Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Making Scrolls from Papyrus Plants

by M. J. Joachim
I was watching this documentary the other night. It was about ancient scrolls, and one of the things that fascinated me was when they showed viewers how papyrus scrolls are made. Before you read any further, please note. This is not a research article. It’s a memory piece, where one draws on memory to share some information with others, like a story.

All of a sudden, I was looking at a papyrus plant on my screen. Having never really thought about papyrus paper coming from a papyrus plant, I stared intently at my screen.

Next thing I know, a tribe of native people (I believe they were in a rural part of Egypt), were crouching down, tearing the bark off stalks of the papyrus plant. Inside were all these fibers that they cut into thin strips. Then they layered them on top of boards, in a criss-cross pattern, and placed another board on top.

At least two people carried the boards over and placed the papyrus sheets onto a large cement block. Then they placed another large cement block on top. This process helps squeeze the moisture out of the papyrus plant fibers, and flattens the sheets in writing material.

Papyrus paper is extremely durable, lasting for centuries. Some of the oldest papyrus scrolls date back to ancient times – think Dead Sea Scrolls and Biblical Gospels. Archaeological digs have secured remnants of ancient papyrus scrolls, often making them available for public viewing in various capacities.

Other writing material from ancient days includes leather and pottery. Once again, I was fascinated. Writing of the past was limited at best. It can by all accounts be considered an ancient art form, and indeed people wrote with pictures, as well as words in their works.

Being a writer was not a simple matter of putting words out there, and marketing them to an eager audience. It was a tedious, time-consuming task that very few people bothered to do.

And yet, those that did created some of the greatest literature known to us. Perhaps the tools they used had something to do with it.

That’s all for now good people. Thanks for visiting my Writing Tips blog J

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons GNU Free Documentation License, Papyrus plants; Wikipedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution, The War Scroll – Dead Sea Scroll

Monday, November 12, 2012

Exploring Writing Venues

by M. J. Joachim
Different writing venues require different approaches, to accentuate our messages and deliver them adequately to our audience.

I found myself deeply entrenched in thought and meditation this past weekend. The work wasn’t difficult. It was intense. My purpose was to extract and share true meaning, with the ultimate goal of encouraging others to do the same.

You simply can’t rush writing like this. It takes time.

On the other hand, last week, I spent way too much time writing tutorials. Writing tutorials is a simple matter of choosing something to do, breaking it into a step-by-step process, taking pictures of each step along the way and writing a how-to guide. There’s no big secret to it, unless you over think what you are doing, or try to be more creative than these articles warrant.

Then there’s just plain old writing.

This is the writing that calls to us, and before we know it, we’re reading books, Googling topics, questioning people, getting exposed to new ideas and using every means at our disposal to learn and write about something that piques our interests.

Creative writing is a completely different animal than the ones listed above. No holds bar, good people. NO HOLDS BAR! ANYTHING GOES as long as you’re willing to put your byline on it…

If not, the round file sure does come in handy J

Just for fun, see if you can guess which of my blogs uses each different writing venue, and post your answers in the comments. 

That’s all for now. Thanks for visiting my Writing Tips blog!

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Papyrus plant, Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain by Arpingstone

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Branding – Negative and As a Writer

by M. J. Joachim
Branded as one of the most tedious task voters have to do before an election…

Studying ballot materials has to be one of the worst! That and listening to all those nasty commercials…

We all know the feeling of dread that comes, when we open our mailbox to pick up our voting guides. Pages upon pages of tiny print, hard to understand language and twisted meanings, followed by pages of arguments for and against, whatever is supposed to get voted on…

This is an example of negative branding, one I’m sure way too many of us can relate to.
Not all branding is negative, however.

In fact, some of it is really cool.

My latest article on SoWrite discusses the power of branding, and shares a bit of insight on how you can brand yourself as a writer. I hope you’ll take a moment or two to check it out and engage in the discussion there. Here’s a link to make it easy to pop on over.

Hey, after wading through and studying that big pile of election materials these past few days, I’m all about hitting the easy button J

That’s all for now, good people! Wishing you a wonderfully amazing day,

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: M. J. Joachim ©2012 All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Sounding Board

by M. J. Joachim

Emails may be sent to

Hurricane Sandy is messing with my heart, kind followers. Rather than tell you about my feelings, I’d like to open up this blog to your feelings and experiences. Please write a letter and share how you feel, what you’ve experienced and anything else about this event that makes you want to express yourself. 

