- Version 1.0 of my 2013 Self-Improvement Program: 7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal
- Version 1.5, published a month later after my 29th birthday: The Plan So I Don’t Waste the Last Year of My 20s
Today I am joining Charlie Martin and Sarah Hoyt in attempting a 13 Weeks Blogging Self-Improvement Program. I invite others to join me and assist in the continued development of what we should call The Charlie Martin 13 Weeks Method. (Has a nice alliterative ring to it, methinks.) Back in February Charlie laid out his approach:
By accident, however, I’d noticed a process, or pattern.
- Decide there’s something you want to change.
- Find ways to measure your progress.
- Decide on some small unthreatening things you can do that should affect those measures.
- Track the results for 13 weeks and see what happens. It helps to pick appropriate tools and techniques for that tracking, but something as simple as a Seinfeld calendar, where you just draw an X on a calendar for every day you do something can be very powerful.
So here’s my 1-2-3-4 for The 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen:
1. The problem that I’d like to change is the one that Sarah identified in her PJ Lifestyle article yesterday: being buried in books for research. Over the past year I’ve tried to figure out how to organize the various subjects that I want to study in order to best make sense of them and find the connections across the disciplines. I want to read more books and do a better job of staying organized with the ideas and research that I find in them for my future writing and editing projects. I want to continue to explore connections across disciplines, reading both novels and a wide variety of nonfiction, both very serious philosophy and absurd satire.
2. I will continue to share the most interesting nuggets of my research in one daily PJ Lifestyle Bookshelf post that features an excerpt. Additional snapshots from my research will appear at my Instagram and Twitter accounts which can be followed here and here.
3. I will only create seven piles of books, one for each day, and then base each day’s reading on the titles from that pile. I won’t have to think about which books I’ll read each day. I’ll just draw from each pile. Each day will be based on 1-3 authors and 1-4 related subjects that I want to juxtapose together. This will not be a hard rule that I can only read from that day’s pile. If a book on another subject has caught my enthusiasm then I can still read it after dong the day’s necessary reading.
But I need to find at least two excerpts worth Instagramming and at least one of them should appear as a PJ Lifestyle Bookshelf selection to inspire debate and discussion. (That’s the purpose of those posts — for the regular readers who have complained, asking why I don’t take a few paragraphs to spell out my opinion of each excerpt offered. They appear because I am more interested in hearing reader feedback on them than pontificating my own ideas.) These seven piles will then flow into the six categories that I created in my original Counterculture Conservative book list from back in October. The seventh (and last) category I plan to add will be based on my list of the The 15 Best Books for Understanding Barack Obama’s Mysterious Political Theology. (This will be the basis for Friday’s systematic exploration of evil ideas.)
4. I will create a calendar on a page of my journal broken up into 13 weeks and at the beginning of each day I will notate which page I am on in the books that I am reading associated with that day. I will photograph this calendar and blog about it each week, noting and analyzing my results on Tuesdays (the PJ Lifestyle day focused on writing, media, and technology). At the end of the 13 weeks I will see the progress I made on each author and subject. Then I will decide how to adjust each day’s reading focus, maybe taking a break from an author for a bit or adding another writer whose ideas are worth juxtaposing with the other thinkers of the day.
So what will the reading subjects be for the seven days of this “first season,” as Charlie calls it, of the The 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen? I’m doubling down on the authors and subjects of previous self-improvement plans, but focusing some plans and expanding others. As always, your recommendations for additional books and authors that I need to read are sincerely appreciated. Please leave suggestions in the comments or email me.
And publishers, authors and publicists: any and all paperback/hardback books received by mail will be photographed and blogged about. (And e-books that are especially interesting may also be featured. But actual books are of course more photogenic.)
When I was starting out as a professional writer, taking workshops or just chatting around the cafeteria table, the question was a sure sign that you had an amateur on your hands:
“But what if an editor steals my stuff?”
These same newbies were more obsessed with where and how they should type their “© by…” line than they were with writing something steal-able.
