Writing tired

Tired? Gelatinous with fatigue, is me, in the best 1984 tradition – but still working.

fatigue_by_topspinthefuzzy-d6pizf9

by Topspinthefuzzy from DeviantArt

 

No explanation – simply that, for various reasons too unremarkable to bother mentioning – for the past two nights I’ve only had about three hours sleep. Seriously. Not one of those exaggerations.

Today, up at 5 a.m. for a breakfast meeting. Home feeling so tired I could have wept.

BUT

I had two pieces of work needed urgently by valued clients. (Well, ALL my clients are valued, she adds quickly!)

A case of weighing up my options:

  1. Let clients down by abandoning the idea of any work at all today
  2. Have a sleep and do the work later
  3. Generate something, do the work and THEN rest

Choose 1 or 2. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You know it makes sense. Clients can wait. The sky won’t fall down.

the-sky-is-falling

Choose 3, Caroline! You know you can do it. Create something extraordinary. Don’t believe the little voice in your head telling you that your work will be sub-standard if you attempt it when you’re too tired. Remember that you work well when you’re hungry so…

I chose 3.

Generated vitality.

Completed the two pieces of work without even the application of extra caffeine. (Slightly helped by loud listening to Lana Del Ray).

Checked the work over. Hmmmm – seemed okay to me, but was I hallucinating?

Sent the work off.

Re-checked the work I’d just sent off, in case I really WAS hallucinating.

STILL seemed okay to me.

Received the best ever thank you from one of the clients, which I’m tempted to frame:

Is there a ‘good writer pill’ that I can take to write like you? You’re amazing, thank you.

All I can say is…

images (5)

It IS possible.

Can write well when hungry. Can write well when tired.

Next?

(I don’t need any more challenges, thank you!)

 

Writing hungry

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m quite often hungry.

(Not REALLY hungry. I wouldn’t, in a million years, equate my mild stomach rumblings with what it’s like to be starving. I can only imagine. My heart goes out to those people, wherever they are).

I’m hungry because I’m doing the 5:2 thing – five days of eating as usual and two non-consecutive days of fasting, eating only up to 500 calories worth of food, which is about a quarter of a normal (privileged) Western intake. This is not so much because I need to lose weight, because I don’t – it’s more to do with a healthier life-style in general. I have lost weight too, incidentally, sensibly, slowly and sustainably, which is a bonus.

images (2)

On my starvy days, as I call them, I don’t eat anything at all, just take drinks – water, fruit juice, coffee, tea, herbal teas…whatever – until maybe 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon, which means I’ve fasted for about sixteen hours or so, since dinner on the previous evening.

I don’t actually feel hungry at all until I eat something – but that’s another story.

images (3)

What I HAVE noticed is that, without food, my brain is sharper. And when I’m hungry – or rather, when I’m fasting – I actually FEEL better.

I’ve been doing a little research about this, in a Google sort of way, and have come up with some interesting scientific information.

There’s an article on the Live Science website called Hunger Can Make You Happy

“Contrary to the moans of many dieters, being hungry may make you happy. Or, at least, it can be a serious motivator whose evolutionary intent was to help you find dinner instead of becoming dinner.”
images (1)
The researchers assert that when I fast and my body notices the dearth of calories, it increases production of a hormone called ghrelin which makes me more…well, alive and alert (my words). They believe that this is an adaptive measure, for survival. “Getting food, especially in the wild, requires concentration, clear-headed perception and often cooperation.” So, if I can avoid the urge to eat, which is what ghrelin is telling me to do, then I can harness the increased energy levels for something more creative.
Being a little bit  hungry has certainly, so far, made me noticeably more efficient and more focused.
download
Yesterday morning, I completed a poem which, the previous night, was stuck fast in my brain with super-glue and would not be shifted.
I attribute the ease of flow yesterday morning to the power of…GHRELIN!
My new writing companion. My secret weapon.
Only not so secret.
Don’t tell anyone, will you?

 

Pay Per Click – a potential customer speaks out!

(A customer of products and services, not a customer of Pay Per Click!)

At a meeting yesterday, with a new client, website content, blog writing, SEO and Pay Per Click were discussed.

Pay Per Click? Not my area of expertise AT ALL.

download (2)

Let me tell you the effect is has on me, as a potential customer, when I’m searching for a product or service online, using Google:

I AVOID all the search results at the very top of the page with the little yellow icon telling me it’s an ad.

