Clifford Brooks

Clifford Brooks

Poet | Writer | Teacher

There are healthy habits writers can develop that will enhance their creativity in the long-run.

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Writers have a long history of not being heath-conscious folk. A total lack of attention to physical, mental, and spiritual well-being has somehow become tragically cliched to the life of a “real artist.” Misery begets only misery. I’ve produced higher-quality material at a steadily-productive rate since shifting my focus to being healthy and happy. Over the last twelve months I’ve found 5 healthy habits for writers that prove useful.

  1. Get Outside & Move Around: I have found exercise to be a cathartic as well as emotionally balancing practice. You don’t have to go to the gym or spend money on classes. There are countless stories of writers who get their best ideas on a long walk. Sunlight gives us vitamin D. Vitamin D aids in the battle against depression. If stress seems intolerable, I promise you’ll feel better after half an hour of exercise.
  2. Stay Away from Drugs & Alcohol: Moderate use of legal substances is not what I’m talking about. As an addict and alcoholic, I do not have the ability to partake with any semblance of control. If you can, disregard this step. Be wary of using words like, “I need,” or, “I have to have,” when discussing chemical use in your creative process. No matter how bad you think your writer’s block is, addiction makes it far worse.
  3. Create & Maintain a Schedule: We artists balk at the notion of being restricted by a schedule. Without one I waste time trying to figure out what to do next. I began keeping a schedule in September of 2018, now (just eight months later) I’ve gotten more done than in the last five years combined. Few things feel as satisfying as scratching off an item on your To-Do List. (Don’t be afraid to pencil in a nap every now-and-again.)
  4. Rediscover the Bliss of Books: I stopped reading because I got wrapped up in the business of writing. After my life imploded last August, the first thing I did was read the Bible. Good books brought me back to sanity. Now I read voraciously. Books are my constant vacation. I created a book club with close friends. I urge you to do the same. Kind company with Tolstoy between you is therapeutic.
  5. Find a Higher Power: I grew up enjoying church every Sunday. In my mid-twenties I fell out of the practice. In my early-forties I joined a new church because I realized the vacuum my life suffered in was due to the lack of a soulful home. Faith has given me more drive, strength, focus, and sense of forgiveness than anything tangible. Prayer and scripture are a part of my daily schedule. All other suggestions in my 5 healthy habits for writers are built upon this one.

These are ideas that help increase my level of chill in a mad world. I see a therapist to aid the cleansing practice of writing. I meet with my priest once or twice a month to talk about jazz and check my interpretation of scripture. Every day I spend time with genuine people, and waste no time with toxic individuals. The last suggestion I have is to clean up those things that make you the most uncomfortable. I’ll clarify these end notes soon, but please follow these links in the meantime. There are far more than 5 healthy habits for writers, but I pray that these find a way to help you.

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Author: Clifford Brooks
Posted: May 19, 2019, 2:37 am

Submittable is an integral part of a magazine's success.

The post 5 Reasons to Use Submittable appeared first on Clifford Brooks.

When I began submitting to magazines, the idea of paying to do so felt like it went against the “artistic spirit.” When my company, the Southern Collective Experience LLC, created a journal of culture, the Blue Mountain Review, I quickly discovered my original assessment was bollocks. Reading submissions is time-consuming work. Providing tactfully-worded rejections letters, dealing with those who lash out due to them, and the ongoing work of getting those accepted into print is time-consuming work. The important word to focus on here is “work.”

Creating art is work. It is a labor of love, but that doesn’t mean that labor shouldn’t come with a price tag. At the start of one’s career the fact you are published by a reputable source is payment enough. However, as one’s career evolves, the product improves, and prestige is built, getting paid for your creation is not unreasonable. As an entrepreneur, author, and editor I understand this on an intrinsic level. I am on a mission to give back to the art community, as well as those on my team good enough to be editors. To turn good intentions into productive reality, I’ve decided to use Submittable in our submission and contest infrastructure. Here are 5 reasons to use Submittable.

