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Wednesday
Nov262014

Why Do I Have to be Concerned with Copyright?

We are very pleased to offer a 2 part blog post from Barbara Ingrassia, Copyright Manager extraordinaire, for Our Little Books Guest Post Wednesday. You may think Copyright is a boring subject, but it is a subject that can be VERY expensive for you in today's copy and paste digital world and one where ignorance will be no excuse. This first part will deal with what you can do with other peoples' work and the second part will be devoted to how you can protect your own work. You need to be aware!

One aspect of writing that can be confusing or overlooked is the role of copyright in all that material floating around in the cyberworld. The Internet has opened access to so many wonderful resources that it becomes so easy to search/copy/paste/send without considering that someone probably owns the rights to that content. However, using 3rd party content without permission from its rightful owner can result in expensive litigation, huge monetary damage awards, and a compromised reputation. Unfortunately, copyright law (the right to make a copy) is complex and often confusing; there are no easy answers. Every proposed use is “unique” and dependent on the facts and details of the situation. “IT DEPENDS” is the safest fast answer when you use someone's work. Here are some guidelines for wading through the gray murky ooze that is copyright in the digital age.

The easiest thought for you to have when you want to repost or use someone else's work is to assume that content is copyright-protected until you can determine otherwise. Copyright protection applies to “original creative content at the moment it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” including documents, articles, books, white papers, letters, websites, blogposts, email messages, inter-office memos, social media posts, photos, charts, illustrations, cartoons, musical and dramatic compositions, recorded audio, video and even notes scrawled on a paper napkin. Once something is created onto something (i.e., not verbal), it becomes the author's copyright.

We are taught to look for a notice of copyright, typically a © with a date, name, and All Rights Reserved after something written. However, since 1989 in the U.S., a notice of copyright (that © you see) is not required to establish copyright, so its absence is not a reliable indication of a work’s status. So, if you don't see that ©, it does not automatically mean you can use content without permission. In fact, the rules of copyright in the U.S. have varied so much over the past 200 years that a chart has been developed to try to sort it all out: http://librarycopyright.net/resources/digitalslider or http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/docs/copyright2014.pdf

How about on the internet, out there in cyberspace? Content is so easily accessible, therefore it must be free to use, and how would anyone know if you used something anyway? Unfortunately, that mindset is the easiest way to get yourself in trouble. Being on the internet does not change the copyright rules. If you see something written, recorded, or played whether or not it is on the internet or printed in a book, if the content would be copyrighted in the print/analog world, it is copyrighted in the online/digital world. Just because you CAN copy and paste, doesn’t mean you should.

Plagiarism and copyright infringement are easily confused—and not mutually exclusive. Providing attribution (listing where the quote came from) to the source of 3rd party content is essential, but it is not the same as “permission to use.” IT DEPENDS…on the Who, What, When, Where, Why of a proposed use. Providing attribution protects you from charges of plagiarism (theft), but the specifics of the use can still be copyright infringement. Regardless of the copyright status, lack of attribution is plagiarism. You want to guard against both.

There are some exceptions. For example, content created by employees of the U.S. government in the course of their employment responsibilities are in the public domain—not protected by copyright. These can be great sources of content. While content on a .gov website is in the public domain, some content may have been licensed by the government for inclusion on a .gov site. Once again, don’t assume; look for “terms and conditions of use.” These days, .gov sites are pretty good about indicating if some content on a site is not in the public domain. (Note: this applies only to works of the U.S. government; it does not include all works of state and municipal governments. Once again, IT DEPENDS!)

There is also a third copyright area. Between being © and being in the Public Domain, are works that have been licensed by the copyright owner under a Creative Commons license. The copyright owner (frequently the author of the work) designates that under specific conditions, a prospective user does not have to seek permission to use the content. Types of content available may include images, music, video, or media. However, in all cases, proper attribution must be given. SEE: http://Search.creativecommons.org

But there is good news. You CAN manage copyright so it doesn’t manage you. To learn more about what is and is not protected by copyright, see Copyright Basics—a circular from the U. S. Copyright Office http://copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf. However, the best rule of thumb: if in doubt - check it out, link to it, carefully summarize it in your own words, use bullets, seek permission from the copyright owner, or use something else.

