Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Policing the Internet

Someone was telling me the other day that the internet is bad. They were making reference to the fact that there are so many inappropriate sites tempting people to do bad things on it. It’s true. There is a lot of bad stuff out there. People make choices for good and bad every day. No one has to make a bad choice, and those of us who see bad things and don’t say anything also make bad choices – choices of omission.

The internet, like so many other things, is a tool that can be used for good and bad. One of its curses for those who use it is that there aren’t a lot of boundaries. Anyone can put up anything, interact with whoever they choose, and proceed to make bad choices through the internet.

Writers can spread volumes of hate, prejudice, and inappropriate messages. Thieves can take advantage of unsuspecting victims. Sex is more than a little available (often in unlawful ways) and hackers can ruin people’s programs and wreak havoc stealing identities. None of these things “temptations” have to affect what we do or see on the internet.

The internet can also be used as a tool for good. Christians can spread a message of love, hope, and salvation. Charities can raise funds for good causes, and family members can keep in touch through social networking sites. People can supplement or replace their income in legitimate ways here, and everyone has a wealth of information at their fingertips.

The internet is a tool, and it’s up to all of us to make sure it represents what we want it to, expelling the bad, brandishing the good, and overseeing the task at hand responsibly.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Flexible Working Hours

The more you write, the more you’ll get noticed. If you put a lot of energy into something, you’re bound to find out that people recognize you for your talents, and sometimes even ask you to share them. But writing everyday is not easy, and turning out lots of articles, blog entries, poetry, or other snippets can be difficult sometimes.

Working from home is also challenging, with all of those little distractions, and the knowledge that it would be so easy to rest on the couch or change a load of laundry instead of hammering away on your keyboard. It’s good to get up and stretch, even walk around the block when you’re a dedicated writer. And making your own schedule is more than a little worthwhile, especially when you need to schedule medical appointments or take kids to and from school and sporting events.

The important thing to remember is that while your work schedule is flexible, it is not non-existent. You do work from home, and that does not mean that you fit in your work when everyone won’t bother you. It really means that no one can bother you while you are working. There’s a bit of a difference between the two, and if you’re a writer working from home, you know exactly what I’m saying.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Researching vs. Learning

I’ve been doing a lot of research for new articles lately. I go to the library and gather my books, wishing I could actually read one or more of them from cover to cover. Time escapes me as I hurry to collect my notes and develop my article in record speed. Sometimes I even have to think back a day or two later and really try to remember what I wrote about.

It’s the way of the world these days. Everybody is in so much of a hurry that there is little if any time to enjoy the activities we’re so busy doing. We even take shortcuts to get things done faster. I actually checked out videos for some of my research so I could work on crafts for a future garage sale while I was learning.

Then something amazing happened in the midst of all my work. I got interested, not just in the immediate task, but in the actual subject matter. I found myself intrigued by what I was learning, and I wanted to slooowww down and take my time with it. I wanted to enjoy the process and journey of my work, not just finish the final product.

When all was said and done, I didn’t actually quit the race I was in. In fact, I finished my article rather quickly. But when I was done, I chose to read one of those books I checked out, and I’m already on chapter 6. Life is in the journey, and it feels good to be interested in the process of living without having to get anything done about it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Benefits of Technology

Have you ever noticed how many things are out there to help us promote ourselves lately? We have email and gmail, facebook and twitter, blogs and writing communities, and gadgets galore.

I was completely overwhelmed by it all, and while I created a facebook account, I simply couldn’t go there with twitter. Come to find out that I can have facebook messages and friend updates sent to my cell phone; I can even send my own personal updates to my facebook account the same way too. Now, wherever I am, I can wish a friend well, or share my thoughts because we know my cell phone is almost always within reach.

I held out and fought the technology revolution a bit at first. I still prefer being secluded on a hidden beach or forest trail, to rubbing elbows with hundreds of people in the city. Yet, I too would have a difficult time losing my connection with the world, a connection that gave me friends in foreign lands, and reinforced the meaning of my life.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Influenced by Words

Life takes a hold of you sometimes in ways you don’t expect. It can cause you to reexamine why you do what you do and question whether or not it makes a difference. Different things can cause you to withdraw from participation now and in the future. They can dampen your spirit, so to speak.

Perhaps that dampening is necessary to breathe. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to step back and take stock of who we are and what we are about from time to time, to question if we’ve made a difference, and acknowledge that failure is only a state of mind and circumstance.

I believe that when all is said and done, God won’t ask me how much money I made or how famous I became. I prefer to think He’ll talk to me about matters of the heart and soul, ignoring my human successes and failures, while considering my willingness to love in spite of all obstacles. These are much harder to come by, and as a writer, I will be held accountable for every stroke on my keyboard, and every word I didn’t say as well.

Words are frivolous things. They set tones, cause interpretations, and change outcomes depending on how and when they are used. They influence people, often changing the actions of entire groups of people, sometimes causing great damage to them too.

