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theme

Theme: Does a Story Have to Have a Moral?

Most of us have read Aesop’s fables in our childhood. The four Gospels have their own share of parables. These are just examples of stories that teach a moral lesson about what’s right and wrong.

And it’s effective to the readers because the stories will remind them of those lessons.

While fables and parables are rich with these moral lessons, other forms of fiction convey these in different ways.

Generally, fiction writing don’t rely on moral lessons. Instead, they inject these lessons as a commentary or insights about human experience through the characters and plots. And they are not just lessons, it is more of underlying meanings.

Because most fiction have more characters and subplots, it is common that there are more than one theme running. This makes for a more complex and engaging read.

In fact, readers need not state the story’s theme explicitly. For them, the theme will enrich the reading experience and encourage them to think about the human experience in different and specific ways.

As authors, we don’t need to state the theme overtly. This will make the story too preachy. But if the theme is not strong enough, the story will feel pointless.

Most of the time, authors don’t think of the theme as they set out to write. They focus more on the individual characters and actions and then the theme emerges from those.

For both authors and readers, the story’s meaning doesn’t always come out clearly on the first try. In order for us to identify the theme, it is better to ask ourselves these questions:

  • What is the story all about?
  • Why does it matter?
  • What and why is it important about telling it now?

The theme is best implied, running as an undercurrent beneath the characters and actions. It should come through the action and dialogue rather than forcing or telling the reader what to think.

How the Internet Made My Freelance Writing Career

Internet is Life

A few days ago, my husband, who is working at night, told me that we didn’t have an Internet connection. So he had to buy prepaid load at eleven o’clock in the evening to load up our pocket wi-fi so he could get back to work. Fortunately, the next day, our Internet connection became stable.

You see, we are a household that uses Internet a lot. It’s part of our lifeblood; we couldn’t live without it because it’s part of our livelihood. My husband and I work at home for many years now that we invested not only on computers but also a stable Internet connection.

Life Without Internet

But before I go on, let me tell you something about how was life without the Internet.

I was born in a generation between the old-school and the technological advancements. Thus, I have experienced both worlds and could live, thrive, and survive without the other.

I was in second year high school (today’s grade 8) when I learned how to type. My father taught me the finger placement on the typewriter. Then, slowly I learned how to type without looking at my fingers and started to type fast.

Two years after, I had computer as my elective subject in fourth year high school (today’s grade 10). For the first time, I learned BASIC computer language. BASIC stands for Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. Back then, a black and white TV can be used as a computer monitor, and a floppy disk measuring 5.25” could contain 360KB of data.

We don’t have a desktop computer at home then. So I still rely on a typewriter for school projects.

Eight years later, during my second college course, we were taught WordStar, Lotus 123, Print Shop, and dBase IV. Floppy disks then were the 5.25” and 3.5” which can store 1.44MB of data. CPUs then do have two floppy disk drives for each type.

Two years later, I was introduced to Windows Office ‘95. It was the first time I saw GUI icons to click that would do away with memorizing keystrokes for commands.

Then the late ‘90s came. For the first time, I was able to use a dial-up Internet connection and had my first email address. At this point, I’m already proficient in MS Word and Excel, plus Adobe Pagemaker.

But I still don’t have a computer at home.

Yes, even though I have an email address and has access to the Internet, I still rely on my typewriter for writing. And if ever it needed to be a computerized copy, I would go to the Internet cafe, rent a computer by the hour, save it on a 3.5” floppy disk, and have it printed on a dot matrix, ink jet, or laser printer all for a fee.

It was only in 2003 when we have a desktop computer at home. The most reliable operating systems then were Windows ‘98 and Windows 2000. Typing became much easier because the keyboard was soft to the touch, there’s no need to move the typewriter carriage to the left as I reach the end of the line, and there’s no more need to feed paper.

Oh, those were the days, my friend.

How the Internet Made My Freelance Writing Career

As time goes by, the Internet has evolved and new technologies have sprung. Today’s Internet is far different from the Internet in the late ‘90s. It’s difficult to identify an aspect of our lives that hasn’t been touched by the Internet. It has become so innovative and so in demand that it has transformed the whole world. So much so that the changes brought by the Internet has caused us to reinvent the way we work.

Recently, three of my blog posts that dealt with working from home were noticed by readers like Nick Porter of BroadbandSearch.net. The blog post he shared inspired me to write this one.

It’s obvious that the Internet has made a huge impact on human civilization. Let me enumerate how it affected my career:

Working From Home

my remote work officeI’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I’ve worked for almost seven years in a large US-based BPO company. It was there that I’ve experienced working in an almost digital environment.

When I decided to work at home, I applied what I’ve learned which made my transition from corporate to home set-up easy.

Back in 2012, freelancing and independent contract work were starting to gain popularity. With websites like Upwork (formerly oDesk and Elance combined), OnlineJobs PH, PeoplePerHour, etc., freelancing has become more acceptable as the years go by. The Internet made me find full-time jobs as a freelancer.

With the heavy traffic and long commute that stress people everyday, we expect more people to shift from office work to work at home setup and/or freelancing soon.

Independence

What I liked about working from home is the freedom from the stress and pressure of an office environment. I got more sense of autonomy as I worked my way through my freelance writing business.

On the other hand, I still need to discipline myself to become more focused and efficient in order for me to succeed.

Working Hours

Freelance writing has made me free to choose the hours I want to work so much so that I’m no longer working 40 to 48 hours a week. But there are times that I am working almost 24/7 because of the passion.

There were clients that still follow the traditional 9 to 5 schedule that I was forced to follow their time zone. But there are newer clients that embrace the concept of flexibility regardless of their location or time zone.

Communication & Transparency

One of the things I’ve learned from working in the BPO industry is transparency. And to achieve this, communication is the key.

The Internet has made communication easier and has expanded the media. Aside from email and websites, we now have SMS, chat, VOIP, streaming media, cloud storage, and the like. This has made the world smaller in terms of reaching people around the globe.

Collaborative Work

Start.me appWorking with clients located abroad would be challenging if there’s no Internet. Today, the Internet provides productivity tools that we can use to collaborate, allowing multiple people to work on a document at the same time.

e-Learning

The Internet has made it easier for me to enroll in courses I’m interested in. This can help me take my career to the next level as I thrive in the freelance community.