  1. Organization: It is the cornerstone of any operation. Submittable allows you to keep all submissions in one place. Over the last three years of trial-and-error, the biggest stumbling block from submission-to-publication is keeping track of the deluge of material. Each editor often has to create another email account to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. The magazine designer has quadruple-duty to keep track of accepted materials in line for transfer. Submittable allows an entity to streamline the process and, most importantly, eliminate undo stress.
  2. Accountability: Trust is tantamount to success. Submittable allows the administrators to keep up with each editor’s progress, when submissions are read, and when they are transferred to the que for publication. This holds all those involved accountable, including the editor-in-chief.
  3. An Option for Good Karma: I think that a category for free submissions is an excellent idea for the artist and good karma. However, this also gives editors a breather as those that are free understand that they won’t hear back for a longer period of time. This is by no means a punishment, but a necessary understanding between writer and magazine that we understand that money can be tight, but our time is often limited.
  4. Submission Feedback: In my time spent researching the benefits of Submittable, one that I didn’t consider is an option for feedback on submissions. We always want to know why our work wasn’t chosen, or tips on how the piece could be improved when it is. This takes an enormous amount of time to accommodate. Since time is money, many magazines have an option (for a set fee) to allow this piece of the pie to be served.
  5. A Just Reward: It has been a joy to create and produce the Blue Mountain Review. My drive has been to build a journal of culture that delivers high-quality content as well as reward those who helped bring it to the public. One of the reasons to use Submittable is to use a portion of the submission fees to pay the editors. Once the ball gets rolling, those who are published will also be paid for the honor of their hard work.

There are other reasons to use Submittable. I will write another post concerning those as I work out the kinks on my end. A goal I have set for the Southern Collective Experience LLC is to hold regular contests. Contests can be added to your account for easy upkeep from submission, submission fees, to the judge, and his or her top picks. I believe that the monetization of one’s company is essential to its existence. I am an avid proponent to giving some of those hard-earned dollars to charity in thanks to the Powers that Be for ground gained in the art world.

It is important to me that you understand why this change is taking place, and how it can benefit you. I am always open to feedback and questions. I write this as further proof I live and work with complete transparency. Just as your work deserves reward, so does your trust.

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Author: Clifford Brooks
Posted: May 11, 2019, 2:12 am

Rejection is never easy, but a valuable learning tool.

The post 5 Ways to Deal with Rejection appeared first on Clifford Brooks.

Writing is not a miserable lot fraught with loneliness, depression, and rejection. I find the act of writing therapeutic, liberating, and sometimes met with literary rejection. I think “rejection” is the wrong word. Unless you are in a monogamous relationship with some literary journal or publishing house, you’re not “rejected.” The person or persons in question politely “passed on your efforts.” The study of semantics does not make it sting any less. Yet, success does require a healthy perspective, thick skin, and guiding hand. In this blog post I want to be the last of these by offering 5 ways to deal with rejection.

