May 1

Transformational Writing

Transformation

At the Ottawa Writer’s Fest, I had the pleasure of hearing Cherie Dimaline speak. She restored my faith in fiction, saying that it can be transformational. I take that to mean that it really changes a person in a core way. It’s not like when you see photos of chocolate then you eat nothing but chocolate for a month. I mean, that will transform you, but not in any positive sort of way. Transformational fiction is writing that makes you think about real life situations, and sometimes you’ll want to help people or join a cause because of it.

I didn’t really think of fiction as transformational in the past. I love to write it and read it, but I often think of it as a bit of waste of time. You can write a story that parallels modern day horrors on this planet and subtly or even brutally put your readers in a scene that causes enough discomfort to spark a change in ideology or practice.

From now on, everything I write is going to start with the condition that it’s transformational, and I hope you’ll give it a try too.

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April 8

Punishment vs Reward

Writer

Writing should be fun and inspirational, but how do you do it more often. I often think of writing like exercise:

  1. It’s something I want to do;
  2. It’s something I need to do;
  3. It’s something that will benefit me;
  4. If I build it into my routine it becomes easier;
  5. It’s something I don’t have time for;
  6. I just don’t feel like it right now.

Number 5 and 6 can make you go years without writing. Either you don’t have the time or just don’t feel like it. A lot of people will set about to punish themselves. In almost every case, this is a bad solution and won’t work in the long term. Sometimes punishments can masquerade as time management or self improvement. Some examples of punishment might be:

  1. I’ll stop watching television;
  2. I’ll spend less time hanging out with my friends;
  3. I won’t play video games ever again.

Taking something out of your life that you enjoy isn’t a permanent solution. You might find yourself writing more, but you might also end up being more unhappy. Certainly if there are things that waste your time that you don’t enjoy, cut those out. That would be a reward, so go for it. Otherwise, think about rewards that work for you.

  1. Once I complete my first chapter, I’m going to buy myself that new pair of shoes I’ve been wanting;
  2. I’m going to watch an hour of television right after I write a poem;
  3. Once I’ve completed that short story, I’m going to play video games.

For those who have very little time, keep in mind the time where you wait. Almost everyone has to wait for something at some point. You wait for the doctor, the dentist, friends, business meetings, family members, husbands, and wives. For those who take buses, trains, or planes, you can write while you’re commuting. In all of this time you spend waiting, you might be able to get a full novel complete within 2 years.

Good luck, and starting writing again. Feel free to contact me if you want to chat about your next project.

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December 1

#Write everyday – no excuses

Here I am writing a blog post between sets on my phone. So what’s your excuse?

Whatever your excuse, I understand, truly, no judgement. For the last twenty years, I’ve had more excuses than actual time writing. I did manage to squeak out a couple of novels, some poetry and short stories, but the real key to writing is routine, at least for me.

I’ve probably gone a whole year at a time without “putting pen to paper.” If you can set aside time to write, even if it’s between sets while working out, five times a week, that accumulates. That’s a novel every year or two.

Careers in writing are built in years not months. Whatever your excuse to not write, find time. Find five minutes before bed. Take 15 minutes at lunch. Keep doing it frequently. If you really don’t have five to fifteen minutes a day to spare, reach out and get help. I mean that seriously, not to make fun at all. Everyone needs some free time. Find the time and write.

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September 9

Writing is the Cure for Everything

Are any of the following true for you?

You:

  1. Can’t sleep at night.
  2. Feel to sick to do anything.
  3. Are currently unemployed or not working enough hours.
  4. Are suddenly bored all the time or find yourself with a lot of free time.
  5. Have been injured and can’t do much.

Is writing really the cure for everything?

  1. Writing your thoughts and feelings down might help you to resolve things, calm down, and sleep better at night.
  2. Writing can help take your mind off of feeling sick.
  3. If you’re writing for money, that will help get you out of the unemployment slump.
  4. Writing something very unique and adventurous will help cure boredom and kill some free time.
  5. Writing can help take your mind off of your injury.

The reality is, writing won’t really cure everything, but it can help. More importantly, people often think they don’t have time to write, but they still spend time being injured, bored, unemployed, sick, and unable to sleep. These are opportunities for anyone that normally doesn’t have time in their lives to write. For instance, I don’t have any work to do at this very moment, so I’m writing a blog post about how writing is the cure for everything.

My answer to free time is always to fill it with television until I find something else to occupy my time. Then work, family, exercise, or sometimes even texting and Facebook come along and take any little bit of free time I have left over. The real question I have for myself and any other writer/procrastinator out there is, what the hell are we waiting for?

Let’s show the damn world that we can write. Even if it’s not perfect and they don’t love it. You have a better chance of writing something great if you try hundreds of times than not at all.

Here is what free time could equal in writing:

  1. 1 or 2 hours a month: a poem a month, 12 poems a year, 120 poems a decade.
  2. 1 or 2 hours a week: a short story a month, 12 short stories a year, 120 short stories a decade.
  3. 1 or 2 hour a day: a novel a year, 10 novels a decade.

Finding just a little bit of free time in our day to day accumulates to massive gains in terms of writing. Let it be your cure.

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June 10

Write What You Feel

If a tear rolls down your cheek, write about it. If you clench your fist or grind your teeth, enraged at the world, write it down. Next time you smile, smile on paper. Capturing your real emotions is so much easier than trying to invent emotions for the piece you are writing.

That moment, that single moment when you don’t really feel anything, that’s the moment to edit. That is the moment to look back objectively on your work and say, yeah, I want to cut down that rage scene a bit. It might not be realistic that I murdered him, cloned him then murdered him again.