Stay tuned for next week's post where I will discuss how you can protect your own content!

Barbara Ingrassia is a Certified Copyright Manager who provides one-on-one consultations, workshops, and seminars on all issues copyright. To engage Barbara for an audit of your website for copyright issues or for more information about copyright, request the free 16 Page report 10 Biggest Copyright Mistakes Small Business Owners Make AND How to Avoid Them! by sending an email to barb@managecopyright.com with the subject line CREPORT. Manage copyright. Don’t let it manage You!℠

The content of this post is © 2014 Barbara C. Ingrassia All Rights Reserved.

Saturday
Nov222014

Why Your First Draft Does Not Have To Be Perfect

So many of the authors I work with tell me how hard it is to get their words down on paper; that their first draft is never how they imagine it in their heads; that they spend an inordinate amount of time on just one paragraph; that it is just not good enough! They work in fits and starts, never getting to where they think they should be. Sound familiar?

I almost always respond to these complaints with one of my most favorite quotes:

FIRST DRAFTS DON'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT. THEY JUST HAVE TO BE WRITTEN!

As far as I'm concerned, perfectionism and self-doubt is deadly for writers. It doesn't mean that you can't go back and change a word here and there, or when you've gotten down a chapter or section going back and working on that. But if that changing or seeking that absolute perfect word gets in your way of plowing through your first draft, then you may have a problem as you will over-think and never be happy with your words on the paper and so nothing will ever move forward to a completed draft. Unfortunately, for some, they spend as much time fighting against perfectionism and self-doubt as they spend in actual writing time.

Why do people believe that what they put down the first time needs to be perfect? I think it is probably a combination of several things- usually all stemming from the self-doubt rattling around in their head. The inner head critic starts telling you that “your plot is stupid or doesn't make sense” or “everyone already knows all the stuff you are writing so why bother as no one will want to read what you write” or “people are going to laugh at your writing” or “ that you are stupid or can't write”. What happens as these thoughts rattle around is that they will impede the flow of your writing. “But if I just can spend time fixing that word, or changing that, then people will think I'm brilliant...” Unfortunately, the result is that you will be brilliant, but only in your own head because you will never get anything out there for others to read so no one can tell you you aren't brilliant!

Remember, you will probably revise something smaller like a blog post 3-4 times before posting it. For larger pieces such as short stories or books, you may revise many more times before you even hand it off to an editor. Writing through your perfectionism and overthinking is not easy but it is something you need to do on your first draft. I will tell my authors to turn off the computer screen when they are writing until they have finished writing for the session. This will focus them on just getting it down and they won't get hung up on going back and re-reading and second guessing while they are getting words down on paper. Okay, reality check here... how many of you just said, “I couldn't do that and not see what I've written!” Well, try it. It will help in breaking the habit of constantly second guessing yourself on your writing.

When you stop spending so much time on your word choice or imperfections of your writing in your first draft, you will leave yourself much more time to actually write. Remember and focus on the end result of sharing your story/truth with others and trust that it will get there at its own time. (That's why you're writing, remember?) But you can't move forward until that first draft is written. It doesn't have to be perfect. That's why God made editors! You need to just get it down on paper.

For those interested in getting started writing, my next one-day Writer's Workshop will be on 1/24/15 in Alameda, CA. In the alternative, for those of you who would like to work with me 1 on 1 on getting down your first draft or your story out of your head onto paper, or would like to explore how you can publish with Our Little Books, please contact me for a free consultation.

Wednesday
Nov052014

Worry. A Waste of Time or Will Things Always Work Out?

As a small child, usually because most of our needs are being cared for, we tend not to worry about anything or even understand the concept of worrying. However, eventually as we reach a certain age, we see those around us worrying so we learn the concept of worrying and begin to worry ourselves. The age that worry enters our life will differ depending on our environment, but luckily, worrying is not hereditary (there is no worry gene), but rather a learned behavior. As a learned behavior, we have control over it and can unlearn it!

When I was very young, I came to the conclusion that the time I spent on worrying was essentially a waste of time because it seemed 99.999999% of the time, what I was worrying about never came into being. So, I essentially stopped worrying. I know I am in a very small percentage of people who don't worry (and I know, it can't be helped sometimes and I will occasionally worry), but I think not worrying has been a positive in my life rather than a detriment. As a result, I believe I have more time than most people to reflect on and enjoy the present as it is happening.

