Friday, 31 May 2013

You must know nothing before you can learn something, and be empty before you can be filled.

Is not the emptiness of the bowl what makes it useful?

You may well be right, Lloyd Alexander.

Kaffe Fassett
I spend a lot of time, really, what with yoga and meditation and the like, emptying my mind.

That's all well and good. Sometimes, I'm a bit too successful and then I'm left empty mind.

You'd think I'd be congratulating myself and adopting Zen-like poses...

Stephanie Estrin
 Trouble is...when my mind's empty, I simply don't know what to do. That's okay for a while, but life must go on and, seriously, I cannot think of a single one of the thousand and seven tasks which really need to be completed...

You know To Do Lists? Well, they're usually for when you have so much to do you don't even know where to start, aren't they?

I'm thinking that when my mind's NOT empty, I'll have to write a To Do List of things I could be getting on with when my mind IS empty.

Nothing, of course, that involves any thought...

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Makin' mistakes ain't a crime, you know.

What's the use of having a reputation if you can't ruin it every now and then? - says Simone Elkeles

I hate making mistakes, but...

I made a mistake yesterday  - a LITTLE mistake of using my initiative which backfired, resulting in a slightly annoyed client and a gentle admonition in an email - completely deserved.

I went straight into self-flagellation mode.
 All the usual thoughts went through my mind. I'm such an idiot. I feel SO embarrassed. What must she think of me? How can I make it better? Shall I phone Interflora and send a bunch of flowers? (Ridiculous over compensation!) Geez, what if she drops me? Hyperventilate, hyperventilate.

Justification, justification. Well, I was only trying to be helpful. At least my upset shows I care...

(Wrong on both counts, at least in part. I was trying to prove I can do everything by myself, which sometimes isn't possible. And, while I DO care, some part of that is caring about ME looking bad.)

Come on Caroline. Let's be rational about this.
  1. The sky didn't fall in.
  2. I admitted what I'd done immediately and took full responsibility for my actions.
  3. I apologised in writing.
  4. I won't make the same mistake again.
I tried to console myself by remembering all those wise words people say, like 'Mistakes are the stepping stones to discovery,' If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.'

 Didn't help.

Ridiculous woman, me. Wasted an hour or so worrying and unable to produce any worthwhile work.

The very, very BEST thing I could have done? Acknowledged it, accepted responsibility, forgiven myself and said 'This is what I'm doing now...'

By Sam Toft
 Funny (or not) that one of my biggest mistakes is not being very good at moving on from (even little) mistakes.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

No such thing as coincidence? - Safeguarding your work on the internet, Part Two

So - yesterday I posted about possible  theft of your writing on the internet - and ways and means of minimising its likelihood.

Today, on Shooting People's screenwriters forum - a big post about the very same thing, called 'Plagiarism is alive and well' linked here for your reference - albeit advertising the services of a script registration service called The Script Vault - which seems very reasonable in price, if that's what you want to do.

Here's the promised tip from Techie-Meister Tim Coxon

EASY-PEASY - click HERE to do your own

So - to try it out, I put an alert for my screenplay 'The Melting' - using those exact words. I get almost daily alerts. You'd be surprised how much I know about global warming and only slightly annoyed by a chain of restaurants in the US called 'The Melting Pot' - but it's effective. Puts my mind at rest. I feel in control.

I also put in an alert using name of one of the characters in The Melting - a mutant snowflake (don't ask!) called Pekka Pekkanen, a name that I made up. THAT will be a test, I thought.

Imagine my surprise, the other day, when I got an alert for Pekka Pekkanen, about a year after I'd created the alert and forgotten I'd done it! MY HEART LURCHED...

There is actually someone in real life called Pekka Pekkanen who just opened an account on Facebook! I've yet to find out whether or not he or she is a mutant snowflake...
So - you could choose a character or an unusual phrase out of your work and see what happens!

