Thursday, March 29, 2007

Keep it Simple

"Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon."
~ On Writing Well by William Zinsser

Nothing in this world is quite as difficult as trying to read something that is not readable! Perhaps we don’t know there is junk in our writing. Or maybe we have a feeling, but for some reason are attached and cannot let go. We think we need it—our article cannot do without it. Maybe you think, “I can’t get rid of that comment. It’s a reflection of who I am.” The truth is, if it’s loaded with too much, your style and intent is lost on your reader anyway—likely because he quits reading.

If you aren’t sure whether your writing is filled with unnecessary junk, there is hope for you yet! Think of writing as a bit like baking. Baking is very precise. If you add too much or too little of an ingredient your cookies turn out a flop. Writing is much the same. If you add words that are too complicated or repetitive you create a piece that is hardly readable. If you don't add enough then your article has no substance.

According to William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well, “…the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest component.” When you read what you've written ask yourself whether that word is necessary to get your point across.

Avoid overusing words or phrases. If they are not essential to your point, eliminate them. If you feel they are necessary, but you've already used them too much then come up with a unique and interesting way to say what you want. A couple words I struggle with are “just” and “very.” Most of the time they are not needed, but they somehow manage to slip their way into my writing.

Another thing to remember is to keep your text simple by paying attention to word meaning. I've discussed this a little bit in a past blog, but using the wrong word is confusing to your reader and adds unnecessary complications to your writing. If you are even slightly confused about meaning, look it up.

Finally, it is important to consider the actual length of what you are writing. In this fast world we live in, people often don't have the time to spend more than a few minutes reading. So give them what they want in smaller doses. This is ideal in a blog situation where someone may enjoy what you write, but might not be able to read more than a few minutes at a time.

Writing is a skill--a craft. It is learned with time and experience and really education. Reading on writing is great. A couple books I recommend are William Zinsser's On Writing Well, and Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. Those books and practice will help you develop a discerning eye--and take you to the next level of your writing career.

See ya next time!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Our Many Roles

Many of us are parents, workers, athletes. Some are readers, bird watchers, pet owners and lovers. We are always writers, but we play many different roles in our lives. I took a few days off so that I could enjoy some of the other roles I play.

Sunday my husband and I were runners. We began our day at 6:00am so that we could drive to New York and run a 5K. Let’s just say that wasn’t the highlight of my day—or my favorite role! I love to run and exercise. We try to be active and live a healthy lifestyle, but running on a treadmill and running outside are two completely different running experiences! It took me 31 minutes to run 3.1 miles. I felt as though there were bricks attached to my feet! Would you like to know the worst part? I wanted to stop the moment I started. And I might have done just that, but Nick’s mom and dad came to support us. Turning around would have been mortifying! So I kept on running and I am glad I did.

The good news is we will be running another race in a couple of weeks and now that the weather is better I will be able to get in more outside runs. It will be a much better experience. I am a runner.

Monday the temperatures rose to over 70 degrees. We took on the role of landscaper and sunbather and did some spring cleanup. We tidied up the yard and cleaned out the car— much needed activities after a very long winter! All that work and sunshine was exhausting! I fell asleep before I could even consider turning my laptop on.

Yesterday was even nicer than Monday, so I played the role of fun mama and bad housekeeper. We played all day. Then I transformed back into good wifey and spent over three hours in the kitchen fixing an incredible lunch for Nick who has been working 12 hours all week for us. I realize how fortunate I am to have a husband who plays the hardworking breadwinner so I can stay home to be mama to our children—and writer whenever I can.

We are blessed to be complex people with many interests, pleasures, and activities in life. I hope you enjoy all the roles you play. In my next post I will be back as writer again. I plan to discuss the importance of keeping it simple as a writer. I hope to see you then.

Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Happy Saturday!

