How One Blogger Learned to Stop Crying and Love Technology

How One Blogger Learned to Stop Crying and Love Technology. Makealivingwriting.com

(Note: This post contains affiliate links for products & services I wholeheartedly recommend.)

I can remember when all I needed to know as a writer was how to write — and maybe find the ‘start’ button on my computer and launch Microsoft Word.

Life as a 21st Century writer is different, hmmm?

Among the programs I’ve learned to use — or tried to figure out — in the past couple years as I started blogging are WordPress, Moveable Type, Blogger, about three other custom-made corporate blog platforms, DreamHost, Audacity, TextWrangler, Camtasia, Scribe, Screenflow, PowerPoint, Freshbooks, Freebinar, GoToWebinar, GVO Conference, Picnik, CyberDuck…not to mention countless plug-ins for WordPress I needed to figure out how to configure, and of course basic HTML coding.

Did I mention technology makes me cry?

I’m not speaking figuratively here. My pathetic wails can be heard throughout the house as I desperately try to, say, get Mailchimp to hook up to e-junkie. Or get an mpeg-4 to embed on a WordPress page.

You name it in technology, and I’m not very good at it. It doesn’t come naturally to me. At all.

But I just keep on slogging my way through technology. Next up: Wishlist Member and iDev, so I can run a functional affiliate program and a membership community.

I know many other writers are frustrated with the technology we have to use. Some day I’m sure some brilliant technologist will make it all effortlessly talk to each other and make it easy to understand for lay people, but until then we just have to keep wrestling with it.

My rules for dealing with technology:

  • Don’t let it stop you. If you need a technology to enable your writing career, make up your mind that nothing is going to keep you from figuring out how it works. Attitude is important here.
  • Don’t spend a lot. Any time you’re thinking about paying for an expensive technology, keeping looking. There’s probably a free or moderately priced one available that’ll do the job.
  • Hire a teen. They’re cheap and know a lot. I got one from my high school’s digital design class who worked out for about 18 months, and I spent a big $120 or so in all.
  • Take a class. If you’ve been holding back on blogging because you feel overwhelmed by WordPress, classes seem pretty plentiful — find one through a networking group or your local community college.
  • Hire a pro if you really need to. I just did a $100 consulting hour with a video specialist to figure out the best solution for recording, storing, and managing my Webinar files. Sometimes, if it’ll save days of agony, it’s worth it to get some expert advice to cut to the chase. I currently use my webmaster David Hogg for the tricky stuff I haven’t mastered yet such as hiding landing pages from WordPress’s navigation, and giving my writer site a complete overhaul.
  • Learn to do as much of it yourself as you can. It really saves a bundle. When you hire someone to do something, make them teach you what they did at the end.
  • Be prepared for setbacks. I personally had one yesterday, and it really sucked. But we’ll get it sorted.
  • Know that for writers today, technology is power. The more types of technology you understand, the more types of online writing gigs you can go after. Also, it’s a real high when you finally get it. Recently, I gained the ability to pop an audio recording or screencast onto a web page and make it show up in a little recording-player thingy, with a “play” button and everything. Win! It’s a terrific feeling when you can press a button or enter a string of text and make something amazing happen on your blog, instantly.
  • Join a community where you can get low-cost, ongoing help. I wouldn’t have been able to figure out half this stuff — or it would have taken years longer — without picking myself up, drying my tears, and heading off to the forums on A-List Blogger Club to ask for advice. There are also video trainings inside the club on some of the technologies that are lifesavers. I was really lost on the best way to work with audio and video files, until I checked out the A-List materials in their “Create Courses That Sell” module. What do you know — step-by-step instructions from Mary Jaksch on how to export out of Audacity, and how to use Camtasia. The technical advice I’ve been able to get inside A-List has been a lifesaver for me, over and over.

What technology do you rely on as a writer, and how easy did you find it to learn? Leave a comment and tell us about your technology challenges.

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31 comments on “How One Blogger Learned to Stop Crying and Love Technology
  1. Jahnavi says:

    Sometimes in order to get better, one has to let the tears flow.Remember, its ok to cry.

