‘Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm…’

syllabi fall 2017American Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” I agree 100%! That’s why I’m so excited to be starting another semester working with my students at Rider University. This semester, I’m teaching “COM107 Writing for the Media” and “COM341 Publicity Methods.” I couldn’t be any more enthusiastic about meeting my students (although I’ve met a few before) and about moving ahead with the activities planned for Fall 2017.

It’s go time! Classes start this week, and my syllabi are complete and already shared on Canvas (Rider’s learning management system online). Enthusiastically, I anticipate Fall 2017 will be a GREAT semester! Bring it on!

Getting Ready to Write (in 2016)!

Photo by Lynda Giddens via Creative Commons

Photo by Lynda Giddens via Creative Commons

How do you get ready to write? Whatever I’m writing, these are the steps I take to motivate myself and to get the “creative juices” flowing. Sometimes, I only need to do one or two of the steps to get ready… Other times, I need to do it all!

Note: This is an updated version of a blog post I originally wrote four years ago. We used the original post for an assignment in the writing classes I teach at Rider University, and we’ll be using this post in our writing classes that start this week. All the ideas shared are still applicable today (in 2016), but I’ve made some very minor changes/additions to this latest version. The changes are noted in red… Thanks for reading this post!

Here’s what I do to get ready to write, and I hope you find the info to be interesting and helpful to you:

1. Clear Your Head — and Your Workspace — to Get Organized

To get started on any writing project, I need to focus on the project — not on everything else going on in my life. First, I make a handwritten list of things I need to do that aren’t related to the writing project and tuck the list away to be looked at later. (I believe that when I put a pen in my hand and write on a piece paper the activity “triggers” some creative juices in my brain… Recent research backs up this idea!) Then I make another list — or an outline — for the project I need to do right then and there. In my workspace, I move piles of work out of my view so they don’t distract me, which brings us to the next step…

2. Shut Down Distractions
I turn off my phone or put it on vibrate. I ignore any calls or texts that might come in while I’m trying to work. I sign off all social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.). Then I  close the browser window for my email account on my laptop. If it’s on, I turn off the news/talk radio (sometimes music is okay — it depends on my mood…) and I turn off my TV. I can’t be distracted if I really want to focus on my writing.

3. Do Something Else First — Something You Enjoy Doing
For me, a walk on the beach (in warmer months) or preparing a favorite recipe can inspire me to “tackle” a writing project. Or maybe I’ll watch Netflix or a TV show I’ve saved on my DVR. What inspires you? Do that first, then sit down and write, write, write!

4. Time Yourself — and Don’t Forget to Give Yourself a Break (or Two)
Sometimes I actually set a real timer and write for 20 or 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, I get up and “reward” myself by getting a snack or taking a short break. If I’m really on a writing streak, I’ll reset the timer and keep on writing… I think doing this makes me feel better because it’s a way to “control” the process. (I used to use an “old-fashioned” kitchen timer with an obnoxious ring/buzz when it went off. But today I use the alarm/timer on my iPhone — I can control the ringtone, and it’s a lot less jolting!) 

5. Focus on Your Readers/Audience and Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Think about your readers or audience. Who will be reading or hearing the words you’re writing? What do they like or dislike? How can you grab — and keep — their attention? Successful writing projects are written for specific audiences. (I can’t stress this enough!!) I sometimes pretend I’m having a conversation with my readers, like I’m doing right now.

Well, these steps are the ones I take when I’m getting ready to write. However, we all have different ways of doing things… Here are some tips from Janis Butler Holm: Getting Ready to Write: Rituals vs. Distractions.

What do YOU do to get ready to write? Please share your tips and ideas in the comments here on my blog.

