Tag Archives: social networking

Lady Gaga and the Zen of Weird

Lady Gaga is ugly.

Which is an okay thing. Really, it is. Not everyone was born beautiful. In fact, in a way, it’s inspiring. Because if you think about the rest of the women in the music industry you’re going to come up with a whole pile of gals whose talent is riding on the coattails of their sex appeal.

That isn’t to say that Lady Gaga doesn’t have sex appeal. But it’s a different kind of sex appeal. She draws people in by being completely and inscrutably weird.

And the thing is, I’m not even sure its real. Every time I hear about this woman making some bizzare fashion statement, wearing a dress made out of the bodies of still-living iguanas (give it time; it’ll happen) I think to myself, “That woman is a genius,” not because I think that she’s making a brilliant fashion move, but because I understand she’s making a brilliant career move.

Weird sells.

And since I’ve got a certain vested interest in what sells, I sit up, pay attention, and start taking notes.

Which brings me to the topic at hand. A few days back Chuck Wendig made a post about how writers should try to be more like rock stars. And then, less than a week later, he issued a disclaimer which basically said, “Ha, ha, just kidding guys, maybe don’t take things so seriously, yeah?”

And while I understand what he was doing with the disclaimer, I have to say, I’m a little disappointed. I think he was right the first time. Writers should be more like rock stars.

Why?

Because there are eleventy-six billion of us on Twitter alone. We’re drowning in a sea of #amwriting hashtags and “Got my wordcount goal today. Hooray for me!” Tweets. There’s nothing wrong with that, per say, but if we’re going to make an impact we have to do something to stand out.

And yes, before you say it, I know that writing a good book is the most important thing. But it isn’t the only thing.

Because writing a book is about telling a story. But turning yourself into a rock star is about becoming a story.

People want to know an author’s story. They want to know that J. K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter in some coffee shop. They want to know that Stephen King threw out his first draft of Carrie and only kept working on it because his wife liked it. They want to know that Stephanie Meyers is really an alien from Raxacoricofallapatorius cloaked in human flesh.

So get out there and be at least a little weird. Make some crop circles. Do some graffiti. Make a drunken death threat against your mayor.

Get noticed. Give people a reason to care. Become your own rock star.

People will say, “Oh yeah, that’s that book by Joe Schmoe. He’s the guy who lit himself on fire and swan dived off Niagra falls last year.”

People will also say, “You mean there’s actually some dude named Joe Schmoe? Far out, man. Far out.”

And no, I’m not kidding.

(Except maybe about the death threat thing. Don’t do that.)

Doing Battle with the Green-Eyed Monster of Wordcount Envy

Oh, Twitter. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Let’s see…carry the one…adjust for inflation…taking the Kentucky windage into account…um…seventeen. No wait! Eighteen.

Twitter is a great thing for writers. And I’m not just talking about the whole, “build your platform and get your name out there” kind of thing (though that’s on the list). Twitter is host to a whole community of writers. And I’m not just talking about the big names here. I talking regular people like me and you, people who are still struggling to be published. Maybe they’re even still working on their first book.

When you’re feeling down, they’re there to encourage you. When you feel like no one in the world understands what you’re going through as a writer, chances are someone in your Twitter stream does.

But sometimes Twitter is a double-edged sword. At least it can be for me.

Lately I’ve been struggling a bit with my novel. Actually struggling is probably too strong a word. I know where I want to go with the story, but because of the fact that I’m doing research as I go, added on to the fact that I’m writing a slightly different voice than normal, things just haven’t been moving as fast as I’d like them to.

And then I log on to Twitter and I see Chuck Wendig and Adam Christopher and Kristen Lamb talking about the thousands of words they’re writing each day, and I start to get a little discouraged about my measly 700 words.

Maybe you’ve been there too. But I’m here to tell you not to worry about it.

Why? Because no two writers and no two stories are the same. It may be you just don’t have time to churn out daily word counts in the thousands. Or maybe you’re like me and the story you’re writing requires you to be more painstaking than usual.

The details don’t matter. What matters is you. If you let wordcount envy get you down, the next thing you know you’ll be saying to yourself, “Well, if I can’t write as much as those guys maybe I don’t have any business writing at all.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG.

Wow. That word looks weird when you repeat like that. Kind of like when you say a word over and over again and it starts to sound like…no wait. I was going somewhere. Yeah okay. You can only write as much as you can write.

Profound huh? But it’s true.

