Ep 61 In this week’s podcast, we discuss how to balance the loneliness of writing, the late William Zinsser’s writing advice, 5 websites to visit instead of writing, and where you can get free pictures. Also meet Writer in Residence Pip Lincolne, author of Craft for the Soul

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In Episode 61 of So you want to be a writer: long lost sisters meet in a writing class, healthy habits to deal with the loneliness of being a writer, the late William Zinsser’s advice, five websites to visit instead of writing, where you can get fab free pictures for your blog, Writer in Residence Pip Lincolne, how to manage passwords without losing your mind, approaching interviewees for article pitches, and more!

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show Notes

How to Pitch to Agents and Publishers

Sisters Adopted Into Different Families Meet Unexpectedly In Writing Class

Balancing the Loneliness of the Writing Life

5 websites to visit instead of writing

10 Writing Tips from Legendary Writing Teacher William Zinsser, May He Rest in Peace

Nice Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog

Writer in Residence

Pip Lincolne holding a dog in front of a decorated wallPip Lincolne is a Melbourne based writer and crafter. She’s published five books about creativity and making things and she would like to write a whole bunch more.

She has three kids and a love of toast and tea. Pip likes to make and write every single day.

Pip is the author of Meet Me at Mike’s (2009) and Craft for the Soul (2015)

Pip Lincolne’s website

Pip Lincolne on Twitter

Penguin books on Twitter


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Working Writer’s Tip

How do you secure sources before pitching a story to an editor?
Answered in the podcast!

Your hosts

Allison Tait
Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait
@valeriekhoo

Email us
podcast at writerscentre.com.au

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Transcript

Allison

Pip Lincolne is a Melbourne-based writer and crafter, she’s published five books about creativity and making things, and she would like to write a whole bunch more, which would be awesome for all of us. She blogs at Meet Me at Mike’s and has three kids and a love of toast and tea. Pip likes to make and write every single day.

 

Hi, Pip. Thank you for fitting us into your making and writing schedule.

 

Pip

Hello, Allison, thank you for having me.

 

Allison

Let’s start with background, how did you become a writer/blogger and all around crafty self? How did this happen?

 

Pip

Well, I grew up in a pretty creative family, and by that I don’t mean they’re a family of artists, but they were a family of crafty DIYers. My mom and my dad and my nan, they all had a really hands on approach to getting stuff done, and I think I just picked up on their fantastic DIY attitude.

 

Allison

Were you taught to knit when you were five? Have you just always been that person who’s been able to do all of those — because you do actually do a lot of amazing things.

 

Pip

Well, I was taught to knit when I was very little, and then I promptly forgot. I can knit now, but I don’t love knitting as much as I love crochet. I was not taught to crochet as a child, but I learned when I was a 39-year-old lady. So…

 

Allison

Did you?

 

Pip

Yeah, I think it’s more about attitude then skill level, I just assume that I will be able to do most of those kinds of crafty creative things. And, so I have a crack and persevere until I can.

 

Allison

Has craft always been your creative outlet? You’ve never sort of like taken to oil painting? Has it always been in that hands on approach that you’ve always expressed your creativity?

 

Pip

That and writing. I’ve always been a writer and a journal keeper, and a reader, as well as I love sewing and making things, so a bit of combination of those things.

 

 

 

Allison

When did you start your blog? Your blog, Meet Me at Mike’s has been around for awhile. You had a shop for awhile, was it attached to that? Is that when you started blogging?

 

Pip

Exactly. We had a shop, which we have since closed, hoorah. But, back in 2006 — that sounded a little bit bitter.

 

Allison

That was a little bit tearful, yeah.

 

Pip

Yeah, there’s a whole other story to that. But, in 2006 I started writing a blog and it was attached to the shop, because I thought that gave me an interesting story to tell, and it would sort of be ever-evolving and ever-changing. But, it wasn’t always really going to be about the shop. I guess the shop kind of gave it a bit of a frontage, brick and mortar presence, but really I just wanted to be published, so that seemed to be a great way to self-publish at the time.

