8 Highly effective ways NOT to promote YOU

background image courtesy of Ricky Kharawala and Unsplash
background image courtesy of Ricky Kharawala and Unsplash

There are a number of things I am good at, however, self-promotion is not one of them. Ask any of the people who comment on my posts regularly. Heck, ask pretty much anyone. Chances are they will agree. As a firm believer in the concept that there is always something to learn, some additional skill to master, I rarely consider myself an expert in anything, but if there is one thing I deserve an honorary Ph.D. in, it is in how NOT to self-promote.

So I hope you will sit back and enjoy these tried and true tips from Dr. Potts.

  1. Treat your interests and hobbies like state secrets, better yet, treat them better

Don’t share anything that you do for fun with anyone. When people ask you to tell them a little about yourself, convince yourself that they are only looking for a way to bring the conversation back to what it is they do or what they sell. Stick to the expected script. Only tell them about surface level things such as your day job and never expand upon your hopes, goals, and dreams. Limit your networking to only watching shows on TV.

If you actually let it slip that you enjoying painting, for example, your sibling might call to ask you to help with a mural on a child’s wall. Even worse, someone not related to you might actually make you an offer to be *gulp* paid professionally for your hobby.

2. Keep your smiles to yourself

If you find yourself doing a job that makes you want to smile, bury that joy deep down. If it looks like you are actually having fun performing a task that others view as work those same others might start thinking of additional ways to make you smile. If you aren’t careful, you might just be asked to paint another mural in the not too distant future. Or worse, your connections might just introduce you, and your skills, to their other connections, and what did we just cover about networking in tip number 1.

3. Never accept compliments

That beautiful thing you just created. It was a pure fluke. If it hadn’t been that spasm in your back keeping you from adding additional brush strokes or the sun blinding you at just the right time, you would surely ruin it. It certainly had nothing to do with skill or honed practice. Those are gifts only possessed by the professionals and this was just something you do when you don’t have anything else to do and you got lucky. Make sure you emphasize the word ‘just’ repeatedly. ‘It’s just a hobby.’ ‘I’m just doing it for fun.’ ‘I just got started.’ Deflect, deflect, deflect

4. Destroy the evidence

Be like Tibetan monks and treat your interests like the Sand Mandala. Enjoy your hobbies simply for the moment and then get rid of any trace of evidence the minute the task is over. Under no circumstances should you actually save things in a way that someone might misinterpret as a portfolio or resume. Someone might misinterpret that sort of thing as credibility.

5. Convince yourself that timing needs to be right

Success is all about being in the right place and the right time. If you can just be patient enough to wait for that perfect time to call yourself a qualified expert, your name is bound to be in the headlines. The fact that those headlines may be in the obituary section is only a minor detail.

6. Never publicize your accomplishments or other interests on social media

That’s the sort of information that can be used against you. The next thing you know, you will be hit by all sorts of spam bots showing advertising for products you actually might be interested in buying, classes that might help you hone those skills, or even worse. What if some stranger actually contacted you about your not-so-secret skills with genuine interest? Didn’t your parents always tell you not to talk to strangers?

7. Don’t treat yourself as a boss or your hobby as a business

They say that the day you start doing what you love, you will never work another day in your life. Do you really want to put yourself out of work?

8. Associate your self-worth with the success of your business or product

Never remind yourself that even the most valued companies have product flops. A failure today is proof that you could fail tomorrow.


But… a failure today at least means you tried, and that you is worthy of promotion.

Temptation makes victory taste ever more sweet

There they lay, within reach, and yet to do so was entirely forbidden. It would be so easy, I told myself. All I had to do was open up one of kiddo’s packaged snacks from the basket in the pantry and chew. All those delicious salty treats were mine for the taking. But I’d made a promise to myself to limit my carb intake, particularly over the next thirty days, as the scale had taken issue with my summer beach excesses.

“She’d started taking up a lot of bad habits”, I imagined its snide electronic voice justifying itself to my toothbrush and my towel as they discussed my morning routine. “You both just help her stay hygienic. I, however, am helping her make better lifestyle choices.” I am sure both towel and brush would roll their eyes if they had them, but that awful scale had a point. I had enjoyed my summer a wee bit too much and it was starting to show.

