Stay Focused Social Media Blocking App and Timex TW5M23300 Watch.
Last week I was off-line except for a couple of tasks that needed doing via the Internet (like administration). To ensure I remained off-line–I’m just as human as the next guy (I think)–I got an app for my computer phone called Stay Focused. This app can block any app on your phone and, in the free version (which I used), can block up to 5 apps at once. You set a schedule by telling it which hours and what days you want certain apps blocked. I applied these to the social media apps on my pocket computer to keep me on lockout. While true I’m in Broadcast Mode in the winter, as part of broadcasting I sometimes need to go into an app like Instagram and post something. The problem is one glance at the feeds can quickly lead to two, then three, and so on, and the next thing you know you’ve fiddled away an afternoon scrolling and scrolling and refreshing and scrolling.
This picture is a screenshot of the app from the day I went dark. You can see the stat on there says I’ve already tried opening the app 3 times and each time it didn’t work (was running tests). The timer on locking me out of these apps ran for a week. And it worked! Once I knew I was locked out, I didn’t give the apps a second thought.
Stay Focused also acts as a master lock, meaning you have these little locks under it (like the apps you’re blocking), but then you can lock Stay Focused itself–but only in 6-hour chunks in the free version–to ensure you don’t unlock your blocked apps. I’m assuming this is for extreme cases where certain people need a double padlock on their phone. To get even more extreme, I’m pretty sure there’s a lock on Stay Focused that forbids you from uninstalling it in an effort to destroy your barriers.
What was interesting was it kept track of how many times I unlocked my phone to do something, like reply to a text from family. I was disgusted when I saw, at the end of one of the days, I had unlocked the phone around 35 times. I barely used it that day! But numbers don’t lie. I barely used it? That was 35 times in the span of 12 hours (roughly). That’s approximately 4 times an hour. That’s once every 15 minutes. My unlock count steadily dropped as the week wore on and I got busier, but this goes to show how much we’ve integrated pocket computers into our lives.
The app has other features, like how long you are using any one program and your total phone usage for the day.
In the end, getting an app like this is highly recommended, especially if you are a phone junkie and recognize you have a problem (dopamine addiction). And, yes, the irony of this kind of post ranting about frequent phone use is not lost on me. I fully recognize a good part of my business is digital and having people on-line looking at or reading my stuff is better for me yet here I am encouraging my readers to go live life in the physical world. Oh well. But my refutation to the irony is this: I’m referring to balance. Is your on-line and off-line lives balanced? Take away sleeping hours, eating, and body maintenance, and see how much time is spent on a screen while you’re awake. The rest is up to you.
(I know that author J.B. Bennet got on board and locked themselves out of things during working hours each day, so others see the merit in this.)
I made this video on Friday of last week and aired it yesterday. It gets into what happened during my time off-line. Watch and subscribe. You might relate.
Lastly, for months I was getting frustrated of having to pull out my phone to check the time. While 9 times out of 10 all it was was checking the time, there was always that one time in there where it became an excuse to futz around on the phone. I couldn’t have that. I needed to be off-line, so I took the plunge and got myself a basic sports watch by Timex. As a kid, I had a couple of their Ironman watches, which I loved. I was aiming for another basic Ironman this time around but it was suggested to me that’s more a watch for a 15-year-old than a man so opted for a different one because I thought that was a valid point (I’m talking purely the aesthetics).
This is the watch I got, model TW5M23300:
And that was how I kept dark last week.
Taking a break from the Internet is something I’ve recommended for years for the sake of maintaining all facets of one’s health. I will go off-line again somewhere down the road because 2020 is a stupidly busy work year and sometimes you need to just shut up and get the job done. But that upcoming time off-line won’t be for a while yet. Not until my first holiday of 2020. Until then, I’ll be here, writing to you and making books and art and comics and videos.
Keep coming back to the blog every day. There’s always something being posted.
Ps. Today, a new chapter of Gigantigator Death Machine aired on Patreon! Please go here to get access to this fun romp of creature horror for just a buck!
This past weekend I spent some time taking a page out of Warren Ellis’s playbook by downloading a blog feed reader called Read in an effort of curating my own Internet. I loaded into it all the blogs I follow. Now it will notify me of new blog entries from these sources. Since I’m 99.9% off the social feeds for the winter (except for the odd post here and there, usually about my cooking), this makes things easier for me and saves me time checking in on websites.
