Previously, On the Ditch the Day Job Diaries…

When I first left my job in February to become a full-time freelancer, I starting doing a regular video diary about my experiences to share with subscribers to the Clear-Minded Creative newsletter.

Although I initially intended it to be weekly, that wasn’t entirely realistic, and I only ended up filming 14 episodes. The final episode ended on a bit of a cliffhanger too, so I apologise to those of you who were watching it regularly for leaving you in the lurch!

It struck me that those 14 episodes would work quite well as ‘Season One’ of the web TV show, and that Season Two could start from the time I headed off to the US to the World Domination Summit, and all the changes I’ve made since then.

Here then, is a handy recap of the first season of the Ditch the Day Job Diaries – look out for Season Two, coming soon!

If you want to catch up on the first season, and be notified when Season Two starts, remember to subscribe to the newsletter!

p.s. if you can’t wait until then, there are two interviews with me which will give you an insight into what I’ve been up to.

I was interviewed recently about being a freelance writer for the excellent Media Muppet site:

Media Muppet Interview: Milo McLaughlin – Copywriter & Web Editor

And I was also interviewed by my good pal Fabian of the Friendly Anarchist for his new ‘At Work’ series. He asked me some interesting questions about my work habits and even my morning routine:

 Friendly Anarchist At Work Interview – Milo McLaughlin

Thanks for watching/reading, and do let me know in the comments if you have any questions you’d like me to address in Season Two of the Ditch the Day Job Diaries.

A Year of Clarity Update: We Did It! 20 People Will Get Clean Water

Wow! I’m blown away by people’s generosity. Not only did we reach the target I set for my birthday campaign, we doubled it – meaning instead of 10 people in Rwanda getting access to clean drinking water, now approximately 20 people will.

You can see the results over at the Charity: Water site:

http://mycharitywater.org/year-of-clarity

It’s been very humbling and inspiring to see so many people rallying to the cause, and being so supportive and generous.

Of course my challenge – to give up alcohol for a year – is only just beginning. I said I would do it if we met the target, and now that we doubled it, I am doubly committed to making sure not a drop of alcohol passes my lips until 1st October 2013.

Thankfully, and believe it or not, I’m not the first to commit to such an undertaking. Here’s an interesting article written by Edinburgh Personal Trainer Tracy Griffen about the difficulties and benefits of giving up alcohol for a year:

http://www.leithermagazine.com/2012/07/22/abstaining-from-alcohol-for-a-year.html

And an inspiring video about the same topic from a site called ‘Hello Sunday Morning’. It was posted on Facebook by my friend Paul who is giving up booze for 6 months:

 Of course I’ll keep you posted here about how it all goes!

p.s. the Charity: Water campaign runs for another 87 days. Whilst I won’t be actively promoting the campaign during that time, if you want to sign up to a Creative Clarity & Strategy Session, I’ll keep the offer open for a while longer. The next available times will be during November and December.

My Bid for World Domination in 2012

In two week’s time the second World Domination Summit is taking place in Portland, Oregon. The event is organised by Chris Guillebeau and the speakers at the event include some of my favourite bloggers/authors, including Jonathan Fields, Pam Slim, Scott Belksy and Danielle La Porte.

Here’s a video from the last event:

When tickets went on sale at the beginning of the year I took a chance and bought myself one, as I knew they would sell out fast. I was still not even sure if I was going to leave my job at that point, though deep down I must have known I would.

I still can’t quite believe I’m going! According to the WDS site’s calculations, I’m making an 8400 kilometre journey, and I’m not the only one coming from far and wide, with people coming from all over the globe.

I’ve been preparing by watching the daft comedy series Portlandia on Netflix, which has made me wonder what I’m letting myself in for. The series stars Kyle MacLachlan, aka Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks as the Mayor of Portland, as well as various other guest stars.

According to the above video, “Portland is the city where young people go to retire!” so it’s no surprise that a lot of bloggers with unconventional businesses and lifestyles would end up living there, as well as Chris himself – for example Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing, Jonathan Mead of Illuminated Mind and his wife Ev`Yan of Sex Love Liberation, Emilie Wapnick of Puttylike, Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology, and Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens (thanks to another Portland resident, Janet of Purple Pandy for compiling this handy list!).

