Weekly writing prompt: Cross

This week, write 100 words about “cross”. This could be a literal cross, such as the Saxon or Celtic crosses that can be found at the roadside in some areas of Britain, or perhaps something Christian, or perhaps your character is feeling very cross with another character. Or maybe you want to write about a crossing. It’s entirely up to you.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Write a post, including your 100-word response to the challenge, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  2. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  3. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Weekly writing prompt challenge: Power

Okay, it’s another big concept this week. What will you come up with? I’m looking forward to finding out!

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Write a post, including your 100-word response to the challenge, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  2. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  3. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Mystery: Join the Thursday Photo Challenge!

Welcome! Come and join the Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos! Oh, wow, I can’t believe this challenge marks six months of Thursday Photo Challenge! Time flies when you’re having fun.

This week’s challenge is a mystery.

Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.

Neil Armstrong

What photos can you take to depict a mystery? My photo comes from Angkor Wat, Cambodia. There are few explanations for anything at the huge site as you walk around. It’s all a mystery. You can learn more about Angkor Wat at the museum in Siem Reap, though.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Sleepy: Join the Thursday Photo Challenge

Welcome! Come and join the Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos!

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience. This is the ideal life.

Mark Twain

This week’s theme is sleepy! What can you come up with?

My photo is from a rare animal rescue cafe in Seoul, South Korea. Basically, they took in rescued animals who had been bought as exotic pets then abandoned by their owners, and was completely funded by the money people paid to see them. It was like a cat cafe, but with different animals and a lot of strict rules like no touching the animals and no feeding them. This dog is so sleepy at the top of his slide!

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Towering: Thursday Photo Challenge

Welcome! Come and join the Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos! Anyone can join in with any type of camera.

This week’s challenge is towering.

I ought to be jealous of the tower. She is more famous than I am.

Gustave Eiffel

What way will you interpret this challenge? A photo of something tall, perhaps, or of a person who is a tower of strength? Everything is relative, of course, so perhaps you might want to take this in another direction and find something really small that lives in a world of towering giants?

My photo is of some huge palm trees towering over a waterfall and a flower in Palm Springs, California, on a cloudy winter’s day.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Childlike: Join the Thursday Photo Challenge

Welcome! Come and join the Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos!

This week’s challenge is childlike.

There are no seven wonders in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.

Walt Streightiff

The subject could be a child or you could attempt to take a photo through the eyes of a child. It’s notoriously difficult for adults to see the point of view of children, so this challenge might push some people out of their comfort zone.

My photo is the excitement of going on a plane as a child and seeing the world from above. That sense that you could live amongst the clouds and build snowmen out of them. The rollercoaster thrill of taking off and the uncertainty about how the plane will ever touch land safely again. I never went on a plane as a child, so the first time I experienced the awe and wonder of air travel was when I was eighteen.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

My top passive income strategies 2021

Most of us look forward to not having to work so much, so we have more time to follow our dreams– you know, the things you always wanted to do and expected you would do one day, but somehow, that day never came because work showed up and rained over your whole life.

With passive income streams, you can make that day happen sooner. A passive income is one that makes you money again and again without you having to do much to it. Passive income usually requires an initial investment of time or money. If you’re seriously broke, like I was when I started this journey, then you can invest your time to get out of the rat race. Of course, if you’re busy and broke, it will take longer to get results.

My favourite passive income strategies for 2021:

