Writing Quote: Dave Barry

"Don't you wish you had a job like mine? All you have to do is think up a certain number of words! Plus, you can repeat words! And they don't even have to be true!"


One Hour = Major Time

I've long been a big fan of the John Tesh Radio Show (which is weird, since I don't like John Tesh...) particularly the "Intelligence for Life" segments. They're full of, well, intellegent information for eveyday life. It's an aptly named segment.

Needless to say, I like information that I can use, and as a writer I hoard information the way a squirrel gathers nuts - I pack as much into my head as a can, and I have little stashes of information every where.

In my endless quest to fill my metaphorical cheeks with metaphorical nuts of informational goodness, I subscribed to the Intelligence for Life Newsletter, which has much of the same information, but in an easy to store pdf format. Today, I found a gem among the acorns.

The above was basically just a long winded way of saying "I found this cool bit of info via the John Tesh Intelligence for Life Newsletter."

Micheal Masterson, author of the book Seven Years to Seven Figures (among others), suggests that the single most effective habit you can adopt to stand out in the workplace is to arrive one hour early every day. An entire hour before anyone else arrives gives you time to work without distractions, it gets you moving at full speed when everyone else is just starting, and that hour gives you a significant head start compared to your colleagues.

Keep track of how you spend your time. Actually record it, and review it. One hour a day (minus weekends and a two-week vacation) totals up to 251 hours in a year. If you let your time go by unaccounted for, chances are high that you lose at least an hour a day. 251 hours comes out to be 31 (thirty-one!) eight-hour work days. What would you do with an extra month each year?


Power Tool: Mind Mapping

I've posted in the past about the joy of online mind mapping. The latest in this happy family is a site called bubbl.us.The beauty of those bubbliscious drag-and-drop boxes is fairly mesmerizing. I'm tempted to spend all day organizing thoughts, even those that didn't need organizing! Not only is this a handy tool for organizing information, I find it to be a fantastic brainstorming tool. In minutes I was able to generate a handful of excellent ideas, simply by sifting through what was already in my head.

Sadly, the site I posted on previously - Mayomi - is now gone. As I hold a personal moment of silence, I also say a tiny prayer that Bubbl.us finds more success. Because they actually have some kind of profit generating scheme in place (selling ad space in the side bar) it sounds much more feasible.
FYI: Thanks to Dumb Little Man for the heads up on this.


Avoiding Procrastination

Presenting the greatest idea ever. This may be the most perfect strategy for overcoming procrastination I've run across. It's a simple concept, based on the theory of positive reinforcement.

I picked this up here: http://www.badlanguage.net/?p=185


Writer Quote: Ray Bradbury

I know you've heard it a thousand times before. But it's true - hard work pays off.

If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don't love something, then don't do it.

- Ray Bradbury


::inkthinker:: Query Challenge

Kristen King, over at ::inkthinker:: (a WriterSpot favorite) has posted a challenge to readers, inviting them to write 10 query letters a month. Sounds good to me! I particularly like the tagline she came up with.

12 months + 120 queries =

Imminent publishing

Creative Flow

Blogging self-help guru Steve Pavlina has a post outlining how to maximize your creative output.

He makes some great points in his post, and I just wanted to comment on how they apply specifically to writers. Listed below are his 7 Rules, followed by my thoughts on each.

1. Define a clear purpose

As a writer, it's not always easy to say "I'm now going to write x number of pages on (insert topic here)." However, as professionals, that's exactly what we need to do. Sit down with a clear goal in mind, even if that goal is simply to fill a set amount of time or a certain number of pages in free writing. Every time you do something as a writer, it should have a purpose. Here's a few preset purposes that I'm trying to integrate into my day to day work.

  • Brainstorm x number of ideas
  • Pick one of these ideas and develop it
  • Write one full query letter/e-mail, then send it
  • Contact this person
  • Learn at least one thing about my topic
  • Find at least one article idea
  • Find five new markets to query
  • Finish a first draft, no matter how crappy it is
The list might go indefinitely. The point is that if any writer is to get the most out of their time, they need to direct their energies a bit. (I'll post more on this later.)
2. Identify a compelling motive

As a writer, there are at least two motives that should always motivate us a little. One is seeing our names in beautiful black ink. The other is getting paid, earning the dinero, bringing in some moolah. Even on a bad day, while working on an article that's about as inspiring as mud, these two things ought to at least get you going a little bit.

Then, there's the added motivators of editors and deadlines.

