3 Familiar Places to Look if Your Idea Well Runs Dry

Have you run short of ideas for articles, your blog, or perhaps a client’s blog? Here are four places to look for inspiration and ideas.

Google Alerts – https://www.google.com/alerts

This is a quick and easy-to-use resource for getting ideas. Just enter a search term (1 or more words), hit that ‘Enter’ key, and voila, some ideas will (most likely) show up. You actually don’t even have to hit ‘Enter’, as it’ll start searching on the words as you type them into the search field.

The first random word that popped into my head was ‘applesauce’. Here’s a quick peek at what Google Alerts found:

Applesauce_GoogleAlerts

 

The first reference that came up was under News:

A Walking Dead Halloween party: Long pork and blood orange cake

Communities Digital News
Here at CDN we can’t vouch for that, but if it’s true, applesauce or a cherry sauce would probably be the best condiments to serve with a human roast.

No way I expected that to pop up, but it triggered a short story idea or two.

The next 2 references came from the Web — one was a Facebook post talking about how jarred applesauce may be convenient to purchase, but it’s easy to make your own; the other was a Pinterest reference to Spice Applesauce Cake.

Google Alerts will offer you variety at a minimum and maybe give you just enough to kickstart your ideas again.

Tip: if you set up an account, you can receive summaries of the alerts sent to your e-mail as they happen, daily, or weekly.

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com

You can use Amazon in a similar manner to Google Alerts, in that you type in a search term (or phrase) and then read through the options that pull up. Using applesauce again, here’s what came up:

Applesauce_Amazon

 

At a minimum you’re going to see different brands of applesauce, applesauce for babies, fruit butters, and so much more (that I never thought about in relation to applesauce). And if you start clicking off boxes on the left side of the screen, you’ll narrow your search and have new ideas leaping off the page at you.

The dropdown arrow in the main search box lets you select different departments. I left applesauce in place, then clicked the dropdown and selected the ‘Beauty’ department. Yes, there were items that popped up. 4 GoGo Squeezes, 1 Mott’s, and 1 Kirkland Optifiber. The avenues to travel down for applesauce keep widening, don’t they?

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com (requires an account)

And just for fun, if you have absolutely no ideas whatsoever, why not scroll through the posts you see on Facebook?

With Facebook, you get to eavesdrop on numerous conversations. See what posts are getting a lot of comments and a lot of Likes. Those could be great topic ideas for articles. If a simple Facebook status update can generate a lot of feedback, people will be curious to read more about it.

Where do you go for ideas?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. If anything, she has too many ideas, but when the muse needs a quick boost, there are many places to look for ideas. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Going with the (ebb and) flow (of the freelance writing life)

Having your own writing business involves dealing with work that ebbs and flows.

You may have a client hire you, but then delay the start of the project, delay payment, change the scope after you start, give you more than you expect a lot sooner than you expect… it’s seldom as straight forward as it should be.

It can be scary thinking about the ‘ebbs’ of a writing business. It can also intimidate if there’s worry about “too much” work flowing in.

How do you handle the ups and downs?

Writing life ebbs and flows are like the tides.

Writing life ebbs and flows are like the tides.

Here are some overall tips:

  • If you’re determined to start your own business, start it (it feels so good to take that step)
  • If at all possible, have enough money available to cover at least 2 months of expenses (to avoid worrying about bills)
  • Know where you want to go as a writer and accept any opportunity that is a step toward that goal (get your first byline, write that first feature, submit that first query, tell people you’re a writer, and so on)
  • Focus on one thing at a time: work in 30-minute or 1-hour blocks (set that timer and don’t let anything disturb you until the bell sounds)
  • Make sure you exercise

Tips for when you hit an ‘ebb’ (slow) period with your business:

  • Study up on social media and get more proficient
  • Update your website and any business listings
  • Seek out assistance for the busy times – a transcriptionist, virtual assistant, chef, cleaning service, whatever you might need when you’re flooded with work
  • Find ways to become more productive – read up on time management, learn to schedule emails, and so on
  • Get out and network
  • Find someone to collaborate with on projects – another writer, a graphic designer, whoever you need
  • Seek out new business; send out queries; answer job postings for writing jobs you find interesting
  • Review past clients; evaluate the projects you’ve done; identify changes you want to make and make them
  • Make sure you exercise