Until next time, take care, and thanks for reading! ;-)

Kathy Magrino

 

Let Go of Your Anxieties About Writing! Just ‘K.I.S.S.’…

Learn to let go of any anxieties you might have about writing! In my 12 years of teaching writing courses, I’ve heard all the fears and excuses (and, honestly, sometimes I’ve experienced them, too). PURPLEKISS FINALWe share the same concerns and fears, we ask similar questions, and sometimes we don’t know what to write about, or how to get started. We’re always on alert, because “writer’s block” can happen at any time! Yes, anxieties related to the writing process are very common, so don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Recently, I taught a one-day “Basic Writing” refresher course for business people at a local community college. It was an enlightening experience for me to teach adult students who are already in the workforce, since I’m usually teaching “traditional” college students (ages 18-22) in my writing classes at Rider University. The main difference was that I was working with people who were NOT “digital natives” and these students represented different generations – mostly Generation X-ers, one Millennial, and a few Baby Boomers, too. And, even though our class took place in a computer lab, the students actually brought pens and notepads to the class, just like the good ol’ days! (Hmmm… “How different generations work and communicate today” might be a good topic for a future blog post?!… Stay tuned!) Yes, there were differences, but one similarity stood out: These students were like my other “traditional” students. They said they have anxieties related to the writing process, too. It’s a very common problem, but, seriously, it’s time to let go!

Here’s how: Just K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Students)! The K.I.S.S. principle for writing is easy to follow. It’s something I try to apply to all my writing – and to almost everything else that I do. If you’re ready to let go of your anxieties about writing, here are a few K.I.S.S. writing tips from my “Basic Writing” class presentation:

  • PREPARE to write. Create an outline. Do research, if necessary. Know your audience.
  • BRAINSTORM for ideas. Ask questions. Consider objectives. Be creative, when appropriate.
  • Pay attention to your writing STYLE and TONE. Be conversational, but professional. Be clear. Be yourself, and write naturally.

These are just a few tips, and I could go on and on about the K.I.S.S. principle for writing, but we’ll save some pointers for another day, or maybe another blog post. :)  If you’ve read this far, you might be interested in reading more about what others are saying about keeping the writing process as simple as possible, like The Power of Simple Writing by Jeff Bulas.

Writing – and almost everything else in life – is better when you K.I.S.S.! What do you think? Feel free to share your comments on this blog. Or tweet me @kathymagrino. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Creativity and enthusiasm shine through the blogs my students are writing!

A few years ago, I blogged about how impressed I was with the blogs my students were creating and writing for our COM106 Writing for the Communication Professions class at Rider University. And each semester since 2012, I’ve continued to be “wowed” by my students’ blogs.blogcollageimage It’s not just the writing that they’re doing that’s impressive. It’s my students’ creativity that impresses me the most!

I give my students complete creative control over their blogs, and they can choose to write about any theme they want (because I believe that it’s always easier to write when you’re writing about a topic that interests you). Their creativity is awesome, and it’s enhanced by their enthusiasm for the topics they’re writing about, as well! They’re doing such a great job writing their blogs this semester, and the themes and topics are so interesting. I enjoy reading every post they write. :)

Take a look at a few of the blogs created during the past few weeks (Spring Semester 2015), and I think you’ll be impressed, too!

Business communication: Are your presentations ‘Zen-like’? They should be!

This week in my COM106 Writing for the Media class at Rider University, I’ll be introducing my students to Garr Reynold’s book, Presentation Zen. It’s a required text for our course.presentation zen book Sharing this book and the concepts Garr covers in the book with future business professionals is my attempt (in a very small way) to support Garr’s “mission” — and to hopefully help improve the quality of presentations in the business world in the years to come. ;)

If you’re not familiar with Presentation Zen, the book promotes the concepts of “restraint, simplicity and naturalness” in presentation preparation, design and delivery. Garr describes his book in the first chapter of Presentation Zen:

“This is not a book about Zen; this is a book about communication and about seeing presentations in a slightly different way, a way that is in tune with our times… Our professional activities – especially professional communications – can share the same ethos as Zen. That is, the essence or the spirit of many of the principles found in Zen concerning aesthetics, mindfulness, connectedness, and so on can be applied to our daily activities, including presentations.”