Terry Pratchett only wrote four or five hundred words at a time when he first started. Chuck Palahnuik wrote Fight Club in fifteen minute increments on his breaks at work.

It’s less important that you write a lot, and more important that you write consistently.

If you can only manage a couple of hundred words a day then commit yourself to those couple hundred words. No, you won’t be finished in a month. You may not be finished in a year.

Possibly the most important key to your success as a writer is that you make writing your habit. It should be something you do day in and day out, rain or shine, muse or no muse.

And I think you’ll find that if you keep going you’ll find yourself stretching the limits of what you’re capable of further and further. You’ll look back at those early days of writing and say, “I can remember when I thought a thousand words was a really good day. What was I thinking?”

That’s what we call growth my friend. And growth is what it’s all about.

***

I haven’t done this in a while, but I’ve got a reading assignment for you all today.

First up is a fantastic post by Jody Hedlund about why it’s so hard to be objective about your own work.

Second, go check out Chuck Wendig’s post about the closing of Border’s. It’s powerful stuff.

How to Win

I kinda like to argue. I don’t know why. Maybe I’ve got some kind of confrontational personality disorder.

I used to argue stuff I didn’t even believe just to enjoy the verbal sparring involved in trying to prove my point. I was addicted to the idea of the win, The moment when I had back my opponent into  a logical corner and they’d have to throw up their hands and say, “Clearly Albert, your’s is the superior intellect. I concede your point and reject my previous position.”

Except that never happened. No matter how well I argued, people would leave the conversation believing the same thing they had always believed, thinking the same way they had always thought.

I came to the conclusion that most people’s minds were fixed like concrete, that once an idea had taken root there no amount of logic could serve to pull it out. The idea of the win was a myth.

But recently I’ve been giving the win some more thought. Winning arguments doesn’t work. No matter how many facts you have at your disposal most people will go on believing what they’ve always believed. But you can change minds. How?

You have to win people.

“Win people?” you may ask. “What does that mean?”

Winning people is all about connection. It’s about creating friendships. It’s about being a nice person.

The best way to make someone see your point of view is to first make them like you. It sounds simple enough, but it’s a fact that most of our society chooses to ignore. Take for instance, the most recent presidential elections. Political pundits took great joy in dissecting the minutia of the different candidates campaign platforms, their political plans and economic strategies.

And in the end the man who won was the candidate who was the most likable.

This is coming from a guy who’s pretty staunchly conservative, by the way. I watched the campaign and I didn’t agree with most of Barak Obama’s policies, but even I had to admit that the man was charismatic and engaging. I enjoyed listening to him say things I disagreed with more than I enjoyed listening to McCain say (some) things that I agreed with.

We can moan and whine all we want about how unfair it is that people make decisions based on personal feelings, but in the end it doesn’t matter. The world we live in is not based on logic; it is based on likability.

Winning people isn’t just for politicians. It’s a good idea for everyone who wants to make an impact on the world, including us writers.

We want to get our work out into the world some day, and we want people to buy it. That’s why it’s so important that we nurture friendships and make connections that will leave a positive impression on the people around us.

The internet has expanded our capacity to make those connections in an amazing way, but it’s up to us to use that capability wisely. Time spent on Twitter and Facebook doesn’t have to be wasted. If we do it right we can forge friendships that may prove invaluable for us later on. At the very least we’re getting our name out there into the world, so that one day when we’re finally newly minted authors with books on the shelves of a real bookstore those friends we’ve made over the years will be there to buy them up.

Bottom line: we should never ever reject the power of relationships or forget the importance likability. Winning people may take longer than winning an argument, but time spent winning people is never wasted.

The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

There are some people who pine for the glory days of high school. They look back in fondness on the experiences they had, the friendships they made, the carefree life they had to leave behind for drudgery of adulthood.

I am not one of these people. High school sucked for me in a big way. I can look back on that time of my life and say honestly that I can not think of one unequivocally good thing that happened to me during that entire four years of my life. I made far more enemies than friends, I fumbled my way through social interaction, and generally hated every minute of it.

And it was mostly my own fault. I didn’t think so at the time of course. I thought it was all those other people who were just plain mean and didn’t understand me because I was so much smarter than they were. Yeah, see what I mean? I was kind of a jerk back then.

And I’m still kind of a jerk now. Well, maybe jerk isn’t the best word for it. The point is, I love to argue. I don’t mean for it to be offensive, I just like to debate things. I like to think it keeps my mind sharp.

