Tag Archives: Arts

The 7 Secrets of Great Writing

I saw something the other day that a friend wrote on facebook, and I wanted to share it with you my friends, print this and put it by your “writing device.”

from Peter

I thought about that for a few moments. Then I told Peter I was going to share this. When we think back to our most successful works, regardless of our field or genre we have done this; columns, articles, books, stories, poems. Sometimes we are surprised with the success of something we have written. However, if you take Peter’s concise list in hand, and compare it to your work I think you will find you followed his advice, even if you did not know you were doing so at the time.

Write when moved. We have all had these moments. Sometimes we know exactly what we are going to write. Sometimes we only know the essence of what we are going to write. Sometimes the idea just hits us, all at once, and we begin to write. Other times it is something that nags at our conscious for days, something vague and yet specific. However it starts, when we begin to write it flows, at times it is all we can do to get the words out fast enough. When we are finished, before we begin editing, we look at what we wrote and marvel at how fast it all came together (wishing to ourselves that writing was always like this).

Be grown up. Mmmmm, be grown up. Well, first off, the kind of writing we are talking about is for your public, your regular readers. That is whom I write for. We are not talking about a letter to a lawyer who thinks you are negotiating when you are just trying to do what is right. (A word of advice, do not ever try to do what is right when dealing with a lawyer. If you do, they will not be content, and will continue pushing until they are taking the food from your mouth. Then they will tell you they are letting you off the hook, and you are lucky they are so generous.) Since you are writing for the public, and it would be nice to attract new readers, stay on the positive. There is always a positive and a negative to everything. If you do not see both, keep looking, they are both there. All of us have enough negative in our daily lives. Your readers do not need to turn to you for the negative. They can drive in rush hour traffic and get that. Give them the positive. If you can find the positive where most people miss it, that is even better. Be grown up — stay positive.

Know how to distribute. There is no easy answer for this, you learn over time. Start with a blog, a social network, and some site that will let you publish e-books at no cost to you. Then link them all together. It does not matter what kind of writing you do, you need at least those three. I will give you two examples:

1)      I am a blogger, I am not an author. That may be true. However, no matter how well you map your blog, at some time it will start to become difficult for people to navigate their way around 300 plus posts just to find their favorite posts. When your blog gets to that point, take you most popular posts (the ones with the most views) and put them together in an e-book. You regular readers will appreciate it. Make this e-book free or .99 cents, you are doing this as a gift for your regular readers to show your appreciation of them. Do not put a $14.99 price tag on this e-book, you are not doing this so you can buy a new Porsche, you are creating value for your regular readers. This will expand your regular readers, and show them how much you appreciate them.

2)      I write books, not blogs. That may be true. However, your regular readers have made an investment in you. They have given you their time. Time they could give to loved ones or other interests, but they have chosen to give it to you. So, once a week, or once a month, let them know what you are working on. Take your most popular book and tell your fans how you came up with the idea for their favorite book. Take some of your notes and drafts for a book and let your readers see how that book became the e-book on their e-reader. Let them inside the process. Also, always, always, give them a chance to talk with you. Listen to what they liked and did not like. Answer some of their questions. This will expand your regular readers, and show them how much you appreciate them.

Be heard. There is no magic formula for this, but if you give your readers value, and you appreciate them. You will be heard. How do you do this? Well, you provide value to your readers by teaching them something new, giving them ways to save money, encouraging them, or entertaining them. If you can do several of these at the same time you are doing even better. There is one more though that is a must, no matter what else you do, you must be passionate. I am not talking about romance, love, and sex. I mean you need to be writing about something that is important to you. Poetry, history, blogs, fiction, it does not matter what you write, write what you are passionate about. You cannot fake passion, you can try, and you may pull it off for a while. But, eventually all your readers will see through the ruse. When you write about subjects you are passionate about, you are taking a small part of you and giving it freely (this is not about price), willingly, openly. This is not about 1,000 downloads on Amazon. When someone reads what you wrote, it is an intimate one-on-one conversation — writer and reader. They want your passion; they already have too much in their lives that lacks passion. Why is Norm Abrams so successful? There are many others who can tell you how to build a deck for your house. Norm is successful because he is passionate about home improvement and working with wood.