This trip is going to take me way out of my comfort zone. I’ve never taken such a long flight anywhere on my own before, in fact I haven’t really travelled anywhere on my own properly before at all (apart from going from Scotland to Ireland which hardly counts). Add to that the fact I know hardly anyone (though I’ve had brief contact online with a few other people attending, including CMC type Melissa Dinwiddie who’s featured in the above video from last year with her ukulele!).

So I am very nervous about the experience but it seems appropriate to do it in the year that I’m testing the waters of being freelance/building a creative business, and while I’ve still got a few months of funds left. I’m expecting to meet quite a few inspiring people and possibly learn a few things about myself in the process. So.. here goes!

If you’ve taken a step outside your comfort zone recently or in the past, tell me about it in the comments. And if you’re also going to WDS I’d love it if you introduced yourself!

p.s. I’ll be sending out the latest update to the Ditch the Day Job Diaries on either Sunday or Monday * which will include a sneak preview of my new micro-manifesto which will be released at the beginning of July.  *Correction – the video and email now won’t be sent until next week at the same time as the manifesto will be released.

You can subscribe here to catch up with all 14 episodes, including the most recent, which ended on something of a cliffhanger as I considered the possibility of going back to full-time work…

Staring Failure in the Face

I don't need a telescope to see where I went wrong

Sunday, 7:30am.

I wake up in unfamiliar surroundings. I realise I can stretch out on the bed, even though she’s here too. It’s a bigger bed than I’m used to. I look up and see sunlight streaming in through the curtains. It feels warm.

Paris! The first morning here. A trip to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. I’m tired. I forget how tiring travelling is.

My third trip abroad in four weeks – an extravangance only possible because I’m not working full-time. I’m not used to the excitement. It has a cumulative effect, making me more tired each day. I feel groggy, but excited to get outside and explore the city.

But.. so tired. She is also stirring beside me, but doesn’t seem very awake. I reset my alarm on my iPhone to 8:30.

(First decision of the day: to fail.)

8:30. Time to wake up properly. She makes us a cup of tea. I get my iPad and wireless keyboard. Time to write. I may not have achieved the 7:30 wake up time, but I can write 1000 words each day that I’m here.

I start typing. This is what I write:

“So here we are en Francais, and I can’t really be bothered with my writing but here we go. I have to do it, right? At least this is highly portable.

But what to write about?”

I put down the keyboard and pick up my cup of tea. That is all I write, the entire trip. All I want to do is enjoy my holiday with my wife. Discover a city I’ve spent less than 24 hours in so far. Relax, and forget. Stop striving for a while.  Fuck it.

(My second decision of the day is to fail.)

Wednesday

We get home to Edinburgh. The rain pours down outside and it’s as dark as dusk, all day.

I look at my to-do list. I sent it to him before we left, with a list of ‘deliverables’. It now seems wildly ambitious. Whilst in Paris I was going to come up with a plan. Instead I shut out the future and the past, apart from the unavoidable one evident from the extravagant architecture around us.

Sunday

I stare at the blank page. I have failed. No way round it. Because I announced the challenge publicly, now I have to admit my failure, publicly. But what to say?

Monday

I wake up, watch a couple of episodes of TV spy drama Nikita. Nonsense, but entertaining. Afterwards, in my mind, I carry out a debriefing, an interrogation, of myself, like it happens in the show.

Why did I fail? Because I chose to, twice.

What can I do? Admit, accept, try again.

I sit down and write – this.

Tuesday

What will my decision be at 7:30am?

 Related:

It’s not surprising I’ve been used as a prime example of the “lazy controller” syndrome by creative consultant Jeffrey Davis (his solution: eat chocolate for breakfast- might have to try that).

Gwyn Michael also talks about “staring down failure” today on the Scoutie Girl blog.