  2. Mady says:

    Hi Carol

    I keep on interacting with lot of content writers as a part of my job. After few meetings and befriending them, I ask “Why dont you start your own blog?” And guess what, the most common response what I get is “I dont want to get into the tech stuff, SEO and marketing are not my cup of tea!!!”

    I pursued them to use platforms like WP, which are quite simple to install and easy to operate. Its not ignorance but I find it as a certain apprehension towards embracing new technologies.

    My efforts seem to be taking shape and shortly will get them online. I will share this article with them and try to get more of them on their own. Hope this works.

    Cheers

    • Carol Tice says:

      It’s the biggest laugh that I ended up with a blog-based business, because technology is certainly not my thing! But I’m proof that you can learn enough to get by — and there are no shortage of people you can get to *help* you. You don’t have to do it all by yourself.

  3. Argh. I’m so here right now.

    I have a website but discovered my host offers little in terms of SEO and I cannot add a WP blog to it. So, I’m wanting to change everything to WP. But then, I discover I need a host. And then, I need … and then …. Bah! I checked out StudioPress yesterday which adds another layer to the WP options. Do I need it?

    Question: If I migrate to WP.org, I can use it for both my website AND blog, right? Is that what others of you are doing?

    Carol, I’m like you. Stubborn. I refuse to pay for something I can learn. Sometimes, I just need one piece to fall into place to know how to proceed. I guess that’s where I am right now. Glad to know I am not alone. You give me courage!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Carrie —

      Hopefully you’ll be joining Freelance Writers Den — I’m roping and wrangling two experts in these very issues to do a live event with Q&A, so everyone can get the answers they need. As regular readers know I am NOT a tech expert…and I know a lot of us struggle with this stuff, so I will be doing occasional technology events with people who can teach us how to use these tools and how to get them onto our sites.

  4. Jean Gogolin says:

    For people who are serious about blogging, I highly recommend the online “Income Blogging Guide” course by Andrew Rondeau and Joel Williams. http://www.incomebloggingguide.com/stepbystep/
    It’s 6 months long; incredibly thorough, and their support is terrific. Whenever I sob for help they’re right their, no matter how stupid my question.
    Jean Gogolin recently posted…Exposing the Secrets of A Top Science WriterMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Jean —

      I don’t know anything about the Blogging Guide guys and what qualifies them as experts…but their product appears to be $47 a month, where A-List Blogger Club is $20 through Sunday night and $27 after that…and offers not just guides, but access to the founders and terrific community with 900+ members. Seems like a better deal to me…and you can stay in as long or short as you like. I can testify the support and quality of material in there is fantastic, and it’s not just six courses…it’s TONS of course materials.

  5. Vonnie says:

    I just started Twitter yesterday so i have a whole lot of nothing so far. I thought one could be for women’s health, boomers, etc and the other would be for following writers like you. But the reason I’m writing the health articles is so people see them and want me to write for them. Maybe I’m making it too complicated.

    Oh and the interesting headline? Believe it or not, I learned that from reading your blog. lol!

    Thank you for your sound advice and suggestions.
    Vonnie recently posted…Find out how to revitalize your vagina!!My Profile

  6. Vonnie says:

    Carol,

    I was almost crying this morning when I was looking on the job boards and found many that want twitter experts, igoogle experience, skype, etc. I was thinking, “am I too old for this?” But then I looked at igoogle and skype and decided, “yeah, I can do this.”

    But, Twitter still puzzles me which brings me to a question: I made 2 twitter accounts, one for my baby boomer blog and one for my writing blog. Should I have done that? My boomer blog is the one that shows my writing style. What’s the best way to market yourself on Twitter?
    Vonnie recently posted…Find out how to revitalize your vagina!!My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Vonnie –

      Your recent-post link is getting the prize for most interesting headline I’ve seen left by a commenter on this blog! Bet you get some decent traffic for that one.

      My favorite is people who ask for SharePoint experience. What even is it? I have no idea! There are a million technologies in the naked city…

      Whether you should have two Twitter accounts depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with them. If the two blogs have really separate, large audiences that would appreciate totally different types of tweets, it may make sense to have two. Also depends on how much time you want to spend on it. Two Twitter accounts = 2x as much social-media marketing time.

