20,000 Clicks and Some Crazy Social Media Thing

This past weekend, I hit a milestone–and it’s thanks to YOU.

I finally reached 20,000 visits to my blog. I began blogging a year ago, and in fact, this blog’s original theme/title was “Peanuts and Watermelon.” But then, sometime in September, I had an epiphany.

And “Rogue Writer” was born.

So, to commemorate, and to laugh at my mindset only nine months ago, here is a post from Sept. 21, 2010:

This Crazy Social Media Thing

 

As the old-fashioned writer I am–who has no cable or converter boxes for her ancient TVs (surprisingly, they do display in color)–I never thought I’d say this:

Twitter is pretty cool.

Stubbornness runs in my blood. I’m Jewish and Russian and Polish. My father once refused to take our 13-year-old cat to the vet when she fell over in some sort of animalistic shock. “Oh! She does this all the time!” he said.

Turns out the cat was spiraling into renal failure.

Only by the desperate tears from my sister and I did my dad take her to the vet, who saved her life. Today, I’m proud to report she’s happy and healthy.

But I digress. My natural stubbornness forced me to reject everything social media for the past few years. I’m a former newspaper reporter who finds romance in the printed word. I was convinced (and still am, to a point) that the developing blogosphere is killing true journalism. And I hated social media for that.

If I could be a serial killer, I’d aim straight for the jugulars of Twitter and Blogspot.

Until this past week. Don’t ask me what clicked. Or what snapped. But I suddenly decided I NEEDED to begin building an online presence. As a professional rogue writer, my future depended on it.

So I sucked it up, bit my tongue (maybe bled a bit), and started my profile. Within two days, I have 6 followers, including the possibility of doing a book review. Now, that might sound like nothing, but from 0-6 (that’s right, I didn’t even have a base) in a day or two makes me feel pretty darned important!

Maybe there is something to this word-of-mouth on steroids called Twitter. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all. Naw, I won’t spend my life on the computer. I love nature too much and need that fresh air. But I do think I’ll pay more attention to it going forward.

While I’m at it, I’d better loosen that stubbornness gene, before I let my own cat die of renal failure.

NOTE: I now have more than 300 followers on Twitter, and I just opened my Facebook page (15 followers right now). If you like what you read on “Rogue Writer,” you’ll love the discussions  and posts planned for Facebook (The Onion, Writer’s Digest, and more).  Join me there!

Turn Your ‘Ah Ha!’ Moments into Amazing Characters

When was the last time you had an “ah ha!” moment? Mine happened about two months ago, after I arrived home from work and found my house ransacked.

That Monday in April was the day I realized how much I appreciate my right to own a gun. You see, I’d called 9-1-1 (I was alone at the time) and frantically told the operator the burglar may still be inside my house. I was stuck outside–a young woman in the dark–with no protection.

The police took 40 minutes to finally show. And I realized, the only person who will protect me–is me. “Ah ha!”

For the first time in my life, I considered becoming a gun owner. If I were a character in your book or story, what would this moment reveal about me?

Use your revelations to reveal your characters’ truths

My blogging buddy, Leah Singer, wrote this great post back in May called, “My ‘Ah Ha!’ Moments.” Even though she didn’t refer to character development, she got me thinking: How can we use these revelatory moments to unearth greater truths about our fictional characters?

In her bestselling book, “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” Anne Lamott said a death or a birth must occur in every story. Whether it’s the death of a dream, a physical death, or a realization (birth), you cannot have that dramatic conflict without either/or.

5 Personal “Ah Ha!” Moments to Consider

Yes, I’m going to take a leap of faith here, and reveal five of MY “ah ha!” moments. With each revelation, consider the story behind the statement, and what might have led to this conclusion:

  1. Just because I was thin through my 20’s, doesn’t mean I’ll be thin in my 30’s (unless I work at it).
  2. I may never work in journalism again.
  3. Sometimes, money is more important than dreams.
  4. I betrayed myself when I refused to accept my heritage.
  5. My family is more important than my career.

Notice, each one of these “ah ha!” moments reveals some sort of internal or societal conflict.

SO TELL ME: What have been significant “ah ha!” moments in YOUR life, and how could those experiences add depth to your characters?

