Thursday, May 28, 2009

Defining Blogs

So what is blogging exactly? Is it fair to stereotype blogs as personal web journals? Is there a right or wrong way to blog? How often should you post, and what should you share with your readers?

A blog is, in its simplest form, a website. It is a place to share your words, pictures, ideas, and anything else you’d like. In a way, blogs are very personal. You can use them as public journals, keeping in mind that anyone will be able to find and read what you write.

When you begin to understand the power you have with blogs, it gives you reason to pause and consider what people might be interested in reading. Your best friend may be supportive when you tell her your whites turned pink, because your washing machine broke. Now be honest, do you think she wants to read an article from a complete stranger about the same thing?

Because blogs are so public, they can be used for noble purposes. You can use them to share your faith, or even as fundraisers to support your favorite charity. Perhaps you want to address controversial issues, in an effort to provide more information to the public.

Only you can decide what to write about in your blog. Some topics lend themselves to daily entries, while others deserve to stand alone for a few days, allowing more visitors to think about and pass on their message. Regardless of how often you post, please remember to be courteous with your message. You have the power to make people smile. It is best to use it to your advantage.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Respecting Your Sources

We all have our sources. You know, those people who share information that we get to write about, with us. They are real people, with personalities and lifestyles that must be respected. It is not our place to use them for our own purposes, even accidentally.

It is so thrilling to be acknowledged, and to feel that you are making a difference with your writing. When it happens, the temptation may be to shout from the mountain tops in excitement. However, that’s not always the best thing to do.

It is with this thought in mind that I suggest you honor those people who help you in your writing endeavors. Understand who they are, and respect their privacy. Get as excited as you want, but don’t exploit your friendship with them, no matter what.

These writing lessons are not easy to learn, and we often fail in our attempts to do so. Please, never give up, and be willing to edit on a moment’s notice, should you overstep your boundaries. People matter much more than words, and character is often built through personal experience and discovery.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How to Hear Inspirations

The gift of sound is amazing. It can evoke all sorts of feelings and inspirations. When we stop to listen to the sounds we have become accustomed to, it may surprise us. You see, we tend to tune out unnecessary noise, often missing the story it might tell.

Take a moment now, and close your eyes. Listen to the sounds you hear for 3 to 5 minutes. When you open your eyes, use every adjective you can think of to describe those sounds. Then add nouns to help others identify them. Finally add verbs to represent their actions.

Take this exercise and turn it into a poem or story. If you heard multiple noises, you might end up with more than one piece of literature. Let the sounds be your guide. Let them take your spirit where they will. There is vision beyond the noise, and it is your job to bring awareness to all who might not have the chance to hear it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Beyond Country Borders

Happy Memorial Day! Ah, the sights, sounds, and energy of a holiday! So what are your plans? Is there anything exciting going on in town? Are you doing anything special, like having a favorite dessert decked out in red, white, and blue?

Now think back, even if this isn’t a holiday in your part of the world. What do remembrances of soldiers fighting for you mean, and how do you acknowledge them? Who are your allies on the battlefield? Or does the thought that your country takes up arms against others tear at your heart, and seem too tragic?

In the age of technology, when people around the globe share their work with anyone willing to read it, we need to broaden our scope. We need to unify our purposes, even on country specific holidays, like Memorial Day. 

As an internet writer, you write for a universal audience. You have no way of knowing who you might be reaching with your words, or the impact you will have. It is time to lose any hint of prejudice, friend, writing to everyone as a unique person, chosen to read your words for a special purpose.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Why Rough Drafts Matter

Just write it already! Don’t worry, I’m not yelling at you. It’s just that I was fumbling over what to write for you just now. My ideas were there, but I hesitated when I began to type.

So then I checked my email, …long pause, surfed the internet, …another pause, though this one was a bit shorter, and finally I thought to myself, “Just write it already!”

It happens. We get the ideas, but we don’t know how to express them clearly. I suppose it’s better than writing the words, without any passion or ideas to support them.

My next tip for you is to write down your ideas, even if they don’t make sense. Get them out, and rearrange your words later. Rough drafts are imperfect by design, and they are the foundation of what’s to come.

Don’t underestimate the value of a good rough draft. It will have scattered thoughts, notes in the margins, scratches and scribbles that you can hardly read, and maybe even a few coffee stains.

More importantly though, your rough draft will have the original intention and tone of what should become your final article. It will have the substance before it goes through the editorial process, where it may lose some of its luster, while hopefully keeping your message.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Enhancing Your Writing through Word Choice

I love words! They speak to me, inspire me, comfort me, and express everything I could ever want to share with anyone! That doesn’t mean I always know how to use them correctly though.