Security

However, the Internet also has its own downside. While I work from home using it, I’m also aware of its dangers. In fact, working dependently on the Internet has a bigger risk now that there is so much going on online. Hackers and scammers can pose as prospective clients. That’s why I have to be my own first line of defense against cybercrime. I also need to have a working knowledge on how to detect threats and what to do if this happens.

Now that I’m already settled working from the comfort of my home, Internet connection (and electricity that runs it) have become my necessities. It is difficult for me to live without it because my livelihood depends on it.

How about you? Are you also dependent on the Internet?

RELATED ARTICLE: 9 Ways the Internet Has Changed the Workplace

Apps I Use in Freelance Writing (And They’re Free)

Introduction

I’ve been freelancing for years and aside from my laptop, I need apps and tools that will not only make my work more efficient but also will allow me to get the job done and deliver. There are thousands of work management apps available online. But which of these apps are really for freelance writers?

If you have been freelancing or working online for some time now, you might be familiar with some of these apps. But if you’re just starting, consider this as an apps guide for an organized, productive, and efficient work from home life.

My Hardware

my remote work officeWhen I started freelancing in 2012, I used to have a desktop computer sitting beside a 3-in-1 printer on a desk. I had to invest on these pieces of hardware plus a stable Internet connection to start working at home.

As time goes by, mobility became a necessity. Thus, in 2015, I shifted from a desktop computer to a laptop. Until now, I still use a laptop 100% of the time.

Although I have an Android phone, I only use it for texting, calling, social media browsing, a few games, and my Kindle app. I never send emails or write notes using my smartphone.

And yes, add a headset with microphone for making calls. Having been in the BPO industry has made it not just a computer accessory, but a necessity.

My Apps

Most of the apps I’ll mention here are freemium, meaning you have the option to upgrade them from the free plan in order to use the full range of features. As much as possible, I always use the free or personal plan because I’m all alone in my freelance writing business anyway.

LibreOffice

Most of my apps are web-based now that I’m using Linux Lubuntu as my laptop’s operating system. I have LibreOffice installed as part of the installation package. It’s just like having an MS Office but free and open-source software (FOSS). What’s good about LibreOffice is I can save documents in .docx, .xls, and .pptx by default so that it would be compatible with the others who use the MS Office suite.

Google Chrome

Of course, to access the Internet, I need to use a net browser. Firefox is the default browser for Linux, but there is Google Chrome for Linux which my husband installed for me and which I use most of the time.

I prefer Chrome because I usually login on several sites using my Google account. However, there are a few sites that don’t run properly on Chrome (which used to run very well when I was still using Windows) but will run better on Firefox.

Start.me

If Chrome is my default browser, Start.me is my default home page. It is basically a bookmark management site where I classify often-used websites and apps into groups, icons, and links.

Back in the day, I used to have MyYahoo and iGoogle as my Start.me appstart pages until Yahoo! and Google took them down respectively to protect their search engine business. Come to think of it, it makes sense for them to do away with bookmarking because it will make us type on their search bar more instead.

But I prefer having a customized start page and I’m subscribed to Start.me’s free plan. Upgrade starts at $20.00 a year for professional use and the rate increases for team and enterprise use. A Start.me page can be customized by using different background themes and widgets. Once I open my Chrome browser, I have in front of me all the often-used links plus the weather and quote of the day.

Goodsearch

Goodsearch appI’ve learned of this app in 2012 when I first joined NaNoWriMo. Ever since I’ve used of Goodsearch, I rarely use Google as a search engine. Goodsearch allows me to search for information and at the same time, for every unique search I typed in, they will give a penny ($0.01 USD) to my chosen charity (which is NaNoWriMo). Goodsearch is powered by Yahoo! It also has Goodshop and used to have Goodgames (I miss this!).

GMX Mail

Isn’t it nice to have all your email accounts in one place? That’s why I have GMX Mail. Its email collection feature is so awesome that I can read all my emails from different accounts. I can manage my contacts and calendar, too. It also has an online office tools like Google Drive but I don’t use it.

Google Drive

Speaking of Google Drive, I use this to create, organize, and share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online and on cloud. Sending a file to my clients is easy just by sharing it with a link, no need to attach it on email. But there are times when I need to upload a document from my hard drive and share them on cloud. Uploading and downloading files on Google Drive is easy.

OfficeMA

OfficeMA appI’ve been using OfficeMA since 2013. This is my freelance business management tool and has a timer. This is also a freemium and I’m using the free plan because, as I’ve said earlier, I’m alone in my business.

This app allows me to handle multiple clients with different rates. Thus, when I start the timer, it can automatically compute for my work charged by the hour even though I have other clients whom I charged a fixed rate.

The paid plan (Professional) costs £1.20 GBP per person per month and lets you issue invoices. But I don’t need that feature because I have my own PayPal account.

I have used different timer/monitoring tools, too, like Time Doctor, Worksnaps, HubStaff, ActivTrak etc. because some clients do require me to install a monitoring tool. Whenever they don’t, I use my OfficeMA and send them a report once a task, assignment, or project is done.

PayPal

Ever since I started working from home in 2012, I use PayPal as my payment management tool. Setting up an account was easy back then, I didn’t have any problems with linking it to my bank account. Most of my clients pay me via PayPal in their own currencies. I can also issue invoices using the app when I need to. But most of the time, my clients don’t need invoices.

Skype

Calling long distance is costly. But thanks to the marvels of the Internet, we now have Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). One of the early apps on communication is Skype. When I was using Windows, I used the desktop version. Now, I’m using the web-based Skype. This version is convenient for me. Aside from making a call, I can do a video call, chat, and even share files.

I also use Messenger on my phone and seldom on my computer. There are clients who prefer Messenger than Skype. I am also familiar with other chat tools like MS Communicator, HipChat, Viber, Slack, Webex, Zoom, etc.

Trello

Trello appTrello is my project management/collaboration/organization tool. It applies the Kanban method by using boards, lists, and cards. It is also a freemium app and I’ve been using it since 2015. Upgrade starts at $9.99 USD per user per month.

I have used Basecamp, Highrise, Taiga, Slack, Asana, etc. because my clients use one or two of these. But I still prefer using Trello.