 

Allison

It’s quite an interesting thing because I heard about you years ago. Let’s just get this out upfront, I’m a non-crafter, I have, like, I don’t know, ten left thumbs when it comes to craft. I am absolutely hopeless. And, yet, even as the non-crafter I knew about you and your shop, obviously because of your blog. I’ve known about it for years.

 

I think I started reading about you in magazines, because they were writing about blogs to read and things like that. I remember seeing all of that sort of stuff and thinking, “Oh, that sounds interesting.” I’ve very much enjoyed your blog, despite the fact that, as we’ve discussed, my craft skills are zero. Do you think that the blogging was something that… that was an extraordinary way for you to reach out to people who, even like me, are non-crafters. Would you agree with that?

 

Pip

I think I do agree with that, and I think it was a bit of a perfect storm in terms of the timing was right and we did have a story about a shop to tell. But, there were so many other things to talk about as well.

 

I guess it was about kind of putting our own personal culture on the screen really for people. So, you know, if you read my blog it wouldn’t be reading about what we were selling, it would be reading about what we were doing, what we liked and what we’re into at the time. So, it was kind of a broader attitude, I suppose, to marketing the shop as well as mixing it all up with my absolutely crazy desire to write and have as many people read me as possible, I guess.

 

Allison
“Find me, I’m over here.

 

Pip

Yes!

 

 

 

Allison

Let’s talk about your latest book, which is called Craft for Soul: How to get the most of your creative life. Why did you write it? Again, as a non-crafter I sort of thought I was going to pick this book up and it was going to be softy and crochet patterns, because it was a craft book, but it’s actually a really interesting and inspirational read about creativity and making in general. I mean there are added pom-poms and craft projects, let’s point that out, but is that creativity something that you think we’re missing out on? Is that something that you’re trying to get people to tap into?

 

Pip

It’s kind of a funny story, I was speaking at Clare Bowditch’s Big Hearted Business Conference, the very first one — was that three years ago?

 

Allison

Yeah.

 

Pip

I had to give a speech on the second day, and I hadn’t really written the speech, so I sat through the whole conference listening to what everyone else had to say. It just became really clear to me that people have real issues with creative confidence and creativity community. I wrote my speech at the last minute, and it was 11 dot points about what I need to tell you about living a creative life, basically.

 

I presented that and then I went away and kind of thought, “Whoa, these are actually chapter titles for a book about how to live a creative life and everyday creativity. I then kind of sat about filling in those dot points on paper and I just kind of typed it all into 750words.com, which is a really fun writing platform, which counts all of your words. I wrote, 1,500 words per dot point and then it was a book.

 

Of course I wrote it, but it kind of wrote itself in a way.

 

Allison

Because it was such a passionate personal project for you in a way, isn’t it?

 

Pip

Yeah.

 

Allison

It’s like, “This is what I need you to know.”

 

Pip

That’s it.

 

 

 

Allison

Did you pitch to Penguin before you wrote the whole thing, or did you write it first?

 

Pip

Well, I sort of pitched a different book, truth be told, and that book was called
The Friendly Society. And, it was a similar book, it was about creativity and friendship and making things, but somehow Craft for the Soul took over, really. I just got on with it, wrote it and sent it off to my agent, and to Kirsten at Penguin. They said, “It wasn’t quite what we were expecting, but we absolutely love it. It’s really life affirming and positive and the perfect book for you to write.” Whew.

 

Allison

That’s great. The Friendly Society, when you were contemplating that book, were you imagining that there was going to be so much text, or were you thinking that it was going to be more project-based, or…

 

Pip

It was always going to be a text-heavy book. I think that was one great thing about signing with Penguin was that Kirsten was like, “We need more words from you, because you can write, and it’s sort of a bit wasted in pinpoint A to point B.”