Berlinstagram

A few of the photos I took on a recent trip to Berlin, given the Instagram treatment. I was there for the weekend for a friend’s stag do (or bachelor party). It was great fun, and I loved the city.

Despite the recent buyout by Facebook, I still really enjoy Instagram as a way of sharing the more interesting things I see and do during my everyday life, and for keeping up with other people in a more personal way than the other social networks.

Alas you do need either an iPhone or an Android smartphone to use it, but if you don’t have one yet you can see all my photos on the web at my instagrid profile.  I quite often send the pictures to Twitter too.

If you are on Instagram my username’s milomc.

My May Morning Routine Challenge

It’s 3 months since I went freelance, and I’ve been recording a video diary almost every week to document how things are going, which I’ve been sending out to subscribers of the CMC newsletter.

However a few weeks ago the videos stopped (as any subscribers will have noticed). I had a lot of great feedback such as this from Margaret Pinard of Taste Life Twice on Facebook:

“Just got the latest installment of Ditch the Day Job Diaries, and particularly enjoyed the gardening clips (frog! goat!) and the community feel behind Freelance Fridays. And I love that quote about over and underestimating what you can do- will have to mull that one over… thanks for the great content, Milo!”

But I also got some feedback saying that there wasn’t enough info about how I was structuring my day, finding work etc. This gave me pause for thought, as if I’m bothering people once a week with a new video, I want it to be as useful as possible for them. And as fun as it was to film myself cycling to the local beach as I did in episode 8 below, perhaps it was a tad self-indulgent!

Structure? What Structure?

Now I can’t really talk about the work I’m doing for clients in detail, but I can talk about how I’m structuring my day, right?

The problem though was that I wasn’t structuring my day, at all. I’ve already written about how being productive in the morning isn’t my strong point, even when I was working full-time. Well let’s just say that leaving your job doesn’t miraculously make your bad habits disappear – in fact, for more it made them worse!

I’d quite been enjoying lying in and waking up in a a leisurely fashion, and staying up late watching daft films starring Nicholas Cage and Jason Statham on Netflix. Yes I was getting work done for clients whenever necessary, but I wasn’t taking my own creative goals forward. By the time my wife Mel got home from a full day’s work, I’d achieved very little.

Phase 1: Adjustment Bureau

After 3 months I’m the first to admit that although I’ve had enough to keep me going, the work isn’t exactly flooding in. Luckily I have a bit of a safety net for the first year but if 3 months can fly by that quickly, then it won’t be long before I’m looking back thinking ‘what happened to the last 12 months?’ and wishing I’d used the time more wisely (as I scour the bins in the alleyway behind the local Chinese takeaway for scraps of food and a slight glimmer of hope from a discarded fortune cookie).

I’m now seeing that first three months as a natural period of adjustment. After 10 years of working in the civil service I was somewhat institutionalised to the daily grind of sitting in an office all day, and I had also been diagnosed with chronic stress during the last year because of trying to juggle so many different things in my life and general unhappiness with my work. I needed some recovery time.

But I also came to realise that if I kept up my slovenly lifestyle, things weren’t going to get any better any time soon, which is why I’ve designated the next 3 months (including May) “Phase 2″.

Phase 2: This Time It’s Serious

In this phase I’m determined to finally establish some better habits, and this time failure is not an option. Now I’ve often read about how to do this, and people I respect like Leo Babauta and Michael Nobbs, amongst many others, advise starting small. Most people fail, they say, because they try to take on too many new habits and behaviours at once.

It’s true – I know this because I’ve done it time and time again – set out with good intentions to get up early, go to the gym, write every day etc etc but after a week or sometimes only a few days, it all comes crashing down again because it’s not realistic.

