Tag Archive | writer

History is about to change. Are you ready?

While waiting in a doctor’s office, I picked up a copy of the local newspaper. I’m always interested in people and their viewpoints, so I headed to the “Opinion” column. One person wrote in about a TV ad that obviously went against his candidate. Perhaps you’ve seen it also. This person opined the depiction of a young mom running to vent her frustration at her 2008 vote for Obama’s slogan of “Change.”

Rather than listen to the content of the message, the writer criticized the quality of this mom’s jogging stroller and the clothing of both her running attire and that of her little girl. Has this man never heard of grandparents or eBay? He also noted that he’d watched the ad several times to see if the woman was actually wearing a wedding ring. He carefully noted that he did not detect one meaning that he could not see it, but he did not offer a reason why. Were his eyes too dim? Did she not have one on? And if that was the case was it because she had just finished washing dishes and forgot, she needed to hock it for cash, the financial pressures of her husband being out of work caused a riff in their marriage resulting in divorce; etc.? Were her hands hidden? Was the picture too small to see it even if it were there? We don’t know and neither did he, but you can guess his implication.

Here’s my point. If you have nothing better to do than rip campaign ads to shreds, and you have an analytical or critical spirit, go for it. Right now you’ve got plenty to look at on both sides of the spectrum. But if you’re trying to persuade voters to choose your candidate, you have certainly lost my vote.

Let’s deal with the real issues facing us today and determine if we’re better off before or after the Obama administration.

  • How about our economy?
  • Are you doing better or worse, are you richer or poorer? (Sounds like wedding vows, but we’re not married to Obama.)
  • What do you think about the increase in the national debt?
  • Why are many medical professionals throwing in the towel because of Obamacare?
  • How do the candidates stand on issues that impact your personal values?

Do you know?

I heard about a young man who was not sure if he would vote in this election. This would be his first opportunity. He said he wanted to be an informed voter, and as of the Sunday prior to the election, he did not know where the candidates stood. Fair enough. As we saw from the above comments on TV ads, the sound bites may not be clear. If that’s your stand, then check out FRC Action’s (Family Research Council) voter’s guide. It’s downloadable so that you can share it or carry it with you on Election Day.

History is about to change, but we all need to do our part and vote. Are you ready?

Are all writers stackers?

For someone who loves summer as much as I do, Labor Day evokes some sadness. Yet along with the turning leaves and entourage of school buses, the coming of fall does seem to bring a semblance of structure and renewed purpose, and I can certainly use some of that. So on this day when we are supposed to honor hard work, I chose to perform some and begin the season with some organization in my office. My problem, however, is not getting organized, it’s staying that way. Does that problem resonate with any of you?

Because I enjoy writing for both fun and profit, I spend a lot of time at the computer. I find, however, that I frequently have stacks of papers, articles, and notes on either side of the keyboard representing various projects I’m working on. It seems if I put them into a file drawer, I forget that they’re there, and soon they all come tumbling through the proverbial cracks.

Interestingly, I have been talking with a few other writers who have the same problem. They want to work in a neat and orderly environment, but the stacks appear almost out of nowhere. (Maybe it’s not our fault.) Like me, they’ll block out time and expend the effort to start the reorganization, but it’s not long before the piles of files reappear. Is this a problem characteristic of writers or just those of us who have “messy” genes lurking in our ancestry? Is there a secret known to the rest of you who have pristine desktops? If so, please share and let the rest of us in on it so that next Labor Day, all of us can enjoy the day off.

Happy Labor Day all!

Picture credit: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_zSVIqFYOHCk/S58ZNvyTMsI/AAAAAAAABiU/LTfvWqv38io/s400/stack_of_paper.jpg

What’s a six-letter word for …

What’s a six-letter word for vacation?

Before you think of Europe, Disney, or some other fantastic place to relax and unwind (Whoa … there are 6 letters in unwind.), think again. These may be applicable, but they’re not the right one. I’ll give you a hint. It begins with “C” and few people easily embrace it. Give up? The word is change.

Think about it. Whether you travel to an exotic resort, go to visit family or relax in the comfort of your own home, each vacation you are expected to change. You change location, direction and pace – all because you’re not going to work. And although it may take a day or two to sink in, you feel better all over. Even your face begins to sport a smile because you’ve reinvented who you are. You’re a vacationer.