 

Allison

Yes.

 

Pip

That’s all fine. I love writing that stuff, but it’s a different part of my brain that writes that stuff. I love writing a bit more creativity, I guess. So, they were really excited to give me the chance to do that, and thank goodness they did.

 

Allison

Yes, I think it’s fantastic.

 

Let’s just talk about pinpoint A to pinpoint B for a moment, because one of the things that I would imagine, like the instructional aspect of a craft book, as you say, you use a different part of your brain for that, don’t you? It’s quite a specific task. Is that just you’re writing down as you’re creating the project you’re writing down step-by-step what you’re doing, is that how you do that?

 

Pip

Yeah, literally. Like, you make it and take notes as you make it. And you rewrite those notes and then you go back through again and you rewrite it with more of a human voice, like more of a chatty kind of tone, and then test it, you make it again from those instructions, and then you revise and then you’re good to go.

 

Allison

So you don’t give it craft luddites like myself to try to see… you don’t write it for the simplest possible person out there?

 

 

Pip

Well, I do show my girlfriends, but they are a little bit, kind of craftily-gifted, I guess.

 

Allison

I’m going to try one of these projects, Pip, and we’re going to see just how good your instructions are. I’ll let you know how I go. I’ll choose something really easy, maybe make a pom-pom. I think my eight-year-old can make a pom-pom, so surely I could do that.

 

Pip

Perfect, just ring me into your ears at any time of the day or night, I’m here for you.

 

Allison

How much input did you have into the design of the book? Which is extremely beautiful and very friendly somehow. It’s such a friendly-looking sort of thing. Were you involved in the discussions of what that was going to look like?

 

Pip

Yes, so they did quite a few different mood boards for different ways that the book could look, and we chose the one that we liked the most, which was the one that we got, kind of those pastelly watercolor tones with lots of pops of color. But, that was it really, because Ortolan, the design firm that designed the book, are just so good at what they do. I’m a big believer in not having to have huge amounts of creative control. In the end I think that making a book is a collaboration with your editor and your publisher and the designers and the photographers. I don’t like to own the project too much, because I think I might miss out on the great expertise that other professionals have. I try to be open about that.

 

I did quite a few of the — all of the animal collages in the book, I did those.

 

Allison

Oh, you did those? I was about to ask you who did those.

 

Pip

Yeah, and like the watercolor backgrounds I did. Kat McLeod, who works with Ortolan who’s an amazing illustrator, she did a whole lot of watercolor illustrations that dot through the book as well. So, that was just a nice thing to do together.

 

Allison

Well, it is lovely, isn’t it? It is very much like your team approach to craft, like find some friends and make a nice thing together. You’ve done that with your publishing team.

 

Pip

Yeah.

 

Allison

Which is awesome.

 

 

Pip

Yeah, sometimes I think you think you know exactly what this thing needs to look like, and I think often other people have great ideas as well, and that combination of everyone’s great ideas makes something really special, so I love that.

 

Allison

When you wrote the book, and now that it’s out there in the world and you’re watching it fly, what are you hoping the book will do for people? It is very much an inspirational book, so what are you hoping that people will take from it?

 

Pip

Well, I guess what I most wanted… I don’t know. I guess it’s like a best friend in a book, really. This book is not full of new, exciting strategies to make life better, but it’s full of reminders, they’re the kinds of things that might make you feel a bit more positive and happy as you approach each day. It’s a real — I don’t know, champion is the idea of finding creative moments and nice moments in the everyday. So, it’s like a hug in a book, basically.

 

Allison

That’s kind of like your brand, isn’t it? You’re kind of like a hug in a blog and a hug in Facebook and… it’s Pip for hugs.

 

Pip

I do a lot of teaching, as I’m pretty sure you do, and I teach people about creativity and about blogging. And, it doesn’t matter what you’re teaching people, I just find that there’s this overriding kind of feeling of… especially with women, that they’re not quite supported in their creative endeavors. I just think that really — it makes me so sad that there are people out there who want to be creative and do creative things, but they just don’t feel encouraged by the people around them. So, I think this book is for those people, really.

