Quit being serious for a few minutes.

I’m switching magazines. It’s time. I’ve been buying a few that just aren’t doing it for me anymore – I’m bored with the content or have squashed the idea of writing for them, for now. I only read magazines I either a) want to write for; or b) write for. Wait, that’s not completely true. I get this magazine because I love the city and most of the writing. I haven’t written for this one, but I used to want to… until I heard what they pay writers. Now I’ve just lost interest. But I still read it because it comes to my door every month. So.

One of the magazines I’m going to be switching to is Inc. I don’t read it, but this morning this article hooked me: “7 Things Highly Productive People Do”. And you know what? Doing one thing at a time, and doing it well, ranks pretty high on the list of things productive people do. Oh, and it turns out that smoking pot doesn’t make you as dim as multitasking, so figure that one out.

If you have any good magazine subscriptions suggestions, I’m all ears.

I know I’ve mentioned this blog a lot, but Letters of Note is worth reading. Worth reading because you can take something away from everything on that blog, no matter what page you land on, which isn’t something we can say for a lot of blogs out there. Today’s letter especially couldn’t have come at a better time. (it sort of fits with the theme of my life lately, in certain areas of it, anyway). It’s a great read for anyone who has ever been judged based on something they can’t change, like race, eye color or gender. Oh, and if you’re still not convinced, the writer of this particular letter is Winston Churchill’s wife, Clementine. Her argument: Why women should be abolished.

Several bloggers have posted a link to a heartbreaking essay in the NYTimes last week called, “Knowing it’s the last Mother’s Day”. It’s absolutely beautiful. This is the type of story that leaves you changed when you read it. To be the writer must have been a wrenching and difficult experience, the kind of stuff writers live for… Only this writer’s story is about her friend, whom she lost to cancer and helped die gracefully, all while trying to find ways to talk to her dying friend’s children about what they were about to lose. Wow. Heavy topic, I know. But this writer’s experience ultimately drove her to create MomAlways.org, which is a resource for mother’s who, tragically, have to have those difficult conversations with their own children, about planning for Life After Mom. The article will take you less than five minutes to read, but the affects, I think, could last forever.

 

sandy.

 

(for all image info, click on the image itself – they can also be found on my Pinterest board)

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Writing visually.

More than anything, I think writing is about visualizing. Even before it becomes storytelling, writing comes from an idea that needs somewhere to play itself out; somewhere safe, where it can flourish and transform into the awe that is your creative writing.

I don’t have a degree in journalism (it’s in English and Communications) and I wouldn’t dare say I’m an expert on writing, but I write enough to know what has helped me tremendously these last few years. And visualizing the story, as you want it to play out on the page, helps.

What helps you write the best stories? Email me – sandybmedia (at) gmail (.) com, because I love to know stuff like this.

-sandy.

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Ghosts with shit jobs.

No two days are alike for me lately. That’s always been the goal, I guess. To have a lifestyle that allowed me to start working at 7 a.m. if I wanted to, so that quietly enjoying breakfast at a restaurant at 9 a.m. didn’t feel like a crime. Something small, maybe not that important, but to me, it was something to work towards.

At office jobs, coming in late five minutes felt like a sin. I’d always be that girl – the one who’d slink into her cubicle at 9:05 a.m., hoping to go unnoticed. Why was I always late by 5 minutes? Coffee. It was a happy ritual I wasn’t willing to give up. And yet, enjoying it felt wicked because I was five minutes late because of it.

Yes, I could have been “on time” every day, I get that. But life happens. Traffic happens. Cats puking right before you leave the house, happens. Snoozing too much because your bed is warm and your husband’s chest feels cozy and the cat is purring something extra, happens. Because you need to enjoy a little bit of coffee when you’re editing all day, happens.

Working for others, I wasn’t getting my needs met; wasn’t getting what I wanted. Cool work, yes. A lifestyle I felt in control of? Big no.

So. Lifestyle: when you’re thinking about the grand scheme of your life (and work), try and think about what you want your ideal day to look like. For me, the ideal was having no two days feel the same and not feeling anxious and guilty about the extra five minutes it takes me to drink my coffee.

I started somewhere there, thinking about the ideal workday, and then I worked backwards.

-sandy.

(this video is a much watch, via kickstarter.com – and sums up a lot. enjoy your weekend)

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What your habits are saying about you.

Ok, so I once read that it takes 21 days to form a habit. I tried to write a story about that a few years ago for a magazine, but couldn’t find why that number of days – 21 – worked so well. Luckily, New York Times business reporter, Charles Duhigg, didn’t give up so easily.

He’s written a book about how to use habits to your advantage titled, The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business (Random House 2012).

Here’s a quick video about Duhigg’s research on habits, which he’s clearly become an expert on, through his years as a journalist for one of the biggest and most wildly-read papers on Earth.

Hm. If I wrote a book based on my expertise as a fitness reporter, it would probably be something like, “391 ways to work your gluteus maximus and still walk up the stairs” or 484 ways to prepare chicken before AND after your workout” or maybe a memoir called, “How working out and writing about working out can come ‘this close’ to making you cry”….

What would your “expert” book be about?

video via freshbooks.

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When to give it away for free.

I ask myself this question often: when is it okay to give away my work for free?

I started to get paid at the outset of my writing life. I was an editor at my university paper for three years, which was a paid editorial job. The days (and many, many nights) were long and the money wasn’t much for the hours we put in, but what I earned in skills and experience and relationships more than made up for it. I would have done that job for nothing and still felt like I walked away rich.

Lucky for me, I learned early on that my writing was worth something, even if it wasn’t much in the beginning. But there are times when this rule can be bent, slightly.

Here’s my personal list:

-For the good friend strapped for cash who has a great idea and could really use some great words to communicate that;

-For your immediate family (can’t tell you how many resumes and essays I’ve read over the years);

-For a barter exchange, which, I should warn, can be tricky, since the value of time and skills are subjective. But it can work;

-And, finally, when the opportunity is so enormous that you’d be a fool not to take it, like The New York Times needs a writer asap, but has no extra budget this month… um, take the job. But these are rare opportunities and, unfortunately, because most people who approach you will have “the best idea ever” but no capital to pay you with, be very aware of companies, start-up magazines, blogs or people that want to work with you…but have no money. It happens all the time, especially here in Toronto, and especially with the explosion of online writing.

Decide early on what your bottom line is when it comes to writing: are you looking for exposure to millions of readers and just a chance to write for a reason every day? Or do you want this to be what you do for work – as in, your bread and butter? Making this distinction is important, since the lines can get blurred very quickly. Be clear on how you want to be perceived as a writer, because it counts.

To sum it up: when it comes to getting paid for your writing, the first person you’re going to have to sell is yourself. If you manage to convince yourself that your work is worth something (and being honest about this isn’t easy – this takes time, usually) then it’s the first big step in considering your writing “worth it” and determining when it is a good time, if ever, to give it away for free.

I wish you good luck and confidence,

-sandy.

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