“Success” habits I should have but don’t.

I am a real sucker for posts that offer writing tips, publishing tips, and the experiences of other authors and bloggers. I’ve shared a number of them on this blog, because some people have genuinely good advice and share their experiences in a very positive and constructive way.

This response to those kind of posts is quite refreshing in its honesty and in its explanations of why those posts can actually be demotivating for some people. I can totally relate to the feeling of disappointment in myself that I haven’t adopted and implemented more of the great advice given by other Indie authors since beginning my own author journey, and to the sense of “exhaustion” at the number of “You Can Do This If You Follow My Formula” posts out there.

It’s true that those hints and tips for success aren’t “one size fits all”, and nor is success. There are many ways to measure success, and we all have individual goals that determine what our own standards or images of success might be.

It is also fair to say that there is so much advice, so many tips, so many things people tell us to do, that it’s simply not possible to try it all out, and we really do need to remain realistic about what advice we are going to take on at any given time.

I do like Daegan’s points about daily and weekly reviews of what has been done or achieved. I actually do this, and it helps me stay on track because I find achieving small goals and milestones along the way incredibly motivating.

I don’t meditate as such, but I do set time aside for quietness and reflection in my daily routine. I wear a lot of hats in my day-to-day life, so taking even just a few minutes when my brain has nothing to do is a vital means of refreshing and resetting my mind at various stages of the day. As an introvert who is often surrounded by people all day long and again at home, that quietness is also how I recharge my energy, so it’s a crucial thing for me to do.

My “takeaway” from this article is that it’s important for each of us to set our own goals, define what sort of “success” we are hoping to achieve, and find what works for us as individuals.

The one thing we should all do is keep striving to make it happen.

Nerdome

Source:https://medium.com/
By: Daegan

View original post 1,806 more words

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Focus On Creation, Not Competition.

A reflection on integrity, creativity, and success.

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. 

A Job Done Well.

Today’s chance meeting with a former student gave me a proud moment or three.

This morning I took my father to town for a medical appointment. It all went well, and quite quickly, so he decided he’d like to shop for a couple of things he needed. 

The picture portrays a row of men's shoes in a shoe store.

As part of that shopping expedition, I took him to one locally owned store where the service has always been excellent. 

It was a lovely surprise to see one of my former students who now works there. 

“How are things with you?” I asked her. 

“Really good!” she answered happily. “I really enjoy working here, and the boss is great to work for.” 

When I introduced her to my father, she responded with respect and chatted with him about what he was looking for.

With utmost professionalism and kindness, she helped him find exactly what he wanted and made him feel as though he was her most important customer all day.  What a blessing to be able to have such a positive impact on an elderly man’s shopping trip, which for him have become quite rare.

In doing so, she both impressed me and made me incredibly proud. 

Her boss also happens to be the dad of some of my former students. When I asked after them, he told me they were happy and well, and enjoying what they were doing. 

As a teacher, it’s harder than my students know to wave them goodbye and set them free to fly at the end of each year, but it is wonderful to know that they are happy in their chosen path and making their own way forward in the big, wide world.

Whether they choose university, a trade, hospitality, retail, or other pursuits doesn’t matter to me, as long as it’s what they want to do.  

I have no intention of trying to take all the credit for any of my former students’ successes – far from it. I know I am only one of many who have helped and taught them, and encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams. Even so, today I can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that, for at least those three, it has been a job done well. 

‘Smoke and Shadows’: #1 New Release in Women’s Poetry!

‘Smoke and Shadows’ has taken the flag for ‘#1 New Release’ on Amazon’s US store.

I will readily confess to being a little overwhelmed right now. 

‘Smoke and Shadows’ has a little orange flag beside the title on Amazon US, declaring that it is the #1 New Release in Women’s Poetry. While I know it won’t last terribly long, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a. real and b. not a cruel joke. 

It was a strange mix of surprise, pride, excitement and humility that hit me when I signed into my browser after a few days away from home and that popped up.

It also comes up when anyone clicks on ‘Hot New Releases’ and scrolls through the various genres. That’s a pretty neat trick!

I know that I have worked hard to ensure it’s a great collection, and I am incredibly proud of these poems, but I know that it couldn’t have happened without readers being willing to give my work a try, nor without the support and encouragement of those who help with tricky things like marketing and promotion.  I couldn’t have done any of it without those key individuals in my life who remind me regularly that I can do this, that my work is good, and that there is no reason why I should not deserve success. 