NOTE TO FACEBOOK USERS: I took the plunge and opened an official Facebook page for this blog and all things writing. Thanks for everyone’s input! If you’re in a supportive mood, head on over to my page and “like” me. 🙂 We’ll see how this goes …

Nature as Creativity Booster

Ever since I met Melissa Crytzer Fry, I’ve been AMAZED how she draws parallels between the tiniest details in nature and the writing process. Today, I’m happy to introduce Melissa to you–as the third (and final) writer/blogger in my networking project.

Welcome to Rogue Writer, Melissa, and thanks for your guest blog (and photos) today!

Nature as Creativity Booster

Guest post and photography by Melissa Crytzer Fry

**All photos published on this post are property of Melissa Cryzter Fry, and cannot be copied, re-reprinted, or re-produced without proper permissions and consent from Melissa Cryzter Fry.**
 

I grew up among cornfields and cow pastures in northwestern Pennsylvania. Perhaps the long walks down to the beaver dam, strolls along the bullfrog-infested, green algae-blanketed pond behind my house, and salamander-owl-raccoon encounters account for my attraction to the outdoors.

I can’t be sure. But I do know, after living in downtown Phoenix for a decade and then moving to a rather remote part of southern Arizona, that I fell in love again with those wide-open spaces. 

But this time around, nature offered an entirely new gift: writing inspiration. Without fail, every jog or hike I take among my ranch’s saguaro-studded hills results in something new: engaging leads for magazine articles, plot solutions, and inspiration to keep writing – to be more creative overall.

So what, exactly, is it about nature that inspires creativity? The crisp air? The vastness of outdoor space? The departure from technology that lets the brain wander? Yes, yes, yes. But there’s also a scientific reason: Nature solves problems. Creatively. Biomimicry is at play. Bio-what? Biomimicry says that we can borrow creative solutions to just about any problem … from nature. All we have to do is pay attention to and study nature’s best ideas – its efficient designs, models, systems, processes.

Creativity guru Tamara Kleinberg asks, “If nature … has solved many problems we face today, why not go back to nature for inspiration? Why not engage with nature, understand how it works and then apply those lessons to life and work?” And to writing!

I agree with Kleinberg that nature is the ultimate innovation tool. In her blog post, she suggests some nature-related exercises to boost creativity:

  • Ask “What does it do?” With eyes closed and natural objects in hand – feathers, rocks, leaves – determine the function of each. Not what each is. What each does. Does the feather repel water, provide insulation, add to aerodynamics? Asking such questions may inspire new thoughts, ideas.
  • Fieldtrips. Go to a museum, visit an archaeological site, a city park. Pieces of nature – bones, animal skin, fossils, plants – “can take you to new places,” says Kleinberg.
  • Look & See: Step away from the computer and get outside. Really see your surroundings. Ask why nature works the way it does – how the insect is able to walk on the pond, how hummingbirds just seem to “know” where the flowers are, why water clings to grass blades. Doing so can conjure new ideas and provide answers for seemingly unrelated creative conundrums.

Take time out to interact with the outdoors, even if you live in the city. You may be surprised at the creative results.

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Melissa Crytzer Fry is a fulltime freelance writer, author of the What I Saw creativity & writing blog and a writer/enthusiast of literary women’s fiction. You can also follow her on Twitter.

10 Reasons Every Writer Should Keep an Idea Box

How many times have I heard a (professional) writer tell me, “I really need an idea box?” Let me count the ways …

What is an idea box? Simply put: it’s a box you keep close to your favorite writing spot (for me, on my desk) where you stash all those great ideas scribbled on random pieces of paper. Personally, I carry a small notebook in my purse and jot down all kinds of phrases throughout the day.

Why do this?

Well, here are 10 reasons EVERY writer should keep an idea box:

1. It forces you to observe (hey, otherwise you can’t fill the box with ideas).

2. It solidifies the title of “writer” in your blood.

3. It keeps you looking at the world from different perspectives.

4. It kills Writer’s Block upon an attack (stuck? Just shuffle through your idea box).

5. It prevents the, “Oh crud, what was that great idea I thought of last night? It was classic, and now it’s gone!”

6. It helps you become more creative.

7. It prevents boredom.

8. It makes you feel important when your friends “oooo” and “ahhhh” over it.

9. It diversifies your stories and makes them better.

10. IT’S FUN! (well, at least for us writers)

So tell me …

Do YOU keep an idea box? Why or why not? And if so, how has the idea box helped you grow as a writer?