The sad truth is by the time you hit my age (34), or even a lot younger than that, your bad habits are deeply ingrained. It takes a lot to change them. This infographic shows just what’s involved in the process, and it looks so complicated that it puts you off even trying:

Source: lifehacker.com via Milo on Pinterest

 

So in the interest of keeping things as simple as possible, I’ve decided to commit to two specific things for the month of May:

1. Get up at 7:30am at the latest (Mon-Fri)

2. Write 1000 words in 25 minutes (preferably first thing in the morning)

And that’s it! If I can stick to these two positive habits in May then I hope to add more over the next few months. I’m using a great website called Chains.cc to help myself stick to this plan. For this week only, you can watch a brand new episode of The Ditch the Day Job Diaries below which goes into more detail about this (episodes are usually only for subscribers).

Creative Accountability & The Clear-Minded Copywriter 

I’m also having fortnightly accountability calls on Skype with Fabian of The Friendly Anarchist. Again, it took us a few weeks to get into our stride, but now we seem to have hit on an excellent system where we commit to specific weekly tasks and send each other the proof that they’ve been done. If we fail, we have to give money to the hateful right-wing organisation the BNP, which is one of the best motivations not to fail I’ve ever discovered. So that is definitely helping in terms of taking things forward with my own creative stuff.

And I’m making much more of an effort to find and apply for new work, including setting up a portfolio site called The Clear-Minded Copywriter, which I hope to add to and improve over the next few weeks.  I’m hoping that if by the end of the 3 months this effort will have paid off – either way that will be the time for a review to see how things are going and what I need to do differently.

If you’d like to see how my morning routine challenge for May is going, I’ll provide updates in the next episode of the Ditch the Day Job Diaries. Sign up to receive new episodes each week plus access to all of the videos so far in the series!

 

I’ve Just Run Out of Excuses

Yesterday I left the civil service after almost exactly 10 years to the day I started. You can read some background to this in one of the previous newsletters. Somewhat spookily, given this was my last day of repeating the same routine over and over again, this happened on Groundhog Day.

Another coincidence – on the way to work, I was listening to a playlist of 120 cheesy songs and ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe came on just as I was approaching the building – at which point I started singing along at the top of my voice, obviously!

Man with a Plan or Unemployed Bum?

Because I voluntarily accepted redundancy, I will receive a decent lump sum. If I’m careful, I can survive on this for a year, even if I didn’t have any other money coming in.

My plan though, is to continue to work as a freelance copywriter, which is something I’ve been doing since I cut down my working week to four days at the beginning of 2011 – but now it will need to be on a much bigger scale because this time next year it will probably be my main source of income.

I also want to ramp up my blogging efforts again. The point of this blog was always to help other creative people find focus and achieve their potential – and I’ve only just scratched the surface so far.

Developing a new business as well as blogging is going to take a lot of focus and discipline, even though I’ll no longer be working a day job at the same time. Key to this is establishing productive habits and spending my days wisely.

I also want to ensure I have time for exercise and my own creative projects/experiments, whilst I have the luxury of being able to structure my own time.

Every Moment Counts

Every moment counts for me this year. It’s hugely important. But what’s new? I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t have done some legwork. I couldn’t have done this if I was heavily overdrawn or in credit card debt for example (I do have student loans but it was under the old system which means I can continue to defer them for the time being).

If I hadn’t already been paid for my writing and other work I might not have had the confidence to take the leap (even then it was a tough decision). My previous job, whilst it had it’s frustrations, did mean I got a lot of experience with digital media and marketing, and the fact I’ve been writing, blogging, using social media and producing audio and video content for many years is also a bonus.

Also worth pointing out is that over a year ago, on the advice of  Jonathan Mead, I set a very specific goal: to ditch my day job by 31st March 2012. This was before I knew the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy would arise. In fact, I forgot that I had done this until I looked at my calendar for 2012 a few weeks ago, but the intention was always at the back of my mind – never underestimate the power of committing to clear and highly specific goals.

One of my leaving gifts

Everything you do is a step in either the right, or wrong direction to achieving what you really want out of life. That’s what this blog is really about. Whatever situation you’re in right now, it’s a good thing to remember. Of course we can also put too much pressure on ourselves – rest and relaxation, enjoying life and HAVING FUN has to be part of the plan too.

This is an important post for me, and I’d  be really grateful if you would share it on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus or wherever you see fit using the handy buttons below.

