Adapting to Life at 10,500 Feet

My recent Western Relocation has landed me in the highest incorporated town in America.  With a whopping population of 600-ish people, Alma is about as high as you can get for a Rocky Mountain town.  While walking outside my door and being dwarfed by a 14K foot mountain peak that’s literally half a mile away is a wonderful way to start the day, there are a few adjustments for this location independent nomad.

Our daily walk in the shadow of a 14K footer!

And while the move went smoothly (give or take a few weather systems), my ability to adapt has been challenged in several ways since I came to this quiet little town.  Here are a few of my recent adaptations.

Connection.

Connectivity is by far the greatest challenge in this move.  You truly do not realize how dependent you are upon the internet in this line of work until you can’t find a connection.  The local coffeehouse is wonderful, and for good reason, they do not provide wifi for their customers.  Being a strong proponent of community gathering places, I totally understand.

So, while walking through town on my first day here, I noticed the local pub had a wifi sign on the window.  Perfect.  And they’re open at 6 am for breakfast- even better.  So, the following day, I bundled up- did I mention the average temperature is about 15 degrees at this elevation- grabbed my backpack and walked down to the pub at 9 am.  Amazingly, a people were actually having a beer and playing pool.

Did I mention that I’m next to South Park- or the town where the cartoon was based? I can see a novel or a sitcom growing out of this town.

I grabbed a table next to the window and parked my ass there for hours. I ordered a ‘giant pancake’ (literally twice the size of my head) and a bottomless cup of coffee and commenced to getting my wifi on.

And I’ve been back almost every morning since.  I’ve opted for just the Sysco coffee sans ginormous pancake.  And I hate to admit this, but I really like it.  When I open the door to the pub, literally and figuratively called “Alma’s Only Bar” I kinda feel like Norm walking into Cheers.

I know who will be sitting at the bar, that the bartender will be having her coffee and chatting with the locals and that the chef will be sitting at the bar table with her laptop.  I join her in the mornings, we share a table and get to work.  And she always gives me such a warm welcome when I walk in.  There’s a fire blazing in the wood stove and the coffee is hot.

What more can you ask for?

The transition of the bar crowd vs coffeeshop crowd in the morning does take a little bit of an adjustment.  Luckily, I grew up in the restaurant industry and was a bartender for ten years, so I speak the language.  There’s no NPR or folk music playing, usually the entertainment news or CMT is on the bar television.  There’s no debate of politics, in fact there’s very little talk of politics at all. Unless the Rogue politician gone Hollywood pops onto the TV and the bar will fire up with the latest talking points spinning out of the media cycle.

But, a little color in the morning is a nice change of pace.  I met Uncle Johnny the other morning, who kept the fire stoked and the conversation interesting.  A former police officer from Pittsburgh, Uncle Johnny is the go-to guy in the bar and probably in the town. I have a feeling if I need anything, Uncle Johnny would be the man to ask.

When he introduced himself, I had to smile a little.  I had an Uncle Louie in Pawleys Island who could, and I quote “make things happen. If you need me to take care of somebody, you just let me know.  I know people.” Literally, his exact words.  Love it!

So, while my connectivity is still a little spotty, I am learning to adjust and hoping my online communities will understand my lack of availability at the moment.

My favorite "office" from last winter's Walkabout. I hope to be there in a few more weeks! Image from my Blackberry.

Work Schedule


As a location independent professional, I’ve learned to work almost anywhere when necessary.
But even when not traveling, I have certain times of the day when my creativity emerges and I ride that horse for all it’s worth.  My new living arrangement (and it’s only for a few more months) is very small.  Tiny.  300 square feet tiny, with my dog and a roommate.  Yea, wrap your brain around that for a sec.  No bedrooms or quiet corners for this little night owl to dive into her writing and production.  Conundrum.

I have found the local coffeeshop- sans wifi- to be an excellent place for contemplation and writing.  I sit next to a giant picture window that looks out over Main Street and that mammoth 14K foot mountain by my house and work away.  Or try to.  I’ve met some wonderful people there and have gotten some writing done, but mid-afternoon is my least creative time and they close at six.  My most creative time is at night, and I’m hoping to find a little more rhythm there soon.

