Category Archives: Blogging

How Life Drama at the Mall Sets the Stage for Writing

 
Today’s guest blogger is Judy Stone-Goldman, PhD, whose blog, The Reflective Writer, I first wrote about last month during my participation in the 2011 Wordcount Blogathon. I immediately was drawn to Judy’s insightful and engaging posts and her blog’s focus on finding personal and professional balance through writing.

“Each of us has the potential to construct a better life by uncovering and reflecting on our inner experience,” writes Judy, who spent more than 25 years teaching speech-language pathology and counseling at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Here is her post — enjoy!

 
I have been here before. It’s the weekend before a trip, and I am shopping, on deadline. Will I never learn? I purchased a dress for the main event weeks ago, and that left me languid with relief. Unfortunately, I felt so good I forgot about the secondary event. So here I am in the mall, trying on every last pair of light-colored pants that exists in this almost-too-late date of June. 

Shopping brings up a lot for me. I have a long history of shopping failure, or perhaps I should saying fashion failure. Style maven I am not. To go shopping is to evoke a whole library of memories—of shopping and clothes, of appearance and acceptability—memories colored by dread, body despair, low expectations, and complete lack of instinct about what might look good.

I hate to mention my mother and be a cliché of childhood calamity, but she’s behind the scenes in all these memories. She was no more skilled than I in the fashion realm, and she treated my chubby frame caustically, leaving me ashamed as well as clueless. By the time she became more comfortable with style herself and perhaps inclined to act more kindly toward me, I was older and living the clothing stories of my past.
 

The clothing stories of my past—suddenly they are bombarding me: the date I went on wearing a house robe because I couldn’t figure out what to wear, the events I went to in drab work clothes because I couldn’t imagine myself in any other kind of outfit, the endless cycle of hesitant purchases followed by reluctant returns.

No wonder the shopping expedition is so fraught, so laden, with each small hope hounded by fear. I am never really shopping for my life today. I am shopping for the stories of the past, telling these stories in one version or another, deepening their mythology with each repetition.

I find myself thinking about this as I gallop around the mall, parallel threads competing: defeats of the past versus necessities of the present. Which will win? My memories have turned into a drama, and I have acted in this play before. I even wrote the script.
 

But if I wrote the script I can rewrite it, and that is what I must do with these stories. I must write them, retell them, give them life on the page instead of life in real life. Writing gives me a space after memory but before reenactment. Writing is my opportunity to rewrite a bit of history so that what was past becomes part of a new future.

Write, retell, reflect, revise, rewrite, recreate. What do I understand about this story? What is important to me to retain and what can I release? How am I different now and how will that affect the story? As I write my way into a new version of the story, I become a combination of the old and the new—I am still myself, still shopping last minute before a trip, but somehow, something is different.

I emerge from the mall triumphant, the white pants in hand. I am balanced, not frazzled; self-accepting, not critical. This is one story I don’t have to escape, and one pair of pants I don’t want to return. I even have time to pick up that bone clutch I forgot I needed.

Questions for Reflection:  How does this blog take you back into memory? What stories do you find yourself retelling and reliving? What stories from your life would you like to rewrite?  

Writing Prompts: “When I read this post, I began remembering ______” (then keep writing); “One story I relive often is ______” (then keep writing); “When I write about a recurring event, I find ______” (then keep writing); “I would like to rewrite my story of ______” (then keep writing).  

Reading, Writing and Tweeting – Not a Winning Combination

Judd Apatow’s appearance last week on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno prompted a thought-provoking Ragan.com PR Junkie post, “Is Twitter bad for writers?” 

Judd Apatow, courtesy of IMDb.

Apatow, a Hollywood screenplay writer behind hits such as Funny People and The 40-year-old Virgin told Leno why he’s so active on Twitter, explaining, “I’m looking for any distraction not to write.” 

Twitter has its place for connecting and even finding sources, but it also can be a huge time drain — especially if you are on a writing or work deadline. I have fallen prey to the lure of tweeting or online surfing …it’s even preferable to sleep sometimes (like right now as I write this post).  It’s documented that the internet has ‘rewired’ the way our brains absorb information. The reading experts at Reading Horizons blogged about the web’s role on people’s reading and writing skills back in February 2010:

“When you are searching the internet how long do you think you spend on a single page? (Hopefully you’re still on this page at this point!) Probably not very long. The internet offers so many gateways to other pages, that it has made it difficult for us to focus on one piece of information at a time. In other words: the internet is making us all a little more A.D.D.”

It also, writes the authors, decreases our ability to comprehend what we read.

Without question, we are in a time of digital overload, 24×7. The New York Times, in their 2010 article, “Attached to Technology and Paying the Price,” found that in 2008, people consumed “three times as much information each day as they did in 1960.”  

