMo experience.

Something that was number 18 on your list might be the spark or the muse to help you accomplish your number 2 task.

Let’s say my #2 goal is to be a published writer, I want to write a book and my #18 goal is to become a beer judge. Well, why don’t I use my skills as a writer to write about beer tasting? Why don’t I research about beer, review beer, and go on beer tours and write about all of it? These two goals overlap and end up propelling each other. I can, of course, write about something not on my top 25 list, but why not kill two birds, right?

If you can find ways to pair your goals, you will be constantly inspired and get a more varietal creative life. In order to be great at one thing, you’ll need to have skills and understanding in many other areas. Golfing is more than just putting, it’s driving, it’s wedging the ball out of the bunker or staying mentally focused as well as physically in shape.

If you can pair your goals together and find an interesting relation, then each goal is supported like walking, where one leg holds steady as the other lifts forward. The two goals, as you make progress, pushes each other in the direction of an ultimate goal — and that ultimate goal is your fulfillment.

Go ahead, write out your 25 top goals for your life, and then, see which ones from your top five can be linked with any of the other 20.

To me, the one that can be linked to most of the others are the ones you should pursue. It might not always be the fastest path to success, but this way, you get the most bang for your buck, this way, you might just get to indulge in the buffet of life.

If you like this article, you might like this one as well: Little Bets: How I Make Decisions Without Feeling Stressed

4 Funny Books You Should Read

It always amazes me when a book can make me laugh. But there is no doubt that a one-of-a-kind type of laugh in life is the kind that comes from reading something, processing it in your brain, and emoting it through your body.

A great writer like any great artist or musician can make you feel emotions simply from the mastery in their craft. The problem is, there aren’t that many writers that have made me laugh through their stories.

Nevertheless, I have highlighted four of the funniest books I have read, and I’m going to share it with you today.

My Custom Van by Michael Ian Black

Michael Ian Black is best known for his role in Stella and Wet Hot American Summer, but few know him as a writer, even though he has written a few books now, including children’s books and some movies. Black also has a podcast where he interviews amazing people called How to Be Amazing, and if you look through the archives he did a revolutionary podcast series called Mike and Tom Eat Snacks.

When people talk about a book that changed their lives they usually talk about some self-help or emotionally impactful book, but this one really did.

This book is a collection of absurd essays. Some of them questions only a really famous celebrity like Michael Ian Black would know such as What I Would Be Thinking If I Were Billy Joel Driving to a Holiday Party Where I Knew There Was Going to Be a Piano and Hey David Sedaris — Why Don’t You Just Go Ahead and Suck It?

Michael Ian Black does such a great job playing with different genres in these essays such as erotic fiction, letters, and even a chapter from a novel that is sponsored by Barqs root beer. Each one of them is simply drenched in Black’s snarky humour and although I am certain it will go over the heads of some, it is all laced with intelligent observation of the modern world… or at least the world in 2008.

It’s hard for me to pick a favourite story from this book, because it’ll be trying to pick a favourite song from Green Day album American Idiot, but if I had to choose, I would say A Series of Letter to the First Girl I Ever Finger… where Black, as a middle age man, tries to reconnect through mail correspondence with the girl he had a temporary relationship with in summer camp as a child. It sounds uncomfortable, but that is the quintessential Black comedy that you can expect from this book. I’ll say no more.

A Load of Hooey by Bob Odenkirk

Yes, that Bob Odenkirk — or better known as Saul from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Odenkirk has had a long history in comedy, and it is so refreshing to see, even when he has achieved the pinnacle of stardom with his dramatic television role, he still give his comedy fans something to sink their teeth into.

A Load of Hooey is a collection of short stories, poetry, comics, and unabridged quotes from famous individuals, including Walt Disney, Winston Churchill and Isaac Newton.

The beauty of this book is the commentary that Odenkirk has about the lives of those that have achieved and those that strive. What’s it like to be someone creating and what it is like to be someone aspiring… struggling… and critiquing. Believe it or not, I think we all fall into one of those categories, and that is what makes it such an approachable book.