“Copyright is automatic,” I’d sniff smugly, longing to add, “Believe me, you have nothing to worry about.”
Of course, in those days, the IBM Selectric was the most advanced “word processor” available.
Email hadn’t been born and the Internet was in diapers.
You mailed your article to your editor, maybe even couriered it — or faxed it if the publication was particularly fancy.
Today, editors (and bloggers and other writers) do steal your stuff, because it’s so easy, and because notions of right and wrong are in flux.
At the same time, thanks to the same technology that makes theft so commonplace, copyright law has become harder to understand.
If you’re a writer, however, you have to at least try.
If you’re sick of me bragging about my twelve years as a blogger, good news:
I’m now in year #13.
Pretty much everything I know about blogging, I picked up via trial and error.
I taught myself HTML Rosetta Stone-style, by peeking at other sites’ source code to see how they achieved particular effects.
I also noted the way popular sites “hat-tipped” other sites when they found something juicy there, and how they thanked other blogs that linked to them.
I still strongly recommend trial and error as a learning method, especially the “error” part: there are few things more indelible than our own embarrassing mistakes.
(Even better, learn from other people’s mistakes to avoid making your own in the first place.)
However, I’m happy to pass along a few blogging tips.
These ones take you “under the hood” to make changes your readers won’t see — but will definitely notice…
DON’T BE A DREAM CRUSHER!
This article is utter drivel.
Your article is b.s.
And Susannah Breslin should not be a writer.
Maybe one day you too will be a story teller as opposed to a blow hard braggart.
I’ve written about negative feedback here before: “This Is Why You’re Stupid, or How to Deal with Criticism on the Internet.”
For the most part, criticism of this sort doesn’t bother me. They’re responding to what I wrote, not me.
Plus, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve gotten used to it.
Supposedly, the web is a “conversation.”
Meanwhile, brands are obsessed with consumer “engagement” — but only so they can figure out how they can turn it into profits.
(I ought to know, I used to be a Facebook whisperer.)
I think the real reason people communicate online is because they are communicating with themselves.
It may look like a blog post, an article, a tweet, a status update, an infographic, a photograph.
But what you’re witnessing is someone engaged with, holding a conversation, communicating with themselves.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
This year marks my 12th “blogversary.”
That’s right: Before Instapundit, before LittleGreenFootballs, even before PJ Media — I AM.
Inspired by proto-blogs RobotWisdom and PopCultureJunkMail, and powered by the free, easy-to-use Blogger platform, I originally set up something called RelapsedCatholic (now FiveFeetOfFury) as a swipe file/staging area for my Toronto Star religion column.
(Amusingly, Blogger itself started out as just a quick and dirty way for PyraLabs staffers to discuss the company’s “real” projects.)
My Toronto Star column is long gone, but my blog is still up. So are thousands of others.
But in those early days, I could complete my morning blog-reading rounds before finishing my first coffee.
One of those must-reads was the Drudge Report, of course. One Tuesday morning, at the top of its third column, Matt posted a tiny photo and a one-line “breaking” story: reports of a small plane hitting the World Trade Center.
“Not another Kennedy,” I tsked, remembering John Jr.’s death not long before.
Maybe, maybe not, but if you’re going to be honest with yourself and those around you, you’d admit that you hate people too. With the loss of common sense, politeness, and consideration by most, how could you not? It seems that “kindness to others” has been placed on a shelf next to the good china to be taken out and “used” only on special occasions. Let’s face it, people wander through life taking care of their daily business oblivious to those around them unless of course they may somehow be affected by an encounter with another.
I can see that you don’t believe me. You are either not paying attention, which launches you right into the middle of the oblivious, or you are surrounded by a much better breed of people than I. Since I don’t know your situation, I can only share a few of my daily experiences so you don’t think I’m lying.