  1. Process that Rejection Sucks, but a Necessary Evil: I cannot count how many times my work has failed to impress. With age I find it easier to read the hated line, “We appreciated reading your submission, but…” and not dip into anger, doubt, and/or plot for revenge. I take a deep breath, note the suck-factor, accept it, and then re-evaluate my efforts. You do not know the editor personally. He or she could’ve decided no one was getting in that day. Perhaps their ex has the same name as you. Then there’s the chance that maybe (just maybe) the product needs a tweak or two. If getting published came easy, anyone could do it. They can’t. You can.
  2. See this as a Second Chance: Second chances do not come often in life. We get them frequently in writing. This is a good thing. As mentioned above, a pass allows you to reassess word use, sentence structure, or find an overlooked grammatical error. Not getting published doesn’t mean the product is bad. There are a plethora of magazines to which you can submit. Do not allow one journal to throw you into a tailspin.
  3. Talk to Kindred Spirits: Misery loves company, but I love to laugh. Artists are an emotional, self-critical bunch. If you don’t have a creative tribe, find one. You’ve got your Schopenhauer/Eeyore brand, and then my flavor – the Montaigne/Winnie the Pooh peeps. Share your despair with folks who get it, but won’t let you mully-grub. A kind ear with an affectionate kick-to-the-rump will give you relief as well as a stirrup back-in-the-saddle.
  4. Workshop Your Product: I cannot stress how important it is to workshop your writing. Find a group who are serious about craft. If it’s guided by an instructor, make sure he or she is published. “Those who can’t do, teach,” is a tragically flawed mode of thinking. If your work doesn’t make the cut and you can’t see the problem, take it back to those who will give you constructive criticism without tearing you down. Your support system is also your trade school in the right situation.
  5. Be Patient: As a novice, when I received bad news, I let my temper get the best of me. I cursed, pouted, and then rushed to submit another poem to the same people, or the same poem to another magazine. That never proved a useful practice. “Be patient” can be irritating to hear, an annoying song, but it’s the crux of a deeper sense of calm and more productive creative life. Please be patient. Writing is a career. Lasting careers have setbacks. Anything done out of anger will not make you happy.

Above all else, remember not to take it personally. A thumb down is not a jab at your integrity, talent, or mother’s good name. I don’t like it. You don’t like it. However, I do hold firm to the mantras: Easy come, easy go. Anything worth having is worth the sacrifice. I hope that these 5 ways to deal with rejection help you face the day with a little less stress. We are solitary creatures, but you are never alone.

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Author: Clifford Brooks
Posted: May 4, 2019, 4:46 am

Social Media Promotion is a critical component of marketing your product. I believe that no one is better at marketing yourself than you. However, there are social media promotion companies who can offer you a full array of services to strengthen the reach of what you first take time to lay groundwork. I suggest a…

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Social Media Promotion is a critical component of marketing your product. I believe that no one is better at marketing yourself than you. However, there are social media promotion companies who can offer you a full array of services to strengthen the reach of what you first take time to lay groundwork. I suggest a company that is close to home. I prefer that because, if there’s an issue, you can sit with them in-person to discuss it. That being said, here is a list of five best practices for social media promotion you can do on your own, for free, to set the tone for your online image.

  1. Be Honest: The problem with creating a persona anything other than who you are is that it’s a facade you must put time and effort into. This not only takes away from energy best spent on your art, it may come off as pretending. Our culture is rife with that as it is. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, be consistent and honest in how you represent yourself. For better or worse, social media promotion is a window into your life. Readers are starved for the real deal, and they can be critical when inconsistencies rear their heads. I always think of the tragedy behind A Million Little Pieces where the author thought he could pull a few little lies past Oprah Winfrey. He got caught, and it was ugly. Don’t be that guy.
  2. Save Your Battles Over Politics and Religion for Your Books: I am not saying to lack conviction when it comes to topics you’re passionate about. What I am saying is that if you make a point to take a stand, or worse yet – get into an internet war with an opponent, you will alienate readers. A mentor once told me, “You can be dramatic or successful, but you can’t be both.” I firmly agree. Your fan base is reading everything your write. Your haters are reading closer. Do not stoop to the level of someone trying to trip you in front of thousands of potential buyers. Weave what you believe into your books. You’ll sway more hearts and open more eyes through your books than a tiff online.
  3. Marry Genres in Your Advertising: Do not post whole poems or short stories online. Why would anyone buy your book when they can get it for free off Facebook? Instead, take a snippet of one piece, add it to a non-copyrighted image, and create a sensory advertisement that whets the appetite. You can go a step farther and plug a link to the song that inspired those lines. If you don’t have the technical skills to do this, like me, reach out to someone who can. It is money well-spent. This not only adds depth to the descriptive value of the advert, it also allows folks unique insight into you and your work.
  4. Do Not Beat People to Death with Advertising: Nothing turns me off from a person or product like accepting a friend request and immediately getting slammed with an epistle of how well they know me, how vital their product/service is to my life, and then demanding an immediate response. I find this on LinkedIn every day, and the only thing is accomplishes is me hitting the Block button. Be patient and do your research. Tailor your proposal to those who are looking for what’s in your wheelhouse or skill set. On Facebook, if you “like” someone’s page, don’t insinuate that they are obligated to do the same. Social media promotion is an art of salesmanship. Read up on effective sales techniques. Join pages and/or websites designed for promotion. When you meet readers in-person, take a minute to ask how life is treating them (and mean it) before attacking them with your sales pitch.
  5. Support Others with Abandon: Whether an introvert or extrovert, technology allows us to make business contacts, learn new things, reach millions of people, and discover cutting edge advertising advantages from the safety of our writing desks or smart phones. For half an hour in the morning, without looking at faces, names, ethnicity, or sexual preference I read what folks are passionate about, what they create, and how they promote. If I dig it, I share it. This is good karma, and what goes around comes around. Art is not a small pond with too many big fish. Art is an expanse of ocean with too many fish that don’t want to share. If you focus only on you and never look out the window, you are missing opportunities to live, learn, and grow. I’ve made 90% of my lasting friendships and book sales by sticking to this principle.