 

If the people in your life aren’t encouraging you, I’m going to encourage you.

 

Allison

Pip will hug you and encourage you.

 

Pip

That’s it. That’s it. I think you have one life, why wouldn’t you be doing the things that you most want to do? Even if they’re just little things like going for a walk or eating lots of chocolate biscuits — gosh, do it.

 

Allison

Donuts.

 

Pip

Yeah.

 

Allison

You were saying that you’ve always been a writer, how did you go about discovering your own voice, because you do have a very distinctive voice.

 

Pip

Yeah, I don’t know how that happened. I just know that once I started writing a blog, which was kind of a daily or almost daily writing practice, then I really wanted to improve my writing all the time. So, I was always asking myself lots of questions about what I had written and whether it was honest and whether it was how I would really speak.

 

I guess I just wanted to make sure that everything that I wrote was an improvement on the things I wrote yesterday, I suppose. I’ve worked really hard at it I guess and I’m a much, much better writer now than I would have been even three years ago. Yes, I’m proud.

 

Allison

Are you also a reader?

 

Pip

Yes, I am. I like to read. I don’t have enough time to read. Actually, this morning I got up and I do the Julia Cameron morning pages, which I talk about in the book. One of the things that I wrote today was block out half an hour a day to read, even if you kind of call that work, like make sure that you take it seriously and put that time aside. So, yeah.

 

Allison

What do you like to read? What’s your reading of choice when you get time?

 

Pip

This year I’m doing a year of Australian writing, so I’m only reading books by Australian writers, which has been pretty amazing. I’ve been reading tons of Helen Garner, basically. I think if you want to learn about, you know, writing truthfully with clarity, she’s a really good one to read and to kind of study.

 

Who else? Well, I loved reading The Strays, Emily Bitto’s book, because not only do I love the story, but she works with my kids. So… she’s my son’s boss.

 

Allison

You’re connected.

 

Pip

Yeah. I think it’s really important to support the work of the people that you know and local writers.

 

Allison

So true.

 

Pip

I loved her work.

 

Allison

So true. You write, you create, you blog, you do social media, you read. What are your tips for fitting it all in? In your book you talk about the importance of doing nothing, but I do wonder when you fit the nothing in with all of the other things that you do.

 

Pip

Maybe my version of nothing is not what everyone’s version of nothing.

 

Allison

No, I imagine your version of nothing is actually quite busy. But, anyway, what are you doing? What are your tips to fit all of the things in that you do?

 

Pip

Well, I get up pretty early, so I often hear people saying, “There’s no time in my day to do the things that I want to do.” I just, you know, I’m happy to get up at five o’clock in the morning and spend those really early morning hours getting things done, or alternatively just doing stuff that makes me feel happy.

 

That’s my number one tip, get up an hour earlier. It might mean that you go to bed an hour earlier as well, but I just guarantee that you’ll be much happier, because you will be getting that time in when you’re fresh as a daisy, rather than late at night when you’re a bit kind of exhausted.

 

Allison

You get up earlier and that gives you the 25th hour in the day that you need?

 

Pip

I feel like it does. I was talking to someone about it today, saying I feel like I get an extra sort of day or half of day in that time between, say, 5:00 and 8:00 AM, because no one is around, and I’m twice as productive. There’s not all of those distractions.

 

Allison

It’s so true.

 

Pip

Yeah, it seems like you’re only getting an extra hour, but you’re not, you’re getting a ton of extra uninterrupted time.

 

Allison

With your social media and things like that, as I said, you do have a terrific and very consistent author presence across a lot of different platforms. It’s not just online, you’re doing Twitter, Facebook, all of those things. But, you also write regularly for Frankie, and I know you do a fair bit of speaking these days as well, with Big Hearted Business Conference and ProBlogger and various things.

