(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.