By far the story that stands out the most in this book for me is the reimagining of what it must have been like that day the Beatles wrote the iconic song Blackbird. It amplified the drama within the room between an arrogant McCartney (who is said to have written the song solo) and the rest of the band (who leeches off his brilliance).

Please, if you are looking to kill a few hours in an airport or simply have nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon, pick up this book, instead of rewatching The Office.

One More Thing by BJ Novak

Speaking of The Office, BJ Novak also writes books… and they’re pretty awesome. One More Thing is a collection of stories that touches on a many subjects including celebrity escapades, relationships, and the complicated yet mundane decisions we are dared to make in our daily lives.

Novak is a compelling storyteller who is supremely witty. He finds the nuances of everyday interaction and injects it into his story, reminding us of our idiosyncrasy. While unlike Black or Odenkirk, Novak’s writing style is a bit more refined — not necessary better or worse — but I can actually see some of these stories appearing in literary magazines or in the New Yorker.

My favourite piece from this book, or at least the one that has really stuck with me, is one called If I Had a Nickel, which goes through the narrator’s thought process as he tries to figure out how he can get rich if he gets a nickel for everytime he spills coffee on himself. As someone who is always thinking of a way to make more money, this one just hit the right note for me.

This along with many other stories proves that BJ Novak is more than simply a background character in a television show and Inglorious Basterds, he is a witty writer and genuinely relatable.

Sick In the Head by Judd Apatow

I don’t understand how so few people know about this book. Let me explain. You know Judd Apatow, the guy who produced Freaks and Geeks, Knocked Up, Forty Year Old Virgin, and Girls. Apatow is a comedic legend, no doubt about it — but he is also a fan of comedy.

Since an early age, he had a fascination with comedy royalties. A memorable story is that he was once driving with his grandmother and passed by Steve Martin’s house, with Steve Martin outside. Judd got out and asked him for his autograph, which Martin declined. He later wrote a letter to Martin pouring his heart out, saying he was a big fan and bought everything he had and the least he could have done was give him an autograph. In the end, Martin wrote him back saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know I was speaking with THE Judd Apatow.”  

As he got older, the task of sitting down and speaking with his peers and idols became easier.

Yes, this includes Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, John Stewart, Seth Rogen, Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey… and it goes on. If you have any interest in, what I feel is, the golden age of screen comedy then you need to pick up this book.

There you have it, those are 4 funny books you should read. Please let me know if you have a book that always makes you laugh. I’d love to read it.

Looking for some books to read? Follow me on my journey as I read a book in every subgenre of every genre. There might be one for you?

Is Reading a Creative Process?

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When you sit down and read a book — a novel specifically — are you being creative? This is a question worth debating. On one hand, you aren’t really creating anything. There is nothing visible to show for it when you close the book and put it aside. On the other hand, the ideas you are getting from the book, the visuals you are weaving and constructing in your mind, are all intangible materials that you can be applied to your creations.

With that being said, is watching a television show being creative? Is listening to an album being creative? Is watching a hockey game being creative? Where does one draw the line between entertainment and creative research?

For me, the creative process is an intent-driven process. You are present with all that is happening. You aren’t simply walking through an art gallery, but you are stopping to admire each painting and sculpture along the way. You are processing it.

If a novel, a television show, or an album is being consumed with the same frame of mind as one simply moving through it as quickly as possible, as a means to an end, then it is not a creative act. However, if one pauses occasionally and consider why the writer, cinematographer, or artist chose to use this word, this lighting, or that note, then what is being done is perhaps the most important aspect of being a creator.

Yes, I consider reading a creative process, but not everyone does. Some will simply read for pleasure. A filmmaker will watch a movie and consider it a part of the creative process while a mere civilian will watch a movie as a means to escape.

There is this hallway and you get to walk through it at your own speed. That is how I see a piece of work. What you get out of that experience is up to you.

 

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How to Write a Page-turner like Game of Thrones and Goosebumps

Have you ever read a Goosebump book by R.L. Stine? Maybe when you were a kid? Remember how they were structured? At the end of every chapter, there is a cliffhanger. You know, to keep your young mind reading.

