Tag Archives: blogger

Creativity and Chronic Illness: Interview with Sarah Alexander

Today I’m making a long overdue return to my Creativity and Chronic Illness series with an interview of Sarah Alexander. Sarah is a self-described twenty-something beauty, lifestyle, and disability blogger. She, like so many of us, is a bookworm, a lipstick junkie, stationery addict and a fan of skulls. (Okay, so maybe when I say ‘many of us’ I really mean, ‘me’ – but same difference, right?) She’s from Liverpool originally but lives in Northamptonshire with her boyfriend where she writes for her blog Sarah in Wonderland, and Liability Magazine. I first ran into Sarah on Twitter through her project called #SpooniePost, which is an international project aimed at getting folks with chronic illness from around the world to send one another snail mail in order to be encouraging to one another and cheer each other up. (Who doesn’t love snail mail?) Sarah recently was able to crowdsource a power wheelchair she needed to help get around in less than a month which is both a huge personal win for her as well a sign that crowdfunding is going in the right direction.

Sarah-Wonderland

Fox Emm: What chronic ailments (mental or physical) are you facing?
Sarah Alexander: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type 3, Fibromyalgia, PoTS (Postural Tachycardia Syndrome), Endometriosis, Gastroparesis, Depression and Anxiety.

FE: How do they influence your life/activities day to day?
SA: I’m in chronic pain and have been since the age of 13, I’m 30 in January. I dislocate and/or subluxate daily, I pull muscles and ligaments really easily. I use an electric wheelchair to help me manage the pain as not a day goes by that I’m not in pain. I have to plan everything and am often canceling events/meetings last minute due to something to do with my health. My conditions make life difficult but I try to get by as best I can and use my skills to educate people about disability.

FE: What does a typical day look like for you?
SA: My days are quite boring really, the most excitement I have is when I go to an appointment, and trust me, they’re often and not fun. I usually spend an average day at home with my boyfriend who is my carer, I’ll watch some TV, do some stretches and physio, write a post for my blog, take some pictures, and call my mum and best friend. In between all that I’ll have four doses of medication to help with the pain, and I’d definitely have a dislocation or subluxation. They happen really easily, I can reach too far for my drink and my shoulder pop out, or be typing really quickly and pop a finger. I have to be extra vigilant with my stupid bendy body.

FE: What do you think is the largest issue you face as someone who tries to stay creative?
SA: My hands and shoulders are really badly affected by my condition, and I’m not someone that likes to use talking software. I can’t make my writing flow as well through speech, so when my hands are bad and I really want to write, it’s so frustrating.

When my hands first started acting up; I remember the day very clearly, I was 18, lying on my bed finishing a poem I was writing and all of a sudden the pain in my fingers and wrist became so intense I dropped the pen. I tried picking it up again but my hand simply wouldn’t work. As a writer, that was absolutely devastating for me. To this day I can only handwrite a couple of words and it kills me.

FE: How do you stay motivated?
SA: I stay motivated by being passionate. I love what I do and it’s not a chore to me. If it ever became something I resented I wouldn’t do it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had months when I’ve not written anything and felt so incredibly guilty but I’m always able to jump right back into it. I guess over the years I’ve realised I work better with a routine too, so I blog three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and plan fiction, poetry and any other articles I have to write in between. Planning is definitely key for me in all aspects.

FE: What advice do you have for others in a similar place/position or with a similar condition?
SA: If you love something enough, you’ll find ways to adapt and succeed.

FE: How can folks without chronic illnesses help?
SA: It’d be nice to see people without chronic illness help us educate the masses; I’m very vocal on my blog and social media when it comes to disability issues and not a lot of my non-chronic readers take notice, so it would be good if more got involved.

FE: What prompted you to begin the #SpooniePost project?
SA: I started #SpooniePost because I began making a lot of spoonie friends on Twitter and wanted a way that we could cheer each other up in a different way. There’s nothing worse than being chronically ill, stuck in your house for days on end and only receiving bills through the post; through #SpooniePost, the members can connect with new spoonies and have something tangible that makes you smile.