Your work should honestly reflect who you are. If you’re sad, your work can be melancholy. Don’t try to be the writer you’re not. Be the writer you are. It makes life easier, and people will like your work much more if it’s honest.

So, I’ve never murdered a person, but I like to write about murder. Is that honest? Yes! Sorry for the preceding exclamation mark, but sometimes they are necessary. Just because I’m smart and compassionate enough to have never taken a life, doesn’t mean that I haven’t fantasized about leaving a few bodies in my wake. That’s the honesty that I work with, the feelings, not necessarily the actions.

Give it and try, and let me know how it works for you.

February 27

Content Ninja

Content NinjaA ninja is someone who is stealthy, patient, intelligent, and cunning. A good web writer is like a ninja, except we don’t usually wear cool costumes or intimidate people with sharp weapons.

Here are five reasons to hire a content ninja:

  1. SEM Plan or Ninja Infiltration Scheme – a content ninja will start out with a plan of the keywords that your site needs to target. There will be some separation between words you actually target, words you want to target, and words people are searching for. Having this plan ahead of time will create transparency, so anyone working on the site will know which words to and how to better target them.
  2. SEO or Ninja Sneakiness – every word a content ninja writes on a web site has value. A carefully crafted page can encourage search engines like Google to rank your site higher for specific keywords, like Content Writers for Hire. This follows the SEM plan to directly target the words that have the highest value to your business.
  3. Readability or Ninja Intellect – non-ninja human beings are reading your site, so it’s important to know that content ninjas don’t just stuff your keywords too full of things like Expert Content Writers. You don’t want someone to think that you grabbed content from a Japanese site and ran it through Google Translate. The messages must be clear, concise, and when appropriate, even thematic. Engaging readers is probably the most important part of web writing.
  4. Corporate Message or Ninja Throwing Stars – a good, consistent business message is the weapon of the content ninja. It lends the business credibility and builds trust. Without this strong and consistent site wide message, the ninja would be going in unarmed. Don’t worry though, a good content ninja can help craft this message.
  5. Call to Action or Ninja Exit Strategy – a ninja always has an exit plan. A content ninja has an exit plan for site visitors. A site with a strong and obvious call to action, is a site that gets results. For instance, a message that clearly states hire me now, with a link to a hire me form would be one simple example of a call to action.
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August 3

Put Yourself Out There

The Critic
The Critic (Photo credit: Kevin B 3)

If you are a writer, you have to open yourself up to criticism. You have to “put yourself out there.” Not all critics are worth listening to. Sometimes people will tell you something is good when it isn’t, and other people will tell you something is bad when it isn’t. The most important thing to understand is that the best critics are the people who don’t know you, don’t understand your work, and have nothing invested in what you’re doing.

Put up a blog, a Facebook profile, and get a Twitter account. Ask people what they think, and allow them to publicly say bad things about your work. Yes, it is defeating; however, one bad critic doesn’t make your work bad. It means that one person doesn’t like that one piece. It could be that you wrote something bad also. Either way, as a good creative writer, you need to write what other people can understand.

I could always tell if I had written something worthwhile because people would either give me a very positive or very negative response. The work I’ve done that gets a neutral response is always the work I rework. If someone hates my work, I know they feel passionate about it. If someone just doesn’t like, that’s when I think I’m in trouble.

Good luck with your writing, and try your best to make people either love or hate your work – as long as they’re talking about it.

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June 13

Writing Tests

I’m in the middle of applying to a few different writing sites. Although many will take your portfolio into account, most of them give simple writing tests. The great thing about a writing test is that if you actually write well but don’t have a great deal of experience, you can get some good paying jobs. So, for those of you taking a writing test, I recommend double checking your spelling and grammar. If you’re not asked to be objective, keep the writing positive, unless it is a critique.

Other than that, keep your tone consistent and make sure to read and read again.

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May 24

Experience Life

Once in a while you can watch TV or read a good book, and you’ll get some ideas about writing style. Most of the time though, the only way to write well is to go out and live your life.To stand out as a writer, you can’t be the next Stephen King. You have to be the best you, by living and writing about your own experiences.

I have to go live now, but I’ll write again soon.

May 21

Write Better by Learning a Second Language

The camera used emits an orange light and a so...

It makes the ears perk up a bit and the head turn to the side when I suggest that learning French, Spanish or any other language is going to help your English writing skills.

Dig a little deeper, and you’ll understand that a second or even third language opens up a reality that wasn’t there before. If English is your native and only spoken language, it’s something that can easily be taken for granted. The words, spelling, and meanings are what they are. After a while, you’ll understand that although you hear words that are so similar they are even spelled the same between some languages, they are used differently. Language frames how we think. French people are often described as artsy and rude. I’ve thought to myself on many occasions how rudely I’ve been treated by French people, but they have also been some of the most honest and intelligent people as well. Again, their language frames their culture and how they think, so to me they are rude, but perhaps to them I’m unclear.

Knowing another language will allow you to begin to think outside your framework. It’ll let you represent ideas that many of your unilingual readers wouldn’t have been able to frame on their own. This type of cross language / cross culture thinking could  be a very good creative nugget to offer your readers.

One last thought on this, before you bury the idea. Without knowing another language, you can only really represent that type of person purely from observation. Observation is how we writers get most of our work done, but imagine you knew the language. You knew the person, framework and all. Now it’s like you’re writing from inside their head. It’s always better as a writer to try to experience something and not just see and copy.

I recommend you go out and learn another language. It’s not easy for everyone, but it’s better than chasing cars.