First performance in Adelaide

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Learning to expose myself in front of strangers

Under the tutelage of Robert Grayson, I’m in Adelaide to do some stand-up comedy this coming weekend at the Rhino Room.

Performing stand-up comedy adds a dimension of terror to the modest comfort of actually writing comedy, which is what I’m accustomed to.

It helps that I barely know anyone in Adelaide. It helps minimize the fear I have that if I make a fool of myself, I save my family and friends from the discomfort of having to express hollow words of encouragement afterwards.

Since I commited myself to doing this, I’ve been amazed at how much new material has come to me once I knew the date and time of the gig.

So it must be true: the comedy gods come to your aid when you’re committed to a performance.

It’s as though the comedy gods have a policy that they only come to your aid once you’ve jumped off the cliff. (It sounds like a familiar HR policy for businesses I’ve worked for.)

I’ve found this to be true of other activities: once I’m absolutely committed to completing a task, I get more ideas and more energy to get the job done.

It’s a good way to live.

Here’s a simple rule if you’re providing a service for a fee (such as a freelancer), but your client wants you to drop your price:

Make sure you also remove some of the service.

Don’t budge on your prices.

See this video if you still don’t get it.

Creativity and New Media

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Have a look at the opportunities available to connect with your audience via so many new channels:

People are more likely to read your stuff if it’s online compared to anywhere else.

New Creative Directions

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Um, what are you doing on the road?
Um, what are you doing in the middle of the road?

Goals are good. I had a goal for this blog at the beginning of the year.

The problem was that I got so busy I didn’t have time to achieve life’s more basic goals, like showering or taking my kids to school.

Since my last blog post I:

  • Attended an internet marketing conference in San Diego and made some friends
  • Did a small business management course and made some friends
  • Attended some local business events and made some friends

In the middle of all that, I still managed to:

  • Maintain a full-time work-from-home technical writing position with a large technology company
  • Increase my number of Twitter followers from 1481 to 1483
  • Discover a cafe in walking distance from home staffed by members of the Munster family

I began this blog wanting to talk about two writing courses that I found helpful, so here’s a very brief update:

  • I still think Holy Lisle’s course is ‘top-shelf’ for quality and value for money, but you gotta work at it to get the most out of it. This project for me is on the back-burner for the moment.
  • The other course was at, which has been down for weeks, and without any notice to its members. I just checked again and there’s now a WordPress theme up, so maybe my life-time access for $97 might come good. They haven’t responded to my queries, so I’m keeping my expectations low, like I have about the Australian soccer team at the next World Cup.

I’ve also been working on some new e-books which I’ll mention in due time.

So you could say I have more work on my plate than an outsourced Indian programmer, but I’m still here and you’ll see some changes soon.

Would you like sugar with that?
Would you like sugar with that?

How to Think Sideways Course Review – Week 3

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Be careful of the rabbit hole

Be careful of the rabbit hole

Now that you have your life and interests up on the wall, Holly takes that big map of ideas and turns it loose.

You have to come up with three writing project ideas, using techniques for your subconscious or muse to guide you so that you find projects that can be FUN and EXCITING.

This is a big deal. If you have trouble coming up with ideas to write about, then this week’s exercise helps you explore your map and look for weird connections between topics that interest you.

But alas for me, this is the week when I started to go down the rabbit hole and away from doing Holly’s course material.

I write about it here in case you’re the kind of person who might start projects but get yourself distracted, jumping from one thing to another.

One of my ideas from Holly’s exercise had the potential to lead to a series of comedy sketches, which required collaborating with actors, a film crew, the whole shebang. It looks great in my head.

This is a good example of when I get ahead of myself: I start thinking of all the details about HOW a project could work, and what topics I could cover given just one simple idea from an exercise in Holly’s course.

I haven’t actually written anything yet!

It was the following week’s course material that helped me pitch this idea to a potential collaborator (notice how I’m starting to go away from Holly’s exercises and off on my own tangent). 

So in the next installment I’ll describe what happened next.

How to Think Sideways Course Review – Week 2

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Looking for 'brain' gold

Looking for 'brain' gold

Week 2 of Holly’s course is pure gold. Her exercise in finding out what topics and issues might form the basis of your future writing is simply incredible.

This week’s material is about discovering who you are, what makes you tick, and even discovering what your purpose in life is.

I now have on the back of my office door a large map of all the things that make me tick, and I’ve had SO MANY IDEAS as a result of this map that there have been nights that I’ve lost sleep from all the mental commotion!

I would recommend spending the initial minimum time that Holly recommends with getting the ‘sweet spot map’ started, but make sure you put it up on a door or wall so you can come back and add things to it as they occur to you later.

How to Think Sideways Course Review – Week 1

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Holly Lisle, Writer

My intention with these reviews is not give too much detail about what the course material contains, since this is Holly’s intellectual property, but to give you my opinion about how her course broadens my skills as a writer.

Holly begins her course addressing the THINKING problems that can cause a would-be author trouble from getting started, or if they never finish what they start.

The first week’s material can be immensely helpful for people who have a yearning to write but don’t have much to show for it.