R.L. Stine was a master at doing this, however, as we got older, we became more suspect — you can only trick us so many times with a “sound coming from behind a door” page-turning trick, and have it turn out to be a cat or something else inconsequential.

Example:

Last line in Chapter 26: I suddenly felt a chill. A dark shadow slid over me. And I realized I wasn’t alone in the house.

 

First paragraphs of Chapter 27: I spun around with a gasp.

Was it Shockro? Some other scary creature?

A tall figure leaned over me. I squinted in the darkness, struggling to see his face.

“Dad?”  I cried as he came into focus. “Dad I’m so glad to see you.”

-Shocker on Shock Street – RL Stine

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You can do better. Yes, better than RL Stine.

When you write your compelling story, you can structure it in much of the same way as a Goosebump book. A cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. However, not every cliffhanger should be life or death. There needs to be a variety. You need to balance it.

 

The 10-Episode Structure

The structure I want to share with you today is taken from modern day 10-episode-seasons-television series, such as Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad.

At the end of every one of these episodes, you get emotionally invested. You have to keep watching. It’s not even a question. However, the only reason that you are emotionally attached to the story is that each chapter or episode itself has a Freytag’s pyramid to build up the tension.

When it is done well and when you reach the end — call it a cliffhanger or call it a hook, either way — you are hanging on until the very end of the season (for an ultimate hook that gets you anticipating the next one).

So like a novel, a television season has a story arch. From episode 1 to episode 10, John Snow or Walter White goes through an inevitable and surprising change.

What’s interesting is the way each episode when pulled out of the rest, can be analyzed and found to have its own story arch.

So you have the season’s story arch, which spans all 10 episodes and looks something like this:

story archAnd, each episode within itself will have its own story arch. Like this.

story arch10So each episode should begin with an inciting incident, followed by a raising action, culminating in a climax, and then a denouement where you can hint at the next inciting incident, which is why we never return to the same level of drama as the beginning. Things have changed.

Take, season one of Game of Thrones. I use this example because this season is as close to the book as you will find in any adaptation.

There are two main stories happening:

A) Ned becoming the hand of the king

B) Dany becoming Khal Drogo’s wife.

 

Game of Thrones (Season One) Endings Breakdown

Episode one: We start off by introducing all the characters and what their objectives are. Robert Baratheon arrives and encourages Eddard to leaves Winterfell. And that is the main conflict in the episode, will Ned leave his life or not. We find out that he does, and the episode ends with Bran getting pushed out of the castle window by Jamie. That is an epic cliffhanger.

Each episode after that offers a little more details and increases the stakes. Each ending with another cliffhanger.

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Episode 2 ends with Bran waking up (oh no, is he going to reveal who pushed him?)

Episode 3 ends a shot of Ned watching Arya train, the sounds of real blades clashing, echoing in his head. (uh oh, he’s getting worried… what’s going to happen to him)

Episode 4 ends with Catelyn Stark arresting Tyrion Lannister in a tavern, accusing him of being the one who hired the assassin to kill Bran, concealing the Lannister’s secret. (this is surely a mistake, but is it?)

Episode 5 ends with a battle between Ned and Jamie out on the streets, Jamie has discovered that his brother has been captured. Ned ends up being stabbed in the knee.

Episode 6 ends with the B story about Daenerys in Essos. Remember what I said about building cliffhangers with variety. This is what’s happening, now it follows another character. The Dorathkis give her brother a golden crown, pouring gold on his head, thus freeing her from Viserys. And so the plot thickens on that end.

crown

Episode 7 ends with Joffrey claiming the throne after his father’s death and Ned accusing Joffrey of not being the rightful heir. Thus watches his men get slaughtered and Ned arrested for treason. (at this point, we still think Ned is the good guy and he can surely get out of this mess).

Episode 8 ends with Sansa begging mercy for her father to Joffrey. And Joffrey seems reasonable, offering that all Ned will have to do is confess his crime. (oh good, surely Ned will come to his senses)

Episode 9 ends with Ned having his head chopped off. (this is probably the most intense cliffhanger in the history of television.)

Episode 10 ends with Daenerys’ dragons hatching in the fire of Khal Drogo’s pyre.

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End of season 1.