 

Has there been a strategy? Have you built this in a cohesive way? Or has this been something that has organically grown as you’ve gone?

 

Pip

I have never had a strategy. I still don’t have a strategy. I don’t know, I feel like opportunities come to people who work really hard, basically. My friend Ella says, “Don’t work harder, work smarter.” I totally get that, but I think working harder is what puts you above and beyond everyone else. I’m always willing to go the extra mile, which sounds a bit, you know, like I’m up myself. But, it’s just the way I am.

 

I always think, “Well, how can I do this even better?” I just feel like I always want to do the best work that I can, and that is a really great way, not only to be noticed, but other people will think, “Oh wow, she’s like committed and also easy to work with. I want to work with her as well.” So, it just…

 

Allison

Goes from there?

 

Pip

Yeah, exactly.

 

Allison

Do you think it started, like as far as your actual sort of profile and presence goes, do you think it started with your blog? Would you take that back to the starting point?

 

Pip

Yeah, I think I was lucky because not only do I have a blog, but I had the shop. So for some reason, for some people, having a business meant I was more legitimate than if I was only a blogger, which to me that makes no sense, but obviously that’s how it works out there, you know, in the big, wide world.

 

Allison

Yes.

 

Pip

Yeah. So, that gave me a bit of a push. And then people that were loving the shop then read the blog, and people that were loving the blog then came to the shop. I guess I had two good things going at once, which made it all kind of explode in an awesome way.

 

Whew.

 

Allison

Where did you go with your social media stuff? Did you go from your blog? Where would you say your next step was? Would it have been Twitter, would it have been Facebook? Like, which bit of that aspect of being an author, I suppose, do you enjoy the most? As far as the social media stuff goes? Do you like Pinterest? I mean I know you like Pinterest, I’ve seen you there.

 

Pip

I loved Pinterest, the first year of Pinterest, and then I sort of saw what it was doing to blogs and I got a bit sulky. I was like, “I don’t like you anymore, Pinterest.” I know that you can harness Pinterest to improve your blog, definitely, but I just saw people approaching content in a different way, like they were just grazing on content on Pinterest and not actually committing and going and supporting the person that created the content. So, I sort of had a bit of an ethical dilemma, really, with Pinterest.

 

I still go on there sometimes, but I just feel like it’s sort of created this whole culture of just… yeah, grazing on content, not deep diving, and not really caring about who created the content. So, I try not to be on there too much. I know that sounds a bit…

 

Allison

You talk about this stuff quite a lot, because I follow you on Facebook and I know that this is something that comes up regularly with you, this notion that blogging has changed, and I agree with you. I’ve been blogging for five years as well, and I’ve noticed the change in the whole atmosphere and community.

 

I think it comes down to the conversation you had a few weeks ago regarding commenting. People don’t comment on blogs anymore. I think that’s part of what you’re talking about with this ‘grazing culture.’ People are just sort of diving through.

 

Do you think there’s a way to bring back that community aspect of blogging that people who blogged in the early days loved so much? Do you think there’s a way to bring that back?

 

Pip

I think that it comes down to people really being mindful of how they’re consuming stuff online. My feeling is, sadly, that people just cannot be bothered to comment or to sort of try to replicate the olden days.

 

I just feel like it’s going to get more and more diluted across all of the different social media platforms, which is part of why I try to maintain a presence that is kind of interesting on lots of social platforms, simply because everyone is kind of digesting online in their own way, so you really do have to meet them where they are now, unfortunately.

 

But, also fortunately, because, you know, this has meant that there’s all kinds of other opportunities and we’ve seen the rise of Instagram, which is amazing and people doing really well because of Pinterest. I think that’s all great, but for a blogger, like me, I do wish that there was lots more commenting and people a bit more blog-centric. But, sadly, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

 

Allison

No, I think we’re wishing for the old days. We sound like those old ladies, you know?