In fact, I’ve come back to this first assignment when I’ve hit obstacles progressing with this course myself (I’ll mention those difficulties later).

It’s good to be reminded of the mental games writers play on themselves.
On the issue of getting started, I’ve also found in Becoming a writer by Dorothea Brande, also helpful for someone like me who comes from a technical, left-brain writing background.

Brande’s writing advice is, before anything else, to get up at least half an hour early and just start writing whatever…

This way you’re more connected with your creative side and haven’t put your brain into gear with lot’s talking and mind-clutter.


Jack Dann, Writer

Something Jack Dann also mentioned once which I loved too was that if you don’t write first thing in the morning, you get to the end of the day and you’ve probably written nothing, so you feel screwed. If you take charge and do your writing first thing, then you won’t feel screwed.

The other piece of advice Dorothea Brande gives in addition to writing first thing in the day is to assign yourself fifteen minutes at some point during the day to also write, and over time try different times to see what effect it has on your writing.

Just getting going with regular writing and learning more about yourself by doing will teach you more than just thinking about it.

Is it possible to write for art and money?

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Art & Money. University of Chicago Press, 1995

Art & Money. University of Chicago Press, 1995

There is no doubt about it, in the twentieth century if you are to come to be writing really writing you cannot make a living at it no not by writing. – Gertrude Stein

Sir, no man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money. – Samuel Johnson

I write everyday.

Every morning I say goodbye to my family and the goldfish and head-off to my office, to write.

But I’ve noticed two very different experiences when I write.

The first is what happens to me when I’m writing ART.

This is when I write to say something that means a lot to me, or what I’m writing gives me goose-bumps. This happens when I’m writing humor. Poets and novelists describe the same experience.

I wrote comic routines for a stand-up comedian, humorous lines which appeared in a national daily and a number of episodes for a comic strip series.

But for all that fun and clever writing (my ART), I didn’t get paid a penny (the comedian skipped out on our agreement, but that’s another story).

The other kind of writing however, the kind that pays the bills (writing for MONEY), my emotions are not engaged. I’m just explaining topics that I’m employed to write about, whether I like the topic or not. I have to meet the specification by the deadline.

I rarely get the same butterflies-in-the-stomach sensation when I write on these projects. I wouldn’t call writing for money always boring, there are times when I’m pleased by a turn of phrase I come up with which explains a complex topic simply and with brevity, but nothing tingles! I don’t get that same flow. 

And I know which I prefer – writing what I LOVE.

So, to get paid MONEY for my ART, that’s the dream.

That’s what this web site will explore – writing what you love and getting paid for it.

Online Writing Goal for 2009

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affiliate-universityI first met Bill Hibbler online years ago when I started investigating online marketing resources.

Bill had written some reviews about expensive software and courses that I was interested in at the time.

His inexpensive e-book saved me a lot of time and wasted effort.

In addition to saving me lots of heartache, Bill was happy to answer my additional questions as it related to a project I was working on at the time, and his willingness to help a stranger was definitely unusual!

Since that time I always kept up with what Bill was working on because I knew he was a genuine guy and he didn’t hide behind some slick marketing machine.

In December, Bill launched AffiliateU to help train people to begin doing business online as affiliates of other products and services, which is how he got started. As you learn the ropes, you can start developing and selling your own products.

To be sure, I was already familiar with many of the topics he has inside his ‘university,’ but the clincher for me was the bonus of all the material from his intensive ‘e-book mastermind class’, which he conducted as recently as last year for about $1300.

This material is FREE as a bonus when joining AffiliateU, for the small amount of $97.

I’m the first one who will use free or inexpensive resources, and what Bill is offering is definitely value for money.

In fact, this web site was inspired by the material at AffiliateU and is the first step towards my online writing goals for 2009.

I will continue to go through Bill’s material at AffiliateU and will report on any new things I implement as the year progresses.


During the holidays I reflected on what I’d like to achieve this year, and for a long time I’ve had this story idea mulling about in my mind but I never really had the confidence to commit it to paper. But this year I’m determined to do it.

When I got started in technical writing back in the mid-nineties, I had the good fortune of having an experienced technical writer mentor me into the business.

He gave me plenty of samples of his work and the work of others to look at and I got a feel for what was involved. I even picked up on his healthy cynicism about working with engineers, and to this day that has helped me not get emotionally attached to specifications. Nothing is ever as initially promised!

But for fiction writing however, I haven’t had that same regular exposure to someone working in the business, apart from the occasional seminar when I’ve sought inspiration.

Last year I discovered one full-time fiction writer who has created what looks like a comprehensive mentorship program into living day by day as a fiction writer. This is just like what I had on the job when I became a technical writer. So maybe this course well work for me as well.
I considered doing an MA in creative writing at a local university, but the costs are exorbitant and I’m not sure if it would really give me what I’m after.

Holly Lisle on the other hand is a full-time novelist (her books are everywhere) and the cost of her program is peanuts compared to other writing programs.

My plan is work through her course at my own pace as the year progresses and attempt to develop the story-telling side of my writing.

Check back to see how I progress and find out if maybe this course can help you too.

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