In the end, the story we set out to understand is made clear. We find out about Ned Stark’s journey as the hand of the king and we find out Daenerys experience as Khal Drogo’s wife, a Khaleesi. But as two stories are resolved, many more are revealed.

 

Exercise

Once you have the first draft of your story, you can start breaking it apart like a television series. Finding the micro story arch within the macro story. Once you have that you can create little cliffhangers at the end of each chapter or part, increasing the stakes each time.

Give this exercise a try and let me know how it turns out in the comments.

If you found this article helpful, please consider signing up for my mailing list. You won’t receive emails from me often, but when you do, it’ll include only work that I’m most proud of.

Why You Should Write More Than You Need

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I come from an acting background and the dogma that I had entering any audition was to give more the first time.

What do I mean when I say “give more”? I mean overdoing it a little, hamming it up, being more emotional, more passionate, more vocal than what the script calls for. I put it all on the plate — like at an all-you-can-eat buffet during the last call — and then letting some spill off. I do this because it is easier for the directors, producers, and fellow actors to tell me to dial it back as opposed to adding more after.

If I come into the scene with subtleties and that is not what the director wants, then it is more challenging for me to increase the levels or expand the emotions, especially on the spot. It’s always easier to cut or reduce than to fill or to add, especially on the spot. Always give more the first time.

Of course, this theory can be applied to many aspects of life and other professions. As a writer, I will give my editors more. If they ask for 500 words, I’ll give 600. From there, they can trim. You can’t style hair that isn’t there, and you can cut what is not written.

For more tips on editing your writing, check out this YouTube playlist: Editing Your Epic Novel

Why You Should Be a Polygamous Reader

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There is no time to read.

Correction: there is no time to read literature, poetry, and other creative writing.

Work and school life don’t present a lot of opportunities to explore new literature. But in order to achieve imaginative growth and find new perspectives, we need to read more than instructional documents and textbooks. How though? How can we incorporate stories into our lives after an exhausting day of reading everything else?

A Book is a Relationship

Reading while commuting, in waiting rooms, or even during television commercials are fantastic ways to make use of potentially wasted time. And as Bruce Lee says:

“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what makes up life.”

So, if you love life and you want more lives to live, you got to read!

Carry a book with you wherever you go. That’s an order. Sure it might take up space in your backpack or purse, but when the opportunity arises, you’ll be glad you have it.

When Kindle and other e-readers first appeared on the market I was a bit skeptical because I loved the feel of pages between my fingers. However, I’ve learned to appreciate having a library in the palm of my hands. The technology also allowed me to “cheat.”

I’m an advocate of reading more than one book at a time. Many people aren’t, but to them I say, life is too short, I’m going to be a polygamous reader.

If you can enjoy two or more television series, you can read two or more books. I don’t follow any rules; I read what I want for however long I want. The key is to always have at least one book you are passionate about. If not, keep searching.

Because No One Book Can Fulfill All Your Needs

Having different books on the go allows you to read different genres, formats, and authors through a period of time — days, weeks, months, years. Our attention span has shrunk because of mass media, but that doesn’t mean we can’t counter it. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet; don’t fill up on the salad.

Audiobooks have also found a place in my life. Sometimes music exhausts me and all I want is something to keep my mind off the monotony. While driving my car or going for a run, audiobooks are a fantastic companion. Hours fly by even if I’m cleaning the house or preparing food, having an audiobook playing in the background makes me feel twice as productive, which is an awesome feeling.

Make Every Page Count

Make a timeline for the books you read. Create goals and set milestones. Track the novels you’ve finished and even keep a record of the ones you’ve abandoned. Make a game out of it. Forty percent of Americans admitted to not having read a book last year. Perhaps they didn’t have the time or perhaps they didn’t feel like there was a reason. But it’s about personal growth. Like fitness, books train your brain and give you strength where dumbbells and squats don’t.

Looking for some books to read? Follow me on my journey as I read a book in every sub-genre of every genre

How to Get a Job as A Content Writer

 

Becoming a content writer has not only helped me pay the bills as a young writer, but also introduced me to many fascinating and talented people, allowed me to contribute on some exciting, thought-provoking (and at times, very challenging) projects, and empowered me to develop skills in a craft that I enjoy.

