Site updates! Coming soon!

designI’ve mentioned before that design is so not my thing.

Writing? My thing. Dogs? Also, my thing. Design? I mean, what’s wrong with a Word doc in Times New Roman?

That said, this plain old WordPress site has gone un-updated for far too long. I dig simplicity and white space as much as the next writer, but I feel like I’m in need of a makeover–something that represents who I am and what I do, rather than the stripped-down theme I’ve been using for years. Literally, years.

So, site updates are in the works! I’ve been tweaking content here and there to gear up for the refresh. If something goes missing, if a link doesn’t work, or if you can’t find what you’re looking for while construction is underway, please don’t hesitate to email me: info {at} maggiemarton {dot} com.

Can’t wait to unveil the new look!

BlogPaws 2015 and eBook News!

I’ve attended all but one of the annual BlogPaws conferences (darn chemo ruined my perfect record), and this year’s was a remarkable experience. They’re all wonderful, of course, but this was the first year I got to speak.

Maggie Marton speaking at BlogPaws

That’s me. Speaking.

I need a haircut.

Anyway, it was an absolute pleasure to chat about authenticity in blogging. I truly believe that the key to long-term success is being completely, wholly true to YOU with your blog. In a cluttered online environment, discerning readers can pick out who’s being honest and forthright versus those bloggers who are just shilling. That isn’t to say you can’t earn money on your blog; you can and absolutely should–as long as you’re doing it authentically.

On that note, I’m thrilled to announce that I’m nearing completion on my passion project, an eBook on being an authentic blogger. There are some design issues that still need to be ironed out (in other words, I suck at design and am seeking help) before it can be released, but… stay tuned!

How to hone your writing voice: 3 steps to take today

hone your writing voice

The term “writing voice” is bandied about but rarely defined. Your voice, though, will make you stand out from the crowd of other writers. So, how are you supposed to hone your writing voice if you’re not sure what–or where–it is?

For starters, I like to think of my writing voice as the sound of my work. If you were having a conversation about your article/book/post, think about what you would say and how you would say it. You want to capture the sound of that discussion in your written work.

I admit: It’s often easier said than done, especially while you’re still refining your craft. Why? We all want to sound funny, witty, intelligent, wry, whatever, and if you’re trying to force that to emerge in your work, you lose your natural voice. But you don’t have to! It took me a long time to get comfortable with my voice, and here’s what’s helped.

3 steps to hone your writing voice

  1. Think out loud. It drives my husband crazy, but it works. When you are in the early stages of a project, you’re brainstorming an idea, or you’re stuck for the right phrase to round out a paragraph, start thinking out loud. Talk to yourself or to your dog or to your spirit guide or to whomever you want to imagine. When you think out loud, you will hear what sounds truly like you and what sounds forced. Delete the forced stuff.
  2. Knock out that shitty first draft. I’m sure you’re familiar with the “Shitty First Drafts” chapter in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. If not, or if it’s been a while, the concept is simple. Just get words down on paper (well, word processor), and deal with the mess later. If you second guess every word you type, not only will you slow yourself down, but you’ll also interrupt your natural thought process, your stream-of-consciousness. Sure, it won’t be polished, but it’ll be finished – and, most likely, it’ll be a pretty darn accurate representation of what you really wanted to say. It just needs to be gussied up a bit.
  3. Proofread out loud. Your neighbors might start to think you’re losing it if you’re talking through all your pre-writing (point #1) and then again in the editing phase, but trust me. This is the single most effective thing you can do to refine your voice. When you read your work out loud, not only will you catch all your little glitchy errors and grammar mistakes, but you will hear–actually hear–when your work doesn’t sound like you. Then, you can focus your editing efforts on those places to generate a far more solid second draft.

I recommend proofing everything out loud. It makes a huge difference in the quality of your writing, and it will help you refine your writing voice until it really, truly sounds like you.

Writer’s block is a myth

blank-computer-screen
The New York Times obituary of Joseph Mitchell heralded his work writing about average and eccentric folks, which he did well… until he didn’t. According to the obit:

If his name is not as widely known as it might have been, that is mostly because for the last three decades of his life, he wrote nary a word that anybody got to see. For years, he would show up at his tiny office at The New Yorker every day and assure his colleagues that he was working on something, but that it was not quite ready…. Whatever it was, nothing of any substance emerged from his typewriter after 1965 and his friends came to think of it as an exceptionally bad case of writer’s block.

