GDPR: What It Means For You As An Author

gdpr and authors

Quick disclaimer: the information below is only to be used as suggestion, not actual legal advice. I am not an attorney or qualified to give you legal advice.

Today is May 25th, the day GDPR goes into effect. You’ve probably heard it mentioned over the last few months, mostly in headlines or in reference to internet privacy. If you’re like me, you skimmed over it thinking, “I’ll read more about that later.”

Well, we’re at later, and if you have a website or blog, you might want to get into gear. It doesn’t matter whether you have 100,000 or just twenty monthly viewers, because it could affect you. With the high fines possible if you’re noncompliant, you don’t want to ignore this.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is (in really generic terms) a new law in the EU (European Union) that focuses on the privacy and collection of data, specifically personal data. This means you probably should update your privacy policy, whether on your author website or elsewhere. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the EU or not because it could affect you.

For instance, I’m an American writer but have collected email addresses from European readers. I’m a little sketchy on the nitty-gritty of it all but I suspect that pulls me under part of GDPR too.

Doesn’t matter whether you fall under it or not, because it’s best to be safe, right?

So, what are a few things you can do?

I’m not giving you legal advice, so please take my suggestions as just that: suggestions. Every situation is different, but I realized while working on my own policies that a lot of writers out there, especially indies, might be caught by surprise by GDPR. I understand because I’m still slightly confused, but like many things, I’m researching and learning as I go.

  1. The Collection of Information

That email list you have? You might have a few problems.

I’ve always received email addresses for my newsletter via my website. I use a pop-up and opt-in form. The information then goes into TinyLetter, Mailchimp, or the preferred email automation service. I did it this way because it seemed most ethical, and it turns out that’s how it should be for GDPR. This is a snapshot of my opt-in form on my homepage. Notice it says there that we don’t share info? That’s important.

opt in form

Recently, I’ve heard more and more stories of authors gathering email addresses by swapping lists with other writers (Eek!). Just don’t do that. If you have, remove all of those email addresses from your list immediately or you are in a serious breach of privacy.

Another thing that happens is gathering info at book signings and other events. That’s not bad at all! The problem is you need a clear record of when the person requested to be put on the list to be GDPR compliant. If you use a form that connects to your email service (like my form on my website links to TinyLetter), you’ll have a clear list of dates/times and etc. when someone signed up. You probably won’t have that if you manually entered their info.

Also, if you keep all those email addresses in unlocked files on your laptop, such as in Word or a spreadsheet, you need to change that. All of those files are too easy to get to if, say, your laptop was stolen.

Last but not least you need to make it easy for your subscribers to unsubscribe. Make sure they have the option to leave the email list at any time. The easiest way is to have an unsubscribe button at the bottom of your email (typically near your address, but that’s debatable). I also have a contact form on my website that they can use to leave as well, so having more than one method is a good idea.

2. Your Privacy Policy

This will differ, but here are a few things to include:

*Who sees and collects the information?

*What is this information used for?

*How is the information protected?

*Is the information shared, and if so, how? (Hopefully, the answer is no, you’re not sharing it.)

*Where is this information kept? (Such as what email service you put it into. This is kind of up to you whether you want to be this transparent or not with your readers. From what I’ve researched, some say to share and others say it doesn’t matter.)

*Can they unsubscribe at any time and how?

*Does your site use cookies? If so, why? How can they get rid of it if they want to? (This is pretty simple. Usually, you can get by with saying something like, “Cookies allows us to collect marketing information. If you wish to use our site without it, change your browser settings.”)

That’s not a perfect list, but that gives you a start.  This is what my new policy reads on my author website (and I’m still working on it):

All information gathered through this website, whether through the newsletter sign up, contactform or giveaways is never shared. It is solely for the purpose of sending you emails or contacting you via preferred method, such as phone or text if given, and we will not contact you unless you give permission for us to do so (such as signing up for the newsletter). 
Email addresses and names are collected and placed in a software such as TinyLetter, Mailchimp, orother email services. THIS DOES NOT give those companies the right to share, or in anyway use, the information you give us.
We never share,swap or otherwise give out your information.
This site uses cookies, but only for marketing insights and other similar purposes. You can turn off cookies via your browser settings or opt out on the bottom of our homepage.
At any time you are free to opt out of emails or other contact methods. Simply go to the bottom of one of our emails and click unsubscribe, or contact us via our form below with the comment “opt out.”

