Monday, July 25, 2011

Deserting You for the Week But Appeasing You with Cute Pet Pictures

I'm going to be away from the computer for the week, because I'm self employed and my boss says it's okay. So, unless there is absolutely something that must be shared with the masses, I'm going to be taking an internet sabbatical for the week.

Depending my mood, I could be back as early as next Tuesday night (August 2nd), but will definitely make my triumphant return on the Wednesday. So triumphant that I might do it with a chariot and fleet of Pegasus horses. Or the writer's equivalent.

I realize I threw this absence on you last minute, and even worse I've planned it for weeks without telling you. But I know you're a tough bunch and you'll manage the internet fine without me.

To make it up to you, I offer you up a collection of pictures of my super cute pets. Revel in their adorableness.

The Somewhat Happily Ever After to Last Week's Writing Woes

End of last week, I mentioned some headaches I got in regards to not getting paid over work I had done, along with the feeling of rejection that comes with an unhappy client (or in my case, the client of my client). It wasn't my end of the week pick me up, and it clearly upset me enough to want to blog about it (not that I really need too many excuses to blog). But I am happy to announce there is a bit of a rainbow at the end of this once dark tunnel.

My client ended up agreeing to pay a 'kill fee', which essentially means I ended up with a bit of compensation. It wasn't anywhere near what I was originally going to be paid, but it is enough to make me believe my few hours of work wasn't a complete exercise in wasting time.

I ended up getting the amount after discussing with my client that I didn't feel it entirely fair that I walk away with nothing, because I felt I followed the instructions exactly. In the end, my client is a fan of my work, and understood the best way to continue our relationship was to give some form of compensation. It wasn't anything he had to do, because we did not have a contract in place. It definitely was appreciated and will make me more likely to continue to work with him.

Then of course, there is the whole boost to the ego. His attempts to appease me shows how much he values my work and wants to keep me around to continue our relationship. I'd consider getting money and a boost to the ego to be a pretty decent end to the woes.

Though, I still think I learned my lesson on passing on the contract phase of negotiations. I really do think it was mighty big of him to agree to a fee that he was not obligated to hand out.

Now, what can my fellow writers learn from this?

It's good to not crawl into a fetal position after things with your work fall apart (or least, not for more than a minute). I could have taken the whole situation poorly and just walked away from it. I decided to put value and confidence in my work, and make it clear to my client that I felt something was owed to me. Because remember, he wasn't the one that didn't like my work, but rather one of his clients (he was acting as the intermediary). There was a possibility that he would have just decided I was too much a pain in the ass and permanently cut me out, but I was confident enough in my past work record with him that he'd try to keep me around. It worked. I now feel I didn't waste part of my Thursday afternoon.

You need to put value in your work. You need to remember if you want to make a living off writing, then you need to see writing as your small business. Which means you need make sure you hunt down those people who owe you money. You need to fight when there is a chance you're not going to get compensated. You need to realize your work is worth what you're charging, and that you deserve fair compensation for all your hard work and effort.

I'm glad I actually followed this advice this time.

But of course, none of this would have happened if I just stuck with my policy of having a contract. But still, hooray for a somewhat happily ever after!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Weekend with a Musician's Tragedy and a Sports Star's Fame

There were two things that went down this past weekend that I wanted to remark upon, and they happen to be on the polar opposites of the happy news scale.

First, I'll start with the bad, because I've felt it's better to get the bad news out and hope the good is strong enough to balance it out.

Amy Winehouse passed away this weekend at the way too young age of 27. Now, I was never a fan of Amy Winehouse and I could only vaguely pick out one of her songs if it was playing on the radio. I also know she had a big following and she was considered pretty influential due to her fusion of R&B, soul and jazz. Based off the little I've read this weekend, there are quite a few musicians that attribute her for paving the way for them.

Sadly, I knew her better as the person that made the headlines regularly for public escapades. It was fairly well known she had a long battle with alcohol and drugs. It sucks that the drugs and alcohol won and claimed her at such a young age.

I heard something on the radio that was pretty disturbing but also interesting. Amy Winehouse is just one of many musicians who died at the age of 27. She joins the morbid company of rock superstars like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison (and actually a few more less remembered musicians). Thus officially making 27 the scariest age in the world if you're a young musician.

I am pretty sure it doesn't really say anything about the age of 27 specifically. All of them being 27 years old is just a coincidence, I am sure. But the incredibly young age does say something.

I think, it is a pretty good indicator of the fatal dangers of fame, especially at a young age. For decades now (or really since the beginning) rock and roll has had a certain culture (or at least, believed culture -- which is even worse). A culture which has expectations of copious drugs and alcohol use. If this is something that is sort of expected, then you can see where a young musician could influenced to put themselves in a rather tragic position. There is a bit of this prevailing belief that a rock star should be partying hard and living even harder. So, if a star takes up that perception's offer, then they've likely shortened their life journey significantly.

Now, I am actually not trying to moralize here. I am not saying rock and roll automatically leads to drugs and alcohol abuse. I am definitely not saying rock and roll is the highway to hell. Not even a little bit. I'm just saying there is that perception out there. I am saying that some may be more likely to fall for it.

I'd also say the stress and anxiety of fame plays a pretty big part too. A rock star is on the road a lot. Probably surrounded by people that are not entirely sincere but still touting to be a best friend. There is the pressure of performing on a nightly basis. There is also likely the constant fear of failure or being exposed or just having all the fame evaporate immediately.

Fame in itself is a huge stress. You've got reporters and fans and paparazzi hounding you every where. They have expectations of you. They have demands. It can be a very hard thing to live up to or follow through on.

