Writing

How to optimise your website

These days, it’s widely accepted that if you want business success, you need an online presence.  And it seems businesses have no issue with paying out a few thousand pounds to have their website designed by professionals, all of whom, it seems, promise their clients a Page One Google ranking.  But you don’t have to be a mathematician to work out that not every website designed by a professional (no matter how good they are) can make the page one ranking.  Or even page three for that matter. 

And it should be blindingly obvious that people visit websites because they are hungry for information, answers and solutions.  Not just to look at pretty graphics. Sadly, all too often, this seems to be overlooked.  Sometimes I could literally weep with frustration at a business’s inability to recognise the value of great content.  It is gob-smackingly short-sighted.

You may be able to create an all-singing, all-dancing website with navigation as intelligent as a map of the London Underground and functionality as efficient as Read more

Writing

10 ways to overcome writer’s block

Whether you’re an aspiring blockbuster novelist, a features journalist, or simply have an essay to complete for a university project, most of us will be affected by writer’s block at some point in our lives.  Symptoms can range from mild frustration (and lots of tutting) to full-blown panic (and lots of swearing) when faced with an urgent, non-negotiable deadline. 

The good news is there are many simple techniques that can help get your creative juices flowing again.  And many of them really work.  Trust me, I use them.  Regularly.  The key is to experiment, find the technique that works best for you and then not to panic the next time the black fog descends.  Because nothing is more debilitating to a writer than fear of failure.  Instead, accept that like an overwrought and uncooperative toddler, your brain simply needs a short period of time out.  A change of scene.  Note, this is an important part of the creative process and not to be confused with skiving.  Look at it as one of the perks of the job.   

So, here are my own top 10 tips for activities that will help in overcoming writer’s block.  If you’re really up against it, some can be completed in just a couple of minutes.  Although, of course, if you have the time and money to slip off to the Caribbean for a couple of weeks, that might just do the trick too… Read more

Writing

To Boldly Go… Is it okay to use bad grammar?

Whilst helping my 7 year old daughter with her literacy homework I was struck, not for the first time, by how complex the English language is.  So many rules, many of which seem to have no logical provenance.  And many of which I am regularly in breach of, even though I write for a living.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a stickler for good grammar and I have my standards: get a text from me and it will be fully punctuated and noticeably absent of acronyms.  And nothing gets my goat more than bad spelling.  Yet, unlike my 75 year old father, who would rather gouge his own eyeballs out with a blunt spoon than split an infinitive, I believe that to be a truly great writer, it’s essential to Read more

Musings

Authentic writer

Be honest about your beliefs

Most of us are coerced into conformity from a very early age. Our careers and lives are often so blighted by our efforts to be what we think someone else wants us to be, that we lose all confidence in our own judgment and instinct.

It happened to me. I always excelled at English and had a definite creative streak. And yet I didn’t appreciate you could have a career as a writer or an artist. In fact, these were professions that did not even feature on the school’s careers database. And so I ended up doing law – not because I had any real motivation in that area, but because it was widely recognized and accepted as a decent career (and because I wanted to earn lots of money).

Have the courage to be different

goldfish jumpEight years on I was bored and frustrated and, quite frankly, not enjoying life. Something had to give. A move down to Devon, from London, combined with my discovery of Neil Croft’s book, ‘Authentic: how to make a living by being yourself’, gave me the courage and inspiration to do something I had never done before: take control of my life and follow my instinct. I haven’t looked back.

Authenticity and the ‘real’ world

Authenticity works. People and organisations pursuing their authentic path are Read more

Children’s Stories

Children’s Stories

A dream come true

istock_000007278224xsmall-children1I’ve always had an ambition to write a children’s story.  Who hasn’t?  But in my case it was an ambition that intensified with the arrival of two children of my own and eventually crystallised on a visit to a local farm shop, Taverner’s Farm in Kennford, near Exeter.

The Taverners are the only farmers in the UK breeding South Devon pedigree cattle for their milk, which they use to make their own, delicious, organic ice-cream.  And because the South Devon cows are rather unusual looking – large, with long noses, big ears and rusty-coloured coats – they are affectionately known as ‘orange elephants’.

‘The Tale of the Orange Elephant Cows’

The Taverner’s ‘Orange Elephant’ brand is quirky and unique and was just crying out for its own children’s story.  And so I flexed my creative muscles and, completely unsolicited, spent many hours writing and drawing and painting my own illustrations for my first children’s book, ‘The Tale of the Orange Elephant Cows’, which I then sent to Rob and Helen Taverner.

Udder hopping

Udder hopping

My proposal was that they use the story as a unique marketing tool but I figured they wouldn’t say ‘yes’ unless they had the story in front of them and liked it.

A published author

Fortunately for me, the gamble paid off: they loved the idea and the book is now sold from Taverner’s Farm, and from their website, www.tavernersfarm.co.uk. I have also been involved with helping Rob and Helen produce a range of promotional greetings cards and bookmarks, with the potential for additional merchandise in the future.  It’s all exciting stuff.

And since word has got out that I write children’s stories, I’ve had one or two other enquiries about writing children’s books to promote brand awareness too.  So watch this space…