Tag Archives: advice for writers

How to Get 10 Percent More Productive

It’s summer and you’d rather be at the beach than looking out the window. daydream

Here’s help from Robert W. Bly, an author you maybe familiar with. Bly has written over 75 books, and is known as “America’s top copywriter.” He share some of his productivity tricks in “Make Every Second Count: Time Management Tips and Techniques for More Success with Less Stress.

Are you ready to move beyond to-do lists, and banish your bad habits?

Here are a few of the suggestions in Bly’s book that can help almost any writer. They stem from his ten percent solution …

1. Add 10% more productive hours to your day. Find your time wasters and put those non-essential tasks aside. Work another half-hour instead.

2. Get 10% more energy. This won’t work every day, but sometimes all we need is a walk around the block, or a few invigorating exercises to keep going another hour at the task at hand.

3. Think 10% faster. I like this one, because I’m often a lazy-brain when I get overwhelmed with researching an article or editing a manuscript. Bly says we can get something solved faster with sharper thinking. Here is a paraphrased example: Identify the problem, assemble pertinent facts, gather general knowledge, look for combinations, use checklists, get feedback, team up with others, etc.  In other words, don’t stay stuck. Get moving on the problem and spark a solution.

4. Make your brain think 10% faster. Did you know that “brain decay” begins around age 35 and accelerates dramatically when you reach age 50? The solution involves steps you can do daily: focus on good nutrition, physical and mental exercise to keep the wheels turning and keep your brain sharp.

5. Speed up your reading by 10% or more. Writers read all day long, and we can get bogged down reading online, clicking from one thing to another in today’s information explosion. Bly suggests you figure out what matters to you now; focus on that, and make notes to refer back to other ideas. For things that matter less, such as magazine articles, try to read faster. A 10% improvement today, says Bly, will multiply the value in your life many times over.

BIO: Helen Gallagher shares her advice and ideas on small business and technology at Freelance-Zone.com. Her books and blogs are accessible through www.releaseyourwriting.com. She is a member of ASJA, Small Publishers Artists & Writers Network, and several great Chicago-area writing groups.

Social Media’s Gender Divide

onlinescrnMost would agree, women talk more than men, so perhaps it won’t surprise you that social media is largely a female bastion  — It sometimes seems like a barren wasteland of men.

Turns out though, men have their own conversation style, so they tend to stay clustered with other men; just as women like friending and chatting with their female peers.

Gender Demographics in Writers

Perhaps this is just natural, and follows other trends; such as male’s history of earning higher wages than females, and more top journalists are male. Most top authors are male, too, and a handful of the top blogs are by men, but they don’t seem to work at staying visible like women often do.

Even book reviewers, I’ve recently learned, are more males than females. The New York Times, for example, in a 2010 statistic showed reviews by male authors totaled 524, and only 283 by females. Similar disparities exist for male/female writers at The Atlantic.


Pin Agency, a California marketing firm, calls this “Mars and Venus in the Blogosphere,” where Technorati ranked top blogs. No.1 was Arianna Huffington’s The Huffington Post (which is actually a liberal news website and not really a blog per se) as its most influential blog but only one other blog (Dooce) owned by a woman, was among the 30 top-earners.

On a lighter note, they quote:

There are more male bloggers because of the so-called male answer syndrome (MAS), which apparently is the tendency of dudes to always have an opinion, even in subjects that they know little or nothing about. “Guys seek thrills and speed. They go for the adrenalin rush. They get pumped by going higher, faster, farther than anyone else. They want lots of action and instant gratification. That’s also why guys like blogging – instant opinions, and lots of them. Men clearly have an urge to blog that women lack,” says The Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente.

Pinstripes on Pinterest

And Pinterest?  Forget about finding men there. Over 80 percent of current users in the U.S. are female. In the U.K., the balance flips, with only 44 percent female, and the 66 percent of males who do use Pinterest are wealthier.

Foursquare.com has long been known as a man cave, with 80 percent male users, but the company says it is now trending to 60/40 male/female users.

Dig around if this gender divide is of interest to you. Now that we’re aware of this difference, we can aim to become more inclusive. We can write in a voice that appeals to both genders. Remember, too, on social media, that we have friends of both genders so our comments and updates should be of interest to both.