Plus, musicians are creative types. If one looks at the history of authors and actors and musicians and visual artists, you're actually going to see a pretty long trail of things like drug or alcohol abuse. I think, the same things that makes one a creative genius or causes them to be so in touch with that part of themselves, also tends to makes them extremely emotional and maybe even volatile. Of course, I am not saying all are like this. But there seem to be a few connections of creative folks struggling with bipolar or addictive personalities or depression or manic depressive. I'd say these type of illnesses and struggles are going to lead to a greater risk of alcoholism or constant drug abuse.

Let me make it clear, I am not saying all creative types. Just like I am not saying rock and roll automatically leads to a drug and alcohol party.

Rather I am just trying to offer empathy and understanding. It is sad someone so young died of drugs and alcohol. It is sad that there is a history of many young and talented people dying. But I think there is more to it than just these people really wanted to take lots of drugs and alcohol. I think there was some deeper psychological issues or deeper stresses. In the end, I put it at as a tragedy and not as something I am judging.

If anything, I like to consider myself a creative type. I know I can be overly emotional. I know that if I wasn't surrounded by amazingly loving and supportive people that there is a chance things could have turned out a lot worse for me. I think my own personal situation causes me to look at these tragedies differently. Though, I am also not trying to declare myself a creative genius either, but I do think that major sparks of creativity can sometimes come form the same place that houses darker thoughts like addictions and depression.

Now, for the happier news.

Roberto Alomar was the first Toronto Blue Jay to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. This may not be cartwheel inducing news for all the readers on here, but it is a pretty big deal for any fellow Toronto Blue Jay fans. This is the first player to be inducted as a Toronto Blue Jay (there has been other Hall of Famers who played for the Jays, but he is the first to inducted as a Jay). Roberto Alomar was not only arguable the best player ever on the Toronto Blue Jays, but he was part of the only two World Series championship teams we ever had. He was a stand out player on what was a stand out Toronto Blue Jay team (back to back championships would make you a pretty damn good baseball team).

The Toronto Blue Jays were the first sports team that I'd ever considered to be a fan. I've since picked out a favourite team for all the big sports, but as a young child, I only really watched baseball and in that sport, Blue Jays were the undisputed heroes. I remember watching many seasons where the Jays either came really close to the play offs or got knocked out in the American League Championship.

The 1992 and 1993 seasons will always be extra special to me, because it was the time that my favourite sports team finally won the championships. Roberto Alomar played a huge role in bringing home those titles. He was a stand out player, and created some really amazing moments while being a Toronto Blue Jay.

He wasn't my all time favourite Jay. Actually, I'm not as big a fan of baseball now as I was in the early 90s. But those years will always be significant to me and I will never forget those two seasons.

It was still a nice moment to know that Roberto Alomar, a big part of the Jays best seasons, was given the highest honour in baseball. He became a Hall of Famer. Not only that, he became a Hall of Famer as a Toronto Blue Jay. Definitely a cherished moment for all long time Blue Jay fans.

So, it was an interesting weekend for news. A little good and a little bad.

And speaking of good, I got to spend lots of time celebrating and socializing and eating with various family members this weekend. So, if that doesn't officially push it over to good weekend status, then I just don't know what will.

How has your weekend been?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Look at Brantford's Future

It was in October that the freshly elected Brantford Mayor Chris Friel declared he was going to help move the city into the 21st century. The statement was something that I started thinking about for weeks and weeks. What does it mean to be a 21st century city? And how do we get there?

I started thinking there was a good story there. A chance to really look at Brantford and analyze ways of improving it. Ever since I moved back to this city, I started realizing how much potential it has and how amazing it can be (and already is). So, I really started to believe that such a story would not only be an interesting read but could add value for others. It was an article that I've been thinking about for a long time.

I then got an amazing opportunity to interview Mayor Chris Friel and get his take on what needs to be done to move Brantford forward. It was an insightful and inspiring interview. It gave me lots of valuable information for an engaging article.

I am really glad that Diane Bertolin from Collective Publishing agreed to purchase the article and present it on the website. The site isn't Brantford centric, but she still obviously believed there was a story worth presenting to the masses.

If you're from Brantford and you're passionate about the city, then I encourage you to give it a read and provide some feedback on the site. And even if you're not from Brantford, please check it out and view it as a possible template for all other former manufacturing cities of around 100 000 people.

I hope you enjoy this look into a city with tons of untapped potential and a marvelous rich history.

My Brief Moment of Wanting to Crawl Into the Fetal Position

It's funny, how I can be told over and over how magnificent and marvelous my writing is, and how it can cure cancer and turn mosquitoes into gold, but one small rejection or criticism can cause me to run to the corner to cry or start to doubt if this is what I should be doing. This is doubt that comes after making money from satisfied clients for several months.

I'd like to think it is just the starting out jitters of a new writer. I'd like to believe that after a few years I'll harden to such rejection or be able to easily gain perspective. I know the reality is that rejection will always end up being a ninja fire kick to the groin.

But no matter how harsh and dejecting rejection or criticism can be, it is a reality of the business. You're going to have clients completely unsatisfied with your work or an editor who turns down your proposal. You'll definitely have editors sending back a manuscripts that needs some revisions.

It is just how the writing business works. So, you accept the criticisms or suggestions, and then you move on with life. Maybe you eat an extra bowl of ice cream to wash down the sting to the ego. But in the end, you remind yourself that writing is an incredibly subjective thing and one person's heaping pile of trash is another person's golden ticket.

As you likely could have guessed from yesterday's post, a certain piece of work didn't exactly go my way. It was work that I thought was pretty good, but it didn't get the vote of confidence from the person who was paying for it.

