Monday, November 18, 2013

Inspiration in Unusual Places

If we were to look closely, we may discover inspiration in strange places.

Inspiration moves us to do the things we do, helping to add fuel to our emotions and awaken our senses. When we are inspired we feel EXCITEMENT and LIFE.

Oftentimes we are inspired by the simplest of things: the sunshine, a smile, the smell of fall leaves. We find inspiration in the people we meet, the movies we watch, the music we listen to, and the books we read.

Inspiration, and where we receive it, is not always as noticeable as the nose on our face. Sometimes inspiration can be found in some unusual places.

For example . . .

I run a non-stop recording in my head when I am tackling overwhelming projects (keeping up with a blog, starting a book, potty training a child):

Be prepared

Stay focused

Keep going.

One time, in between projects, I was dwelling on the things that inspire me ~ things that get me moving ~ and I discovered an interesting link between the recording:

Be prepared

Stay focused

Keep going.  

I realized it had to do with a book I read years ago.

I love to read so it was no surprise that I found inspiration in a book. What was surprising was the book that inspired me.

It’s a book I would recommend to a select few people, only those I feel would get the most from it.

It wasn't so much the information in the book, although the purpose of the book helped immensely when I needed it, it was more about the principles in the book that stuck with me through all these years.

The book I am referring to:

Toilet Training in Less Than a Day, by Nathan Azin and Richard M. Foxx

Yep. That’s the book that inspired me to:

Be prepared … Stay focused … Keep going.

I sense some skepticism.

Toilet Training in Less Than a Day not only showed me how to potty train my child in 3 ½ hours, but this interesting marvel of a book taught me many valuable lessons.

If you know of anyone who has a child at the potty training age, I HIGHLY recommend this book. It is a quick read (took me about half a day to read it), the techniques are quite simple, and IT WORKS.

Otherwise, I would like to share my connection between the book and how it inspired me.

Be prepared.

The book:     Instructed me to my dress my son comfortably and provide him with a hearty breakfast, snacks, and plenty to drink. I was to make sure there would be NO interruptions: no television, no games, and no toys.
                        I was required to have all the necessary equipment readily available: training potty, doll that can go potty, patience and determination.

Inspiration: I tackle projects (not just writing, but all projects) with the same attitude. Before tackling any project I make certain I have what I need, both material and mental; things like my computer, my wits and a lot of determination.
                   I also schedule work time when I know I will not be distracted.

Stay focused.

The book:     The main topic is “potty training.” That’s it. Potty train this and potty train that. No other topic of discussion. Potty. Potty. Potty.

Inspiration: I refer to this a lot. My mind has a tendency to wonder. Ideas pop in and out so fast I lose track of them and get myself lost in my own thoughts. I have learned to stay focused in the moment. Stay focused on what is in front of me. If I catch my mind trailing, I refocus on the task at hand until it’s complete or I am satisfied with the results.

Keep going.

The book:     I will admit after about 10 minutes into the potty training I had a desire to give up. My son was not at all interested in using the potty. I had a hard time keeping him focused on our main topic of conversations: Potty Training. But, as the book encouraged, I kept going. I remained focused on the job at hand and kept at it until the desired result had been reached.

Inspiration: This may be what I reflect on most; the idea to KEEP GOING. It is easy to stop when things get a little tricky or aren't going in the right direction. KEEP GOING. It’s easy to quit, but much more rewarding to KEEP GOING.

It’s in the things that inspire us that give us strength to move on, move ahead and strive to be our best.

Inspiration can be found anywhere, even in the strangest of places.

What strange places have you found inspiration?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Writer's Two Cents About the Content Mill Debate

If you don’t know already, Content Mills are agencies that herd in thousands of articles written by people who are paid a small amount per article (usually something between $2-$30), or are paid a small amount per word (usually something around $.01-$.40). You have heard the term before, I am certain, but if you need a re-fresher there is a more in-depth explanation of what a Content Mill is here.

There has been a lot of debate floating around the Internet surrounding the topic of Content Mills. There are those who disapprove of the Mills all together; feeling they do nothing but take advantage of writers. But, there are others who support Mills; believing they are a reasonable source of income.