Write… no excuses

With only 26 letters in the English alphabet, why are there days when we just can’t get the words out?

The poet, Mary Oliver, says: “The voice is working in us all the time. You have to be there when you have promised.”

The work of a writer requires true dedication to the art and craft of what we do. That sense of commitment is what sustains us when we are battling deadlines or slogging through long manuscripts. We’re in this for the long haul and it can get tiresome.

What to do?
1. First, honor your commitment. One way or another you’ve got to get the words out, meet the deadline, and turn in good work.

2. Change your focus. When I recently felt I could not edit a manuscript for one more minute, I switched to indexing which felt like play-time. It was so easy to handle a clerical task just for a while. And the sense of accomplishment made it easier to drag myself back to page 183, knowing I was at least half-way done with the editing.

3. Trick yourself. Use a timer, break your task into small manageable goals, or raid the candy jar. Just break the cycle for a minute or two and get back to work.

4. Exercise. WebMD notes that exercise is the best remedy for fatigue.
“It’s now been shown in many studies that once you actually start moving around — even just getting up off the couch and walking around the room — the more you will want to move, and, ultimately, the more energy you will feel,” says Robert E. Thayer, PhD, a psychology professor at California State University, Long Beach, and author of the book Calm Energy: How People Regulate Mood With Food.

bikeIn a study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics in 2008, University of Georgia researchers found that inactive folks who normally complained of fatigue could increase energy by 20% while decreasing fatigue by as much as 65% by simply participating in regular, low-intensity exercise.

Thayer says that many Americans, particularly “achievement-oriented Type A people” have “tense energy” — an effective state that allows you to get lots of work done, but that can quickly move into tense-tiredness, a negative state often associated with depression.

On the other hand, what he calls “calm energy” is a combination of a high physical and mental energy level, paired with low physical tension. It is this state, he says, that offers more long-lasting energy. And, he says, it can be achieved with the right kind of exercise.

“What summarizes the relationship best is moderate exercise — like a 10- or 15-minute walk — has the primary effect of increased energy, while very intense exercise — like working out at the gym, 45 minutes of treadmill — has the primary effect of at least temporarily reducing energy, because you come away tired,” he says.

BIO: Helen Gallagher blogs at Freelance-Zone.com to share her thoughts on small business and technology. She writes and speaks on publishing. Her blogs and books are accessible through www.releaseyourwriting.com. Helen is a member of ASJA, Small Publishers Artists & Writers Network, and several great Chicago-area writing groups.

Why Every Freelance Writer Needs a Graphic Design Partner

I’ve always believed that every freelance writer needs a graphic design partner — or better yet, a few of them that specialize in print, digital, and different industries. Today was Exhibit A: I was enjoying lunch on a restaurant patio with a former co-worker from my in-house custom publishing days when my phone buzzed in my pocket. I ignored it. It buzzed again a few minutes later, and I pulled it out and took a surreptitious glance at who was calling.

It was one of my top-tier clients. As soon as my friend and I shook hands and parted ways, I dialed up voicemail, and the panic in my client’s voice was clear: Her graphic designer bailed on her at the last minute, leaving her with an unfinished newsletter that absolutely, positively needed to get printed before she hopped on a plane for a trip. Eight pages, 12-hour turnaround.

Did I know any Adobe InDesign freelance whizzes who could help her out in an emergency?

Luckily, there were a few specific candidates that came to mind, and I called her and said I’d do what I could. My first local possibility was already swamped, but I pitched her on the basis that: 1) The client is super easy to work with, 2) it’s a fast-growing company and would likely lead to additional, high-paying jobs, and 3) if she heard the detailed specs and didn’t think she could do it, no harm done.

Honestly, though, I knew she was going to pull it off…because she always does. In short, my tight relationship with an exceptional graphic designer accomplished two key things:

  • Instant hot referral to a lucrative freelance contact going forward.
  • Made me look like a hero to an important client.

It only took one quick phone call, but the reality is that the relationship has been more than a decade in the making—reliability, trust, and responsiveness don’t get built overnight. If you don’t already have go-to people in complimentary freelance disciplines…what are you waiting for?