Any time I end up with a situation like this, I remind myself that even the writers who make millions tell you that rejection is something every one experiences. Even them. And it likely sucks every time, even though they know they have a long record of making money.

So, if you want to be a career writer then you need to accept that rejection will come. Hopefully, you'll have it balanced out with a lot of acceptance. The thing you need to remember is if someone is willing to actually give you money for your writing, then you must have talent or something worth selling.

So, learn from the losses and rejections, but hold on to and remember the victories (and the sweet spoils that come with it).

Friday, July 22, 2011

"I Should Listen to My Own Advice" Moment

I've stated before that it is pretty imperative that you have a signed agreement or contract with all your clients. It is a way to protect you in case they flake out or decide they don't want to do a minor thing like pay you or complain about the work your produced. Because for all those things, you can then refer them to the agreement and provide that helpful reminder that everything was already agreed upon in writing. Agreement and contract aren't foolproof, especially if you end up messing up in some way on your part of the agreement, but they're one of the best ways to make sure you get what has been agreed upon.

Yeah, there is a lot of clients that would rather work without contracts, and in reality, don't need contracts because they're upfront and honest. They know you worked hard to provide a quality product and so they agree to pay you for what was agreed upon. But in the end, it is good policy to have a contract put in place for almost any client you work for, even if they're the most trustworthy person known to man.

Good advice, right?

Well, I'm wishing I followed it today.

Let's just chalk it up to one of the many headache and frustrations you get with being a freelancer.

Okay, it's out of my system now.

When I Tell People I'm a Writer. . .

They almost always show some sincere excitement believing they've encountered someone with a unique and exciting job. You almost see their face begin to glow and you can sense their hope as if they're saying , "This person might have some interesting stories that will make this day more fascinating."

And then they ask the inevitable question.

"What do you write?"

Even though that is almost all they ever ask, you can sense there is more to the question. They're really wondering if they've ever read my stuff before. Or they're wondering if I'm secretly their favourite author they've been enjoying for years. They want me to be an author of books or a renowned travel writer or film critic or at least a journalist. They want to hear stories about all my adventures in tracking down leads or doing research for my latest crime fic novel.

Then I say, "I mostly write ad and sales copy or ghost write corporate blogs or . . ."

Then it doesn't matter what I say. The glow has been vanquished. The questions have fled. And now they just want the conversation to end. I'm no longer their hope for interesting stories or vicarious living. I'm just a dude that writes what they assume is horrible boring crap.

Maybe for some it is. But it is 'horrible boring crap' that pays a rather pretty penny. The prettiest penny that I've ever seen. It is so pretty it would be declared prom queen, if someone would just ask it to the prom.

So, maybe my writer status doesn't make me the most thrilling person at dinner parties, but I am still pretty enthused that I can essentially make a living off something I've wanted to do for most of my life.

Besides, I am hoping to eventually start writing that more 'exciting stuff' too. And as you know, I do have some byline work out there, but depending on your interest in politics, the content may or may not be termed 'exciting'.

For now, I'll just keep on making money writing my press releases or sales pitches or marketing reports or advertisements. And I'll continue to excite people by revealing I am a writer then crush their hopes for interesting conversation by explaining what I mostly write.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Have Some Sugar. . . 80s Style

The last post was a little somber, and so I thought it was only fitting to go the complete opposite side of the spectrum. While you try to get through yet another long and grinding day, why not take a break. When you take break, it is always nice to have something sweet to pick you up. And what could possibly be sweeter than sugar.

Well, that would be sugar presented in all its 80s glory by none other than then one of the coolest 80s hair bands (yes cool and hair bands is an oxymoron), Def Leppard.

Yes, it is Thursday and so, that seems reason enough to listen to Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me." The song is ridiculous and it screams "I am the 80s!" But its catchy and I'm pretty sure you'll be humming it with a smile on your face by 3 in the afternoon.


Infertility Sucks

Yesterday, I delivered the amazing news that we're expecting a baby in January. I am really stoked about this upcoming event. I am also little surprised about how easy it ended up being to conceive a baby, once we agreed we were ready to take a plunge into parenthood.

But that doesn't mean I don't empathize with those that can't have children. Or those that have been trying for years upon years to conceive. I know several dear friends that have wanted to have a child, but for whatever reason haven't been able to. I also know of others who are infertile, but have tried countless procedures to try to solve the problem. Many of them have moments of hope where it seems like the procedure was a success, but then are crushed when the results don't happen. I think with the coming baby, I actually feel more empathy for the couples struggling with this awful 'disease.'

Over at Collective Publishing (maybe you've heard me mention them before?), Diane Bertolin writes a insightful article on infertility. What makes it such a powerful piece, is that she has suffered through the inability to have a child. So, the article offers an authenticity and emotion that I would never be able to convey. She relates her own struggles, but also offers up rather interesting facts about infertility. Like the article mentions, I also hope infertility is something that eventually gets more attention from the government and the proper measures are taken to help out the poor couples struggling with this 'disease.'

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Half Assed Attempt at Inspiring Readers to Stick Up for Quality Content

As you likely know by now, I've sold a few political news articles to the fine site, Collective Publishing. I am not just saying they are fine because they've paid me a decent rate for my work, but also due to housing a rather admirable collection of talented writers. If you enjoy political news (with an Ontario slant) then you owe it to yourself to check out the high quality content there.

I know, I've suggested you to check out the site before and I've linked to every article I've published there (brace yourself, because there is more to come!). I really do want to encourage you to check out all the great content on there, because how else are you going to procrastinate from your job?

Here is the thing, it is a completely free site, which means all it is costing you is a few minute to read really compelling stuff. BUT the fact is, this site is still essentially a business. A business that pays good rates to highly talented writers (it is also pays me). So, how does a free web site actually become a successful business? Well, it attracts readers. Lot of them.