Tips for when you hit a ‘flow’ (busy) period with your business:

  • Call on that transcriptionist to transcribe your interviews or notes
  • Use that virtual assistant to help with your calendar
  • Have your house cleaned, your meals prepared, your errands run for you
  • Delegate social media posting (you’ve developed the content, but someone else can schedule it and post it)
  • Shut off email and close the Web browser while you’re working (if at all possible) to avoid distractions
  • Always make time for exercise, even if it’s in 10-minute increments; it’s so important to stay healthy
  • Focus and prioritize the work

Are you able (and willing) to go with the ebbs and flows of owning your own business?

LisaJJackson_2014

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. In 8 years of business, she hasn’t found a pattern to the ebbs and flows of assignments. You can connect with her on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

A Day as a Social Media Maven

Last Friday I had the wonderful experience of posting to a company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for a day.

The company, actually an airport, had their 5th Customer Appreciation Day. This was my second year assisting with their social media activities. And, honestly, it was so much fun I can’t wait until next year.

Social media mavens early in the day

Social media mavens early in the day

These are my 3 big business-related takeaways:

  • Even if your company is equally active on Facebook and Twitter, a one-day event may not result in equal activity on each platform.

For the most part, we posted to Facebook and Twitter at similar times and with similar calls-to-action. We quickly realized Facebook users interacted with us the most. (Last year it was a 50/50 split). So, even if you have a Plan Of Action for the day based on past experience, one platform may leap ahead of the other. (this can apply to any social media platforms, of course).

  • The more you interact with those who reply to you, the more interaction you will get.

It was easy early on to post a question and reply to each person who gave feedback (on both platforms), but as the day progressed and more people became involved, well, you can imagine, it was difficult to keep up. But replying to customers who take time to talk to you is critical to running your business. They need to know you’re there and that you’re listening. And in social media, your public reply to one person is magnified when seen by that person’s connections.

  • If you ask the right question at the right time, feedback can explode!

As the day came to an end, we posed the question “How can we serve you better?” On Facebook, most of our posts during the day averaged 250 ‘people reached’. This one question is still receiving comments and has exceeded 11,100 ‘people reached’. Even without knowing the intricacies of Facebook’s algorithms, this is significant. Ask your customers what they want, and they will tell you.

And I have to add a personal takeaway:

  • Sit properly and get up from the chair now and then.

I literally sat on the edge of my seat all day instead of firmly planted in it and using the back rest. At the end of the day, had a stiffness from the left side of my neck down to my lower back. I did get up on occasion for bathroom and food breaks, but apparently sat twisted on the edge of the chair looking down to the left (at my notes) for too long. Note to self: You need to step away from the keyboard, stretch, breath, and hydrate — even during social media binges. It’s so easy to get caught up in the speed of live interactions on social media!

>>>What social media platform gives you (and your company) the best results?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Be My Guest: Oct 11 Event for Mystery Writers and Others

There’s a fun day on tap this coming Saturday, and if you’re somewhat local to Concord, MA and this is of interest, make sure to register today, Monday, October 6.

Fellow NHWN bloggers, Diane and Julie, and I are part of a mystery writers group called Sisters in Crime. We also both belong to the New England chapter. And it’s the chapter that has pulled together a wonderful mystery-focused event this Saturday.

Here are the details:

Sisters in Crime New England Presents

History, Mystery & Murder!

Saturday, October 11, at Concord’s Historic Colonial Inn

11 a.m. Guided Walking Tour (optional)

12:15 p.m. Luncheon & Author Panel

What happened when two Puritan ministers and a fur trader wandered into the wilderness? What was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s shocking and grisly encounter? What’s so memorable about Major Pitcairn’s boo-boo or Tildy Holden and her chickens?

This easy-going, 60-minute walking tour of downtown Concord and Sleepy Hollow covers a bit of what you’ve read in history books and a whole lot that was left out, including tales of witches and shoemakers, drunken barbers, and the almost unbelievable story of Frank Sanborn, “possibly the coolest dude that ever lived in Concord”.