To each of those people: thank you for helping me achieve this honour, as fleeting as it may be. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your contribution to my achievements so far.

Of course, it all depends on how one defines success.  Some people might consider dollars in the bank as a sign that they’ve made it.  Some might look at whether or not they can quit their day job and just write. Some might want to achieve “celebrity” status.  Others focus on book sales, page reads, and their ongoing rankings in various lists and stores.

I won’t deny that any or all of those things would be nice, and I absolutely do hope that people will buy, read and hopefully enjoy my books, but for me, the ultimate success as a poet is when someone tells me that my poetry is relatable, that it moved them or made them cry, or that it helped them to put a painful experience behind them.  One of my favourite comments about my book Leaf came from a young woman who told me, “I read your poems, and I knew I wasn’t alone in this world. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to know someone else understands what I think and feel.”  That has never left me, and never fails to spur me on.  The fact that people connect and relate to my work in that powerfully emotional way is how I measure my success as a poet. 

So, I don’t need that little orange flag to show that I’m successful. Nevertheless, I’m very happy to have it, and I’m going to take pride in it.  And I might brag about it just a little… because I know it won’t last long. And in all honesty… I’m going to tell everyone I know, just because I can. 

An Author With A Mission.

Developing my mission statement helped me to clarify my goals in a way that I had not done before.

When completing an author interview recently, I was surprised to find a question about my mission statement. My immediate reaction was, “My what?”

 

My next thought was of Jake and Elwood saying, “We’re on a mission from God!” in The Blues Brothers.

BluesBrothers
Image from tenor.com

Of course, it makes sense. If I can crystallise my goals in writing into a statement, it’s going to make them easier to achieve.

 

I do that all the time as a teacher. I think about objectives, learning intentions and success criteria all the time. So why didn’t I think about my objectives, intentions and success criteria as a writer? To be completely honest with you, I have no idea.

 

So, I started to work on my mission statement by writing down some basic questions:
What do I want to achieve?
What do I want my readers, or potential readers, to know?
How do I measure success?

 

Simple, right?

 

Wrong.
They’re actually really complex questions.

 

What does success as an author mean? Is it selling a million copies of my books? Well, that would be nice, of course, but it’s not just going to happen without me doing anything to achieve that. Who is going to buy my books if they’re not actually any good? My goal has to be one that I can achieve, and it has to be one that I can measure to see if I’ve met the mark.  My goal , therefore, is to write something that people enjoy and benefit from, not to become a millionaire. Because it’s more achievable, and measurable through both feedback and sales, it’s far more satisfying and encouraging than hoping for something that might never happen.

 

What do I want my readers to know? Recluses are mysterious, sure, but that only has limited appeal. What I really want them to know is that I understand what I’m writing about – grief, love, pain, pleasure, excitement, fear, exhaustion, joy. I want them to know that what I’m writing is real and meaningful. I want them to know that if they’re going through something really awful and difficult, I get that because I’ve been through some awful and difficult stuff too.  Particularly in my poetry, I want them to catch a glimpse of my soul, or see some blood on the page – metaphorically speaking, of course. I want there to be understanding between us. I want to connect.

 

So, measuring success isn’t in how many copies of each book I’ve sold, or how many dollars I’ve made. For me, success is in knowing that I’ve touched someone’s heart, or encouraged them, or entertained them. If they read my horror stories, I want to know that I scared them and they loved it.

 

The beauty of this process of setting goals and working toward them is that I can see with every review that I am achieving my goal, even more effectively than I can with each sale.

 

I owe enormous thanks to the person who asked me about my mission statement. They helped me clarify my goals in a way that I had not done before./div>

So, without further ado, this is my mission statement as an author:

 

Joanne Van Leerdam is an award winning poet and multi-genre author who is committed to writing meaningful and thought-provoking literature for the enjoyment of her audience.
Joanne is a thinker and puzzler, a reader and musician, a traveller, and a teacher who has never lost the joy of learning.
Joanne draws inspiration from her own experiences and observations of the world around her, crafting those ideas into works which will encourage those who struggle to persevere and inspire others to see the world from a new perspective. This is as true of her blog posts as it is of her works of poetry and fiction. She aims to continue to grow her readership into a fully global and inclusive audience.