      • Bill Swan says:

        I actually know this one. SharePoint the the Microsoft HTML webpage designer program. It used to be FrontPage for years. They finally made it free to download and changed the name. Basically you can use it among groups to create webpages in a WYSIWYG format, or “what you see is what you get”. It lets you see the page develop as you write the coding for it. Much easier interface than Dreamweaver.

        I just went with WordPress ’cause I wanted simple and “ready to go”.
        Bill Swan recently posted…By the Way A Writers Day Isn’t Just About WritingMy Profile

  7. I never used to think I was a hopeless, howling idiot. A few years ago, I didn’t know how to turn one on. I started in the library on AOL dialup and almost quit before I began. What agony!
    Soon learned how to surf and use search engines, then writing sites, email and all the rest. Why I can’t get WordPress to work is a mystery to me.

    Someone tried to teach me how over the phone and ended up saying I was stupid and hopeless, so there you have it.
    JoAnne Schlicker recently posted…Mood disorders- Bipolar II disorderMy Profile

    • I did not publish that. I write under a pen name and that is not my work but that of another Helium writer.
      JoAnne Schlicker recently posted…Mood disorders- Bipolar II disorderMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, clearly that was the wrong person to be talking to! We all need supportive teachers to learn the boggling array of technology we need these days.

      Sounds like something’s gone wrong with your CommentLuv, JoAnne — sometimes I have to go on the site and sort of re-enroll to get back on track. Because it just never ends, does it!

  8. Bill Swan says:

    What’s really sad is that back in 2005 I was teaching people how to use the Internet at the local library. Now here I am learning WordPress and how to use Facebook and Twitter effectively – and wondering if I just landed back in 9th grade algebra again. Some things I get, others I’m still working on. Hell I just learned how to use Gravatars last week. 🙂
    Bill Swan recently posted…When No One Around You Considers Your Writing WorkMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Man! That’s it — when you can’t get technology to work, it makes you feel like you’re the dumb kid. I think it threatens our self-concept. I’m a pretty successful writer…but then I try to make ScreenFlow work…and it’s like I’m 12 again.

  9. Word Press is the hardest thing I ever tried to tackle. I never took a computer class I taught myself the computer by trial and error (mostly error) but gave up on WordPress. I lost a writing job because I can not master the mysteries of that site. It is so frustrating. Will try again when my hair grows back, lol. You have given me hope that I can find a way. Thank you.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that about WordPress! You should have a pro walk you through it if you find it baffling.

      Ironically, WP is one of the few I found fairly intuitive and easy to work with…but some of the other ones, I just lay on the floor and howl.

      I had one client recently create their own blog platform, and when they showed it to us I about had a breakdown. It was so much MORE complicated than WP! And they designed it to ONLY run on Google Chrome. Not joking. So I needed to learn a new browser as well. I’m sure you can hear my howls from here…

  10. Technology does make me cry, but worse yet, it makes me a cranky old person. All my life I’ve picked things up easily, but this technology? I am broken, beaten, bowed. I don’t like it, but it’s true, so when something is going terribly and I am trying and trying, I begin to sulk, become irate, and quite frankly, frighteningly irrational.

    I’ve even snapped at a man who has done nothing but solve tech problems for me, and very reasonably too, and was thrown into guilt hell. Now I bite my tongue, but inside the beating up goes on in my mind.

    But you’re right. When I do finally overcome something and can do it, I may even strut a bit. It’s just an entirely unattractive situation! I suspect I’m more likable when I’m whining. Me strutting is just a bit too much to take. 😉
    Paula Lee Bright recently posted…Why Teachers Are Being Demonized and Why YOU Should CareMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Paula!

      I heard from one prominent blogger who told me she cusses. It’s like the 5 stages of grieving…some of us are stuck in anger, some denial…etc.

      I have a personal bent of liking to do difficult things. When you finally master a technology, it’s such a great feeling!

