How I overcame my Twitter guilt

I love to blog, argue about serial commas on LinkedIn and find out what my friends are up to on Facebook. But I don’t get Twitter.

I tweet mostly about new posts, which don’t happen frequently enough to stake my territory. I tried to feel more part of the gang by tweeting more about my upcoming book, Write like you talk–only better.

The trouble with Tweetdeck
I even got around to moving to Tweetdeck. Mind you, I have to keep turning it off, as the sounds and flashes interfere with my concentration.

Sadly, I couldn’t stick to my plan to tweet about the book several times a day, excited though I am.

After all, I don’t yet have a place to send people to buy the book, my tweets weren’t all that profound and they didn’t attract many new followers who weren’t looking to hawk nude photos, singles events or other stuff I’m not interested in.

The angst of selling
Besides, I always feel people should come to me and beg me to work, which may be part of the reason my billings were down last year. It’s a miracle I have run my own business for more than 15 years, bought a house and raised two kids, mostly on my own.

I detest hard sales, which is why I love the content marketing philosophy and blogging so much.

So I stopped the buy-my-book tweets.

Still, I felt guilty, like I didn’t measure up to my colleagues who are up there all the time: Donna Papacosta, Sue Horner, Cyrus Mavalwala, Bernard Hellen and more.

The lack of time
I don’t know where they find the time to tweet, let alone do all that reading. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big reader. But by the time I get through my emailed posts and my RSS feeds, the good stuff has already been hyper-tweeted.

Then there’s all the time consumed by clients, book revising, worrying about my son’s dodgy school attendance and the rest of my life.

I’ve told Donna I could spend most of my day exploring her links. Yet she manages to accomplish a lot of billable work and have adventures in the rioting streets of Athens. Must be a super woman.

Breathing easy
I was so relieved when I heard Rob Campbell, aka Smojoe, speak this week. Don’t worry about Twitter, he told our group, the Professional Independent Communicators, a bunch of Toronto writers, designers and other indies who belong to the International Association of Business Communicators. Long exhale.

Blogging is where the action is, Rob insisted. Let me confess I’d heard Rob before and hired him to help me, as he puts it, pimp my blog. The plan is to finally turn this time-sucking labor of love into the money-making machine I require to send my daughter on that school trip to Paris and replace my aqua bathroom fixtures.

The funniest part of his presentation was when he parodied the countless social media seminars you’ve probably attended that start with a call to raise your hand if you’re on Twitter, Facebook etcetera, then a bunch of Power Point-disenhanced stats about how they’ve grown.

What have you sold on Twitter today?
Raised hands and stats are always impressive, but they’d be a lot more meaningful if they were in response to questions about what people have accomplished, aside from another way to work for no money and have fun.

Sure, there are lots of excellent examples of social media spurring sales for beer and other products intended for that consumer demographic. But I agree with Rob that the benefits for many of us have been over-hyped. It’s the tulip-mania of 2010.

Social media I love
I’m sticking with blogging because it’s an amazing showcase for writers like me. It should also help me sell my book and give me a forum to discuss the feedback I receive.

I’m staying with Facebook too. Many of my friends are strictly social and don’t really care what I do for a living. I will continue to resist their pleas about Farmville and Mafia Wars, which don’t interest me at all. But the updates, photos and groups are a great way to stay in touch.

I may even spend more time on LinkedIn. I’ve yet to attract any business that way, but I enjoy connecting with people who have the same interests as me. Maybe I’ll find a group to help me live with the aqua bathroom fixtures a little longer.

I’ll continue to tweet my new posts, after 3.00 p.m. on Friday, as a study Cyrus tweeted advised, when people are goofing off and more likely to read and retweet you.

But that’s it, for now anyways. Twitter, you are the acquaintance I talk to briefly and occasionally, not a friend I’m fired up about hanging out with all the time.

Don’t take that personally, Twitter. It’s all about me, not you.

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My 100th post and other trivia

This is my 100th post. To celebrate, I asked Wikipedia and Google to tell me more about 100. Here are 10, the square root of 100, bits of fun trivia I found.

100 is
1. a Leyland number (26 + 62 = 100)
2. the number of items on way too many lists
3. the number of tiles in a standard Scrabble set
4. the police telephone number in Greece, India and Israel, the ambulance and firefighter in Belgium and the operator in the United Kingdom
5. the HTTP status code indicating that the client should continue with the request
6. the number of episodes for a TV series to become viable for syndication
7. ١٠٠ in Arabic
8. 佰,百 as a Chinese numeral
9. one Dalmation pup missing
10. four years older than I can expect to live

Are bloggers revitalizing the old new journalism?