It wasn’t until I came across several articles written by people who were either praising Content Mills or bashing them that I decided to take a moment to reflect on my own feelings towards Mills and offer my two cents.

The underlying inquiries I noted most often:

·         Are Content Mills a waste of a fledgling writer’s time, or are they stepping stones for writers wanting a foot in the door . . . any door?

·         Are the articles expected to be written worth the time and effort for the few pennies being offered as payment, or do writers not care and see the work as a chance to gain experience for future projects that will offer better payment?

I can speak from experience, I wrote for a few different Content Mills.

Truthfully, it didn’t take me long to realize that my heart wasn’t with writing for them. In fact, it was enough to make me sick every time I had to write a 300-500 word article on a topic that interested me very little.

It wasn’t long before I found myself in a position where I could continue to pour my time into writing for “search and claim assignment” sites, or sites that assign writers a list of relevant keywords to use for articles (usually themed: food, holiday parties).

I could continue to devote myself to searching and writing assignments (the few assignments) that at least invoked some sort of interest. I could continue to painstakingly take my time and thoroughly research every assignment in order to write an informative and interesting article, regardless if I had little interest in the subject and received a small payment for my hard work.

Then it dawned on me:

If I took this much time and effort into writing stuff that I could care less about, what would happen if I invest my time and effort into writing things I am passionate about, things that inflame my heart. Why can’t I make money writing about what interests me?

From that realization, I moved on to pursue other freelance writing projects. Do I regret the time I spent writing for Content Mills ~ searching for assignments, gathering sources for each article, and actually writing the article within the allotted time?

Absolutely not.

And I will tell you why.

When the first approval to write for a content mill came in my Inbox, I was ecstatic! Elated! Proud of myself! It was the boost of confidence I needed.

I was just beginning my on-line freelance writing career and was looking for a place to start. Seeing, “Congratulations you are approved as a Mill Writer” meant a lot to me. It meant I had a place to start.

To me, Mills are not a waste of time for a writer just beginning. I look at them as stepping stones that have the potential to provide freelance writers ~ those wanting to make money writing ~ with many valuable learning experiences.

In my experience:

Mills offered me a crash course in the operations of an on-line world.

·         They introduced me to PayPal which I have found to be a valuable resource. Being new to freelance writing and the on-line world I had no idea that a site like PayPal existed. The Mill I was writing for required all writers to have an account so payments could be made. I wanted my money, so I created an account and have since learned a great deal about the different services PayPal offers.

·         I learned how to navigate through websites; access my account, claiming assignments, submitting assignments and so forth. Each Content Mill has a different process for claiming, receiving and submitting assignments and each, in their own way, taught me a little more about the inner-workings of the on-line world.

·         I gained a great deal of knowledge about effective use of keywords and learning the importance of Search Engine Optimization and Latent Semantic Indexing. Not to mention learning a few SEO and LSI techniques.

·         It also exposed me to the inter-mingling of the on-line world: the forums and message boards, social media and the world of blogging.

Mills offered me the opportunity to search and discover more about myself.

·         It was while writing for Mills when I realized my likes and dislikes. I discovered things that really moved me. It was probably during this enlightening moment I realized that writing for Content Mills just wasn’t for me. Instead, I had a desire for bigger and better things. I will always appreciate the knowledge gained from writing for them, though.

·         I also learned – reluctantly – that I am a slow writer. It takes time selecting the right words, the right tone, and the right resources. I write and re-write a lot. It is my goal to make certain I have covered all the information and included some high points to be fondly remembered. That takes time, more time than many Mills allot. I found myself rushing to write a piece and always felt unsatisfied with the article I wrote, believing if I had more time I could have made it better.

It was the dawn of myself that woke me up to the vast opportunities I had as a writer other than writing for Content Mills. I wasn’t happy with the amount of work involved for the few pennies they paid. I wanted a bit more freedom with my writing. I learned from them. I grew from my experience and I set out on other paths.

Would I recommend writing for a Content Mill?

If you are just beginning as a writer, Yes. Yes, I would recommend writing for a Mill. The learning experience is priceless.

What have been your experience working with Content Mills? Was it positive? Do you regret the time you spent writing for them?