You know what the secret to weight loss is? Don’t eat much.” – Simon Cowell
(Gee thanks, Simon)

It came to a head one Tuesday evening. There, on the table, were all the fixings for tacos which had become our weekly staple since the Lego Movie first introduced the children to the concept of Taco Tuesday. A pair of tortillas waited for me to add lettuce, beef, and cheese, with a dollop of yogurt just as I had done the Tuesday before and the Tuesday before that.

“After today I am going to limit my sugar and bread for awhile,” I announced to the hubby. “At least for the next thirty days.” Lamont looked at his own plate and agreed to support me by doing the same. We both were in the mood to change up the dietary cycle. We wouldn’t cut it out altogether, we agreed, as that was next to impossible seeing as both ingredients were hidden in way too much. To avoid them altogether would involve *gasp* actually reading labels. But we would try not to intentionally consume either.

I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t easy. I’d gotten into a habit of having a bit of ice cream in the evening after tucking the boys in their beds. A reward for successfully surviving another day. Suddenly I was out my reward. The cravings started to chip away at my resolve.

“Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us where it is; we’ll find it.” – Sam Levenson

Brilliantly (at least in our opinion), we decided to make our own dessert. We had plenty of plain greek yogurt in the fridge. Add a few berries and some honey and poof. Instant ice cream substitute. We even added a little cinnamon to give it a bit more pizzaz!

And other meal times took on a bit more excitement as we managed to break away from our weekly routine, replacing the stand-bys with things like zucchini pasta or eggs poached inside an avocado. This whole “sacrifice” wasn’t one.

Then my mom’s birthday came along with a visit by my sister. After a celebratory dinner, the smell of a fruit pie tempted my nose. A bit more of my resolve chipped away. But still, I remained strong, empowered by what I had accomplished before. There was nothing to this goal. Or so I thought until I entered the final days of my self-imposed thirty-day challenge.

Then the air began to change. Fall has arrived and with it will be the assault on my senses that is pumpkin spice. I do so love the smell of Fall. If you listen very carefully, you might yet hear the sound of my scale crying. If my resolve started out as a mighty oak tree, it is now only a splinter of its former self.

“What makes resisting temptation difficult for many people is they don’t want to discourage it completely.” Franklin P. Jones

A friend of mine suggested I read Stephen Pressfield’s book The War of Art in which the author theorizes that our brains are somehow wired to resist completing goals. While I haven’t yet read the book (though fully intend to) I can’t help thinking he might be on to something. I was so close to writing End of Book Two in this current draft, and yet my characters keep drawing out the action. No matter how much I wrote, there was still more to do. More to say.

It was so very tempting to simply type THE END before the story is ready and short circuit the process. And if I did? Would it really matter? This is not my final draft. I’ll be rewriting an editing next. I could grab those chips as well. One small bag on day 29 isn’t going to make a difference in the scheme of things. Who would know?

I would.

And so, while my resolve may only be a splinter, that splinter wedged itself deeply under my skin. I can’t ignore it. I can’t make a move without feeling its pain.

And so, I stood fast over these final few days. What’s a couple hundred more words compared to the many I’ve written thus far? Certainly not enough to lose heart now. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote until the words END OF BOOK TWO were no longer words in my head but words on a screen. Yes. You read that right. This draft is finished. Now on to round two.

I pull back from the pantry and fixed a salad instead. It might not taste quite as good to my sugar biased tastes, but victory continues to be more satisfying.

As a reminder, I will be on the air Friday, September 23rd at 6pm Eastern time. The link to follow is http://www.blogtalkradio.com/writestream/2016/09/23/the-speculative-fiction-cantina-with-madeleine-holly-rosing-and-allie-potts

Onward and upward – fun with mind manipulation

Writing a novel is like running a marathon. You train and train, conditioning your body through smaller “fun” runs as you gradually build up some confidence and stamina. Then it is the day of the event, the thing you have been training toward for the last several weeks if not months. A crowd surrounds you. Their excitement is contagious. “See you on the other side!” and “Let’s do this!” You are anxious, but anything is possible. You take off.