Again, this isn’t perfect and I’m sure it has a few problems. I figure it’s a good starting point if nothing else. You can use my policy for ideas, but please do not copy and paste it on your site, and again, do not take this post as legal advice. Thanks!

As always, hope this helps.

Alexa M.

Self-Care Ideas For Creatives

Self-Care Ideas For Creatives (1)

(This is from early 2017 but published again after it was lost while updating the blog. So much for making sure everything was prepared before updating 😉 )

Ever really stopped to consider how much time you spend on the computer a day? There’s a lot of reasons you might be on it, from goofing off on the web to blogging to writing.

Recently I stepped up the amount I write each month, climbing from 10,000 words a month to 25,000. Over the past year I have written roughly 135,000 words. To put that in perspective it’s like I wrote an entire Harry Potter length book.

The more I write, the more my wrists give me a fit. They pop and hurt and one particular nerve from my thumb down to the bottom of my wrist hurts like mad when I finish a particularly long writing stint.

As well, I often get depressed when I think about I’ve made little money with writing so far and people tell me I need a “real” job (yeah, you know what kind of people I’m talking about.) Then, my anxiety flares up when I think about how much I need to do, and how I’m a failure for leaving college after my freshman year and…and…

Frankly, I’m a mess.

But this past year has taught me something important I want to share with you: we all are messed up in some way. This brings me to today’s topic: self-care.

If you’re a writer, reader, or really any sort of creative (or a person  ), you need to take care of your physical and emotional state. Below, I offer a few ideas on how to keep yourself sane (mostly) and healthy while doing what you love.

  1. Keep a routine

I freely admit I suck at this. Keeping a set bedtime, lunchtime, or really any set time for anything that’s part of your daily routine helps lower stress.  I love going to bed at 3 am, but even at 19, I feel the serious consequences.  Try to go to bed between, say, 10-11 each night and get up at 8.  I also try to keep a consistent writing time.

  1. Reward yourself

Remember as a kid that teacher in elementary school who rewarded you with stickers every time you reached a goal or finished your homework? Time to become that teacher! Set little goals and reward yourself when you reach them. Every time I reach my writing goal, I buy myself ice cream. Sometimes it’s a 10,000 word goal, but sometimes it’s just a motivation to plop my butt in a chair and type up 2,000 words. Working towards big goals are great, but if it takes you five years of writing to finish a first draft of your novel, you’re going to get worn out if you hold out for the big goal. Use a combination of big and little goals. Find what motivates you!

  1. Buy a Wrist Brace

As I said earlier, I’ve recently dealt with pain in both my wrists, especially the right one. If you type a lot, I suggest you invest in a good brace. Carpal Tunnel is rampant among creatives, and after hearing horror stories of surgeries and meds and sometimes numbness in the arm, I promise you don’t want to go down that path. I recently bought the Futuro For Her Slim Silhouette Wrist Support from Target. At $22, it’s affordable, fairly flexible, and perfect to wear while writing, cleaning, or even cooking. I wear mine an hour or two a day and it has drastically decreased the pain.

  1. Eat Healthy 

I know. I inwardly cringe at the idea of giving up junk food too. I am writing this post while eating a banana split, so you know…

However, a healthy diet, a few walks, and maintaining your weight helps you physically and emotionally.

(Need a diet to follow? I highly recommend trying this book.  It’s about staying healthy, not just dropping off the pounds, and you don’t stay hungry on this diet.)

  1. Take a Bath and Soak 

A hot bath in some Epsom salts helps the body relax and unwind. Epsom salts and essential oils are great for the skin and sore muscles, so run to Walmart and pick up a bag in the cosmetics section!

  1. Find another creative outlet for when you’re upset

Sometimes, even writing doesn’t help my anxiety and depression, and that’s when I pull out the coloring book and pencils or a book on my TBR list. If you hate coloring, try knitting or woodworking, or considering taking a class to learn a new hobby. Also, if you want to excercise more, try yoga.

  1. Consider Counseling

Even if you’re not depressed or anxious doesn’t mean you don’t have things you need to talk about. Many creatives use their art as a way to work through issues, and while that’s completely healthy, a little counseling goes a long way for a good self-care routine.