Be recognized. This is something else that you cannot do very much about, directly. You can enter contests. However, the personal tastes of the judges have more to do with who wins. The type of recognition you should be concerned with is from your readers. When your readers enjoy your work so much they tell others about it, or provide links to your work so others may enjoy it as they do, THAT kind of recognition is exhilarating and humbling at the same time. It is the best kind of recognition you will ever receive.

Be a mover. When you write with passion, believe me, people will be moved to action because of your words. Historical, poetry, how-to, fiction, it does not matter what you write. If you write with passion, you will reach your readers, and they will take that passion and act on it in their own lives.

Be warm. You should never write for “the mob” or the “demographic group” you are shooting for. The United States has more than 350,000,000 people living in it. Just one percent of that is 3,500,000 people. Warmth has to do with passion and intimacy (once again this is not romance, love, and sex). Intimacy is being open and vulnerable it is a one-on-one connection. You do not get that by writing for 3.5 million people. You get that by writing for one person, you get that by holding nothing back, you get that by being positive. You do those three things and the warmth will come through. You do those three things and your readers will become important to you, individuals that you care about, and those feelings will create the warmth. Painting, sculpture, writing these are intimate expressions of you. Be intimate one-on-one with each reader and you will succeed one person at a time.

Now a word about my audience. Writing “how-to” books are always talking about “know your audience, write for your audience.” Those noble educators of the craft of writing are talking about a demographic group. You know, a certain; age, sex, race (sometimes), political view, religious view, and et cetera. This nameless, faceless group is the supposed consumers of your work. Therefore, of course, I do not follow this tact. The group I write for is very specific, and (fortunately for me) gains more faces than it loses.

There is a man who is about my age whom I share much in common, but we have just enough not in common to complement each other.

There is the talented historical author breaking down her own barriers by being both black and female, while possessing a real talent for history.

The poet who bares her soul for the entire world to see, inspiring the most dejected among us while doing so.

There is the couple restoring an historical home, a home that our government should have assumed care for a century ago.

There is the sea captains wife, though she has never said so specifically, I suspect she uses some of their precious, limited time they share to tell him about an occasional column I have written.

There is an extraordinary woman who just lost her soul mate of many years. She has shared the loss that she and her children feel, with her readers. She is dealing with this one day at a time. Some days are not too bad, and the not too bad days are slowly increasing in number. One day she will be back to normal. A new normal, her life will never be the same again. A part of her will always mourn her loss, but she will smile again, and laugh again. Knowing that her husband would want her to, will make it easier for her.

There is a young feminist, an old feminist, and a former feminist, a couple of artists, and some other writers as well. Some are as young as 7 and some as old as 70. I have left out many, but it would take a book length tome to do real justice to them all. They are really a neat bunch of people, whom I treasure. Some leave comments, some send e-mails, and some just read and smile. As I said I do not follow what the experts say we should do to build an audience, I do not have a narrow faceless group of 3.5 million people for whom I write. I write for an individual, someone I care about, someone I celebrate with when they win, someone I cry with when they hurt, someone I care for and pray for, even though they may be an atheist.

The audience I write for is too narrow, I know that. However, it works for me. I did not start writing for just one person. I started writing for this 3.5 million person demographic I wanted to reach. It just did not work for me. If it works for you, use it. But, there will be something else, just one thing all the experts say you should do, one thing you just cannot do.

That one thing robs you of the voice inside you screaming to get out. Follow what the experts say, but when that one thing you are not supposed to do presents its self, follow it. This is what makes you unique; it is your style, your voice.