You don’t even have to write anything. You can simply send a picture. I’m willing to post it all, right here on this blog. Pure emotion, whatever you need to express. Makes no difference to me…this blog can be your sounding board.

Remain anonymous or tell us who you are…it doesn’t matter to me.

I don’t live anywhere near the East Coast, but this thing has touched my heart. This is your forum for however long it takes, to put it out there and express yourself regarding Hurricane Sandy. Tell us about the heroes you’ve met, or the hero you’ve become through this thing. Scream about the pain of losing it all, or freezing your ass off, because there’s no heat and electricity!

It’s not much, I know, but it is one small thing I have to offer. The discussions that may follow each post are anyone’s guess. 

Send your communication to: Put Hurricane Sandy in the subject line. 

That’s all I’ve got today, dear people. May God bless us and grant every grace to all those suffering on the East Coast.

M. J. 

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Never Stop Learning with Free Online College Courses

by M. J. Joachim
I’ve always enjoyed learning, regardless of the setting. When I graduated from San Jose State University with my degree some 20+ years ago, my college goals were satisfied well enough. It was time to focus on my young and growing family; thoughts of returning to college were and have remained pretty much non-existent.

It’s not exactly like I want to go back and listen to professors give lectures every week. Time for such things has fallen by the way side, and hasn’t been a top priority in recent years at all.

Learning, however, is another story altogether. Last summer, I looked up all sorts of free online college courses to take, many from very reputable schools like MIT, Harvard and Stanford.

The catch, like we didn’t know there’d be one…

Text books cost a fortune!

Each of the courses I found was offered in previous semesters, some dating rather far back. Students could read lecture notes, watch videos, download required information and documents and study required reading. Depending on the curriculum, they could also take exams. The entire system seemed rather clunky to me, especially when I got to the part about purchasing class materials – namely textbooks, which could run as much as hundreds of dollars each. 

There was one class I was really interested in taking. I never actually did, because the program was so difficult to access and the book was almost impossible to find. When I did, the price didn’t seem worth it, considering how much I was already struggling with the online program itself.

Today, however, I found a different type of online learning…

I’m referring to Education Portal Academy.

I only watched the overview video, so I’m not completely sure what this is all about yet. What I do know is there are hundreds of college courses (all free of charge for the taking), taught by instructors with Master and Doctorate degrees, covering all sorts of topics worth investigating.

Resource material is vital to writers! Seems like taking free online college courses, described as brief and highly engaging, is a fabulous place to find valuable information. Apparently, you can even earn college credit for taking the courses. All you need to do is pass a CLEP exam, when you’re done.

Here’s to higher education, everyone!

That’s all for now, good peopleJ Wishing you every success with your writing!

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

Monday, October 29, 2012

Presenting Yourself as a Writer

by M. J. Joachim
Presentation matters. Formatting, designing, manipulating paragraphs and fixing up sentences may be tedious at times, but doing these things has the potential to make a huge difference in how much time people spend reading our work.

As a blogger, I take great pride in how I present my posts. Some of them are streamlined and formula specific, like this one and FlashTyme. There’s a reason for this – the content must speak for itself. Photos, pictures and other ascetic features could easily distract from the intended point.

However, Lots of Crochet Stitches and Being Catholic are enhanced by a few extras. Photo tutorials on my crochet blog make it easier for my followers to see exactly what I’m referring to in the written text; visual enrichment on my catholic blog, intensifies the reflective experience intended there.

Content is always king. Lest we never forget, the king wears a crown of glistening jewels! His majesty presents himself to a royal audience, grand and glorious – every detail matters!

It’s an attitude, really… something we express in our writing and share in our publicity of it. We either jumble up the words, bunching them together and throwing them toward our audience on our way to somewhere else, or we take extreme care in producing exactly what we want to say, in just the right way, empowering our words with how we choose to publish them. 

Do you think this is a bit of a stretch? The next time you go out in public, skip the grooming part. You’ll see what I mean in a heartbeat!

That’s all for now, good peopleJ Wishing you every success with your writing!

