Writer’s Life: Doing Research in the 21st Century


Gratitude: The ten best Books, TED-talks and Apps

I am doing research at the moment for my new book Thriving On Change with Gratitude and Generosity (new working title.) Research is a tedious process, but it has to be done, Writer's Lifeeven if only to avoid saying the same thing in the same way for the 30th time. I watch a lot of TED-talks and I am very grateful to my friend Tia for introducing me to these talks. I have subscribed to the Ted.com website and now they send me regular e-mails with recommendations. Whenever I do research for a book, this is where I start.

I share the writing of this book in more detail on my Patreon Page, where I include details of the marketing plan that I put into practice before I typed the first letter of this book. Any aspiring Indie Authors and Authorpreneurs, hop over to Margaretha Montagu is creating horse-inspired life-enriching Books and join the Club!

The 10 Best Gratitude Ted-talks

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
Oprah Winfrey

Below you will find the 10 Ted-talks I found most informative while writing the Gratitude Journal chapter of my new book.

Hailey Bartholomew: 365 Grateful Project

Mike Robbins: The power of appreciation

Jane Ransom: Discover the Three Keys of Gratitude to Unlock Your Happiest Life

David Steindl-Rast: Want to be happy? Be grateful

Shawn Achor: The secret of being happier at work

Dr. Kerry Howells: How thanking awakens our thinking

Robert Biswas-Diener: Your Happiest days are behind you

Louie Schwartzberg: Nature – Beauty – Gratitude

Katia Sol: The transformative power of gratitude

Brian Doyle: 365 Days of Thank You

The 10 Best Gratitude YouTube Videos

Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
Charles Dickens

I also look at YouTube video’s in general, and I have found the 10 below the most inspiring and illuminating.

Get Grateful

Janice Kaplan: The Gratitude Diaries

How and Why to Start a Gratitude Journal

Gratitude Is Good For You

The Four A’s for Expressing Gratitude

Gratitude Works!: The Science and Practice of Saying Thanks by Robert Emmons

The Gratitude Experiment

The Science of Gratitude

An Experiment in Gratitude: The Science of Happiness

Oprah’s Gratitude Journal

The 10 Best Gratitude Books

“Happiness, the sheer joy of being alive, is within our reach. All we need is an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude creates happiness because it makes us feel full, complete; gratitude is the realization that we have everything we need, at least in this moment.”
MJ Ryan

I read loads of articles, mostly online, and I add them to the Bibliography Section of each book I write. I also read books and I have found the 10 below very useful.

  1. MJ Ryan and Daphne Rose Kingma’s Attitudes of Gratitude in Love: Creating More Joy in Your Relationship
  2. Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons’ Living Life as a Thank You
  3. Br. David Steindl-Rast’s May Cause Happiness: A Gratitude Journal
  4. Gary Fiedel and Karie Jacobson’s Stop-Look-Go: A Grateful Practice Workbook and Gratitude Journal
  5. Julie Saffrin’s BlessBack: Thank Those Who Shaped Your Life
  6. Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts
  7. Robert A. Emmons’ The Little Book of Gratitude: Create a Life of Happiness and Wellbeing by Giving Thanks
  8. John Kralik’s 365 Thank You Notes
  9. MJ Ryan’s Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life
  10. Charles M. Shelton’s The Gratitude Factor: Enhancing Your Life through Grateful Living

The 10 Best Gratitude Apps

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Melody Beattie

I do not have many apps on my phone and I certainly have not tried all the apps below, but I chose the ones with the best reviews. The ones I have tried did not disappoint.

  1. The Gratitude Journal
  2. Thankful for
  3. Live Happy
  4. Grateful
  5. 365 Gratitude
  6. Zest
  7. GratitudeStream
  8. Thankful for
  9. DailyGift
  10. Attitudes of Gratitude

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Writer-Introvert Insecurity


It is estimated that the owners of the blog Wait but Why earn up to $30 000 per month on Patreon. This, I think, answers the question in my blog post Attending the Birth of a Book from last week, Can one make money from blogging? My next question is, How do the owners of Wait but Why do that?