I AVOID the column of search results on the right hand side of the page which I assume are also ads.

I choose the sites at the top of the rankings that are NOT (apparently) driven by Pay Per Click.

My client, though he uses PPC campaigns sporadically – trying them out for a while then turning them off for a couple of months, then trying again – was of exactly the same opinion as me.

Don’t even get me started on Facebook ads…

images (1)

(I don’t!)

SO – out of my comprehensive poll of two people – that’s 100% completely ANTI pay per click, from a customer perspective.

The psychology of it? I’ve been trying to analyse it, from my own opinions. I think it’s because I object to being manipulated (ha ha ha in this day and age!) and I don’t like the idea that big players who can afford the allegedly outrageous costs for PPC seem to have an unfair advantage over the little people. This sort of search engine ranking, it seems to me, is nothing to do with the quality of the product or the service but simply a function of a marketing budget (or lack of one).

It’s like paying (or begging) for votes in a contest – so that the result is generated from a popularity contest not a reflection of merit.

Me and my innate love of the level playing field…

images (2)

But it must work for businesses, mustn’t it? Why else has it become a business in itself?

I began to wonder if I really understand PPC at all, from a business perspective, so I started reading up about it and I must say I glazed over in the first twenty seconds – until I found a website with a section entitled PPC University. NOW it begins to make sense!

However, even this site admits, “Essentially, it’s a way of buying visits to your site, rather than attempting to “earn” those visits organically.”

I’m sure this is why MY business isn’t busting out all over – doing well but could do weller!

But I’m comfortable with how I go about promoting myself.

And I’m not comfortable with the idea of PPC.

Good luck to me.

download (3)

It’s a jungle out there.

 

 

 

The game of work-life balance

Work-life balance a game? No, it’s deadly serious.

images (7)

Really it is. Really, it has become so. It’s something which exercises so many of us. It’s also, certainly in the case of people like me, who work from home as freelancers, OUR responsibility.

In reality, we only have ourselves to thank, (see, I avoided the word ‘blame’) if we get it wrong.

Different, for sure, for people who have, as my husband delights in asserting, REAL jobs. By this he means out of the home, in a place of work  where there is a boss telling you what to do and when and how much and how high. Work-life balance is not so much in your own hands.

images (8)

(This could, in fact, be me talking to myself – see yesterday’s blog!)

In some countries, the government is taking on the situation. New labour laws in France protect workers from responding to emails after 6 pm. A trial in Sweden reduces working hours to just 30 hours a week –  6 hours per day for the same pay – on the basis that after 6 hours, people are too tired to be as productive. 

That’s taking work-life balance seriously, with legislation.

But it CAN be a game too. A real game. Real in the sense of virtual.

In my research, I came across THIS:

It’s a game. A game without exploding zombies and high-speed car chases and deadly weapons.

Players ‘ control a novelist struggling to balance the demands of work and family life.’ Apparently, many people have been inspired to look at their personal work-life balance and it’s changed their lives – for the better, that is.

5432908-3x2-700x467

From www.thenovelistgame.com

Maybe worth a look? Here.

A comment underneath made me laugh.  Hollowly.

“Oh, the irony. While engaging in some world class procrastination, I discover this; a game in which I can be a virtual procrastinator.”

Another thing to add to the infinite list of Things To Do which makes every day seem too short, before I even begin to think about balancing work and life?

I’ll keep it in reserve…

 

The down side of being self-employed?

Is there one? (A down side of being self-employed, I mean.)

Surely, it’s all about…

images (4)

Freedom?

“When you’re self-employed, it can sometimes be easy to let yourself get off track. Without a “boss” to answer to, the act of letting your mind wander can often have very few short-term consequences,” suggests Matthew Anderson on his site, theselfemployed.com

Not with a boss like mine, I can tell you.

download (3)

See, it’s Bank Holiday Monday and my boss is telling me I have a lot of work to do, so I’d better do some today.

The sun is shining. The birds are tweeting. The little buzzy bees are buzzing. The garden’s lovely. And…

I’m sitting here at my desk writing this, prior to proof-reading a lengthy piece about recruitment for a building company.

I sometimes wish my boss would take some time off, then I’d be able to take some time off myself.

Oh, what fun I’d have!

happy-quotes-400-520x245

THAT’S my problem with being self-employed, you see. It’s not the inability to get started, the lack of motivation, the letting myself get off track.