  1. Amazon Associates: Yeah, people love to hate Amazon but I make most of my money from them, either via Associates or my books. Amazon Associates is an affiliate marketing program where you tell people about stuff that’s for sale at Amazon, and you get a commission. There are a lot of other affiliate marketing schemes out there, from companies with charter planes to companies selling make-up or even credit cards, but Amazon Associates has been my top-performing affiliate scheme this year and I’m making about $250 a month from it now, without having to do anything at all, due to the size of this website (over 500 pages and counting) and age of this blog (2014). Obviously, I had to put a lot of time and work into making this site useful to people, and I had to build my traffic to a good level, but now I can sit back and let the reward come in. That’s the beauty of affiliate marketing.
  2. Ebooks: Starting a self-publishing business as an author is NOT a quick or easy way to make money, but if you get it right, it’s scaleable and you get to write books and earn from them. There are tons of niches in both fiction and non-fiction where you can find your blue ocean. If you write an evergreen book series about things people are looking for, you can generate a reasonable income from this. Thousands of self-published authors make 6 or even 7 figures a month.
  3. Other info products: These are where the big money is in 2021. Courses are huge and the market is set to grow as colleges stay closed in various countries worldwide for yet another year. The way to make money with courses is to find something you know about, which other people struggle with. Position yourself as an authority on your topic, grow an audience, then BAM! Launch your course. Courses are better than ebooks because they are what’s known as a high-ticket item (you can price ’em high).
  4. Rent something out: Your living room couch, your whole house while you’re on holiday, the parking space outside your house… the options are varied and you can put as much or as little into this as you like.
  5. Cryptocurrency: I am not a financial adviser, but if you have money you can afford to lose, investing in crypto is high risk. You can make a lot from a little, but you also might lose it all on the whim of the market. Before investing in cryptocurrencies, educate yourself and do your own research from a variety of sources, don’t just listen to one person’s recommendations.
  6. Stocks: A less risky investment (but you can still lose it all) is investing in the stock market. Like cryptos, do your research and don’t ever buy into a company on one person’s say-so.

So those are the top ways I’m generating passive income in 2021, there are obviously a lot more things you could do to bring in money, I haven’t covered side-hustles or ways you can earn cryptocurrencies from performing online tasks for companies (such as content creation) because I wanted to focus only on things I’ve tried and tested, which are bringing in a reasonable amount of money for me. That’s also why website advertising hasn’t made this list – it’s not even bringing in $50 a month to my site so I can’t count it as a reliable passive income stream.

My Experience With Word Ads Advertising on WordPress

Part of my passive income strategy is running ads on this site. I never used to, but WordPress was putting them on my pages and even telling visitors that these were my ads so eventually I decided, screw it, let’s try Word Ads for a year and see how it goes. That was August 2020.

It was really easy to set this up on my WordPress.com site which has a unique domain name but is still hosted by WordPress. I had some reservations about the whole thing because I didn’t want my site to end up like one of those godawful recipe sites.

You know every recipe site ever, where you Google “ice cream recipe” and click on a result, then the page takes several minutes to load because of all the popups and videos, and suddenly you’re slamming your hand on your laptop’s mute button like you know the Countdown Conundrum because one of the many bloody videos has decided it’s not enough to zap your bandwidth and stop you being able to read this recipe, it also wants to SHOUT AT YOU ABOUT SOMETHING. And you couldn’t care less what it’s banging on about, you just wanted to read an ice cream recipe and why is someone shouting at you?

I definitely didn’t want my site to be like that. There’s a lot of local news sites like that, too. I was glad I could customize ad placements and tell Ad Words what kind of ads I was comfortable showing (I’ve just looked at the settings again and found this seems to be no longer possible, they just show ads wherever they feel, which wasn’t what I signed up for). I thought I’d try it and see how much some subtle ads brought in.

At first I was amazed and excited at the amount of money they were generating, and I worked really hard to increase my traffic to my blog using a content strategy which I explained here. I was making about $50 a month which was amazing, but although I doubled my traffic in a month in November, I noticed my site’s advertising income hadn’t gone up! What? But that makes no sense.

So I looked into this a bit more and found that, gradually, as my traffic increased, the amount I was being paid per ad went down. So although I was showing more ads than ever, I was making less every month!

Okay, don’t jump to conclusions, I told myself. Maybe it is just a coincidence that my traffic went up at the same time that advertising price went down. I decided to wait and see.

That was in November 2020. At that point, the income had gone down to $0.47 per 1000 ads instead of $0.63 per 1000 ads (which it had been in August and September 2020). In March I was getting $0.23 per 1000 ads. Now, in April 2021, with more traffic than ever, I am earning $0.13 per 1000 ads. That is a quarter of what they were originally paying me.