The answer is very simple: the writer of the blog put in the hours needed to create unique, high quality and well-researched blog posts, kept at it diligently, build up his following exponentially (186k followers on Twitter and 16k subscribers on YouTube) and monetised the blog cautiously. Wait by Why was founded by Tim Urban and Andrew Finn and has 371 000 subscribers. There is a very good article on Shopify that explains how the blog was monetised called “The Right Way to Monetise a Blog (With Lessons From Wait But Why.)”

In the not-so-good old days (for artists, in any case) if you wanted to make a living from your art, you needed a patron. Several famous artists, like Mozart, Beethoven, Michelangelo and William Shakespeare, had one or more devoted patrons who supported them financially and thus enabled them to create their masterpieces. Today, artists are still supported by patrons, but instead of one or two very wealthy patrons, artists can now have thousands of patrons who each donate a small amount per month. Wait but Why has more than 3600 patrons, some donating as little as $1 a month, others much more.

The platform that has made the support of singers, songwriters, screenwriters, filmmakers, writers, bloggers and painters possible, by anyone with an interest in their work, is called Patreon. At Patreon, artists share their work with their patrons, on a monthly basis and get paid, on a monthly basis. Patreon has over 1 Million patrons and 50,000 creators on its platform. It is estimated that Patreon paid their creators $150 Million In 2017. The 35 top creators on Patreon earned over $150,000 In 2016.

Does everyone on Patreon earn lots of money? Certainly not. Less than 2% of creators on Patreon earn the monthly (American) minimum wage. The creators who earn the most, are those who are willing to invest the time and energy needed to attract and keep patrons. So very few creators make a living on Patreon, but a huge number make a tidy sum that helps them make ends meet at the end of the month.

This is what I set out to do when I created The Friesian Fillies Fan Club on Patreon. I want to earn enough to provide for my horses – my horses supply the inspiration for my books and I cannot do my day job, host my Connect with Horses personal empowerment workshops, without them. A substantial number of writers, and a small number of bloggers, already earn a decent amount on Patreon every month, so I decided to give it a go as well. For me, it is another way of earning income from the books I write – in addition to the money I make by selling my books, Patreon enables me to make money by writing my books.

I do have a bit of a problem, though. One of my favourite authors, Brené Brown said, “The easiest way to think about vulnerability is the willingness to show up and be seen when you can’t control the outcome.” I spent nearly every waking hour (and some half-asleep) of the last week creating my page on Patreon and now that it is ready to launch, my “Margaretha Montagu is creating equine-inspired life-enriching Books“-page is making me feel vulnerable. Because it does mean putting myself and my work out there on a substantial scale, doesn’t it? My half-finished, yet-unpolished work (in as far as I ever manage to get it properly polished.) This is about more than my usual writer-introvert insecurity.

I think I have created a very good page, but when I look at some of the other writers’ and bloggers’ pages, I think, ‘This is so exceptionally good. The writing sparkles, the ideas are beyond innovative, the books already published of such incredible quality…Why am I even bothering to put a page up? Why would anyone want to support me when they can support these amazing writers?”

Is there any truth in what Neil Gaiman said? That “the one thing that you have that nobody else has, is you. Your voice, your story, your vision. So write…as only you can.” That I can do, but will anyone be interested enough in finding out how I write books to become my patron? Time will tell.

Next week, I will blog about the process of creating a page on Patreon (subscribe to my mailing list so that you will be notified of new blog posts and book giveaways.) In the meantime, you can have a look at the Friesian Fillies Fan Club on Patreon here: Margaretha Montagu is creating equine-inspired life-enriching Books.

Attending the Birth of a Book


I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.
Neil Gaiman, author of Stardust, Coraline, and The Sandman

This year, I have decided to practice what I preach and make a few changes. The last two years I have been immobilised by the frequent need for eye surgery. This year, even though there is more surgery in the pipeline, I intend to challenge myself to change myself and change my world. Starting with my writing. This year I want to write regularly again, both blog posts and books. I want to market my writing properly and earn some money from it. I am sure I will make several mistakes along the way (I am very good at that!) but I will no doubt learn a lot too that I can share here and in future books.

I have already learned quite a lot in January. One night, while I was fluttering from blog post to blog post online, as you do at three o’clock in the morning, I came across a website where enterprising bloggers publish blog posts, once or more a month, and get paid a monthly fee by people who want to read their posts.