What this means, is that the best thing you could ever do for any site you like is make sure it gets more readers. These sites aren't asking you to drop a single dime to read their content. But they sure as hell would appreciate gaining more readers.

Essentially, if you like what you read at any site, including this blog, then the greatest early Christmas present or 'payment' you can give is letting other people know about the site or the particular article you like. You can do this by popping the link on your Facebook or sending the link out to friends or putting it up on sites like reddit. Simply put, your best payment is spreading the word about the content you like. Because it means more people will read it and thus more likely the site will continue to offer up high quality content.

For example, most of my highest viewed posts of all time on this blog are due to people putting up links on their site or recommending others to read the article. These linked posts ended up being viewed several hundred more times than anything else on this site. It is strong evidence of how valuable word of mouth style advertising is.

If you like the 3 articles I put on Collective Publishing, then please pass them on to other people. If you liked any other articles on that site, then makes sure you pass them on. If you thought it was worse than a make out session with a hyena then don't do anything.

If you don't like the content, then obviously just leave it be. But if you do like it and you want to see more of it, then you need pass on the word.

It seems like a simple concept, but I also realize most don't even think about it. They probably just assume that if they came across the articles then other people will too. In the vast wilderness of the internet, it does not work that way. In order to make sure that free quality content remains, you need to pass on the word to other people you know will appreciate and enjoy it.

So, if you like it, then promote it. If you don't, well, I'm sure I'll have a cute dog picture for you if you stick around long enough.

Babies Equal Web Traffic

About a year ago I wrote a post entitled, The Spicer Family Add Yet Another. It ended up getting one of the highest single day page views on this blog up until that point. I am pretty sure the reason was many people on Twitter and Facebook stumbled upon the Twitterfeed and thought, "Hot dang! Spicy pants be getting him one of those living poop machines!" Or at least, they thought that there was a possibility I was announcing we were having a baby.

I was actually announcing we bought a Wii.

The precedent had been sent, people like to read about possible baby announcements on blogs. So, a year later I used that knowledge to see how many people would flock to the site for a real baby announcement. Well, that and the fact I'm always about the overhype, and felt it would be kind of fun to tease my big announcement for an hour on other social media before revealing it on my blog. But I was interested to see if a title promising a major announcement, with the possible chance it could be a baby, could herd in a large amount of readers.

Well, my little baby announcement blog post is now the fifth most viewed post ever on this blog. So yeah, people like reading about babies.

Maybe I should turn this blog into a baby announcement site. Or even turn it into a pay per visit baby announcement site. I'd make millions! MILLIONS!

Or maybe not. Considering I'm not a rabbit and don't plan on having enough babies to fill a whole blog.

But babies are high traffic magnets. They're almost as popular as cute pet pictures.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Wonderful and Amazing Life Changing Announcement

Over on Facebook and Twitter, I was promising a huge announcement on my blog. This would be that announcement.

Now, you may be thinking, "Oh good golly, Christopher got him one of those bookie deallie things!" And that would be a pretty big announcement. But it is bigger than that.

Now, you may be thinking, "Oh good golly, Christopher got him one of those flying dragons that shoots skittles out of its nose!" And that would also be a huge announcement and be really cool. But it is even bigger than that.

Now, you may be thinking, "Oh good golly, Christopher got him the answer to the Caramilk secret!" And that would also be paramount news and put an end to 30 years of lame commercials. But it is much, much, much bigger.

Now, you are thinking, "Get on with the announcement already!"


Drum roll please.

In January, I am going to be a daddy.

Yep, there will be a little Spicer running about and causing havoc to the entire world (or at least, his/her crib).

I am super excited and glad I can be responsible for my side of the family getting them titles like grandpa and grandma and uncle and aunt. I only have experience with the uncle title, but I can say it is a pretty sweet one.

But now, I get the new title of daddy. I am pretty pumped about that one.

As much as I hope to land a book deal or fly a dragon, this is a far greater and bigger thing.

I've been sitting on this news for quite bit, because really, that is my right. It is nice to finally get it out there and share something that has had me and Emily excited for a few months now.

So, I am going to do the fatherly thing now and make some money for my baby.

Check Out My Latest Collective Publishing Article

Did you wake up this morning and think, "Oh gosh, I haven't read a good article on affordable housing in a long time." Well, this is your lucky day. Because I am about to offer you exactly what you want.

I recently wrote an article on Bill 140, which is the latest act passed by the Ontario government that is designed to help provide affordable housing for everyone. The intentions of the act are excellent, because it is imperative that everyone has affordable housing (a roof over your head is nicer than dancing penguins). But this noble act also contains a few flaws as well.

So, I look at the positives and negatives of this newest legislation. If you don't know much about Bill 140, then make sure to check out the article and learn something. And if you know everything about it, then still check out my article and see if it fits with your understanding.

So, go read it and leave comments (because websites like that kind of thing). Then go tell all your friends about the article, and then you can talk about affordable housing over dinner.

When you're done reading my article, go check out some of the other amazing content on the site, because it really is one of the best new political news site on the web.

Seriously. Go read my article now.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The State of Blog (and Me) Address

You may have noticed last week that the blog was not flowing with the words. It was a little short and to the point. And the point almost always ended up being that I wouldn't really be blogging. This may have got you wondering, "Oh where oh where, did my daily blog posts go?" Well, they didn't go any where. That was sort of the point. They just stayed lodged in my brain until the right time for them to leap out and infect the world with their wordiness and rantiness.

I'll try to get away with explaining my absence in a vague but moderately satisfying way.