The piece goes on to say that his editor suspected that he was plagued by perfectionism. After all, the janitor at The New Yorker cleaned reams of copy out of his wastepaper bin.

It’s tragic, really. If you haven’t read Up in the Old Hotel*, do. It’s a carefully-curated collection of his work profiling unexpected characters. Mitchell sucks you in, grabs hold, and doesn’t let go until the last page.

So, what happened? Was it the infamous “writer’s block” that did him in?

I think not. I think writer’s block is a construct–a concept invented to allow talented writers an excuse for not doing the work. I think feeling stuck and stressed and overwhelmed and unmotivated occurs naturally in any creative profession. The fear of failing, of being ridiculed, of pouring your heart, soul, time, and talent into something that might be torn apart? Well, it’s enough to drive anyone crazy.

Crazy enough, perhaps, to stop writing altogether.

I’m guilty of this. I have a big project, a personal one rather than a client project, that I’ve backburnered time and time (and time and time) again. My reason excuse could easily be, “Oh, man. I’m just blocked on this one.” But I know that’s not the case. I know that this is a personal project, and it means a lot to me. I know that, by writing, I risk criticism, ridicule, and burning at the stake.

Okay. Maybe not. Definitely not. But it feels like that, so I don’t write.

So, what does a writer do to overcome this? Well, first off, stop calling it “writer’s block” because you’re letting yourself off the hook.

Then, set yourself a good, solid goal. Note that I didn’t say a big, lofty goal. Just a good, solid one. Like, tell yourself you’re going to write 250 words toward your project each day. That’s not much–one page, double-spaced. You can do it. Heck, you could probably do more, but that’s not your goal. Stick with 250. Hit that word count, then save and close your document.

Do it again the next day and the next day and the next. Before you know it, your project will be up and running, sprinting toward the finish line.

Don’t let yourself claim a case of “writer’s block.” Do the work. Keep at it.

Now, I’m off to do my 250 for today. Happy writing!

New project alert!

I’m thrilled to be contributing to two new blogs: The Honest Kitchen’s and Dublin Dog Blog’s. I love both those organizations and am excited to contribute to their online space.

My first two posts for The Honest Kitchen are up, and you can check them out here:

You Found a Lump on Your Pet. Now What?

Kick Dog Car Sickness to the Curb

Can’t wait to share more of my contributions down the line!

5 ways to feel crazy productive every single day

  1. Make your bed as soon as you get up. Seriously. It may seem unnecessary, but if you don’t get anything else done the rest of the day, at least you did that!
  2. Drink 8-10 glasses of water every day. Put it on your to-do list, and relish crossing it off!
  3. Turn off notifications on your cell phone, tablet, and laptop for two hours every morning. You will be astounded – at least, I was – to see how much you get done without all those dings.
  4. As soon as you sit in your desk chair, pull out a sticky note or scrap of paper, and write at the top: The single most important thing for me to accomplish today is____. Then, do that thing! It seems simple, right? But how many times do you think, “It’s already 5:00, and I’ve gotten nothing accomplished!” This will ensure you have your Most Important Thing done!
  5. This last one’s a biggie and something I’ve only recently started. When I plot my day, I now estimate how long a task will take. I write that amount in pencil next to the task or meeting. Then, when I complete the task, I write down how long it actually took. Four days into this routine, and my eyes are open wide! I had my schedule all kinds of under- and over-estimated. Now, I’m honing in on a more accurate idea of what I can accomplish in a day. (By the way, I used almost one hour less time yesterday than anticipated. Hello, bonus nap!)

News: I’m speaking at BlogPaws!

I’m absolutely thrilled to share that I’ve been selected to speak at the 2015 BlogPaws. I’ve attended the conference a handful of times – only missing one so far – and learned so much.

This year, I’ll be speaking along with Karon Thackston in the advanced track. You can check out all the sessions on the conference page, but our talk is Advanced Strategies for Attracting & Keeping Readers Authentically.

I couldn’t be more excited. Authenticity is one of my passions – living authentically, writing authentically, speaking authentically. My portion of our talk is going to focus on writing strategies to convey your authenticity and, in turn, retain a loyal readership.

I hope to see you there!

OH! And if you haven’t yet registered, here’s a discount code to use at checkout: BP15-Speaker-10off