Those who read my last blog post, How to Kick-Start Your Writing Day, about establishing a morning Power Hour routine, will recall I talked about spending 20 minutes of that hour listening to podcasts in order to get inspired and motivated to work. This got me thinking about the way people prefer to connect these days, and how useful audio could be to my own business as well as its benefits for indie author brands.
Benefits for listeners
Benefits for indie authors
My audio setup experience
Last week I decided to dip my toes into the audio pond - well, dived right in actually - by purchasing my own equipment. And I did so with a few ideas in mind as to how audio might work for me:
Microphone – Fifine Studio USB Condenser Microphone Plug and Play £21.99 Amazon
Adjustable Stand – Aceletronic Desktop Suspension Arm Stand £10.50 Amazon
Filter – WANWAY MU-7 Microphone Swivel Pop Filter £3.47 Amazon
Audacity – Audio production & recording software, free download
Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 – Video creation software (screencasts), free download
It’s early days in the process but so far setting up the equipment has been straightforward and the basics of the software relatively easy to pick up. The microphone and stand arrived within 2 days of ordering and with only a little wrangling were soon attached discreetly to the edge of my office desk. The microphone doesn’t fit easily into the stand – I’m either missing a connection piece or the mic is simply the wrong fit for this stand; as a result – and due to my stubborn persistence! – I now have a small split in the stand’s plastic mic holder. But it is at least in there snugly and it works. If you decide to purchase your own audio equipment, you might want to bear this in mind as you shop. The stand, though, is now ideally placed to be pulled towards me and into position when needed, but also folds back nicely against the wall when not in use.
I’m still currently waiting for the Pop Filter to be delivered, and this is definitely needed as there is obvious distortion when talking quite close to the mic. The further away from the mic I get, however, the more it sounds as if I’m in a very long tunnel. So there’s still some work to be done yet on experimenting with sound levels, but all in all the sound quality is better than expected, and I’d say it is possible to be set up and using the equipment within only a few hours.
I use Windows 10 on my PC and I'm pleased to report all software downloaded without issue, and the plug and play mic installed instantly. My website is published via Weebly, which allows me two options for adding audio – either to pay an extra monthly fee to embed audio and HD video files on it, or to embed them via YouTube which is free of charge. Again, it’s early days in the process, so I will need to assess exactly what purpose audio will serve on my website and potentially experiment with both methods (paid and YouTube) to judge what the most effective method is. I’ll be doing this over the coming weeks and months, and will post a follow-up blog to this effect in due course.
As with everything, audio may or may not be for you. Perhaps you prefer video (easy to create and upload; you want people to see your face), or maybe you’re still happier with the written word. What’s most important is what feels right for you – there’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer, and there’s nothing to stop you getting creative in your methods either. Or, do as I do, test the waters: give audio a go and see how you feel about it. If it doesn’t work out, you haven’t wasted too much time or money (I spent less than £40 in total). But if it does work out, you’ve found a quick and easy way to reach out to your audience.
If you get to like (or at least withstand) the sound of your own voice, then podcasts open up a myriad of opportunities for your indie author business: think interviews with your fellow author colleagues, with editors, with book designers; or a chat about your last book, your upcoming one, other authors you admire and books you love... The list is endless, but all offer the opportunity for your reading audience and/or your writing colleagues to get to know you a little better and make that all-important connection.
I’m not going to lie, my biggest issue now is getting over the sound of my own voice! It’s become apparent that the voice in my head is not the one that comes out of my mouth (heck, I’m older and more Welsh than I thought I was!). But for now at least I’ll persevere because I know a) it could allow me to help more indie authors, b) it adds new skills to my repertoire, and c) I might finally accept that I’m Welsh and getting old! If you too decide to take the plunge, let me know how you get on. Or, if you’re an indie author who is already way ahead of me on this one and you have some useful tips and advice, please don’t hesitate to share them in the Comments below.
What follows is a tongue-in-cheek but annoyingly true list of assumptions and insinuations about writing life. Feel free to print & paste in an obvious place to ward off such irritations (i.e. forehead). Also applies to any other creative profession, particularly those carried out from home (believe me, I know and I understand!).