My brain imploded. There are people out there who are willing to PAY to read blog posts – the very same blog posts hundreds of bloggers are turning out in their thousands every year, entirely free of change? What a discomfiting surprise! Especially at three o’clock in the morning, when you are awake because you are fretting about not earning enough to feed your hungry herd…

I know that several of the readers of my blog are bloggers too and that many of the 12 000 people who follow me on Twitter are writers – many just as keen to increase their income as I am, so I am going to share with you what I have discovered during the first month of the year. My first challenge of 2019.

About these blog posts. I wondered if the blog posts that people are willing to pay for are exactly the same as those that people like me publish four or more times per month, without ever charging a single penny per post? I shouldn’t think so. Reading a bit deeper, I discover that I am right, in part. You can make money sharing your blog posts on this website, but you have to produce high-quality, in-depth, well-researched blog posts, regularly. I also discover that not a lot of bloggers use this website yet, but a lot of writers do and at least 200 writers on this site earn more than $1000 per month at this website. Fancy that.

I am hooked, on the spot. I spend the next two hours discovering how writers earn money by sharing their work. It turns out that there are people who are actually interested in attending the birth of a book. They find the whole process fascinating. Really? I mean, REALLY? Writing a book is such a messy, tiresome and rambling business – in any case, it is when I write a book – I can just not imagine why anyone would want to be part of this process. Apparently, there are people out there who enjoy watching a book take shape and even assisting in its creation, offering advice in comments and making their opinions known in polls.

Well, I never.

Not quite sure how I feel about this. Do I really want to expose my worst writing weaknesses, my frequent indecision, my unquenchable self-doubt, my ever-worsening self-criticism and my numbing-but-luckily-intermittent writer’s block to the public at large? My reading public? Of course, I am interested in my readers’ opinions. I am after all writing for one reason and one reason only, to make a difference in as many peoples’ lives as possible…for the better. If they could tell me which of my strategies work for them and which of my strategies are entirely useless, as I am writing… that could indeed be incredibly useful.

The idea starts to grow on and in me.

I have 5 horses to feed, water and generally keep in the manner they consider appropriate to their exceptional talent, beauty and intelligence. $1000 per month will come in very handy. I have to admit that many of the strategies that go into my books, I developed from what I learned while facilitating equine-assisted experiential learning sessions during our Connect with Horses personal empowerment workshops. Without the horses, there would have been no books anyway. So I guess it is fitting that they get the lion’s share of whatever I earn by sharing what they taught me.

Should I give it a go? What do you think? I will be a fair amount of work, firstly to set it up and then to keep it going and there will be the ever-present fear of failure to contend with. I write every day in any case, though, because I am quite thoroughly convinced that I want to try and help people become more confident, communicate better, manage their emotions and handle stress better – and even though I feel somewhat intimidated to share my convoluted and confused writing process, if I don’t try, I’ll never know if I can actually make it work.

It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another.
But above all, try something.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, author of Looking Forward

Right, I’ll take this advice, so here goes. I am going to investigate this website and read up around it and then I will share with you what I found out. If it works for me, if I manage to increase my earnings using this website, I will let you know, fellow-writers and bloggers, so that you can use it too.

Update MAY 2019: You can now, if you were empowered, educated or entertained by this post, show your appreciation with a $5 (or more!) monthly donation:


Saturday Photo from the south of France: Solitude


Morning Meditation

I am a writer. I need solitude to be able to write. Or maybe I am solitary by nature and I write to ensure my solitude?

Writing is a solitary experience. I’m extremely superstitious. If I talk about the book or name the title out loud before finishing, I feel the energy I need to write will be drained. It’s so intimate, I can’t even share it with my wife.
Paulo Coelho

Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.
Jessamyn West

Writing can be a very solitary business. It’s you sat at a desk typing words into a computer. It can get lonely sometimes and lots of writers live quite isolated lives.
Paul Kane

Writing is a solitary endeavour, but not a lonely one. When you write, your world is populated by the characters you invent, and you feel those people filling your life.
Danielle Steel

When I’m writing a book, I don’t have any responsibility to anyone. I’m solitary. I’m writing on my own. I write by hand. And I write every day. I mean, it’s part of my daily discipline.
Patti Smith