My other major work schedule adjustment relates to the first point of connectivity.  Not having evening access to the wifi- unless I want to be that girl chained to her laptop in the corner of the bar, sipping whiskey and being anti-social- has meant that I only check email once a day.  I hate to admit this, but I rather like that aspect of this new schedule.  It takes some getting used to, but I enjoy not being chained to the inbox.  So, I’m left to have conversations with my roommate in the evenings or read a book, both of which are rather enjoyable.

I do worry that my writing will begin (or is already) slipping with the lack of late night writing.  Hopefully my muse will adjust as well and as I find my rhythm here, I’ll be able to compensate for my challenging work schedules.

My winter chalet from last year. If I can adjust to this tight living space, I can live anywhere! Image from the blackberry.

Finding a New Market- or Not

My new town is only 30 minutes from Breckenridge, where people, business and social life abounds.  My plan was to drum up some local business to tap into when I’m not traveling. I researched the town prior to moving and lived here ten years ago, so I have some idea of what to anticipate when putting my freelancing self into this market.  But, putting myself out there requires one major element of a business that I am lacking at the moment- transportation.

If you’ve been reading this blog the past few weeks, you saw the lovely pictures of the Vintage Vanagon I so diligently navigated cross-country with the canoe/sail on top.  Well, she took a big shit last week and left her exhaust system in shambles on a mountain pass.  So I am sans wheels. In a town of 600 people, with a handful of businesses’ and no mass-transit to the next major town.

Oops.

And oh, did I mention the big mountain pass that you have to traverse, complete with hairpin turns and snow banks to get to Breckenridge?  Oyyy.

So the other night, when faced with the possibility of no wheels all winter, I did some serious spreadsheet forecasting of all the possible scenarios of living here with or without a car and running my business.  I highly recommend everyone do this often, particularly when you’re contemplating new avenues of your business or trying to understand where your opportunities lie.

My major question in this whole line of rationale was the following- was the Universe trying to force me to focus on just the online business by taking away the vehicle and the wifi all at once.  I understand that there’s the element of free will in here- and I can choose my own vehicle and such- but I tend to pay attention when things unfold and try to find the lesson within the mayhem.  By not having the distraction of the internet and having very limited options for income, I would literally HAVE to build my online business now and not mess around with more freelance jobs and “real” work.

My spreadsheets helped- tremendously.  I made about 10 different versions of the possible revenue streams and how they would budget out through the year.  I used Mac’s Numbers and their built in budget template and played out all the possible options.  I narrowed my possibilities down to three and then focused in on the one budget that was my ideal goal- both monetarily and for the type of freelance/online business balance I see myself juggling this year.

I then busted out the iCal and put all the budget milestones onto my calendar and planned out the following year!  Holy Crap!  And today, when I was beginning to stress a little about creating local fliers for freelance services and getting over the pass to network, I opened up the spreadsheets and looked at my calendar to see what I truly should be focused on.  And I did just that.

Funny how that whole planning thing works, isn’t it?

I know, seems rather obvious, but for this artistic entrepreneur, planning doesn’t always come naturally.  I can strategize like nobody’s business and I can visualize the big picture, but putting the tiny little steps necessary to get me there into action, well that’s a challenge.

So, back to my transportation adaptation.  Looks like someone will be driving cross-country- AGAIN- in two weeks.  My truck is going to have to make the journey out here, so this nomad can be mobile again.  Hitching a ride over that pass and to my desert town next month is not a task that I’m looking forward to.

Now, it’s your turn.

So, if you’re still with me, how do you adjust your work routines and schedules to a new location- be it on a business trip or a major move?

What are your necessary elements for productivity- no matter where you are?

Are you a serious planner or fly-by-the seat of your pants person?

Do you have spreadsheet planners for year long forecasting or a special method for bringing your plans to action?