I've said before that this year has been a little on the hectic side. Sometimes that has meant really good things, such as being able to finally commit full time to my writing business. Other times it means hanging out on the other side of the spectrum, such as with the family emergency I've alluded to or the recent passing of dear love ones. What it has always meant, is that this has been one of the more time consuming years I've ever experienced. My work life and my personal life have both had equal amounts of the hectic and crazy. Starting out your own self employed business almost guarantees that you'll be pulling long hours and I've not been able to become the exception. My personal life has been both wonderful and tragic, but have constantly found new things to ensure I don't have too many moments of rest.

I'm not complaining. 2011 may not go down as the greatest year known to man, but it has had equal moments of awfulness and excellence.

But if you've been following me so far, you've clued in it has been a busy one.

Last week, was one of those moments that the two sides collided and I was left with a car wreck of crazy. There was a lot of personal and work debris I had to sort through, while also trying to avoid the continued traffic that was threatening to run me over. As you can see, I survived.

I not only survived, but I learned a few things. I learned that a contract is a writer's best friend. Or more so, it can be if the writer knows exactly how to read it and use it to his advantage. Or even more specifically, it is rather important to make sure you've made an agreement where you're paid for work, even if a several week long project has now been axed by the higher ups. Because not much is more of a kick in the pants than spending hours and hours of hard work for free. Actually, it can be pretty demoralizing.

But luckily, hard lessons can be followed by good news. I've likely lined up lots of new projects. As has been the case since I started, I am sure not all of them will end up panning out. Which is why I remain vague and don't want to start promoting them yet (partly due to things like non disclosure agreements). But I know, my last several months of crazy have equipped me with more knowledge and tools to help me make the proper decisions when dealing with future work. Hopefully, it will avoid more mass meltdowns.

On a similar note, I've also learned that is probably best to find out how serious a client is and how much they're willing to pay, before you spend half of your already busy day communicating with them. Landing and communicating with clients is important, but it can also be time consuming. It can start feeling like a waste if you end up behind on the paying work, and you end up not landing any real work with the chatterbox.

But that is my business side of the crazy, and that is only one part of me. My personal side is something I'll leave even more vague.

To sum it up, I've learned a good bit this last week on how to handle some of the lunacy and crazy going on in the personal part of my life. The easy way to sum it up is making sure I value and cherish the time I have with loved ones. It is key to make a proactive effort to find that quality time and enjoy the moments you have with those you love. Plus it's good to throw out that word, "I love you." And on top of that, it is nice to keep on peppering in the perspective. Life can be a very good thing, but you need to actually choose to see it that way. And live it that way.

So yeah, I am done being philosophical and vague.

Hopefully, I'll blog a bit more this week. Over the next bit, I hope to have some pretty exciting announcements to make. On top of that, I'll have my usual opinions and rants. Though since it is the summer, I can already promise you that I'll also be doing a few more disappearing acts in the coming weeks. In the mean time, I'm hoping to throw some delicious ranty goodness your way.

Now, that I am done blabbering, how are you?

Friday, July 15, 2011

And To Stick With the Ongoing Theme This Week

I'm going to continue my blog post sabbatical. Essentially, the things that have been keeping me incognito will continue to keep me that way this weekend. Don't expect too much word love this weekend. But of course, that gives you tons of time to chase frogs and invent invisibility potions, and all the other stuff people do on weekends when not reading blogs.

So, have a good one and I'll see you Monday.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

And Once Again I'm Away

Yes, I am sorry. It is yet another day of no blogging or social networking from me. I promise, this is not my new blogging strategy. I just don't promise that this strategy will evaporate if you blink 27 consecutive times while patting your head and rubbing your tummy and reciting the lines to The Princess Bride. Though, feel free to try it and see if a blog post from me suddenly appears.

Anyway, enjoy your day and I'll hopefully be back soon enough.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Craziness Revisited

It's yet another day with a steady stream of work to do and I'll be kept fairly busy, thus can't justify much social networking time. The blog will stay quiet and you'll have to play in the streets or tease cute kittens to pass your time today.

Hope your day is wonderful, and if my crazy conquering is successful, I'll stop by before the cows come home.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Off to Crazy Town

I've got a fleet of boats carrying loads of work. So much work that you could call it crazy. So much crazy that it deserves its own town. A crazy town. Since my livelihood relies on lots and lots of writing work, I am not complaining about being stuck in the centre of crazy town. But I can't stay here too long, because the money doesn't start strutting into my pocket until I've actually conquered the crazy. Or finished the work, at least. I may never be able to conquer the crazy, but that is a whole different issue.

So, I am disappearing for the rest of today. At least you now know why. I'm doing some crazy conquering (aka writing work).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Summit

Our beloved 'boy' turned 2 years old. I can't believe how quickly time has gone by. In this short time, we've already established many wonderful memories with him. We love him dearly and he is a firm part of our family. I look forward to many more years with our 95 pound energetic, lap dog.

Now, I present you a photo essay of Summit's special day.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Cheap Fun for a Good Cause

I've done some Habitat for Humanity pimping in the past, and I really believe this is a great organization that needs more attention. And if you live in the Brantford area, you'll have an opportunity to have a great afternoon of fun with the family, while also supporting this amazing organization.

On July 24th, Habitat for Humanity Brant is running a Family Fun Day. There will be oh so much fun to be had. I mean it. Real fun. Fun like scarfing down hot dogs and burgers, rocking out to quality music, bonding with clowns, and reveling in pure family fun. Best of all, you get to know you spent $10.00 that will be going towards a noble and good cause.

Do you want to know more of this great event? Why don't you mosey on over to the Habitat for Humanity Brant site.

