Tag Archives: meaning

10 Unique Christmas Gifts for Writers: Part 2

by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

Amaze Your Writer Friends

Punctuation, Hell, and fake websites were in the list of our first 5 gifts.  The last 5 are filled with sugar plums and the dust of ground-up elves.

Or maybe something even better.

(But seriously, who doesn’t savor the nostalgic scent of ground-up elves sprinkled lightly on sugar cookies?  So spicy, so wickedly good.  Like cinnamon, red velvet shoes, and high-pitched laughter in every, single bite. Yummy-yum.)

Gift #5  This is your life. Do what you love. And do it often.

From Core 77, I was introduced to the Holstee Manifesto Poster.

This is Your Life

It’s like someone figured out how our writer-hearts keep on beating, and wrote it down for the world to see.  Poster, $25.00.

Who is that someone?

Mike, Fabian and Dave who have a company together.

“It wasn’t about shirts and it wasn’t about their old jobs. It was about what they wanted from life and how to create a company that breathes that passion into the world everyday. It was a reminder of what we live for.”

Gift #4  Your Own Theme Song

Ever since Ally McBeal I’ve wanted my own theme song.

Dr. Tracey: You need a theme song
Ally: I need a what?!
Dr. Tracey: A theme song. Something that you can play in your head to make you feel better
Ally: Am I on one of those hidden camera shows?
Dr. Tracey: Theme songs are vital.

See?  They’re vital, I’m tellin’ ya!

And someone agrees with me. Raleigh Coaching offers MUSEic Coaching.

“Our lives can be thought of as movies with their own unique soundtrack.  YOU PICK THE GOAL | WE PICK THE MUSEic.”

Tell Santa about this.  He’s all about the jolliness of music.  And he believe in theme songs, too. That’s why there’s so many songs about him at Christmas.

Gift #3  Rain

Nothing makes me feel cozier or want to write more than the sound of rain.  You curl up inside, just you and your imagination.  A warm cuppa joe. Comfy socks.  And a writing project all your own.

It’s like you’re cut off from the world, safe, warm, and full of dreams.

(Don’t give me that look.  It’s not just me, you know.)

As the Rainy Mood website says, “Rain makes everything better.”

And it’s a free website.  Who are these generous rain lovers, anyway?

Also, there’s an app for IOS and Android (not free but for $4.99 you take the mood of cozy with you).

Gift #2 GeoPalz

Kick in the ass, anyone?  No, wait, I mean, get off your ass and walk.  No, wait, it’s just wrong to say ass on a Christmas gift list.

Yet, that’s how I think about it after I’ve been sitting in a chair writing for 8 or 12 hours a day, months on end.


Honey, it’s time to do something about your a**, and I’m so psyched about this kid’s pedometer, I can hardly stand it.  (Yes, I said it’s for kids, but we’re going to ignore that and buy it anyway.)

Okay, get this.

A) You log onto their website, track your steps, and win prizes.

B) In the “parent” role, you can buy things to put on your prize list (in addition to what’s there), and then set about winning something you care about.

C) You can create a family of other writers and cheer each other on.

D) The pedometer ($25.00 or less) is ten times better than the one I’m wearing right now.

My pedometer:

  • The buttons are easily mashed so that the steps are zeroed out randomly all day long.
  • The display is too small to see (multiple modes, can’t tell what mode I’m in).
  • The clip will barely fit over the waist of my pants.
  • It can’t be worn anywhere else.
  • It’s an ugly gray.
  • And (sob) no prizes.


  • It does a great job at counting steps.
  • The pedometer has an attached cover (no accidental resets).
  • It comes in many designs to make you feel happy when you look at it.
  • There are prizes and friends for accountability and good cheer.
  • The website is free (and free for those who don’t have Geopalz).
  • The new version 2 (out now) stores 21 days of data, so you don’t have to enter number of steps into the website each day, and it automatically resets at midnight. Plus this new version will track minutes of moderate/heavy activity, can be mounted on your hip or shoe, plus it’s waterproof!


Gift #1  Creativity Gets In Bed with Organization (ooh la la!)

Daniel Wessel at Organizing Creativity…. He’s a genius!