FE: Where would you like to see the project go?
SA: I’m quite happy with how the project is going. This month (November) it’s been running for a year and we have over 70 members. I love seeing everyone’s tweets when they’ve received something lovely.

You can find Sarah Alexander on her website: www.sarahinwonderland.co.uk
You can also find her on an assortment of networks:
Twitter: @WonderlandBlogs
Instagram: @WonderlandBlogs
Pinterest: @WonderlandBlogs
Facebook: @WonderlandBlogs

You can check out the interviews in this series here:
Natasha Duncan-Drake
Fox Emm

Beating Writer’s Block: Forget About It

I’ve been doing a few videos recently regarding how to kick writer’s block and get your creativity in gear to make this a year of productivity for you. The way I’m suggesting you beat writer’s block today is changing your environment. Hear me out on this one, I’m not advocating for picking up and moving across the country (though, let’s face it, that would probably do something to your muse).

Let’s be honest, an issue that is ALWAYS floating around writing groups is how to defeat writer’s block. As long as there are writers, there will always be reasons for writers to struggle with actually doing the work. That’s one thing that many writers forget when talking about issues which keep them from writing. There are a lot of different things that may hold writers of all kinds (from fiction to memoir to non-fiction and copy writing, to anything in between!)

That’s what prompted me to begin a short video series (six videos, and they’re all less than 5 minutes each) about how you can beat writers block every time it comes knocking. There’s no reason why you need to suffer just because your muse is playing hard to get. Check out the video below, and make sure that you subscribe on Youtube or check them out, here!

Think you’ll need help staying motivated? I’ve created a few wallpapers to help keep you on track. You can download them here http://bit.ly/writing-wallpapers

beating-writer's-blockWant to be sure you catch all of the details? Make sure you’re on my list!

privacy We value your privacy and would never spam.

Have you missed the last few posts? Catch them all: Tip 1, Tip 2, Tip 3, Tip 4, Tip 6.

Beating Writer’s Block: Changing Your Environment

I’ve been doing a few videos recently regarding how to kick writer’s block and get your creativity in gear to make this a year of productivity for you. The way I’m suggesting you beat writer’s block today is changing your environment. Hear me out on this one, I’m not advocating for picking up and moving across the country (though, let’s face it, that would probably do something to your muse).

Let’s be honest, an issue that is ALWAYS floating around writing groups is how to defeat writer’s block. As long as there are writers, there will always be reasons for writers to struggle with actually doing the work. That’s one thing that many writers forget when talking about issues which keep them from writing. There are a lot of different things that may hold writers of all kinds (from fiction to memoir to non-fiction and copy writing, to anything in between!)

That’s what prompted me to begin a short video series (six videos, and they’re all less than 5 minutes each) about how you can beat writers block every time it comes knocking. There’s no reason why you need to suffer just because your muse is playing hard to get. Check out the video below, and make sure that you subscribe on Youtube or check them out, here!

Think you’ll need help staying motivated? I’ve created a few wallpapers to help keep you on track. You can download them here http://bit.ly/writing-wallpapers

beating-writer's-blockWant to be sure you catch all of the details? Make sure you’re on my list!

privacy We value your privacy and would never spam.

Have you missed the last few posts? Catch them all: Tip 1, Tip 2, Tip 3, Tip 5, Tip 6.

Beating Writer’s Block – A Video Series for Writing Badasses On the Go!

An issue that is ALWAYS floating around writing groups is how to defeat writer’s block. As long as there are writers, there will always be reasons for writers to struggle with actually doing the work. That’s one thing that many writers forget when talking about issues which keep them from writing. There are a lot of different things that may hold writers of all kinds (from fiction to memoir to non-fiction and copy writing, to anything in between!)

That’s what prompted me to begin a short video series (six videos, and they’re all less than 5 minutes each) about how you can beat writers block every time it comes knocking. There’s no reason why you need to suffer just because your muse is playing hard to get. Check out the video below, and make sure that you subscribe on Youtube or check them out, here!