Even more than this, find stories you really want to write. Find topics that excite you, things that interest you. Carve out a comfortable niche in this area, and your motivational needs should be a lot easier to meet.

3. Architect a worthy challenge

Every piece of writing should challenge you to do your best work. I know it doesn't always, but it should. The better your work, the better your image and the more freedom you have to earn some actual money and write what you want to write.

4. Provide a conducive environment

This is one of those points that I agree wholeheartedly with, but almost wish hadn't been mentioned. Yes, you should find the best place to work that you can. However, that doesn't mean you obsess over every detail, constructing your own little Fortress of Solitude in which to work.

For a writer, the most conducive environment is the one that has your butt in front of the computer and your fingers on the keyboard. Typing. Anything else is a distraction, and therefore not conducive to your work, which is actually writing.

5. Allocate a committed block of time.

This is absolutely necessary, especially for anyone who intends to make any serious effort at writing for a living. It's a business, treat it as such. This means scheduling time and following that schedule.

6. Prevent interruptions and distractions.

Like I mentioned about the conducive environment, the most important issue is that you get writing. You probably don't need to build a private study onto your home. Get yourself a computer, get yourself a pair of head phones, and then just write. let those around you know that you're "at work", then get to work. Don't obsess about the things that might disturb your writing - just write.

7. Master your tools.

This is a must. You have a number of tools as a writer, and the better you know how to use them, the more effective you'll be. A writer today is better equipped to research and write than any writer in any other age. You've got the Internet and e-mail, you've got a word processor, you've got a phone. heck, those things are even made highly portable these days. You can literally do it all with just a laptop and a cell phone.

However, you need to know your tools.

Learn your word processor inside and out. Know the important functions and keyboard shortcuts. Figure out how to create columns and build tables and insert pictures. That's all basic stuff. Know the basics the same way you know how to tie your shoes.

Learn how to do serious research on the Internet. Google and Wikipedia are great, but they're like baby food. A professional wants something more substantial. Learn about databases, online newsletters, associations, etc. (I'm actually going to do a post or three about this very topic in the near future.)

Finally, always be improving your ability to write. Words are your stock in trade. Grammar is more than just your friend. Formats and styles are need to know information for you.

If you're a doctor, you know how the body works, and you know it better than anyone else. Writers should be equally knowledgeable about the language they write in.


Blog Envy - Ask Allison

I'd just like to point readers in the direction of Allison Winn Scotch, a freelance writer and avid blogger about the freelancing world. Her blog, Ask Allison, is a goldmine of straight to the point advice about professional freelancing. Her insights are a godsend to newbies like myself, and it's highly likely that a few of her posts will be mentioned and linked here.

The Portfolio Grows!

More coolness with the Scroll. In addition to being moved over to Campus (which is a wonderful place to be), I've already been given a killer opportunity. Last Thursday, I had the chance to sit down with our student body officers for a Q&A session, and it hit print today. It's a thing of beauty; once it's available online, I'll post a link.

Speaking of links, I forgot to post the previously printed article, this time about Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, who kicked up a fair amount of controversy by requesting to be sworn in on the Qu'ran. (Since then, he has done just that - using a copy of the Qu'ran once owned by Thomas Jefferson.)


BYU-I Scroll, moving around

The Scroll just started up again for the new semester, and today was the day for new staff assignments. I was hoping to work somewhere other than News, and I got my wish. This semester, I'm writing for the Campus section - sweet!

Not that I have anything against News. On the contrary, I loved writing for that section, because the staff was great. It also got me some experience with hard news, which will be valuable once I leave school. Unfortunately, it's tough to find topics for the News section of a campus paper in a small Idaho town. Because it's a school paper, every article is expected to relate to the student body, which cuts out a lot of big events, simply because they don't have much bearing on 18-25 year old students. Local news doesn't give you much, because it's a small town in Idaho - the police blotter usually consists of such exciting items as noise disturbances and the occassional lost child. Not much to work with there. To make things even more difficult, we have a two week lag between the completion of a story and the time it hits print, making most emergent news useless because it's out of date by the time the paper goes out. It's a tad frustrating, to say the least.

So now I'm with Campus, which is great. I'm working with one of the assistant editors from News, and two of the News writers came over as well. Even cooler than that is the fact that my section editor from last semester is now the Editor in Chief, which will make both me and my writing more visible with in the giant 100+ staff. This should also greatly improve my chances of landing a spot on the paid editorial staff next fall.

I am stoked!

Writing Quote: Robert Benchley

“A freelance writer
is a man who is paid
per piece
or per word
or perhaps.”