Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Class Paper or Work Report? 10 Writing Tips to Get You Started!

There are days when the deadline for a writing project is just around the corner, and I'm still unable to find the motivation to get started. For both writers and non writers alike, writing can be chore - something that needs to be done. Unfortunately, we don't always have the choice to lounge and do nothing. There are clients, bosses and professors to please, and deadlines to meet.

Here are ten tips I use to get started and to keep writing until the work is done.

  • Start with a blank page, and start small. Write down the title of the piece you are working on, write the first sentence, then write another and then another.

  • First comes writing and next comes editing. I refer to my first write up as the "Puke Version." Nasty, yes, but that is what it is. Get all the raw thoughts and content on paper, before you worry about revising. 

  • Turn all social media off. It ruins concentration and takes precious time away from writing. Get offline and focus on what needs to be done. Social media will be there when you log back in.

  • Don't spend all your time picking out an outfit that you forget to wear it and go to the ball. Just start already and keep going. There is a finite amount of outlining and research you can do - it can become an excuse not to write. I am guilty of this.  

  • Take time off. Save that first or finished draft, go for a run (do something different) and give yourself time before editing it. An hour, a day or a week - you will come back with fresh ideas and a new  point of view.

  • I am a wordy writer, and I tend to LOVE every single word of my draft. However, there are limitations placed on most class or work writing assignments. You may love every single word of your draft, but you have to shorten it. Extra Tip: Edit to cut out or shorten paragraph chunks not just to cut out words or sentences. 

  • I came across this tip recently: It’s easier to write for your audience with a character in mind. Are you writing for Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) in The Devil Wears Prada or for Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) in Pretty Woman?

  • The internet, dictionary and thesaurus are your friends - if you are not sure, double check on grammar, sources, spelling, synonyms, antonyms, facts etc.

  • Do you have a big project? Break it down into smaller tasks. I am currently ghostwriting a book; this tip saves me from developing a headache and having anxiety attacks.

  • Sometimes it helps to talk and write. Say what you want to write and then write it. Don't get caught up on what it reads like. Remember the first version is usually a puke version, and editing comes after and makes it edible.

Try a few of these tips. If you need further help getting started or have other writing needs, contact me and I would love to help

Beloved, You are Loved Absolutely!

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Don't Give IT Away for Free!

For all our sake and dignities, please do me a favor, get paid for it.
And when you get paid, please don't give it away for cheap.
When you do give it away for free or cheap, make sure it is worth your while OR get paid in kind.

Two weeks ago, I read a New York Times article written by Tim Kreider and titled "Slave of the internet, Unite!"  What he had to say captured my attention and aptly addressed the thoughts that have been roaming in my head since I started freelance writing and editing. This article calls writers and all creative artists to unite and stop giving up their work for free. Oh bless his soul!

If I count the times I have been asked to write or edit for free or count when someone tries to negotiate my rate quote from a couple hundred dollars to a few pennies. I'd be rich! 

I am not opposed to working for free or for lower than your asking rate if you are looking for exposure, trying to build your portfolio or working for a cause you believe in. However I do ask that when you do, let it be a wise business choice especially if you are building a business or if what you do is how you make a living. 

If not, you are doing yourself and the rest of us a disservice. Our time and services are valuable. 

I worked for free and for cheap to build my portfolio - a portfolio I seriously need to update ASAP. :)
I wrote for free, because I knew it was a stepping stone to create exposure for what I do and can do. 
I write for free and for lower than my asking rate for causes I ABSOLUTELY believe in, and this I will recommend to any business.

Writing for free brings with it opportunity to write for money. That is how I started, and I refuse to knock it, but please have a strategy. 

I decide at the start of each year the percentage of my writing load and time that serves as "volunteer work." I also decide the kinds of clients I am willing to serve this way. If a client request free or cheap work after my quota has been filled, I politely and professionally say no...unless there is a good reason to say yes.

I am not opposed to taking a quick look at a friend's class essay or commenting on a "potential" client's work. If you are consistently asking me without thought to how I eat and what I am building, then you should read "Slave of the internet, Unite!" and let me know what you think.

Most businesses give products and services out for free to build their client base, but be wise about what that entails for you. If you are CONSISTENTLY working for free five years into it, then you need to re-evaluate.

Writing as a profession is a risk - a monetary one. It can be hard pitching on end or waiting months and forever for a client to send your check. I am lucky to have a family that supports me through thick and thin.

Let's stick together until we figure out a way to make creative professions - writers, musicians, artists etc viable. Or are they archaic and outdated? Is there a app for that too?

I would love to hear read your thoughts.

Beloved, You are Loved Absolutely!

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pearls From my Father: Dignity of Labor

My dad's birthday was two weeks ago. He turned 70, and that to me is a good definition of old! Sorry Papa!