Putting Value On Your Writing

I stumbled upon an ad the other day that absolutely sickened me. It wasn't cigarettes or an attempt to sell sex or something that will get the moral right's panties in a bunch. Instead, it was a writer who was promoting a deal where they'd write a 250 word article for $5.00. They promised they'd be able to write on any topic and that it would be of high quality.

After reading that ad, I was about to lose my lunch and have to lay down for a few minutes.

The part I was most bothered by was the fact this was an ad from an established writer. This was being promoted by a professional freelance writer that has been full time for several years now. Yet this writer felt the need to sell some work for 2 cents a word along with any necessary research (remember, they promised on any subject, which without a magic mirror or crystal ball would likely mean there would have to be some research involved).

Now, this is far from the first time that I've seen writing go for such a low rate. I'm on the online writing job boards a few times a week, and recognize they're the hub for cheapskate clients (the big money clients rarely send out job ads). I've seen offers for fifty 500 word articles for a womping $50.00 (for the entire package of articles). More often than not, I'll find companies or editors wanting work where essentially it's about 2-3 cents a word for articles. I even came across a job poster who was demanding top notch work from any applying writer, because he is offering the 'fantastic' rate of $30.00 for a 500 word article (which compared to all the previous mentioned jobs is far better).

I say that every single one of those jobs is a waste of my time and causes me to wrestle with keeping my grilled cheese sandwich down.

The more frustrating part is that there is always a writer willing to take that fifty 500 word articles for $50.00 offer. I've even read places where there is writers that say they will write anything for 3 cents a word. Or even worse, I've heard of writers willingly sell their work of fiction for a few cents a word along with all their copyrights. This means that they've essentially given away their chance to ever sell or make money on that story again (while the publisher can continually include that story in anthologies to sell over and over again).

There is a reason that many writer are surviving on Ramen noodles and barely able to make rent every month. They're stupid.

Okay, they're not stupid. Writers are probably some of the most talented and smartest people around. But it seems like many writers (along with other creative types) are not money smart. Or at least, they seem to lack the self esteem to put actual value on their writing.

Almost everyone is capable to of putting sentences down on a page and make some semblance of sense. In that case, most people can write. But if I have to, I can also cook dinner. I am capable of cooking a meal, and most people can likely make a passable grilled cheese sandwich or edible spaghetti. I can cook. But there is no way in hell that I'm ever going to open up a restaurant. This is because there isn't any way a person would be willing to pay for the concoction I'd cook up. I can cook fine, but I can't make any money off it. It takes skill to produce something that a person will pay for and then like enough to recommend it to friends and continue to return to pay for more dinners. It is a skill and a talent, especially if you want to start charging $50.00 for a single entree (and have people who feel that is worth spending money for).

I see writing the same way. Anyone can put together a sentence. Not everyone can spend 8-14 hours a day producing engaging and compelling copy. Not everyone can sit down every morning and instantly have ideas to write about. Not everyone is able to write in a way that is clear and concise. There is a skill involved in being able to effectively communicate through writing. There is defintiely a skill in being able to write in a variety of forms from ads to technical manuals to fiction to news stories to opinion pieces to business plans.

I know there is some people who aren't skilled writers but can still churn out a business plan or press release for their company. It probably takes up a huge amount of their time and they end up walking away fairly unsatisfied with it. Sort of like how I would feel after attempting a filet mignon.

Writing is a skill. It is skilled labour. It is something you need to have a talent in order to make money. It is something you have to practice. It is something that takes years of work to improve and grow. Most importantly, it is something that certain people are just better at than others.

You should be paid well for skilled labour. Its rates should not be comparable to working at McDonald's or mowing your aunt's lawn. It takes a talent and a talent that is worth a good amount of money.

$5.00 an article isn't going to rank in that kind of money. Taking a job for $50.00 for 50 articles, is definitely not going to be the road for a healthy bank account. Yet many writers are desperate for work and so they take really rotten deals.

Maybe I'm completely off, and unaware of my own lack of skill. Maybe there is writers who are the Flash of the industry and can consistently churn out an article in fifteen minute including research. Or maybe there is a writer who can throw out 50 articles in a day.

Now, I am not going to judge the quality here. I'll assume they are super talented and actually able to write a high quality and factual article (with legit sources) in 15 minutes or so. Let's look at the finances here. In the case of the writer offering $5.00 an article, they'd write 4 articles in an hour for $20.00. This is assuming they can jump right from one article to the next, and they're able to have a completely polished article in 15 minutes. If they can do it, then they've earned about $5.00 more than I did at a job that I did not need any discernible skill. Except in their job, they're self employed and now have to worry about all their own benefits and deductions. Plus there is the whole point that I can make $15.00 for a job lacking much need for a skill, but only make $5.00 more for a very skilled job (assuming you're a talented writer).

$5.00 an article isn't looking so appealing anymore, is it? Maybe it is nice if you're just writing on the side while holding down a full time job, but it isn't going to be your road to a full time wealthy writing career.

As for $50.00 for 50 articles. No matter how fast you are, I can't see how you can get this job done faster than a work day (even then, I can't see it being that possible, unless most of the articles are just rewrites of older material). Let's say you do get it done in a day. You've made $50.00 in a day's work for something that should be considered skilled labour. In my unskilled labour job, I would make over double that amount in a day. And again, since you're self employed, you have to use that same money to pay for any benefits and for taxes and such. It's looking like a pretty shitty deal, eh? Definitely not anyway you can make a living off it.

Yet these jobs exist and writers, who want a career in the business, will happily take them. For no other reason, than they apparently don't think their writing is worth more.

I don't get it. If you're a talented writer and you want to make a living off it, then you absolutely must put value on your writing. You need to believe it is good. You must trust that people will want to pay a decent rate for it. You at least need to believe you deserve to make more than the high school kid who pushes shopping carts at the grocery store. If writing is really skilled work, then you need to have the potential to make serious money.