The constant interruptions in focus — from work to tweeting to whatever — leads to multi-tasking, which is bad for your mental health. “Excessive use of the internet, cellphones and other technologies can cause us to become more impatient, impulsive, forgetful and even more narcissistic,” writes New York Times “Well” blogger Tara Parker-Pope.

What can be done? We need to wean ourselves off our digital addictions — one medium at a time. For my family, we make a habit of reading. We also rid ourselves of one huge digital distraction — satellite TV — with all the myriad of channels (and God-awful commercials). Instead, we listen to baseball games on the radio. We read the newspaper.  We’ve gotten into the habit of going swimming as a family before bedtime. 

But we are not over the hump, yet — not by a long shot. With two computers, two smart phones, one iPad, a Wii game system, and a movie club, my family has plenty of ways to feed our digital addictions. The computers are here to stay (job requirement), but the others need to be managed in moderation — like other addictions like fatty foods and chocolate. I know we have a way to go, but we owe it to ourselves and our kids to set limits on technology’s place in our lives.

30 Posts in 31 Days – I Made It!

Michelle Rafter

Today marks the conclusion of the 2011 Wordcount Blogathon. I was among 200 bloggers who accepted the challenge to post every day in the month of May. Michelle Rafter, a Portland-based business editor, reporter and blogger, organized this event to bring together professional writers and anyone else with a blog to help them improve their blogging skills.

“This year, people embraced the challenge with more enthusiasm and camaraderie then I’ve ever seen, which was evident in tweets & Google Group posts,” Rafter told me over Twitter. “There’s something to be said for spending an intense period of time working on blog improvements and also on doing it as a group=big rewards.”

It feels great to have seen this challenge through – the only day I missed was when Blogger.com had a technical glitch that prevented me access to my blog. This experience allowed me to connect with other bloggers and writers, while also stretching my discipline and creativity. Before I started this challenge, I was fortunate if I posted every two to three weeks; now I feel confident that I can post twice a week without too much effort!

A few of the varied topics I tackled this month included:

Bonnie Daneker

I also invited colleagues to be guest bloggers. On May 23, Bonnie Daneker became my first guest, offering tips for turning your blog into a book. On June 20, I look forward to a guest post by Judy Stone-Goldman, creator of The Reflective Writer, a blog on writing to achieve personal and professional balance.

Through my participation in this year’s blogathon, I wanted to more clearly find my own voice as a blogger through daily posts, and to explore what I love about writing and storytelling. I realized both of these goals.
I also improved my skills at “content curation” — a technique where you comb the web for useful expert articles on your topic and reference them in your own blog. A third goal still in progress is expanding my blog’s reach to a broader audience — I was able to link up my blog with my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts so everything is in sync.  Now, I want to find other ways to drive traffic to my blog.

While I have more to learn about this medium, I got a very big boost this month in my confidence that I have something to contribute to the blog writing community. Thanks, Michelle, for creating this opportunity. I look forward to what’s in store for Wordcount blogathoners in 2012.

Today’s Blog, Tomorrow’s Book

Today, I’m pleased to introduce The Writing Well’s first-ever guest blogger — publishing entrepreneur, Bonnie Bajorek Daneker. As CEO of Write Advisors, Daneker oversees the strategic direction of the company to enable its clients to express themselves digitally and in print, using the most appropriate resources to reach their goals. Formerly, she was president of BD Donaldson Publishing, Inc., an Atlanta-based publishing company that created and distributed healthcare information. Author of The Compassionate Caregiver Series®, Daneker released her seventh book, CLIMB, in November, 2010, with Sandy Hofmann, president of Women in Technology (WIT).  Here, she offers advice on how to turn your blog into a successful book.

* * * * * *

Blogging has carved out a significant place in the online community for idea exchange. Through it, we easily share knowledge and opinions. Professional blogging lead to engaging discussion and innovation. Blogging has also laid the foundation for longer, more substantive written work, including dissertations, screenplays, and books.

When carefully composed, blogs lend themselves to becoming sections or chapters on their own; and when organized, they can flow into a valuable addition to a genre – especially business books and memoirs.

Courtesy of Google images, zemalf.com

If you’re thinking about developing your blogs into a book, here are 10 things to consider:

1. Identify your passion. You’ve likely covered many topics in your blogs. Review them for threads or trends to identify the focus of your book.

2. Decide the structure and function of the book. What are your goals in publishing?

3. Know your genre. You don’t want your hard work sounding like something else already on the market.

4. Generate content. And more content. Many of my clients are actively gathering content through blogging, both self-generated and audience-generated. When you’re ready to publish a book, you’ll be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

5. Don’t do it all yourself. Ask for guest bloggers. Interview others for quotes. Secure testimonials from other professionals. These will add texture to your overall products.