Daniel WHe’s figured out the thing that sinks most writers (and other creative-types): how to organize your creative process (the key to your business) so that it’s even better. And how to actually troubleshoot the Gordian knot that is a finished product.

Organize Your Creativity PosterResult?  Yes, indeed, a book of epic coolness.  You can get the pdf for free-ish.  Just pay if you find it useful.

Daniel, dude, even your pricing is creative. (I’ll be applauding with money soon!)

And the rest of Freelance-Zone readers?  Check out his blog.  It totally rocks.

I hoped I rocked your world…

…with these gift ideas. I feel like I’ve seen all the usual gifts for writers and something needed to be done about that.  We needed something unusual.

May your gift giving be inspired and worthy of ground-up elf.  Happy holidays.

clip_image001[4]Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: (1) Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and (2) Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Writing.

10 Unique Christmas Gifts for Writers

by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.


This week, Catherine embraced the Christmas Spirit of Marketing (yes, Virginia, apparently holiday goodwill can be harnessed to help you market your writing!), and I, too, must get my ho-ho-ho on.

(Yeah, I’ll wait while you realize that didn’t sound right….  )

Today, I bring you 10 gifties for you and your writer friends.  May the delight of giving lead to milk, cookies, and a  Grinch-y ”heart that grows three sizes that day.” 

#10  Punctuation Saves Lives

I think we know this deserves a t-shirt.  Why, look at that!  A t-shirt perfect for gift giving.

punctuation saves lives

This shirt is yours for $15.99 over at Cafe Press.

#9  Going Straight to Hell

Some clients, some projects—they’re hell.  Just sayin’.  Why not get a passport to make your trip easier, something that doubles as a journal for these trying times? 

Yes?  Hells, yes!

Hell Passport

Travel instructions included.  Just $2.95 at The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild.  Wild site.  Fabulous gifts.

#8  Everything is Better if It Looks Like a Book

I sob at the practical nostalgia of BookBook, a case/wallet for your iPhone.

Book Book for Iphone

I found it at that gift-giving-extravaganza that is Amazon, just $59.95 for iPhone 4 & 4 S, same for the new Iphone 5.  Suddenly you’re not working, you’re spending quality time with books.  Totally different.

#7  Old Book Smell

Many of us fell in love with writing as a child, in a dark musty library (one of the 2,509grand structures built by the Carnegies, no doubt, where the motto “let there be light” made every reader feel heroic).

If you miss that good ol’ musty book smell, good news, you can buy it and successfully make the transition to electronic books smell intact.

Smell of Books

Smell of Books offer Classic Musty and New Book Smell for $9.99 each.

But be careful.

Please use in well ventilated area.

May cause dizziness and hallucinations. May cause itching and runny nose.

If symptoms persist for longer than eight weeks please consult your physician.

Not for use on “real” books.

Do not use while riding public transportation.

Discard empty container with hazardous waste.

Not for use as a room deodorizer.

Not for use on burning books.

Do not use on a Zune.

Keep away from the Kindle Fire!

(Plus, it’s not a real product. But the hilarity of this site alone should inspire you to pen your own faux site as a Christmas gift to those you love.  Or even customers and readers.  Everyone needs a good laugh for Christmas.)

#6  Paint a White Board on Your Wall

IdeaPaint is proof science makes the world a better place. Proof, I say!


It comes in clear, white, and black.  Enough to cover 50 sq. ft. is $225.00; 100 sq. ft. is on sale for $315.00 (for clear).

I found this goodness at an equally awesome site called Idearella: Creating Glass Slipper Ideas in a Wicked Stepsister World. Their 2010 list of Christmas Gifts is super-awesome-sauce.


clip_image001[4]Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: (1) Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and (2) Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Writing.

3 Massive Goals for Writers (Move Over NaNoWriMo): Part 3

by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

Insanity of Epic Achievement

Writing a book in a month (NaNoWriMo, the World-Wide National Novel Writing Month of November) isn’t the only insanity of epic achievement in the house. I’m giving you 3 other massive goals that you can take on, mano a mano, if novel writing isn’t your thang.

So far, we talked about…

1. Create your own Writer’s Manifesto.

2. Put together your Leonardo de Vinci-style “mastery” resume.

And today, I’m going to bring the real pain.

