Focus On Creation, Not Competition.

A reflection on integrity, creativity, and success.

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Image by TeroVesalainen on Pixabay

Competition can be a good thing. It urges us to strive to make sure we do our best, and that our product is as good as anyone else’s. It makes us less willing to settle for something less.

However, it can also be unhealthy if we let ourselves be consumed by it. When a job or a hobby becomes all about being number one, and being better than everyone else, it takes us into territory far beyond what is good for us, and often beyond what is good for those we consider our competition. 

I see both things happening in the Indie Author community. 

Most strive to ensure their covers are eye-catching, their stories are good, and their books are error free. We compare our books to those in the same genre, so that we can gauge the likely level of attraction among readers.

Most of us see our fellow authors as people we can learn from. As a rule, The Indie author community excels at being helpful, free with advice, and positive and encouraging of one another. 

Some, though, seem intent on dragging others down— as though putting someone else down will push themselves further up the rungs of the ladder. Some resort to insult, backstabbing and rum our-mongering. Some sink low enough to leave nasty reviews and one-star ratings on their fellow authors’ books. Some find ways to cheat the system or rig contests to gain visibility and prestige. And some go even lower than that: plagiarism, book-stuffing, and various other ways of scamming the reader and making a lot of money that would otherwise be going to honest writers. Sadly, this discredits the entire Indie community in the eyes of many.

I abhor those behaviours, especially the more extreme they get. There is no place for them, no way to justify them, and certainly very little tolerance for them at all amongst those in the community who have any integrity. 

I also think that it’s a very sad indictment on how some people view their profession. Whether they are authors, realtors, bankers or whatever they do, how tragic is it that they are so fixed on their perceived image and definition of success that they will do anything – even risking destroying the very career they prize – to achieve that. 

The warning is clear: pursuit of “success at any cost” will probably bring about the very opposite.

If you see everyone else in your field as competition, you won’t find any joy in what you do. 

I would much rather be the writer who produces quality work that readers will love, even if it means I can’t quit my day job yet. I would rather be a poet who touches someone’s soul than a lowlife who helps themselves to someone else’s work or reputation.

The key to both success and integrity is simply to do your job well. That will speak for itself. 

She’s Baaaaaaack!

Sometimes, fiction is only slightly more horrific than real life.

Yesterday I wrote something other than a blog post for the first time in a couple of weeks. After being ill, having surgery, and then finding myself entirely without focus, it felt so good to have the words flowing again. I knew it would happen; I just had to wait for my muse.

As it turns out, my muse has a very dark sense of humour. As I commented to my best friend this evening, “It’s a bit sad that a horror story can be so highly autobiographical.”

The story is one I started at some point during my illness, most likely when I had started to come back to life after failing to die at the hands of whatever disease it was that I had, although I don’t remember writing it then.

I’m not going to give any spoilers, but I will say that I love the opening line, and while I am confident that this gruesome little story does reflect my own experiences of the past three weeks, it also holds some twists that even surprised me as I was writing it.

After some sleep and a bit of thoughtful editing today, I have made ‘Contaminus’ available to read for free on WordyNerdBird Writes.

Celebrating the record-breaking reign of QEII, the Australian way.

I’ve had a wonderful idea.

It’s 40 years since the dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s government in 1975 by the Governor-General, Sir James Kerr.
Tomorrow – September 9th – will see Queen Elizabeth II become the longest reigning monarch in British history.

What if Australia were to celebrate both anniversaries by having the Governor-General sack the PM again?

Australia would have a new lease on its political life, possibly even in time to prevent our becoming unable to ever look the rest of the world in the eye again.
The economy would receive an enormous boost because people would be throwing parties and holding street parades through every town. Freedom of the press to call it as they see it would return, and Australians could celebrate being Australian without wondering if they actually were on Team Australia or not.
The ABC could continue being fully funded and independent, we could go back to funding schools, roads and hospitals, and asylum seekers would be welcomed without being “filtered” according to artificially imposed rules and guidelines that make those who dream them up almost as bigoted as the people the asylum seekers are running away from in the first place.
Australia could once again be the “lucky country” with boundless plains to share, where the little guy can achieve something great once in a while without being accused of having a “sense of entitlement”.

Stop for a moment and think about it.
It really would be the gift that keeps on giving.

Fabulous poetry.

I’ve just discovered and followed a wonderful blog where a contemporary pop song is reworked as a Shakespearean-style sonnet. By “just discovered” I mean that I followed a link that a friend posted, and ended up spending an hour there reading the sonnets.

One might expect that the spirit or intent of the songs might be lost, but these sonnets remain true to the tone and message of the songs they are based on.
I don’t know who the author is, but this poetry is absolutely brilliant.

Find Pop Sonnets at http://popsonnet.tumblr.com/

Not only is it clever poetry, it’s something that can break down the barriers between Elizabethan and 21st century English. 
I’m definitely going to use some of these with my classes. 

Going digital in the classroom.

I’m about to try some new and exciting things with my senior high school English students.

We have already been using a virtual classroom on edmodo.com  to communicate with each other, post assignments and reminders, participate in quizzes and polls, and to turn in assignments.  This has been a great success – a student can lose a piece of paper but they are never so keen to lose their connection to the internet.

This year, we are going to advance to some more creative uses of online spaces and tools.

Rather than making posters that they will throw away, we’re going to try some online collaborative space.
We will be using PC apps like Twiddla, Popplet and Wallwisher, or iPad apps such as Popplet, Mindmeister and Idea Sketch where students can collaborate and present their ideas visually.

Of course, this is not intended to replace writing – essays, creative pieces, opinions, and the like… but to help students crystallise and organise their ideas as part of the creative and analytical processes.

They will also be challenged to use blogs on WordPress, tumblr or Pinterest instead of hard copy scrapbooks.  They will be encouraged to present their writing folios online, enabling others to read their work and be inspired by each others as authors, not just students submitting an assignment.

This isn’t just “going digital for the sake of going digital”.  I’m hoping that it will engage and interest them, not only in what they are doing individually but also in what their classmates are doing, too.  Wouldn’t it be great if they could inspire, encourage and help one another through collaboration and presentation?

We are not throwing conventional literacy out the window. Each student will be writing with pen and paper every week, developing their skills of creative and analytical thinking and writing, and responding to the ideas and challenges delivered by a range of texts.   My aim is to complement the conventional literacy skills of my students with creative, considered and directed engagement in the digital world.

It’s an amazing world that we live in. I know some teachers have to be dragged ‘kicking and screaming’ into the world of online resources and publishing, but I’m keen. I believe that my students and I are going to love it.