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikicommons, Creative Commons Attribution

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Taking the “Ech” out of Technical Writing

by M. J. Joachim
Derived from the Greek word tekhnikos, evolving to tekhne, before eventually becoming techno, the word technical itself refers to skill and expertise in a certain subject. Naturally, this includes understanding vocabulary and language associated with one’s subject matter, as well as the natural level of comfort and confidence, which automatically happen when you’re familiar with your topic.


All you have to do to present yourself as a technical writer in any field, is understand your topic, know the lingo and be able to express your knowledge and skills, in written communication.

Practice makes perfect. Enjoying the subject and expressing a certain confidence and comfort level doesn’t hurt either.

Oh, you should some of the first drafts I write, when they relate to topics I’m not as familiar with – edit, Edit, EDIT!!!

I could just see myself writing about installing a dishwasher…the blind leading the blind comes to mind, and you can bet it will never happen, without lots of research and (preferably) personal instruction first.

Writing about crochet, on the other hand…

Well, for those of you who have seen my Lots of Crochet Stitches blog, you understand exactly what I’m saying. I could teach people how to crochet with one hand behind my back, and being able to write about it is simply an extra perk. I love this stuff and it shows in every post I publish!

Getting a bit more technical now…

Technical writing, therefore, is the ability to communicate with your audience, relaying specific, reliable information about a particular topic. It’s using [topic specific, common words] written in a document or manuscript, which expresses one’s expertise of that topic, relaying it in a trustworthy manner to those interested in learning more about that subject, or because guidelines pertaining to the matter require technical documentation of it. [Think medical and legal profession here for more clarity, please.]

Are you already a technical writer, kind follower? I’m betting the answer is a big, bold, “YES!” In fact, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that most writers use technical writing skills in many of their projects and assignments.

Why, you ask? Because we all have a story, things we like to do and an uncanny ability to share those things with others through the written word. Most of the time, we write about what we know, sharing tips, advice and lessons learned along the way.

Sometimes, we learn a new topic. However, we use our skills as writers to bring it to life in an interesting and effective way, even when it seems a little bit out of our league. I’m glad I’ve never had to write about installing a dishwasher, but if I ever do, you can bet it will be an article worth reading. There’s no way I’d let my audience down on a technicality, which means I really would know how to install a dishwasher, way before the article ever got published in the first place!

That’s all for now, good peopleJ Wishing you every success with your writing!

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikiversity, Public Domain

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wiki This, Wiki That, Wiki-hone Your Writing Skills

by M. J. Joachim
Apparently you can’t hurt it, so you might as well have a little fun, play the game and become a better writer in the process.  According to Wiki Org, “Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser.”

Wikiversity is a fabulous place to start! Wherever your interest may be, you are likely to find a school related to them. Upon doing so, you can review various writings, become familiar with specific technical writing skills, engage in the vernacular vocabulary, find a multitude of resources – resources you can use for vital information, as reference points or for prospective writing opportunities, I might add, and enhance your knowledge by leaps and bounds about almost anything your topic(s) addresses.

The Wiki Foundation is non-profit. They have organized their site into countless projects and sister projects, providing an almost limitless supply of multi-level resources, research and information into a vast array of learning sites and communities.

Information and material found on Wiki can be reused. The Wiki Foundation clearly states that most of their site contains works of individual creators, who specify licensing rights for reusing their work. Personally, I find WikiCommons to be a wonderful resource, choosing to use it quite frequently when adding pictures to my work.

Next up…

I’m hoping Wiki will help me familiarize myself more with html and coding. I know a little bit, but I’ve always wanted to enhance my skillset in this area. My personal philosophy on the matter…

If you can’t hurt it and they want you to be bold when changing it, why not take the time to learn some new skills when the opportunity presents itself?

That’s all for now, good peopleJ Wishing you every success with your writing!

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikicommons, Public Domain

Monday, October 22, 2012

Charles Dickens, Writer Extraordinaire!

by, M. J. Joachim
True, honest to goodness writing doesn’t happen by chance. Like almost everything else in life, it is a skill that must be nurtured and carefully managed, only allowing the best to come forth and be shared with the world at large.

These thoughts came, front and center in my mind, while watching a biography about Charles Dickens over the weekend. Much can be said about the man; he was indeed quite a character. Writing from experience, Dickens portrayed the world around him (including all his judgments of it) through the fictional characters he created – based on real life, a fact history can attest to through his novels.