Oh, and why not join over 100 people who already subscribe to the newsletter and like CMC on Facebook, and over 1000 people who follow me on Twitter: @milomclaughlin

p.s. I know I dropped the ball with this blog last year but I’m back now, and I’ve got no more excuses – so expect big things :)

CMC-Christmas-card

Clear-Minded Creative Annual Review 2011

Season's Greetings from CMC!

I like Chris Guillebeau’s approach to the ‘annual review’, where he takes stock of the year that’s about to come to a close and begins planning for the new one.

So as many other bloggers are doing, I’m following Chris’ lead with a quick attempt to sum up what went well and not so well this year for me. If you’d like to share your own answer to these two questions please do so in the comments, or post a link to your blog if you’ve already written a similar post.

What Went Well (in vaguely chronological order)

Blog launch

The launch of this blog in January was a huge success for me in terms of positive feedback and engagement, with lots of people obviously relating to the name and subject matter. I was delighted with the response to the Four for Feb Challenge and Share Your Wares Sunday in the first few months of the year.

I’ve also been in contact with and got to know some amazing new people through it, mostly online but in some cases I’ve been able to meet them offline too. The blog was even named one of Scotland’s best websites by The List Magazine and featured on the Guardian’s website and Creative Boom.

Freelancing

In terms of freelancing things got off to an excellent start in February (following my decision to cut my hours to 4 days a week) with a regular gig at LEWIS, whose gorgeous new website is now live and features quite a bit of my writing (in particular the ‘About us’ and ‘Work sections’). I also had a few other jobs on throughout the year which has given me a confidence boost in terms of being able to make a go of freelancing full-time.

Wedding

Photo by Marc Millar

Our wedding in May was also a huge success – we had such a fun day and everyone else seemed to as well. It was great having our friends and family together, and taking them out on a boat to an island for the ceremony, then coming back for decent food and a dance to what I still think is one of the best playlists I’ve heard at any wedding – but then again I chose most of the tracks :). This year was a good year socially in general, I felt like as a couple we have been more outgoing than normal which is good because we have had a tendency to be quite introverted in the past.

Speaking

In this slightly disturbing picture, my face looms large in the classroom, which must have been disturbing for the students!

I had the unusual experience of speaking to a small class of extremely smart students from Washington College in Chesterfield, Maryland, for a course that provided an introduction to online entrepreneurship and blogging. It was all made possible by Google + Hangouts, I guess it could just as easily been over Skype as well. The fact I could have this experience due to the wonders of modern technology was amazing. I found it really enjoyable and again it was a big boost to my confidence (thanks to Mike!).

And of course I finally took the decision to leave the civil service after 10 years and go full-time freelance. I was lucky enough to be accepted for a ‘voluntary exit’ scheme meaning if all goes to plan I should get a lump sum which will give me a temporary financial cushion whilst I build up my copywriting business to the level that it can support me.

Radio show

The year was topped off nicely when I was invited to join a couple of friends to co-present a radio show on the local student radio station. It is pretty self-indulgent but has been lot of fun and just what I needed after a difficult few months (see ‘what didn’t go so well, below!).

List Awards

I was also invited to be on the judging panel for The List Awards, which is a new award recognising creativity in Scotland. Other members of the panel included a Turner Prize judge and a BBC producer! I also got to attend a fancy do at the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland (more on the awards in a later post).

We Adopted

Millie

Oh yeah, and we adopted a cat! She is still a nervous wee thing and definitely prefers Mel more than me (well she does feed her most of the time), but she is gradually settling in and it will be nice to have her with us over the festive period :)

What Didn’t Go So Well

Blogging/day-job

In retrospect, trying to both set up a successful blog and a side business in the year I got married was pretty foolhardy. Obviously the business took off a little quicker than I’d expected, and I had to prioritise that if I was going to achieve my goal of leaving my full time job.

So I was unable to stick to my initial aim to post here twice a week and send a weekly email (didn’t even come close!). I got pretty overwhelmed in fact with everything that was going on and after the wedding there was a definite sense of anti-climax as we found ourselves back to ‘reality’ after all the build up and then the excitement of the day itself. I found things tough at work and struggled to cope at times.