For me, the past is the past. You can't do anything about the past. You can certainly learn lessons and use those lessons, but you can't change it, no matter how much you may want to. The future is the future. It is something that may happen. You can have fun planning and enjoying the anticipation of what may happen, but there are things that can happen beyond your control that can and will change the future. Since the future is not set in stone, it is something to look forward to, but not necessarily count on. So worrying what MAY happen is really just a waste of time.

Worrying can take many forms - from totally locking up your life and shutting you in a box controlled by the worrying, to just being prepared and bringing an umbrella because the forecast is for rain. It can include worrying about what others think about us to worrying about the impending Zombie Apocalypse. But in all cases, we actually have control over our worries. When we are not careful, the worries can lead to anxiety and numerous physical and psychological issues.

Writers tend to worry a lot! They worry about if they are good enough to write their book. They worry about nobody liking what they write; judging them on their content; making a fool of themselves; or not being perfect. What I stress with my authors and writers I work with as a writing coach is that all those worries are totally out of their control. What is in their control is their book. They need to focus on their writing and their book rather than worrying about others' uncontrollable reactions to it.

There is no way writers can guarantee that people will like their book. The ones that like it will be the ones that the authors would want to work with in any case. Those that don't like a book are probably not their target market anyway. How many times have you picked up a book that your best friend tells you is the best book in the world, and after 25 pages you can't read any more because it just doesn't resonate with you. So worrying about whether or not someone likes it is really just a waste of time. I'd rather have my writers focus on writing well, getting down their message and telling their story.

Writers need to write because of the journey, not what others think. Of course the journey should produce a great product which an author can be really proud of, but worry will definitely get in the way of the writing process. Yes, not worrying is easier said than done, but take it a step at a time. Every time you start worrying if you are good enough to be a writer, STOP and recognize the worry. Then put it aside and say, "who cares what others think about my writing!!" You will probably find yourself stopping a whole lot to begin with, but once you get into the 'who cares' mode and realize you are writing for yourself and your journey, the worries will tend to dissipate and your writing life will be easier. Most importantly, have fun on the the journey as things will always work out... not necessarily in the way we worry about, but as they should!

For those of you who would like to work with me 1 on 1 on how to get over your writer's worry, or would like to explore how you can publish with Our Little Books, please contact me for a free consultation. Free yourself from worry!

 

Sunday
Nov022014

Be the Little Engine That Could. Throw Off Those Negative Expectations.

I recently read an article about three animals who, in 2001, were very young when they were rescued from a drug dealer's home. Bought illegally to be shown off as trophies by the drug lord, when rescued it was clear that they had been abused, starved and had bacterial infections. One of the animal's harness was so tight, it had grown into its skin and had to be surgically removed. After being rescued, they were taken to an Animal Sanctuary. When the Sanctuary tried to separate them at the age they normally would have begun to fight each other, the three friends caused such a ruckus that they were immediately reunited. Happily, they continue to be inseparable to this day.

What is so strange about this story? Amazingly, (and probably unlike the picture you may have painted in your mind), these three animals were not dogs or cats but rather an African Lion, a Black Bear and a Bengal Tiger... three very unlikely friends that genetically would have been sworn enemies. However, no one bothered to tell them that they were different from each other. No one told them they couldn't love one another or shouldn't bond with each other. No one told them they couldn't be friends. And no one told them that they really should be fighting one another because they were different species, because that's just what different species do. So what did they do? Without these expectations from others, they became best friends. They were buddies and that's all that mattered to them.

It got me thinking about how we as humans are so affected by the expectations of others... listening to all the "you can't do this”, or “you can't do that” statements and believing them. Or, even worse, being affected by the negative expectations that we give ourselves in terms of what we can or can not do, or should or should not do (that negetative self-talk that floats around in our heads). I often find it amazing how much these expectations affect how we go about our daily lives and how much it actually dictates our actions (unfortunately, mostly negatively).

When I work with my authors, most of the time they come into the book writing process thinking that somehow they can't write a book. Generally, their expectation is based on either negative self-talk or someone else having told them that they didn't write well (which they then believed). These expectations interfere with their ability to even come to a decision to write a book. “I can't do that”, or "I'll write a book when I can write better".