Think you’ll need help staying motivated? I’ve created a few wallpapers to help keep you on track. You can download them here http://bit.ly/writing-wallpapers

beating-writer's-blockWant to be sure you catch all of the details? Make sure you’re on my list!

privacy We value your privacy and would never spam.

Want to see the ones which are already out? Tip 2, Tip 3, Tip 4, Tip 5, Tip 6.

Online Marketing With No Budget

The Secret Of Online Marketing With No Budget

The truth is, there actually is no single secret or collection of secrets for online marketing with no budget. The resources are available, if only you know how to use them. Unfortunately, I see people all the time who have literally no idea where to go or how to start marketing for their business, blog, organization, or roller derby league. What’s worse, people get the impression that they won’t be able to actually promote their content (or business, or roller derby league) without some sort of budget. Thankfully for those folks (and you, if you’ve stumbled across this page) I’ve compiled a resource which contains my FAVORITE ways to market my website, copywriting, and editing services without spending a cent!

You might already be doing some of these, and if that’s the case, then you might benefit from checking out the Your Yearly Marketing Plan resource, available in the shop. It offers 52 different ways to spread the word about your business, service, or organization. (There’s one for every week of the year, if you like to change things up!)

online marketing with no budget

Creativity & Chronic Illness: Natasha Duncan-Drake

 

Natasha-Duncan-DrakeI had the privilege of interviewing author Natasha Duncan-Drake. She has been publishing genre fiction since 2011, and is one of the founders of Wittegen Press. She has released over twenty-five titles ranging from horror to young adult fantasy, and she produces short stories and novels in equal measure. Though she is a big fan of science fiction, fantasy, and horror in all of their forms, she has never met a genre she didn’t like. – Her varied interest in writing was sparked when she first read The Hobbit in primary school, and she is an advocate for fans to fine tune their writing skills within the warm, supportive fanfiction community.

In addition to being a talented, prolific author, Natasha is also a creative person who suffers from a chronic illness that impedes her daily life.

FE: What are you dealing with that makes it difficult to function either as a person or creatively? (Or both)
ND: I have talipes (clubfoot) in both feet.

FE: What is it? What does it do?
ND: Mine are very severe, which means my ankles are virtually totally fixed and do not move more than a couple of millimetres from left to right, and hence I cannot put my feet flat on the ground, walking always only on the balls of my feet and toes. When I a small child they were totally turned on their side, but I had corrective surgery to break and straighten my toes and to lengthen the tendons in my legs.

FE: How does it affect you personally?

ND: Talipes makes it hard to walk for long distances or stand for long, so I find travelling a real pain (literally ). I often find myself on a quest to find the next place I can sit down. Thanks to the fact all my toes were broken to reset them, I can also always tell when it’s going to rain ;).

FE: How does it affect your art/writing/etc?
ND: It doesn’t affect my writing directly, because it is a primarily sedentary profession, but to be an indie author you really need to be able to get out to see people and get to book fairs etc. I must admit I look at book fairs and shudder somewhat, because they are usually in London and other big cities and require a lot of walking.

For me travelling to London is either an exercise in pain or extremely expensive because I find using the underground horrendous. Walking on concrete is beaten in things-I-try-to-do-as-little-of-as-possible only by walking on sand and all the stairs for the underground are a nightmare. I especially remember the time when some delightful soul decided to push between me and the hand rail because I was being too slow, thus almost sending me crashing down the stairs.

When I have to go places, I do, but I always plan well ahead.

FE: How do you combat the effects of your illness?
ND: I use crutches when I have to do a lot of walking, which help a lot. They also mean I am not so hideously slow . I used to manage without them up until about 10 years ago, but they’re something of a must these days. I have new ones now which use the whole of my forearm to take the pressure, so my wrists aren’t under so much strain. I used to use just one crutch, but it was causing issues with my back, so I use two now. Makes carrying things a pain, but my back is thanking me a lot.