Thanks, Tim!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Fake sUCKs! - safeguarding your work on the internet. Is it possible?

Thanks to Toba Beta for the first part of the quote. (See, I DO TRY to acknowledge every single person from whom I borrow (steal?) words and images for this blog.)

I put links to the artists' or writers' websites, where possible, hoping that it will generate more interest and traffic for them - leading to purchases? If I don't put links, it means the work is unattributed.

Imitation...the sincerest form of flattery?

From Lolha
 Stealing other people's work and calling it your own. NOT.

There's always that dilemma when posting your creative outpourings online - and here my experience is with screenplays, but it could just as well apply to anything you've ever written.

Looking for ways to protect your work? Here's the bad news!

You can't...not really.

Sure, you can register it with Writers' Guild of America or copyright it - but even so it's not difficult for someone to take it, change it (or not) and claim it as his own.

I've seen it happen.

By the way, forget that urban myth that you can prove ownership by sealing it up in an envelope and posting it to yourself.

"As the copy you post remains in your possession, the other party can easily show that you had ample opportunity to tamper with the contents, and of course once opened it could not be used as evidence in any future claim or appeal."(The UK Copyright Service)

Counter-intuitively, the very best way to ensure that your work isn't used without your permission is to post it in as many places as possible. That way, the ownership and date it was written is very visible and verifiable.
 Actually, I should re-phrase that - the best way to ensure that if your work IS used without your permission you are more likely to find out about it and be able to do something about it is to post it in as many places as possible.

A number of screenplays I know of, written by friends of mine, have been used without their consent and appeared elsewhere on the internet, either as screenplays with the author's name changed or as completed films on YouTube. Not the end of the world, but seriously annoying and unnecessary.

The crazy thing is that if 'the thief' had only emailed the writer, permission would almost certainly be granted without a second thought! Writers are invariably delighted to know their work has met with approval.

Tomorrow's blog - a brilliant tip which allows you to keep track of your work online, thought up by Techie-Meister Tim Coxon, Number One Son, of whom I am so proud. It really works!

Monday, 27 May 2013

The earth laughs in flowers

...said Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I'd like to take him on a tour round our garden just at the moment. A lot of times in the year it's not laughing very much and sometimes it's sobbing and miserable as sin, but at the end of May...

Wisteria hysteria!

(still not fully out)

As Monet said, "I must have flowers, always, and always."

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”  Iris Murdoch

Who could be miserable in a garden like this?

(Don't answer that!)

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

 Except, I DO get on with my neighbours - every single one of them. They're all completely lovely.

Thanks to Martin Shervington and Lao Tzu, not neighbours and not necessarily in that order, for this admonition:

So...I'm just going to close my eyes and drift away...

See you tomorrow, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Sunshine came softly...

Oh, I used to adore Donovan...

but then I was only 11 years old at the time.

Today we have sunshine AND it's Bank Holiday Weekend.

One of nature's perverse little tricks?

I'm preparing my outfit for tomorrow:

Just in case.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, 24 May 2013

One swallow does not a summer make...

(Arf arf - your Friday joke)

One swallow does not a summer make...

 nor one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.

 Who said that? Aristotle said that.

I could talk about the weather. This morning, (IT'S NEARLY JUNE) my hands were so cold riding Alfie De Horse that I wandered round the school looking for someone, anyone who could lend me a pair of gloves. Yet, a few weeks ago, we were taunted with beach and bikini weather. (We in general, I mean - Alfie De Horse wouldn't be seen dead in a bikini)

I was more thinking about things going well with work, with life.  So I relax, take my foot off the desperate pedal, think I've DEFINITELY turned a corner...

Far too soon.

While I'm all for optimism, there's also a place for a healthy dose of realism.

And no place at all for complacency.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

I love teamwork. I love the idea of everyone rallying together to help me win. 

Quotation from BAD BOY, Jarod Kintz (A zebra is the piano of the animal kingdom)

Bad but funny.