Afterward, enjoy a luncheon at the historic Colonial Inn and a spirited author panel on writing one of the hottest properties in our industry, Historical Mysteries.

Moderator Leslie Wheeler and award-winning authors M.E. Kemp, Ben and Beth Oak, Tempa Pagel, and Sarah Smith discuss how to make the past come alive while spinning an exciting tale for contemporary readers.

SinC/NE is covering most of the cost of this unique chapter event for members and their invited guests.

Register as my guest at these rates:

Tour & Luncheon/Panel: $25

Luncheon/Panel Only: $15

Reserve your tickets now/today (this is the last call for RSVPs) at http://sincne.org/history-mystery-and-murder

It should be a fun time on a beautiful New England fall afternoon… as long as no headless horsemen appear, I’ll be just fine.

 

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

From Grammarly — Who Writes Better: Men or Women?

Grammarly (www.grammarly.com) conducted a study with 3,000+ participants to settle an existential question that has been plaguing mankind for centuries (or maybe a few years here and there):

“Which gender has the better writers?”

They published the results to the question above in an infographic (below) and I got permission to share it here with you. I thought it would be fun for some discussion.

 

Grammarly_MenvsWomen_Writers_infographic

 

The results for characters question splits out equal from both perspectives — I think it’s only natural that we include bits of ourselves in our writing, since that’s a person we know best!

Pronouns & Determiners are pretty evenly split, too.

What do you think about the plot vs character and long vs short sentences? Would you put yourself in the majority in those categories?

I would for the first – I like (try) to develop my characters and have the plot follow. For sentences, I do my best to write short active sentences, but there are times when long works better!

————–

From their website: Grammarly’s online grammar checker is the most accurate tool for grammar correction on the market. 

Disclosure: This is an online tool you have to pay for (minimum is $29.95/month); I’m not a subscriber, but it can’t hurt to check it out when you have a minute or two if it’s something of interest — they do offer a 7-day free trial period. Remember to read all the Terms and Conditions!

————–

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She enjoys sharing writing resources when she finds them. You can connect with her on Twitter,FacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Remember to Make Time for Yourself, Not Only Work and Family

We talk a lot about managing time here. About setting small goals to realize our big goals. We’ve even chatted about how if you do what you love, it won’t seem like work.

I recently came across Meg Cadoux Hirshberg‘s work-life balance interview with Ari Weinzweig on Inc.com and it touched on all of these things and is definitely worth sharing.

You can find it here: http://www.inc.com/meg-hirshberg/I-never-fight-time-the-way-I-used-to.html.

It’s a short interview, but what particularly caught my interest was her question and his answer about how to make good use of the time you have.

We all have 24 hours in a day.

TryingtoControlTimeWe can schedule our lives down to the minute and feel productive, yet unsatisfied and having a feeling of lack.

We make time for work and family without a second thought.

Making time for ourselves is as important as work and family, yet it’s the first thing sacrificed when time seems to run out. Is this true for you?

It used to be true for me, but since becoming self-employed I’ve shifted my thinking and strive for balance as often as possible. After all, if I’m not at my best, neither are the other areas of my life.

It’s all about balance, of course, and some days it may be a lot easier to have everything flowing in harmony. I believe with practice and the mind shift to realizing life is too short to have it full of “I wish I had…” or “I should have…” or “If only I had…” statements, that each of us can remove that feeling of lack or dissatisfaction.

We make our own choices and not every decision will be 100% satisfying, but I bet by respecting time and striving for the best soul-fulfilling options we can, we’ll find more happiness.

Life is what we make it, right? So why not strive to make it as good as possible?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She admits to using downtime to clean her home, but swears it’s more play than work. You can connect with her on Twitter, FacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

The thing about goals is …

Are you finding that you aren’t achieving any of the writing goals you’ve set for yourself?

Do you notice you have (valid) excuses for not being able to achieve your writing goals?

Do you find yourself answering the question, “So, what are you working on?” with “Nothing at the moment.”?

It can feel awkward and embarrassing, right?

Do you think you might want an easier path? An easier career?