Evernote

Remember those Trapper Keeper binders during the ’90s? Those big binders can hold more than one notebook. Evernote is literally my online notebook binder. It allows me to create notebooks and organize my notes. It is also a freemium app and upgrade starts at Php 130.00 a month. I used to have the app on my cell phone but I found the size too large for my phone’s memory so I use the web version since then.

However, not all my notes are on cloud. I still have my Bullet Journal with me for planning and taking down notes.

Canva

Canva appI started using Canva in 2015 for my graphic design needs. I am not an illustrator so I use this app to create images for my website and social media accounts. It is also a freemium and upgrade starts at $9.95 a month when billed annually.

DupliChecker

This is a web-based plagiarism tool that I’ve been using since 2012. After writing, I copy and paste the document (up to 1,000 words only per check) on the site and it will detect plagiarism for free.

WordPress

I use WordPress for Content Management System. Aside from this website, I still maintain other blogs using the WordPress platform. Years ago, I had a love-hate relationship with it.

RELATED ARTICLE: 100 Best Apps for Online Job Freelancers

Other Apps

There are apps that I’ll also mention here because they’re worth using especially when working from home. These are the apps which I use only when needed.

HootSuite

HootSuite is a social media management tool which I started using in 2013. This is also a freemium app. The free version used to allow me five different social media profiles but now, it was reduced to three. Back then, I could schedule many posts across all five social media platform, but now the free version only allows 30 scheduled posts. That’s one of the reasons why I seldom use this app nowadays.

MailChimp

Mailchimp is an easy-to-use marketing tool which can organize my mailing list, subscribers, newsletters, and marketing campaigns. The free version allows me to have a limited number of subscribers, but once I exceed, I have to pay a monthly fee. Therefore the pay increases as my mailing list grows. However, I seldom open my account due to my busy schedule.

Free Press Release

I used to have an account with Free Press Release for creating and distributing press releases. However, I’ve checked the URL and it’s no longer available. Instead, I found PRFree, another free press release distribution site. It has been years since I’ve written a press release so I was unaware of this change. This is also a freemium PR distribution service and upgrade starts at $19.00 USD per PR.

Hemingway Editor

For writers like me, the Hemingway Editor helps makes my writing readable and lean. Inspired by Hemingway’s “rule” in writing (less adverbs, the better), this app will show which sentences are too long or wordy with its color-coded highlighting.

GoPlay

GoPlay is a video editor that runs on Windows. I used to have this on my laptop to create YouTube videos. However, since I shifted to Linux, I don’t have a video editor yet.

There you have it, the apps I use in freelance writing.

I would like to thank Katrina McKinnon for reaching out to me and inspired me to write this article. You may visit her website, Small Revolution, an online learning platform for people who want to work from home.

 

Where Do Ideas Come From?

One of the overused questions asked of writers is where do their ideas come from. It may be too trivial, too basic, but too important not to be ignored.

Writers, like other artists, maximize the use of their five senses and translate them into their art. Writers, like other artists, are keen observers. So keen that they know what color is on top of the traffic light, how many tines are there in a fork, or what is inscribed at the bottom of a paper bill — simple, everyday objects that seem too obvious for ordinary people to take notice of. Aside from the use of the senses, here are other sources of ideas:

Newspapers

The old-fashioned broadsheet or tabloid is still a good source of story ideas. Scan the news and even the other parts of the newspaper like the classified ads, you’ll get an idea or two to jump start a story or an article. An article about a female college student/prostitute who killed her “sugar daddy” gave me an idea of a scene I wrote a few months back.

Magazines

The glossy magazines feature different kinds of stories, so varied that some of these magazines became specialized or focused into a particular niche. Scan the stories, even the fillers, you’ll get some catchy phrases and intriguing ideas to add into your writing. For example, an article I read about freelance writing inspired me to write my opinion on it. Also, catchy phrases become titles of a future article or novel.

Books

Reading not only hones your vocabulary skills, but also inspire you to write your next story. Reading a not-so-familiar book many years ago triggered me to write my novel, Number One Fan.

Biographies

Lives of other people show us how was it living in their own time. We get to see not just a character but also a lifestyle different from ours. Somehow their lives inspire us to write a story for others to learn from.

Stories and legends

There are some stories that keep on burning because they don’t die and people remember or mention them repeatedly. Folklore, fables, and even urban legends could be an inspiration of your next novel.

Dreams

Believe it or not, dreams could also be a good source of story ideas. My husband’s dream became my inspiration of a comics manuscript I’m planning to write.

Songs

I used to write down nice phrases that came from songs. The lyrics of Randy Crawford’s “People Alone” inspired me to write I’m Greg, Short For Gregarious.

Ask “What if?”

 Asking this question somehow challenges you to provide possible answers and in the process creates a possible story.

 Overheard remarks

Eavesdropping for the sake of getting ideas? Why not? I write these overheard remarks and make them patterns for dialogues.

Once I got an idea, I put them down on writing. As a writer, I should not rely on memory because there are times memories fail. A writer is a journalist and therefore should have a handy notebook and pen to jot down these ideas that burst abruptly.

Now, it is your turn. Go get yourself a notebook for the sole purpose of jotting down ideas. The size and thickness should suit your need and desire. I suggest that you put tabs to separate different sources or categories. Make it a habit to write it down and don’t let it escape your memory. Happy idea hunting!

6 Pros and Cons of Being a Writer

You might be asking what are the pros and cons of being a writer. Well, I could think of six answers. However, each answer has a good side as well as its downside.

1. Low overhead cost

Pro: Nowadays, you need a working computer and a reliable Internet connection to work as a writer. But long ago, William Shakespeare just used a quill and paper. That’s how low-cost writing as an occupation could be.

Con: A fabulous equipment like a computer, a printer, and a router may give you a little bit of a head start but it will not guarantee success in your writing business.

2. Anybody can write

Pro: Anybody can write, or could set himself up as a writer, no matter what your education or professional background is. Just look how many bloggers out there and check out their background. Some of them didn’t even finish college but can write well.

Con: Too many competition. You may have the award, the recognition from peers, etc. but the person beside you might also be another writer who is much better than you (and you don’t even know).