3. Create a Big Hairy Audacious (Marketing) Goal.

First, a word about big, hairy audacious goals and what they mean. BHAGs is a term created by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book entitled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.

This is not just a big goal or an important goal.

This goal is about being the visionary of something that doesn’t exist. It’s about being ambitious on a big playa scale and finding those long-term goals (not just a month long, you NaNo people!) that, as Jim says in an INC interview, “galvanize successful companies.”


Not motivate. Not lead to success. Not “make logical sense.” But galvanize, as in skewer the hearts and mind of people and echo in their heads as they march off into battle for a war that will last years.

That’s the kind of goal we’re talking about.

As John Corcoran says of his BHAG, “I didn’t know how it would go – and I don’t know how it will end.” He’s saying he might fail.

I point this out because most of us don’t set goals we won’t meet. We’re taught not to fail.

Time to take a risk.

But BHAGs are about taking on the “worthwhile but potentially impossible” even though you might fail. Why? Uh, because it’s worthwhile. Because as we search for meaning in our lives and careers, those choice of “good enough” versus great is up to us.

A Handy Example of BHAG:

In this short interview, Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, talks about why he has an 100 year goal.

Now, let’s talk about you.

One of the columns I write here at Freelance-Zone is called Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Writing. And here’s what I know:

1. You hate marketing.

2. You’ll do as little as possible.

3. You’ll fumble around doing what other writers or business owners do.

4. You’ll never blow anyone away with your skill, your strategy, or your innovation.

So change that.

Set a BHAG.

Become a marketing superstar who masters the skills and invents a campaign so successful, so original, it’s copied for decades to come by other writers.

Now that’s worthwhile.

Find your galvanizing, marketing goal. Be a visionary. Inspire. Infuse your writing and your marketing with passion. Reach your readers in a way that makes them gasp with delight. Become known on an international scale.

And decide right now to create something magnificent and full of meaning to replace everything you dread about marketing.

And then do it.

clip_image001[4]Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: (1) Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and (2) Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Writing.

3 Massive Goals for Writers (Move Over NaNoWriMo): Part 2

by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

Thousands of writers around the world are taking on National Novel Writing Month (November), where you write an entire novel in a month.

It’s one massive goal.  It’ll shake you up and jumpstart your creativity and your career. 

Well, I’ve got 3 other massive goals that could be just as epic. If NaNo isn’t your thang, check out one of these.

Last week I encouraged you to Create a Writer’s Manifesto.  This week? Your massive goal is to go head-to-head with Leonardo De Vinci, the Big Guy.


.Josh Mings, over at SolidSmack, wrote about the awesomeness that is Leonardo De Vinci’s resume.  Apparently the Big Guy actually had to write up his skills and sell his ideas and abilities to his royal patrons.

In other words, he had to first get hired.


So, here’s this week’s Big Massive Goal.  Write a resume as if you are the Leo De Vinci of your field.  Feature the skills, ideas, and abilities you WILL have once you reach that status.

Leo didn’t start off a

  • painter,
  • sculptor,
  • architect,
  • musician,
  • scientist,
  • mathematician,
  • engineer,
  • inventor,
  • anatomist,
  • geologist,
  • cartographer,
  • botanist, and
  • writer.

He had to gain those skills and master them first.  So project yourself into your own future. 

What does your resume look like AFTER you’ve mastered all the skills you need to be a living legend?

What are your skills, traits, abilities, ideas, influences, moments of genius, hidden accomplishments, strokes of brilliance, and shining moments?

What would your writing life look like if it were so “out there,” so stratospheric, that it was studied by students of writing for the next 500 years?

Write that.

And then make it true.


clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.

3 Massive Goals for Writers (Move Over NaNoWriMo)

by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

Sometimes you need a massive goal, the kind that requires heroics and gives your life meaning. The kind that kickstarts your efforts and launches you to victory with immediate results.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where you write a 50,000-word book in one month.


Polished?  Er, no. 

A messy first draft?  Hells yes.

In honor of this prime example of Massive Goal-ness, I bring you 3 equally massive goals you might not have considered… but you should!

1. Create a Writer’s Manifesto

Why?  It’s a rallying cry for your career, your passion, and your intent to succeed.