Then, six miles later or so, you see that the course contains a hill (not to mention another ~twenty miles) and you start questioning why in the world you ever thought this was a novel idea (pun intended). You start contemplating veering off with the half marathoners, but that still means you have to somehow find it in you to run another ~seven miles. Ugh.

At this point, you realize you are thoroughly outta luck, so you might as well keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Image courtesy of Imgur
Image courtesy of Imgur

You adjust your pace and trick your mind into ignoring things like mile markers while instead focusing on smaller, more achievable goals. I just have to make it to that street sign or the next water station without walking. You look around and see spectator signs like “If this were easy, it would be called your mom,” or “remember you paid for this.” You’d laugh if it didn’t make you wheeze (or puke), but it is exactly the reminder you needed.

You may not get a spot on the podium, but you know that as long as you finish, even if you wind up crawling across the line, you are still getting a medal for your effort. It hurts to go forward, but you also know it just might kill you at this point to go back empty-handed.

I am at the base of that hill with my current work in process. Day job, illness, and life in general, knocked me off schedule. Even worse, as much as I want to push my characters forward, they seem equally determined to catch their breath. I am tempted to write in some zombies or talking animals from another dimension just to mix it up, except I’m pretty sure I would ultimately have to cut the scene out. I can feel my will to continue begin to be tested (oh, why didn’t I set out to write a short story, or at most, a novella?) But as starting another project (with zombies… no…, dragon zombies… from space!) or taking an indefinite hiatus (don’t even think it) are equally unacceptable options, I’ve come to the realization that it is time to start utilizing the tricks that kept me motivated two times before. It is time to pull out the signs.

In my case, that usually means mocking up a cover or two as I have an easier time visualizing my goal if I have an idea of what it might look like when I cross the finish line. Which brings me to cover design.

I am always on the lookout for ways to improve any aspect of my authorprenuerism and recently watched a special on the topic of something called the golden ratio, 1.618, or phi. Supposedly this near mystic ratio can be found among plants and shells almost as if the natural world was actually planned by mathematics. It is repeated in architecture such as the Parthenon and its proportions found in art like the Mona Lisa.

To create it, you draw a rectangle (one size is 1x, the other side is 0.618x). Then while keeping the rectangle’s proportions the same, rotate and resize the rectangle so that its longest side now fits within its shortest side (or… you can simply find a ready-made golden ratio template on the internet).

Golden Ratio
Golden Ratio (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Its use is also suggested to be a form of mind manipulation. There are those in the marketing world who believe that design based on this ratio is also more appealing to consumers that designs that do not. Intrigued, I decided to first test out how well my existing covers conformed to this ratio.

Golden-ratio-UFGolden-ratio-FFAccording to the theory, a consumer’s eyes are expected to naturally follow a line of curvature within the golden rectangle. The rectangles should then act as a guide for the placement of design elements.

I was somewhat shocked but overall pleased to see that both of my covers roughly fit within the design rules I hadn’t previously known existed. For example, if the theory is true, a would-be reader’s eye is drawn to the chasm beneath the woman in An Uncertain Faith suggesting my main character’s trying situation while on The Fair & Foul, a reader’s eyes are drawn to my name which will help achieve brand recognition.

Of course there are others who believe that the golden ratio is purely a myth or that there are other more appealing rectangle sizes, but considering how important cover design can be to the success of a book, it is definitely something I will be keeping in mind moving forward.

And move forward I will.

I wanted to write, I really did…

I wanted to write. I really did!


I needed to walk the dog. It was a glorious morning and the two of us could use some bonding.

Then the time slipped away and I still needed to work for my day job which meant traveling away from warm sunny temperatures. I wasn’t worried.

I should have time to write while I wait for my flight.


The gate attendants kept making pesky announcements regarding weather delays, which had the worst way of breaking my concentration.

Dinosaur in Chicago airport
It was a really, really, really long layover

The incoming plane is delayed. The incoming plane has been sent back to its original gate. We found a new plane, but we’ll need a new crew. We need to file paperwork. We need to de-ice the plane. They need to clear the runway. We’ll be underway in just a moment…any moment…

That moment became hours as we waited on the runway. Use of electronics during this down time was strictly prohibited.

I still might be able to write while we fly.