One of my favorite resources for words is a dictionary. I’m not referring to the online searches you find by putting define:word into your browser, and then searching. I’m talking about the actual book that you keep on your desk, ready to be perused. That’s a good word isn’t it, peruse, the verb meaning to read through carefully?

My next tip for you is to use your dictionary. Keep it readily available to look up words, discover new words, and clarify your message. Use your dictionary randomly when you aren’t composing an article too. This will help build your vocabulary, giving you several word choices when you work on your writing.

Dictionaries are perfect references, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure you keep an updated one on hand. It doesn’t have to be expensive. I’ve seen them available for under $2.00 at discount book stores. With the proper word choice, your manuscripts will flow and express your message easily. Treat yourself to a real dictionary, and have fun with all the words at your fingertips.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How to Earn Trust from Your Fans

Developing heart & soul in your writing is important. It invites your audience to become emotionally attached to what you have to say. If they can somehow connect with your message, a relationship between you and your fans will follow.

That being said, you need to be trustworthy for your audience. Building a foundation of trust in your writing requires consistency and accuracy. Your readers need to know when they can expect to see new work, especially on the internet.

If your readers can’t depend on you, they will look somewhere else to find similar information. This also applies to accuracy. You need to make sure your facts are tried and true. Your readers are depending on you to get the information they need. You don’t know why they need the information, and it could be a real disaster for them if you get it wrong, and they pass it along to someone else, or quote you in their research paper.

My next tip for you is to build a relationship with your audience based on trust. Be consistent, so they know you are dependable. Make sure your facts are accurate, representing valuable information that can be passed on to others. This will help you increase your fan base, and create long lasting relationships that flourish over time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Crediting Your Source of Inspiration

It’s time to figure out where all of your inspiration comes from my friend. That’s right! Let’s face it. You could never do it alone. None of us can. We were created to be social beings, thus the need to express yourself and share your writing with those who will listen to your message.

Personally, I track all my inspiration back to my one and only Superpower. It comes to me from different sources, but I know in my heart that all of them lead back to Him.

This next tip is important. Without it, you are just another writer babbling in the universe. It relates to every tip I share with you in some way, shape, or form. You see, your inspiration might well come from watching the ocean waves crash on the shore, or it could be a whisper that you didn’t know you heard.

Trace it back, my friend. Find the source, and then discover the source of the source. Keep going until you reach the very foundation of every idea that managed to make its way to your heart, and flow out of the essence of your very being in words to help and heal others.

Now, give thanks! Don’t ever forget to give thanks! This talent of yours is a great gift, and it deserves to be appreciated! Recognizing that you are not the true source of this talent, and giving credit where credit is due, will enhance your ability to continue on this journey, as a faithful writer making a difference in the world.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tapping Into Your Inspiration

Inspiration comes from the depths of your souls, in and out of your body like a lightning bolt, generating from the ground, up through your toes, sending electrical currents throughout your body, and finally making an exit through your fingers on the keyboard.

Inspiration is all around us. It is in our family, friends, and acquaintances. It is in the fluttering of bird wings, the message of the wind, and the aroma of fresh brewed coffee on a cool winter morning. You can feel it when your fingers form the words, and hear it in strokes you gently type.

My next tip for you, dear friend, is to tune into your surroundings. Become sensitive to that which once seemed only trivial. Take a moment to bird watch in your own back yard. Watch, listen, and learn from your surroundings, never ignoring the details.

As you become more intensely aware of everything that harmonizes your world, you will soon be overcome by the stories you must tell. For there is a world filled with life, energy, and greetings pleading with you to reveal the secrets you’ve discovered. Live my dear friend, live to love, and always be open to new learning possibilities.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Understand Your Motives

Ah, motive! It can be a dirty little secret, or it can be as plain as the sun in the sky. Yet even that is unpredictable! Then of course, there are reasons for doing something, most of the time reaching far beyond what is seen on the surface.

Why do writers compose their words, and where do they get their inspiration? I suppose it comes from a lot of different places. I sense they see a need sometimes, and simply wish to fulfill it. Other times, they have a story that must be told, and the only way they know how is through the written word.

Writers enjoy learning, but more than that, they love sharing what they’ve learned. Some do it for the money, but that is such a hit and miss game, it seems difficult to believe it could be the reason they started. Then there are those who have a bone to pick. They write to wreak havoc in the lives of others. It is fair to say that many motives can be involved when making any decision.

My next tip is to determine your motives, and preferably keep them pure. Sure, you might get paid more up front for giving the down and dirty scoop, but in the long run, your reputation will precede you! When you write and speak, “No idle word should be uttered. I understand a word to be idle when it serves no good purpose, either for myself or for another, and was not intended to do so,” Ignatius Loyola.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How to Engage Your Audience

There are so many things I want to tell you today! It’s funny because yesterday, I was drawing a blank, and hoping I could come up with something valuable to say. Now my mind is racing, and I have to slooowww down in order to make a message that is clear and engaging.