What’s the strangest place you’ve worked in for wifi access?
Go on, you can tell us!

Organic Twitter Growth- Free of Pesticides, GMO & Growth Hormones

Like it or not, the Facebook redefined some core terminology regarding the basics of human relationships.  The Twitter took it one step further- redefining the actual dialogue structure and the sheer number of conversations a person can conduct in a day.

If you lived on this mountain in rural NC, Twitter might be a connection to the outside world!

Step back and process that for a second- the fundamental methods in which we define and interact with people throughout our day have undergone a metamorphosis brought about by a handful of genius Gen Y & X’ers, who- as The Social Network points out- might not be all that capable of quality relationships in the real world.

Real offline relationships still lie at the core of our society and the irreplaceable values of face to face interaction and true in-person conversations will never die.  But, in today’s world, it’s possible to take the conversation online and connect with people who you would not have interacted with 6 years ago- due in main part to geographic restrictions.

As my time online increases and I continue to make meaningful connections using social networks, I have to take a step back and look at the methods in which this online conversation occur and how to build a network that truly reflects who I am- in the “offline world”.

Work/Play Balance

The Internets, at least for me, serve the purpose of helping me build and promote my passion skills- my photography and writing.  If I had to categorize my online time, 85% of it is professional and the remaining time is spent catching up with my offline friends through online communications.  And, of course, grabbing the occasional episode of Greys on Hulu, should my Thursday evening have an unavoidable appointment.

My journey through social media has reflected this as well- my online community surfaced around my professional interests- photography, visual communications, writing and biz dev (I’m going to replace the term entrepreneurship with biz dev- business development b/c for the life of me I can not spell entrepreneurship- ever).  My networks are filled with people who have an interest in any of these areas.

A little playtime while the adults build a greenhouse at Maverick Farms, NC.

I try to keep the work/play balance to that ratio.  For if I begin to have my play time online, then my day would be spent completely in the online world- which can’t be healthy.  Unless you’re Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

Building a Network

The other day I broke 500 followers on the Twitter.  Woo-hoo!  I felt rather special.  As I proudly tweeted my meager accomplishment a conversation ensued around building a network.  A fellow blogger who I communicate with rather regularly made the comment that he bet my number came about organically.  And well, it did.

If you build it...

But I’d never really thought too much about that.  He mentioned that he has used an auto follower to generate followers in the beginning of his Twitter building and wished he hadn’t done so.  I’d heard of such tools, but never used them.  In my beginning growth days, I would use the search twitter option and find people with similar interests and if they were posting interesting comments, I’d follow.  But after my growth started on its own, I stopped doing this.

So, my method for organic growth is rather simple. When someone follows me, a notification pops up in my email along with their avatar.  If they have a human face or an interesting logo, I click on their link and visit their page.  The next part is key- I see what they are saying!  I look for a balance of RTs, link posting with relevant copy and I see if they are having actual conversations with people.

If a happy balance of all three exists- then I follow back. If I stumble upon someone’s online content that kicks ass or is powerfully relevant- and their Twitter icon is on their page- I follow them as well.

Simple.  Natural.  Organic.

Picking out the weeds- one at a time!

Interaction

Interacting with your network is HUGE!  That’s the point, right?

But, there are ways to do this and ways to get your ass un-followed.  I really don’t un-follow people unless they are spammy, slimy or just incessantly posting things that I don’t interact with.  I try not to follow such types in the first place- hence the organic growth thing.

I lurked- for over a year- on Twitter before I dove in.  And then, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or why it mattered.  I opened my Twitter account when it first came on the scene- and it sat dormant for a while.  This winter I fired it up when I launched the Storyteller- just seemed logical.  But I still didn’t use it right, I posted quotes, blog articles and a few RTs, but that was it.  And the actions were not a regular occurrence.

This summer I dove in headfirst.  I found people who were posting interesting questions and I answered.  I retweeted articles I felt could benefit others.  On occasion, I would just send a shout out to the person if I just spent an hour watching their keynote speech online or spent all evening with their podcasts.