They almost got me. When I read Copyblogger this morning, I was sad to learn that Third Tribe was shutting down.

But as I read the amusing tale that followed, I realized it was an April Fool’s joke. I blame my slow uptake on my 14-year-old son, who did not play any jokes on me this year, so far anyways. Last year he rearranged my keyboard to say “APRIL FOOL” and wrote an embarrassing update on my Facebook page.

I enjoyed Sonia’s post. Some of the readers commented on the Hunter S. Thompson style. However, while the post was a joke, Thompson based his work on the truth.

Although he took daring liberties with the facts and drugs, Fear and Loathing and his other books were always somehow grounded in reality. That’s why this genre was called the new journalism.

No longer were reporters limited by objective perspectives and unflavored facts. Borrowing techniques from fiction, they could offer opinions and provide the details that enabled readers to feel part of the scene.

While the gonzo excesses may have been pruned, the new journalism has had a lasting impact on broadcast and print reporting. Bloggers too.

I think the new journalism was at its best with Truman Capote and In Cold Blood, a true story just as gripping as any novel I’ve ever read.

Another new journalism book I fondly remember is Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catcher. More social commentary and word play but less story telling.

Young bloggers who missed the original bluster of new journalism should check out these and other writers. Me, I’m going to dust off some pre-novelist Tom Wolfe to indulge in on this sunny long weekend. No fooling.

Ladies, start your search engines

Today Margaret Wente wrote a column in the Globe and Mail asking Why are bloggers male?

According to Margaret, it’s because men like to express opinions, similar to their yen for extreme snowmobiling or ranting on Fox News.

She pointed out that most women who are comfortable expressing their opinions, which blogging requires, no longer have all that estrogen hushing them up.

She’s right. Most of the popular female bloggers I read are women of a certain age, as the French so nicely phrase it.

I regularly read Dr. Patsy Krakoff, who recently admitted she’s in her sixties. Just this morning I clicked on the photo of Mary Jaksch at Write to Done and saw she’s no spring chicken either.

In my case, dwindling estrogen levels aren’t the whole story. Being outspoken is part of my DNA and upbringing. My mother has never been shy. Neither was hers. Although I grew up in Mad Men times, it did not occur to me that women weren’t in charge. My father still obeys my mother’s every wish, even though she’s in a nursing home and can barely speak.

What a shock it was to realize I was not supposed to ask boys to dance or argue with my boss, usually a white male. Women’s lib came just in time.

Margaret didn’t go into the sex discrimination that takes place in internet marketing. She should read the post by James at Men With Pens (the title says it all) about how a male pseudonym dramatically boosted her web writing revenues.

Yes, sometimes it seems like it’s a man’s world wide web. I’m always taken aback when I read semi-literate comments from guys boasting about how they achieved 1,000 page views a day. They are either lying or tricking Google, which will end in tears.

Then I realize many of their comments are simply pissing contests. I can’t see the point.

When I meet men my age or older at Third Tuesday or other local web 2.0 events, they are usually quite proud that they blog. They frequently volunteer their age, something even an opinionated woman like me won’t do. For them, blogging seems like a fountain of youth or a Viagara substitute.

They are onto something. Blogging has in no way smoothed the wrinkles or revved up my sex life. But it has given me a new lease on life.

After many years writing for business people and politicians, finally I can tell you what I think. In my own way. Hallelujah.

My corporate experience was a wonderful way to learn the tricks of my trade. Creatively and personally, it was stifling.

Of course Margaret Wente doesn’t need to blog because she writes for the most influential newspaper in Canada. But for women like me, blogging is a blast.

After a year, I’m not getting as many page views as I’d like, so I have hired (no surprise) a guy to, as he calls it, “pimp my blog.” I’ll be moving over to my new and improved self-hosted site soon.

I’ve been using some of my posts to write a book, Write Like You Talk–Only Better, that I’ll soon be selling at Sticky Communication. It’s fulfilling to distill what I’ve learned over the years and share with other people who are not having as much fun writing.

But even without the book, I would blog. I love being a mouthy broad.

May the force be with you

I was talking to a marketing friend Steve Semple about the benefits for people who buy the book I’m working on: All the writing they do at work will become easier and more effective. Simple and straightforward.

But what about the unexpected benefits? he asked.

