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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Creative Writing Triggers

Writers write. That may seem painfully obvious but it’s what we do. We can’t afford to be so undisciplined that the words don’t flow from the keyboard. Call it procrastination, laziness or something else (I don’t believe in writer’s block. See my post about that here).

In another post, I shared some writing exercises that one of my former college professors used in class. Here are a few of my own techniques that I’ve come up with over the years:

Write down some words at random and list as many synonyms as you can for each. Pull out the thesaurus if you have to. Seeing certain words in black and white can trigger ideas.

Copy the lyrics from a song you despise. Take those verses that make you wince from their supreme awfulness and rewrite them.

Make up a product or service that you need to sell. Create ad headlines that will grab people’s attention. Don’t filter yourself — let your imagination go wild.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

World Habitat Day

October 5 is 2009 World Habitat Day, which aims to remind everyone how critical the need is for people to have a safe, decent place to call home. Habitat for Humanity and many other organizations support this global observance to declare that the lack of decent, affordable housing is unacceptable. The current global recession makes this crisis all the more relevant.

According to the United Nations, which has designated the first Monday each October as World Habitat Day, more than 100 million people in the world today are homeless. So what can we each do for World Habitat Day? “Advocate – Educate – Donate.”

To learn about Habitat for Humanity’s role in spreading the word of World Habitat Day, click here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Danger, Will Robinson! (Or: How I Learned to Spot Job Posting Red Flags, Part 4)

This is a continuation of Danger, Will Robinson! (Or: How I Learned to Spot Job Posting Red Flags, Part 1), (Part 2) and (Part 3).

“The compensation will be seeing your name published in a local publication. It will look excellent on your resume!!”

“Compensation: Clips and exposure to millions of readers.”

“No pay but you’ll help the world go green!”

Look familiar? Not exactly paying gigs, are they? But there they are, to be found in abundance on online “paying” job posting boards. I’ve found that many of these come-ons either overpromise what they’re selling or are outright frauds designed to suck you in for nefarious purposes. Sure, there are legitimate opportunities to build your portfolio, if you’re willing to write for free, but like anything else, there are people willing to take advantage of the na├»ve or inattentive by getting something for nothing. Once you get a few pieces published, though, it’s time to go for the moolah.

The debate within the writing community rages on as to whether you should ever write for free (gotta accumulate those clips somehow) or not (it ultimately cheapens the profession for everybody). Heck, I did it when I was a newbie. But I didn’t delude myself into thinking that I would be “discovered” by some big-shot wheeler-and-dealer who would launch my writing career into the stratosphere, or any other such nonsense. I did it to collect bylines and that all-important experience. But it didn’t take me long to realize that my time, effort and skills are valuable commodities deserving of pay.

So how do you separate the honest, cash-strapped folks (think nonprofits) from the con artists? Sometimes it can feel as complicated and arduous as separating the chocolate from the milk, but pay attention to what the ad is really saying — read between the lines. Beware of any ad that screams:

“New, exciting, up-and-coming national magazine started by technology gazillionaire Tommy Moneypants, with the backing of Fortune 500 companies, seeks writers! Oh, and even though our founder has more cash than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined, we can’t afford to pay you. But you’ll get a byline.”

My advice? Click off that page as fast you can.

Agree? Disagree? Want to add to the conversation? Feel free to comment.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Questions & Quandaries

Have writing/publishing/industry questions?

Then check out Brian A. Klems’ blog at Writer’s Digest, "Questions & Quandaries." From copyright and legal questions to grammatical and formatting dilemmas — and most everything in between — Brian’s blog is invaluable. I refer to it constantly.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Social Media for Business 101

Here’s an article I wrote for Connect magazine, a publication for business owners, on using social media. It’s basically a social media primer, laying out some simple ground rules.