I gave feedback on things that really had an impact on me and my biz perspective.  And a few of these shout outs gave interesting replies.  Conversations ensued and now we interact regularly.  In fact, I’ll be crossing paths with my online network in person this winter as I go on my western Walkabout.

That’s the power of the Twitter.  That’s why this shit really matters.  You’re building real relationships with real people using an online platform.

Building relationships, both offline and online, spreads a little joy in your life and hopefully some laughter too.

And as my blog and my network grows, people are reaching out to me in conversation and I just couldn’t be any happier about it! I love getting real feedback from people about my work and then I am able to engage with their work as well.  Which makes it all worthwhile.

So, to recap on this rambly Twitter article.

  • Organic growth on the Twitter can be the most rewarding because you are engaging in real conversations with real people.  Reflecting your offline interactions.
  • Choose your follows with a little bit of care. You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you.  If they look slimy or spammy don’t open the channels of communication.  If some creepy guy driving a chester-molester van slinks over to me in a parking lot and tries to strike up a conversation- I’m gonna politely walk away.  Same thing goes for the online world.
  • Don’t just look at the number of followers the person has- we all started off with one follower. But if they follow a gazillion people and don’t tweet anything, beware. Or if they are following a gazillion people and none are following them back- yet they are Tweeting their ass off- well, I smell a little spam in the air.
  • Don’t use auto-finders and auto responders on Twitter. Unless the sheer number of follows matters to your ego and your balls need that type of inflated support, just let your growth happen naturally.  As Twitter has evolved, so have it’s users.  So let your network find you and spend some time finding a network that reflects you, as a person.  And if you keep building fabulous content, people will find you!
  • Provide a valuable conversation. Just like in the real world, conduct your conversations as though you’re sharing a coffee with someone. Provide answers, ask questions, give information and provide a little moral support now and again.  People respond to real people- so keep it real and keep it interesting. It’s not all about your blog posts or your marketing.  It’s about everyone you interact with and their lives too.
  • Check your Mentions regularly and thank people, give them feedback and strike up the conversation. When I first started really using the Twitter, I sent a quick thanks to GaryVee to thank him for posting all those keynotes- they were quite inspiring.  And damn if he didn’t say a thanks back.  That’s impressive for someone with almost a million Twitter followers.  Same for Chris Guillebeau @ the AONC. He responds as well and I’m just amazed that these guys are able to devote their time in this manner to the people who engage with their content.  It truly speaks to the transparency and authenticity that is transforming business in the online (and hopefully the offline) world.

So, go forth, sow the seeds of conversation and Tweet.  Follow me on the Twitter, if you aren’t already, and let’s keep this party rollin’!

Getting the fields ready for the winter.

These images were taken during my time at UNC.  I was auditing an environmental justice class and as part of our service learning component, the class traveled to a small locally owned farm in the mountains of NC to help them complete projects and prepare for the winter.  Please visit Maverick Farms if you’re near Boone!  It’s both beautiful and delicious!


Why Do We Stay, When We Know We Should Go?

Why do we stay in situations that we know are slowly sucking the life out of us?

Year after year, we stay in bad relationships, unhealthy living situations and jobs that don’t embrace our passions and strengths.

documentary photography, nepal, travel photography, storytelling,

A store clerk in Kathmandu takes a quick smoke break as the afternoon slips away. Photo by me from the Freemium Photo Love collection.

Are we seeking external validation that the appropriate time to leave will present itself, through some act of God or nature?  Are we looking for someone else to make a decision for us? Is change such a scary prospect that we keep doing the one thing that we know, deep down, is driving us to an early grave?  Or at least making that precious journey through our lives a miserable experience.

Over the years, I’ve had conversations with dear friends regarding their lives and the situations they can no longer stand.  We talked about options for a different life, reasons why it’s time to go and what that leaving should look like.

But the move toward action doesn’t seem to happen, and year after year, we repeat this conversation.  We talk about how shitty their current situation remains.  We brainstorm about how to make it better and we make a few suggestions on implementing change.