I found myself lost in aspects of his inspirations, as opposed to ordinary details and facts about his life. Oh, they were all interesting enough, but it was Dickens ability to transform these events into literary genius that truly intrigued me beyond imagination.
The man was a writer! He was not an aspiring writer, or someone writing for a paycheck. He was in fact, case and point, a real, honest to goodness, writer!

Everything he encountered had the potential of being transformed and articulated through his writings, not for fame or fortune, but because he simply couldn’t help himself!

Not only that! The works of Charles Dickens often made an inevitable impact on the world around him.  And they still do today. If that’s not the definition of a real writer, I’m not sure what is.

Oh, Dickens had many lessons to teach us from his life. He addressed social justice issues, relationships, working too much and making life decisions, both through scenes from daily life and dealing with ghosts from the past, present and future. For all the words he penned to paper, it’s no wonder Dickens was such a prolific and profound writer. He nurtured his talents, managed his skills and became infamous in literary circles for all time!

That’s all for now, good peopleJ Wishing you every success with your writing!

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikicommons, Public Domain

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

by M. J. Joachim
As mentioned in a previous post, my first article, Honestwriting is about feeding the spirit and so much more! for SoWrite has been published.

The words flowed out of me like lava from a volcano when writing this piece. Can you tell? Did you literally visualize the orangish-reddish glow, tainted by black soot, oozing and creeping along? Is there a faint hint of sulfur in the air – or can you at least imagine it?

“Ish” is a big suffix these days.

Meet me at 3:30ish.
The autumn leaves are turning yellowish.
The candidate acted a little peacockish in the debate.

Without even thinking, we can easily determine the exact meaning of what is said. And yet, “ish,” like so many other prefixes, words and suffixes, tends to add an air of uncertainty – a hint of flexibility and room for doubt.

There’s nothing wrong with words being open to discussion. However, I’m of a mind where you say what you mean and mean what you say. People can debate it all they want. Once it’s been thoroughly thought through, complete with research if required and internal dialog that lets you live with your decision about it, a person needs to have a strong backbone and stand behind the words he or she put out there.

People can say whatever they want about them; they will whether you stand behind your words or not anyway. Your job is to stand firm in a well-prepared statement – be it verbal, written or otherwise. Hey, an awful lot gets said without anyone ever uttering a word! You know exactly what I mean by that, don’t you?

That’s all for now, good peopleJ Wishing you every success with your writing!
M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikicommons, Public Domain

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Secret of Freelance Writing

by M. J. Joachim
I saw it coming from a mile away. For the sake of this blog post, I chose not to click backwards and continued wading through page after page, testimony after testimony, to the final pitch. You see there’s a secret to becoming a highly paid freelance writer…

For only $49.00 you can …
-get free luxurious spa treatments to write about
-find out about paid writing gigs
-learn how singing can increase your writing ideas
-spend absolutely nothing traveling through Europe
-become more efficient at managing your time
-find out where to get hired as a writer with little or no experience

Oh yes, there’s a secret all right, and these guys have tapped into it big time! They’ve not only written the words that will get your attention, they’ve marketed their writing, so they can get paid for it by you!

Please don’t buy what they’re selling. You don’t have to purchase an MLM program or amazing offer to discover how to be a freelance writer. You don’t even have to join a writing group. All you really have to do is to WRITE.

I know. I know. It sounds so simple. That’s because it is simple. Writing is about getting the words out, making them readable and (if your heart desires) marketing them so they can be read by the masses.

Once you consistently produce quality content, moving onto other things is a natural progression. Freelance writing is not about finding the right magic formula or setting up a business. It’s about writing.

Publishing, marketing and branding your writing are entirely different fields. We’ll discuss them more in future posts. In the meantime, it’s best to avoid sites that draw you in with promises few would want to pass up. My personal opinion is, anytime you hear or read something like that, you should run (not walk) the other way as fast as you can.

That’s all for now, good people! Until next time, I wish you wellJ
That’s all for now, good people! Thank you for visiting my blog. J
M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikicommons, Public Domain

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Town Called Home in America

by M. J. Joachim
Heading down Las Vegas Boulevard, she paused. What by all accounts was a time for celebration, took on a somber tone from her surroundings. Construction littered the scenery – unfinished construction with few if any workers earning paychecks from it. Fences and boarded up walls, faded “Keep Out” signs, and people…dozens of lost and broken people.