And if you’re a writer, artist, musician, entrepreneur, or person with an imaginative bent, you’re going to begin to see and feel life differently. While there’s no pressure around you, ideas will begin to spring up that you’ll be able to transform into your creative genre. Problems will begin to resolve and answers will begin to form. Life will be good.

So why resist change? The end results will usually be good if you wait long enough. It often takes time, just like your vacation. Think about some of the adventures you’ve had in the past. Some events did not turn out the way you planned, but you still had a good time and maybe, just maybe, you benefited in unexpected ways. The Lord always works things together for good.

If you’re vacation has passed, I hope you had a great time and experienced some of these change benefits. If you’re still in the planning stages or ready to head out, ENJOY. Look for the opportunities that will unfold before you as you change your lifestyle for the week. When you return, you’ll be ready to embrace a new kind of change.

Winning combinations for freelancers

What’s the best thing about taking vacation? You might say it’s getting away from work, but if you have a home-based or freelancing business, you might find it advantageous to combine some work with your pleasure.

Last week we headed to the Adirondacks for a family graduation. Not only did we enjoy celebrating the occasion with family and friends we had not seen in quite awhile, but by spending a few extra days, we were able to spend quality time with some of our Takes3 Marketing clients as well as advance my sewing business. Besides both of these add-ons, I also obtained some fantastic ideas for my new e-zine (coming soon).  You can find ideas anywhere.

A summer visit to Speculator, NY provides a plethora of material for writers, artists and photographers. Besides the ambient splendor of the lakes and the mountains, you could explore the trails and mountain peaks, local eateries or merchant shops. Taking time to investigate the town might result in some interesting historical fact or personage. Ever hear of French Louie? He’s buried there. You could compare living in a tourist town to other places you have been or search out jewelry or other crafts prepared by local artisans. Getting to know their stories could provide even more leads for future stories. This summer there are a couple of new businesses to attract you. Pretty & Chic, a boutique featuring jewelry, handmade items as well as other items, is one that will be opening this weekend.

If you have a home-based business, you’ll want to make this extra effort to help your work because you may be able to make it pay at tax time too. Check out Ron Mueller’s book Home Business Tax Savings Made Easy.  If you keep good records and follow the rules, you may be very pleased.

Vacations are wonderful times to get away, and sometimes that extra rest or change of pace will trigger some fantastic benefits for your writing or other business. Vacation and work can be a winning combination for freelancers.

Read The Hunger Games?

If you have read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, you are likely wondering why it took the rest of us so long to get a copy and sit down to read it. Sure there was a lot of hype about the story and comments about the movie version recently released, but it’s one of those books that you have to experience for yourself – even if it is not your typical genre of literature.

This past weekend, my English-teacher son lent me a copy to read. His wife and sons kept telling me what a fantastic book it was, so on all of their recommendations, I began reading the first page. I was hooked and could not wait for the 6 hour drive home to finish it. This is not the type of book I would normally choose because I generally don’t enjoy science fiction adventure stories, but Collins held my attention from the beginning, and I’m ready for Book 2. I just need to make sure that I can dedicate the time to read because you can’t put these down.

Story line aside, there’s more to it than the main plot that keeps you riveted to the page. As a writer I’d like to know her secret. Is it the first-person point of view? Does she show rather than tell what her characters are doing? Does she include a lot of action? Does she use colorful language to create vivid pictures? Collins does all of these things, yet she does it in such a way that you are compelled to read. You are engaged and readily identify with the main character even if you’re not (or never were or will be) a teenage girl.

Those of you who’ve read this YA novel, let me know why you think it was a success? Other writers would love to know how she did it. There’s no doubt Collins has hit a home run with this trilogy.

You can’t beat writers

Say what you will about writers, I think they’re among the best. So what if they work in their pajamas, wield their craft unshaven or keep irregular hours? They have some, in fact quite a few, redeeming qualities.

Writers think. Regardless if their passion is fiction or non-fiction, they combine their creative talent and language skill as a master builder. They construct a foundation of sentences and paragraphs until they communicate their idea or story, one that could potentially change the world. Like a renowned artist, writers apply colorful language to the blank page and educate, engage or entertain their readers beyond themselves. For good or for bad, writers make you think, even for a brief time.

Writers understand the process can be slow and tedious including a lot of waiting time that may lead to rejections, yet they do what they can to help their writing siblings to avoid their pitfalls. They often meet together both online and off to share their works in progress seeking both affirmation and feedback for ways to improve. In this forum, they also communicate lessons learned about the writing process or making a go of it as a business. Writers share resources and tricks of the trade to save others the hassle of going it alone.