  1. Make yourself laugh at least once a day

I don’t mean a little chuckle. I mean a pee your pants kind of laughing fit.

I’ve never been a sunshine kind of person (kind of obvious with depression and anxiety), but I love to laugh. When I’m having a panic attack or just a really bad day, I get on Pinterest and search “humor” or “autocorrect fails” or “puppies.” It always lifts my mood in a matter of minutes. Youtube is another great option.

An Extra Tip:

Get a good chiropractor! I’ve been going to one for several years, and it’s the reason I don’t have more back and wrist problems. It’s also helped my pollen allergies and migraines. Highly recommend!

I’ve also heard massages are great for severe back pain, though they aren’t my thing.

As always, hope these suggestions help!

What Anxiety Taught Me About Myself

 

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Thank God 2016 is over.

As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t published a post in 8 months.  I was supposed to publish a book, City of Deception, in July, but it never came out.  I planned to go to university and study history, my second favorite subject only surpassed by writing.  I planned to get my own apartment within the next eighteen months.

But life is a tricky thing, and the last year and a half have been some of the most difficult and stressful months for my family and me.  If something could go wrong, it did or tried to.

I learned how crippling anxiety can be, and spent most of the summer holed up at home recovering from a year that kept getting worse.  It taught me I’m not as strong and invincible as I think.

So, here’s what happened:

I’m nineteen and finished my freshman year at University.  Last fall, about the time I started this blog, I packed up my belongings and moved ten minutes from home into the dorm with one of my best friends as my roommate.  For the first few months, I adjusted to college life, learning that eating pancakes at midnight is normal and studying your butt off ten minutes before your final exam is protocol.  Despite a few mishaps and arguments on my hall, I succeded at being on the Deans list.

But then about January, something happened.

I started getting more than a few butterflies in my stomach when I had to go to social functions (I’m an introvert at heart, but this was extreme).  I struggled to maintain eye contact with people during conversations and trivial things like phone calls to meeting people in the cafeteria for dinner sent me off to my room trembling.

By March, I pretty much spent most of my time in my room with Netflix, chocolate, and impending due dates.  I couldn’t write, something that calmed me down, because my characters reflected my anxiety making me more worried.  It sucked.

Then in April, the panic attacks came.  I’d go to class, do my assignments (because I’m a perfectionist and hate when things try to stop me or slow me down) and spend a lot of time sitting on my bed reading crappy vampire novels just to escape the moment.  Just having to pass people in the hall would all but send me into panic mode.  The anxiety never stopped.

I chose to take a gap year after meeting with a professor one day and all but crying in his office because I physically couldn’t make myself do a presentation for their class.  I would have vomited had I tried to do the presentation.

The point of this post is if you feel I’ve been ignoring you all, I haven’t.  I’ve been struggling, but now am back.  Thank you to everyone supporting me (which, frankly, is few people because most don’t know.)  To those suffering from anxiety: I know what it feels like, and I swear you’ll get through it.  There will be a lot of tears and arguments and ice cream runs, but you will persevere.  I had to choose to change my life by taking a year off against the wishes and advice of almost everyone who knows me.  Do whatever YOU need to deal with anxiety.  Don’t make the mistake of letting others dictate life for you.  Only you really know what you need.

The best way to explain what this is like is how one feels after a long sickness.  Your muscles are sore and you can’t just jump back into your usual routine.  You have to slowly go back to your normal schedules and activities slowly, and that’s what I’m attempting to do.  (I realize that is a lacking example.)

I have people doubting me, especially for taking some time from college.  I might not ever go back.  I don’t know.  Every time I get on Facebook and see how much all my friends have done in one year while I’ve been struggling just to live normally frustrates and depresses me.  Sometimes I cry for no reason.

The last months have taught me the true meaning of one of my favorite Robert Burns quotes:

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Robert Burns

I thought I could plan everything and be strong, but it turns out I can’t get everything right all the time and I am far, far from perfect.  I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.  I don’t know what God has in store or why I have to go through this.

Don’t ask me what I’m going to do because I don’t know.  Every bone in my body screams in terror over the decisions I’m making.  Most days I feel immobile, but I’m doing my best.

All I know is I’m going to get back on my feet and live my life.  I still have anxiety, but I’m learning how to deal with it.  I hope others with anxiety also learn to embrace it and live a meaningful life.