 

Do you think from your perspective, as somebody who has now put out five books, do you think it’s essential for authors and other creative types to have the platform? Can you imagine putting your books out into the public sphere without some kind of profile like you’ve got?

 

Pip

I can’t imagine doing well without the blog. I feel like people are not just buying the book, they’re buying the story behind the book, which doesn’t mean that they’re buying me, but they’re buying all of the things that I like that they like too.

 

I think it’s such a good way to sort of expand your story. I guess the book is a bonus. People can come to my blog and they can get free content and read all kinds of good stuff, they don’t have to fork out that money if they don’t want to. But, you know, if they do want to support me and they are interested in the things that am I, then they often will decide to buy the book as well.

 

Allison
And if they want that famous chicken sandwich recipe, then they need to buy the book, right?

 

Pip

Exactly, exactly, or the brownie recipe, or if they want to make a pom-pom rug, or if they want to read about what old people think about happiness… there’s a whole bunch of good stuff.

 

Allison

Inspiration and positivity. I love it. And that’s very much your brand. You’ve got such a positive influence in the whole sort of internet world, I think in some ways. A nice little ray of sunshine for us, Pip.

 

Pip

I try. I really try.

 

Allison

It must be exhausting.

 

All right, just before we finish up, do you have three tips for authors who would like to be writing the kinds of things that you’re writing, that sort of craft and inspiration and creativity sort of thing?

 

Pip

Well, I think definitely you need to have an online presence so that you can be talking to people regularly before they even think about buying your book. So, whether that’s having a blog or a really great Instagram account that you might post really wordy updates to, I think that is super-important.

 

The other thing that is important is to be part of the community online and offline. So, interact with the people that you admire online, as well as offline. I think you can’t do well just by yourself, it doesn’t matter how awesome you are. So, be a part of the community and fly the flag for other people and the rest will follow if it’s meant to.

 

Number three, I don’t know, I just think you should be making things a lot and writing a lot. So, you need to be living the kind of life that you want to write about, so you can’t just sit down and write a craft book, make sure that you are making good stuff and practicing your writing skills everyday, so that it’s not that kind of dry craft book that is put flap A onto flap B, you know? You want to write something in your own voice that people really want to read and understand.

 

Allison

And try.

 

Pip

Yes.

 

 

 

Allison

Have you had anybody create something out of the book and send you photos of it yet? Do people do that?

 

Pip

They do that, so, so much. With this book mostly they’ve been cooking things and also just taking photos of the book going, “I love this book.” I’m so surprised.

 

Allison

Don’t you love that?

 

Pip

Oh my god, it’s just like the most gratifying thing ever. Like, when you write a book and people actually get it and they’re not like, “What is this pile of crap?” I’m so relieved. Yesterday, actually, I went onto Good Reads.

 

 

Allison

Oh, don’t. What did you do that for?

 

Pip

I just quickly had a really quick look and then I went, “Never go there again.”

 

Allison

Oh no, Good Reads is great. I think it’s really important to be in touch with what people are saying, but I think it’s also really important to have your writerly armor on sometimes.

 

Pip

That’s right.

 

Allison

When you get your first one-star review it’s just like, “I’m a real author now.”

 

Pip

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I mean that’s one good thing about blogging, it really does set you up for criticism, you’re used to those kind of snarky comments. I think I’ll be OK, but still…

 

Allison

You’ll be OK.

 

Pip

It’s all in my head.

 

Allison

Have a nice cup of tea and make a pom-pom, you’ll be totally fine.

 

All right, Pip. Thank you so much for talking to us today, it’s been fantastic.

 

Of course, Pip’s new book Craft for the Soul: How to get the most out of your creative life is out now in all good bookshops. I’ll be making the chicken sandwiches, because I think that’s pretty much all I’ll be able to manage. But, I’ll let you know how they go.

 

Pip

Godspeed to you.

 

Allison

Godspeed. Thank you.

 

 

 


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