Writers aren’t perfect, but most care about their craft and its impact on others. Those who’ve achieved a measure of success have also experienced rejection – likely a lot of it. Yet with the fortitude of their character and the encouragement of their writing partners, they forge ahead and get better.  You just can’t beat writers.

What’s the point?

Have you ever listened to a speaker, participated in a conversation or read a letter, email, article or book and come away with an overwhelming sense of wonder? Not because the message provided deeper insight or new perspectives, but because you had no idea what the person was talking about? It’s happened to me too. 

Excellent communication is critical because it can make or break relationships. Whether at personal, business or even national levels, communicating clearly (either verbally or in writing) requires a concentrated effort. If the speaker or writer fails to make a point, it becomes an exercise in futility.

If you’re the person with the message, it’s important for you to know your target audience – not just by name, title or demographic. Whether we realize it or not, we sometimes categorize people using statistics or broad-based generalities, yet each person is an individual with needs and wants the same as we have. As much as possible, we must understand who they are and how they think. What’s important to them, why do they need to know what we’re telling them, and how will all of this benefit them? If we have an idea of who they are, then we can speak their language to get our point across. 

Communication is a multi-party process. If you’re in the listening/receiving chair, (and I’m speaking to myself here), have the courage to ask for clarification if you don’t understand. If we don’t, we’ve wasted our time and may miss out on something really important.

Keep plowing or bury the book?

From a writer’s perspective, how do you decide if you should continue reading a book? 

If you’re like me, you’ve started books that no matter how hard you tried, the story or information couldn’t hold your attention. You’ve likely picked up some where you had to read the first 100 pages before reaching the point of no return, while others hook you in the first few sentences and compel you to keep on reading.    

As an aspiring writer, you may hope for the latter scenario, yet the truth of the matter is the first two situations will more likely become reality at least once before we succeed. (After all, John Grisham received 25 rejections before he was successful in finding someone to publish his first novel.) The point here is not to discuss rejection, but to discover what makes a book worthy of reading it to the end in order to reduce time spent in the learning curve and number of returned manuscripts. 

The criteria for continuing to read will be different for each person, but an analysis may prove to be an enlightening assignment. Good writers can learn from their own reactions to another author’s work. Unless it is self-published, you recognize at least one editor liked it. The publisher hopes others will also. What makes it read-worthy then becomes critical to prospective writers.

It might be helpful to keep a log of the books you’ve read and list what you liked or disliked about them. This way you can determine what worked well – genre, pace, characters, authenticity, clarity … – as well as what to avoid when you work on your next piece. Writing is like any other skill. You need to use the right tool for the job, and learning from other craftsmen can speed up the process. So before you bury the next volume, keep plowing long enough to see what insight you can gain.

Writers are readers

You’ve heard the old adage, “Leaders are readers,” well, so are writers. In fact, I would venture to say writers who are avid readers, are also likely to be leaders. 

One of the best ways to hone your writing skills is to read what other people write. Your goal is not to plagiarize their work or mimic their style. You want to be authentic and legal. You can learn a lot from applying journalism’s 5 W’s and an H – who, what, where, when, why and how – to whatever you read, both fiction and non-fiction. This sounds easy enough, and it is, unless you are engaged and forget your mission. Try using these questions for starters. 

Who wrote it?

  • Is this person renowned or unknown?
  • Is s/he credible, i.e., a subject matter expert in the field?
  • What biographical information do you know about the author that might help you to identify with their circumstances, situation or style? 

What type of piece is it?

  • Is it fiction or non-fiction?
  • Would you classify it as romance, science fiction, trade article, etc.?
  • Who is the target audience and is it being hit? 

Where does the author publish?

  • Does s/he use print or electric (e-book, online, etc.)
  • Does s/he self publish?
  • Does s/he publish through an agent and publishing house? 

When …?

  • What period (fiction) does the author write about? Is the work true to the era?
  • Is it current (non-fiction)? 

Why does the author write?

  • Does s/he tell a story, have a point to make or an agenda?
  • Is s/he trying to provide instructions?
  • How well does s/he accomplish the mission? 

How does the author achieve results?

  • How engaging is the work?
  • What techniques does s/he employ? Are they successful? 

Want to curl up with a good book? You can. It will make you a better writer.