6. Follow your blog voice. You will want to reach your readers the same way in your book as your blog. Make sure the writing is consistent, and as formal as you need it to be in both places.

7. Keep your facts straight. Even if your writing is informal, treat it like a reporter treats a story. Diana Keough, CEO of ShareWIK Media, recently surfaced an old journalism school adage: “If your mother tells you she loves you, get two sources.” Look up facts and spelling. It’s an easy way to build your credibility and keep your readership.

8. Use the Rule of Threes. Another J-school rule, especially relevant in this stimulating world: Tell them what you are going to say, say it, and remind them what you said.

9. Know when to stop. Your book doesn’t have to be long. Don’t risk losing your readers’ attention.

10. Get an editor. A good one will catch your embarrassing mistakes and make you look like a star.

When you’re ready to take on a book-writing project, know that it can be a smoothly-vectored transition from blog to book. It can increase your platform as an expert, and give your blog followers a treat.

Four Tips to Make Your Blog Guest-blogger Friendly

I’m excited that The Writing Well will host three guest posters in the near future — starting with a publishing entrepreneur next week. My participation in the 2011 Wordcount Blogathon (where I’m posting daily over 30 days) has inspired me to bring other viewpoints to my blog.

Writing Forward, a creative writing blog by website designer and copywriter Melissa Donovan, provides excellent guidelines for guest posters listed in the top navigation of her blog. The guidelines cover everything you need to know — from the preferred format to send submissions, to the types of articles accepted, to whether you can expect payment (no). The site itself is excellent resource for anyone wanting to strengthen their writing and grammar.

Gardening and writing blogger Stephanie Suesan Smith shares proper etiquette to going about being a guest blogger in her May 5th post, Crafting a Guest Post Query. She compares it to querying a magazine about an article. She covers the importance of outlining your qualifications to write a post, and the need to demonstrate how your topic would appeal to the blog’s audience. Stephanie even tackles the thorny issue of copyright.

In his “guest” Copyblogger post, 10 Proven Steps to Snag a Guest Post on an A-List Blog, professional stand-up comedian Jordan Cooper urges you do your homework (reading up on the target audience, the guest posting guidelines, and of course, the content) and then write the post, including crafting a creative post title that looks appealing and clickable. Cooper also advocates not only submitting your fully crafted post, but also recruiting a fellow blogger who follows the A-List blog to put in a good word about your guest post. No guts, no glory, as they say.

All great advice…Here are four tips for making your blog guest-blogger friendly:

1. Spell out your blog’s mission so contributors know what you’re about.

2. Accept guest posts that resonate with your audience and fit your focus.

3. Include blog submission guidelines — don’t make ’em guess at it.

4. Seek original posts, not re-purposed content.

Finding Balance Through Writing

 
 

While I was unable to secure a guest blogger for The Writing Well today as part of the Blogathon (I am too much of a procrastinator), I committed myself to uncovering a writing-focused blogger who inspires me.  It didn’t take long for me to find that special blogger: Judy Stone-Goldman, Ph.D, an emeritus senior lecturer at the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington.

Judy created The Reflective Writer  to help people use writing to achieve personal and professional balance. On her blog home page, she asks readers, “Are you looking for personal-professional balance?” “Would you like a way to reduce your worries, clarify your goals, and be comfortable with your boundaries?” “Reflective Writing can help you do all this as you give voice to your thoughts and feelings. You don’t have to ‘be’ a writer or see yourself as a writer to participate.”

What a great message!  We need more bloggers like Judy, who effortlessly share milestones and struggles and then pose helpful tips (and writing prompts) to get others thinking and and journaling. 

Judy states in her expanded bio that she was a professional counselor who ran workshops across North America. Many of her workshop participants – both families and individuals — were energized after attending these workshops, but hungered for a way to keep working through their issues. Her answer was starting this blog.

I find it interesting that The Reflective Writer debuted in October 2009 — the same month I launched my own writing blog, The Writing Well.

At the time, I expressed my feelings about joining the blogging community this way: “I am just glad to be a part of a community where everyone can have a voice, a perspective, a story to share. It’s an exciting milestone for me — and I know I am going to learn a lot from all of you who are established in this medium.”

I have to say I continue to learn a lot from bloggers like Judy, who know why they’re here and how to engage, share and inspire through example.

Which bloggers move you? Share them here.

Blogroll for National Women’s Health Week

This week marks National Women’s Health Week by the Office of Women’s Health. This week is about empowering women to make their health a top priority. It also encourages each of us to take steps to improve our physical and mental health.

