Make the Most of your Labor Day Weekend

hotairbaloonRejoice! Labor Day weekend has finally arrived. As summer winds down and comes to a close, for us working stiffs, a well-earned break couldn’t come at a better time. With that being said, what are your Labor Day weekend plans? Are you hitting the road and getting out of town, or are you partaking in the ritual of a staycation?  If you’re still on the fence about your weekend plans, or simply looking for some affordable activities to engage in, peruse our list of fun, savor-the-last-moments-of-the-season suggestions below. Continue reading

The Writer’s Manifesto

Have you ever heard of the Holstee Manifesto? While the name might not ring a bell, the imagery that surrounds it certainly will. Observe…

HolsteeManifestoA Brief History…

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Where the Writers Are: Homes of Writers We Love

writers homes

Whether lounging by the beach, pool, lake or air conditioning unit, avid readers likely have a book in hand at all times. That’s one of the perks of sweltering summers: extra time for languid afternoons and books. Then again, summer is also about vacationing and taking full advantage of those long weekends. This got me thinking and led me to the conclusion that the best way to embrace both perks of summer (reading and vacation) was to visit the homes of beloved bygone authors. Here are just a few of the homes you could visit this summer. If you’d like to search by state or author, visit Writers Houses: Where Stories Live for a seriously comprehensive list!

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In Memoriam: Maya Angelou

Photo by Stephen Matteson Jr/New York Times Co./Getty Images)

Photo by Stephen Matteson Jr/New York Times Co./Getty Images)

Last night esteemed  poet, author, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou passed away. She was 86 and it’s safe to say that in her time, she not only lived life to the fullest, but left a legacy of words enabling others to do the same. Whether inspired by her works of fiction and prose, or by her own stirring sentiments on life — Angelou’s words are what she leaves behind. So today, we’ll celebrate this heck of a lady by sharing a few of our favorite phrases.

“A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.”
“Let the brain go to work let it meet the heart and you will be able to forgive.”
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but will never forget how you made them feel.”
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”

Monkey See, Monkey Do


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Now don’t get excited. We aren’t suggesting writers are monkeys. Or that writing is as simple as a game of Simon Says (which, actually, can be quite challenging for the easily-distracted participant). But, at times when you want to elevate your craft, it helps to see what your colleague next to you is doing well. And perhaps emulate those behaviors. Or just suck a bit of wisdom from that experience for yourself.

With that in mind, we turn to Writer’s Digest column “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far.” We like this feature because it’s not the “7 Ultimate Tips for Success,” which is sure to be a disappointing and incomplete list. Rather, it’s real wisdom from writers who are in the trenches. Here are a few excerpts from recent columns that we thought were particularly relevant to our DMS community:

A.B. Westrick, author of Brotherhood:

Voice is all about having the confidence to claim the page. I used to think “voice” meant opening a novel with a character who was super strong or engaging, sarcastic or kick-ass, funny or idiosyncratic—whatever the trait, it was in your face. I thought this awesome “voice” would hook readers and keep them turning pages. But whenever I tried to write such a “voice,” it sounded forced. I’ve since come to realize that’s not at all what “voice” means. Rather than pertaining to a character, “voice” pertains to the writer and the writing. It has to do with a writer’s confidence to claim the page—a confidence that comes from knowing the characters inside and out, believing in their story, and daring to tell it as honestly as possible. The writer must believe that s/he was meant to tell this story, or that this story called to him/her, or that it’s the story only s/he can tell. The qualities of confidence and honesty in the writing will grab readers and hold them fast, infusing the manuscript with “voice.”

Writing is more passion than talent. My dad used to say things like, “So-and-so got stuck behind the door when God was giving out the [insert talent here]” … brains… or athleticism… or whatever. I grew up thinking that writing was a God-given talent, and my failure to produce perfect pieces off the top of my head was proof that the Big Guy hadn’t bestowed this particular ability on me. But I couldn’t stop writing. I had a passion for it, if not the talent, and eventually I came to realize Dad’s little quip had its limits. Writing can be learned. There are techniques. It’s an art, a craft, a discipline, a practice. There’s a lot to be said for the wisdom of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and the idea that we need to put in the hours. Sure, talent is nice, but if you’ve got talent, you risk falling into the trap of believing that writing comes easily. It’s not easy. It requires butt glue. Perseverance. Focus. Talent will tease you, and passion will propel you toward success.

Read A.B. Westrick’s full column here.

Kim Fu, author of For Today I Am A Boy:

If you meet a writer and you like their work and you like them as a person, never let them go. Maintain that friendship at all costs. Across time and geography. Support them in everything they do. Celebrate their every victory (even if it coincides with your loss) and mourn their every loss (even if you were the winner). Offer them feedback, send them relevant submission calls and job postings, buy them drinks, let them sleep on your couch. A network of good writers who are also good people — reliable collaborators, strong editors, fun and sympathetic friends — will advance your career and enrich your life more than anything else.”

Read Kim Fu’s full column here.

Want to see what other talented writers have shared? Visit the “7 Things I’ve Learned” columns here.