Anyone who says he wants to be a writer and isn’t writing, doesn’t.Ernest Hemingway

3. You can make money writing

Pro: I’ve mentioned in another blog, you can turn your writing into cash. Depending on what kind of writing you do, or whom you’re writing for, writing pays a lot. You can charge per word, per page, or per project, depending on what you’ve agreed upon with your client.

Con: Sadly, there’s no minimum wage for writers. Although there are some writers who earn a lot, some writers still struggle and receive low pay. That’s why many people still think that writing is not a real occupation or a good source of income.

4. Anybody can start at any time

Pro: The late Sidney Sheldon published his first novel past his age 50 although he had been a screenplay writer before that. Other writers started their writing career late, too. I am also a late bloomer, I started writing professionally in my 30’s.

Con: Distractions, discouragements, and chores may get in the way while you’re in the mood for writing. Well, all writers agree that the hardest part of writing is the beginning. Therefore, you could not just start writing any time.

5. You have the basic materials

Pro: Actually, you are the basic material. Your talent, knowledge, skills, and experiences can provide the basic materials you need for writing. Write first of what you know about.

Con: Sometimes, your material is not enough. You need to seek out and research more. Writing is hard work.

6. You write alone

Pro: Writing is a good career choice for introverts who are shy to interact with people but have something more to say to the world. Most writers are introvert, come to think of it. You can lock yourself inside your room and write.  (I love this part.)

Con: However, no man is an island. You need to socialize, interview, and network from time to time. In the end, you have to deal with editors and publishers, too.

So there you have it, six pros and cons of being a writer. Let me know your thoughts or if you have something to add on this one.

Debunking Remote Work Myths & Misconceptions (Plus its Pros & Cons)

After almost 7 years, I left the BPO industry in 2012 to try my luck in remote work. Working from home at that time was starting to gain ground.

Who wouldn’t love to work from home? With the kind of traffic in Metro Manila, the long commute under the tropical weather is already a challenge. My commute from our house in Fairview to Cainta and back took 3 hours from my day. My commute to and from Makati took 4 hours. That was around 2006 to 2012. Imagine if I’m still working in Metro Manila today.

Good news: President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Telecommuting Act or Republic Act 1165 last 20 December 2018. This law provides private companies to allow their employees to work in an alternative place with the use of telecommunications and/or computer technologies. In short, working from home is now legally accepted as a work arrangement in the Philippines.

Other perks of working from home are having no specific dress code and having flexible working hours. As long as I have a working computer, a PayPal or bank account, and a good Internet connection, I’m fine.

If Those are the Pros, What are the Cons?

One of the main downside of working from home is the interruption from family members, relatives, and friends. Because they know that I’m at home, they can call on me any time. The flexible schedule and the comfortable dress code are also partially to blame. People around me know that I’m working, but they can’t help to call me to eat, or to ask something, or any other trivial interruptions. But it’s fine with me because it gives a random change from the routine.

Having a specific work schedule and a home office space couldn’t solve the problem especially if the remote worker himself allows it.

Another disadvantage that I could think of is the way remote work is getting the bad reputation it doesn’t deserve. There are myths and misconceptions from people who had bad experiences with remote workers and from people who are wary to try.

Related Article: A Reality Check on Freelancing

Debunking the Myths & Misconceptions

“How do you know people aren’t slacking off?”

People got used to seeing people at their desk working. So for managers who don’t see much of the remote workers, they start to wonder. Trust issues start to set in. But if managers and remote workers know what they are responsible for and when the deadline is, and how to work accordingly, then slacking shouldn’t be an issue.

Installing a monitoring tool may solve the problem of slacking

When I started working from home in 2012, I was required to install in my computer a monitoring tool. Aside from recording how many hours I’ve worked in a day, it also takes a screenshot of my computer every 10 minutes.

But there is a monitoring tool that I’ve used that only detects keyboard and mouse activities. So when I work offline, like writing on a pad paper instead of typing, my “productivity rate” is reduced. It sounds unfair, right?

Also, other remote workers I’ve encountered think these monitoring tools are stressful. Aside from proving their presence online while working on creative tasks, it also breeds mistrust. That’s the reason why other remote workers prefer to choose home-based work that doesn’t include monitoring tools.

Working in the comfort of my home doesn’t mean I’m available 24/7

There are online jobs that require me to follow the client’s time zone. So if my client is from the U.S., I have to work at night following his office hours. But there were times that even I already logged off, I would be receiving emails or calls while I’m asleep.

Also, other people don’t realize that not all emails or questions on chat are urgent. There is a big difference between what is critical (urgent), important, interruption, and trivial.

Remote work counters the work culture

Managers think that because remote workers are away from the office, they don’t know what’s happening in the office or can’t personally attend meetings.  But technology made it possible for remote work as it is today. Video conferencing bridges that gap and there are also collaborating tools that could be utilized yet still nurture a work culture.

I’ve experienced attending a Town Hall meeting where all of us, including the boss, were on Skype. I could see their faces, their work spaces, their kids, and other things about them.  It was a happy virtual hanging-out.

Also, you can create a chat group for “watercooler discussions” where you can joke around and be yourself with other members of the remote team.

I chose to work from the comfort of my home. I am not required to commute, hence I do not consume energy, deplete natural resources, pollute the environment, and create congestion in the city.anonymous

How to Make It Work

Remote work is a game-changer in labor and management. Although not all companies are open to idea of having their employees work from home, this set-up could work on some industries.

It should start from the top

Upper management should start the initiative to set-up their own remote work program. They should be the first to set the objectives on why they should offer remote work to their employees before rolling it out to their middle management teams. Now that this is a law, private companies should be implementing their own policies by now.

Establish ground rules

Setting up a program like remote work requires having its own implementing rules and regulations. Everything from how things are done from recruitment to resignation should be laid out on paper. It’s much different from the traditional office work. I should know, I’ve written an employee’s handbook for a remote team once. It should include clear guidelines on communication — when and when not to use email, chat, or any other digital tools.

Use the right digital tools

There are many collaboration and communication tools available for remote work. Every company prefer one tool from the other. That’s why I’ve encountered and used many of them — Basecamp, Highrise, Trello, Asana, Time Doctor, Google Drive, Slack, HipChat, Skype, Zoom, etc.