Follow Garr Reynolds on Twitter @PresentationZen and read the book to discover how you can make your business presentations more “Zen-like.” :)

 

Introducing a new feature on this blog: WriteOn!

Each week, I’ll be posting a “WriteOn!” mini-post here on my blog where you’ll find two or three links to blogs, articles and academic research paper posts that I’ve discovered online during the previous week. WriteOn3-carrotHonestly, I’m not sure what the specific topics will be – I’m open to learning about anything and everything that can help keep us positive, focused, motivated and moving forward in today’s sometimes-crazy, often-distracting world.

I’ll be looking for writing that somehow catches my attention. (For those of you who already follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn, you know my interests are wide-ranging and somewhat scattered: business, writing, teaching, learning, entrepreneurship, social media, communicating, etc.) In determining my picks for each week, I’ll be focused on sharing writing that’s somehow eye-opening, thought-provoking or just plain interesting – something that makes me (and hopefully you) think or react or take action.

Let’s face it: There’s so much good writing that’s going on right now, it’s impossible to read it all. Today, it seems we’re all writers – and we’re writing more than ever before: texting, emailing, blogging and expressing ourselves on social and online media… The reality is that humanity, as a whole, is communicating on a global scale and we’re linked together now more than we’ve ever been before.

This new blog feature – WriteOn! – will be my attempt to simplify and filter through all the writing and communicating that’s going on online today. I’m doing this for myself and for my like-minded friends and followers. Hope it helps us all! Look for my first WriteOn! post this Monday, January 5, 2015. Let me know what you think by commenting or tweeting to me. Thanks!

Are you getting ready to write?

At the start of my writing classes each semester we review how people prepare themselves to write. Everyone does this differently, of course, so, in addition to my own experiences, I like to share advice from different sources. Here’s a timely poster and blog post by Demian Farnworth from www.copyblogger.com that arrived in my email inbox today:
10 Rules for Writing First Drafts
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

I’ll be sharing it with my writing students in class next week. (Thanks, Demian!)

Inspiration From Everyone, Everywhere

Inspiration is a funny thing: You never know where it’s going to come from, or when it’s going to happen.

The last few weeks have been challenging for everyone impacted by a storm named Sandy, with its wild winds and overwhelming surge. My family was very fortunate. Yes, we were displaced for a few weeks, but that’s nothing compared to what was experienced by the people whose homes were flooded or washed away. I can only imagine how they’re feeling. Over the past few weeks, as I’ve driven by giant mounds of debris on the roads around me, and I’ve watched the news reports on TV, I’ve been inspired by the strength and bravery of people, in general. I’m inspired by their ability to look ahead to the future, their capacity to hold onto dreams. Everyone seems to have the determination to push forward and rebuild, despite the challenges they’re facing.

I’ve also been inspired by my students this semester. This week, they presented their final projects: “Zen-like” presentations of their plans for the future. Together, we looked ahead to 2022 and talked about our hopes and dreams. (I’m smiling as I’m writing this, remembering the wide variety of scenarios they envision… Most predictions are very positive and happy, except for the “zombie apocalypse” outlined by one student! :) )

This semester was also the first semester where I asked my students to create their own WordPress blogs. (See my previous blog post.) Yes, I was truly inspired by the way many of my students dedicated so much time and effort in creating and writing their blogs. But, I was also inspired by their overall enthusiasm for the project and the messages they conveyed. I’m inspired by their plans and dreams — and their determination to make these dreams come true.