Power-up with the Authorpreneur Power Hour
Remember that first morning of your budding author career when you bounded out of bed at 5am, knocked back your freshly squeezed avocado juice, brewed a vat of coffee, filled your flask, and then sat down to work at your desk with all the fervour of a pumped-up Rafa on French Open Final day? You do? Well, now you're into the second week and the routine is starting to feel a little jaded, isn’t it?
The fact of the matter is that getting up at 5am is impractical, you keep running out of fresh avocados, and the caffeine overload is making you queasy. Then there’s the kids to get ready for school, the washing basket glaring accusingly at you (well, if you will choose to work from home), the postman who has you pinned as the new drop-off point for the entire neighbourhood, plus you’ve only got until 3pm before the kids are back home again. With all this going on, there's just no way you can get 'in the zone'. So just how are you going to see this thing through when the romantic idea of writing life clearly doesn't align with the reality?
What I’d like to share with you now is kind of personal. It's my very own ‘get out of bed and get your backside in gear’ morning routine. In my house, I’m notoriously NOT a morning person. If you want to get any sense out of me – or even just whole words – you’re going to have to wait until at least after 1pm. By the evening, I’m on top form. In an ideal world (e.g. when the kids have left home), I would sleep through the day and work through the night, but - like you - my reality dictates otherwise. So what follows is the routine I use to ensure I get to my desk with enthusiasm every single morning...
I call it my Creative Entrepreneur Power Hour. Feel free to adapt this title, or use any version of it. My Hour starts when the kids leave for school, and goes like this:
20 minutes of yoga.
Bear with me... Please don’t complain that I’ve started with exercise. It’s only 20 minutes, and you can choose whatever form you prefer, from running to star jumps to walking the dog or gentle stretching. Whatever your exercise of choice, this first 20 minutes of your Power Hour is dedicated to your PHYSICAL self. It means you don’t have to think or make any important decisions just yet. You are just paying attention to your physical being – getting the limbs moving, the heart pumping and the blood flowing.
20 minutes of affirmations.
Bear with me again... What I mean by this is reminding youself what your goals are for the coming years, for this year, this month, this week, today. My own goals are handwritten in a notepad in a way that allows me to revisit my aims for the short term as well as the long term. These are clear goals with clear intentions. I have refrained from calling them ‘dreams’ because this implies they may never be real; they are particular aims with concrete deadlines. Short-term goals lead to long-term ambitions and the timescale and methods are explained, as are my reasons for choosing these goals. Now, sometimes the goalposts move slightly or change completely; this is not heresy: just get back to your notebook and jot down your new intentions.
If you haven’t yet done this kind of self-assessment and goal-setting, you’ll need to do this before you begin your Power Hour experiment because it could take a while to compile. Choose a notepad or journal that you will use only for this purpose. Take your time and begin by assessing what you’d like to achieve, why you’d like to achieve it, what difference it will make to your life, what steps you’ll need to take and when you’ll take them. Once you have this written down, your 20 minutes every day of reading through or reading aloud these affirmations will remind you of the feeling you will get when you hit these targets. As these are life goals, this section of your Power Hour tends to your EMOTIONAL self.
20 minutes of inspiration. (This is the best bit...)
After 20 minutes of PHYSICAL and 20 minutes of EMOTIONAL attention, you can sink into your office chair and prepare for 20 minutes of MENTAL stimulation. Now, you could argue that this crosses over into the EMOTIONAL aspect, but I’d say this final section will motivate you so much that when your Power Hour is up, you’ll be ready to engage the brain and jump into action. All you need to do here is listen...
That’s right, I’m talking podcasts. There’s nothing that inspires writers more than learning about other writers’ success stories. This is because writing is a tough game. Mostly you do it alone so you’ve no way of knowing if you’re doing it right; plus you’re living with this overwhelming cloud of expectation from other people; and that’s not even to mention Writer’s Guilt, Writer’s Imposter Syndrome, Writer’s Block, Writer’s Am I Wasting My And Everyone Else’s Time? You name it, writers feel it. But just one success story can put you back on track: just one other person who has been where you are, who ‘gets’ it, who struggled like you struggle, but who made it through to the end and has now created the life they wanted, just as you want to.