Yet, nothing happens. And I silently prepare my brain for the conversation when this dear friend(s) has their “come to Jesus moment”.   Because that shit is not going to be pretty.

Why is that?  Is change so scary that we just stand there frozen, allowing our lives and situations to bitch slap us about like a helpless rag doll, so far gone that no amount of yoga, Prozac or whiskey will help us?

Are we so afraid to let go of our jobs that we make up a myriad of excuses as to why it’s not a prudent action to take at this moment?  We use things- actual material items- as reasons to stay in this job that sucks out our best juju. Mortgages, cars, shopping and vacations- all used to justify the thing that is causing us to consume and “vacate” our lives in an attempt to cope.  We cling to the distant hope that if I just bust my ass for 60 hours a week now, I’ll reap the rewards in 30 years when I’m sitting on a beach, basking in the sunlight.

I don’t believe it.  I think there’s another way.  I’ve seen it, I’ve seen others pursue their true passions, their own way.  Beholden to no one and walking down a path of their own making.  Don’t take my word for it, people have written excellent books and manifestos.  Entire blogs are devoted to this phenomenon.  The major ones that come to mind are The Art of Non-Conformity, the 4 Hour Work Week, Career Renegade, Itty-Biz, etc.  I can keep going.

We are essentially fooling ourselves that this behavior of being a slave to our wages and our material possessions is justified. And we use that as an excuse to keep doing the one thing that we should be working with all our heart and soul to change.  We use the excuses to comfort us as we pop that Prozac, plow through our 10 hour workday and wait anxiously for the weekend to roll around so we can try to undo the damage caused by 60 hours of stressful hell.  And we give ourselves only about 20 hours to do this.

Does any of this seem logical?

We dread Mondays- wish away a whole damn day!  And spend a good portion of Sunday dreading Monday.

We use drugs (prescription or otherwise) alcohol, shopping and television to soothe us after a particularly rough day of being a slave to our paycheck.

We piss away the best years of our lives- our most productive years- for a paycheck.  To pay for things we probably don’t need.  And then, during those “golden years” we’ve got nothing left to give ourselves.  We’ve spent all our creative juju and best personal mojo on someone else.  Why?

And what saddens me the most, is that none of this is necessary.  There’s no golden manual we’re given at age 19 that says here, this is how you are supposed to live and this is what your work life should look like.  You should have the house, the car, the clothes, the job and all the things that look wonderful on the outside and hide the fact that you aren’t truly fulfilled on the inside.

There’s no reason why you can’t still have your mortgage and do something that lights a fire under your ass every time you wake up in the morning. Absolutely no reason why instead of popping some meds to help you cope with your life, you actually change your career or job and do a little yoga to balance yourself.  No one said you can’t have total control over your workday and live each moment as an organic manifestation of your innermost self.

And that’s what change boils down to- YOU.  Taking action.  Recognizing that we each have a finite number of days on this planet and you- YOU- are the only person with the ability to change your situation.

When your costs out weigh your rewards, will you have the ability to change your situation?  Will you take action now to fix the life you’ve built that is taking over your juju?  Or will you wait until your “come to jesus” moment and find it may be too late?


Ten Steps for Creating an Effective Blogging Workflow

We’re gonna embrace our inner Type-A personality, coddle our little methodical inner gnomes and examine one writer’s blogging workflow. My workflow, to be exact. Not trying to be a narcissist here, I just know my workflow and can explain it best. Yes, I’m biased.

We’re not exploring the creative side of the writing- each individual will have their own path to stir up the creative juju and produce brilliance- but the actual, step by step logistical process to writing.

Buckle up, put on your logical thinking cap and let’s dive in.

When I began writing my blog, I really didn’t have a system and hadn’t stumbled upon anyone elses writing system, so, I adapted my professional photography workflow when applicable and winged it when not. Through trial and error and 9 months of writing regularly my system seems to be working pretty well- when the writer’s block doesn’t take hold. But that’s an article for another time.

Step 1. Frolic with your Muse!