Is adwords worth it advertising for bloggers

As you can see from the graph above, the whole reporting thing is very misleading. At a glance, you would think those blue bars were the money I’m making, but they’re not. Those blue bars are the amount of ads they have shown on my site, in thousands.

By hovering over particular days, you can get a breakdown of how much I made. The “Avg CPM” is the average cost per mille, or the money I made per 1000 ads on that day. The “Revenue” is the total money I earned that day. As you can see, it’s quite poor.

WordPress shows ads on my site whether I like it or not. To take control of the ads on my site, I have to pay WordPress an annual fee (a “plan” as they call it). If the ads continue to drop in price, soon it won’t be worth the $70 a year I’m paying them to take control of the ads.

That means this is so bad, it’s not a profitable form of passive income.

My conclusion is that I don’t think it’s worth it to get into Word Ads right now because of their sneaky sliding scale which just goes lower and lower the more traffic your site gets. If this gets any worse I’ll basically be paying them instead of the other way around! Maybe this will change in the future.

Writing targets and burnout

How many words does a professional writer type in a day? What if they get burnout? How do I set a writing target? These are all going to be answered in this article.

Sometime a few years ago, I stopped being an unemployed person who also wrote a blog and I became a writer. It was a gradual process and it’s still not a bombproof career – it only works if I keep releasing books, writing blog posts, and sharing these on social media and in my author newsletter. I believe this is the case even for James Patterson although his income is obviously several orders of magnitude greater than mine.

That means I have a target for how many words I write every day.

It started when I was living in China and I was contracted to a publisher to get 1 book to them every 3 weeks. On top of that, I had my own projects I wanted to write and self-publish. A lot of the time these days, I don’t have enough words left over at the end of the day to write my blog which is a shame.

At the height of my productivity to date, I was writing at least 4000 words a day. In fact, four thousand was a bad day. On a good day, I could do 8k or more and I worked 12-16 hours a day, taking long breaks only to cook or shower. After about forty published books, I am working at a point where those words usually only need one or two rounds of edits to be publishable.

It all got a bit too big and unmanageable around late 2018, when I found out I was pregnant. The first trimester hit me especially hard. Due to pregnancy concerns, and the hormones making it impossible to think clearly, my productivity plummeted to about 2000 words. It felt like I was working through treacle. At the time, with my bipolar misdiagnosis (I don’t have bipolar, I have ADHD and PMDD), I thought my productivity was linked to mania/depression, although I now know that’s not the case.

After I had a baby, I thought things would get better, but then I was lost in a mist of severe post-natal depression that kept coming in waves, so every time I thought it had lifted, it came back again. At first I thought this was writer’s block, but I had no shortage of ideas, I just couldn’t execute them.

There were weeks at a time when I couldn’t write anything at all. Not a book, not an article, and I withdrew from social media completely. I became a recluse because I couldn’t handle the pressure from all the things I’d been so good at, which were now on fire.

I. Was. Burned. Out.

The trouble is, like depression, it’s hard to recognize true burnout until you’re so deep under the weight of failed commitments and broken promises that you’ve drowned and they’re fishing your blue corpse out of the river you used to float on top of.

I had to get rid of every pressure, every target, every expectation, that I or anyone else had of me. I had to stop doing and just be. Lockdown didn’t help. I took up running. That helped.

Like a snowdrop poking through the snow I finally started to emerge after about a year. The storm was over. I had survived even though there were many times when I thought I hadn’t.

For about six months now, I’ve been writing again. Some days, more words come out than others. There’s also the constant pressure of needing to drop everything whenever my baby needs something. And trying to hash out a fair arrangement between my husband and I, since we are both working from home.

I have realized that even 1000 words a day is enough to release a 30,000-word book a month (luckily the romance genre supports this length of book), and 1000 words is about an hour of effort (a little over an hour). So now, my target is 1000 words a day. This means at the bare minimum I am writing enough to pay the bills, and if I have time to write more, then great, it can be a more satisfying book.

Even releasing one book every two months will pay for the bare minimum, as we have no mortgage or other big loans (and we are ninjas with a food budget), but to save for bigger and better things, a book a month is optimal (Craig Martelle, founder of Twenty Books to 50k, suggests that rapid-release brings in more money for all the books in a series than releasing on a slower schedule).