For example, we have one author that took four years to write her book. When I explored the underlying reason, it turns out that when she was in college she had to write a paper about how her childhood influenced her. She bared her soul and told some pretty horrific stories. She ended up getting a D+ on the paper, (all filled with red marks). The teacher told her that she was not a good writer, must have made everything up because no one could have had a childhood like her, and so gave her the D+. 20 years after college, this author still couldn't put words on paper because her negative self-talk convinced her that she couldn't write, but also that if she did write, everyone would judge her with a D+. Working through overcoming these negative expectations with her yielded a wonderful little book and she's now working on her second!

Understand that our authors are people who are all experts in their field. As a general rule, they come into the book writing process believing that they can't write a book about their business. If I ask for them to talk about what they do in their business, they can talk my ear off for hours. Yet, for some reason they can't connect speaking with writing and their expectations are that they can't write. So even though they really do know what they are talking about, they think they can't.

As a writing coach, this is frustrating for me. I essentially believe that everyone can write a book and that everyone has the ability to do so. Obviously, some people will be better writers than others (that's what editors are for!), but if you can tell someone what you do and how you do it, you can write a book about it. But you have to get over the negative self-talk and expectations that you can't. Become the little engine that could. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can, and you may find that writing your book is really, not so hard after all!

For those of you who would like to work with me 1 on 1 on how to get your ideas down on paper, or would like to explore how you can publish with Our Little Books, please contact me for a free consultation. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can!!!

Sunday
Oct262014

Healer, Heal Thyself! Writer, Write Thy Book!

I went to a new Meet-up this morning called Shut Up and Write! I find that as a writing coach, I am very good at telling my writers how and when to write or my authors how to get out their books, but as a writer, I am not very good at finding time to write my own 'stuff'. Reminds me of the sayings about those cobbler kids without shoes, or the doctor's kids who are always sick. Healer, heal thyself! I needed to get writing for myself.

So, I signed on to this Meet-up where we take 6 hours to WRITE... with no interruptions other than the occasional check-in for writing support. It's at a cafe where food and drink are right here so no excuses to get up and make some food. I can't do my laundry, surf the net or watch TV, do the dishes, play in my garden or any of the million of other little things I do (and tell my writers NOT to do!) to interrupt a consistent writing time.

We all introduced ourselves and mentioned a few things that seemed important to us at the time. One woman mentioned that the day before, she had locked herself into a stairwell in a large, downtown San Francisco building. She pounded and pounded on the door but slowly began to freak out as no one could hear her. Apparently, they were all listening to the World Series game and loudly cheering so pounding was to no avail. Eventually, a crowd of guys passed by and saw her behind the door and let her in.

At this point she was in a full blown panic attack, crying and probably thinking she'd die there. Although it seemed like hours to her, she said it was probably only 5 minutes. However, she became so caught up with the situation that she couldn't see her way out. One of the guys who 'rescued' her then pointed to another door and said she could have just come out that way because it was always unlocked.

I immediately saw the metaphor of her experience to writing (or life in general for that matter). How many times have you been stuck in your writing, pounding on the doors of writing paralysis and unable to break through? You start panicking, afraid that nothing will ever get written. You will never get out of your dark hole of frustration, crumpling up page after page and becoming more and more thwarted as the words fail to come and rescue you.

My advice? Just look for that unlocked door and step through. Stop, take a breath. Take a walk. Take a break. Read a book. But most importantly, just take a look around and see what's around you. If you can't think of anything to write about, open that unlocked door and write about the first thing you see behind that door. Don't get into that spot where panic takes hold and you become immobilized and forget to look for all those unlocked doors that are all around you all the time. Remember, YOU are in charge of your writing, not your situation.

And look at me! I've only been at this Writing Meet-up for a couple of hours and I've already written a few blog posts and am getting ready to continue on the next chapter of my first novel (how's that for opening doors...moving from all my previous non-fiction writing to fiction!) I had no idea about this blog before the idea jumped into my head when listening to someone's story about being behind locked doors, but a door opened for me and I jumped through with words. Writer, write thy book!!

For those of you who would like more tips on how to deal with writing paralysis, or how to work with me 1 on 1 to get your ideas down on paper, please contact me and let's chat about what you need.