Working from home, being part of a team doesn't come so easily.

Talking to inanimate objects does.

Must try harder to meet real live people. Last night I went networking - at the Uckfield Chamber of Commerce meeting, held, rather wonderfully, at Ashdown Forest Llama Park (I didn't enquire too deeply into the ingredients of the tagine we were treated to later in the evening.)

I had to give a little talk about Quirkyworks my company which is ME! My message was 'Let me revitalise your website and your marketing copy'


I thought I ought to give out business cards and wanted to be a bit different.

(Fear of being too gimmicky)

Well, I don't think people will forget me...

Look, I have crazy hair and my company name is Quirkyworks, so I could get away with it. I wouldn't recommend it as a tactic for Dull-Boring &Sons accountants, though.

And what a delightful group of people they are at Uckfield Chamber of Commerce.

It felt good to be part of something and I hope I can be a contribution.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.

...said somebody or other - errrm, Alan Dean Foster - yes, a writer. Of course.

Perhaps I'm not typical then?

Quite good at getting down to writing, brilliant at avoiding marketing and self-publicising - aside from blogging, that is. If that counts.

In my most humble opinion, there is procrastination and there is procrastination.

 Now THAT, above, is procrastination.

MY sort of procrastination is High Class Procrastination - that is to say, it's not sharpening pencils, tidying my desk, spending too long on Facebook and Google+, generally hanging out.

My sort of procrastination is having something to do that I don't want to do (re-reading and sending off my novel to publishers) and then getting in a piece of work from a client with a tight deadline AND BEING RELIEVED.

Now, NOBODY should be able to accuse me of procrastination because this is a job that must be done.

But somebody does. Every time.


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

A subtle ability to warp actual circumstances into something different

A slightly adapted quote from writer Rebecca Serle.

Yesterday. Me.

 These were the actual circumstances: I COMPLETED MY TAX RETURNS for April 2012-2013. The final deadline to do this is January 31st, 2014. That meant I'd done it TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY SIX DAYS EARLY.

My accountant will pass out with shock.

The delusion, the warping of actual circumstances into something different: That I was virtuous to complete my tax returns.


I became VERRRRRRRY self-congratulatory and smug.

Only later did I admit to myself that the only reason I had done it was to avoid doing something else.

How can it be that completing tax returns is preferable to reading through Of Night And Light, my novel, as preparation for sending it out to a new set of publishers, carefully researched and selected by me over the weekend?

Sending off my novel is THAT CONFRONTING?

Monday, 20 May 2013

Put your heart, mind, intellect and soul even to your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.

I bet you Swami Sivananda didn't think about this as a way of gaining and retaining clients for copywriting! Whatever - it's a great philosophy for life as well as work.

Now I'm puzzling about how to write this blog without it sounding as though I'm bragging.

Modesty, one of my many great attributes...

Oh, I'll just tell you -  I AM NOT BRAGGING - simply offering what has worked for me as a copywriter.

Two new clients, limited budgets.

One asked me to edit a nine page document in two hours - which, possibly, I could have done, very scantily, very badly. (It needed a lot of TLC.)

However, I don't DO bad, scanty jobs. It's my pride, not to mention my reputation as a copywriter.

I negotiated an extra two hours. It STILL took me a lot longer - maybe another two hours on top of that. (By the way, I'm NOT a slow worker - this just needed facts checking, more creative input, amending, re-formatting, careful consideration of the target market to get the tone just right, page numbers, indexing ...)

I'm only charging for the four hours. It's a conscious gesture of goodwill, NOT borne out of desperation to appease clients at all costs and work for peanuts so I hang on to them...and then get resentful.

On the pragmatic side - the company has a better chance of succeeding if the online copy is as good as it can be. This may translate into more work for me.