When I say serious money, I am talking about eventually getting into six figures just like most other skilled jobs. If your writing freelance, then I realize you're likely not going to make anywhere near six figures your first few years. But you'll never even make as much as a high school student with a part time job, if you keep on going for jobs where your words are worth less than 5 cents.

It saddens me that there is so many talented individuals who devalue their hard work so much. It is probably a combination of being so desperate to find work in the field they love and just simply not wanting to make the effort to actually find the good jobs with acceptable rates. It is harder and you need to market yourself more, if you want to land jobs where you make skilled labour type money.

First, you need to realize your talents and writing is worth something. It is a skill.

Or you can just keep on writing for .08 cents a word. It at least means more high paying work for me.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

It's a Rock and Roll Loving Kind of Day

Wednesday just seems like the kind of day to show your appreciation to rock and roll. Or more specifically, your love towards classic rock. Or at least, a perfect day to distract you from the fact I got loads of work to do and won't be hanging out at the blog today.

Enjoy your self some "I Love Rock and Roll" from Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, because it's catchy and a classic. And what else would you do for 3 minutes and 41 seconds?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Yes, I'm a Writing Slut, But I Still Have Standards

I got some interesting responses from some copy I wrote a little while ago. There were many people who really loved the piece and appreciated my unbiased approach to the controversial topic, but were a little upset that I didn't go all "guns a blazing" with my opinion. They knew that I likely had a rather passionate opinion on the subject and they even had a good idea of my opinion based off previous work on this blog. So, they could not fathom why I didn't produce a venom laced tirade just like I do here on the blog.

My answer was simple. It wasn't for my blog.

One of the reasons that I love my blog, is that it is an outlet for my thoughts, emotions, and opinions. I can essentially write exactly what I want. I can share my opinions completely uncensored (for the most part). I don't need to write to any specifications or guidelines. If I have something I want to rant about, then I just rant away. Now, the downside of the blog is that I don't make a single penny on here (and yes, I know I could but don't feel the need to at this point). Since I want to be a career writer who can pay his bills and mortgage, I need to find clients that are willing to shovel money into my pockets.

The thing is, companies and editors tend to not just give their money for throwing out an opinion or putting words down on paper. They usually have a need or problem. If you can solve that need or problem, then they are more than happy to give you money in exchange. The tricky part is that you actually need to solve that problem. You need to do what it is that they asked or wanted.

In the case of this copy, there was a particular topic the company wanted covered. They wanted it covered in an impartial and balanced way. So, it would have been rather knob headed of me to then churn out a violent rage rant against the subject matter. Especially since I like to be able to call myself the home owner rather than the guy living the house owned by the bank, but I can't do that if I continue to not be paid. Believe me, if I write just the way I want then I'm likely to piss off a lot of client and see very little money.

I wrote the piece the client wanted. Just like I always do when I have client work. If you meet deadlines, are a talented writer, easy to work with, and able to meet specifications then your much more likely to get repeat work or referred to other work. Since getting paid to write is how I make a living, I enjoy constantly getting work.

I wrote the piece in an entirely impartial way and left my opinion on the matter at the door. Apparently, this upset a few people that know me, but my slightly larger bank account could care less. If the client told me they would pay me for my opinion, then I'd happily have served it up. They didn't want it, so I left it out. It was that simple.

I am sure some of you are saying, "So, this is all about the money then?" And I say, "You're damn right it is." Like I said, this is my job. Most people like to get paid at their jobs. To get paid at your job, you need to do what is asked by the one paying you. So, I do.

You may be thinking, "Aren't you worried that people may think you endorse the subject matter you wrote about?" Nope. Because again, I got my money and I think I wrote a damn good piece of copy. That is essentially all I care about in that regards.

If I do have an opinion on the subject matter that I feel must be shared, then I'll either write it here or go find a client who is willing to pay me for it. But this one wanted that type of piece and so that is what I wrote.

When it comes to this particular piece or even anything I've written so far in my career, there wasn't anything that made me feel dirty or feel that I compromised my values. No, I didn't express my view on the subject matter and maybe some readers left with the opinion that I was all for this particular thing. But to me that doesn't really matter too much. I wrote something that was balanced and left it up to the reader to figure out all the answers.

Besides, I am a rather passionate and opinionated writer. I don't think I can ever truly wipe out all my feelings and emotions. So, I do think the piece gave a small hint to where I leaned. I also know that in order to get paid, it had to be subtle and miniscule.

As I've said in the past, I know there are people that see writing as this higher power that should be this holy and spiritual experience. A writer should be creating work that is for the greater good and using this medium as a form to express their opinions. These people will likely think that anything other than that is selling out. If that is their opinion, than feel free to call me a sell out. I like being paid.

The fact is, I will write almost anything for money. I am a writing slut. If you promise to pay me a decent rate, then I'll write what it is you need. I think that standard is the reason I've been able to break into writing so quickly and start make a living out of it. I'm not picky. I'll write anything from a press release for a new media start up to a SEO article for a plastic surgeon to a sales copy letter for kitchen products to current issue news articles to short fiction to a video game manual to a fantasy novel to a how to renovate a bathroom to a small business mission statement. I'll do whatever. I believe that flexibility will keep me busy and allow me to have work for a long time. You have money, then I have the desire to write for it. I'll write it if it is exciting and I'll write it when it seems dull. As is the mentioned case, I'll write stuff I may not agree with, but still keep my opinion to myself. I'm a writing slut and my bank account is thankful for it.

Now, I said that I'll write ANYTHING. Do I really mean that? Do I not have any line that I wouldn't cross? Do I have no writing morals?

