Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Writing What Needs To Be Said

I recently installed Scrabble on my hard drive. For those of you who don’t know, this is a crossword type game where you take scrambled letters in your hand, and make words that connect to other words on the board. As a writer, I tend to enjoy word games, and this one is among my favorites. I have childhood memories of sitting around a table where 4 of us would gather to play on Sunday afternoons. Technology hadn’t quite invaded the use of free time like it has today, so social skills were practiced as well.

The dynamics of computer Scrabble are different. I gravitate toward a timed game where I get 25 seconds to make a word using the letters in my hand. The computer and I go back and forth until all the letters are used. It gets pretty intense, as I hurry to put down 3 letter words when the time is almost out. I lost a few of these games before I got used to time limits, but now I’m able to win quite easily, and continue to increase the level of difficulty for playing.

Our writing should be like this as well. We should challenge ourselves, and test our limits. We should maximize our potential to think of new words with ease, and push the boundaries of comfort zones, not only among ourselves, but with our audience. The media will invade our minds with what it wants to have us think about. As writers, we need to create a balance, and reflect what others only desire to say out loud. We need to be the voice of those who have no voice; they are people who often need healing and crave real communication in an isolated world.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Revealing the Writer Within

It was only a theory, or maybe it was a word. That’s all it took to unleash the spirit of the author within. Wild, cast out into the darkness of oblivion. I dare you to say what’s really on your mind. The breath of whispers cast dew upon the shadows, yet never leaves its moistened mark. Who then can claim to be victorious, if not the writer revealing what was lost?

Shall I overtake your stride with sentiments you can only hold back? Emphatically I send poisoned darts into the center of your soul to offer healing from the pain you once denied. Memoirs, novels, and verse set muse into a tailspin. You are not alone when the author can see right through you.

Yet you fumble, struggling to offset your innermost soul. No longer dead, but alive with anticipation of every stroke seeking to be found, you melt into the essence of your being, sharing your story with the world. Without hunger, there’s no need for food. Without nourishment, the spirit dies. Without death, there is no life.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Twitter Debate

I’m debating about Twitter. They say it could replace blogging, but I think there is room for both in this web of universal communication. I happen to like blogging because I am a writer. I also like writing articles. These things are fun for me. And I know people enjoy them based on the comments and emails I receive.

It takes time to process writing ideas before I’m ready to type words into the computer. Inspiration can hit like a hurricane or it can simmer for months, before making its way to the surface, and allowing me to craft a message for my audience.

Twitter appears to be instantaneous. It is one more hurried message in a world moving too fast. It is one more distraction from the true creative process of writing. However, it is also a business and marketing tool. There appears to be pros and cons for Twitter, as there are for most things.

Using the example of fast food, I’d like to do a creative comparison. Fast food is great for those in a hurry. It meets the need of filling your stomach, quenching your cravings, and letting you carry on with more important things in your life…because eating healthy is an option, not a priority, right?

Twitter then satisfies your curiosity, instant messages your latest and greatest news, and allows you and your network to carry on with the rest of their important priorities, like eating fast food to carry on with more important things, right?

Fast forward now, to the age of obesity and a damaged environment caused by the benefits of a throw-away society. It sort of snuck up on us, didn’t it? All of those instant meals took a toll on our health, and the trash and environmental hazards that became one of their many bi-products has been the source of multiple studies, many funded by government with your tax dollars.

Will Twitter and instant messaging help or hurt our future? I don’t know. What I do know is that if it replaces blogging, and becomes the standard of reading throughout the world, many people will suffer from limited writing and communication skills. Our brains will be on overload from too much trivial communication without enough healthy information to create a balance, and society could suffer as a result.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Improving Vocabulary through Sentence Expansion

I’d like to take you on a journey of sentence expansion today, and then encourage you to periodically use this exercise in your own writing. It is helpful for communicating effectively, increasing vocabulary, and smoothing out the flow of your work.

Step 1: Let’s begin with a simple sentence: Friends write.
Step 2: What do friends write? Friends write email.
Step 3: Why do friends write? Friends write email to share ideas.
Step 4: Who are friends? Maria and Andrea write email to share ideas.
Step 5: How do Maria and Andrea share ideas? Maria and Andrea exchange email to share ideas.
Step 6: What types of ideas do Maria and Andrea exchange in their email? Maria and Andrea exchange tips about saving money in their emails.
Step 7: How often do Maria and Andrea share money saving tips in their emails with each other? Maria and Andrea share money saving tips in their emails with each other at least twice a week.