Whether you are thinking of pursuing a path in professional writing or are looking for a stepping stone towards becoming a marketer, becoming a content writer is a journey that leads through many terrains.

In this article, I will highlight some notable steps that I took led me to where I am now. It’s hard to say which steps will take you the farthest, but if you put in the work and take the opportunities that come along, you never know where you would end up.

 

Go to school

This seems like a dumb tip, but hear me out. I’m not saying that you should go to school to get a degree and be in debt. I’m saying that you should go to school so you can meet likeminded people, practice your craft in a safe environment, share your work with industry professionals, and participate in councils, event planning organizations, and clubs that are in need of your specific skill set.

It was at Douglas College where I worked at the student newspaper, the Other Press. It was there, as a staff writer, where I had to turn in work every week that I learned to hone my craft and start thinking of myself as a professional. I made a lot of mistakes there, but luckily, there were safety nets and supports for me to do so.

For that very reason, I would encourage you to start your content writing journey by attending a few courses and getting involved with the student body.

 

Start your own blog

The fact that you are reading this means that it worked… somewhat. Starting your own blog, to me, is the most important step in becoming a writer in the modern world. There are still many print publications that are seeking writers, but many organizations that require content and copy are online or in digital formats.

Author and serial entrepreneur, James Altucher often speaks about choosing yourself. In the beginning, you are going to face a lot of rejections, especially as you try to get your work published on “legitimate” and “credible” sites with high traffic numbers. That is going to take work, but until then, it is critical that you stay positive, keep active, and choose yourself.

A blog is in your control. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t sharing the content and nobody is reading it. What matters is that you have a place to start practicing, getting into the habit of publishing regular content, and developing a portfolio.

When an employer does come knocking at your door and asks if you have any samples, you can easily pull out a few links on your blog and share it.

If you detest the idea of starting your own website for some reason, you can start writing on a platform such as Medium.

 

Outreach to other content writers 

This step is going to take a bit of courage and may come across as spammy if you do it without tact. The main goal of this step is to put yourself out in the world, claim that this is what you want to do, and get on the radar of those that are currently doing it.

Content writers are not celebrities… well, some are, but most aren’t. And if you reach out to them with a genuine interest in their work and process, they will happily respond to you. This is a great way to stay active on your path to getting the job you want.

Research companies that you are interested in. Find blog posts, land pages, email copy, etc. that you enjoy. Find out who wrote it. A few clicks should reveal the answer, if not, contacting the support@email.com of the business never hurts.

You can also use a tool called hunter.io to discover email contacts of different businesses. The way I did it was through LinkedIn. Say what you will about LinkedIn, but some of my earliest opportunities came from that platform.

 

Pitch to online media or business blogs

This is where it starts getting real. At the start, you want to start developing a portfolio with some notable publications that have published your work. These can be online media outlets or a blog from a business in an industry you are interested in.

Yes, you can certainly continue writing cover letters and sending in your resume, but if that is all you are doing, you are not developing, you are not improving. Don’t wait until you get hired to start working. Have a freelancer mindset right away, because simply put, you should never allow yourself to get too comfortable. Even when you get that sweet salary job as a content writer, there is still a lot of room to grow. It’s important to have that mindset at the start and commit to the hustle.

Start by creating a list of places you want to contribute. Read the publications and start typing in your own ideas. Do a quick search with the publication name with keywords from your idea in Google just to confirm that it hasn’t been written about yet. Then start writing your pitch. Pretend like you are on their payroll and you need to come up with 5 ideas every month or if you are wild, every week.

If your ideas and writing are good, then they’d be stupid not to hire you or at least give you a good reference as you continue your job hunt.

 

Meet with other creatives

Why would you care what designers, photographers, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, painters, and anyone else is doing? Well, they probably need a writer in their life and they don’t even know it yet.

This world is interconnected and all creatives are linked together. Often designers are desperate to find a writer to help them fill out a website or a poster. Where do they go? They can go onto Fiver, sure, or solicit their network and see who they find. You need to be in the network.