Well, I'm a slut, but one with standards.

I'll write almost everything, but I do have a line I won't cross. For example, if the previous copy was supposed to be a pro piece, then I wouldn't have wrote it. I'm not going to write an opinion piece that ever actually goes against my opinion. You won't ever see me writing any far right conservative literature that promotes the eliminations of freedoms for specific groups. Unless somthing drastically changes, you're not going to ever see an opinion piece where I rave about how Stephen Harper is the new Jesus and how his sweat is tastier than butterscotch. There are things that I'll turn down, even if the money is good.

For example, a few months back I got an offer to write some content for a entertainment website. After checking out the site, I realized their main purpose was to provide downloads to television shows and movies. As far as I could tell, it was being done in an illegal fashion (especially since most of the movies were still in theatres). As I've said before, I'm against people gaining content without paying the appropriate parties. It means the artist suffers in the long term, because the industry no longer has the money to pay them. As a writer who eventually wants to write novels, and realizes my way of making money off novels is for people to buy them, I'm opposed to the idea of piracy. So, I could not write content for that site. Just like if a cigarette company wanted me to produce some ad material, I wouldn't be able to say yes (despite the sweet money they could dangle in front of me). So, I do have standards.

I think it is important to be willing to write as much as possible. You have to be careful to not let your opinions and feelings get in the way of potential work. When it is a balance piece, I don't have much trouble writing on things that I may not fully support. I realize everyone has their own line or things that they can not write about. For me, I've been able to write on a wide variety of subjects and different styles of writing, and still been able to avoid feeling like I have compromised my morals or integrity. I know it is different for each person. I feel I've still been able to maintain my own balance between writing as much as possible but staying true to my own belief system.

Monday, July 04, 2011

To My American Friends & Readers. . .

Happy Fourth of July, and happy birthday to the good ol' USA. I wish you the exact kind of day that many Canadians had on our country's birthday, which is relaxing and enjoyable. Also hopefully you get to hear some good music and see a few things blow up into pretty colour. Because that is what a country's birthday should be all about. Enjoy the climax to your own long weekend and spend some wonderful time with loved ones.

In celebration of America's day, I decided to pull out one of the classic 80s rock anthems, Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A". And yes, I realize the song is actually about the effects the Vietnam War had on Americans, and it isn't a patriotic or even pro-America song. But it's a catchy song and I like it, and hell, most American events or celebrations seem to treat it like the country's anthem. So, why why not play it on the blog.

It could be worse, I could be playing "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World" (the other often confused for patriotism rock song).

Enjoy your day, and kick it off right with "The Boss".

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Do You Know What Sunday Means?

Well, in Canada it means the end of a delightful and splendid long weekend. But you can't be spending that time whining and moaning. Nope. You need to get out there and end this long weekend right. I plan to kick off these festivities by mowing the lawn or other random chores. But fun will be had too. Oh yes, so much fun. And you should get yourself some of that fun too.

I'm off to have fun, but I'm sure our paths will meet on Monday.

No matter where you are, enjoy your Sunday.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

This Post Contains Canada's Best Barenaked Ladies

Since yesterday was Canada's 144th birthday, it just seems appropriate to play a video of one of Canada's more well known bands. Now, I've never been a huge fan of the Barenaked Ladies (I prefer Tragically Hip as Canada's signature group), but there is a few of their songs that I dig. The Old Apartment is definitely my all time favourite Barenaked Ladies song. I probably would have liked them much more if they cut a few more tracks like this one. It's a bit more serious than there other stuff but still keeps that catchy and sing-along kind of vibe. So, let's embrace Canada for one more day and revel in some Barenaked Ladies.

Oh, and how was my Canada Day? Well, it was full of strawberry picking, hot dog eating, bike riding, rock and roll listening, funnel cake devouring and fireworks watching. So, basically everything you want out of a Canada Day. We enjoyed a lovely time at Brantford's Lion's Park, where the city put on a huge celebration. It was a really good time and a holiday well spent.

How has everyone's long weekend been so far?

Friday, July 01, 2011

And Now For Another Collective Publishing Article Written By Me

A week ago I herded you all over to the fine website The Collective Publishing, so you could read my piece on some of the historical issues that derailed the agreement between Six Nations and Brantford. I was overwhelmed by the positive response and pumped that so many people wanted to read my ramblings.

Well, I now have another piece up on the site and would love for you to check it out. A few weeks ago, I got one of the biggest breaks in my career when I was able to land an interview with Rob Ford. It was short, but I still got a pretty good perspective on the kind of man he is. Or at least, the type of Mayor he aspiring to be. So, I wrote up a quick bio piece and briefly looked at how his style of politics would fit in to the rest of Ontario. I don't try to answer if it would, but rather leave it up to reader to decide. So, why not check out the article and make your own decision.

Because after all, what better way to spend Canada Day than reading an article about a city mayor.

Happy Canada Day!

I want to wish everyone an absolutely amazing Canada Day. I hope you're all able to spend high quality time with those you love. Because a 144 year old birthday definitely deserves a big party. There are a lot of things to be happy about living in this great nation and today is exactly the day where I can proudly declare myself Canadian.

Yes, our country is flawed and has some regrettable histories (especially our dealings with First Nations), but we've done a lot of good in the world too. We don't ignore the bad, and actually, we continually to try to right it. But today is a great day to embrace all the good this country has done. And if you don't want to do that, then just enjoy the day off with all the amazing people in your life.

That is what I am going to do. I'm off to enjoy a long weekend and think you should do the same.

Happy Canada Day!

Oh yeah, for all my non-Canadian readers, hope your Friday is extra special too.