Health

I’ve neglected my health, not managing either the 10k or 5k runs I planned to do or going to the gym – plus drinking too much (and therefore being hungover and not feeling like going to the gym!). I really want to get rid of this damn beer belly in 2012.

Reading when I should be writing

One of my other main failings this year has also been reading too much and not writing enough. I had hoped to publish my first manifesto before the end of the year but haven’t managed this as it was a tougher job than I expected to decide what to include and how to structure it. But it is coming soon, honest!

It’s not like I couldn’t have done it if I’d been a bit more organised and spent less time reading online. I have far too many feeds in my Google Reader not to mention Twitter and Facebook etc. So I need to make this more manageable.

Whilst services like Summify can help, I still can’t escape the feeling I’m missing something unless I at least have a scan through all my incoming sources. In the end though, it’s stopping me writing and being more productive as well as exercising to some extent and something has to change.

Conclusion

So.. in balance this has been a transitional year for me, and therefore though difficult, I’m in a great position going forward.  I’ve got married, got regular freelance work and quit my job, all of which are pretty amazing achievements for me as I feel I’ve gone a long way to overcoming my lack of confidence in my own abilities that has held me back so many times in the past.

And I’m still very proud of this blog and the fact that I’ve had quite a few people tell me the content has helped them over the course of the year. I’m just disappointed that I haven’t been able to devote as much time to it as I’d hoped, and I’m wondering how I can simplify my life to allow me to achieve what I want and keep putting good content out without becoming overwhelmed again in future.

Chris explains his full annual review process here in case you want to join in – and please do share what you got up to this year in the comments, especially if there’s a creative achievement that you’re particularly proud of!

photo-14

I Quit.

I don’t normally share the Clear-Minded Creative newsletter publicly I got some great emails from readers in response to the most recent one and a few suggested I post it on the blog as well. You can read it here. It’s about a major decision I made recently which means 2012 is going to be quite interesting..

I also got a couple of emails wondering why I haven’t been blogging, and whilst what I say in the newsletter explains it to some extent, as I’ve had a lot on my mind.

I also have to admit that I’ve been listening to my own excuses far too much and the resistance has had me beat recently. So thanks to everyone who emailed me with your support and encouragement and also to the ones who weren’t afraid to give me a kick up the arse (figuratively speaking).

I’ve definitely over-promised and under-delivered this year when it comes to my posting schedule and newsletters. So I’m not going to promise anything here today. Just know that I’m not going anywhere and there is plenty more to come (er.. that is kind of a promise.. oh well!).

Related stuff:

Why Your Work Never Feels Good Enough – Jeff Goins

which features the below video

I absolutely loved this as it just shows how much the way we think about things affects our success in life.

Source: clearmindedcurator.tumblr.com via Milo on Pinterest

 

This post pretty much sums up where I am at the moment http://dawnbarclay.com/career-change

And this tweet from Charlie Grosso made me feel better about my lack of blogging recently.

This was, in a way, a hopeful place

It was only when I first visited New York in 2009 that the events of ten years ago really hit me in the gut. Seeing the Tiles for America and Staten Island memorials really brought home the personal stories of those directly affected.

My thoughts are with all those who lost someone on this day in 2001.

IMG_0690

My Morning Routine FAIL

Back in March I suggested you ‘Spring-Clean Your Routine’. It all sounded great in theory right? But perhaps it was too vague for people to really get their teeth into. I know I struggled to keep focused. I wanted to start the following:

My ideal morning routine

  • 6:30 am – get up – do 20 minutes of yoga
  • 7:00am – write 750 Words
  • 7:30am – breakfast, shower
  • 8:30am leave for work

I completely failed to achieve this.