The other client, presumably thinking about his budget, didn't ask me to proofread the website as I had suggested after I'd provided the copy.  I did it anyway. There was a blooper on the landing page, which I mentioned to him.

I just received an email which simply said 'Thank God for you :)'

I think, if more work ever comes up for that client, I might stand a fairly good chance of getting the commission!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

I've always felt there is something sacred in a piece of paper that travels the earth from hand to hand, head to head, heart to heart.

Robert Michael Pyle, lepidopterist and professional writer.

He is so right - to receive a personal letter is just one of the best things...

...and I am as guilty as the next person of not writing letters any more, so why on earth would I expect to receive any?

Checking the post box has no thrill for me at all. It's always full of piles of junk-mail, bills and the occasional (impersonal) order from Amazon...

Today, I'm looking at a pile of unopened mail about nine inches high that I'm steeling myself to deal with - and dealing with will mostly equal 'shove into the recycling bin' which only makes me feel marginally better.

I'm pretty good at sending cards...but not at writing letters. Most people in my circle of friends...well, I don't even know their postal address, only their email address.

I WILL write a letter to someone. It's inauthentic of me to say 'I simply don't have the time.'

You'll just have to mail me your address if you want it to be you!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love; they are the role model for being alive.

With thanks to Gilda Radner. (Who? Why, Gilda Radner! THAT Gilda Radner. Oh, never mind.)

It's the weekend. A break from posts about copywriting and novels...

Instead, Puppy Love


THIS puppy love.

Introducing Rufus Woofwright:

How could anyone resist him?

Well, I can't.

Do you think this will bring more traffic to my website?


My clients need to see that I'm a thrusting professional, never distracted by anything in my quest for perfection with every writing commission...

Friday, 17 May 2013

I have always believed that copywriting is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes.

With thanks, and slight apologies for changing a couple of words, to Philip Dusenberry, American advertising executive.

Ransom notes! A gap in the market? I shall start a kidnapper client database immediately...

Copywriting profitable? Yes, if you charge fairly (fairly to yourself, I mean!) and have enough clients. As far as clients go, word of mouth has done well for me. I could still do with more, but I'm working on that.

Hint, hint.

Not that I'm begging or anything.

Here's how NOT to attract people to your copywriting services:

Post an advert like this. This is real.  (Name changed out of pity)

"Meet copywriter Willy Wordsmith and learn about the Acellerated Six-Figure Copywriting Program."

Oh yes. EXACTLY the sort of attention to detail and impeccability anyone would jump at with unbounded glee when thinking about hiring a copywriter.

Pretty much like using this image... promote the efficacy of your car valeting business.

That's how not to....

Next...HOW TO?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

If you're not confused, you're not paying attention.

Oh, that's a relief, Tom Peters - because confused I certainly am.

(For the record, Tom wrote a book just for me called Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution - only I haven't read it. Plainly.)

Here is a picture of my swirly brain:

Pretty. And pretty useless.

It seems to get like that when I have a decision to make about what to do next with my novel Of Night And Light - highly rated by two literary consultants, with some ideas for further amendments if I choose to incorporate them.

  1. Make amendments (or not) and whizz it off for a final review by the literary consultants - costs a lot, may not lead anywhere further.
  2. Keep sending it out to publishers and agents - is wearing, time-consuming and often dispiriting
  3. Self-publish - costs a lot and a tiny bit of me can't help wanting it to be published in the conventional way.
  4. Do nothing - oooh, that sounds the easiest option.
Yes, confused but I AM paying attention

All I have to do is DECIDE and that will be the right decision.


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

So much paperwork to read! So much paperwork to push away!

So much paperwork to pretend I haven't received and that might have been eaten by gargoyles.

Now that's an excuse I hadn't thought of, so thanks Terry Pratchett.

Me and paperwork. Main strategy. Ignore it and hope it will go away. (It doesn't. Ever.)

There is some sort of logic to that approach when it's people asking me for money. Bills. Tax returns. The longer the money stays in MY bank the better, when all's said and done.

