How to get people to read your shit

Do you want people to pay attention to your creative work? You might want to read this first.

Steven-Pressfield_Nobody-Wants-To-Read-Your-Shit_1024x10241. Know your shit

Bestselling author Steven Pressfield is a big believer in the value of learning on the job. In his latest book, Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit, he talks about how stints as an ad copywriter and screenwriter helped him hone his craft, and learn skills that apply equally to every field of writing.

As an ad copywriter, he quickly learnt that getting words on a page is only the beginning:

“The pros understand that nobody wants to read their shit. They will start from that premise and employ all their arts and all their skills to come up with some brilliant stroke that will cut through that indifference, that clutter, that B.S.”

 

claiming new ground

Claiming New Ground

claiming new groundAlmost half way into February, my goals are beginning to take shape for the rest of the year. Or at least the next few months.

More importantly, I’m beginning to make progress on those goals. Tiny steps, maybe – but at least it’s some progress.

Pounding the Pavement

Mel and I have signed up for our first half-marathon – the Edinburgh Rock n Roll Half Marathon in April.

We’ve already started training using Hal Higdon‘s Novice 1 programme. The result is that I’m running more each week in 2013 so far than I did in an entire month in 2012.

The programme is working really well so far, with small increases in distance each week. It’s a good feeling to be able to manage the slightly longer runs.

We ran farther along a particular road last week than we ever had before, and I really felt like I was ‘claiming new ground’ by running there for the first time. I’m not sure I would have felt the same way if I’d walked there, and we have in fact driven past there a few times. Running though, it felt more primal. Territory claimed.

As we were passing, Mel and I even got invited inside the local boxing club to have a look around!

Branching Out

Claiming new ground creatively is a great feeling too. One of my other goals for the first half of the year is to finish the 3 ‘missing’ micro-guides from the Career Masterplan for Mad Geniuses.

I’ve started writing and researching for those for 20 minutes a day as part of Michael Nobbs’ Month of Tiny Steps. It’s not a lot of work each day, but it’s better than nothing (which is what I’ve been doing on that particular project for the last month or so).

I also want to start spreading the word about this blog and publishing more content. It would be great if I could start making some money from my efforts here in the future.

Clear-Minded Classics Volume 1: Ten Essential Books for Dissatisfied Creative Types

Clear-Minded Classics Cover Test 2So as a test in that direction I’ve compiled my reviews of the first ten Clear-Minded Classics I’ve covered on this blog and made them available on Kindle.

The formatting isn’t perfect, the cover is ultra-basic, but, hey – I’ve got something published on Amazon! (New ground claimed!)

As a thank you for supporting Clear-Minded Creative you can get the book for free today and tomorrow only (13th and 14th February).

If you find this blog at all helpful, you’ll really be supporting my efforts here by buying it, sharing it and reviewing it on Amazon. More importantly though, I hope you read it and find it useful.

As I say in the introduction:

I spent a lot of time ‘lost at sea’ over the last 15 years, and these books have gradually helped me steer a course to the shore – but it took a lot of time just to discover they were out there. It took a lot of trial and error to put these ideas into place. Therefore I hope this guide can save you a lot of time spent searching for answers and enable you to get to work on your creative projects even sooner!

Get the book on Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon.de Amazon.fr (it’s available on other Amazon stores also)

Click to share the book on Twitter (thanks!)

(Please note that at present I have no plans to publish this book on other platforms such as the iBookstore and Nook but I may look into this in the future.)

Do you plan to claim new ground during the rest of 2013? Let me know in the comments!

It’s a Vine Time to Make a Clone

Multiplicity-663345415-large

Feeling overwhelmed? Far too much to do? Feel like it will take you four lifetimes to get everything ticked off your to-do list?

You might enjoy taking advantage of our new self-replication service:

EAZYCLONER.CO

Immediately make more of your life, double your productivity, and free yourself up for more fun activities.

We currently have a special deal – 3 new yous for the price of 2, if you sign your life away on the dot today!**


*Either that or spend the best part of day dicking about with Twitter’s latest iPhone app 

**We cannot take responsibility for flawed copies, duplicated lazy-assedness, or any other unexpected consequences of having multiple versions of yourself roaming the earth.

(see also – the appeal of apps that turn us into artists).

Don’t Be Another HMV – Wake Up to What Your Business Needs – NOW

Vintage-Advertising-His-masters-Voice-10705HMV*, the UK’s biggest high street retailer of entertainment products – music, games, electronics (more recently) and DVDs, has gone into administration as of yesterday, meaning 4500 jobs are at risk.

As a former employee (I graduated to the giddy heights of ‘chart buyer’) I feel truly gutted for the staff, and hope that the company are able to survive.**

People are blaming Amazon, Play.com, Spotify, Netflix, the major supermarkets (who sell the most mainstream entertainment products at a loss to tempt people into their stores), and of course illegal downloading.

But perhaps HMV themselves are to blame.

Philip Beeching worked on HMV’s advertising account and he shares a damning account of how he tried to tell them about the triple threat of “online retailers, downloadable music and supermarkets discounting loss leader product” (thanks to my pal Baxter for sharing).

He says in the article that

“Throughout the late 90’s and right up until today HMV’s single biggest mistake has been a lack of investment in their online offering.”