In the comments: Writers, has a graphic designer ever bailed you out? Graphic designers, has a freelance writer ever improved an important client relationship?

Jake Poinier blogs regularly as Dr. Freelance and runs a Phoenix-based editorial services firm, Boomvang Creative Group.

Seth Godin: on reality

I don’t know what it takes to become a ‘guru’ anymore, in this age of overnight sensations. But Seth Godin is indeed a freelancer’s guru. Author of many powerful books, some of which he gives away, Godin gets to the point of making money as a writer. He reminds us that it requires patience to succeed, to build a career, to make good money. He should know: He’s written a dozen best-selling books, now translated into 33 languages!


We read all about ways to work smarter, save money, do faster research,  get more assignments, but we don’t all have the sense of commitment required to stick to our genius plans. We might rev up for a few days and then get distracted, waste time reading, cafe hopping, and fall back into the idle time waiting for the next assignment to fall from the sky. If you want someone you can turn to in a flash, visit Seth Godin’s blogs, download his ebooks, learn from him, and find a simple path to staying focused and getting ahead without falling backwards again, time after time.

He believe that if you’re patient, success comes, but it is drip, drip, drip, and then the last drip proves once and for all that you were doing the right thing all along.

It still takes ten years to become a success, web or no web. The frustrating part is that you see your tactics fail right away. The good news is that over time, you get the satisfaction of watching those tactics succeed right away.

Get a free copy of some of Seth Godin’s books here. Some of his minimalist wisdom is meant for speed reading, other notions will stay with you forever, such as this piece on getting things done,

The key to the reinvention of who you are, then, is to become someone who ships (as in ‘get the work out’). The goal is to have the rare skill of actually getting things done, making them happen and creating outcomes that people seek out.

If you are in need of immediate motivation, download the PDF of his Bootstrapper’s Bible here.  It includes a manifesto you can tape to your bathroom mirror. Feel better now?

BIO: Helen Gallagher blogs at Freelance-Zone.com to share her thoughts on small business and technology. She writes and speaks on publishing. Her blogs and books are accessible through www.releaseyourwriting.com. Helen is a member of ASJA, Small Publishers Artists & Writers Network, and several great Chicago-area writing groups.

Build Your Online Platform Now

If you’re launching a freelance career or getting ready to wow us with a break-out novel, don’t wait to start building your platform. All authors need a platform as a way to reach readers, but it can also help you sell your book to an agent, attract attention for interviews, guest appearances…. and other wonderful things that bring more money your way. Getting accepted for freelance assignment is easier when you can direct an editor to a page bursting with clips and ideas.


With your website or blog as the core of your platform, widen your connection by linking your blog posts to Facebook, tweeting about new posts, and connecting with others through the dizzy array of online portals.  Most success with social media requires we give more than we take. So spend a few minutes each week boosting someone else’s work too, by leaving a comment, or writing an online review of a good book.

To keep your traffic growing, don’t let your loyal readers get bored when they visit your blog. Have fresh material at least once a week, and include photos, links and quotes. That’s what we’re used to seeing when we read a magazine, and you want your visitors to get the full reading experience whenever they stop by.

If you’d like to get better referrals from Facebook, consider setting up a Facebook Page, rather than asking professionals in the writing industry to visit your Facebook personal profile. Create a free page at facebook.com/pages, for your freelance business. To begin, you must already have an existing personal profile. This is a quick way to display your writing portfolio.

Unlike a personal Facebook profile, your business page should have a service and information component, not personal chatter. A Facebook page acts more like a website, and in fact, can take the place of a website if you put some time into structuring it. There are loads of templates at the Facebook site. The page design has pre-installed features to get you started and you can include add-ons for a guestbook, clips of your work, and even promote your books. This is a professional way to display your portfolio and let editors see that you’re savvy in social media – another plus in getting hired today.

What goes around comes around, so get visible out there and share some energy!

BIO: Helen Gallagher joined Freelance-Zone.com to share her thoughts on small business and technology. Her blogs and books are accessible through www.releaseyourwriting.com. She is a member of ASJA, Small Publishers Artists & Writers Network, and several great Chicago-area writing groups.