Instead of writing a novel this November, I’ve decided to follow Shaunta Grimes’ advice to make “build a writing business” my “NaNoWriMo goal”.
Although I do already have a business that focuses on providing written content, most of it involves writing content for other people.
What I’d really like to do is write about more things that I’m passionate about. I’d like to write more words that I believe in.
And of course, possibly make a living from that.
I’m a little behind on the game plan spelled out in the article, and November is looking to be a pretty hectic month. But if I don’t experiment, I’ll never know what possible.
“Pre-NaNo Day One” in the game plan requires me to create an editorial plan. It involves having to list out topics that I want to write about, then dividing them into top-level, mid-level and heart-level topics.
The other four days of prep includes doing research and drawing up an editorial calendar.
I’m also going to use GaryVee’s advice to “document, don’t create” to prevent the editor in my head from screaming “imperfection!”, to prevent the naysayer in my head from saying “you’re not good enough”.
When it comes to writing for myself, perhaps it’s time I take my own advice and strive for done, rather than perfect.
I recently read a short story called A Practical Guide to Becoming a Nun and was entranced.
The story — told in the second person — is about a girl who wants to become a nun and her mother, who struggles with accepting that choice.
As a teenager, there was a time when I thought that I wanted to be a nun (although I’m not Catholic). But unlike Molly in the story, it wasn’t because I had a devout sense of religiosity.
I didn’t know anything about what went on behind the scenes at a Catholic church but books I’d read indicated that there was a lot of time for study, silence and reflection.
In an episode of Michael Pollan’s Cooked, a nun, who is also a microbiologist makes cheese using traditional French cheese-making techniques. That was the kind of nun I imagined myself being.
But A Practical Guide to Becoming a Nun reminded me that it wasn’t as simple as that. There’s a line in the story, where I think Molly also begins to realise that it’s not all study and prayer.
When she is asked if she wants to speak to the priest, the story goes:
“You can hear him now, a man old or young, explaining the rules you’ll be expected to follow, the rigorous training and prayer that lies ahead.”
It’s here that she starts to consider whether a life as a nun is what she wants for herself.
I spend most of the day looking at a screen and while I do try to take breaks that involve more movement, I also have short breaks where I just do something fun on my laptop. For a while it was Piano Genie, followed by Learning Music.
Lately, it’s been Perfect Circle on volewtf. It works exactly how it sounds — you try to draw a perfect circle using your mouse / touchpad and the game grades how perfect your circle is. (If you try it out, let me know what your high score is! Mine was 91.7%)
I also sometimes like to browse cool website designs and Bruno Simon’s portfolio website was also a nice break from work. Besides showing off what he can do as a developer, it’s also a fun way to check out his profile and work done.
Twitter is always a nice distraction, especially when people do long tweet threads. This post about what tools one would use to make a simple self-hosted website and blog in 2019 had useful responses. My default is usually WordPress, but there are so many other options these days.
This thread about simplicity in design was also insightful. I especially liked this part: “…you don’t achieve simplicity by making things simple. You achieve simplicity by making things understood.”
If you know how to do some simple coding and like “building images with images”, check out Tiler. I foresee myself spending a lot of time on this, so am holding off until a later date (hopefully December).
In about four days, October will be over, which means NaNoWriMo will begin. The rest of the year will be hectic — including November — but I will attempt to write my 1667 words a day.
I’ve been saying this every year since 2009 but in the last nine years, have only completed two novels — both of which are too awful for anything else but my Drive folders.
I have multiple ideas in my head at any one time, and yet, it can sometimes be a struggle to keep them moving ahead. Especially when my various projects are highly different from one another.
In an article about “what to do when your creative process isn’t working”, Josh Spector writes that “starting requires two distinct elements”.
The two elements are: ideas and execution — and he suggests pursuing them “separately, but simultaneously”.
In another article that explores this concept further, Spector provides a method for getting your brain into idea generation mode — complete 50 “what if” sentences related to your idea.
Then set aside and equal amount of time to come up with a process that will help you to execute efficiently. This includes time for research, figure out how to get from one idea to the next, finding the best pockets in your schedule to sit down and write.
“Let’s say you commit time to the parallel paths of ideas and execution on alternating days. Eventually, something amazing will happen — the paths will intersect,” he writes.
I tried out Carrd recently and as a no-code tool, it suffices. It was recommended by a newsletter for media practitioners as a builder that could be used to quickly create a portfolio website.
It certainly fulfils that purpose. It also helps that you can go live, without having to pay for a subscription. However, on the free plan, you’ll have to use a carrd subdomain.
My experimental website is at realhumangirl.carrd.co if you’re interested in checking it out.
This was my first time using it and it took me a while to figure out the builder. I also felt like there wasn’t much customisation I could do. While there are a number of themes to choose from, the design feels very fixed.
But it definitely fits the bill as a quick setup portfolio site. It took me about 15 minutes, including uploading photos.
But to be honest, if I were looking to create a portfolio site, I might use Tumblr instead.
There’s a wide range of themes available that don’t have to be customised to use. It’s easy to manage content. And you can use your own domain for free. There are instructions that are pretty straightforward to follow.
If at any point you want to create something from scratch, Tumblr also has great theme documentation that you can refer to.
I’m a big proponent of experimenting with businesses — testing quickly (and cheaply) and possibly failing at some. I also believe in taking care of one’s team.
This is probably why I found Justin Jackson’s post about his journey with Transistor inspiring and insightful. Jackson took the business from 0 to $30k monthly recurring revenue in just under a year. What I really liked was that each month, half the revenue went to paying the co-founders.
No-code tools these days make it really easy to get a minimum viable product up. Some people compare writing code to using a pro DSLR camera, while no-code is like using a smartphone camera. When it comes to taking photos, I know which one I prefer.
Lego has some really cool ideas for the innovation process. They’ve even created a stage called “pretotypes” which comes before prototypes. They’re super low fidelity, as well as quick to develop and test.
After finding something that works and is generating some kind of revenue, further planning is required for growth. There are ways to plan effectively. This article has some learnings from Eventbrite and Airbnb.
If you want to get something attractive up quickly (and cheaply), Open Doodles is a cool resource for illustrations to snazz up your landing pages. Created by Pablo Stanley, who was also behind Humaaans.
These days, I can typically track how busy I’ve been by how many days go by between each of my blog posts. Since I started doing this, I’ve missed days at least twice (if not more).
This is the longest it’s been between postings. But it wasn’t totally because I was busy.
The truth is, I’ve been dejected. In September, I wrote two pieces for submission — one fiction, one creative non-fiction. Neither one made the cut.
Since the start of the year, I’ve been questioning my ability as a writer. And suddenly, hit with these two rejections, one of which I didn’t even really care about getting into, my entire professional identity came into question.
Who was I, if not a writer? And could I even call myself a writer if I wasn’t getting published enough?
Even as I hit milestones in the other work I do, I wonder why this hasn’t been happening for my writing.
What if this was as far as I could go? The thought frightened me.
So I worked on other things. I read books, played games. The blank screen suddenly seemed like the scariest thing in the world.
But then I remembered something I’d read years ago: the answer to the question “when can I call myself a writer”.
When you write.
So I keep writing.