I was on vacation with my family for a little over a week in October, and we had a blast. On the morning of my daddy's birthday, we sat around and shared things we loved about my dad and the values he taught us that stuck. That was the inspiration for this post which might become a series of posts. 

My dad was dedicated to using teachable moments to transfer his values. Most of what he said in those moments stuck even when I had an attitude. One incident from many years ago has been on the surface of my mind A LOT this year.

I was 16 and had just graduated from high school. My dad and I were heading someplace when his car broke down. Fortunately, it was right next to his auto repair shop. We left the car at the auto shop and hopped on the back seat of a bus. At one stop, we were both looking out the back window and saw a street cleaner. He was sweeping the streets, listening to music on his Walkman ( I did say it was many years ago) and dancing. He was smiling as he swept the streets clean. 

My dad looked at me as the bus drove on and decided this was a teachable moment. He said "That is an expression of the dignity of labor. That might not be his dream or vision for himself, and I do hope he is working towards a bigger dream. However, he is joyful and dedicated to what he is doing now. No matter where you find yourself and what job you do, dream big and work towards it, but always live in a space that expresses dignity for who you are and what you do. Give yourself to all you do wholeheartedly. Don't let your work define you, own the dignity in it by doing it excellently.You are not what you do. You are worth more than what you do. Go and do it well.

Honestly, I cannot remember my reaction. Looking back at the teenager and rebel I was, I probably nodded my head in agreement, rolled my eyes when his back was turned and thought four things in rapid succession:

"Whatever, how could you probably know why he is happy?"
"He is probably happy because the song playing in his ears is his favorite one." 
"He is probably just excited that he is about to get off work in a few."
"Who cares? I am never going to be a street cleaner. Please, that would never be me. I am going to be a lawyer and an author."

And yes, I was partly right on that last thought. I have never swept streets. The closest I have been to doing menial work was after college. I graduated in May and helped a newly divorced father with two boys clean and organize his house twice a week for two months. He introduced me to his ex-wife who was a landscape architect. She hired me to plant beautiful flowers and lay exotic stones for an outdoor water fountain. I enjoyed both work, because it put money in my pocket, the little boys were adorable, I met a few handsome men while planting flowers, I actually enjoyed landscaping, I was able to stay close to my then boyfriend who had a year left of college, and I knew these jobs were short term. 

I got hired for a corporate job in July, and off I went. 

In college, I worked at a daycare for four years and did some babysitting on the side. That meant a lot of diapers and runny noses. I still babysit and nanny every once in a while now (I promise it is great for quick and easy extra income ). But I haven't cleaned a street. 

The dignity of labor value stayed with me. It has been a guiding principle since it was introduced to me by my daddy. 
Whether I was aware of it or not, it stuck. It laid dormant for a while, but came alive for the first time during my first summer in college. I worked in my college dish room that summer in addition to working at the daycare. I HATED it and did not want anyone to see me in those ugly purple t-shirt and hair net. In those moments, my dad's words always came to me "You are not what you do. You are worth more than what you do. Go and do it well."  These words have resounded in my ears in the last three years when all came crashing down in the area of work. 

I am thankful that this pearl stuck, because I have had to lean on it a lot lately.
I am thankful for 70 years of my daddy. 

In a world where a father's love can be opaque, my dad's love is transparent. 
I am thankful.

Here are a few more reasons why I love my dad.

Beloved, You are Loved Absolutely!

Friday, November 1, 2013

You Should Create a 2014 Reading List!

I am the weird one who gets giddy when I step into a book store; my heart beats faster in my chest. My Instagram feed constantly buzzes with a "Currently Reading" image. I am ALWAYS reading. I wish I was ALWAYS writing too.

I made my first reading list in 2012, and I enjoyed going through a list alongside other books that caught my attention that year. Sadly, I only got through 4 of the 20 books on my list. What can I say? I got distracted by other books as explained in my 2012 recap

2013 has been different because of two reasons: 
  • I have six fewer books on my 2013 reading list than I did in 2012, and
  • My lists is made up of  books I actually WANT to read. 
I have read eight of 14 books and with two months left in 2013, who knows what I can accomplish. :) I will post a full 2013 recap before the year is over and also include a list of all the books I read this year. 

Why should you create a 2014 reading list? Here are four reasons why. These are benefits I have personally enjoyed because of this practice. 
  • Creating a reading list has helped me to read more. For a self described avid reader, that is saying A LOT. I have read more books since I started making a yearly reading list than in previous years when I had no list. A reading list gave me a bookshelf to choose from when I had no idea what I wanted to read, but had an itch to read. I always have an itch. :) A reading list will focus your reading especially if you don't enjoy reading or you love reading, but have reached a reader's block (believe me they exist).

  • I have a better idea of the kinds of books I love to read versus the books I read because they are the classics or are written by well known authors. The books I read off my reading list last year and this year are good examples of books I enjoy reading in this season of my life. They also give you a good idea of what I like to write and want to write. A reading list helps you understand yourself as a reader. 

