That is the question?
Are making goals a help or a hindrance? While I agree with some blog writers that by making goals and not achieving them, we only disappoint ourselves, I have to say that I would be completely lost if I had no list of ideas, goals or daily "to do's".
You see, I can't remember what I was thinking two days ago. I need to write things down so that my life's tasks and aspirations make sense to me. However, nothing I record is written in stone, and because an artist's career often involves changing priorities, I revise my goals on a regular basis.
Perhaps my goals work, at least for me, because they are more like "ideas" or aspirations. I don't put a date or number on my goals anymore. As soon as I decide when and what and how much I will do, life gets in the way. However, it seems good to chart a general course - one that can be modified as I live it.
Yesterday, I did an experiment: I walked from room to room in my home with a clipboard in my hand. While doing so, I recorded every little thing that I either need or want to do. My list ended up being more than 100 items long! But I am not freaking out - rather I am somewhat relieved to have everything down on paper.
The system for getting things done that I respond to best is that of Stephen Covey's - he wrote "7 somethings of effective people" or something like that. I don't look at the cover anymore. But my point is that as soon as I have everything down on paper, I can then divide these tasks up using Covey's 4 part approach:
Urgent and Important (things that must get done soon or I'll suffer)
Urgent and not Important (things that seem urgent, but don't really have to get done)
Important (Ongoing tasks that eventually will end up on the Urgent/Important list if I don't do them)
Not Important. (nothing bad will happen if I don't attend to these)
Whenever I use this program, I am amazed at how easily I am able to get stuff done. It works because I can triage my tasks and ignore the ones that don't need my attention - probably ever. Some tasks get resolved on their own... .so no sense obsessing about them. Those that are in the Important ,or Urgent and Important Categories naturally have priority.
Urgent and Important: I need to get writing, editing, and prep for a painting session on Saturday. On the important stuff - I need to look at bills, and invoices, order supplies and such. Another important item: get my next article for Watercolor Magazine written (with paintings) by the end of the month... which is about to become Urgent and Important if I don't make progress soon. Urgent but not important: cook dinner (well, at least I think so - we can always eat out). Not important: vacuuming, dusting and making my bed.
Now give me some slack on the housework... I can't be a professional and full time maid in one body.
Someday soon, I hope to hire folks to help me with these tasks so I can do what I love to do.
A few weeks ago, I asked readers if they'd be interested in a post on how to write better blogs or articles. Well... as you might have guessed, I've been busy, but I haven't forgotten about it.
I'll begin by writing down a few things today and then continue to write on this topic as "stuff" comes to mind.
This is the most important text in the article. It doesn't always need to 'say what you're going to say'. It can start with a story or a personal experience that will relate to the article's topic, but what this paragraph must have is a Hook. The first few lines need to interest the reader enough to continue through the entire article. If this text doesn't grab them, they'll abandon the article.
Make Paragraphs Short
Each paragraph should be 4 to 6 sentences long. Readers' eyes tire easily if they continually try to find their place in the text. By splitting up the text into easily digestible paragraphs, you'll keep the reader's attention.
Each Paragraph should have its own subject
The first line of a paragraph is an introduction to what the paragraph is about - then the rest of the sentences elaborate on that subject. If you move onto a new subject, start another paragraph. Also, if you move onto an important related subject, add a heading - like I've done for this post.
When each paragraph contains a separate thought, it's easy for editors to shorten the article article without changing the writer's views. Yes, editors often cut out up to 1/3rd of my text for my articles in Watercolor Magazine... I don't mind - shorter is stronger. Which brings me to my next tip.
Shorter is Stronger
Keep your posts short - around 500 words or less. Don't tell more than one story, unless the article is a series of stories about the same topic. Resist talking too much, and make every sentence state your intentions efficiently, by choosing the best descriptive words. Don't ramble; get to the point!
When I write my first draft, I type away as thoughts randomly come to my mind, and then I ruthlessly edit the heck out of it, sometimes deleting beautiful text because it doesn't add any new info or make the article more interesting.
My goal is to write what will be helpful to my audience - not to show them how important or clever I am. As I edit, I put myself in the reader's seat by pretending that someone else wrote the text. If anything seems less than interesting, helpful, or downright stupid - it gets cut.
Eliminate words such as:
really, very, I think, always, now... We already know that you are stating your thoughts, so words such as, very and really actually weaken your statement. On the same note, use one or two exclamation marks for each post - too many is like the boy who cried wolf - when every sentence shouts, the most important statements no longer stand out. Nobody really believes that everything the author states is that important.
Know Your Audience
Let me reiterate: the best writers do not write to impress their readers (although I admit that sentiment usually creeps into my thinking while writing). Articles are more about the audience than the writer. Folks read your blog so that they might take something useful from it. Be generous with your knowledge and expertise. You won't make money every time you write, that's for sure... oops I'm headed into another subject here... time to begin a new paragraph.
Making Money From Writing
Don't think of every single blog as a money-maker. It takes time to build a loyal readership - eventually when you have a large enough following, the ability to make money from a blog will emerge. Now, I'd love to write forever for free, but since layoffs are eminent with my husband's job, I will need to make serious income at some point. When the time is right, I plan to put out some inexpensive e-books at maybe $10 each. I don't want to gouge artists. It's hard enough to make a living in the arts... and as an artist myself, I sometimes feel like everyone's making money off of me - while artists are giving their life over to their craft. This paragraph is too long..... I slipped in an ad for my upcoming e-books; probably not the right venue for that, and my views are negative.Normally I would delete this text, but I'll leave it in so you can see how I might go down a rambling, writing, rabbit hole.
I'm at just about 800 words. If I begin a new subject at this point, readers will start skimming and perhaps peruse their bookmarks. After all, when you began reading this post, you weren't wanting to take a college course in blog-writing. There's a ton more stuff I could talk about - like grammar, punctuation, and boring things that artists don't really need to know -- that's why editors get the big bucks! (I just used one exclamation point).
I'll write another blog on the same subject in the future... If you'd like one... lemme know.