I venture out into the world to drum up my writing material. My blog, for the most part, is based on my personal interactions with people and places while traveling. I keep a moleskin journal handy and jot down notes, headlines or just vague concepts for my articles. This step will vary based on your topics, but be sure to recognize and embrace your creative muse and allow time and space in your writing routine to frolic with your muse.

My Creative Muse- People Watching!!

Step 2. Let the music flow.

Your style may differ, but I can not write without music. And not just background noise floating around all “Sound of Music” like, but serious, techno-style Moby/Thievery Corporation beats. Long songs, complex musical structures, few words and powerful rhythms. And no ordinary headphones will do.  You are entering the zone- hoping to be sucked down the rabbit hole into the vortex of your mind- you need professional grade, noise canceling headphones that immediately send you into a parallel universe. This is of the utmost importance if you work in public locations, like coffeeshops, for every screaming baby and steamed cup of milk will break your concentration and pull you back to reality.

Main point- respect and cultivate your writing environment and be sure you have the proper tools to tune out distractions.

Step 3. Enter the WriteRoom.

No, the WriteRoom isn’t some dark, dank writer’ cave tucked away on the shores of Walden Pond (though that wouldn’t be bad) WriteRoom is my computer’s happy place that sends me into the writing zone and, if I’m lucky, propels me into the Flow.

WriteRoom is a down-loadable computer application that, when opened, turns the entire computer screen black and your computer becomes a word processor- circa 1985. It’s gorgeous! The dock is gone, no icons are screaming for distractions and no birds are Tweeting or emails dinging. Nothing. Just a black screen, green awkward font and my thoughts. I actually can’t write without it. Pony up, spend the $30 bucks, buy the software and go to your Flow.

Brings back memories- how can you not love the 1985 word processors?

Step 4. Write.

Yea, that’s a no brainer, but not always an easy thing to do. If I know what I’m writing about, I type in the headline- or a rough draft of a headline- and then write. I do punctuate and capitalize, but some people frown upon this as it breaks the flow of your writing. It’s personal preference- I just do it naturally. I do not correct spelling while typing and I turn off all spell check notifiers. That Red Line is a deal-breaker in my book and you’d be wise to do the same. I suck at spelling, I get that, I’m OK with that character flaw and I don’t need a constant reminder of my inadequacies while I’m in writing Flow.

Now, if you are staring at a totally black screen and no words are coming out of your fingers, then just write gibberish. Write about what you ate for breakfast. Write about the dickhead that cut you off on the way to the coffeeshop then tossed his cigarette out the window. Write about the next door neighbor trimming the hedges in her silky nightgown yesterday morning while the old timer sat on his porch across the street taking it all in. Whatever- it matters not- just write. After some time, you’ll find an article or a theme starting to rear its little head. Encourage the little theme to surface, nurture it out into the open and let it morph into your article. And whatever you do, DON’T STOP WRITING. You’ll know when you’re done.

Step 5. Save it!

Again, no brainer. But really, save the document- usually in a text format. If you’re not using WriteRoom (shame on you) write this draft in a text document program. The lack of formatting and options helps the words flow out. I use a naming convention based on the date and a slug related to the topic (YYYYMMDD_SLUG.txt). The file is saved in a folder with the same naming convention and the folder lives in a Category Folder that reflects the categories on my blog. Here’s a screenshot if that last sentence sounded like Mandarin.

My Folder Structure. It works. Use it.

I’ve used this naming convention for years with photography and it’s a necessity. Why, you ask? Why the anal file naming convention, oh work-flow-nazi? Well, when you use the following naming convention- 20100822_WRITINGWORKFLOW.txt (and yes, it must look exactly like that- YYYYMMDD_SLUG ) then your files will automatically order themselves chronologically in your folders. And when you’ve been writing for months- or years- and are trying to scan through hundreds of articles to pull out an old post for your portfolio, you’ll know exactly where to find it.

Seriously, I can’t stress this enough, if you don’t organize your writing files, you’ll have a train-wreck and your blog and writing will suffer eventually.