It will come to you, do not force it, do not say, “I am going to do this and it will be my style.” If you do, it will come across as contrived. Contrived is fake you want genuine. Follow the experts until you reach that point where you say to yourself, “I do not care if I lose all my readers except my mother, I cannot do this anymore.” Then follow your spirit.

You may lose readers, and it may take a long time before you begin to gain readers again. Do it, do it anyway, and do not ever go back to what you did before (remember, if you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got). What you did before silenced your real voice that is why you left it. Your new audience will come, do not worry about them. They are searching for you right now, waiting on you to find that voice deep within you. They will find you. They will not quit searching for you until they find you. Be patient and as Shakespeare said, “to thine own shelf be true.”

If you have ever studied art seriously, you know that there are certain “rules” of painting. These rules have evolved over centuries; they are really observations of what make paintings attractive to the viewers. Ever see a painting you just do not like? It probably violates several of the observations. Good paintings make you feel at ease, calm, all is right in the world, they follow all the rules. What sets off the good from the great? One observation, one rule … just one. The artist had just one thing he could not bring himself to do (or her). The artist knew to break that one rule could mean disaster for them as an artist, it did not matter. “To thine own self be true.” The truly great did just that. Following all the other observations, they broke one rule and that is what sets them apart from the crowd, that is their style. They said to themselves, “If no one ever buys another of my paintings I do not care. This is what I must do.” You cannot force it, but in time, it will come to you too.

Thank You !!!

Thank You !!!


Filed under books, Cup-O-Joe, New, notes, writing

2012 in review — Thank You ! To all of my readers!

I don’t normally post this kind of information. I view this site as a Sunday morning conversation between us, and stats cannot possibly tell THAT story. So if you feel the same, don’t bother with this, but if you are curious WordPress did a really good job with this report. I want to take this opportunity to say Thank You to ALL of you. I hope in 2013 you follow your dreams and have a GREAT year.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 26,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.


Filed under Cup-O-Joe, history, New, notes

Our 2012 Awards

Reader's Choice Best Guest Author Award

No not the ones we have received the one we are giving. This is our first complete year and it has exceeded our goals. That would not be possible if not for the authors of our articles, we don’t just mean Joe either. To show our appreciation we will be presenting one guest author our “Readers Choice Best Guest Author 2012 Award.” (This is the first annual)

The Rules (everyone has them):

  1. Joe is not eligible.
  2. Authors of re-blogged articles are not eligible for the re-blogged articles (but are for any guest articles they wrote for us).
  3. Every author with one guest article for us is automatically nominated for that article.
  4. If an author has two or more guest articles with us, then Joe picks one article for the nomination.
  5. This is an annual award given to one and only one author. There is no other way to be nominated or to win.
  6. The winner is chosen by a vote of our readers. Everyone can vote.
  7. The winner, as chosen by our readers, will be announced the first Sunday following the end of voting. Readers will be able to vote for one week (midnight friday to midnight friday New York time) and will only be able to vote once.

This years nominees are:

E.Walsh for “Operation Live Well: Promoting Health and Wellness in the Military Community”: (go here to read http://wp.me/p1MLkF-WS )


J.G. Burdette for “The Elusive Lady : The Discovery and Exploration of RMS Titanic”: (go here to read http://wp.me/p1MLkF-gw )

If you would like to be eligible for next year’s “Reader’s Choice Best Guest Author” award, contact us with your idea for an article that helps, inspires, encourages, or a new or unique look at something historical.

use a subject line of “Guest Author” and email to:


Señalización de lugar de votación en Californi...

Señalización de lugar de votación en California. 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Filed under Cup-O-Joe, history, New

Of Rocking Chairs and Dance Lessons

This week we are going to talk about next year, 2013. YOUR 2013. I have a Thanksgiving Day article (American holiday on the November 22 this year) about a man and his partners, a team we can all be thankful for; then on to sailing ships and airships. But, this week we will talk about 2013 and how exciting a year it is going to be for you. Some of you may not think so now, but by this time next year, you will be thankful for 2013.