I first became aware of the awesomeness of modern manifestos when I read Chris Guillebeau’s Art of Non Conformity website

This, I thought, is what life can be like.  This is the power of words.

He’s added a second manifesto, and you can read them both here:

Want to read more about creating a manifesto?  Read these articles:

And check out Jeff Goin’s e-book: The Writers Manifesto.


clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.

3 Wildly Creative Outlines for Writers

 Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery by Diane Holmes, Chief Alchemist of Pitch University

But I hate outlines!

No, we’re not talking an outline with numbers and letters and 13 levels of indention.  That’s linear stuff.  It’s so old school.

We’re talking about how to harness the power of our nonlinear brains, our creativity, our sparks of inspiration and our leaps of understanding.  How do you make sense of that on paper?

By using wildly creative outlines, of course.

Mind Maps

Most of you already know about mind maps.  It’s a way of taking notes and learning, but also a way of organizing a tsunami of thought (the brainstorm) that’s visual, colorful, and full of POW.

mind map

Tony Buzan camp up with Mind Mapping in the late 1960’s, and his resources are still the best around.   How to Draw a Mind Map.  A sampling of available tools.


A timeline is an invaluable thing for novelists as we often need to know exactly who is doing what in every, single scene, over the entire length of story-time.


In some genres, this is an incredibly complex task, as you’re juggling dozens of characters, each acting independently, over days or even years.

But even more important to the logic of a novel is to capture who KNOWS exactly what at each critical moment in time.  And often what a character thinks he or she knows isn’t even true.  So, based on events so far, what does he or she they know?

Now do that for each character in every scene AND for all the scenes that actually happen off stage.  Often characters are buy plotting against each other and the reader doesn’t see what’s happening, only the effects on down the line.

Well, the writer has to see what’s happening!  We’re not the god of our universe for nothing!

So, for this type of complexity, you need a timeline that allow you to capture overlapping data.

What makes this a creative way of outlining is the way you can visually see how things overlap while factoring in time.

  • Take a look at MIT’s open-source SIMILE widgets, specifically Timeline.
  • Documentation here.  “There is no package to download. These widgets are hosted on simile-widgets.org. All you need to do is link to them in your web page. That’s it.”

IDEA:  You probably have a website (even if you call it a blog).  Create a page that is either hidden or secured by password (very easy to do in WordPress).  Insert the Simile Timeline widget on this page.  Then go to town!

BONUS:  You can use Timelines to try out ideas and see if things work!  It’s a clever way of inserting a new idea, and then tracking the ripple effect that it generates.

The Critical Path

Are all events equally important?  Does every character and every scene hinge on each event or only some… or one?

Welcome to the concept of the Critical Path.

critical path eggs

There are thousands of events in a novel, and yet they don’t all have the same importance (weight), and that’s important to novelists.

Related to the issue of importance is “what must happen in order of this event to occur?” and “what can happen now that this event is complete?”  This is the essence of cause an effect, action and reaction.

It’s these questions that lead you to PLOT.  Plus, in novels these events also intersect with character goals, motivations, conflict, backstory, and so on.

You need to know all this.  But more importantly, you need to play with all this.

Most software that is aimed at finding the Critical Path falls under the topic of Project Management, and uses Gantt charts to visual show tasks.

excel-gantt-chart-MF_large Nothing sucks the fun out of writing more than a Gantt Chart.  And I don’t necessarily recommend this type of project software because of the learning curve.  However, if charts and columns are your thing, go for it.  (A good place to start is to grab an Excel temple.)

Instead, I recommend using your non-technical set of markers, a sense of humor, and a piece of paper.

Here are some examples for inspiration:

The Plot of The Princess Bride via MyLiteraryQuest

(see large here):


J. K. Rowling’s Plot Notes via Jacqui Murray’s WorldDreams:

handwritten plot notes

Finding your plot and critical path using a rug (with horizontal lines) and post-it notes via Jason Webster’s Blog.

postit note plotting

Free Project Management Critical Path software.

More Resources for Creative Outlines:

Mother Of All Visual and Creative Mapping Sources.

Periodic Table of Visual Organization and Maps

clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.