I also have a personal trainer now who is helping me build up my upper body strength and become fitter. I figure the better shape I am in the more power I will have to keep the strain off my feet.

FE: What drives you to keep creating?
ND: I think the fact I have never been able to play sports very well (can’t run for toffee and never have been able to even as a slip of a girl) is actually what made me creative in the first place. I’ve always been a person of the mind rather than the body. This is what I can do, this is what I am good at and it fires me on.

FE: Where do you think you would be if you didn’t have the illness that affects you?
ND: Before I became a writer I was a database and systems engineer and I think I probably would have been something similar no matter what because both my parents are engineering/sciency types. I might be more out there, running around doing more things because I could, but I’m not sure. I’ve always gone for what I wanted, despite the disability, so I think I’d be the same, just probably more sporty, because my mum used to play cricket for Kent ladies when she was younger and she skied and she still plays badmington twice a week now.

 

FE: What advice would you give others with your condition/concern who are struggling to keep up with something they enjoy?
ND: Try not to let it stop you. Before my ankles became too bad I used to play squash – couldn’t run backwards without landing in a heap and wasn’t overly fast forwards, but still had loads of fun. Don’t worry you’re not the best at it, just have a good time. I love to dance at discos and stuff, so I just bop away with my crutches these days .

Look after yourself as well. If it hurts too much, sit down and don’t be afraid to ask for help. When I first started using the crutch I was embarrassed that my husband often had to help me carry things when we were shopping because I only had the one hand free to do everything, but I realised I was being silly. I needed help and the help was there. These days it’s worse because I have two crutches and no hands free, so I am very glad I sorted that out in my head. I am still trying to figure out a solution for when I am alone – the two crutches is still quite new so I have yet to come up with something. I shall, though, never fear!

Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s harder to get around, but it is often worth it.

FE: What does the future hold?
ND: Lots more writing . I am working on three books at the moment and hope to have the first finished shortly. Two are novels and the last one is two novellas in one volume; vampires, sci-fi/fantasy and werewolves respectively. I’m trying to grow my blog audience at the moment by introducing regular features to entertain and inform and I hope to grow my readership for that and my fiction. Onwards and upwards it my aim.

creative-chronic-illnessWhere to Find Natasha Duncan-Drake

Website: http://www.wittegenpress.com/natashaduncandrake/
Blog – Tasha’s Thinkings: http://tashasthinkings.blogspot.co.uk/
Twitter: @beren_writes
Pintrest: http://www.pinterest.com/wittegenpress/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/natasha.duncandrake
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+NatashaDuncanDrake/posts
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/tashaddrake
Tumblr: http://berenwrites.tumblr.com/

Where to Buy Natasha’s Books

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/tashaddrake
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Natasha-Duncan-Drake/e/B004UFD9W2/
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Natasha-Duncan-Drake/e/B004UFD9W2/
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/author?id=Duncan-Drake,+Natasha
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/natasha-duncan-drake/id444140237

You can check out the interviews in this series here:
Fox Emm
Sarah Alexander

Your Yearly Marketing Plan

You Need a Marketing Plan

Really and truly, if you want to see persistent growth of your business, website, or blog then you need a marketing plan. Without a plan, you can’t expect to see results or replicate them if by some miracle you happen to succeed. This marketing plan includes 52 (one for each week!) marketing strategies you can begin employing RIGHT NOW to get your name out there, present yourself as an expert in your field or niche, and bring paying customers your way.

For a limited time I’m offering my guide to marketing and business growth for $12.00. For $1 per month you’ll get 52 different strategies for building your brand and boosting your credibility. Act now, before it’s too late!

A Year of Blog Ideas

 

Keep Your Blog Ideas Fresh

Do you find that you’re struggling to come up with blog ideas, and create new content for your website? Don’t waste time brainstorming and trying to create dynamic, engaging post ideas. Your time is much better spent engaging with your readers, building your audience, and actually writing posts.

In this simple, easy to follow guide you will find 156 different blog post ideas that will help you build the human element of your business website and create more interesting content for your blog.