That is the key, isn’t it? You have to engage your reader, while simultaneously delivering your message. Writing is after all, communication at its best. It is about two or more people, reading or hearing a message they can use to enhance their lives, provoked by the master of words, you, the author.

My next tip is to write to someone. Create a persona, complete with needs, wants, schedules, family, and even a personality. Get to know this person, writing directly to him or her, when you are composing your work.

Some people even go so far as to create a paper doll of their persona. I believe the fancy term for it is avatar. I’ve never tried that, as I choose to write to my dear friends, respecting them as individuals, and appreciating their friendship.

As I write, I take time to pause and consider how readers will respond to my words. Will they nod their heads in agreement, enjoying the message I reveal? Will they sit up a little straighter, waiting to find out what I’m going to say next? Perhaps my article will anger them, preferably toward the topic at hand and not me.

As long as your audience is engaged from the passion you share through words, you have succeeded in expressing your message effectively, laying a foundation for communication to continue in the future.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Avoiding Writer Burnout

by M. J. Joachim
Updated 11/6/15

According to the Association for Psychological Science, as of March 2014, “Burnout syndrome” — that is, the fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress — may play a significant role in this trend.” That is, more than 10 million people being unemployed in the United States, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Burnout, a type of psychological stress, is defined as a lack of energy or enthusiasm for one’s work or occupation. It is the essence of sluggishness, brought on by working too hard, thinking too much or expending oneself too frequently. Writer burnout causes one to lose focus, thereby influencing writer’s block and the inability to produce more words for publication. In its simplest terms, writer burnout is boredom, clearly indicated when a writer is too bored to sit as the computer and keep writing; because of this, the same writer suffers from a lack of words, not because there are no words to write, but because the words available are boring and lack the enthusiasm necessary to put them on the page.

Losing your mojo, being easily distracted and allowing yourself to do anything except write, sitting at your computer and being unable to write, these are all signs of writer burnout, and they have the ability to negatively affect writers in a variety of ways, not the least of which is to prevent them from producing words their fans are waiting so eagerly to read.

Avoiding writer burnout can be as easy as reenergizing your spirit, which can be done by doing anything that makes you feel alive again. First you need to be okay with the fact that you aren’t in a writing frame of mind, and once you accept the inevitable, you’ll restore your writing spirit, which will ultimately restore your writing muse.

Easier said than done, right? Yes! You already know the answer. When you can’t write for any reason whatsoever, not the least of which is writer’s burnout or writer’s block, you need to take a break. You need to see new things, enjoy new experiences and reconnect with society, be it family, friends or strangers. The alternative is driving yourself crazy, sitting at your computer and kicking yourself for not being able to write. Personally, none of these things sound very healthy or intelligent, because all they do is prolong the inevitable, because once you’re finished riding yourself like a horse, you’ll need to take a break anyway, and once you do that, your burnout will disappear and you’ll be ready to sit at your computer and write again, chances are with words flowing faster than you can type them.

M. J. Joachim
©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: CCO Public Domain

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Benefits of Selective Reading

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

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day! I spent the day with my family, and it was so peaceful and relaxing. They gave me a few new books to read, some at my request, others because I liked the author. Since we are writers, reading is important to us. We hope people will enjoy our writing, and we have a great time reading good literary works ourselves. (May 11, 2009)

While many writers will tell you to read everything you can get your hands on, and I absolutely agree, I want to suggest reading works that will feed your creative spirit, be a source of education for you and inspire you to become better in everything you do. As a reviewer, I read as much as I can, which means I don't always have the luxury of being selective, because indie authors are important to me, and I want to help them anyway I can. Still, I make a point to be selective in my reading as much as possible. I also make a point to stay informed, learning all I can about my own writing craft, so that I can continue to improve, learn new tricks of the trade, become more knowledgeable about publishing, marketing and promoting myself, and making every attempt to be smart and efficient in my efforts.

Reading shouldn't clutter your mind. It should open it, and make you feel better off for having experienced the book. If the book isn't an experience, it probably wasn't worth reading, unless of course it's a resource or research book you need. Then you should expect it to be a little less of an experience, yet still packed with important information, so you feel better about having studied it. Either way, by being a selective reader, you are choosing high quality books to read, thereby supporting qualified authors publishing quality works.

Regardless of what you choose to read or why, your vote to purchase a book and read it speaks volumes. Then, if you take the time to rate or review it, you say even more. The market is inundated with published works of all sorts and kinds. There are mass publishing sites, books and ebooks, bloggers and app producers. Writing is everywhere, which is all the more reason to be selective about what you read, because your selection could be the difference between quality vs. quantity, in a world completely flooded with publications of every kind.

