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!

Bring On Your ‘Writing Mojo’!

The summer session of my COM107-Writing for the Media class at Rider University starts today. It’s a short term (only 6 weeks). Packing a full semester into 6 weeks isn’t easy, but we’ll be starting off with a bang! Right away, we’ll be diving in and discovering ways to “bring on our writing mojo” — that magical feeling when the words just seem to endlessly and easily flow from our brain to our fingertips as we write.  writing mojo

Find Your Writing Mojo

From time to time, we all need a little help to overcome “writer’s block” or to just get started on a writing project. When we’re “blocked” or we’re finding it difficult to focus on our writing efforts, we need to tap into our “writing mojo” to get things done.

Here’s some advice — excerpts from my first class assignment, “Bring On Your Writing Mojo!”:

What inspires you to write?… Do you like to write?… Do you ever suffer from “writer’s block”?… Let’s share our personal thoughts and ideas about the writing process and discuss ways we can bring on our “writing mojo.” Also, please read the following blog posts to discover some of the ways writers become motivated and get ready to write:

You also might want to do some additional research on your own…

The assignment: Write one or two paragraphs answering the following questions:

  • Do you like to write?
  • Why or why not?
  • If you do like to write, what do you like to write about, or what type of writing do you enjoy the most?
  • After hearing and reading about what motivates people to write, what idea(s) or suggestion(s) do you believe would be the most helpful to you to help you “bring on your writing mojo”? Tell us why.

Share Your Ideas…

My students will be writing their thoughts in a private discussion forum on Canvas, but feel free to share your thoughts and write your comments on this blog. I’ll respond to you as soon as possible. Thanks for reading — and good luck bringing on your “writing mojo”! :)

Different ways we get ready to write (and writing is a creative process)

This week, my writing classes are exploring the different ways we get ready to write. I’ve written my thoughts about this in previous blog posts, including this blog post from earlier this year: Getting Ready to Write (in 2012). But, I’d like to reinforce this additional message: Whatever you’re writing, whether it’s an advertising campaign, poem, fiction, research paper, blog post, etc., writing is a CREATIVE PROCESS. Business writing and creative writing both require the “creative juices” in our bodies to be flowing in abundance. So, whenever we’re getting ready to write, it’s important to stir up our creativity!

One way to do this is through mind mapping. Here’s an infographic I found on Pinterest that shows how mind mapping can work:

 

Have you tried mind mapping? Or maybe you prefer other ways to get your creative juices flowing and to get ready to write? Please share the ways you get ready to write by commenting on this post. Thanks for reading and sharing! — KM

Writing new website content

I’ve got to start practicing what I preach: A good website needs to be updated often. It should engage visitors’ interest. It should provide helpful, relevant information. (It should NOT be stale, like I’m afraid my website has become…  Yes, I’m being realistic and facing the truth!)

Guilty as charged!

The time has come — actually, it came a long time ago, but I pushed it to the back burner :) — to update the content you see here. I’m (annoyingly) reminded about this need-to-update every day, since I use my website as my home page on my browser.  But, I’m really reminded and feeling guilty about this situation toward the end of each semester when I teach my COM107 Persuasive Writing for the Media students the basics about writing good website content (which is what we’re doing in class right now…).

If you’re in the same boat as I am and need to update your website content, here are the articles I shared with my students this semester:

by Michel Fortin

by Julia Hyde

“Making the Most of ‘Contact Us’…” by Khoa Bui

Each of these articles offers helpful information in an easy-to-digest, quick read. Now, it’s time to put these ideas into practice…

If you’ve come across some good advice about writing website content, or if you’ve got some ideas and hints to share, please do so by commenting here. I’m all ears — and I’m tired of the guilt — and I’m ready to revamp www.thewriteway.com! :)

Thanks for reading!

Photo by mikecogh via Flickr/Creative Commons