It’s Saturday morning. I’m sitting on my love seat while my blanket and my laptop keep me warm. My girls are cozied up on the other couch together, watching Saturday morning cartoons. I drink my morning cup of coffee out of my favorite “Lisa” mug that a dear friend gave me for my birthday. I realize that life is good. I am writing. I am thinking about what I have accomplished this week. I am thinking about what I want to accomplish in the week to come.

I’m going to be honest with you. Thursday was not a good day for me as a writer. It began as a lovely day. As you may recall the sun was shining and I felt inspired, but let’s just say the words were not exactly flowing from my fingertips. I felt discouraged and as though maybe I didn’t have anything worth saying. I blogged anyway.

Last night I received an email from Nancy Friedman of Away With Words. She is writing an article for Visual Thesaurus about why people blog. She came across my “Am I Talking to You” meme and thought my post was “pertinent” to her article. She also passed along a very nice compliment about my writing. She said her coming upon that post was “…a timely discovery indeed.” I chuckle at that because perhaps it was timelier for me! Thank you Nancy! You visited me at just the right time.

What I find most interesting about blogging is that just when I am feeling like my words don’t matter, someone drops me a thoughtful and encouraging comment. What a pick me up! I want my writing to make a difference in some way. If I pass along something that someone may find interesting or useful or offer someone some encouragement then I feel I have accomplished what I have set out to do. Of course, I have to admit there is a side that is a bit self-serving as well.

So that’s my Saturday morning message. I debated whether to share that vulnerable moment with you. I try to maintain an upbeat attitude on my blog, but really don't we all have those days? There’s no point in pretending that I don’t have them too. God has a way of working things out in intricate and meaningful ways for all of us. Now that's exciting!

See ya next time and have a happy Saturday!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sunshine and Ramblings

It’s a beautiful morning. The sun is shining and it’s already 59 degrees. I’m feeling inspired so thought I better blog because it’s supposed to rain all afternoon—no telling how inspiring that may be!

Beyond the weather, I am also feeling motivated by the success of others. Yesterday, Harmony Cornwell of Writer in the Making blog posted about all that she has accomplished so far this month. Wow! Great job, Harmony. You’ve done excellent, and made me realize that I need to be pushing myself a little more.

About a month ago, I heard from a client in Texas (yes, I know this is off topic—hence the rambling part of the title). In December I wrote a press release for her that really helped increase her exposure in the media. In fact, an editor from Entrepreneur Magazine contacted her via email to do an interview for a potential future article. She was excited. So was I.

But being the skeptic that I can sometimes be, I decided to check out the legitimacy of the email she received. I went to the library to view the list of editors in Entrepreneur Mag to see if any were the one she had heard from. Sure enough, there was Kim Orr, the very editor who contacted her. So this really was great. It will be even greater if they do a write up about her. I really do care about her business, and I’d love to think that my press release may have helped her with some amount of success.

Of course, since I had the magazine in my hand I read it. I found it to be an excellent source of info! Right on the table of contents page—before even getting to the real meat and potatoes of the magazine—is a section called “Resources.” This is a list of useful websites, organizations, and events for all kinds of business owners, large and small alike.

Another section I enjoyed was called “Small-Business Answer Book.” This is a Q&A segment offering advice on topics such as marketing your business on a budget, improving customer service, and how to keep up with current technology trends. All of these are important topics for any business owner. I looked through a few recent issues and this seems to be in most of them.

If these resources aren’t for you, then maybe you may at least find the success stories inspirational to read. I think it’s great to read how others have made it and what they have done to find their success. For me, it makes me feel hopeful that I can apply what I have learned, follow the example of freelancers around me, and find my own success.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Information Overload?

In one magazine I read today I learned some great information. Never let it be said that I am not a loyal friend to my fellow writers in the blogosphere. I thought it would only be considerate of me to share just a few tidbits of what I learned with all of you. Take it for what it’s worth.