So, on that note, I’m linking you to Crissy Glasser’s blog (with her permission). Listen to the song Crissy shares at the end of her post: “Dream Catcher” by the band Set It Off. I’m inspired by the messages in the song’s lyrics… I hope you’re inspired by the song’s messages too! “Cast your net… cast it out…”

Until next time, as Set It Off says, “Please believe you’ll be a dream catcher!” :)

Photo credit: Jack Newton – jdn – via Flickr/Creative Commons

Six Pixels of Separation – A Study Guide – (Part 2)

This is the second part of the study guide I’ve pulled together to help you connect with the main concepts Mitch Joel writes about in his book, Six Pixels of Separation. (This study guide was created for my COM106 students at Rider University. In our class, we will be having a quiz on Chapters 7-10 of the book next week.)

Chapter 7:  You Are Media

Understand key concepts/terms/people from this chapter:  personal brand, digital footprint, Robert Scoble, Chris Brogan

“In a world of Six Pixels of Separation, it is not about how your business connects and communicates in online channels, it’s about how you (or your employees) as an individual build, nurture, and share personal brands. A company is no longer made up of anonymous people building one brand; rather, it is made up of many personal brands that are telling your one corporate-brand story in their own, personal, ways.” (p.126)

“Build a 3D Personal Brand:

  1. Give abundantly…
  2. Help others…
  3. Build relationships…” (pp.134-135)

Chapter 8: From Mass Media to Mass Content

Understand key concepts/terms from this chapter: content, word-of-mouth

“There are really only four types of content you can create:

  1.   Text…
  2.   Images…
  3.   Audio…
  4.   Video…”

“The tone, flow and vibe you give off in your content will reveal who the ‘real company’ is [or who you are]. This is, specifically, why blogs are so popular: they’re the human voice behind it all.” (p. 152)

“Great content = great word-of-mouth.” (p. 159)

– Know the “Six General Rules for a Healthy Blog” (p. 160)

Chapter 9: Digital Darwinism

“Building community has many more similarities to dating than you might imagine. So if your blog, podcast, or Twitter is getting no traction, more often than not it’s simply not what your customers [readers] are looking for and, to be blunt, they’re just not that into you.” (p. 164)

“How do you build trust once you begin receiving attention? By using the Web in a very human way. This falls into two major categories: 1. Be Helpful… 2. Be Sincere…” (pp. 167-168)

Chapter 10: From Mass Media to “Me” Media

Understand key concepts/terms/people from this chapter:  Garr Reynolds, Seth Godin, cloud, niche

“Always be experimenting… The win is not in creating something that appeals to the masses. Your personal win will be leveraging the power of a very specific and unique niche that you can serve, protect, and call your own. Your personal brand builds your business. You find your own ‘mass’ in your niches.” (p. 195)

Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel – A Study Guide (Part 1)

Over the next few weeks, we’re reading Mitch Joel‘s Six Pixels of Separation in my writing classes at Rider University. The following post is Part 1 of a two-part study guide I’ve pulled together for my students. Next week, I’ll be posting Part 2 here, as well. If you’re interested in learning more about digital/online communication and marketing, I think you’ll love this book as much as I do. :)

Here’s the study guide:

I’ve written this study guide to help you connect with the main concepts Mitch Joel writes about in his book, Six Pixels of Separation. I hope Mitch’s book and this guide help you gain:

  • a better understanding of the digital marketing/communications era we live in today
  • and an appreciation of just how much online communication has transformed our world, in general.

My goal in asking you to read this book (and one of Mitch’s goals in writing the book) is to help you to see the power offered by digital communications and the online world, a world where distance is not an issue, and a world where we are easily connected to each other asynchronously and in real time.

This study guide was created for my COM106 students. In our class, there will be two quizzes on Six Pixels of Separation:

  • QUIZ #1 on September 24th will cover the Introduction and Chapters 1-6. (Review Part 1 of this study guide to prepare for Quiz #1.)
  • QUIZ #2 on October 1st will cover Chapters 7-14. (Review Part 2 of this study guide to prepare for Quiz #2.)