Now, before I wrap this up, understand that I know these five best practices for social media promotion due to trial and error. I’ve made a fool of myself on more than one occasion. I try to keep my ego in-check, and some days are harder than others. My goal in these blog posts is to share with you what works, and hope I help you dodge a few of the potholes I hit head-on. If you help good men and women up with good works, miracles happen. Put on your true face. Don’t be afraid to promote what moves you. Show passion with couth and tact. No one can promote you better than you.

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Author: Clifford Brooks
Posted: April 28, 2019, 1:23 am

As a poetry writer responsible for three books, and poetry editor for the Blue Mountain Review, I have experience on both sides of the submission divide. My goal is to help writers understand the nuts and bolts of the publication process. Let me say upfront that there will be no blog post written by me…

The post 5 Best Practices for Publication appeared first on Clifford Brooks.

As a poetry writer responsible for three books, and poetry editor for the Blue Mountain Review, I have experience on both sides of the submission divide. My goal is to help writers understand the nuts and bolts of the publication process. Let me say upfront that there will be no blog post written by me for the purpose of making fun of, disrespecting, or ostracizing people. My focus here is to create a hub of useful information. The submission process can be arduous. I want to help make it easier for you.

  1. Write What You Know, and Make it Accessible – Convincing, accessible writing is the best writing. As a writer, I feel like I’m lying to the reader if I try to speak from a point of view I don’t know firsthand, or for those whose lives I have no intimate knowledge. If the work isn’t accessible, it is a locked room only you can get into. As an editor, it is blatantly obvious when a submission isn’t coming from a genuine place. If the language is vague or cryptic, I immediately lose interest. No matter what genre you choose, stick to what you know using a creative language others can get into. When you live by this rule, the practice of writing will be less stressful. It will be a pleasure to read, and your quiet integrity will increase the chances of publication.
  2. Edit Your Work – The muse can ease into us with a slow trickle or as a mad rush. When either happens to me, I breathe deep, get it on paper, and then take a walk to give my labor time to simmer. A few hours, a day, or a week later, I will return to that project with fresh eyes. Editing is a vital part of the publication success. Read it aloud to “hear” any hiccups. Let someone read it for grammatical errors. Do not rush to submit.
  3. Familiarize Yourself with the Magazine – Do your homework before choosing a literary journal. Don’t pick one for its name alone. What do they like to publish? What is their audience? Make sure they don’t print work that’s in conflict with what you believe. If you get accepted into a magazine that takes anything willy-nilly, it will undermine your hard work. Remember as well, don’t try to copy the work you see published because that violates Rule #1, and the effort will come off as a cheap knock-off.
  4. Follow the Submission Guidelines – If the magazine asks for your work to be pasted into the body of an email as well as attached in a document, follow it to the letter. If they want the attachment in a Word doc, don’t send a PDF. Often a bio is required, and/or a cover letter. Send one or both along, of course, but remember that less is more. If they don’t accept simultaneous submissions, do not submit the same poem to other magazines. If they do, and your work is accepted elsewhere, tell them immediately. Editors have a deluge of material to sift through on a deadline. The easier you make it on them, the more attractive your submission will be.
  5. Do Not Annoy the Editors – Your wait time to hear a verdict on your work is given in the submission guidelines. Do not harass editors with emails before the wait time is up for an answer. If they do not accept your work, don’t take it personally. Writing an angry retort reminiscent of an American Idol reject will not cause them to change their mind. More than likely, that will ruin any chance of a future submission being considered.