I did realise that although I thought my behaviour was fairly haphazard, I was actually following a routine of sorts, which is really a series of long established bad habits:

My real morning routine

  • 6:30 – hit snooze. repeat until 7:30am
  • 7:30am turn on iPhone. Read email, Twitter, Facebook, RSS feed. Wait until girlfriend leaves flat (flat is very small so we always get in each other’s way if we’re both trying to get up at the same time)
  • 8:30 get up, put on music loud (Kanye West or Britney Spears), sing along whilst getting ready/showered
  • 9:00 breakfast. Read more blogs. Iron shirt.
  • 9:30/10am Leave for work (I’m on flexi so can usually get away with arriving late)

Of course, to have a successful morning routine, one also needs to have a successful evening routine.

My ideal evening routine

  • 8-9pm prepare for next day (iron shirt, plan to-do list etc)
  • 9-10pm read
  • 10pm go to sleep

But what can I say?

The reality: No routine whatsoever

Several times I went out and got drunk instead, or stayed up too late watching TV. Ensuring that the morning routine was NEVER going to happen.

So now I’m aware of the problem. I need to change my bad habits. But I also want some kind of social life.. hmmm a tricky dilemma..

What about you? Do you have a morning/evening routine? Are there any habits you want to change? What do you recommend to help me improve my self-discipline?

Let me know in the comments!

PLEASE NOTE: Next week I’m attending a local music festival,the weekend after I get married, and after that I’ll be on honeymoon in New York. So posting on this blog will continue to be irregular during May – I’ll try and post once a week but it may be less frequent up until the beginning of June.

macstore

Why Embracing Technology is Essential to Creative Success

This evening (Thursday 31st March) I’m speaking about blogging at the Apple Store in Glasgow, along with fellow Scottish bloggers Last Year’s Girl and Peenko (us three were also amongst those interviewed by Ten Tracks about music blogging recently).

If you’re in Glasgow and around between 6 -7pm it would be great to see you (Roddy Woomble of Idlewild is playing a solo set afterwards if that helps persuade you!)

How I Stopped Worrying and Learnt to Love the Tech

I was actually quite slow to get the tech bug, for example I didn’t get a mobile phone until relatively late and I was fairly clueless when it came to computers until the last few years.  My first ever blog post was in July 2005 so I was by no means an early adopter of blogging either , although 6 years is quite a long time now that I think about it.

Since I bought my Macbook a few years ago and then an iPhone, I’ve become a bit of a fan of Apple’s products, and I’ve also become quite a geek generally. For over a year I  spent a fair chunk of each day reading blogs and trying out new web and mobile apps, and although my attention has now expanded  to many other things, I still have a keen interest in modern technology, the internet and the latest gadgets (not that I can afford as many as I’d like).

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s essential to embrace technology if you want to further your creative goals – even if you’re not a blogger.

Note: If you do want other people to find your creative work having a blog is still the best way to get the word out and connect with people online. I may be preaching to the converted on this point though!

Technology Can Help You Go Pro

Obviously technology can help you with the actual act of creation – e.g. Michael Nobbs is now using an iPad for his drawings – and there are powerful programmes like Adobe Creative Suite which are used by designers, photographers and video editors. If you put the work in, these packages can allow you to present yourself in an extremely professional way, allowing you to compete with established creative pros when selling your work.

And whilst decent tech is certainly not cheap, these days you can create things on a reasonable well-powered laptop that would have been unimaginable less than a decade ago. The fact I can now film and edit HD video on my iPhone is mind-boggling to me, not just because I’m a lover of all things Apple and shiny, but because of what it allows me to do – film footage anywhere I am, and share it to the world via my blog.

Technology allows you to connect with the world

Using Skype, I’ve interviewed some of my favourite musicians like Bonnie Prince Billy and Regina Spektor, and received coaching and seminars on a variety of topics from people I like and admire from all over the world. I’ve made a bunch of friends on Twitter, and I can keep in touch with family and friends from all over the world on Facebook. I’m old enough to remember when NONE OF THIS WAS POSSIBLE. It wasn’t that long ago.

I Hear a New World Podcast 11 – March 2009 1 by gaseousbrain

Hell even MySpace, which is now dead to me, was useful at the time. I remember when there was as much a buzz about it as there is now with Twitter. My music was appreciated by a few crazy people in different parts of the world, even though most people found it unlistenable tosh!