  • I have a better idea of the kind of books I am not reading but want to read. I am drawn to world history, historical fictions, biographies, classics by African American writers and book (fiction or non fiction) about strong women. That draw is not always clear on my list. I want to read business-oriented books that can give me insights into being a better entrepreneur. I want to read books from and about thought leaders I admire, spiritual or not. A reading list will help you see the gaps in your reading, and your writing, if you are a writer.
There you have it! Whether you enjoy or struggle reading, making a list is worth trying. I am excited to put together my 2014 Reading List - I have some pretty interesting books I want to get to. 

Have a wonderful weekend! I am going to a wedding - fun stuff!

Do you have a reading list? If yes, why do you make one and if no, why not?

Beloved, You are Loved Absolutely!

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Success for a Woman Entrepreneur!

Women are different from men.
How we handle business and position of leadership in general is different. More women are nurturing and collaborative than most men. When we step into leadership roles and start businesses, we bring ourselves to these positions.

As an entrepreneur, I realize a while back that bringing my authentic self to my business and to my clients is important. However, there were a few areas I needed to groom to confidently navigate the business world, being a leader and growing a business. As I nurture the idea of introducing one or two more businesses into the lineup of things I do, it is important to me that I know what I bring to the table. However, I also have to be aware of areas I need to lean into.

I read a New York Times article a few weeks ago, and it got me thinking. The article featured interviews with four women executives. I agreed with what the women had to say, and I have compiled a list of ten tips I took away from the article. A few of these tips I naturally live out, others I am grooming and many I have to work on.
  • Do not hoard favors from other women. Be unafraid to introduce people and open doors of opportunities for others. Compliment somebody when it is deserved. We are all in this journey together, and people can learn to act better when they see you acting good. Don't undervalue the capital you have to help another woman succeed...use it.
  • On the other hand, just because you share a gender does not necessarily mean you can capitalize on that as a virtue for connection. Assuming you are entitled to a connection or access by virtue of shared gender can be annoying.
  • Oh please speak up. Own the room and speak with confidence. Don't always frame your statements like questions. Own them. Drop the use of please before or at the end of EVERY statement. If you are a leader, don't be afraid to cast your vision. Learn to handle and work through conflicts. It is a skill you will need both working for someone and building your own business.
  • Post conflict - Learn to keep business debates as business debates. Let the dust settle, move on and share a drink at happy hour. Men do this better than women; we like to keep a grudge. Learn to fight in the business world without taking it home or stewing on it many years after.
  • Please do not cry. This one can be hard for women especially when it is a situation we feel strongly about. A good idea Lisa Price, Founder and President of Carols Daughter points out is to "wait to speak" if it is at all possible. Wait until your emotions are steady and your feathers are not up and ruffled.
  • Own yourself as a woman and recognize the way you lead. It does not have to be what is expected in a typical business setting, though it will do you a lot of good to cultivate those skills too. However, knowing who you are, how you lead and grooming what you need are important.
  • You do not always have to be a part of the tribe - step out of line.
  • As a leader, you have control, you have power and you have authority. Do not be afraid to use it. Stop and make people think especially in situations when people expected a man to walk into the room not a woman.
  • Set high expectations from the get go.
  • Don't be a tough cookie just to be one; never forget to choose joy and be kind.

Beloved, You are Loved Absolutely!

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Day In Day Out!

This video is a good reminder to re-frame how I think and operate in my day to day. Most of life can be mundane, but it is not impossible to enjoy the day in day out routine I have to go through. I don't always have to feel stuck; I just need to change how I think and how I look at things and people. 

This video, in very subtle ways, also talks about the need to have compassion for the people around me. I cannot always know what people are dealing with, but I can show compassion. Yesterday, I spent time with a friend of mine after church, and he revealed a hard family situation. I could not have dreamed it up if I tired. He is a good friend, and we talk/hang out quite often. I was blown away to know what was going on. 

You never know what people are walking and crawling through. 

Choose Joy and Be kind!

Beloved, You are Loved Absolutely!

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Value in Courage

"Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage." - Maya Angelou

I have always wondered about this quote by Maya Angelou. I never understood it. Courage! Really?

But as I thought more about it and I examined other virtues, I realized it does take courage to practice other virtues. 

It takes courage to truly love, to be open and transparent, to be honest, to dream big, to be creative and innovative, to be vulnerable, to choose integrity, to step into diversity and personal responsibility, and to choose character, integrity and dignity. It take courage to stand up for the truth.

Courage is essential to asking for what you want, saying no and serving. It is the ability to be truly yourself in any situation you find yourself in. To be strong in business, no matter which industry - you need courage. You need it stand up and let your voice be heard

Courage is a good virtue to cultivate.

Beloved, You are Loved Absolutely!

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