I regretted the solitary nature of the writer’s life – other people, normal working people, spent their days with co-workers, rode the subway home with a crowd, walked through thronged streets. I worked at home, all by myself.
Kate Christensen

Writing is a solitary profession; you are really alone when you write. Then the emotions become well shaped and distinct. But their transition into words must be done deliberately and with rigid artistry.
F. Sionil Jose

It’s true that it’s a solitary occupation, but you would be surprised at how much companionship a group of imaginary characters can offer once you get to know them.
Anne Tyler

Novelists in particular love to rhapsodise about the glory of the solitary mind; this is natural, because their job requires them to sit in a room by themselves for years on end. But for most of the rest of us, we think and remember socially.
Clive Thompson

To some extent, all authors are a little schizophrenic. We lead most of our lives in solitary confinement, living and breathing the books that we’re writing.
Sophie Kinsella

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Solitude of a Writer’s Life

Indie Authors Check List #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


If you came across my Writer’s Life post, you will know that I have written and edited a book. I did not enjoy editing much. Little did I know at the time, but that was the easy part. Self-publishing makes editing look like a walk in the park.

So what did I do next? Well, I discovered Joanna Penn’s website “The Creative Penn”. From then onwards, it felt as if my none-too-watertight canoe had hit the Colorado Rapids.

Below is a wee list. It only looks as if I did everything in an orderly manner. It did not work out like that at all. I started to do something, got stuck, send off an e-mail begging for help, started on something else while I waited for a reply to my e-mail, backtracked when a reply arrived, started something else, searched for my suddenly missing my credit card, tried to upload something, failed, tried to upload it in another way, wrote a blog post, responded to the e-mail…you get the picture.