My problem is the difficulty I have in…

images (6)

STOPPING.

Oh, my boss has just said I could leave the proof-reading until later…

download (2)

The UP side of being self-employed?

Those who make the worst of their time

…most complain about its shortness.” – La Bruyere

Complain? Moi?

download (4)

I have to confess, I’ve been complaining about lack of time lately, only internally – oh, and to the millions of people who read my blog, as from this minute. Just don’t tell anyone. I don’t want a reputation as a whinger, though apparently, there’s a cure!

whinger

(The best cure, never mind miracle elixirs, is…STOP WHINGING! Annoying that…)

SO…

I work long hours, often evenings and weekends, but not necessarilywith the highest efficiency level in the universe, I’m the first to admit.

I consider myself fortunate to have so much work to do and I know it’s because of the quality of material I produce – to deadline and to budget and with a smile on my face. Pleased clients = repeat work = more word-of-mouth referrals = more to fit in to the finite hours in the day.

Though I always, ALWAYS get the work done, and done well, sometimes I run myself ragged in the process.

I’ve concluded that I must be from the Rocking Horse School of Time Management.

images (3)

I confuse motion and progress.

Silly me. Note to self, courtesy of Alfred A. Montapert: “Do NOT confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.”

And, with a magnificent Caroline Coxon leap from wooden horses to live ants…

download (5)

That’s what I’ll be looking at – when I can find the time!

(If I come up with any magic solutions, you’ll be the very first to know).

“To copy is human, to create divine.”

Thus spake Jeffrey Fry, self-styled Profit Prophet. And yes, I’m human, in this instance. That was a copy of his quote!

I know…

images (7)

So. I’m back that that old chestnut of dealing with duplicate copy on a website.

I’m working on a re-write for a client whose original site has several pages which, at first glance, don’t look as though they’re duplicated, but on closer examination, the copy is simply the same paragraphs in a random order and with a different place name inserted.

This is the effect it has on me as a copywriter:

images (8)

I’m SURE this copy does pretty well in the Google rankings, however, duplication is a constant topic of conversation on SEO forums, with dire threats of ‘Google penalties’ flying around.

Yet, Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, (there’s a name to toy with!) stated quite robustly, last year, that no-one should “stress about this unless the content that you have duplicated is spammy or keyword stuffing.”

In a recent article entitled, ‘Is duplicate content bad for SEO?’ Jennifer Kyrnin suggests that if you look at the copy on your website and ask yourself WHY you’re duplicating content, then it should be easy to determine whether or not it’s a good plan. She concludes that if it’s more about YOU than about your clients, then DON’T DO IT!

download (9)

Why would you, in the first place?

  1. Writing copy isn’t your strong point so you put something together then duplicate it?
  2. You simply haven’t the time or the interest?
  3. You want to get the copy higher up the search rankings so more people view it?
  4. You want to manipulate search engine results?

Yep, all about you. Admit it. Pity your poor clients who want to find out something about your products or services and then have to wade through pages of tedious keyword-stuffed GUFF. In fact, they won’t do it. They’ll bounce quicker than a kangaroo on a hot tin roof.

The answer to reasons 1 and 2 is – employ a copywriter like me, naturally!

I’ll ignore 4 because that’s unethical.

Number 3? To create is divine! Remember that. Create more unique copy. Expand pages which do contain, through necessity, similar content. Add unique information to each one.

OR

Employ someone who loves to do that.

saint-brigid-irish-abbess-depicted-receiving-help-with-her-writing-from-an-angel

A divine copywriter!

Like me.

Above all, don’t forget it IS possible to have interesting, engaging, appealing copy which entertains and informs your clients AND  puts your website high in the search engine rankings.

 

The blogs do work

Randomly as ever, my title about blogs was inspired by this wonderful (well, I think so!)  song by The Verve.

If you’re not now ready to throw yourself off the mantelpiece or drown yourself in a cup of cocoa – I’m pleased to report something. About blogs. One in particular.

images (2)

It’s received wisdom that blogs make a difference to your business. That’s if the content isn’t copied from another site, you update it regularly and whatever you write is engaging, fresh and relevant.

I blog every day, but I’m not selling anything – except, I suppose – me.  My blog is like Julia Cameron’s, The Artist’s Way, morning pages. Or, in this case, evening ones.

It gets me writing. People like it. I don’t obsess about how many, how often and all that. I used to, but that was a slippery slope to insanity. The most important thing to me is that…

images (1)

Writing business blogs is slightly different. With a different outcome in mind, at least.