What’s more, if you post less frequently than three times a week, this eBook will provide you with MORE THAN A YEAR OF CONTENT.

year of blog ideasTake Advantage of this Price While You Can!

For a dollar a month, you’re getting 12+ blog article concepts.

If you’re a coach, get a similar resource tailored exclusively to you! Visit the Blog Ideas for Coaches download, instead.

Being a Creative with a Chronic Illness

creative-chronic-illnessWorking in a creative industry is difficult, period. Being a creative with a chronic illness presents an entirely new set of challenges. When you work as a creative, especially if you are an entrepreneur who works for yourself, you have probably found that you need to work twice as hard as those you know who have a “normal” job to earn the same accolades. It’s somehow not as impressive to start a business as it is to get a job, and that is especially true when your job involves the arts.

You may have found that it doesn’t matter how much money you are bringing in, or how many clients you have. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just published another book or are speaking at a conference next month. Someone you know is still going to call your creative business or career a “hobby” and ask you when you’re going to get a “real job”.

Surely that business you run on Etsy can’t be real, because you don’t have physical retail space! Surely that freelance or consulting work you’re doing isn’t “real work” because you’ve always loved to draw! You make it look effortless even though it’s not, or you have always loved to paint so surely it isn’t work! – We’ve all heard it.

Now add another layer to that disbelief. Imagine that on top of having people doubt you because on top of not having a “real job” that isn’t something you enjoy, you have a debilitating chronic illness. (Add another layer if you’re someone who has an invisible illness.)

Welcome to the life of thousands of creative people on the planet today, myself included. In this post series I plan to ask others like me how they stay focused, motivated, and productive during the good days and the bad – in spite of the odds and the discouragement that comes from friends and family. (Despite however well-meaning they might be.) – It’s always a challenge when people “don’t get” what you do for a living, but what about when they think you’re “too lazy to get a real job”?

I look forward to diving into this topic in the coming weeks. If you’d like to contribute, comment here with an email address where I can reach you, or email me directly fox [at] bloggingonward.com

You can check out the interviews in this series here:
Natasha Duncan-Drake
Fox Emm
Sarah Alexander

10 Tools to Look More Professional

10-tools-to-be-more-professionalAs a solopreneur and freelancer, I’ve become a connoisseur of business tools, tricks, and tips to make my business look professional to potential clients. Based on my experiences, I’ve compiled a list of 10 tools you need to look more professional.