  11. Marya says:

    Good post Carol, pretty soon I am going to start working on my own website, and I suspect that I might be blogging a lot about the same. 🙂

    Doesn’t help that my husband is an analyst programmer, it should right? Well somebody go tell that to him. No matter how many times I ask, to him, its nothing more than taking the trash out.

    Sigh .. like I said, let the crying begin!
    Marya recently posted…Why I Subscribe to Your Blog- or Not! Bloggers- Pick a Reader’s BrainMy Profile

  12. Carol Tice says:

    Wahoo! I just have to report a tech win.

    As it happens, today I finally got David Hogg to teach me something I’ve been itching to learn: How to hide pages in my navigation. This is something you need as you create products and have landing pages you want those products on, but you only want people who’ve paid, or who are getting a freebie, to be able to find when you tell them the URL.

    Plus you don’t want to end up with 5 rows of tabs or something confusing like that.

    He did a YouTube video for me that made it so easy! And now I never have to pay for this particular task to be done again. David’s videos are the greatest, check it out!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYMIS8DGRIo

  13. This is such good, no, GREAT advice for those of us who started writing before fire was discovered and did not have computer classes in school to teach us even the basics. Your advice on using teens is so worthy – when my own teens grew up and moved out, I discovered just how woefully computer illiterate I really was (I had depended on them for everything computer related). A huge learning curve ensued and now, even though I am still pitifully inadequate, I’m gaining skills through online advice like this and I can, most of the time, out-tech my grown-up techies. Ha ha! It’s a wonderful feeling to impress your kids.

  14. Alan Kravitz says:

    Thanks for the clarifications, Carol. I could use assistance with just about everything you mentioned.
    Alan Kravitz recently posted…5 situations that demand a writing proMy Profile

  15. Jean Gogolin says:

    This one was awesome, Carol. Despite spending (ahem) several decades in the computer industry as a speechwriter, and thus knowing the lingo, learning new software drives me round the bend. Headway almost killed me, especially when i read how “intuitive” it was.

    But you’re right about the wonderful feeling you get when you master one of these. And thanks for the suggestions about how to handle the rest.
    Jean Gogolin recently posted…The Crucial Element You Must Have in Science WritingMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ha! I know! Don’t you love how each of these programs and platforms tells you it’s going to be so effortless…and then you try to use it.

      My favorite was Audacity…which is great until you go to try to make your file into an mp3 so people can freakin’ HEAR it…and it lets you know you’ll need yet another plug-in for it, the LAME library (aptly named eh?)…and then you’ll have to figure out how to get LAME to TALK to Audacity so that it all actually happens…sob, sob, sob…

      Each of these things are sort of mountains you only have to climb once, and once it works, it works…but man does it eat up your precious time.

  16. Dana says:

    I took your survey this morning and was honest about the tech end, but I have to say it feels good not to be the only one who’s crying and screaming. Did I mention the killer headaches?

  17. Alan Kravitz says:

    Excellent advice, Carol. I am also horrible at this stuff. Question: When you hired the teen, what did you have him/her do? I’m inching toward doing this myself, but I don’t want to just say “Help me with everything.”
    Alan Kravitz recently posted…5 situations that demand a writing proMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Great question, Alan — I had the teen set up my writer site, and then my blog site, initially. I’m so not tackling the challenge of initially architecting things. Once they’re set up, I can work with them. I also had the teen create an interface for my writer site so it was easier to access and I didn’t have to go through Dreamhost every time…it was all hand-coded and not in WordPress so it was complicated to update, and he created an interface that was helpful…until it broke. Just switching my writer site over to WP now so that’ll be much easier for me to maintain as well.

      Each time I asked for a new thing, I tried to find out how to do it myself for the future. You can really save a fortune, the more of it you learn, but I kind of need to have it delivered in small parcels I can absorb. So whenever I’m ready to tackle a new thing, I say, “So show me how this gadget works…”

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  1. […] Box.net, Movable Type, Blogger, Picnik, and on and on.Regular readers will recall that I am not a lover of technology, nor naturally good at it.In fact, I find it incredibly frustrating and it often makes me cry like […]

  2. […] the Make a Living Writing blog today, I’m telling the sad tale of how technology makes me cry, and how I learned the many programs writers need to know to function online […]