When words are spoken or written, we must do our part to hear them accurately, and perhaps even find out what words may have been left out that shouldn’t have been. As writers, we must be responsible enough to be true to our words and have the ability to back them up in full.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Making Your Work Credible by Consulting the Experts and Studying Your Topic

by M. J. Joachim
Updated 11/18/15

The end of summer managed to sneak up on me with a gentle breeze. Before I knew it, the full force of its magic was becoming a distant memory, as the approach of another school year was upon me. All was not lost in the spirit of a well needed break from the daily grind. Though I felt the need to be less active, I found myself just as engaged, but in many different ways. (August 12, 2009)

The above paragraph triggered so many memories from when my kids were in school. It’s a mom thing, and I had to leave it in, because it brings back a fondness from that time in my life, that remains in my heart and is difficult to describe.

Writing is like anything else. If you don’t know what you’re writing about, it shows. If your work isn’t founded in fact and trustworthy information, it will damage your reputation. As a publisher, you will be vetted by your audience and anyone who comes across your work. If you’re not sure about something, or you’re just winging it, the chances of you failing go up substantially.

It’s important to make acquaintance with people who are experts in their fields, so you can rely on their expertise to publish in yours, especially if your work is dependent upon their knowledge. Writers are the experts in word craft, but they don’t know everything. They research and study lots of different things, so they can create stories, articles and other publications, providing new insight into things, or being creative with fictional works, to enhance the detail, and maybe address a more serious subject, though that’s not a mandatory requirement for fictional pieces at all.

Regardless, it is vitally important to consult the experts and make one’s work credible. If a writer publishes a fictional book with Oregon as the backdrop, and refers to the dry heat and flat prairies all over the place, no one is going to take him seriously. It simply makes no sense, and anyone who reads that book is likely going to say so. This can and will damage a writer’s reputation, which is why publishers need to do their homework and study their subject matter well.

Talk to people who know the scope of everything you want to include in your work. Become very familiar with your topic, and express yourself with authority when you write about it. Use an abundance of resources when you’re working, even if it’s only on a fictional piece. You can never have enough information, but you sure can short circuit yourself by having too little, especially if the little bit you have is not as reliable as you think.

Avoid underestimating your readers. These people have lives, and you are lucky they are taking a little bit of time out of those lives, to spend a few minutes or more reading what you wrote. Lives are complex entities, complete with emotions, families, unique experiences, travels, education and everything that goes into living. These people are intelligent beings, and writers have an obligation to treat them as such.

Which is all the more reason to consult the experts, do diligent research, study and become so familiar with the subject matter and various side topics, that you could write about them blindfolded if necessary, and never underestimate your audience and potential to soar to the top of the charts with your work.

You have it in you. The only question that remains is, are you willing to release it on an unsuspecting public? I personally hope so, because this world needs all the amazing writers it can get!

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved  Photo credit:  CCO Public Domain

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Writer’s Challenge

Life is an adventure. It’s an opportunity to try new things and explore the world. We’re all on the same playing field, but we have different ways of expressing our uniqueness. You never know when something seemingly insignificant will turn into something else. What’s even more interesting is that we often affect people without even realizing it.

Be open to all of your possibilities. Don’t let fear prevent you from being who you were meant to be. More importantly, don’t let laziness give you an excuse not to discover who you really are. As a writer, you have an impact much greater than you realize. You also have a responsibility to the rest of the world.

How will you use your gift to make a difference and improve society? Will you expose activities that could have dire consequences? Will you be more passive, and share stories that teach morality? Do you use your voice only through the written word, or do you graciously accept the microphone, answering questions as they arise?

How and when it happens, no one knows. It does happen though, and if you are willing, it will be an adventure beyond comparison. Greatness isn’t born; it simply responds when the opportunity presents itself. Live life boldly, and laugh along the way.

Friday, July 31, 2009

How to Maintain Writing Quality

It’s been a crazy week. I have so many writing projects that I want to do, but only so many hours in a day to work on them. I’m not suffering from the dreaded writer’s block, but instead the inundation of too many ideas with an overabundance of material on them. What’s a writer to do?

It helps to work in small increments. Instead of trying to tackle everything at once, I’ve spent a few minutes jotting down notes so I won’t forget what I want to say. Then I look at anything facing deadlines and prioritize my work accordingly. I review my goals pertaining to content production, and modify them if possible.

By taking these steps, I can regain my focus and manage my time more effectively. When I focus better, the quality of my work shouldn’t suffer. It’s great to be able to produce a lot of work. However, I believe it is better to produce less work of highest quality, than more work that is only mediocre.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Let People Know When You Link Them

Here’s a little bit of advice you might not have thought about, but it’s worth considering. When you link to others in your articles, let them know about it. Send them a happy email so they can see what you wrote about them. This way more people and organizations will become familiar with your work. If they like it, you never know what could happen…links back to the article you wrote, writing assignments, perhaps a job offer…