Did you know that sipping four to six cups of black tea a day can significantly reduce high levels of stress in your body? Be sure, however, not to add milk as it interferes with the heart-healthy benefits that this practically holy beverage offers. Once you have had your quota of stress relief for the day, treat yourself to a snack of kiwi fruit, which is loaded with vitamin C, will help ward off spring colds, and give your skin a beautiful glow. If concerns of aging before your time plague your thoughts, try squeezing a pomegranate in with the kiwi to firm your skin, and erase wrinkles--and drink an extra cup of tea! After eating and drinking all that healthy good stuff, you surely deserve a treat! So go on and indulge yourself in America’s favorite Girl Scout cookie, the delectable chocolate covered Thin Mint! And that’s not all. Great news for you if you are a fidgeter! Go ahead; eat an extra cookie or two because you have the potential to burn up to 350 extra calories a day.

Information is everywhere! It's almost crazy. So what do we do with it all? There are a couple options to choose from. Option number one is to turn off our computers and televisions, and discontinue all of our magazine subscriptions. We could build ourselves a cabin in the wilderness and live off the land. I mean really, sometimes all that info is pretty darn stressful in itself.

Thank goodness that’s not the only option available. Information is good. It’s all a part of learning, and learning is what helps us to realize our potential. But first, we absolutely must make sure it’s accurate and our sources are legitimate. Then we can take all of that information one piece at a time and do something with it. We can apply it to our lives and make healthier choices. Or being the creative writers that we are, we can use that abundance of info for research and great stories. Don’t be afraid to add your own element to something already done. Don't let it overload you. Take that info and run with it!

Take care, and see ya next time!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Little Attitude!

Tuesday's meme was a good experience for me. It allowed me to step back and reassess who I am blogging to and whether I am meeting all of their needs. Carson Brackney not only tagged me with the meme, but he also took the time to break down my questions and give me some much needed feedback. In addition to the color issues that I will be taking care of, he pointed out that it would be nice to see a few attitude and perspective pieces. I won't be giving you "attitude" mind you, but for today I will stray away from the educational element of my blog.

I have been faithfully reading other's blogs for about a month now. I enjoy reading about people's lives--more specifically their successes. I happened upon Temlyn Writing today and read that she was having a hard time posting to her blog because she recently got a new gig. She just got hired as a copy editor and proofreader for Chippewa Publishing. Good for her! Her success is great inspiration for me.

I don't enjoy reading the negative stuff, but I appreciate it when people post about them because others may learn from those situations. Leigh Zaykoski of Wealth of Words recently posted about her frustration with a client that won't pay. This post reminded me (as a newbie to freelancing) of the importance of making sure you get contracts and keep records of everything. Kathy Kehrli of Screw You! posted about the frustrations of her web server being down last week. So although I don't hope for entries about the non-pleasantries in peoples' lives, they do serve a purpose. We all have bad days. Our job is to rise above them. Perhaps these posts allows us to do just that.

I am happy to report a minor success in my writing business. I recently got an email from a man who had somehow managed to find my web site and blog. He is looking for someone to edit his book proposal and possibly for some help writing his book. I could see from viewing my site statistics that he spent a lot of time reading my blog and web site. Hopefully this is an indicator that he is seriously considering me for this job. I realize that nothing may come of it, but to me it's still success because someone found my site, and took me seriously enough to consider hiring me. Yippee!

There's my little two cents to the blogging community. Take it for what it's worth! See ya next time!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Am I Talking to You (Meme)

As my first time as a meme participant I'd like to thank Carson Brackney of Content Done Better for tagging me! This meme is a more in-depth look at what my purpose is for my blog, who my intended blog audience is, and whether or not I am reaching them. The meme begins with two questions:

(1) To whom are you blogging?
(2) Am I talking to you?

First, to whom am I blogging? I first began blogging in 2005 as a way to share a little bit of my personal life with family, friends, and anyone who was interested in reading what I had to say. For me, it was a way to utilize my writing skills until my baby was old enough to allow me to share my time with others.