  1. Email Signature: Whether you realize it or not, your signature represents both you and your business. In many ways it is like a digital business card, and can be utilized as such. How so?
    – It contains your contact information, including your business name. (Or should!)
    – It saves your clients from digging up your website to find your number or other necessary details.
    – It can be customized to include a photo of you, links, and more!
  2. A Professional Domain: A personal or professional domain will help your clients and potential clients remember you. Think about it, “Joanisagreatwriter.wordpress.com” doesn’t roll off the tongue as readily as “Joanisagreatwriter.com”. The “.com” format is something that is readily engrained in the public consciousness. You can use that to your advantage. (Plus, if you self-host you’ll have the added benefit of being able to add plugins and monetize your site, but that’s a tale for another day.)
  3. A Domain-Based Email: I’ll say this first. Gmail is AWESOME. I had to create an account to participate in group activities in college and I haven’t looked back, since. In fact, I STILL use Gmail for all of my professional and personal correspondence. However, you’ll notice that all the email and contact inquiry opportunities on this site say @bloggingonward.com – Why?
    – It makes it easy for people to remember where they know me from.
    – It keeps my URL/web address handy. – I’ll take any excuse to send people to my page!
    – It looks more legit. The fact is that anyone can sign up for a Gmail account. Don’t believe me? I know people who have Gmails for their dogs Instagram. That’s right. A dog essentially has a Gmail account. Do you take your blog or business more seriously than Fluffy* takes her Instagram? (If you don’t, you probably should. Or at least enough to fake it by having a “real” email address.)
    Right or wrong, when you need money from goods, services, or another human the more they are likely to trust you. Having an @you.com email increases your legitimacy and trustworthiness online.
  4. Social Media: When you want to be seen as an authority on a subject, you need to act like an authority on said subject and resist the urge to be inappropriate on your public social media accounts. What does inappropriate mean? Well, that depends on your audience. Oprah channel followers expect different things than Marvel followers. The same is true for public figures and freelancers.
    If you write for political sites, social issue sites, or other websites which thrive and prosper based on public debates, then one will expect different types of posts from you than they would from a town mayor. That doesn’t mean you should run out with your metaphorical guns blazing if that isn’t natural to you, it simply means that you should remember that everyone from your readership to potential employers are likely to be paying attention.
    If you want to be taken seriously as a blogger/freelancer/whatever, you need to take yourself seriously. Think of it as faking it till you make it. (…Mostly because that’s what it is.) If it’s not something you would want your mother, grandmother, priest, or boss to see – don’t post it on your professional social media channel. If you can’t handle the pressure, then hire someone to manage your social accounts or don’t have them. Social media mistakes can be fatal, even if they seem small at the time.
  5. Email Scheduling/Boomerang: If you want to work a set, daylight schedule then don’t get your clients or potential clients accustomed to getting responses from you at all hours. My approach to this issue includes email scheduling and putting my office hours in my signature so there is a constant reminder that I keep ridiculous hours. Boomerang is a wonderful tool which allows you to set emails to go during your office hours, even if you are keying in the reply at 9pm the previous night.
  6. Confidence: In your calls, emails, and communications you need to be confident. Don’t second guess yourself. If they ask a question, make yourself realize it is because they need to know what they are asking, not because they are questioning your capabilities, and it isn’t a test of your competence. Don’t doubt yourself for them and let self-doubt talk you out of a sale or deal.
  7. Stay Strong: It isn’t always easy to stand behind your prices. This is especially true if you are doing creative work or something you’d actually like to do. It can be challenging to feel like you deserve any compensation at all when you literally would do the work for free.
    Trust me, I get it. I make things up and write them down for a living. (Obviously, there is a great deal more to it than that, but the jist is that.) Writing is something I’ve loved to do since the third grade. The fact that I do it well enough to be paid blows my mind, sometimes. If you feel that way, take a moment to think instead about the value you’re providing instead. Sure, you might be spending time in Photoshop or Illustrator playing with lines and fonts until you get a logo together that someone else likes. Focus instead on the brand confidence you’ll be providing both the company and their clients. You aren’t just writing a review, you’re helping a company, author, or organization build their reputation.
    The moral? Don’t devalue yourself, and stick to your guns as far as rates are concerned. Your ideal client won’t haggle or try to argue. They will appreciate your worth.
  8. Social Scheduling: Buffer, Later, and Hootsuite are some of my favorite general social schedulers, and they all have free memberships. Having regular posts which aren’t promotional or which extoll the values and virtues of your brand without being directly promotional are incredibly valuable. They set a precedence. They let people know they can expect great things from you and when your content or offers appear, they understand they can trust them.
  9. CoSchedule: CoSchedule is my editorial secret weapon. I can schedule a post to be published on my blog. TThen from the same interface I can schedule social posts on everything from Pinterest to Twitter. I can schedule posts days, weeks, and months after the original publication. What’s more, I can schedule each and every post that goes out. It’s magic.
  10. A Strong Swipe File: If you haven’t heard of the ominous “Swipe File” you should learn, now. A swipe file is something copywriters and other SEO strategists use to keep great writing handy to be reused later. (Swipe Files for the Lazy Copywriter is a great resource.) You can keep things like responses to service inquiries, quotes, and form letters handy to save yourself some time (and ensure that your replies are consistent – which is always a plus for branding.)

I realize some of these aren’t literal “tools”, but they are essential for succeeding in business and for presenting a professional facade, even when you’re a one-woman (or man) operation.

What are your favorite “tools of the trade” when it comes to putting your best foot forward?

* Names have been changed to protect the innocent.