The problem is that people don’t usually take disagreement well. For most people arguments are always personal, and always emotional. They assume that if I attack their opinion I’m attacking them in some way.

So I’ve had to adapt. Specifically I’ve had to learn a little self control; I’ve had to make conscious decisions not to jump into arguments simply for the sake of argument. And I have to tell you it hasn’t been easy.

You know that rule about not talking politics on the internet? That rule was invented for me. Because I love politics, and I love arguments. I could jump into all the political chatter and start a debate in no time. But I could also seriously tick off some people who I consider to be friends.

I’ve only been on Twitter for a couple of months and in that short amount of time I cannot count the number of times I’ve had to tell myself, “It’s okay, Albert. Just back off and don’t say anything. You’ll be fine.”

The problem is no one is dispassionate about their political opinion. People on both sides of the aisle have woven their political philosophy into very fabric of their being, and attacking that philosophy is only going to lead to anger and distrust.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that there is a vital place for political debate in our society. But it isn’t here.

Here is a place about writing and life. Here is where I’m trying to build your loyalty and trust. So that one day when I’m published you’ll say to yourself, “Hey, I know that Albert Berg. He’s the guy who wrote that one blog post about the cockroach in the spaghetti noodles. Maybe I’ll check his stuff out.”

If I’m trying to sell you my book I really don’t care whether you’re a Republican or Democrat.

So go ahead. Post your political ramblings on Facebook and Twitter if you must. You won’t be getting a response from me. But if you like, you can imagine me clenching my teeth and quietly screaming to myself, begging my fingers not to type out a snarky reply. And if I die of a stress related heart attack at the tender age of thirty four, you’ll know the reason why.

Cleaning for Company

A few days ago my wife and I had a couple of friends from our church over for dinner. It just so happened that the day they were coming over was also the day I was off work, so I was stuck cleaning the house.

I vacuumed and straightened and did all the dishes that had been piling up in the sink.  I worked for a solid hour and a half so that our house would look better than it usually does for our guests.  In fact it looked so good I’m thinking we should have guests over more often, so the house might actually stay somewhere close to clean (Let’s not talk about all those rooms the guests will never see that got piled up with junk.

While I was cleaning it made me think about how we present ourselves to others.  I didn’t just clean.  I gave a lot of thought to what exactly I was comfortable with my guests seeing.

Should I leave the skull salt and pepper shaker holder on the table?  Should I hide the Stephen King short story anthologies? Would they be more impressed with my intellect if I left Jaques Derida’s Writing and Difference closer to the top of the bookshelf?

And while I was thinking on such things I was reminded of a recent post by Chuck Wendig in which he talked about the writer’s platform. Specifically he said,

[N]ow is a good time to slap a new coat of paint on who you want the world to see. Want to know a secret? This should be the best and most interesting face of who you already are. No ruse, no illusion.

In other words, don’t go out and buy a new house just because company is coming. Clean up the house you already have. Think about the things you want them to see, and the things you’d rather throw into that unused bedroom down the hall.  Maybe you’ll decide to leave some of the weirder stuff in plain view and let the chips fall where they may.  Maybe you’ll keep anything that might put people off well out of sight. The choice is up to you.

But remember, if you’re a writer you’re going to want your company to come back as often as possible.

Addendum: My friends totally dug the skull salt and pepper shaker holder. Goes to show you, it pays not to put too fine a polish on your “image.”

The Digital Dependency

Yesterday I read a great post by Jody Hedlund talking about how social media can suck up way too much of your time. It was weird that she posted it when she did, because that was exactly the time I needed a wake up call.

I’ve got some problems.  See, I like twitter. Like a lot. I’ve got it running on my computer pretty much non-stop, and if I’m away from the big screen it’s always there on my cellphone. I’ve caught myself checking tweets at work, while shopping, even in traffic. And the worst part of it all is that I’m letting it start to encroach on my marriage. My wife and I will be eating dinner together, and while she’s telling me about her day I’m on the phone checking the latest update from wherever.

I’m becoming a caricature. My life is like a live action Windows phone commercial. If I sound like I’ve been a great big jerk, it’s only because it’s true. And it has to stop.

The solution isn’t to get a better phone. The solution is to act like an adult and exercise some self control.

So here goes. It’s not New Year’s but I’m making some resolutions anyway, because I need them. I need to remember what is important in my life.

1. I will leave my phone beyond my reach when me and my wife are spending time together. If we are out and about, and I have my phone in my pocket I will kill all my wonderful little apps and leave them killed until our time together is over.