Well, here’s the good news: there isn’t just one success story, there are thousands of them (and thanks to self-publishing, there are more and more every day). Not only that, but a large majority of these successful creative entrepreneurs are more than happy to share their experiences in order to help you win big in your career too.
So, why podcasts? Because you will spend all day looking at words; because listening to that person’s voice makes them more real than reading about them in an article; and because you’re more likely to remember and be influenced by what you hear them say than what you read. It's just like they're in the room with you. They are real people with real stories. For me there is no better way to remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing, and it’s the perfect way to end the Power Hour. (Plus, if your 20 minutes Physical was particularly physical, you might want to pop in the shower whilst you do this bit!).
Start work :)
So, what do you think? Reckon you could tackle the Power Hour? Perhaps you’ll find your own variation, one that works better for you. I’ll be honest, the timings are not always accurate – the affirmations don’t always take me 20 minutes, and the podcasts can take me a lot longer. But the structure always remains the same: PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, MENTAL. Beginning with the PHYSICAL means I don’t have to engage the brain straight away, and 20 minutes is just enough exercise to get the blood flowing to the brain but not so long that I dread doing it. Following up with the affirmations and podcasts is an easy way to wake me up, to motivate and inspire me, and get me ready to start work.
Give it a go. See what you think. And please drop me a line and let me know what happens... I would love to know if the Power Hour works for you or if you’ve developed your own version.
How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be Jack Canfield
'The Creative Penn Podcasts' Joanna Penn
Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)
The Creative Life Show
To borrow the words from a popular song, nobody said it was easy, [but] no one ever said it would be this hard... How true. Here, Chris Martin was clearly singing about the trial and trauma of writing a novel. Disclaimer: okay, probably not, but teems of writers across the land no doubt nod in silent agreement whenever they hear these lyrics, particularly when working on their very first book.
In all seriousness, writing a novel is a huge commitment. It would be wonderful if you could write the entire book with the same excitement and passion that drives you through the first couple of chapters and leaves you with a warm glow - that fulfilling sense of finally doing what you were always meant to do. But at some point during 80,000 plus words, it is almost inevitable that your enthusiasm will dip and motivation flounder, and waning interest may well leave you teetering on the edge of total abandonment. The only thing to keep you hanging on will be the amount of work you’ve already put in, the thought of disowning your dreams too soon, and the frustration of leaving your characters forever in limbo.
So how can you work through this dip when it would be a lot easier to just give up? Here are my 5 top tips to help you weather the storm:
If the situation is at critical levels – e.g. you can hardly bear to look at the thing; you’d much rather be doing something else; knitting may actually be your greatest talent and not writing after all – the very first thing to do before you can address the problem is to take a step back. Whilst some writers try to ‘write through’ these tough spots, if you feel your particular tough spot has gone on for some time or you can barely raise the enthusiasm to even try, it’s time for a good break. There’s no failure in taking a break – this is your book, you do it your way.
Close all computer files, store them in a place where you can’t easily see them (i.e. away from your desktop), clear your writing desk of notepads and scribblings, and allow yourself a novel-writing holiday. One week, two weeks, whatever you need to feel like your mind has had a complete rest. That’s not to say you can’t write during this time; in fact, feel free to let your mind wander, away from the constraints of your novel. Write about how you’re feeling, write a short story, poem, nonsense, anything you want to, but try to steer clear of your novel. (Unless of course you have a major plot revelation during this mini-break; in which case, for goodness' sake, write it down!)
Did you set intentions for yourself at the start? At some point – jotted in a notebook, on a scrap of paper, imprinted in your mind – you decided upon a reason for writing your book. Now is the time to remind yourself what that reason was. Perhaps this book was to be the start of your writing career, your creative entrepreneur business; or perhaps you had this story hanging around in your head for a while and had finally decided to get it down on paper and out into the world.