Huh?

Steve talked about Star Wars, where Luke Skywalker gains the obvious benefits of rescuing the princess and defeating the villain.

The unexpected benefit, Steve pointed out, was learning about the “force,” the energy that binds the galaxy and bestows supernatural powers on those who harness it.

That got me thinking. What is the force for people who write? I don’t mean just the stars who create masterpieces, but writers like me who are good enough to earn a living or the people who write well enough to travel our cyber galaxy, the world wide web.

What are the supernatural powers we gain from harnessing the force?

The force lets me meet new people and build relationships outside of my neighbourhood, family, friends and other groups who dwell in my nook of the earth. It lets me express and spread thoughts and expertise for other people too.

Sometimes the force gives me supernatural powers to help people understand and respect each other. Occasionally I master the force so well I can reveal truths and touch hearts.

I guess the unexpected benefit I’d like to give people through this blog or my book is to introduce them to the force of writing. Very few of us will climb to artistic heights. But better writing can help us all understand each other a little better. That is a Jedi force.

However, we must be aware that, just like in Stars Wars, the force can be used for both good, as in bringing people together or raising awareness and funds for good causes, or bad, as in child pornography, jihadism, fraud and the other evils of the world wide web.

Fortunately, most of us harness the force of writing for good.

So tell me, fellow writers and world wide web travelers, how you do harness the force and what good does that do?

Confessions of an e-book writer

I am writing an e-book. At this point I wonder if I will ever finish.

You see, it has to be good, make that great. I can’t accomplish that over a long weekend, contrary to the claims of the internet hucksters who try to entice me to part with my money in exchange for promises of quick e-book riches. I’m not falling for it.

For the past year, I have been posting here. I have not made any money from it. Yet, it’s more than a labor of love.

I’m pulling together many of these posts in a book called Write Like You Talk–Only Better, where I provide a nifty 3-step process that will make writing easier, faster and friendlier for all of you who feel like you’re drowning in written words some days.

Everyone I’m in touch with, especially the big talkers, loves the concept and the title. But I still have to finish writing the book.

The trouble is every time I think I am making headway, I remember something. This gives me ideas for new posts, but takes me farther away from the finish line.

Once the first draft is completed, I’ll send it to some colleagues for review and they’ll have more to add. The wheel will turn again. Who knows how many times.

That’s why I’m going to publish online only before I consider the permanence of print. I can keep improving the book.

The book has to be great because it’s the culmination of 30 years of explaining to people why I have rewritten their work or what they should do next time they have to write something important and I’m not handy. It’s my legacy.

So it has to be my best. As a type B, I have rarely done my very best. But when I turned 50, I decided it was time to give it a shot. I figure I have less than 50 years left to see how bright I can shine.

Besides, the book has to make money. Ever since last year’s stock market crash, I’ve realized I need a revenue stream that will enable me to retire before I become too senile or crippled to type.

To plump the financial cushion, I’m also developing training based on the book. This will also give me the chance to get out more, important because I am starting to develop an unhealthy relationship with my computer and the online world.

As the list of topics I need to write about shrinks, the list of things I need to do to produce and promote the book grows. My mind is still spinning from the seminar I enjoyed last week on how to make keyword sandwiches by smojoe.com for Rapport Design . Expect to see some changes here soon.

Once I find the time. Everything takes too much time.

I am also busy with cover designs and other visuals, subtitles, measurement, Kindle, pricing, affiliate marketing and so much more.

Then there’s the billable writing I have to do. Some days, when I’m in the middle of a particularly hot post or plan and a client calls, I get annoyed and mutter under my breath. Please don’t tell them. Feeding teenagers is expensive.

The book is cutting into not only my earning hours, but also my after-work life, which is tough on a type B. My kids have had to learn to cook. Some days my dog runs herself around the backyard. The dust bunnies have become rabbits with warrens. Friends are removing me from speed dial.

You may be wondering why I am making these sacrifices for something that’s not guaranteed to work. My father asked me why I am writing a book at a time when everyone can write a book because they have a computer. No wonder I have self-esteem issues. No wonder I need to prove I can do this.

I truly believe that my book will perform a miraculous public service. Once my gospel spreads, we will no longer be forced to trudge through emails that don’t get the point, posts we don’t understand, white papers that sound like they were written from the crypt or web sites that sneer.

Besides, I’m having a blast.

Focus

This post has been updated and moved to http://www.stickycommunication.ca/2012/05/from-the-vault-focus/.