The book’s Introduction:

Don’t skip reading the introduction because it gives us the opportunity to learn how this book came about, and to see how successful we can be as writers/bloggers today because of online communication channels (blogs, social media, etc.). Mitch writes, “All of my past and current personal successes in life, from the growth of Twist Image to the mass media attention to the publishing deal that put this book in your hands, has been because of these online channels…”(p. xi) According to Mitch (and I agree with him), the digital communication channels offer many opportunities to us. They’re not the “time suck” that many people accuse them of being…

Chapter 1: I Google You… Just Like You Google Me

Understand key concepts/terms from this chapter: transparency, personal branding, community, online community, networking, social media, blogging.

Being able to publish to the world for free is a big (huge) deal… what we’re really seeing is an entirely new marketing and communications channel emerge where brands are all treated equally (sometimes equally badly, sometimes equally well)… We’re seeing a new world where people are building huge networks of connections that foster community, conversation and commerce.”

Review the “Six Social Needs” (pp. 19-20). Among them: “Online social networks provide people with the ultimate tool for defining and redefining themselves, as evidenced in profile pages on Facebook…” – research findings originally from Center for Media Research e-newsletter (December 2007).

Chapter 2: The Trust Economy

Understand key concepts/terms from this chapter: trust economy, participatory culture, authenticity, channels, permission, content, blog, micro-blog, podcast, online social network, sharing sites, user-generated content, wiki, widgets, consistency

“When you engage in a conversation and treat your consumers with respect and as your peers, magical things will happen.” (p. 26)

“You are in the business of building your own trust economy as part of your core values and foundation.” (p. 27)

“The two pillars for building your business through the digital channels will be: Permission… Content…” (p. 27)

“Speak like a human being, not like a press release.” (pp. 42-43)

Chapter 3: Entrepreneurship

In this chapter, focus on pages 52-53 where Mitch lists the qualities of a great website.

Chapter 4: Faith-Based Initiatives, Viral Expansion Loops and the Long Road

Understand key concepts/terms from this chapter: online communities, engagement, participation

(This chapter contains a lot of conceptual information. Read it for your own benefit, but you won’t be quizzed on any details from this chapter.)

Chapter 5: Know Control

Understand key concepts/terms from this chapter: blogging, subject-matter experts, Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post

When blogging first made its debut (around 2000), most journalists and mass media people denounced it… Around 2004 more and more newspapers began quoting bloggers as subject-matter experts… Suddenly, the words of bloggers carried as much weight as (and sometimes more than) those of the mainstream media.” (p. 90)

“Your company’s newest challenge is speed – how fast do you move?… In a world of publishing platforms like YouTube and Twitter where the consumer is in (and sometimes out of) control of creating content, that’s getting harder and harder to do.” (p. 93)

“Get comfortable with being a little uncomfortable. The new business game is not about control. It’s about the volume of voices…” (p. 95)

“Resign your privacy. Yes, you’re naked on the Internet… The general rules of thumb are: Be smart, be very self-aware, and always think about the content your are creating and putting out there as a lasting record of yourself. (p. 98)

“It’s not just about the Internet: Think mobile too.” (p. 103)

Chapter 6: The Real World

(This chapter has a lot of interesting information about “unconferences” and meet-ups… I think the key message you should take away from this chapter (at this point in your lives) is that there will always be value in meeting face-to-face with other people. Communication in the online channels should never replace in-person communication.)

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Part 2 of this study guide will be published on this blog next week. If you have any questions or want to discuss some of the concepts Mitch Joel writes about in Six Pixels of Separation, please comment here. Thanks!

Additional resources:

Are Six Pixels of Separation All That Keeps Us Apart? by Bryan Eisenberg, published September 8th, 2009 – http://www.grokdotcom.com/2009/09/08/are-six-pixels-of-separation-all-that-keeps-us-apart/

A Summary of Six Pixels of Separation from PolarUnlimited.com -http://www.polarunlimited.com/2009/09/business-book-summary-18-six-pixels-of-separation-by-mitch-joel/

Six Pixels of Separation – The Blog by Mitch Joel: http://www.twistimage.com/blog/