Either way, when you’re lacking drive to sit at your desk for yet another few hours, tapping away whilst wondering whether it’s all really worth it (particularly as nobody’s actually paying you for this bit!), take the time to re-evaluate your goals and intentions for this book. And, yes, visualise... Visualise how you will feel when it's finished: when you press the Publish button and let your work fly away on the wings of the interweb; when your printed book is in your hands; when you can call yourself a published author. These are the reasons you started, and these are the reasons to keep going.
Is there a technical reason for your waning enthusiasm? Could it be that you’ve written yourself into a corner? Lost faith in your characters? Lost your way? If this is the case, you’ve come up against some normal, everyday writing issues that are going to require a bit of work, and possibly some extra help. If this is a recent problem, you may be able to jump back a few chapters and try reworking some or all of the scenes for a different outcome. Alternatively, jump ahead and write a future scene, either one you know is going to happen at some point, or even one you hadn’t planned for but fills you with excitement at the prospect. Failing that, if you think the issues may be too much for you to work through on your own, ask someone for help - a friend to look it over, a beta reader to give you advice, or a professional (editor or critiquer) to help you get back on track.
Soldiering on without enthusiasm is not impossible – many writers insist it’s the only way to get that first draft down – and of course issues can be fixed in the redraft and editing stages, but it’s certainly not much fun. You could be helping yourself and your experience of the writing process by trying to get to the bottom of why you might have lost interest, before trudging onwards.
Whilst every story narrative is a sum of its parts (setting, plot, POV), I’m a big believer that it’s nothing without its characters. Nine times out of ten, issues within a narrative can be solved by paying attention to its inhabitants: are they acting as they should, and are they fully rounded, complete characters? You spend a lot of time with them, right? They need to stay interesting to you too, otherwise why would you want to give up precious time with the... ahem... real people in your life to spend time instead with the imaginary ones?
Losing enthusiasm for your book could really mean you have lost enthusiasm for your characters, in which case not only will you suffer, but your story, the finished book, and the readers who can spot a non-committal writer a mile off. So what to do? My advice would be to spend some time with your characters away from the page. ‘Listen’ to what they have to say; learn more about them if perhaps you haven’t learned enough; make notes, dictate thoughts or dialogue into a recorder; list everything about these people that you possibly can, even create scenes for them perhaps (on paper or in your mind) that the reader will never see – things that happen in their past, hopes for their future. These characters need to be ‘real’ to you in every way. If they’re not, you’ll lose faith in them, the narrative might weaken because of them, and your readers will see right through them. But when you do know them inside and out... well, they'll practically write the story for you.
This point correlates with point two about re-evaluating your goals. Some writers start writing their first novel because they heard or read about an indie author who achieved success doing exactly what they would like to do themselves. There is nothing more motivating than hearing success stories from others with the same goals as you. Luckily, the creative industries are coming into their own these days thanks to technological advances. There has never been a more accessible market. Independent authors – as well as editors, book designers, marketers, etc. – are keen to share their knowledge and working practices with colleagues and customers, and this means information, help and advice are in abundance!
As a self-confessed flitter (i.e. I have a habit of flitting between ideas: full of enthusiasm one day, distracted by something shinier the next), I find podcasts in particular highly motivating and useful for keeping me focussed on the task in hand. I also have a list of honest and realistic goals (with self-enforced deadlines) that I use to stop me from starting new projects before the previous ones are complete.
So if you struggle to get started but know that once you do your writing mojo will make an appearance and there’ll be no stopping you, do as I do: start the day with a motivational podcast, a re-read of your goals and intentions, followed by a strong coffee, and then away you go...
Now over to you. Is there anything you would add to this list? If you’re a more experienced indie author, what do you do to stay motivated to complete your book?
Martin, C (Coldplay). The Scientist (2002), Parlophone (UK), Capitol (US)
Penn, J. The Creative Penn Podcast, www.thecreativepenn.com/podcasts Accessed June 2017