As you can see, this process will continue as long as you let it. You can use it to create entire paragraphs of simple sentences, or draft one long sentence that clearly expresses your thought. The idea is to ask the right questions, and respond accordingly. You can be the author and/or the audience for this exercise. Your answers may vary depending on the role you choose to play.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Your Power to Write

Does internet writing stress you out? Does it make your blood race, and interfere with your daily activities? Are you using it as an excuse to ignore the rest of your life? I know I do sometimes, and you know what? That’s not healthy!

I had a completely irrational response today when my internet service provider had a glitch. After all, I was in the middle of important business, and my “self-imposed deadlines” shouldn’t have to wait. People needed the information I was planning to publish on the internet, and therefore, my ISP should remain in working order, without causing problems for me, right? Wrong!

I discovered that all those things I needed to say could wait, and even if I published them, there wasn’t exactly a line of people waiting to read them. Something else happened too, though. My teenage son couldn’t play his internet video games. My teenage daughter wasn’t able to chat with her friends on Facebook, and the 3 of us spent a few hours of quality time together, instead of in different rooms of the same house.

Sure, I could have probably submitted a few more articles in the same amount of time. I could have earned the couple of dollars in upfront payments, and page view pennies on a bit more of my work over time. I can remember when I wouldn’t have stressed about less than $5.00 if you had promised to give me $10.00 for doing so. It simply wasn’t that important because I had better things to do, like hang out with the best kids in the world, mine – and I won’t give up my bragging rights on that!

Being a writer is great, as long as you don’t let it take over your life. Expand your horizons, and see what’s out there! Reach out to local magazine publishers and let writing work for you, rather than you working so hard to write. Otherwise you will lose your passion, and turn into a work horse, something that stifles creativity, and promotes power for those in control. Don’t let blogging, ebooks or any writing venue become your government standard of writing. Be your own person, and keep your power. Writing is not an obsession, but a gift that you have been very blessed to receive.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sharing Your Writing through Word of Mouth

Who have you told about your writing? Have you used your bragging rights and shouted from the rooftops that your name is all over the internet? Have you shared your latest article with all the contacts in your email? Have you at least let your mom or dad know that you are an author, and that people you’ve never met before actually read your work, on a global scale?

In a world where anyone can put as much as they want on the web, you must let people know that you are among the thousands (okay, probably millions) who have contributed to the vast amount of internet knowledge that’s available. You are carving your niche, but having your own little space won’t do you a bit of good unless people know you exist.

Links are invaluable for this. Still we must not forget the power of pride as family members claim they are related to a famous author. And who doesn’t love the neighborhood gossip? She tells everyone that you hide out at home all day writing massive amounts of content for the web…and you even get paid for it!

Ah yes, don’t forget to mention your work in casual conversation when you are checking out your groceries. Send a note to your dentist when you write an article about tooth decay and to your vet when you discuss the pros and cons of pet vaccines. You might even plug their business for extra points. No one will know unless you tell them. Put a face to your followers and fans, and turn them into friends who can help you spread the word.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Niche Marketing

Think small folks! That’s right, I said think small. The days of reaching millions are upon us, but the idea that millions of people are not individuals is ridiculous! In fact, it’s positively insulting to anyone who has the slightest bit of integrity.

When you write articles, you must tailor them to meet the needs of the publisher, answer the obvious questions, and give detailed, useful information to the public. Believe it or not when you do this, you are thinking small, and you are reaching a whole lot of people in a great big world! You are responding to individual needs on an international stage, and that my friends, will make all the difference!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Say What’s On Your Mind

I don’t know about you, but I get real tired of so many opinions being watered down by tolerance. Is it really such a bad thing to take a stand? Everyone seems to be afraid to make someone else uncomfortable, and in their efforts to avoid it, they drive themselves half crazy.

If there is one place where you can be safe speaking your mind, it’s in your writing. Your opinions and expressions make the piece come alive. When you water it down, you end up being another sound in a world inundated with noise. Don’t let that happen to something that exposes your true identity. Use your freedom as a writer to enlighten the world, and overcome the prejudices and biases that suffocate it.