Plus other creatives are usually cool people that you yourself can draw a lot of inspiration from.

 

Profile new companies

This last method is near and dear to my heart because it is the one that landed me my first salary job. I don’t know if it will work for you, but if I got something out of it, surely you can replicate it.

New companies want attention. It doesn’t matter what industry they are in, they are desperate to get the word out. They need writers. They need you to help tell their stories. When new companies send out press releases, respond to them. Get an interview with the CEO and learn about the mission.

Every company has a problem they are aiming to solve with a unique selling point. Show them that you understand what they are trying to accomplish and then write a piece about them and share it wherever you can if you can’t get it published on a local publication… which I’m pretty sure you can if you tried.

This is your foot in the door. Here is where a profile can turn into an internship, into a contracting job, and into a full-time position.

For fun, here is the post that started it all for me.

 

Content writing is not a glamorous job. It’s a job for those who are hungry to learn, enjoy the act of constantly creating, and evaluating the performance of their work in the world. It’s for those who are always seeking to grow.

Good luck on your path. I’m confident that you can make it. If you are seeking any advice, please do hesitate to leave a message in the comments.

 

Why I Love Sad Movies

Sad movies, like horror movies, can ruin someone’s day or cause sleepless nights. I understand that. I have a theory for why that happens. In order to do that, I must tell you about why I enjoy sad movies. I even feel that sad movies are my favourite kind, yet like eating smelly delicious fish, I cannot always enjoy it with other people.

We watch movies to escape, to bring ourselves to a world we don’t currently occupy. A good movie can change our mood and give us a jolt of empathy — reminding us of the values of life.

I have a natural emotion. This emotion is where I am the most comfortable. It’s my resting emotion. And like a resting bitch face, it’s not the best emotion, not because it’s bad but because there is no such thing as the best emotion.

It’s the default — and that emotion is anger. I’m a naturally angry person. I cannot help it. It’s simply my natural state. It’s the emotion I turn to most naturally.  

When I choose a movie to watch, sometimes I want to fuel that anger with a hard-hitting documentary about social injustice or animal cruelty. However, more often, I want the movie to take me to another realm, an emotion I seldom feel.

I’m not a psychologist, but with a bit of self-evaluating, I feel that this is my emotional exposure. Please see here, the emotion triangle of my life.

Emotional triangle

The circle represents me and my natural state of anger. It’s just the way I am… kind of angry. However, the next most common emotion that I feel is happiness. It’s not too hard to get me to feel happy. I almost sway between anger and happiness most days. Head off to get a beer: happy. Wait in line longer than I want: anger. You can relate, I’m sure. These two emotions yin and yang with each other all day long, allowing me to acknowledge the state of the world and my gratitude within it.

Fear is not an uncommon feeling, but it’s not as prevalent, which I am thankful for. Being fearful all the time would be exhausting. However, if I want to feel sad… that is a bit of an uphill battle for me in day-to-day life. It’s most certainly an emotion I put on the top shelf, sometimes forgotten about.

A sad movie allows me to get to that place I am privileged enough to not have to visit on an hour-to-hour basis.

There is this idea that happiness is a good emotion, while all the other ones are bad emotions. But there is no such thing as good or bad emotions. People need to feel the whole spectrum to continue being healthy people.

That is why I watch sad movies. That is why I genuinely enjoy sad movies. That is why as a creator, I need to understand which emotion I want to trigger. What is the ideal audience feeling when they walk in and how the can satisfy their emotional needs? It’s an intimate proposition, but that is what good content can do. It can take you to a place you seldom go to.

Try this exercise. Plot your emotions into the circle/triangle diagram, and ask these questions:

  • Which emotion do you think is your natural state?
  • Which emotion do you think you can evoke easily?
  • Finally, which emotion have you put on your top shelf?

In order to prepare yourself for that feeling, so that it doesn’t feel unfamiliar and you get out of practice in how you should respond to it, watch a movie that will bring you there… enjoy it. Feel the feels.
If you enjoyed this article, please check out this one about 3 heartbreaking novels that you should read: Investing in Friends: Three Heartbreaking Books About Loyalty