Walking through the casinos told the story of their plight. It revealed evidence of technology, paving the way for business owners to make more profit by hiring fewer employees. It revealed one last hope of hitting it big, or at least making enough to pay this month’s rent, as well as hundreds of empty penny, nickel and quarter machines, because Americans couldn’t afford to gamble their food budget away, especially with their last bit of change.

By far, one of her most tragic observations, was the man crouched beneath the base of a bush along the sidewalk. He had a small bag of food nearby, an old tattered blanket off to the side, and a tiny cushion of belongings he used for a pillow. His orange t-shirt was faded and dusty – a sure sign of the miles he traveled on his journey. Scrunched up, like an animal in a cave, he rested through the heat of the day. Merely a glimpse of many living on the streets, in a town called home in America.


That’s all for now, good people! Thank you for visiting my blog. J

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: M. J. Joachim

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How to Take a Blogging Hiatus

by M. J. Joachim
Updated 11/20/15

All things considered, blogging can be quite a lot of work. Posting regularly and often, enhancing posts with pictures and other special effects, researching and including appropriate links, formatting etc. Then you have to take proper security measures and keep your blog updated and running smoothly all the time. It’s only natural to opt to take a blogging hiatus sometimes, when you completely unplug and don’t worry about your blog at all.

As with most things, there are a couple of do’s and don’ts in this regard. My biggest pet peeve is when people complain while taking their blogging hiatus. They begin with this huge negative vibe, sending out messages about how hard it is to blog, or carry on about why they aren’t blogging and don’t have time to blog. This is one sure way to get me to take their blog off my list of blogs to visit all the time.

Taking a blogging hiatus is as easy as not blogging for a while. You don’t even need to say anything. All you need to do is stop. People will still visit your blog. A few of them might wonder how you are doing, especially if you’re gone for a long time, but no one will be too upset if you skip the negativity and let the silence or lack of your posts do the rest.

If you must say something, keep it light and easy. Leave a “Gone Fishing” sign or “Will be back later” note. You certainly aren’t required to explain your whereabouts to anyone who visits your blog, and if they are faithful followers, they’ll probably be more than a little bit understanding that life took you away for a time, especially if they are bloggers themselves. If not, it’s doubtful anyone will consider you a total flake for getting too busy to blog for a time.

Life happens and we are all real people with real lives. Everyone knows that, and if they don’t, that’s more likely their problem than yours. So take a blogging hiatus if you need one, and don’t worry about all the other stuff happening in cyberspace. It will be there when you get back, and all will be well. The world will keep spinning and life will go on as it always does, because to be honest, there really isn’t any other alternative for it.

Because we all need a break from time to time, and explaining such things is not a requirement for anyone.

Best to you and yours. Enjoy your time off.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: CCA License

Monday, September 24, 2012

First Impressions on Edgar Allen Poe’s Poem, Eldorado

by M. J. Joachim
Eldorado – land of eternal rest…

Simplicity is the first word that comes to mind when reading Edgar Allen Poe’s poem called Eldorado.

Perhaps it’s just me, I can’t be sure. However, when I read this poem, all I can picture is a knight traveling on from place to place, searching for a land he instinctively knows exist, but for whatever reason, can’t seem to find.

It must be a bit maddening to know about something, want it and have no reasonable prospects of getting it. All one can do is accept that it’s not time to have it yet. Poe is quick to point out that regardless of all effort, if it isn’t time to have something, you aren’t going to get it, no matter how hard you try.

Did Poe have a death wish? Somehow, I don’t think so. Rather I think he was aware of eternity, and in tune with the fact that life is a journey, to be lived until such a time, as one eventually meets eternal destiny.

Poe doesn’t offer excuses or copouts in Eldorado. He quite plainly exhorts the knight to ride boldly, pointing at shadows along the way. Life is full of shadows, isn’t it? Sickness, accidents, self-destruction…each of these and many more things lend themselves to mini-shadows that could ultimately be our demise, and often surprise us when they’re not. Don’t you agree?

Eldorado is a poem about living life, traveling the journey, growing old and gallantly crossing the finish line. It is a simple poem, meant to lift up the spirit and rejoice in the life it proclaims.

That’s all for now, good people! Until next time, I wish you wellJ

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikicommons, Public Domain