I’m not advocating you start a war in the name of false pride here. I am encouraging you to begin the dialog that will create opportunities for discussion. Who knows? You may find out that you are the one being enlightened in the process. Better yet, you might enlarge your circle of friends for having the courage to do so.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Freedom of the Press Explained

Let’s examine Freedom of the Press today. Freedomhouse.org indicates that the rights of journalists, to express themselves without infringement, have been in decline lately. This bothers me because as I understand it, Freedom of the Press holds authority figures accountable for their actions, encouraging growth in healthy democracies.

Every organization has a system of rules set up to avoid chaos. However, avoiding chaos, and restricting communication that doesn’t agree with your opinion are two very different things. In the first, people with opposing views are allowed to debate their positions, or agree to disagree. In the second, censorship is employed, discriminating against people who don’t necessarily agree with you.

Perhaps I am a bit outspoken at times. In a free society that shouldn’t be a problem. Trouble occurs when we gradually give up our rights to avoid conflict at any cost. Survival of the fittest is often the result, creating a groupthink mentality. As a writer, it is important to exercise your right to Freedom of the Press. It is also necessary to defend your right to do so.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Precious Writing Time

How much time do you have? Are you as busy as the rest of us juggling family, work, health, and all sorts of extra responsibilities? If so, then you’re used to the hurry up so you can move on mentality that helps you get everything done. Unfortunately, that is one of the hardest things about writing. It’s not a quick and easy process that generates income overnight.

When you tap into your writing talent, you need to take the time to express yourself effectively. You can’t do that if you’re throwing words out there for the sake of finishing an article. Readers won’t even acknowledge your minimized efforts if that’s all you do.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a slow producer, on the contrary. It does mean you need to decide when and where writing will fit into your life, and commit to making it happen accordingly. If you want to be a fulltime writer, you need to make sacrifices, so that you have at least 8 hours per day devoted to your work. That could include research, practicing your typing skills, and even reading. It doesn’t include weeding the garden, having lunch with your friends, or taking a nap.

What’s your game plan, and how do you intend to implement it to reach your own successful goals as a freelance writer?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Your Role as a Writer

You are just a writer after all. That’s right, no guts, and no glory, a writer, nothing more. Oh how difficult it is to resign ourselves to the role of messenger at times. We’d like to believe we are making some magical difference in society with our work, but when it comes to reality, we’re making the same difference everyone else is, and there are a lot of people who don’t think like we do.

With this in mind, it is important to know when to back off. State your case. By all means, state your case. Put your ideas and beliefs out there for the world to read and ponder, but don’t start marching in parades to demonstrate your philosophies. It has been said rather well by St. Francis, “Preach the Gospel often. But only sometimes use words.”

Monday, June 1, 2009

Being True to Yourself in Writing

by M. J. Joachim
Updated 11/9/15

Being true to oneself is challenging. Sometimes it means standing alone and letting people judge you for the way you express your beliefs. Other times it means being careful not to offend individuals by what you say, or how you say it. Finally there are times when you need to tell it like it is, regardless of who might disapprove.

There is no way to avoid offending people. No matter what you do, or how you do it, everyone has an opinion, and few will refrain from sharing it. You could write the greatest novel in the world, and someone will find fault with it. You could be the most generous friend known to man, and another person will claim they didn’t get enough from you. You can even spend hours primping in front of the mirror to look perfect before you go out, and still not be satisfied.

That’s the real point. You see, as much as you try to improve or please those around you, it seldom makes much difference, if you aren’t focused on who you really are inside. You were born for a purpose, not as another random creation thrust into the midst of oblivion. You have a duty and responsibility to adhere to certain principles in life that steer glory back to your creator, and away from yourself and others.

You must therefore address and respond to the things in life that inspire and intrigue you. Whether it is with a smile or by jumping up and down in total abandonment, you need to release the feelings associated with who you are inside, especially when you write. That also means addressing wrongs and doing what you can to correct them. This is the hard part, because people will take great offense to you for being so outspoken. Do it anyway, and be true to yourself and the one who made you.

Express yourself in your writing without reservation. Be polite about it, but don’t hold back and share your real author with the world. Your words flow from who you are and what you are about. Even your fiction and poetic words do this, because everything stems from somewhere, and the writer’s voice stems from the writer, and all the experiences, feelings and notions that enter the writer’s mind and heart. Your writing is a very real part of who you are, so release the inner writer you have inside, and discover just how good your writing can truly be.

Because real writers take their place on the stage of life, playing their parts to perfection. This is M. J. wishing you excellent writing adventures.

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