This year’s theme, “It’s Your Time,” is a great excuse for me to comb the web for the best blogs devoted to women’s health issues. Check them out and share your favorites.  Nominate the best blogs for Women’s Health magazine’s blogroll.

 

  • Well – Tara Parker-Pope on Health – this New York Times blogger, mother and dog lover, writes features that focus primarily on the small everyday decisions we make about food, family and fun that ultimately influence our long-term health and happiness. Prior to joining the Times in August 2007, Tara was the long-time health columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and also worked as a correspondent in the paper’s London bureau.
  • Our Bodies, Our Blog – created by the Boston Women’s Health Collective, features well-written articles on women’s health news. The reporting reflects the belief that women, as informed health consumers, are catalysts for social change, and that women can become their own health experts, particularly through discussing issues of health and sexuality with each other. 
  • Health Bistro, a blog focused on women’s health issues, including the latest healthy living tips from the editors of LifeScript, the 4th-largest independent health site and 10th-largest women’s online community.
  • The F Word — referring to F-words, Food, Fat and Feminism, this blog focuses on avoiding and dealing with food disorders. The blog’s creator, Rachel Richardson, a journalist and food historian, suffered food eating disorders herself.
  • Una Vita Bella – this award-winning blog is devoted to living a beautiful life with chronic illness and mental health issues.
  • Delicious Vitality, with Alexandra Jamieson, author of The Great American Detox Diet, believes feeling healthy is about feeling awake and vibrant, and feeling pain-free. She blogs about holistic nutrition and healthy living.
  • Embrace Your Heart — Eliz Greene’s “Busy Women’s Guide” to eating better for less stress and a healthy heart. Greene, a heart attack survivor and mother of twins, draws on her adaptive movement expertise to develop down-to-earth strategies for building activity into everyday life, eating better and managing stress. She is a national spokesperson for the American Heart Association.

How to start building your brand ambassador community – iMediaConnection.com

“A very cool post on building brand ambassadors and the importance of cultivating bloggers to extend your company’s message.”
Blogger communities can help promote — or doom — companies, products, and services that fall into their areas of interest. Find out how you can harness their power for the good of your brand.

Blogging the Top Media Tool of 2011

According to Social Media Examiner, blogging is the top media tool for 2011, based on a survey of 1,900 marketers that the blog site interviewed in 2010. Half said they wanted to learn more about blogging.

This finding may be surprising to those of us who thought Twitter, Facebook or YouTube were the dominant social media channels.  It’s great news for professional communicators who want to launch a blog for their clients in 2011.

Need more motivation? A recent HubSpot study shows that companies that blog achieve far better marketing results that the ones that don’t blog – attracting 55% more website visitors than non-blogging companies. (HubSpot is an innovative internet marketing company founded in 2006 by two former MITers who advise small businesses on how to  leverage the disruptive effects of the internet to “get found” by more prospects). They offer some practical advice on software feature choices for those just starting a business blog.

Facebook’s Allure

Earlier this month, my client, EMS Technologies, Inc., launched its Connect In-flight page on Facebook at the World Airline Entertainment Association conference in Palm Springs, Calif.
 
The online community, launched to bring individuals together to discuss the future of in-flight communications, was the first corporate-driven foray into social media for EMS, a technology supplier of avionics gear that enables airlines to offer WiFi services on Blackberries and iPhones.
 
As a corporate communicator, I am a fan of social networking as a way to reach influencers and create stronger ties to partners, customers and of course, employees. In these tough economic times, social media channels, whether it be a company blog, a Facebook page or tweets by key executives at a tradeshow, are cost effective to deploy, are easy to try out to determine if they are an effective channel before committing additional resources to maintaining and growing the social channel.
 
The challenge, as with any social networking outlet, is how to engage your fan base so they will want to share and debate…and reach out to their friends to get others to join in the conversation. Clearly, for those of us who write for a living, taking time to become part of these online networking sites creates opportunities for us to be an “in-the-know” resource on how to create fresh content to drive interest and buzz to these sites.
 
While external customer-driven sites are great, the timing has never been better to pursue social networking as part of your employee communications efforts. The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) finds that employers faced with reduced communication budgets and resources are turning to social media to keep their workforce engaged. IABC’s survey, co-sponsored by Buck Consultants, found that company blogs are the most popular social media tool currently in use (47 percent), with discussion boards ranking the highest for future planned use (33 percent).
 
Current use of social networking sites such as Twitter (21 percent), Yammer, or Twitter inside a corporate firewall, (20 percent), and Facebook (18 percent) is significant, but organizations are planning to use those tools even more in the future.
 
Based on what I am seeing within my own clientele and what I am reading and hearing from my communications colleagues, it’s a trend that will continue –count on it.