And I’m delighted to say a bunch of amazing creative people from all over the world read this blog. That’s one of the most exciting things about blogging for me.

Staying aware of the latest trends keeps you one step ahead

Now believe it or not, I’ve never been massively comfortable with bragging about myself. The beauty of blogging and social media means you don’t have to boast about what you’ve done, you just have to show the evidence and it will speak for itself. But on this occasion I’ll make an exception (didn’t take much persuading did it?) as I want to show you how being up to date with the latest trends can be of benefit.

Here’s some stuff I’ve achieved because I’ve embraced technology and the latest trends:

  • I’ve attracted paid freelance work due in part to my blogging  and social media experience.
  • I was promoted to a digital engagement role at work thanks to my self -taught knowledge in the area.
  • I was asked to take part in a debate at St Andrew’s University with some very well respected and established journalists and academic figures, because I had written online about the future of journalism.
  • This weekend I reached 1,000 followers on Twitter for the first time – and it has happened organically just because I enjoy chatting to new people and finding out what they’re doing (and it’s helped that I’ve been on there for over two years).
  • I founded the I Hear a New World podcast for Scottish culture magazine The Skinny, which I hope helped in some way to raise the profile of some excellent but under-appreciated musicians.

And I”m not even a proper early adopter! There’s loads of people out there who are way ahead of me, but the fact is that by at least being aware of what’s going on in the world of technology, I can foresee trends and take advantage of them if I’m able to.

But Everyone’s a Blogger Nowadays

True, a lot of people have blogs these days, and not all of them are that great. But if you’re not in the game, you’re never going to win. Social networking sites aren’t going to cut it – look what’s happened to the aforementioned MySpace.

Writing for other publications is all very well but you need your own web ‘real estate’ if you want to get people to visit you and follow you over time. You need your own blog (preferably on WordPress) and you need to keep it up to date if you’re really serious about spreading your work to as many people as possible. Of course if you don’t want to to do that, then fair enough but if you’re reading this I’m guessing you probably do!

Just do yourself a favour – include a link so people can subscribe by RSS and email – and use Feedburner so that they can subscribe using their favoured feed reader without having to copy and paste the link. Okay, only obsessive blog readers like me might use RSS, but they’re exactly the people you want as long-term readers as they are more likely to share your stuff with other people.

Technology allows you to teach yourself pretty much anything

This might be the biggie. You can pretty much learn anything you want in terms of creative skills with the information that’s now readily available online.

Personally my first port of call is always books, and I now read a combination of print books and ebooks, either via my Kindle or downloaded directly from the website of the author. You can find info for free on pretty much anything if youre willing to take the time, and there are also a bunch of useful info products and subscription services which will distill this infiormation into an easy to follow guide and even provide it in audio and video formats (though you do need to be somewhat cautious about which of these you invest in).

YES, TECHNOLOGY CAN BE A PAIN IN THE ARSE.

Technology is never perfect, and I have to admit I do get frustrated sometimes when trying to use technology but that’s mainly because I either haven’t taken the time to learn something properly or am trying to do too much too quickly, without proper preparation.

And of course being online all the time does have it’s disadvantages and can be hugely distracting and that’s something we all need to learn how to deal with if we’re to stay sane and clear-minded.

What’s worse,  environmentally and ethically there are a huge amount of issues with the sourcing of components and the disposal of obsolete tech.

But it’s hard not to see the positive sides. technology and the internet levels the playing field (at least it does for the time being) and allows anyone who’s got a creative urge to set up a website and get their work out there.

Of course the amount of effort and time involved in doing that is not to be underestimated, but I think it’s fair to say that technology currently gives creative people an opportunity that even 15 years ago would have been unimaginable. Who knows how long it might last? Get on board while you can.

By the way if you’re in the UK you might want to join the protest against the Government’s proposed web blocking scheme which will erode our freedom of what we can access online – could be the start of a slippery slope..