Step 5. Copy and Paste.

Now, WriteRoom is not the best for editing and does not format your text, so copy the writing and paste it into your word processing program, such as Pages for Mac or Word. I save the file using the same naming convention as above, IN THE SAME FOLDER, and then I hit my trusty friend, the Spellcheck! I like to knock this out right away so I don’t start off my editing with a reminder of my character flaw. Save it, close your computer up and go get some sunshine.

Step 6. Edit.

After some substantial time away from your article, three to five hours at a minimum, return to your computer, open up the word document and start the editing process. Just like writing, everyone will edit differently. Some will harp on the AP Style, others will obsess about it’s versus its and others will just gut the piece like a red snapper fresh from the sea. One of my professors at journalism school, a brilliant writer and historian, would print out his articles and physically cut sections together and tape them back the way he wanted them to flow. He’s in his 70s, so he learned to edit before computers!

Know your voice, know your writing style and edit accordingly. I know that my voice is unique and my grammar blows- at least for my blog articles- but that’s a more natural, conversational tone that I strive to maintain when editing. I know that my voice can reflect my years of bartending and my discovery of Eddie Murphy’s Delirious at the tender ago of 13. My vulgar use of the English language is one reason I don’t have my mother proofread my articles (and yes, my mom is a professional proofreader).

Step 7. Re-read it! Read your article. Read it again. Go on, one more time.

Step 8. Format for the Web.

Go through your article and find any points in the writing that might be well-served by a few hyperlinks, find them on the web and paste them into the article next to the actual place you’d like to place the hyperlink. This little step saves you time once you’re entering your article into your blog platform and will keep you from flopping around on the internet like an ADHD 7 year old without your meds when you’re supposed to be focused on publishing.

Step 9. Photos and Graphics.
Choose your photos or graphics and add them to your folder with the articles. Be sure the pictures are formated for the web (a 72 DPI resolution and sized no bigger than 900 pixels wide) and, for the love of god, be sure you have permission to use them.

DO NOT grab a random photo off the internet and make it your own. Not only is this tacky, disrespectful to the photographer and just cheesy- it’s also illegal. Illegal to the tune of $125K per copyright violation. Just don’t go there. Use Flickr’s Creative Commons section for free photos (with attribution) or learn how to take your own photos.

And don’t use sucky photos. We’re a visual society and we take quality images for granted- meaning- your readers expect quality photographs and if they come to your site for the first time and see shitty pictures, your words might not be strong enough to keep their eyeballs on your site. OK, I shall step off the photographer’s soap box now.

Step 10. Send it to the Web.

Finally. We’re ready to publish!! Open up your admin panel for your blog, click the new post and copy and paste your text from the edited version into your article. Cut the hyperlinks and paste them into the Hyperlink dialogue box, add your photos in the appropriate spots and add whatever special excerpts, thumbnails and formatting your blog requires. Then, hit publish. Go on, don’t hesitate! You’ve gone through the steps, your writing is brilliant and people will love it! Go for it!

Are we done yet??

No. Time to let the world know your life-altering prose are available for them to consume.

Go to the Ping.fm , visit the Facebook, fly over to the Hootesuite and send your article out to the world. In 140 characters or less, tell the world why your article matters and why they need to read it. Use Hash Tags to get your article in front of the right eyeballs and let it fly!

One more thing- BACK UP YOUR WRITING. Yes, back up your blog folder structure on your computer to an external hard-drive and send it to the cloud.

Now, you’re done. Uncork some wine, pop open a beer, brew some tea, sit back and take in your work. Revel the accomplishment of a fabulous article sharing your unique knowledge with the world.

Go forth and write.

Planning My Blog Around the Cycles of the Moon

Yep, I said it.  That’s real.

Think about it for a second.  People have based decisions of consequence for their entrepreneurial endeavors around the cycles of the moon and the planetary alignments for centuries.  Millenia, even.

Storytelling from an Independent Traveler- documentary photography

A young boy watches the sunrise as the ferry approaches the island of Sangihe. Photo by me- has nothing to do with the topic- I just love the peacefulness of it.