However, I have had the same strategy when it comes to invoicing for work I've done.

I'm much better than ever I was but when a job's completed, I still have to give myself a good talking to...

I've tried to work out where all this came from.
  • a general fear of or aversion to anything that concerns numbers?
  • that it takes too much time out of my working day and I won't be earning anything while I'm doing it?
  • the belief that I am an artist and therefore should not concern my precious creative mind with anything as sordid as money? 
Fairy Picnic by Gail Schmidt
  • an underlying concern that my work isn't worth paying for?
  • a desire to be popular with everyone - and what better way? 
Some or all of the above depending on my frame of mind.

I can tell you that every one of those thoughts is just that -  A THOUGHT - and meaningless unless I choose to give it credence. So GET LOST, silly thoughts.

I can also tell you that clients find it ANNOYING when I don't invoice on time, rather than a generous act on my part, because it screws up their own carefully calculated cash flow.

SO - if there's anyone out there like me...(or like I USED TO BE, clients please take note!)


Send in those invoices.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

Okay, Virginia, let's look at this logically shall we?

I DO have a room of my own - lucky me. I used to have my office in the bedroom. How easy it was to shut off thoughts about work with my computer JUST THERE every time I opened my eyes!

So now I have an office, formerly known as Pete's office but who needs an office when you have a laptop? I tell him. He remains unconvinced. When it was HIS office it used to be SO TIDY...

Money? I wonder if Virginia Woolf meant that the money must be her own as well as the room? Certainly, it's better for feelings of self-worth that I do earn money, even if a tiny fraction of Pete's salary.

It's hardly me, is it? IS IT?

But anyway...I do have money (even if invoicing clients is not a strong point - see tomorrow's blog)

SO - I have a room of my own and I have money...and I am a woman. At least I was the last time I checked.


If only, Virginia. If only.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say it's all right

All right? Very much all right!

Yesterday - a happy surprise. A very, VERY happy surprise. Someone called Lisa Agosti...someone I don't know (it makes a difference, you see!)...posted that she'd nominated me for a Sunshine Award for my blog - see her full post here, in the comments section (Modesty does not permit...)

So - someone I don't know nominated my blog for an award I didn't even know existed! How cool is that?

Thank you so much, Lisa - and for the contribution to writing you make with your blog The Bank Of Storytellers - bursting with prompts for stuck authors. And I, for one, get stuck A LOT!

So - now I have to carry out a few tasks:

Answer questions (for some reason) - first translating them into English from American. That is to say, adding a U everytime it's been omitted - vis 'favorite color'

Favourite Colour? My hair

Favourite animal? I can't answer this question because I love all animals (except perhaps stick insects)

Favourite number? Any that I don't have to use in a calculation.

Favourite nonalcoholic drink? Fentimans Ginger Beer. Other ginger beers are available (but aren't as good as Fentimans)

Favourite alcoholic drink? After our recent holiday, it has to be a Mojito.

Facebook or Twitter? Facebook - I have friends across the world on there - many of whom I've never met but they're precious to me. Please add Google+ though.

My passions? People, horses, dogs, reading, writing, blogging, Green&Blacks Organic Milk Chocolate with Sea Salt.

Giving or receiving gifts? Giving, every time.

Well, I don't think you know any more about me now, do you?

Musical Interlude:

Now - for my own Sunshine Award nominees: (aside, of course, from Lisa)

Scary Duck: Not Scary. Not a Duck - yes, you've got loads of awards already but only because you deserve them.

Hyperbole and a half - as above, but remains a constant source of amusement and thought-provoking blackness.

Anna Dewis - Tales From My Handbag - love reading your blogs (but do wish you'd use paragraphs!)

Meg Rosoff - I hope you get your blogging muse back soon because I miss you!

The bitter script reader - I like his pragmatic, resigned, ironic common sense.