Are you digging the advice I offer on my blog? Then sign up to receive my posts by email! As a professional writer, journalist, and corporate media strategist, I post about writing tips, industry news, funny life stories, and marketing strategies.  

Are You the Banana in the Purse?

I pulled a banana out of my purse when paying for a Subway sandwich the other day.

Upon digging around the black hole that is my pocketbook, seeking the ever-elusive wallet, my fingers clutched around a solid object. I pulled it out, ready to pay, when I realized I held a banana before the cashier.

He just stared at it, utter confusion protruding from his eyes.

“Oh!” I suddenly said. “Yea, how random is that? I just happened to have a banana in my purse. I guess I don’t need the chips anymore.”

We both broke into hysterical laughter then. I’d completely forgotten I placed the fruit into my purse before leaving for work. And behold, I discovered I’d been lugging that thing around half the day.

As the outrageousness of this incident died down, I began thinking: How many of us are being the hidden bananas in a purse—when we write?

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To understand what in the WORLD bananas have to do with writing, head on over to V.V. Denman’s blog–where I guest posted today. You can read my full post there, and join in the conversation! I’m curious to see if YOU are a hidden banana when you write. 🙂

How Can Hootsuite Help Busy Writers (or anyone else)?

The first time I heard of Hootsuite, I laughed. Hard.

I mean seriously, who uses an owl for a mascot? Regardless of my first impression, Hootsuite has turned into a lifesaver for me–and it could for you, too.

What is Hootsuite?

Hootsuite is a nifty little tool where you can SCHEDULE your Facebook and Twitter posts in advance. This means, you can schedule everything on Sunday evening, and Hootsuite will post for you throughout the week.

Oh yeah, and it’s free.

Hootsuite has lots of other fun features, too. But for me–a busy writer who works full-time in the corporate world by day, and freelances for magazines by night–the ability to schedule social media posts in advance is key.

After all, I don’t have tons of free time to throw away on social media.

Why maintain a social media presence as a writer?

If you want to go by the experts, Poets and Writers Magazine just featured an article in its May/June edition entitled, “Social Media for Authors.” In it, public relations professional Lauren Cerand emphasizes the importance of social media for up-and-coming writers. Here’s an excerpt:

The task of finding readers and finding an audience is made much easier by joining the conversation that you feel you belong to, whether it’s via media that you maintain, community sites you check daily, or blogs that you read and comment on when you have something important to add.

What does this mean? It means as a writer, you have a better chance of selling your work if you can find your niche, and build a loyal following. One of the best ways to build that following is by using social media, especially for unknown writers.

As a former newspaper reporter, I now pay the bills by working in media strategy and marketing. And I can tell you from personal experience: social media is the future of exposure. I’m not talking about Facebook or Twitter, but rather the idea of social media and its platform of sharing information. Social media is word-of-mouth on steroids, to borrow a phrase from Gary Vaynerchuk, author of “Crush It.”

If you want to have a shot at being a successful writer, you need to maintain a social media presence. And Hootsuite is just one more tool to help you do it. Imagine drawing people again and again to your blog posts (old and new) throughout the week, without  spending all day on Twitter or Facebook?

MY QUESTION TO YOU: What social media platforms do you use, to maintain your online presence as a writer? And if you don’t use social media, which services do you want to learn more about?

Perfecting the Chocolate Chip Cookie

I’m a foodie–with an unfortunate addiction to sweets. That’s why I clicked with Leah Singer, the second writer I’m introducing, who’s part of a special networking project (a few weeks ago, you met V.V. Denman).

Leah blogs at “Leah’s Thoughts,” and like me, she loves food, family and words. I’d like you to join me in welcoming Leah as a guest blogger today, where she draws a profound conclusion for writers, from chocolate chip cookies:

Perfecting the Chocolate Chip Cookie

By Guest Blogger Leah Singer

I’ve spent many years of my life obsessed with making (what I believe) is the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I had a picture in my mind of what this perfect cookie looked like – soft, chewy, puffy with texture (not flat!), sweet, but a little savory too. And I’d stop at nothing to get it that way.