Publication is a rite-by-fire that divides the good writers from the great writers. If it were easy, anyone could do it, and that would devalue your God-given talent. Treat writing like a vocation, because it is. If you love writing, chances are folks will love reading it. However, before that love can be shared, there will be blood, sweat, and tears. Don’t give up. Study, write, read, share, and repeat. Sooner than you think, you’ll be smiling, dancing, and announcing your newfound success.

The post 5 Best Practices for Publication appeared first on Clifford Brooks.

Author: cliff
Posted: April 19, 2019, 8:53 pm

This is an article from August 2013 written by a dear friend and excellent publicist, Dave Altman. The Pickens County Progress was gracious enough to do a follow-up piece on me, a year after my book’s release, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics. Pickens County has been a peaceful home to me since…

The post An Emerging New Southern Voice appeared first on Clifford Brooks.

This is an article from August 2013 written by a dear friend and excellent publicist, Dave Altman. The Pickens County Progress was gracious enough to do a follow-up piece on me, a year after my book’s release, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics. Pickens County has been a peaceful home to me since my mother, little brother, and I moved here in the mid 1980’s.

pickens-county-progress-article
Click Here to Read the Full Article

After graduating from Shorter College in 1999, I returned to Pickens to work a decade split between juvenile probation and DFCS. A great deal of my poetry was written during this time, mostly captured in Whirling Metaphysics (all of my epic, The Gateman’s Hymn of Ignoracium) with a few pieces seen in the mountain-themed poetry of The Draw of Broken Eyes.

In this article, my issues with Bipolar Disorder and related substance abuse are discussed with direct honesty. I make apologies for nothing. I neither brag about anything. This is simply a snapshot of my life and some background on the metaphors I use in both my books. The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics has gone farther and done more for me personally than I ever thought possible. The attention has not given me a self-righteous cloak of “The Brooding Poet”, nor made me afraid to pen my next book.

Writing has become a real form of therapy. You see, in the past, this time of year (early fall into winter) is where the doldrums of a haggard self usually begin to tear my soul into The Nothing. This year, due to the proper medication, only positive influences and people allowed into my inner circle, as well as a touch of Love have changed that. Today I write more with greater vigor and clarity than ever before in my life.

My next book is entitled Athena Departs. In it I see myself as the man I’m becoming after three years of manual labor, now teaching, freelance writing, and helping those with honor and incredible gifts of expression get a leg up in the tight-lipped world of Art. There is karma to good writing, not a debt to be paid. It is a pleasure greater than anything I’ve achieved on my own, playing a small part in kindred spirits taking flight. It’s something I hope to do more of with The Southern Collective Experience.

Here’s to genuine Art and great friends.

Art is a divine life. It is
to dance. It is to hear God.

“The Fifth Movement”
Whirling Metaphysics

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Author: cliff
Posted: November 5, 2013, 11:29 pm
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