When months go by and you aren’t making any strides toward accomplishing the goals you’ve set for yourself, consider that you don’t truly want to be a writer.

Because the bottom line is: writers write.

Writers find ways to carve out the time and do whatever it takes to reach their goals.

If You're Committed

If you’re not achieving what you set out for yourself earlier in the year, why not take now to recommit to those goals? Stop thinking something better or easier is what you want and take actions toward your current goals.

Test yourself and your passion toward being a writer. Recommit to your goals; test them. They will either feel right and re-ignite the flame, or they won’t.

The thing about goals is… you need to want them in order to achieve them.

I’m in this position at the moment, and am taking this moment on this blog to recommit to writing my fiction.

How about you? Do you need to recommit to your goals?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. You can connect with her on Twitter, FacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Don’t Forget to Read About Writing

It’s easy to get so involved with writing, that reading can become a luxury to push aside.

But, it’s so important to read about writing for the little nuggets of wisdom and pearls of inspiration we know, but somehow seem to forget.

Finding books that resonate with our writing lives and experiences might be rare, so when you find a great book, hang on to it!

A few years ago, Diane highly recommended I read a book on the craft of writing titled Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. I loved it. And it became the first book I ever re-read.

birdbybird2Since I noticed some leaves changing colors over the past week, fall has been on my mind. And with fall, for me, comes renewed inspiration. So, Bird by Bird is back on my desk for its annual reading.

I know how important it is to get words on a page, and more than likely those first words will be junk and tossed later on, but to get to the good stuff, I have to get a lot of words on the page/screen — Ann Lamott reminds me of that — she reminds me that I need to give myself permission to write junk.

We’ve talked about books about writing a few times here. And you can look back at a few posts if you’re in need of something new.

We had the Friday Fun discussion: Should Writers Read Books About Writing. Diane and I shared our Favorite Writing Books, and Deborah had a post specifically on Bird by Bird.

Don’t read to avoid writing, though! Read to improve writing!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She’s still amazed to have a book she can re-read that gives her new insight into her writing every time she goes through it. You can connect with her on Twitter, FacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Let’s Get Back to Real Interactions: Commenting vs. ‘Like’-ing on Facebook

Of all the social media platforms, Facebook is the one I’m on the most. I can get drawn in by cute cat videos, spectacular b&w photography images, fun with puns, and the variety of posts my friends share.

I admit to being a bit heavy-handed when it comes to clicking the ‘Like’ button. I sign on, start scrolling through posts, when I see something, I like it, I click ‘Like’ to let folks know I was there, and move on.

But now that has changed.

The other day, a friend posted an interesting article that has led to this post.

The article is “I Quit Liking Things on Facebook for Two Weeks. Here’s How It Changed My View of Humanity.” I hope you’ll read through it.

FB_likeThe first item that jumped out at me was that each ‘Like’ becomes part of an algorithm that will throw certain posts in my feed. That’s annoying. I like thinking for myself, thankyouverymuch!

The  second item, the one that got me thinking was about building relationships. I’ve clicked ‘Like’ to let friends know I saw their post, was happy for what was posted, that I truly liked what was posted, that I simply saw the post and was acknowledging it…basic things.

But after reading the article, I see the value in comments more than Likes, although sometimes there are just times to click the Like – such as when someone comments on a post I’ve made – clicking the Like for that response can sometimes be enough. Otherwise, there might be a battle to who is going to comment last, right?

After sharing the post on my wall, I had a few comments, but also had some private messages. And Wow! Private messages are ‘real’ conversations with real people in real time! How great! It felt strange, too. I mean, social media is fast-moving – you click, scroll, keep moving – who has time for an in-the-moment conversation any more?

I found that I did and I enjoyed it. I’m trying to limit my ‘Like’-ing now on Facebook and commenting on posts that catch my attention instead.

Of course commenting does take more time out of the day than a fast click of the ‘Like’ button, but overall, I feel I’ll be more satisfied with the result.

If you’re on Facebook, what do you think about ‘Like’-ing versus commenting, emailing, and messaging?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She likes a lot of things on Facebook, but is going to give commenting (instead of hitting the Like button) a chance. You can connect with her on Twitter, FacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.