Thursday, August 28, 2008

Time Flies

I just received a catalog from a company that is trying to sell me stickers to put on my written business correspondence. My first thought when I saw the envelope was I hardly do any written business correspondence anymore, so I certainly don’t need stickers. My second thought was why are they sending me stickers? I haven’t bought anything from them in years.

The sample stickers said “Bobbi Linkemer & Co. Celebrates 20th Anniversary.” Twenty years? Can that be true? It is true, I realize, or it will be on January 1, 2009. My third thought was something like time flies when you’re having fun.

I wasn’t aware as the years passed that they were flying. At times, I could have sworn they were not even moving. But they have definitely elapsed, and I had a handful of totally useless, shiny stickers in various shapes and sizes to attest to that fact.

What had I been doing for 20 years? Well, surviving for one thing. The financial ups and downs were often as unsettling as a roller coaster ride. Some years were in the clouds; others barely kept from crashing into the ground. And there was no predicting what was coming next.

Reinventing myself took a lot of my time. I had so many identities over two decades, sometimes, I didn’t recognize myself. Every time I felt I had a handle on what clients wanted, they wanted something completely different. It’s called market demand, and a freelance writer had better meet it or perish. Perishing was not an option.

Wearing all the hats — technician, entrepreneur, and manager, in the words of David Gerber in The E-Myth Revisited – occupied all of my time. The problem is that few of us are good at all three; and, if you can’t do it, you have to hire someone who can, which brings us back to the roller coaster metaphor.

This is a pretty superficial assessment of my two decades as an independent writer, but I have four more months to contemplate what I did right, what I did wrong, and what I would do if I could do it all over again. In the meantime I’m designing an online sticker-style icon that says “Bobbi Linkemer & Co. Celebrates 20th Anniversary.” Then I’m going to plan the party.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Words to Write By

The summer is over … or practically over, anyway. A minute ago it was Memorial Day; suddenly, I’m staring Labor Day in the face (I still haven’t bought a barbeque grill!), and what do I have to show for it besides a tan and an improved flutter kick?

But I’m not being fair. Since my life is measured by statistics — my rankings on Google and Yahoo, marketing strategies that pay off, and number of words written, articles published, and books sold — I have accomplished quite a bit. This has been a summer of writing. In fact, I don’t seem to be able to stop.

It is hard to explain this obsession to people who think they can’t write, would rather die than write, or know they can write but hate doing it. As I tried to think of something profound to say, I decided to seek some help from noted writers past and present. Here are some observations that really resonated.

“If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual writing, then the desire is not to write.” Hugh Prather

"There is no perfect time to write. There's only now." Barbara Kingsolver

"A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage." Sydney Smith

“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly: sometimes it's like drilling rock.” Ernest Hemingway

"Writing itself is an act of faith.” EB White

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage — as long as you edit brilliantly.” C. J. Cherryhr

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything good.” William Faulkner

“Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say.” Sharon O'Brien

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.” Isaac Asimov

"The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes." Agatha Christie

"You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke." Arthur Polotnik

May you be as inspired as I am by these words.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Fifth Edition: Five Times Tougher Than the First

The good news is that my little book, How to Write a Nonfiction Book: From Concept to Completion in 6 Months, is selling on Amazon and my website. The other day I counted my remaining copies and realized it is time to start thinking about the next edition. That’s about all it took; I haven’t thought about anything else since then. The seed was planted.

So, I packed up my new MacBook and went off to my latest dog-sitting gig, full of ideas for what I might add to the content. It seems the longer I teach, the more I realize how much I have to learn. The article sites I contribute to are goldmines of information, new perspectives, and advice on how to get from your first book-thought to your first book-signing. I read other people’s wisdom and find myself newly inspired. There is so much to share with aspiring authors who buy my book or sit in my classes.

Every time I revise what was once a pretty thin eight-and-a-half-by-eleven-inch workbook that focused primarily on how to write a book proposal, I add more to the other key aspects of writing, publishing, and promoting a nonfiction book. There are so many good books and so many experts, it’s a bit intimidating to publish what I want to say. Yes, it’s true; even veteran writers feel that way!

The first questions I ask myself are what do authors want to know? What are my students, clients, and book buyers asking me, and have I answered their questions in this book? I look for gaps in the text, and I find them. Why do I have to write a proposal? Do I need an agent? How do I find one? What should I send to a publisher? What is involved in writing a memoir? What’s the difference between POD publishing and self-publishing? And on and on.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a member of my writers’ group with her query letter to a publisher attached. “What do you think?” she wanted to know. “Let me get my thoughts together,” I wrote back and immediately set off on a research and writing journey that culminated in an article, as well as a new section for my book. This was undoubtedly much more than she ever wanted to know; but, when I tried to answer her question, I realized I didn’t really know enough about book query letters to do so.

The first edition of my little book was easy as pie to write; the second a little more difficult; and so on. It has taken me five editions to realize that the best way to learn about your subject is to write about it. I am dedicating this book — if I ever finish it — to my writers group, students, clients, and book buyers. Thank you all for continuing to ask questions I can’t answer without some serious thought.