I tried everything – changing the oven temperature; more baking powder; less baking soda; hundreds of recipes; Crisco instead of butter; semi-sweet chips; milk chocolate chips; refrigerating the dough; using vanilla pudding; you name it, I tried it. Yet still, nothing I baked came close to what I considered the perfect cookie.

Countless times I’d try a new recipe, pull the tray out of the oven, and … flat cookies – my nemesis. “But they taste great,” my husband would reassure me. But his words meant nothing to me. The cookies were a failure, and I could not fathom eating them.

Interestingly, I realized through this journey that the process of “perfecting” the perfect cookie was how I used to approach writing.

I was one of those people that drafted something and thought, This is it! Perfection. I seemed to be under the illusion that I could write something and it would be immediately perfect. And we writers know that is just simply not true. Rarely do we ever write something that’s perfect. There’s always editing or word-smithing that can be done.

I’ve considered myself a writer all my life. But one reason I never started a blog until somewhat recently was the fear that my posts wouldn’t be perfect. Once I realized and accepted that nothing is perfect – and that the imperfections are what makes thing special – my creative juices started flowing.

During my “day job,” I’m a speechwriter at a large university. I have learned so much about the process of writing in the short time I’ve had this job. I NEVER write a speech and it’s ready to go after the first draft. That’s just the beginning of the speech. I sometimes go through 5 – 10 versions of “perfecting” the remarks. And that’s okay. Because I know what I’ll finish with will be better than what I started with. And what I learn while “perfecting” the speech is exactly what makes the writing good.

For writers (and bakers), it’s not perfection one should strive for; it’s the process of perfecting. That’s where the magic happens, the ingredients come together, and the learning takes place. The perfecting is the beauty of the writing process.

With respect to the chocolate chip cookies, I’ve since eased up on myself and realized there is not the perfect cookie. (Or at least I’m not meant to bake it.) Each cookie I made had its strength and weakness; its perfections and imperfections. I accepted that fact and I’ve learned so much about baking along the way. And, oh yeah, I now bake cookie bars instead.

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By day, Leah Singer is a freelance writer, as well as a speechwriter and communicationsprofessional for the largest university in San Diego, Calif. By night, Leah blogs about family, motherhood, traditions, cooking, her crazy animal family, and other such topics at Leah’s Thoughts. Blogging is a way for Leah to journal, share ideas, essays, musings, frustrations, recipes, funny stories, and – most importantly – exercise her lifelong passion for writing. Read more about Leah at: www.leahsthoughts.com.

Burglars Beware! Why to NEVER Rob a Writer’s Home

I used to write poetry during math class. 

I never would have guessed those poems would come in handy a decade later (a.k.a. last Monday), when burglars decided to break into my home, steal my computer and snatch my lighters.

Yeah, really. All my lighters.

Really, being a writer, I don’t own much else of value. I wish I was there to see the looks on their faces as they ripped apart my manila envelopes entitled “Important Papers.”

I bet they hoped to find bank statements or maybe even my home’s deed. Yeah, right. Instead, they found stacks and stacks of old poetry.

And I can just about imagine what ran through the burglars’ minds as they sifted through my fancy “idea box” resting upstairs on my wooden desk, tossing aside bits of paper with random scribbles:

Phone queue purgatory

Feuding with black widow

No experts in social media

“Where’s the (bleepin’) money!” they scream. “Who the hell is this chick?”

Then, they spot it. The single drawer in my bedroom’s nightstand. Yes! they think. Maybe we’ll find money or jewelry in there.

They yank it out, turning the drawer upside down, only to find nothing but journals and pens, condoms and lube. Furious, they spin around and leave it on the floor, the condoms crowning the unwanted rubble.

Yea, you know it. We writers still need our “muse.”

Perhaps they stole my computer, but really, I got the last laugh. Lesson learned? Burglars beware! You should NEVER break into a writer’s home.

MY QUESTION TO YOU: If burglars broke into your home, what would make you wish you’d been there, to see their faces?

Have you subscribed to my blog, or encouraged your friends to subscribe, for a shot at winning a free editing/consulting session yet? You only have one week left! Find out more now.

You don’t have to be an alcoholic, to be a writer.

Nor do you have to be a drug addict, have a mental psychosis, or bask in the misery of others. No.

You just need to be a thinker–a good one–and an observer.