Last November, I decided the time had come for me to begin working toward a career in freelance writing--a lifetime dream and goal of mine. I created my website,, in an attempt to sell my services. I began learning everything I could to circulate my name on the internet with the hope of bringing some business my way.

I joined writer's forums, and began reading lots of great blogs. Content Done Better was actually the first one I came to, and is where I have learned a lot of useful information. In February, I decided to give my blog a makeover. This brings me to question one. I created Getting it Write for You for writers and prospective clients.

My desire is to encourage, teach and inspire writers of all genres. Really, it's my way of giving back to the freelancing community. I have to say that everyone I have contacted in request of link exchange or advice has been unbelievably helpful to me. Thank you for that. I can also see by watching my site statistics that you have been visiting my blog faithfully.

Of course, my other motivation is the hope that I may drive some potential clients my way. A client interested in my services may visit my website, but might like to see a different sampling of my writing. Or perhaps they will visit my blog first and then follow the link to my site. Either way is great.

I really hope for this blog to serve as a humble example of my expertise and knowledge. I want it to suit both your needs as well as my own. This brings me to part two of this meme. Am I talking to you? Let me thank you right now, if you are one who has ever left me any feedback. It's great fun to get it, and it lets me know that someone has found some value in what I have written about.

My writing blog is fairly new so I think it is an opportune time to ask you a few questions that I hope you will feel free to answer honestly.

* What do you like about this blog?
* What do you dislike about this blog?
* What would you like to see here in the future?
* Do you have a favorite post (and why)?
* What can I do to keep you coming back?

I'm tagging:

* Betsy Henning because she is an amazing writer who has valuable things to say, and has kept me encouraged as a writer.
* Leigh Zaykoski of Wealth of Words and Kathy Kehrli of Screw You! because they have both been so encouraging and helpful to me as a newbie in the freelancing world.

I look up to all of you so much. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Get Those Ideas Down!

About a month ago, I was driving to a friend's house, thinking about writing and all things related. A great idea popped into my head. I was so excited about it and just knew this idea would be my greatest story ever! I even thought of the perfect inspirational quote. Now, I really don't consider myself to be seeping full of wisdom, but I'm telling you, this quote was wise. Then, the most tragic thing happened to me. I arrived at my friend's house, got involved in other things and completely lost my entire idea--including the quote that I would some day be noted for! Anybody out there feel my pain?

What I learned from this situation is that if you are going to be a writer, you need to do as the great writing instructors of our time tell you to do: Write those ideas down! Here are a few suggestions to help you out with that.

(1) Start your own version of a swipe file. A swipe file is a folder of tested and proven ads, headlines, brochures, and sales letters. Journalists or advertising copy writers often keep a swipe file to refer to for project ideas. Every once in a while a story headline pops into my head. My story might have a different twist to a story I read in a magazine, or maybe something else might trigger the idea. But it's important to get that headline down--undeveloped or not. Create a folder on your computer that is specifically for this purpose. Label it as your "swipe file." Then when you are going through one of those slumps when you don't have any story ideas, you have something to refer to--and it might just be what you need to get inspired again.

(2) Consider the rooms in your house that you frequent the most. For me this is the kitchen and the living room. Make sure to have notebooks and pens at convenient locations in those rooms. When an idea hits, you can quickly write it down before you lose it. I have even put a notebook and two pens in my car--I really learned my lesson!

(3) Maybe this sounds a little cheesy, but carry a tape recorder around with you. It's great for those times when it is inconvenient to write. I did this recently while making bread. My hands were too gooey to use a pen and paper so I pulled out my recorder and hit that little red button. This is also a safer alternative when you are driving.

So there they are--three suggestions to help you get those ideas down. Will I ever make the same mistake again? Probably, but I can honestly say that these ideas have already helped me a lot. I hope they help you too.