Apps for Freelancers

While we love the apps that help us waste time (Ahem, Candy Crush), we thought it best to turn our attention to some that would make the freelance juggling act easier.

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Image credit:

Luckily, asked nearly 100 freelancers what apps and software they used, and made this handy infographic to share their findings. They came up with the 25 most popular apps and programs freelancers used to connect with others, manage their time and, hopefully, create better products as a result.

The survey also touches on some emerging programs that you may not have heard of yet, but have the potential to make a big impact on your time and money. So check out the article, and start putting some of these handy tools in rotation.

Join the Conversation


Share your work and track the links you share. Image credit:

LinkedIn is more than just a place to troll for contacts and be trolled. In fact, the social networking site would like us to think of it more like a dialogue. The site’s official blog encourages users to follow trends on the more than 20 news channels available and follow discussions in groups that suit your interests. You can also start some of your own conversations by sharing links to your work.

Why take the time to share? Well, because the more you give, the more you get.

“Members who share content on LinkedIn at least once a week are nearly 10 times more likely to be contacted for new opportunities than people who don’t share,” according to the article.

As you continue to share your work and start conversations with more folks on the site, you can track your following with some nifty tools (see photo above). Check out these tips in more detail on LinkedIn’s Blog.

Ease Back Into Work

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Image credit:

Welcome back everyone! We at DMS hope you all had a wonderful holiday (so much so that perhaps you’re dreading digging into that work you left on your work desk on Dec. 18). In the spirit of ushering in a productive 2014, we thought we’d help make the transition a bit easier with five helpful tips for beating the holiday blues.

Get in a good workout. Listened to some great music on your vacation? Make an upbeat playlist and use it for your workout, says The Huffington Post. Making time for physical activity can calm your mind and help you focus.

Go out for lunch, says this Daily Telegraph article. Grab a friend and get away from your desk for an hour, which will break up the day so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.

Take it slow. Don’t try to tackle your entire inbox all at once, you may never get out. Instead, the Huffington Post says to get back to the people who need immediate answers first. Then finish up any projects you left hanging before the break. After that, tackle anything new. And remember, you might not be able to get to everything, so expect to leave work for the next day.

Take on something new, says the Daily Telegraph. Setting a goal to start a new project, or learn that skill you’ve been meaning to master can help you look ahead for the new year.

Book another vacation. Seems counterproductive right? Well, this Guardian article says planning some days off or booking a flight for that next trip can give you something to look forward to.

Putting Off Procrastination

Writer Douglas Adams, a notorious procrastinator, once said that he loved deadlines, "I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Credit: The Daily Beast

Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and  a notorious procrastinator, once said that he loved deadlines: “I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Credit: The Daily Beast

With the holidays fast approaching, there are so many distractions worthy of your attention. You may find it very difficult this week to check off those to-do-list items and stay on task. And yet (especially with the upcoming Studio holiday), there is no better time to hunker down and get that last bit of quality work done before your holiday plans begin. To help inspire us to stay on task, we turn to these 7 Tips for Battling Procrastination.

Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Set an alarm on your phone when you feel yourself slipping into an endless Internet-searching black hole. Allow yourself some time to peruse the latest on social media sites, but when the alarm goes off, make the commitment to get down to business.
  • Create a low-energy to-do list. Keeping a list of simple, easy-to-execute activities can help you feel productive when you hit a wall of procrastination. These tasks could include reading industry magazines or organizing folders on your desktop.
  • If that big project seems daunting, break it down into smaller tasks. Then, start chipping away at the little things. Before you know it, you’ll have made a dent in that project instead of a dent in the shows on your DVR.

If you still find yourself searching for every activity but the one you’re supposed to be doing, just know you’re not alone. Check out The Daily Beast’s list of famous procrastinators throughout history. You’re in good company.

Have any tips to fight off the urge to delay? Please share them below.

Know Your Rank

Following our discussion about establishing yourself on Google Authorship, wouldn’t you like to know if your profile is paying off? Well, now you can. We found this nifty tool that will quantify your internet presence on a scale of 1 to 10. Virante’s Author Rank measures the average search engine strength of the content linked to your Google+ Authorship account, and offers additional metrics to help you figure out where you stand in the ranking.

All you need to get started is a Google Authorship account, and links to your content in the “Contributor To” section. Once you’ve got that, simply enter your Google+ ID, which can either be a 21-digit number sequence or a name you’ve customized, into the rank tool. While it’s not the definitive word on the quality of your work, it is fun to take for a spin. You can also try to track down the profiles for other writers/bloggers you like and see how you stack up.

Check out this report we pulled on Washington Post reporter Ezra Klein:



Virante say the numbers beyond the rank score can mean different things. Here’s a brief breakdown of what these numbers are telling you about your content:

  • Low AuthorTrust: You need to attract better links. Meaning, write for sites with higher quality links, or lure better ones to your own site.
  • Low AuthorExternalRank: You might need to get your content shared on more social networks.
  • Low Avg Page Authority or Low Avg Domain Authority: Publish more on better sites.

For more on how Authorship Rank generates these numbers and what they mean, see the FAQ page. Have thoughts about Author Rank? Please share them below!