The goal is to make my pocket computer’s Internet nice and streamlined in a season of life where I need things streamlined. There are a lot of moving parts going on, both professionally and personally, and it’s time to cut out the clutter and keep things simple. Self-imposed boundaries can be healthy and this is one of the good ones.
Speaking of which, and this idea is at the consideration stage at the moment, I’m thinking about going dark next week so I can ensure the release schedule is maintained. Pursuant to this blog entry here, I tire out quicker than most because of the after effects of being ill so any spare energy I can save and funnel into my projects is a good thing. I’ll keep you posted.
Back to Read.
So far, so good. Saves clicking around or fumbling through my computerized telephone’s browser.
Here is the link should you wish to add this blog, Canister X (the Realm of Heroes and Monsters), to your feed reader, if you have one.
Lastly, tomorrow on Patreon airs the next chapter of Gigantigator Death Machine, my ongoing serial novel about a group of young adults hunted by something huge and deadly, with all the creature-feature fun that goes with it. Go here to get caught up and get ready for the new installment.
For those unfamiliar with this segment (here’s the last one), it’s basically a round-up of a few items from around the Internet that I found interesting and thought were worth sharing. Do with them as you please.
First up, my friend and cartoonist, Max West, has a new Kickstarter starting up soon. It’s for Dominic and Claire Circus. I have the minicomics from the previous Kickstarter and they are a hoot. Go here to learn more about Max West and watch the video below to see the comics from the previous Kickstarter.
I missed sharing this on social media at Christmas time–thanks Broadcast Mode–so I’m going to share it here. It’s a parody of “Let it Snow” called “Make it So.”
As you know, I love newsletters and prefer them as a solid form of communication from creator to reader. Piers Anthony–whom I had the privilege of publishing in the Bits of the Dead anthology–has a monthly column that acts as his newsletter. He’s always up to something interesting even if his views and mine don’t always line up. His newsletter can be found here.
Lastly, Wil Wheaton’s blog is quite good and, while he’s well-known in fandom, he’s also a really down-to-earth guy so I check in on his blog now and then to see what he has to say. Please visit Wil here.
In personal news, the week is coming along. Finishing up things so I can move on to new things. All this is logged in my weekly newsletter, so if you haven’t already subscribed, be sure to get on board and join me and my other subscribers on Saturdays to wind down from the week. Hope to see you there.
This has been an exhausting week. Getting lots done, mostly odds and ends that needed completing plus regular upkeep of my Internet offerings and freelance work. As well, work is being done on Project Jackass and I’m still hammering down more of the winter schedule. This week has also been plagued with technical glitches, which have bogged things down and have depleted my patience, but I’m muscling through anyway. (I remember during my early years in this industry how much easier things were and websites and interfaces and all the rest just simply worked. Don’t get me started on computerized telephones. And get off my lawn!)
The big thing to mention here is a picture is coalescing regarding some upcoming releases so watch this space for an announcement(s).
The Internet is a painfully crowded place, especially these days. I remember in the late nineties when the Web was starting to take shape. There were some basic websites and, well, that was about it. Communication on-line was pretty much email. Now look at us—everyone’s on-line, we’re all shouting, and social media is the main form of communication.
Unfortunately, there’s just too many people and these days, with every one and their monkey writing a book, there’s too many authors and it’s near impossible to get noticed. Sure, it happens, and some authors build a sizable and—keyword: pragmatic—social following, but for the most part, many struggle in this area.
Newsletters bypass all the number games associated with social media, the whole like-for-like and I-follow-you-you-follow-me tactics, and all the rest. (Which are pretty much useless because those are about quantity not quality.)
Productive numbers are where it’s at and newsletters, by their very opt-in nature, cater to that. Do you want to know who is truly invested in what you do? Start a newsletter.
It’s focused marketing: sending out communication and information to people who have chosen to hear what you have to say. Actually, I don’t even like to use the word “marketing” in this case because that totally devalues the point of a newsletter, which is connecting with readers who genuinely care about you in return.
Look at the word itself: newsletter. It’s a letter, not a brochure.