My seat mate was one of those people who don’t pick up on social cues. (I seriously need to meet with the various airlines about my “I’m feeling social / Do not disturb” patent pending travel bracelets).

Which actually was much more tolerable than the sound of the jet engine next to my ear, or the smell from the overworked restroom, but still less conducive to writing.

I can always write when I reach my hotel.


After circled our destination five times, the pills I’d taken for the resulting massive headache hadn’t yet worked their magic. Looking at the blank screen was painful.

And I was hungry, tired, and grumpy to boot and knew I had to wake early for a morning appointment. I looked at the bed.

I wanted to curl up under the covers and sleep.


My flight might have been cancelled were it not for the appearance of the new crew. They just happened to be on the flight as passengers but volunteered for an extra night’s work so that the rest of us sorry individuals huddled together might still reach our destination. Or we might not have gotten airborne had it not been for the ground crew working in freezing temperatures and horizontally blowing snow in order to grant us a clear path and ice-less wings. I may not have reached my hotel were it not for traffic control, squeezing us into an unplanned slot, or gotten to my hotel without my shuttle driver braving frozen roads. They did their jobs, because they had to, even though it wasn’t comfortable or convenient.

And I knew the following day would be just as hectic, just as I knew I didn’t start down this writing journey for lack of a hobby.

I ran out of excuses.

I needed to write.

So I did.

A birthday wish for my son

Happy Birthday bannerCake crumbs still spotted the table and chairs, remnants from his brother’s birthday party when LT first began asking if it was now time to plan his celebration, an event that wouldn’t take place for several months. Each time he asked, he announced loudly and repeatedly that he was done being three and ready to be four.

Over the next several weeks, there were few mornings (or evenings) in which LT did not ask us for an update on the number of days left until his birthday. This was new for him as he’d never expressed all that much interested in his birthday before. Eventually, I came to realize that he had gotten it into his head that his world would suddenly be made different by the simple act of raising one additional finger when adults asked him how old he was. He told me he was going to get a bunk bed and sleep on the top. He was going to stay up late every night and was going to get to do homework (the boy is actually looking forward to this – proving ignorance is bliss). I didn’t quite have the heart to tell him that no, not all his dreams of big-kid-hood would be coming true, at least not this year (except the part about getting a new bed – let’s be clear, LT, that’s not happening).

Then the countdown was over and it was the evening before his big day. I told him, this is the last day you are going to be a three-year-old. Tomorrow, when you wake up, you are going to be four. His eyes got big as the reality of his situation sunk in. As I pulled the blankets around him and leaned in to kiss his forehead, he looked at me and said, “I no wanna be four. I wanna be three forever.”

I did what most mothers (or fathers) would in this situation. I gave him a bone-crushing hug and told them that I would like him to stay three very much too. Then I wished him good night and snuck into another room to wrap his presents, because, unfortunately, a wish to stay forever the same is about as likely to come true as is him actually enjoying homework once he starts bringing it home on a regular basis.

I adore my littlest boy. I love his hugs, his laugh, and his insanely honest observations. It makes sense that I want him to remain exactly how he is now, but, as I sat there on the floor trying to avoid papercuts while keeping tabs on the tab, I started wondering about that look on his face and what he said. After so many weeks of anticipation, so much yearning to be four, what now caused the about-face? Sadly, the only thing I can come up with is this – he is my son.

I am the kind of person who falls in loves with the idea of things but can then become terrified if there is even a fraction of a chance of the idea becoming reality (I love the beach, but am scared to swim in the ocean for example). It is one of the reasons it took me so long to start pursuing writing in the first place. I have to admit, I take comfort in the status quo. I know exactly where my place is and what is expected of me. I am fortunate. The status quo has thus far been good to me.

But the status quo is not what dreams are made of. It can be like never going hungry but also never enjoying a slice of cake (and oh, how I enjoy a good piece of cake). And so, as he blows out his candles (and I blow out mine because it was my birthday party too), I am promising myself that I will challenge it. It may not be today or tomorrow, but when the opportunity comes I am going to squash the butterflies in my stomach and face it. So then, when it is my son’s turn, he might do the same, unafraid, for no other reason than this – he is my son.