2. I will do my best to listen to my wife and support her when she is having emotional issues. I will not let myself be distracted by trivialities. If she is talking I will turn the radio off and listen only to her.

3. I will never let her feel less important than anything else in my life.

I need to get some things straight. I still want to connect and grow my network as a writer, but I have to remember that nothing is more important than my marriage.

How about the rest of you? Does twitter take up more time than you’d like to admit? Do you find it overtaking things that should be more important? Or maybe you’d like to tell my what a great big jerk I am. Leave a comment and let me know.

How to Make Tweet Potato Casserole

I’ve been on Twitter for a total of something like two weeks at this point, which I believe makes me completely qualified to tell you what you’re doing wrong.  Just as soon as someone can explain to me what a hashtag is.

Okay, so maybe I’m not a social media expert, but in the short time I have been on Twitter I’ve noticed there are some people who should know better making some obvious mistakes.  Some of these could apply to any tweeter, but mostly I’m focusing on people like me, writers who hope to use social media to grow their support.  I can’t tell you the secrets to having a thousand followers, or how to tweet your way to riches, because I haven’t done either of those things.  But I can give you some common sense advice from the eyes of a beginner.

So here it is, the Albert Berg Definitive Guide to Tweeting Well.

1. Back Off

When I click on a Twitter user to check out their feed, I’m interested in one thing right off the bat: how often does this person tweet?  Because I don’t care if you’re the greatest thing since the invention of the hashtag, if you’re updating more than four or five times an hour on average, I’m not clicking that “Follow” button.  Why? Well, because I have to read all that stuff.  I mean, I don’t have to, but if I’m just going to ignore you, then what was the point in following you in the first place?  I am amazed by how many people don’t get this one.

I think it often happens because they think about themselves before they think about the people who are following them.  This may be fine for teenagers in high school, but as writers, we need to think about the readers of our tweets in the same way we might think of the readers of our books.  We’re doing them a service.  We owe it to them not to waste their time.

2. Balance

As authors we’re likely interested in social media as a way to connect with potential readers.  In a way, our twitter feed is one big sales pitch for ourselves.  However, that doesn’t mean that we can use our twitter feed as a constant advertisement for our stuff.  Well, okay, yes, we can. But who’s going to care?

When I first signed up with twitter, I looked up the author G. Wells Taylor’s feed.  Now let me preface what I am about to say with this:  I love G. Wells Taylor.  The man is an inspiration as an independently published writer, and I will take every chance I can to encourage people to read his stuff.  In fact you should go to manybooks.net right now and download his book When Graveyards Yawn.  It’s fantastic work and it’s totally free.  BUT.  The man does not understand Twitter.  Oh, sure he obviously comprehends the mechanics of the whole thing, but he has no idea how to connect with people.  His twitter stream is just a soulless stream of sales pitches for his work.  One tweet after another about, “This book is available here,” and “Go check out my latest and greatest” etcetera ad nauseam.  Consequently the man has an extremely small following compared to what his platform could be considering the quality of his books.

Sure, it’s fine to link to your stuff from time to time, but you need to remember to tell people that there’s a person behind the pitch, hopefully a person that they’ll like and connect with.

On the other hand, if you spend all your time talking about the funny thing your dog did, I’m not going to connect with that either.  This is where the balance comes in.  If you are a writer, I am following you because I am interested in you as a writer.  If you spend all your time talking about banalities, I’m going to be turned off fast.

3. Be a Friend

When I started Twitter, I thought it was a numbers game.  I thought if I didn’t have huge numbers of people following me I didn’t matter, so I did my best to be clever and interesting in the hopes of attracting new followers.  I still do my best to be clever and interesting, but now I’ve had a perspective shift.  I’ve realized that Twitter at its heart is about connecting to other people, engaging them in conversation.  This means give and take. Now sure, I’d still like to have a bunch of people following me, but the more important connections are the ones that I take time to develop and grow.  I’d rather have ten good twitter friends than a thousand casual followers.  Why?  Because those ten true friends are going to be far more likely to spread the word about what I’m doing to their followers, and if they’ve taken the time to make that human connection with some of their followers, then those people may talk about my work as well.  This is called word of mouth.  It’s the holy grail of advertising.  And you can do it through friendship.

That’s all I’ve got.  It’s all simple stuff that seems like commons sense to me, but maybe it can help you improve your tweeting game.  And hey, I really am new to all of this, so if you think I missed something or totally got it backward, let me know in the comments.  I’d love to hear what I’m doing wrong.