Often times my daily chores take me to the grocery store. Honest to goodness, I have never asked anyone to allow me to go in front of them, but somehow my time is rarely considered as valuable as the person behind me. On one particular day, I was in line in, my cart moderately full. I had been waiting my turn patiently for about ten minutes when I was approached from behind by a lady (I use that term loosely).
“‘Scuse me, ‘scuse me lady…let me go in front of you. I have only this, I’m in a hurry.”
Granted, she was polite, she did say “‘Scuse me” as she held up her item. I was annoyed. Aren’t patrons like her the reason there are lines for those with “15 items or less”? As I said, I had been waiting my turn and had other things I needed to do. Reluctantly, I allowed the woman with the one item to go in front of me. As she maneuvered past me, she looked back, waving her hand yelling, “Over here!” I turned to look in the same direction as the lady who had just moved to the front of the line, in front of me. With G-d as my witness, I was nearly knocked down by another woman barreling towards me with a grocery cart so full the wheels were about to click off.
As this woman pushed past me running over my toes, she looked over her shoulder and spat out “Watch it lady, I’m with her….” In that one quick minute, these two women accomplished a feat those who know me thought impossible: they made me speechless. I think I was in shock until after the checker began ringing their order, and then it was too late. With my jaw still hanging open ten minutes later when my order was finally being checked, I was asked if I required medical attention or perhaps a chair on which to sit since I didn’t look well.
Still don’t believe me? Okay, let’s go to the movies. If you want to see a movie without the probability of being hit in the head with flying objects, it is suggested that adults go to evening movies. It’s a great suggestion, even if you take into account that the person in front of you may be hard of hearing, and his partner may repeat the entire dialogue of the movie at the top of her lungs, don’t you think? (Yes, it really happened!) Probably less noise, chances of crying infants should be way down, flying objects should not be a worry. Huh, ya think? My girlfriend and I one day decided to take in a “chick flick” choosing an evening show. It was a seven o’clock movie; we figured that would work.
We bought our tickets, loaded up on the popcorn and drinks, and in we went to a half filled theater. Perfect.
We picked our seats and settled in for a hopefully enjoyable two hours. No sooner than the lights dimmed and the previews started, a phone rang. At first I thought it was one of those clever movie commercials reminding viewers to be polite and turn off their phones. Unfortunately, I was wrong. A person a mere four rows back answered her phone, speaking as if she were enjoying a cup of coffee at her kitchen table with a couple of friends. I’d like to report that she immediately told the caller that she was in a movie theater and she’ll return the call later, but that was not in the cards.
“Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.”
It’s arguably the most famous opening line in 20th century fiction. The predicament in which Franz Kafka’s “Joseph K.” finds himself is even more chillingly relevant today than it was in 1920.
Not only was Kafka lucky enough to have died before the Holocaust he’d intuited was on the horizon, but he missed far, far lesser scourges, like internet trolls and slanderers.
If Kafka were alive and writing on the web today, he’d have dozens of online stalkers, making fun of him for living with his parents and having really big ears.
He might even be subject to “lawfare” for his “controversial” blogging.
A while back I wrote about the particular abuse women in general — and conservative women in particular — attract on the web. The good news is that there are ways to dial down this annoying din, and these methods work for everybody.
I’ve been a professional writer since I sold my first piece to Seventeen at age 21, on my first try.
(Take that, Sylvia Plath: she racked up about fifty rejection letters from the same magazine before breaking in.)
Since then, I’ve veered between being an on-site staff writer and a full-time freelancer, doing one or the other for about three or four years before getting bored/wanting more money/getting sick of winter commuting/spotting an ad for the full-time “dream job” I just HAD to have (for a while).
Right now, I’ve been freelancing full-time since 2008. Along with the politics and culture pieces I do for PJ Media and other online magazines, I write web copy for clients ranging from funeral homes to roofing contractors; edit and ghostwrite books, newsletters, and op-eds; and manage a few social media accounts as well.
Over the years, countless people have told me they want to be freelance writers, too. So here are some tips and home truths about the freelance writing (or freelance anything) life.