Next year the economy is going to change, and with it, you will be closer to where you should be in life, where you were born to be. As you know, I believe everyone is an expert at something, a genius who stands head-and-shoulders above the rest of us. You are so good at one thing, which would seem like drudgery to the rest of us, that it is fun for you. It energizes you, puts a smile on your face, and turns the hours into mere minutes. This is where you are going next year.

Next year the economy will get better, or it will get worse. My crystal ball is in the shop for repair right now, so I cannot tell which; but it does not matter which (and you will see why). With this change will come your opportunity, but you need to do a few things first so you may take advantage of the opportunity when it comes. If the economy does get worse, do not worry about it. Your opportunity will still come to you and you will shine. Worry and fear are like a rocking chair, they keep you busy but they do not get you anywhere.

You know that one thing which is your heart’s desire? “One of these days I will have my own auto shop.” or “One of these days I will be an artist.” … or a writer, teacher, designer or maybe a promotion at work; whatever it is, it is the one thing you shine at, for you it is not work. Next year is the year you begin to work towards that goal. Do not give up your “day job” just yet. You still need to pay the rent. But, next year, is the year you begin to change your profession.

First. Stop saying, “I am going to be a _____.” As long as you always say, “I am going to be a ____.” Then you will never be that, you will always be “… going to be …” YOU ARE! If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got.

Sound silly? As I was writing an article for you this summer at my favorite coffee shop, I got up for a refill and a man stopped me. “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” Sure, go ahead. “Do you come in here often? What are you doing? Why do you come here? Do you drink coffee? Did you see the new scientific study on coffee?”

The important point here is that when he asked what I was doing I told him I was writing my weekly article and that I like to write at that coffee shop, I like the atmosphere. That night on the local evening news, I saw a teaser for the story (on the new coffee study) following the break. The teaser was my face. When they came back from the break, there was my face again and the announcer started with “We are here at a local coffee shop talking with local writer Joe Combs …” Is it my only job, my “day job?” No, but I pay my water bill with my royalties; and full time writing is where I am going. I am a writer. I also build cars for a major car company to pay my mortgage. But, I began by paying my water bill with writing. I have a plan to be a full time writer and as of today, I am ahead of schedule. Let’s get back to what is important though, YOU.

Write on a piece of paper what you are (your new profession), the job that is going to replace your current “day job.” Keep that with you, always, look at it every day, and read it aloud to yourself every day. “I am a ____.” When someone asks what you do, THAT is what you tell them, not your “day job.”

Look at what you do every day now. Then look at what you will be doing every day then, at your next profession. Write these down on a piece of paper in two columns. Choose one thing from the column on your new career, and begin doing that. In my case, a writer writes. When I am working on a book, it is easy to put the manuscript aside for weeks at a time. But, a writer writes and that is not writing. Now I write weekly articles for you. Now I write on a regular basis. Every week I write an article for you, just as I will do when I write full time.

Pick one item on your list and begin doing that one thing on a regular basis. Then add another, then another; keep doing this.

Next, get business cards. There are several companies offering 250 business cards free, you just pay about $8 for shipping (Google “free business cards” and take your pick). Use that company’s online software to design a professional card. Include your professional e-mail address, if you do not have one get one; and use it only for your new profession … no personal stuff. Do not put a phone number on the card, unless you plan on answering the phone as your new profession (“Bill’s Flower Shop, how may I help you?”)

Surround yourself with at least two other people who believe in you as the new professional that you are now. People who are active and encouraging. I joined a writers group, but soon discovered most of those people were always talking about writing, but did very little writing. I quit that group and met other people who were active, believed in me, and were supportive. We support and encourage each other. After my readers, they are the most important people in my writing career.

Next, get a free website and use their software to design your website. It is easy; you do not need to know any codes or software programming languages.

Sometime next year the opportunity will come for you to spend more time at your new profession. Maybe someone will come to you with an offer of work for you; whatever that opportunity is, it will come next year. Remember, no fear, no worry; just do it! You did the things now to position yourself to take advantage of that opportunity next year … so … JUST DO IT!

