Great Ideas: It’s easy to lose them, so don’t.

Grahame Green, the famous English novelist, was in many ways an inspiration for many writers. Dare I say, bloggers, too. For me, he was an inspiration: he was reputed to keep a journal near his bedside so he could write down many of his ideas, some of which would work their way into his novels. I don’t know if this is true or not, a couple of cursory searches indicated that it was not.

Whether or not it is true, it highlights a problem I’ve been having recently: keeping a track of those flashes of insight, ideas for posts, quotes, and other memes that come to me, as the muse does. Whenever I have one of those flashes of optimism, I really try hard to remember it so I can use it in a post later in that day.

The sad thing is: I then sit down to blog about those very topics, only to find that the ideas are evanescent as the warm winds of September in Taiwan. What am I to do?

So I have adopted several means to help record them: I’ll use email to send notes to myself, it’s easy to open, and create, and save. If a computer is not available, then I’ll keep some notes in my little notebook, small enough to fit inside my own wallet. If not, I’ll find scraps of paper to write down whatever I need to remember. Then I’ll collate the notes into titles or first sentences, and save them in my blog.

The result can be quite effective, but if not done properly, it will fill up notebooks/wordpress with numerous headers. These are easily recovered but making sense of them later is often a challenge, especially when the original mood is gone.

For example, I wrote a long half post about frustrations dealing with our photocopy company, then I saved it. A month later, the original mood is gone, facts are half-remembered, and I wonder if I will ever write it. At least I have the basics that I could write or re-write as needed. If I didn’t have these, I wouldn’t have the choice to develop the post or not.

So, if you are stuck for ideas: remember – your best ideas will often come to you at very odd times. Find a way to take some notes so that you will have a list of topics that you can write about when things are a little dry.

Spending Money for the Public Good: Yet another sign of excess?

On January 18th, the local government issued some vouchers to all permanent residents and locals in Taiwan. These vouchers amounted to NT$3600 (about US$107) for every man, woman and child on the island. For some families, it was quite a big windfall, but for most it isn’t. The money is in the form of a coupon or voucher that can be used until September 30th this year to purchase goods and service at most places on the island. They were issued in the form of 500’s and 200’s. If you failed to collect yours, you still have plenty of time until the end of April.


Yes, those are mine sitting on the desk the night I got them. Well, like any good member of the public, I did my duty. I finally used mine to purchase a new mobile phone. Indeed, I went rather over the limit with my purchase. But that’s what happens when you get mad at your old telephone company. I switched to a new company and bought a much better plan. Much Better. It’s very bad form to piss off your customers. More on my purchase later…

Should you swipe at all?

But I was wondering, sitting there with my credit card at the ready. Swipe! Swipe! Swipe! But will that be enough to save the world from the hangover of excess over the last few years? Really, will it? When the government tells its people to spend, rather than save, one has to wonder whose interests it is serving.

Could it be that what is good for individuals and families (cost cutting, sensible saving, reducing debt…) may be bad for the economy (lost jobs, decreased sales, less borrowing…) but what is good for the economy may be ruinous for individuals ( when things get bad, spend, borrow, and cut your savings…). It’s difficult to believe that ordinary families will be persuaded to part with hard-earned cash in the face of such uncertainty.

But why the vouchers?

It’s rare that the government actually provides such a concrete measure to increase spending. Perhaps the usual formula of cutting interest rates has failed to stimulate spending in any great measure. I mean, who in their right mind will spend more money when they are likely to be fired. Rather they will curtail unnecessary expenses, save more in the bank, and make do. None of which will help stimulate demand. Even bribing your public won’t help, will it?

Making something from nothing!

Evil ideas? So it got me wondering. Is it possible to take the $3600 and make some money with it? You’re not allowed to exchange the money for cash, can’t put it in the bank, or even give change for the money. So I brainstormed some ideas.