Just take the Farmer’s Almanac.  People’s ability to eat was based on the moon- when to plant seeds, when to harvest, when to expect an abundant yield from their crops- all based on where the moon was at certain times of the year.

But, how often do we take the moon’s cycles into account in our creative and entrepreneurial lives?

Seriously- I’m not talking to you from loony-land right now, I’m being serious- I have on my big girl hat.  While I’ve always paid a vague attention to the moon and its cycles- particularly the full moon- I’ve never really paid close attention to my creativity and production energy based on a waning or waxing moon.

Three weeks ago, I was rolling!  My blog was blowing up with lovely new visitors, I was Tweeting my little ass off and business ideas were spewing from my mouth like the Exorcist.

A few days before the full moon, I was talking with a very wise Goddess (she’s in tune with Mother Earth, the universe and planets in ways I can only hope to emulate) and dear friend about her entrepreneurial adventure and the next step to building her business.  I made a comment about putting some online endeavors into action in the following week and she said nope, we were approaching a strong waning moon and she was gonna batten down the hatches and hunker down till it passed.

Huh?  What the hell?  Waxing moons?  Waning moons?  The moon approaching Leo.  Shit, I’m gonna have to learn this now?! I don’t have room in my brain for this!  It won’t fit between the HTML code I’m learning and the Final Cut editing techniques I’m trying not to forget.

And sure enough, the day after the full moon, I awoke to a frightful scene.  My brain was empty.  No words, no internal conversations that evolve into blog posts, no brilliant brain farts that extract new business ventures. Nothing. Nada.  Zilch.  Just the sounds of crickets shouting out mating calls in my brain.

Damn it.  I had lost my momentum, as if someone had pulled the plug on my frothy, warm, aromatic bubble bath of productivity and left me with a soggy, pruned ass stuck to the bottom of a dry bathtub.  Sigh.

The following 14 days sucked.  Every business move and activity was a struggle and pulling the creative juju out of its hiding place was an all out war.  Writing a blog post felt like getting a root canal.  My brain lost the ability to focus and I flopped around between Twitter and Facebook like a dying fish on the dock- accomplishing nothing during its manic gyrating but a faster death.

As the new moon approached, I even applied for jobs, real jobs.  With the dreaded words that give me hives- salaries, 401Ks and vacation time. (DISCLAIMER- National Geographic- if you’re reading this- I totally want that job- all hives aside- those words and fears don’t count when it’s Nat Geo) I was ready to just call it a day and hang up my travel shoes for a bit and wallow in my single-hood state.

Knowing that these feelings weren’t genuine and feeling like space aliens had invaded my psyche, I called my Goddess and asked her what the F**K was going on!  Is this the moon because this can’t be me!!

“Oh no, its not you.  Its the moon- its a big waning moon.  And oh, Mercury’s in retrograde.”

Well that explains it.  Me and Mercury in Retrograde do not play together very well.  Last year’s retrograde I was a train wreck!

So, I have to wonder, should I start really paying attention to the cycles of the moon and plan my business and creative endeavors around its energies? I do this for my personal life, so why not my professional life as well?

Is it possible to crank out content, projects and business ideas for two weeks straight during the waxing moon and then go into the creative cave for the remaining two weeks- for the waning moon- and get all introspective and shit?  Maybe I’ll just sit on the beach for that waning moon and read a good book.  Then run around like a banshee for the waxing moon and put all my intentions out into the Universe.

Since the dark moon has passed- I feel like my old self.  Mercury is in retrograde, so I’m still a little twitchy, but the juju is returning.  I drooled over Lonely Planet today, accomplished my business tasks with vigor and feel my ideas generated in the last waxing moon resurfacing to manifest into something fabulous!

But, I believe I am going to study the moon cycles a little closer and see if I can’t make a calendar of sorts for action and introspection based on the moon.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress as I journey down the work/moon balance.

Any thoughts about your work/creative moods and the moon?  Post them below!