Sure, your newsletter numbers might be smaller than your Facebook likes, but they’re quality numbers, which have more value than just a high like count. The people who have chosen to receive a newsletter from you are the same people who are more likely to get a copy of your book because a genuine interest in you has already taken place.
There are so many ways to go about doing a newsletter, some of which are:
▪ The Plain Jane promo newsletter.
This is the kind that only goes out when an author has a new release. It’s not about communicating with the reader, but simply selling to them. I find these shallow; see the newsletter work breakdown above.
▪ The monthly update newsletter.
Typically something sent out once a month, this is the newsletter where the author says what’s going on with them, where what project is at in the production process and to promote a book(s) or event or something.
▪ The weekly newsletter.
My personal favorite and the kind I run, which I’ll get to in a moment. The weekly version can be like the monthly one, just sent out weekly. Or it can be about creating a dialogue with the readers and talking points of interest, usually to do with writing or books or entertainment.
My weekly newsletter, The Canister X Transmission—presently in its second year—has four main points: writing/publishing/marketing tip of the week; book/comic spotlight from my catalog; creator spotlight focusing on indie and mainstream creators who’ve impacted my career; rant of the week, which is basically a positive or negative thing depending on what’s been heavily on my mind for the past seven days.
I also offer a free thriller e-novelette download if you sign up.
▪ regular connection with readers who actually want to hear from you
▪ exercise in self-discipline to maintain the newsletter schedule, which then trains you to keep deadlines for other projects like, um, your books
▪ an opportunity to market work to readers without spamming, which can lead to sales options outside of the usual channels
▪ a chance to encourage and inspire others
Ultimately, newsletters make the on-line world a smaller place and, frankly, in today’s obscenely overcrowded rat race society, it’s sorely needed. It’s a chance to quiet down, meet with a reader, and open up about what’s going on on your end. And you’d be surprised. Readers respond to newsletters with their thoughts, questions and more.
Beats an overcrowded social media channel any day.
This entry was prompted because I’ve come across it more than once. Three times, to be exact, so I figure it’s worth blogging about–
Authors and starting their own publishing company.
This is the approach to publishing I strongly advocate in Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book. It’s my opinion that taking the time to set up a publishing business the proper way opens doors to taking your self-publishing career in multiple positive directions, on-line and off-.
However, on three separate occasions I’ve seen authors simply “start companies,” that is, just making up a business name and start and/or plan to publish under it without registering it through the proper channels.
While the nuances of business start-up rules vary country to country, state to state, province to province, if a person wants to start a company, there is a certain way to go about it because each industry functions on different rules of trade and sales depending on where you live.
When I started Coscom Entertainment and any if its imprints, I had to go to the Companies Office downtown, fill out paperwork, explain what my business was and pay a fee. This was in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
I know from speaking with other Canadian and US publishers that they, too, had to go through a formal procedure to get their company up and running.
But I have also seen authors pull a company out of thin air and aim to start using it. I don’t know if this is simply because they don’t know any better or if it’s because of all the Kindle talk that people think all areas of publishing are free and one can do whatever they want when it comes to it. Or maybe, like most writers and artists, money is hard to come by so they want to do things as cheaply as possible and free is about as cheap as it gets. Perhaps it’s the Internet mentality because a lot of people view the Web as a “place to get stuff free” so why not start up a company for free, too? The problem with this kind of free is it’s unethical. Why create the groundwork of your career on something that’s wrong? It’ll only lead to problems down the road.
The publishing industry is changing, this is true, and things are not what they used to be–and this extends past the whole eBook thing–but other things have remained, and that is the need to properly start a business if setting up a publishing house is part of your self-publishing plan.
If you’re not sure what to do, pull out your phone book and look up your local Companies Office. Tell them what you plan on doing–publish books–and they’ll let you know what you need to do so that if your business is ever looked into, you can produce the proper paperwork that states you are allowed to run your business whether out of your home or an outside office. Likewise, when it comes tax time and you claim your writing income, claiming it under a company might work to your advantage in terms of write-offs. Talk to an accountant about this as the rules vary place to place.
In the end, if you wish to self-publish via your own imprint, part of the deal is registering that imprint with the proper authorities.
Start your career on the right foot. It can only payoff in the end.