First the Great Google God loves the revived content. It can be an effective – and cost-effective – word of mouth marketing tool. (Perhaps it would be described more accurately as word of finger marketing?)

Blogs are the perfect opportunity to talk about products and services, share news and hype anything at all. It’s definitely handy for creating a buzz at a moment’s notice without the need for expensive mailing. Just keep it current…

images

I write a monthly blog for a food and wine importer. I’m being a bit secret squirrel about it, on the grounds of client confidentiality, since I write it as though it’s from the mouth (fingers?) of the company owner.

Since I started, in November last year, visits to the site have grown steadily, as have on-line orders. (Don’t ask me for the Google analytics, I’m just reporting what I’ve been told!)

In January, I wrote a piece about a particularly fine bottle of wine. Of course, I had to taste it. Quite a few times. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

To our delight, the blog was picked up by an award-winning magazine – and the wine, and concomitantly the company, was selected as Discovery Of The Month for May. Imagine the interest and the sales figures NOW

images (3)

See…as I said earlier…

The drugs don’t work. The blogs do.

The difference between Friday and a fried egg.

download

…I mean, Friday

Douglas Adams (my Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy hero) has something to say about this crucial fact in his book, The Salmon of Doubt

“For Children: You will need to know the difference between Friday and a fried egg. It’s quite a simple difference, but an important one. Friday comes at the end of the week, whereas a fried egg comes out of a chicken. Like most things, of course, it isn’t quite that simple. The fried egg isn’t properly a fried egg until it’s been put in a frying pan and fried. This is something you wouldn’t do to a Friday, of course, though you might do it on a Friday. You can also fry eggs on a Thursday, if you like, or on a cooker. It’s all rather complicated, but it makes a kind of sense if you think about it for a while.”

So now, everyone’s clear. Or not.

Friday, for many people, is that TGIF day, on the downhill slope to the weekend, unwinding, kicking back a little.

images (3)

For me, Friday is the  busiest day of the week, starting at 5 a.m. when I leap (stagger?) out of bed to sort out the dogs and chickens before I head off to a business networking meeting.

No fried eggs here, but scrambled. A bit like my brain cannot afford to be.

Sometimes, I wonder if it would be more useful and convenient if this particular occasion occurred earlier in the week, but, on reflection, it couldn’t be better, really.

It keeps me on my toes for the ENTIRE week. I have to be sure I’m in sparkling form when my form is protesting that surely it’s been sparkling enough for the first four days – that’s if I’m to stand a chance of a) making a difference to others b) generating more work for myself.

Today – and this was before 8.30 a.m. – a guest of mine, an osteopath/acupuncturist – decided to join the networking group, which will, I’m sure, give a boost to his business. And I now have a new client to work with – an accountant – with the potential of writing a regular blog and the content of his new marketing material.

So here’s a little bit of advice from me, given with the very best of intentions and absolutely NO pressure to take on.

take-my-advice-dammit

Make your Friday shine. It will transform your entire working week.

On praise for copywriting: “Sweet words are like honey…”

“a little may refresh, but too much gluts the stomach.”  ― Anne Bradstreet

images

Not MY stomach, I can assure you! At least, I’ve never experienced praise for my work like that.

Some people seem to have the extraordinary facility (extraordinary to someone like me, that is!) of being motivated by criticism. A client says something very much less than flattering and it’s like a shot in the arm to these people.  “I’ll SHOW them. Just you wait and see!”

Whereas I…

…tend to

MapCrumple-redo1

CRUMPLE!

(Here, I’m not talking about constructive criticism but…insults to one’s professional competence.)

John Wooden says, “You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.”

Yes but, no but…

I defy anyone, ANYONE, not to be pleased when their work receives praise. Not even just the teeniest-weeniest bit pleased?I assert that, if you say that praise is inconsequential to you, you are a…

LIAR!

images (1)

Yesterday, I received two separate emails and one phone call heaping praise on three pieces of work I’d completed for different clients.

This didn’t de-motivate me, lull me into a sense of complacency that I needn’t try so hard next time…

I was delighted and am attacking my work with renewed vigour and a song in my heart today.

I’m of the Tolstoy school.

“In the best, the friendliest and simplest relations, flattery or praise is necessary, just as grease is necessary to keep wheels turning. ”

My wheels are turning so smoothly today, believe me.