So tell me, do you have a mission statement?

How to Achieve A Visually Attractive Twitter Feed.

Just because you can use 280 characters, doesn’t mean you should.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a lot of people commenting on how they love the new 280 character limit for Twitter. I’ve also noticed a lot of people writing long tweets with no line breaks, and barely any space in them to take a breath.

My message here may be unpopular with those folks, but it must be said: just because you can use 280 characters, doesn’t mean you should.

Remember, people are basically lazy. They don’t want to have to work to figure out what you’re saying, and they don’t want to wade through thirteen hashtags to do so, either.

When it comes to writing tweets, I’ve always assumed that the rule of “less is more” applies. I want my message to be short, easily understood and digested, and easily acted upon.

ScreenHunter_439 Feb. 20 21.34

I’ve always tried to keep my tweets to well under the 140 characters, as short as 100 characters if possible. A short, effective message is more attractive to people than a slab of text.

As an author, I’ve heard more people than I care to try to count tell me that they don’t like reading. (I know, right? I don’t understand it either.) However, it’s something that I’ve taken to heart when writing anything promotional. Any ad, tweet, or invitation is completely ineffective if it puts people off before they even really look at it.

I always leave a line of space between my main message and my hashtags. It breaks up the tweet so it looks more accessible. I also think that it makes the hashtags a bit more obvious, given that some people might take notice of those before the actual message.

When it comes to hashtags, I wrote a few months back about ‘How To Avoid Hashtag Hell’ in social media. I advised then to use two well-chosen hashtags, and no more. Given the increased word limit, I’m about to start experimenting with using three to increase the discoverability of my tweets, but that would be my upper limit. This isn’t a rule, as such, but simply my desire to keep my tweets looking simple and attractive. I’m no expert in advertising or design, but I go by what I experience myself: when a message is easy on the eye, it’s going to get more attention.

On that same assumption, I always include an image. People are very visually oriented and will, more often than not, look at the picture before the text. I try to make the image relevant to the post, and will often superimpose text and web addresses on the image in a way that won’t detract from the visual effect I hope it will achieve. Where appropriate, I use logos that will build familiarity with my work. Otherwise, I use my own images or stock images that are copyright and royalty free, so that I’m not infringing on copyright, either. There are lots of places that offer them, but I find pexels.com and pixabay.com to be excellent sources of quality images that are free for reuse for any purpose.

ScreenHunter_437 Feb. 20 21.33I use a link shortening service so that half the tweet isn’t taken up by an enormous web address or link. Bit.ly is free, so are many others. I use Buffer to schedule my tweets, and it shortens links automatically, so that’s a double win!

A further advantage of using Buffer is that it enables me to recycle my tweets so that I don’t have to spend hours each week coming up with new content. I regularly change the hashtags and messages on a reused tweet so that I’m not just giving people the same old thing time after time.

When it’s done a few rounds, I’ll rest a great tweet for a while, and pick it up again down the track if it’s still relevant. I save them in files in Evernote, so all I have to do when I come back is copy and paste it into a new message, attach the image, and off I go.

ScreenHunter_439 Feb. 20 21.33

Some of my tweets don’t have links. This is a deliberate decision on my part – sometimes I just want to offer a thought, a joke, or a compliment to my audience without asking them to do anything in return. That’s not a rule either – it’s just how I like to do things.

Finally, mix it up. If all you tweet is ads for your book or service, or quotations from your work in progress, it can get a little humdrum. I keep things varied by tweeting about great books, free reads, short reads, book reviews, magazines, great blog articles, and interesting tidbits of history, science and general interest far more than I tweet ads for my own books. My books are worthy of advertising and attention, and I would love to find more readers, but I don’t believe in shoving them in people’s faces at every opportunity, either.

I know all that seems like a lot of work, but being active on social media does take effort and thoughtfulness if you’re going to have something meaningful to offer.

Since I have been following these guidelines, I have had new followers every day. I started 2017 with just over 300, and now I have 3000 more than that. It’s slow growth, but it’s organic growth – my audience actually wants to be my audience! And that is worth far, far more than being able to fit a bunch of stuff in one tweet.

One Year of New Horizons.

My Grandpa used to tell me that there were never any guarantees of success, but there was one sure-fire way to fail, and that was to not try.
It’s good advice, and I’m thankful for that lesson – and many others – that he instilled in me. 