I’m actually a goody-two-shoes. The most I’ve ever done is drink underage (seduced by Coke and rum at 17 years old), and drive to Flagstaff behind my parents’ backs. In junior high, when my 13-year-old friends pranced around the mall in mini skirts and lipstick, my mother condemned boys, forcing me into a life of homework solitude.

I might be a little nutty (as everyone who knows me will attest), but I’m not your typical depressed, drunk, Edgar Allen Poe writer. I never went “goth,” and I like makeup and pedicures. At the same time, I want to hike the Grand Canyon and go on Safari in Africa.

I do suffer from ADHD, but what creative doesn’t?

Don’t fit the stereotype? Who cares!

All that matters is your work. So who cares if you’re happily married, hold down a 9-5 job, or are living a satisfactory single life? Maybe you’re a homebody who prefers the company of your cats–or maybe you love talking with people and hate being alone.

Maybe you’ve never been suicidal, or maybe you’ve contemplated driving off a cliff. Perhaps your dad cheated on your mom when you were 10, and now you struggle with monogamy. Or perhaps they’re growing old together in the same house, and you’re suffering from THEIR empty-nest syndrome.

My point is, you are YOU. And you should write–as you.

This individual voice is what draws others back to read your work again, and again, and again. Don’t fear it, don’t run from it. Let it shine through–like the unique individual you are.

How do you find that voice?

Ask yourself some of these questions: How do I talk every day? What types of jokes do I tell, or laugh at? What makes me angry, and how do I react?

I could never decipher the secret to writing humor, until I began writing as I naturally talk and laugh. People now love my voice (or so they’ve said).

Your voice is a representation of you. Never forget that.

So, even if you are an alcoholic . . .

Embrace it! Been diagnosed bi-polar? Love it! And if you think you’re normal, you’re really not. Trust me, you have plenty to write about. Don’t let the writer stereotype hold you back from that masterpiece.

SO TELL ME: What are some stereotypes–as a writer or otherwise–that you’ve struggled with?

I don’t care for the word ‘blog’

I recently began a networking project with three other professional writers. And let me tell you, these ladies have a LOT of great advice to offer.

Therefore, I’ve invited each one to write a guest post for “Shari Lopatin: Rogue Writer.” Throughout the next few weeks, I’ll introduce each one to you. I encourage you to visit their sites, maybe even follow their blogs.

Today, please welcome Texas writer, V.V. Denman–who first caught my attention with a hilarious post about book-throwing to get the attention of literary agents. I recommend visiting her site, as she has a lot more great content to share:

I don’t care for the word blog.

Personal preference, but it just sounds weird. And it’s not even appropriately descriptive.

It makes me think of blob, flog, blood, bog and flop.

File:Bleeding finger.jpg File:Flogger 02.JPG File:Soggy field - geograph.org.uk - 883524.jpg

All of those words conjure negative thoughts in my otherwise happy little head.

Blog rhymes with dog, frog, hog, sog and clog, all of which can be undesirable.

File:Frog eye closeup.jpg File:Military dog barking.JPG File:Guinea Hog Norfolk.jpg

Can’t we call this thing we do something that makes us sound better, not worse?

If I tell someone, “I’m a blogger.” It sounds like I’m a logger/booger mix.

In case you can’t get that visual image out of your head, I’ll give you this photograph of loggers, but spare you the one of the booger.

File:Loggers klaralven.jpg

What’s a nice normal noun we could use to describe ourselves?

The term writer would work, but that’s somewhat overused.

I checked the online thesaurus, but apparently it’s not comfortable with blogger either. The word isn’t listed. So we’re on our own.

How about internet information recorders? Or daily keyboard scribblers? Or online diary makers? Or just public ramblers?

What about you?

What would you like to be called?


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V.V. Denman is a Christian writer from North Texas. When she’s not feverishly typing at her keyboard, she’s rolling her eyes at her husband’s corny jokes or laughing with her five children. Her two dreams in life are to raise said children to be responsible adults, then maybe, just maybe get a bit of her writing published. Visit her at vvdenman.com.
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Photo Credits: Jabba the Hut – Sideshow Collectibles / Bloody finger – Wikimedia Crystl via Flickr / Flogger – Wikimedia Henna / Soggy Field – Wikimedia Alan Murray-Rust / Frog – Wikimedia renwest via Flicker / Drain Out – Buy.com