With so many applications, one should realize the impact of time. If the issue is time-sensitive, then use chat or call. If it could wait for a day or two, use email or a collaborative tool.  Again, not everything online is urgent and important.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Top 52 Productivity Tools, Apps and Software Programs of 2019

Empathy

Since we don’t see each other face-to-face while sending emails or chatting, we express ourselves in emoticons or emojis. There were instances in my remote work life when chat conversations were misinterpreted. What seemed to be a constructive criticism was perceived by someone as an argument.

If ever this happens to you, it is better to do a one-on-call call via Skype and settle the differences before anything goes wrong. Remember that on the other end of the line is another human being with feelings.

Transparency

Being employed in the BPO industry taught me to practice transparency. Remote work requires transparency — lots of it. Unlike in the office where everything needs to be on black and white, remote work is paperless and digital. But with the right tools, remote work can be transparent and beneficial to both manager and remote worker.

Simply Embrace Remote Work

With the challenges of long commute and work-related stress, labor is now slowly shifting to remote work. It is shaping the future of employment. Companies might want to look into the possibility of offering remote work to its employees.

Let me know your thoughts on remote work.

Make The Time To Write

Writing is a juggling act. A writer juggles his job, family, friends, recreation, and writing. Some writers grow weary of the constant juggling act and give up writing. Others like me struggle to keep going.

How do you find time to write?” has been a common question to writers or among writers. The answer depends on each one of us. Some writers write during their free time while others have a fixed schedule. Some of the well-known authors started writing their novels while having a job of their own. Other famous writers had the luxury of spending their whole day writing.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. – Stephen King

For Stephen King, constant reading keeps the writing going. Even professional writers have their own ways of delaying their writing tasks. Arranging their bookshelves, doing some art & crafts, binge-watching are some of them. But in the end, once they find the impetus to write, they do write on their desk.

The secret is forcing yourself to write everyday, either measured by page count or by word count. The important thing is showing up on your desk and write. But when delays turn from a few minutes into a few weeks, or even months, that becomes a big problem.

One of the reasons why “writers” don’t write is they don’t love writing. They like referring themselves as “writers” but they hate the hard work that goes with it.

But there are other writers who would hit the typical writer’s block. They struggle daily on how to go through with it, and then have a breakthrough moment and leap back to work.

Like any other writer, I experience writer’s block. I spend my time on other activities other than writing. And when I realize that I have deadlines to beat, I decide to make things work in my favor. So I devise a plan: make a schedule and make it work.

Fifteen years ago, I was still single then and starting my career as a freelance writer. I wrote from 9 am to 6 pm and made a schedule that had become my daily routine. It made me more focused and productive.

But everything changed when I gave birth. Taking care of a baby became a handful that I don’t have the time to write. Then an employment in the corporate jungle came along. I wrote reports not novels for the next seven years. Until I decided to return to writing in 2012 and started working from home.

Finding time to write is forcing myself to write everyday. I have to write something be it a chapter of a novel or a blog. It’s like showing up for work on my desk.

Always remember that it’s how frequent you write each week and not how many hours a day you spend in writing. Spending three times a week, 2 hours per day writing is much better than writing 4 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays. I guess, this has something to do with the momentum. Try not to lose the momentum when there’s a story running in your head.

There are 3 P’s we gain from this kind of scheduled writing:

Planning

This is the most difficult part of writing. This is the stage where you set up everything from settings to characters to plot. By having a consistent writing schedule, you have the time between writing sessions to think about what you’re going to write next.

Pressure

Having a consistent writing schedule puts a pressure on you not not to write. Even if you’re able to write a single paragraph, you’ll be back tomorrow to write again, no matter what. Compare it if you’re just going to write once or twice a week. That one paragraph will probably stay as one paragraph in the next two weeks because you stopped somehow. And that will get you in serious trouble.

Practice

They say that practice makes perfect. It’s the repetition that trains the mental muscles and extract creative juices. You will notice that your writing improves with time.

But since people are different, one method doesn’t fit all. There are two ways of making a writing schedule. Both are effective so you can choose which one works best for you.

Gridlock Method

This is a rigid schedule of writing that you must adhere religiously. Using a grid, fill in every hour that you have commitments or activities. Then look at the empty blocks and try filling the blocks where you are absolutely positive you can write. Be realistic and don’t overbook yourself. Three to five times a week for two hours a day is fine. If you can’t find reasonable number of hours for writing in a week, examine your priorities. Once you have workable schedule, stick to it. Let other members of the family know that you have to follow a schedule and you’re serious about it.

Spare Change Method

This involves establishing goals for each day and week. Your goal is not putting in a certain amount of time, rather, producing a specific number of pages each day or week. Decide if you are going to adhere to a daily or a weekly goal. Take a calendar and write down a daily goal or at the end of the week, write the page number you expect to achieve on that day. Don’t worry if you’re uncertain, or if it keeps on changing as you write. The point is to establish a goal and work towards it.

True, writing is a juggling act. But the main hurdle in becoming a successful writer is finishing a writing project — be it a novel or a short story. Making a schedule and finding time to write will help you do that.

Writing: What It Is and The Reasons Why

 

The dictionary defines writing as a way you use words to express your ideas or opinions on paper. It is the most popular and prevalent method of creating connections among people. It also serves as the flexible foundation for almost every type of communications media. Print, video, audio, speech, and interactive online media all begin with writing.

But why write in this age and time when everything is digital? The attention span of our younger generation becomes limited as the years go by. And there are many communication media attempting to grab their attention. So why write?

Benjamin Franklin might have influenced it when he said “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.” Who doesn’t want to be remembered after death? It’s natural for us humans to make a mark on this world. Not for the sake of money, but for the sheer desire to make a name for ourselves. Call that egoism, if you like.

Writing has become a tool that can encourage, or make people move. In its altruistic sense, we write because we want to change the world or create a new fictitious universe. We try to find meaning in this world in the hope of understanding our existence and our purpose in life. But because writing is neutral, its purposes and results depend on the intentions of the writer and the audience.

I write for the same reason I breathe — because if I didn’t, I would die.Isaac Asimov

Generally, people see writing as a hobby. But some writers claim it as their profession. Others see writing as a form of therapy. Whatever reasons each writer has, the main purposes of writing are to inform, to entertain, and to motivate.