1. Buy some frames, pay for image processing, and sell some of your photographs as individually signed pictures to people you know, at a market, or to a store. You can limit the series or produce extra pictures to special order…

2. Buy a large item at a warehouse store, repackage it as a smaller items, find a way to add value (by packaging, including other items, through location, …). Buy a large box of instant or fresh coffee bags, a box of sugar packets and creamer, a box of paper cups. Make up sets of each, then sell them to office workers.

There’s no limit to your creativity. You don’t need a big budget, but you do need a sense of where your market is. Once you know your market, creating a product shouldn’t be difficult if you know how to sell to that market. What other ways can you use these coupons? Did you get them? What did you do with them?

Get Started Blogging #3: Writing Content

We’re now into Lesson #3 in our Quick Guide to Blogging. In Lesson #1 we looked at how to get started blogging, and what it’s worth. In Lesson #2, we examined some of the different choices bloggers who want to get started blogging have.

In Lesson #3, we are going to have a look at writing that first post, what you can blog about, and so on…

Writing that first post

When you sit down to write your first post, no doubt your head fills with the countless blogs and examples of great articles that you have read in your excitement to get started. You sit down to draft your first blog post, and bam! all those thoughts and ideas that you have been collecting just evaporate leaving you staring at your monitor, and your fingers poised over the keyword. “What on earth am I going to write now?”

Step 1: Put your keyboard away and get out your pen and paper.

There are a lot of bloggers who fail at the first post. So let’s make it easy: you’ve probably got a simple idea of what your blog is supposed to be, but you may not be sure of what to write – try listing. That’s it: simply list all the ideas you have on a piece of paper for that first post. Spend five minutes simply listing the ideas. After you’ve reached the time limit. Stop.

Step 2: Examine your list.

You’re going to look through your list of ideas to see if you could find something you could blog about. The criteria should be simple, too: can you write 100 words about it? Do I feel comfortable to write about that? Once you’re done, see which of the topics you feel more strongly about.

Step 3: Choose your topic and write 100 words.

Your first post needn’t be long, the whole point of blogging is that you get into the habit of writing your ‘journal’ on a daily basis. So, write that 100 words or so. Don’t forget to hit ‘Save’ so that you can return to your post later. It’s amazing how many people forget to do that, then there’s a power cut, an accident, or you just close your window. Woops! It’s gone! – I know I had to rescue a post from somewhere else once!

Step 4: Edit it, esp. if your writing is weak – do pay attention to spelling and grammar.

It’s worth checking your spelling or grammar. If you’re intending to be serious about blogging, you will need to put more emphasis on this. Nothing is worse than a blog that is carelessly written. Really. But it’s crucial: you should only edit the text when you’re pretty satisfied with WHAT you want to say. If you try to edit as you write, you will find that you don’t write very much.

Step 5: Hit “Publish”.

Re-read your post once you’ve checked the grammar, spelling and so on. Then hit that button. Don’t dilly-dally. Hit it. Once you hit that “Publish” button often enough, you will stop feeling self-conscious such that pushing the ‘Publish’ gets easier. You’ve got no idea how many great writers have got novels stuffed inside their disk drives, in old parchments, in notebooks, … great writers who never had the confidence to publish their writings. Hiding your posts in your ‘Drafts’ section will ensure that you get NO recognition, NO traffic, NO comments, and NO readership!

Finding other content

Publishing content may not come easily at first, most likely you will want to stick to short posts until your comfortable with the technical side of things at the very least. In the meantime, you can post a wide range of intermediate posts, while you struggle over your longer postings. This is a short list of things you can post without much work. As you get more confident, you’ll find it easier to add extra comments.

  1. Picture of the Week from snaps that you have taken yourself.
  2. Video from YouTube on music, products, or whatever.
  3. Quotations from people you are interested in.
  4. Buzzes for sites and products you like.
  5. Good Reading for articles that you thought worth reading and sharing.

These are some samples for content. Of course, if you are interested, download my top 20 money making feeds and see how the top 20 bloggers deal with this, what they post, and what works.

Look out for lesson 4 soon, which looks at some ways to get traffic for your blog and which ways are a waste of time in this regard! I’ll be posting this shortly.