This is backed up with a quote from the founders of online store Play.com who waited for HMV to come after them – but were surprised when it never happened. It also chimes with my own opinion and many others online.

The same thing has happened with many people as the digital revolution has taken hold, including most of the newspaper industry who thought they were selling papers when really they were selling news (and therefore the medium is less important than the content).

Some people however have seen the writing on the wall early enough to adapt, including Beeching’s own creative agency who saw digital coming and adapted in good time.

Appropriately enough, given my current #Sethisms theme on this blog, Seth Godin has a very apt quote about this:

“Our preconceptions and our fear conspire to make it difficult to see the world as it is.

Buddhists call it prajna – accepting reality as it occurs instead of interpreting it as part of our ongoing narrative.

The trick isn’t coming up with an interpretation of events that allows you to maintain your worldview; it is to accept what happens without stopping to interpret it according to your biases.” #Sethisms

This is something the bosses at HMV clearly failed to do.

Here’s where you need to ask yourself honestly – are you doing something similar with your business right now?

  • Are you aware that you need a strong online presence, which involves clearly communicating why you do what you do?
  • Are you publishing engaging and valuable content consistently in order to drive traffic to your site?
  • Are you taking specific, strategic actions to grow a tribe of people who are interested in what you have to say?
  • Are you aware of how to use the latest social media and multimedia tools to help you do this?

Yes, you probably are aware. So, are you doing it yet? 

How I Can Help

If you’re interested in finding out more I’m going to be volunteering at a series of free social media surgeries beginning this coming Monday at Leith McDonald Road Library. These surgeries are primarily aimed at “local voluntary or community organisations, local charities, clubs or societies who are interested in making the most of the web and social media.” (Download event poster in PDF format.)

I’m also about to hold a number of workshops on how to Pimp Your Online Presence at various events around Scotland.

And, whilst I’m in the process of revamping my freelance copywriting business, I will be available for both consulting and content production from the beginning of February.

Get in touch if you’d like to have a chat about how I can help you.

Don’t be another HMV.

*HMV of course, stands for His Master’s Voice because the company sold gramophones in the early days (that picture of their dog Nipper is pretty iconic. I met Nipper once, when the Edinburgh Princes Street store re-opened. Well, it wasn’t the original Nipper, it was probably the 10th reincarnation. Meatloaf also made an appearance at the opening, as did his biggest fan, Pete Loaf).

**I also feel for the staff of Fopp, which was a great indie record store which HMV bought out to save it from going under a few years back. I’d hate to see Fopp disappear altogether, especially because they used to sell my band Swivel Chair’s CDs back in the day.

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.

Up There Kirsty Strain

“Don’t Wait to Be Discovered”- Zam Salim, Director of ‘Up There’

“You realize at a certain point that what you’re doing is storytelling and everything- the writing, the directing, the editing- is just part of that fundamental skill.”

Zam Salim is a writer and filmmaker based in Scotland whose debut feature Up There recently won the Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema at Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The (sold-out) UK premiere of the film is tomorrow night at the Glasgow Film Festival.

With Up There Salim presents the initial stages of the afterlife as a mundane purgatory in which individuals are doomed to continue to walk the streets where they lived, but cannot be seen by anyone, including the loved ones they left behind, or even open doors or pick things up.

Unravelling the Truth With FOUND & Aidan Moffat

“Everything starts with the truth and goes somewhere else”

Aidan Moffat 

The Edinburgh-based FOUND Arts Collective have followed their brilliant (and BAFTA-winning) Cybraphon project with a new interactive sound installation called #unravel. They’ve collaborated with songwriter and storyteller extraordinaire Aidan Moffat, former frontman of Arab Strap and who recently collaborated with Bill Wells for the excellent ‘Everything’s Getting Older’ project.

I spoke to FOUND and Aidan Moffat at the launch of the project yesterday at Edinburgh’s Inspace Gallery and cobbled together this video today (despite a number of technical difficulties!) to give you an idea of what the project involves.

Fear not though as there will be a proper short documentary about the project coming soon – for more details see the official website.

#UNRAVEL opens to the public on 20 April – 7 May as part of Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art at Arch 24/ SWG3.

IMG_2378

Choose Your Story Wisely

Whether you’re a photographer, an artist, a journalist or a dancer, there is a common thread running through your creative work – storytelling.

Some of us are better than others at a particular medium and choose to tell our stories in one specific format, e.g. music, words or film.

Others, those with multiple interests, who have been described as ‘Renaissance Souls’, choose the medium depending on what best suits the story they want to tell.

If we are to be clear-minded creatives, we need to be aware that everything we put out into the world is telling a story about us and what we stand for. Especially now that so much of our lives appear online (and in many cases is recorded there permanently).

If we put out confused messages about who we are, then we can expect only confusion back from those we come into contact with (I’m working on this, myself).

Each creative work we produce will tell its own, compact story, but will also be a chapter in the story that is our overall body of work.

If we can consistently create meaningful work, we will leave a legacy behind and it will have its own tale to tell.

What story do you want to share with the world?

Related reading: The deeper root by Pam Slim

This is an extract from the forthcoming manifesto: Refresh Your Mindset, by Milo McLaughlin. To be notified of when it will be available, sign up to the newsletter.