As you change your attitude and become this professional that you were meant to be, you will attract people to you who will help you, and that you can help. Likes attract … always. Positive attracts positive, negative attracts negative. Positive people do not like to be around people who constantly complain. You are evolving and as you become the person you were meant to be, you will become more positive and more successful. It is a never ending circle (both the positive and the negative, so use the positive). As you become more successful you will become more positive, as you become more positive you will become more successful.

Those people who criticize and say negative things to you (“… you can’t do that …” or “… you’ll never be …”  or “… who would listen to you?”, and etc.), cut them loose. Remember this phrase “If your presence cannot add value to my life, your absence will make no difference.” You do not have to be mean about it, but if you do not avoid the negativity of those people, you will let them drag you back down into the pit.

Up to now you have thought of your passion as only having meaning for yourself; you could not possibly be more wrong. There are enough people, your future customers, who need your expertise, that over time they replace your “day job” with more money than you make currently at your “day job.”

Still do not believe me? Let me give you an example.

Several years ago I walked into a men’s shop, looking for a new shirt. The young man at the shirt counter greeted me with, “Yes?”. I told him I wanted a new shirt. He showed me a vertically striped shirt with colors I did not like, and a gaudy, diagonally striped tie. I was wearing a solid color, dark suit, with a solid color, light shirt, and my diagonally striped, conservative, “power” tie. What this young man showed me I would not be buried in.

The next store I walked into the man behind the shirt counter asked, “Are you looking for a shirt for a special occasion or every day?” He selected five shirts for me to look at, and placed them on the counter. He then picked up a light blue shirt with white collar and cuffs, paused, then returned it to the shelf. I hate that style of shirts; he just gained points with me. I looked over the one shirt with a button down collar (I rarely wear those), picked up the striped shirt (which I liked a better than the other striped shirt at the other store), then examined the remaining three shirts. Three shirts with no button down collar, light in color, solid in color. Three shirts that would look good in a dark suit, any dark suit. He then picked three ties (two solid, one with diagonal stripes), holding each tie wrapped around his fingers and against each shirt; so I could see how each tie would look when tied, and so I could see how each tie matched each shirt. I came in for one shirt; I bought three shirts and three ties. This man did not just make a sale; he had a regular customer in me, right up until the day he retired.

The first salesman had a job. The second salesman was doing something he loved. The second salesman observed my personality and the clothes I was wearing when I came in, and selected three shirts that he knew I would like, and two shirts to learn more about my preferences. Then he used all that information (and he did this without asking me anything except that one question) and selected three ties that would go with any of the three shirts, and matched my taste. Over time, he even got me to add a few light colored suits to my closet.

This man enjoyed his work, he was good at it, it was what he was meant to be, and he knew it. He knew good quality mens clothes, he knew how to size up a customer and show him styles he would like, he even knew how and when to get a customer to expand his tastes. He knew what clothes would make each of his customers look their best, and he enjoyed doing just that. He was very fussy during a fitting  to insure that the suit was tailored just right to make a customer look his best. He always made me put in my pockets the things I normally carried in my pockets, before marking the suit for adjustments, to ensure the cut would be just right when I wore the suit. I trusted and relied on this man’s judgment. If he had taken employment at a different store, I would have become a regular customer at that store. I sometimes wonder how many faithful customers he had.

You have that within you. There are people who will line up for what you have to offer. That first salesman will never be as good as the second salesman. The first man is working a job, a job he probably does not like. The second salesman was doing a job that for him was not a job, it was something he always wanted to do.

So, get yourself ready now to take that opportunity next year; and when “… you get a chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance …”

So, what is stopping you.

P.S. If men’s clothing is your interest, and you just happen to move to Columbus, Ohio let me know. Like I said, my guy retired, and I still have not found anyone I would return too.


Filed under Cup-O-Joe, family