  • I started by extracting the book from Scrivener in acceptable formats for publishing: .mobi (for Amazon), .pub for Nook (Barnes and Noble) and Kobo and .pdf for CreateSpace (printed books).
  • I only had three days left of the free trial. I paid $40 so that Scrivener wouldn’t leave me.
  • I created an e-book cover for Kindle using Canva. I didn’t like it much. The picture didn’t look right. I spent an hour searching for something more appropriate. Eventually, I bought a stock photo. I redesigned the cover. It still didn’t look right.
  • On Fiverr, I found some poor unsuspecting soul to design an e-book cover according to my specifications. Several revisions later, the new cover looked good, but it was not the right size for uploading to Amazon. It has to be at least 1000 pixels on the long side. I used Irfanview to resize the e-book cover.
  • vertical_3d_cover_version2Next, I wrote the book blurb for French Women’s Confidence Secrets. This only took forever. FOREVER. I am still not entirely satisfied with it. Click on the link to see what you think. 
  • I researched keywords for the book using Amazon’s search facility. As instructed by Joanna Penn. 
  • I added html to the book blurb so that it looks less like words blowing around in a gale on the page.
  • By then, I was starting to flag a bit, so I watched Frances Caballo’s interview with Joanna Penn for inspiration.
  • With fully recharged batteries, I uploaded the book, blurb, keywords, categories and cover to Amazon. 
  • I opened a Google Drive account and uploaded my e-book in all formats including, and especially, the latest version of the source file. My stress levels came down a couple of notches.
  • I tried to open an account with iBooks. Tried three times. Failed three times. Gave up. So there.
  • I opened a Nook account and uploaded bank details.
  • I opened a Kobo account and did not manage to upload bank details.
  • I contacted Kobo by e-mail to ask why they won’t accept my bank details. Several e-mails later my bank details were grudgingly accepted.
  • I uploaded the book to Nook. This is what it looks like at Barnes and Noble: French Women’s Confidence Secrets. QUITE different.
  • Next, I opened a CreateSpace account (now extinct.) 
  • I tried to format the book for CreateSpace. Honestly, I tried. Again and again and again. I started pulling my hair out. 
  • Three days later I gave up. I paid a Fiverr genius to format the ****** book in pdf form: 6″ x 9″ with index, page numbers and spaces in all the right places. 
  • I needed a different cover for CreateSpace, so I used their cover generator to make a CreateSpace book cover: front, back and spine.
  • I uploaded the thoroughly disciplined book to CreateSpace and ordered a printed proof copy as advised. I then found out that the printed proof will not arrive until 28 November (unless I pay a substantial amount for faster postage) and that they will not feature the book on their website until the printed proof has been posted. Despite the fact that I had already proofread and approved the digital copy online.
  • I pulled out a few more tufts of hair.
  • I politely wrote to CreateSpace to ask if it is at all possible that book can be made available any earlier. Holey Moley, they agreed to post it sooner.
  • I opened a Margaretha Montagu Goodreads account. I reviewed a few books I have read. I followed a few other authors. Starting with Joanna Penn. I need more followers, please!
  • I created an Amazon Margaretha Montagu author profile for Amazon.com and for Amazon.co.uk. Just to clarify. My Amazon account is in my maiden name: Margaretha de Klerk. My husband’s name is Montagu. I use Montagu as my nom de plume.
  • I opened an account at Kizoa. I paid the yearly subscription to enable me to download the French Women’s Confidence Secrets and Horse Riding Confidence Secrets trailers that I had just spent hours creating.
  • I floated my Margaretha Montagu’s Youtube Channel and uploaded the trailers to Youtube.
  • In between, I wrote a book review for a friend.
  • I bought a domain name and hosting for my must-have author website MargarethaMontagu.com, from Bluehost.
  • As instructed, I activated WordPress. Annoyingly, I had absolutely no idea how anything works at wordpress.org. My current blog is at wordpress.com where everything is done for me automatically.
  • I learnt wordpress.org. The process involved pulling out loads more hair. Loads.
  • For example, I created the graphics for the new website with Canva and Irfanview. I tried to upload the new graphics to my website. Impossible to figure out how to do this with the WordPress theme I chose for the site. I changed the theme and started over.  And repeat.
  • I added google analytics to the new website.
  • At this point, my laptop died. Saturday morning, while I was teaching, my husband took my laptop to the computer repair shop. He was told the laptop would be ready that evening. This being deepest, rural France and weekend, it certainly wasn’t. I only got it back on Tuesday.
  • I opened a Mailchimp account. I created a sign-up form for my mailing list. I added the subscribers’ form to my author website.
  • I created a free giveaway, 10 Simple Steps to Instant Self-Confidence, for subscribers to my e-zine.
  • I actually went outside (I was nearly blinded by the light) to take some more pictures of the house, the horses, the lake, the garden etc. to use in a new slideshow. 
  • I designed a Paypal button and a landing page so that I can sell my book directly on my author website. One day soon I’ll find time to add these to my website. 
  • I created the Quiz website pages (as mentioned in da book). Times four. I added the Confidence Quiz, Stress Quiz, Self-criticism Quiz and Self-care Quiz to the website. I uploaded the new slideshow to the quiz pages. I made pins for the Quiz pages so that I can pin these to Pinterest. I found out how to make pins invisible on blog posts.
  • I created memes for Facebook and Twitter to help promote the book.
  • I added an e-zine sign-up form for my SemperEquus blog. In the process, I found out that 7612 people are following my blog. Nearly fell off my chair. I had to take time out to celebrate. I combed what hair I had left, put on some lipstick and went out for lunch with the husband. 
  • I did a Google search to find out exactly what an indie author is. When I found out that the shoe fits, I joined a couple of Facebook groups for indie authors.
  • I also joined a couple of Goodreads groups for indie authors.
  • I had a fair amount of fun creating new Pinterest boards for the new book – the French Women’s Confidence Secrets board, the Self-Compassion board, the Self-confidence and Self-esteem board, the Support Systems board, the Stress Strategies board and the Self-care and Self-appreciation board.
  • I wrote two blog posts about writing. Couldn’t help myself.
  • I created a Youtube playlist for the book with some of my favourite French chansons. 
  • I changed the name of my FaceBook page. I made a spelling mistake. It was late and my eyes were tired. I wrote Margaretha Montagu”s Workshops…I had to wait 7 days before the mistake could be rectified. I pulled out the last few strands of hair I had left. I rectified my idiotic mistake and resuscitated Margaretha Montagu’s Workshops and Books. Ditto Twitter. I still need to do LinkedIn.
  • I made an appointment to have a wig fitted.
  • I added this post to the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop.

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

What’s next? I have a to-do list twice as long as this one.


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