It connects people across time, space and culture. It keeps records of past events, form opinions, and shape the future. This makes us learn from yesterday, gain knowledge about today, and design for tomorrow.

How about you, what is your main reason to write?

Freelancing: A Reality Check

People say that freelancing and working at home is the perfect set-up because you earn an income without experiencing traffic and restrictive dress code.

Yeah, right. That’s what I’ve thought of before I went freelance. So I set up my home office and got to be with my daughter, one of the reasons why I left a stable job where I got paid well but had not much time to see her grow up.

However, working at home has its own pitfalls. I repeat: working at home has its own pitfalls.

If you knew what it was really like, you may actually feel lucky to follow a Bundy clock. And don’t feel too guilty for being a working mom which makes you think that you’ll be a better parent just because you’re at home.

Read this first for a good reality check just so you won’t quit your job without knowing what you’re getting into — or feel bad that you can’t.

If You Think You’ll Be Able to Escape Office Politics, You’re Wrong

Most people shift to freelancing to escape office politics. What they don’t know is all work involves politics and freelancers must play the game much better than anyone else. With so many freelancing job sites and freelancers online, the more you have to convince clients to hire you rather than your competitor.

It’s more than just being sociable. Freelancers don’t just expand their network, they nurture the relationships.

Imagine if a disgruntled client spread the word that you’re difficult to work with, people will know you, yes, but they will not call you. That’s the power of social networking you must not underestimate.

And remember this, the Labor Code provides regular employees security of tenure. They can’t be fired from their job just because the boss doesn’t like them. Clients, on the other hand, can fire you at an instant or will just stop taking your calls without telling you why.

Meet Your New Boss

Everyone had experienced a crazy boss who sets impossible deadlines and expects you to meet them whatever the cost. Most of us have been sick and tired of working overtime and spending vacations where the cell phone never stops ringing.

Working from home won’t change that. Theoretically, you can watch DVDs, HBO reruns, Netflix, or YouTube videos all day long but at the end of the day, you’ll realize that you won’t be able to afford to pay the electric bill and internet subscriptions. Slack off and you lose projects, especially there are hundreds of hungry freelancers who can do your job twice as cheap, twice as fast.

You cannot afford to make mistakes, either. If you’re a regular employee you can mess up and won’t pay for it — the company does. But for freelancers, standards are much higher. You’re only as good as your last project, and no tantrums of a tyrannical boss can match the silent threat of a pile of unpaid bills.

So, even if you’re self-employed, you’re not the real boss. Its name is Necessity and it comes in different forms.

What Work-Life Balance Are You Talking About?

The good news in working from home: you’ll always be with your kids. The bad news: you’ll always be with your kids. Do I need to repeat that?

In a regular job, you can focus on your deadlines, leave the office with a free conscience then shift into Mommy mode when you get home.

However, when working at home, there’s a blurry line that separates office work from household chores. I still do some errands, cook food, clean the house, wash the dishes, etc. and although I spent the whole day with my daughter, I fail to check on her homework or school project sometimes. So where’s the balance?

Bringing the Office Structure Home

So to make my home office work, I actually had to mimic the corporate set-up. I have a desk complete with a computer and printer, a good internet connection, and set specific blocks of time for myself and my family.

The ‘flexi-time’ lay in synchronizing my schedule with my family’s. I usually start at 6 am after my daughter leaves for school (or 9 pm if I have to follow US time zones) and ends at 6 pm or 7 pm, with chores spread in between and set specific goals like “finish 50% of the daily task by 12 noon.”

Which Part of ‘Stressed’ Don’t They Understand?

However, a home office space can’t hold back relatives, friends, or house help who don’t seriously believe that you’re working. There would be times that someone would come in to interrupt you. Just let everyone in your home know and should respect your home office set up. This goes beyond the ‘do not disturb’ sign. Ask them to answer and screen calls for you. if you will.

You might have been chuckling while reading this. Probably you could relate or you know someone who had this kind of experience. So before making a leap of faith into freelancing, better think twice. But if you’re already decided, I welcome you aboard.

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 Ways to Turn Your Writing Into Cash

6 Reasons Why You Should Have a Website

One of the characteristics of being a freelance writer is the freedom to write for anyone. Having one’s byline on different websites fills your heart with a sense of accomplishment. However, when it comes to getting new clients, this method spreads your brand thin. They see you all over the place without a permanent identity.

At this age and time, when Google is not just a noun but also a verb, it pays to have a website. Yes, even freelance writers and independent authors need an online presence.

Here are the reasons why:

1. A website makes you look professional and stand out.

A freelance writer or an independent author should be like an entrepreneur (and I always call it “author-preneur”). Having a website is like opening your business’ front door. Freelance writers may not have a physical office building but a web page serves as a writer’s virtual office space.

Let’s face it, you cannot expect everybody to take your freelance writing business seriously if you don’t have an office or a website.

Another issue about having a website is the domain name. Although any freelance writer or author could set up a website for free, the domain name will be like yourname.website.com. Not only it is long, it also gives an impression that you have not invested enough on your brand.

If you want your website to be more professional, invest on a domain name like yourname.com. (or .net, .org, .co, etc.) Paying for a domain name lasts for a year or even more and make sure you pay the dues annually so others may not get it once it becomes available in the domain name market.

And since your name becomes the domain name of your website, somehow it automatically becomes the brand. It now gives you and your freelance writing business a face, something that will differentiate you from the others.

2. A website serves as a portfolio.

Having a website is a perfect opportunity to showcase your body of work. It represents you and your work. With a well-written About page, readers will get to know you better.

Also, blogs integrated into a website can serve as writing samples. So there’s no need for you to provide written samples when clients request for it. Encourage web traffic by having them visit your website instead.

Also, remember that a blog is different from a website. Blogs cannot stand as a website. Blogs are dynamic and keeps on changing once updated. There are clients who want to see a static page that sums up your works. They don’t have time to read your blogs one by one just to know you.

3. A website serves as your marketing tool.

Even established authors need to market their own books. They don’t rely on their publishers to do the marketing. So they use their website as a marketing tool to reach a wide-range of audience. Also, people tend to remember the title and the author but not the publisher, so the tendency is to Google the title or the author. How could a prospective reader find you if you don’t have a website?