Promo New Horizons Cover eBookSIBA 2017 badged

What a surprise this morning to realise it has been a year since ‘New Horizons’ was published.

When it launched, I was nervous about how it would be received. People knew me as a poet. Would they be interested in these stories? Would they find them as meaningful and profound as my poems?

It was certainly fitting that these stories are about how people encounter and respond to changes and new situations in their lives. Heaven knows, I was experiencing that for myself at the time.

Since then, it has sold around the world in paperback as well as ebook, and has won the 2017 SIBA Award for Best Short Story collection. It now has a shiny badge on its cover to announce that recognition to the world.

This gave me good reason for positive reflection this morning. There are times when life feels as though it’s at a standstill, or when it feels like I’m not achieving what I want to as a writer.

Yet in the past year, I’ve achieved more than I ever would have thought or dared to imagine twelve months ago:

  • Three new poetry collections, all of which have been nominated for awards.
    Of those three books, Nova has won awards for 2017 Top Female Author – Poetry, Reality Bites 2017 Best Non-Romance, and the bronze medal for a poetry collection in the 2017 SIBA Awards.
  • Two poems in two different themed anthologies, nestled in amongst the work of some incredible writers.
  • Two macabre/horror titles.
  • Two ‘reinvented’ fairy tales about to be published in a magnificent anthology titled ‘Once Upon A Fabulous Time’,  with other stories written by five of the most creative minds I know.

Who knew?

If you’re a writer – published, aspiring, or just for your own enjoyment – be encouraged. You may feel like you’re not achieving much, but you are. You may feel like you’re a small fish in a very large sea, but every small fish has its place and a purpose, too.

If there’s something you feel you’d like to do, or try, but you’re lacking confidence – be encouraged. You will never know what you can do until you try. The only way to find out where any road will take you is to follow it.

My Grandpa used to tell me that there were never any guarantees of success, but there was one sure-fire way to fail, and that was to not try. It’s good advice, and I’m thankful for that lesson – and many others – that he instilled in me.

So here’s to another year and whatever challenges, journeys and victories it brings.

Promo New Horizons Fiji Sunset

An Armchair Spectator’s Perspective.

I love watching the Olympics on TV. The achievements of the competitors are amazing, and I can only imagine what it must feel like to be part of the atmosphere there with the cheering, whistling, and excitement of each event.

I am getting increasingly frustrated with the TV and radio commentators, though. I don’t know what it’s like in other nations, but the Australian media seem to be frequently making remarks about our competitors not winning medals when they were “expected to”, with the implication that they’re letting us down somehow.

Let’s stop and think about that for a moment.
Whose expectations and assumptions are we working on?
Most certainly, not mine.

I don’t think the competitors have those expectations, either. I have no doubt they have hopes and aspirations as they pursue their dreams of victory and success. They put everything into it that they can. Nobody goes in half-arsed and decides while competing that it doesn’t matter so much.

It’s important to remember that every single one of them is a champion for just getting there. They’ve beaten a bunch of other competitors who wanted to be there too. They’ve achieved personal bests and performed feats that are pretty much impossible for most of us ordinary folk.

Our commentators aren’t doing anyone any favours by adding more pressure with the weight of comments that imply that someone was expected to win, and didn’t. Going into the Olympics, there were reports of Australia hoping for a certain number of medals, particularly in certain events. It wasn’t the athletes or swimmers who expressed those goals, it was the media. And how the people “back home” interpret the results is strongly influenced by the ways in which the events and results are reported on and discussed in the media.

It’s easy to want to win everything. It’s easy to consider our own nation a “favourite” among others. We need to keep an open mind, though, and remember that everyone in other countries has the same hopes as we do for our competitors. Just because someone holds a world record doesn’t give them any entitlement to win that event again.  As Australian swimmer Bronte Barratt said on Thursday before the Women’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay, “As we’ve proven many times before, if you’ve got a lane, you’ve got a chance, so we’ve got a great chance.”  She’s absolutely right. Everyone has an equal chance once they make the final.

As for the competitors, they want to do their best. Of course they’d love to win, and they’ll be disappointed when they don’t. But to be there is a victory in itself, and we shouldn’t let any commentator diminish that. And when the race is over, we should be praising and encouraging, not criticising.