I don’t have the luxury of writing that mystery that’s been on the backburner for about 9 months, yet, but if I keep plugging at 1000 words a day, I will get there. And one hour of work time a day is really not that much to ask of my family. In an ideal world, that would be one undisturbed hour in a room of perfect silence, but as anyone with kids knows, that’s not how life works as a mother.

Usually, that’s an hour while my little jellyfish watches car videos on Youtube. I make up for it by taking him outside for a walk and to splash in puddles before or after (or both. He loves splashing), and playing cars with him when it starts to go dark. I was worried about letting him watch TV when he was a lot younger, but now I realize that was unrealistic. As long as the shows are chosen with care, the television is a key weapon in the parenting arsenal. Like any weapon (such as an adjective, adverb or flashback scene) it must be used sparingly.

My point is, if you want writing to be a career, rather than a hobby, you have to set yourself an achievable, realistic goal and make yourself stick to it. Recognize your limits and go easy on yourself. Don’t do what I did and push yourself past the point of not being productive. “Pushing through” burnout is nonsense. It’s a lie spun by people who want you to fail, or who never experienced genuine burnout.

No one ever wrote a book by… not writing.

Goal setting advice for finding your word count and making it stick:

  1. How many other commitments do you have? How much free time do you have? Don’t overestimate all the time spent in between other things. If it’s dead time, such as sitting on public transport, you can use that to write. If it’s time spent driving or similar, don’t count it as free time.
  2. How many words can you realistically write in an average (not perfect) hour? 200? 500? 1500?
  3. Now do some math. Don’t fill every waking hour of free time with writing, unless your lifestyle supports this. Your laundry still needs folding (although I use speech-to-text when I’m doing tasks like this in a quiet house). A good rule is to start by setting yourself half an hour or an hour a day of absolute ringfenced time to write.
  4. You can’t control other people or their interruptions, problems etc. You can tell them that if it’s not bleeding or on fire, not to bother you, but they might still, especially if they crawl or toddle and don’t understand words yet. Embrace the distractions when they are unavoidable, be present with the people who need you, and come back to writing. As Barbie says, positive attitude changes everything. If you spend all your interruptions stressing, you will return to your desk stressed. If you spend your interruptions generously, with the intention of helping people, you will return to your desk feeling good.
  5. Have a dedicated work space. Actually use it. I have a terrible habit of working on the sofa. I am more productive at my desk. You are too. It’s basic psychology. You spent all your youth being conditioned to work at a desk by schools.
  6. Plan your work before you start writing. Know what you want to say. Whether you’re a plotter or pantser, this is going to help you stay focused during writing sessions. You don’t need to know every fine detail, but some vague info will mean you spend your writing time typing rather than thinking.
  7. Never edit until the book is finished. Don’t waste your writing time stumbling over what you want to say. Write cliches, misuse the subjunctive, use twelve adverbs to a sentence. You can unpick it all later.

You can do it! The main thing is to get writing and keep writing.

Confusion: Join the Thursday Photo Challenge

Welcome to the new weekly Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos!

This week, the challenge is to show confusion.

Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.

Roger Ebert

As photographers, all the advice we get given is to have a clear subject, follow this rule of thirds, follow that rule of using a tripod, follow yet another rule about the right lens, the right ISO, the right exposure time, the right sort of post-processing…

Throw it all out. Right now.

Start from an empty slate. Don’t even try to make sense. Just take a photo!

My photo is of a taxi I saw near Shanghai. I’d been living in China for about a year at this point. I snapped the picture while we were both moving at around 50mph. I was inside another taxi (you should be able to see the window reflection). This guy was just driving down the motorway with his boot open and seemed to have no idea that the white lines were supposed to show you where to drive!

I wanted to get the shot, because I’d never seen anyone driving like this before; most drivers in China are excellent. But there was no way this would ever fit those rules we impose on ourselves as photographers.

I was so confused about how anyone could just drive down the road so oblivious to the fact his boot was open (he must not have looked in his rear view mirror once the whole journey) or the fact that he was straddling two lanes.

What can you come up with?

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!