Websites allow you to sell your books, give it away for free, or announce a promotion. With different e-commerce features, having these can be programmed into your website. Or you could just link them back to another website like Amazon if you don’t know how to set-up a web store .

Create a website that expresses something about who you are that won’t fit into the template available to you on a social networking site.Jaron Lanier

4. A website serves as your permanent place where people can find you online.

Consider your website as your home where you can entertain your visitors and readers. It is also a good way potential readers and agents to find you. You can turn a casual web visitor to a loyal fan with your website. Write blog posts that attract readers like reviews, interesting facts about your books, etc. Don’t rely on the power of social media. Yes, social media are also good platforms, but you have no control over the social networking site. So it is better to gain social media following through your blogs and website.

5. A website shows your personality.

A downside of having your own website is having the time to maintain it like adding a new blog, updating the calendar, etc. Don’t leave your website unattended. Update it regularly.

If you don’t invest time and effort in building your online presence, how do you expect your clients to value your work as a writer? How can you demand a high rate for writing when they don’t see you practice what you do? Having a decent website and a decent following may get you better rates for your work.

6. Websites are easy to set up these days.

Basically, a writer’s web page has three important elements: About, Contact, and the blog. You can easily set up one with WordPress, a blog site that I stumbled upon back in 2012. With so many themes to choose from, designing one comes easy. I set up this site in a day or two (choosing the theme, customizing it, adding the necessary plug-ins, constructing the menu, etc.).

As I’ve mentioned before, investing on a website will pay off. Let your social networking accounts boost your online presence, and your potential readers and clients will find you settled and ready. But before I go, I would like to thank 3w Corner for hosting this site.

How Much is Fair in Fair Use?

Before I get into my topic on fair use and copyright, let me tell you a story.

Just before my second trimester in a school I was in, a department head told me that I’ll be teaching a new subject. I thought I heard him right so I said, “Oh, copy writing. Okay, I’m in.” Weeks later, I realized that the new subject I was about to teach was “Copyright Laws“.

Anyway, I taught Copyright Laws and Multimedia Arts Ethics for a trimester and it was a good learning experience for both me and my students. We tackled fair use which is today’s topic.

It is okay to quote a few lines from a novel just as long as you are within the context of fair use. But before we discuss fair use, let’s start with the basics of copyright.

THE BASICS

Copyright laws were created to promote the progress of arts and sciences. These laws protect the original works of inventors, authors, artists, and other “creatives”. These also covers the exclusive rights to copy, to adapt, to display or perform, and to control the first sale of their works to the public.

Once a person fixes an original expression of an idea in a tangible form, that person can claim copyright in the work but with certain limitations.

SO, WHAT ARE THE LIMITATIONS?

Copyright only protects the form of expression but not the ideas. Therefore, an idea like a love story of a cat and a dog may have different forms of expression. One author may express it in a short story. Another creative may express it in a song. And another artist may express it in a comic book. So you cannot just say, “Hey, someone stole my idea!” unless you have put that idea on a tangible format.

The copyright owner controls public but not private displays or performances. Therefore, anything you use at a personal level like singing in the bathroom, or sharing a book to your child does not constitute copyright infringement. But if you perform or display it publicly for financial income purposes, then you have to ask permission to use the copyrighted material first.

This is where the YouTube reaction videos get strikes due to copyright infringement. As you all know, anyone with a YouTube account can earn as soon as you hit more than ten thousand subscribers. A person can earn money from YouTube depending on the number of subscribers, clicked ads, etc. And most YouTube accounts I see online bask in the popularity of reaction videos — reacting to TV shows or performances — without realizing that they’re violating a few principles of fair use and copyright.

The copyright owner controls the first sale but not the subsequent sales of each copy of the work. Writers need to understand this part. Selling your work to a publisher already gives that publisher the right to sell and gain income from the sale of your work. Unless specified in the sales contract, you may or may not receive anything else.

Copyright usually lasts for 50 years, and once the 50 years has lapsed, the work becomes a public domain. But not all works past the 50 years mark are public domain. Heirs of authors or other creatives might have taken over the copyright of the author’s works. So check it out first.

The copyright owner’s rights are limited by the “fair use” doctrine.

WHAT IS FAIR USE?

The fair use of copyrighted works includes reproduction in copies, mostly in part, for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, or research, and is not an infringement of copyright.

Reaction videos on YouTube are usually covered under this fair use doctrine, although this situation is tricky as I’ve mentioned earlier because part of reaction videos is displaying a copyrighted material for financial income.

Fair use is always going to be a gray area, and it should be. We need to allow for things we can’t see yet.Robin Gross

FACTORS TO BE CONSIDERED IN FAIR USE

  • Purpose and character. If the purpose of copying the work in part is for non-commercial research, for educational purposes, for critique, and for news reporting, then the act is considered fair use. Most reaction videos on YouTube will cite this as fair use.
  • Nature of the copyrighted work. Non-fiction works like science and history may receive less protection than fictional works because facts need not be copyrighted. For fiction, quoting for the purpose of book review is generally fair provided the amount taken is reasonable.
  • The amount and substance of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole. Take into consideration the quality and the quantity of the words taken from the work. If the “heart” or the main essence of the work or its full context was taken, this is not fair use even if the number of words copied are few.
  • The effect on the market. The degree of fair use now depends on the impact of the new use on the original work. If the use is minimal and for a valid purpose, then the author of the original work may consider it fair. But with today’s social media, it’s easy to know the impact. People who are active on the Internet can easily tag a work as “plagiarized” if they know something about the original work.

It’s easy to say that your work is “inspired from” another. But it’s difficult if you’re accused of plagiarism.

PUTTING FAIR USE TO WORK

  • Always remember that ideas, themes, and facts are not copyrighted. However, events in a fictional work should not be taken as facts.
  • And if getting a permission to quote is something practical on your part, better get it from the author.
  • Play safe by quoting as little as possible. It is safe to quote up to 10 percent of the work or less.
  • Do not quote or use the “heart” of the original work or its full context.
  • Refrain from substituting the original words and pass it as something new. Be careful in re-wording or paraphrasing texts from your research. Always check your work with a plagiarism checker after writing and before submission.
  • As much as possible, keep the borrowed portion insignificant or undetectable.