Here’s to letting the cream of the crop rise to the top, by being selective in everything we choose to read.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved   Photo credit:  CCO Public Domain

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Writer's Responsibility and Power

Writing, while often therapeutic, should not be considered yours alone. If you intend to share your work with others, you have a duty to remember your audience. Not only that, but you have to expect your writing to reach beyond the intended audience.

Taking responsibility with the written word is not easy. It requires discipline and restraint. All those pent up emotions, especially the negative ones have to be dealt with diplomatically. Venting is not allowed, while making your point is highly encouraged.

My next tip for helping you improve your writing is to practice good citizenship. Use your articles to promote strong morals and values, not degrade society and challenge the rights of others. Build up the writing community with your work, taking special responsibility for every word you express, even in private communications with others.

As a writer, you have a certain power to impact the world around you. Denying your power is sad. Ignoring it is reckless. But abusing it, to the detriment of others is absolutely tragic!

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Importance of Keeping Your Writing Genuine

People claim to be all sorts of things. They inflate their egos with fancy titles and letter additions to their names. Many of them worked hard to get to where they are, and they deserve the credit for it. The thing is, when it comes right down to it, titles and honors don’t earn respect in their own right.

You can put your name on everything to build up your ego, but at the end of the day, when you look in the mirror before bed, you are still just you. Whatever you are able to attach to the image you display for the world, is an attachment and nothing more. Your goal should be to act with integrity and respect toward the world around you, because of those attachments, and in spite of them.

My second tip that will help you with your writing is to be genuine. Know who you are, regardless of how others perceive you, and let your true self shine through in your writing. Oh, sure, your articles on Helium might not always be rated #1 this way. In fact, you might just strike a nerve in a few of your readers. But that could be to your advantage.

You see, negative opinions are still opinions. As long as you have been true to yourself, you have a right to expect that not everyone is going to agree with you. So be genuine, building your reputation as a writer on who you really are, instead of trying to express who you think you ought to be.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Humble Beginnings

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

Below in italics is the very first, original and completely unchanged post, I ever published on this blog, which was the very first blog I ever started on May 7, 2009. Thank you Blogger! I’m now hooked, and oh, how things have changed for the better over the years. I have to be honest, I had no idea what I was doing in the world of Blog Land.

I’d come from a place where I earned up to $1,000+ p/month sometimes for all the articles I produced, and it was a nice little chunk of change. The more they paid, the more they tweaked the rules, eventually selling to a much bigger publisher; I think Helium managed to get sued, if I remember right. All I know is that at some point, I was given access to all my articles, because in the court proceedings it was determined that writers could retain their copyright, and Helium couldn’t exploit their work and their efforts there. I walked away well before it got to that, opting to gather clients the old fashioned way, and submitting my work to various other publications. It was still a paycheck, and I had much more control over how I earned it and what I got paid.

Life changed too. My kids grew up. Family did its thing. My Mom passed. My granddaughter was born, and my grandson is due early next year. I write, blog and publish more as a hobby now, opting to babysit much more, so I can spend time with my beautiful grandchildren, making sure they get the best possible care, while minimizing expenses for my daughters. It’s a win/win, because family means so much to me, and we really do have one of the most amazing families I’ve ever known out here in the desert southwest. And now, I present to you my humblest of blogging beginnings...

Helium was a great site to write for, but you have to be prepared. Your ego will get deflated, and you will have emotions about it. I remember when I first started writing for Helium, before it had become a household name. My intention was to use it as a way to express myself, and release my inner drama.

It didn’t take long to realize that there was more to Helium than I expected. I jumped in full force, making myself prominent on the forums. I made friends with other writers and staff alike. I even produced a few zones. My writing began to develop and take on a life of its own.

This was unfamiliar territory, despite the fact that I had earned my college degree. You see, even though I always wanted to be a writer, I wasn’t prepared for the world of freelance writing. My work in college had always done well, and many of my teachers praised my ability to express the written word. Still, writing for Helium was challenging.

My first tip for you is to meet the challenge of freelance writing head on. Accept the blow to your ego with humility, and persevere. If you truly consider yourself a writer, get used to set backs and rejection. Don’t be fooled by all those people with 5 writing stars on the site. They had to travel the same path, and overcome the same obstacles. Believe in yourself! You are a writer, and the greatest writer’s in this world all had a hint of humility in their work!

M. J.

Anyway, I needed to updated this post, and taking a short trip down Memory Lane seemed the best and easiest way to do it. I hope your blogging journey has been as pleasant and wonderful as mine, because if it’s not enjoyable, I can’t help but wonder why anyone would do it. Thanks so much for stopping by. I wish you every good thing today and always.

M. J.

©2009, 2015  Photo credit:  M. J. Joachim, Washington/Oregon, ©2015 All Rights Reserved