THE POOR MAN’S COPYRIGHT

This is a simple procedure to prove that you own a piece of original work. All you have to do is mail your manuscript to yourself. The date and time stamp on when it was sent and received serves as the copyright date. However, this process may not be accepted in other countries. I suggest that you file your copyright to proper government agencies in your area.

SONGS ARE TRICKY

Unlike novels, quoting a line of a song can be tricky especially if you want to use it in your novel. To be on the safe side, ask around or consult a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property or copyright laws. If you can’t afford to pay for the rights, your next best bet is to compose a song.

Banned Books and Martial Law

Banned Books & Martial Law

This year, the world celebrates Banned Books Week from 22 to 28 September. It is an annual event every last week of September that celebrates the freedom to read. It brings the whole book community, librarians, booksellers, publishers, teachers, writers, and readers together in shared support of this freedom.

Banned Books

There are books that are unorthodox, controversial, or even ahead of its time. History has shown us how books have influenced leaders and intellectuals. Every era in history and every government have its own set of banned books that some are even relevant or still banned today. Reviewing the course of history, banned books follow the pattern of censorship. And if we look deeper, it stems from fear — fear of educating and empowering the readers to choose or decide.

Martial Law

It was also in September 1972 that Martial Law was declared in the Philippines. That era was marked with censorship, accusations of subversion, curfew, military discipline, and unexplained disappearances.

I’ve heard of these banned books while I was growing up. In fact, they said once caught with these banned reading materials was tantamount to being accused of subversion.

Until now, there is an increase in book censorship complaints around the world. The complaints range from the books’ controversial moral views to the book’s portrayal of sex.

Recent Book Ban

Recently, a school in the United States has banned the Harry Potter books because the magic spells written on the book are true and can summon evil spirits.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in 1999 and since then the book series has gained popularity among young and old readers alike. It became a best-selling children’s literature. The series also became a successful movie franchise and has a Broadway play spin-off.

I like the Harry Potter books, I owned five of them. But why ban them only now? Sure, there were those who challenged the book series back in the late ’90s and early 2000’s because of its wizardry or witchcraft. But banning them then only fired up the curiosity and publicity of the series.

Banned Books I’ve Read

I myself have read some of the known banned books. Most of them were banned during their heydays and are now accepted and circulating. Here is a list of banned books I’ve read:

Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo

Jose Rizal was 29 when he published Noli Me Tangere, a novel written in Spanish that depicts the social life of Filipinos during that time. El Filibusterismo, a much darker novel, is more aggressive it its depiction of the call for change.

Both novels have symbolized the oppression, the double standards of society, the inequalities, and the desire for changes. These books were banned by the Spanish authorities including the Catholic church because it was, for them, were blasphemous and seditious.

Nowadays, these books are read in high school as part of the curriculum. Once you read and analyze the books, it still show the symbolism Rizal used in portraying the cancer of our society which is still prevalent today.

Celso Al. Carunungan’s Satanas sa Lupa (“Satan on Earth”)

The book has a subtitle, “Nobelang Pangkasalukuyan” (“A Present-day Novel”) and was published in 1970. Written in Filipino, the story depicts the character change of a good citizen turned corrupt congressman and his family’s lives.

This novel was banned because it portrayed a First Lady who desired to run for Vice-President. In the early ’70s, it was rumored that Imelda Marcos plans to run as Vice-President of the Philippines. When Martial Law was declared, Carunungan was one of those writers arrested, detained, and accused of subversion.

After the 1986 EDSA Revolution, the remaining copies of the book were released to the market. I was able to get hold of one because it became a required reading in our Philippine Literature class. Then someone borrowed it and never returned.

Lualhati Bautista’s Dekada ’70

A short novel if you’re going to base it from its size but it is a good story of a family in the midst of the Martial Law era. Fictional but it portrays the need for social equality and justice. A movie version came in the 2000s but I prefer the book to understand why it was banned.

Aside from Dekada ’70, Bautista also wrote Gapo and Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa? These three books were challenged to be banned from the public but were critically-acclaimed for its writing.

I knew I have these three books with me somewhere in my bookshelves.

Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos

Published in 1969, it was subsequently banned during Martial Law for obvious reasons. The ban was an outright censorship because no one would like to be exposed of his/her dark secrets.

I’ve read this book during the ’90s when I had the chance to borrow a copy from someone who was pro-Imelda Marcos.

David A. Yallop’s In God’s Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I

If my memory serves me right, this book was banned by the Catholic Church here in the Philippines. Published in 1984, it is about the death of Pope John Paul I which details death by poison, some involvement of an Italian mafia, and Opus Dei.

But a few months after the death of Jaime Cardinal Sin, the Archbishop of Manila, I saw a copy of this book, at the bottom-most shelf, in a well-known bookstore in Makati. I bought the book because I knew it was a rare find. Unfortunately, the book was borrowed and never returned.

Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code

Published in 2003, this book was banned in some countries after Catholic leaders considered it offensive or blasphemous. Other scholars have written books that refute some of the claims mentioned in the book, although the book is just a work of fiction.

Nikos Kazantzakis’ “The Last Temptation of Christ”

I was a student at the University of Santo Tomas when I heard that the film was banned by the Catholic Church in 1988. The film was based on the book of the same title first published in 1955. I may not be able to read the novel but I have a copy of the film.

It was banned because of its portrayal of Jesus Christ — being married to Mary Magdalene, then to Mary, sister of Lazarus, and having children with the latter — which the church considered blasphemous.

Arthur Schnitzler’s Dance of Love

This is the original translation of the German play which was banned in the United States for 50 years. The play portrays the psychology of sex and depicts different relationships — which begins with the prostitute and the soldier and ends with the count and the prostitute.

D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover

The book was published in 1928 and was banned for its obscenity. It was written in the late ’20s when depicting sex on books was still a taboo. Considered a literary classic for its poetic depiction of eroticism.

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

Published in 1949 but banned in the Soviet Union in 1950 because Stalin thought that the satire was based on his leadership. The concept of Big Brother and government control is somehow relevant these days that this book is worth reading again.

As a writer, the right to read also encompasses the right to choose. Having books that were banned or challenged doesn’t mean you’re a subversive or a filibuster. Reading books that bring out suppressed issues open the public’s minds. Let not censorship keep us in the dark.