Getting Ready to Write (in 2012)

We’re off to a great start in my Spring 2012 classes at Rider University! As I do every semester, I’ll be sharing this post with the students in my COM107 Persuasive Writing for the Media class and asking for their comments. I’ve made a few modifications to the post for 2012, taking into account the changing media world…

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! ;-) After you read what I do, please tell us what you do to get ready to write by sharing your comments below. Thank 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…) 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 sign off all social media (Twitter, Facebook, 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 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.

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 sometimes pretend I’m having a conversation with my readers, like I’m doing right now. I hope you’ll tell me what you think by responding to this blog post so we can continue the conversation!

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 here.

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

Kathy Magrino

Photo: Haemin Rhee via Flickr, Creative Commons

Inspiring Ideas from My PR Students…

Creative themes, beautiful logos, fundraising ideas, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, PSAs and more … I was so impressed by my students’ final team project presentations in our COM240 Public Relations class this week!  The ideas they presented were designed to help raise awareness about thyroid cancer.

This was a “real world” assignment, developed with the help of a longtime friend and former co-worker who is winning the battle against thyroid cancer and inspiring all of us with her commitment to helping others who are tackling this disease.

In addition to being graded, the team projects are being “judged”, and winners will be picked… But, in my eyes, my students are all “winners” who successfully rose to the challenge of generating PR ideas for a great cause. Their hard work and commitment is very inspiring! Looking ahead, I think several of the ideas presented this week will come to life and make an impact…

I promise to keep you posted!

Best,

Kathy Magrino

Giving Thanks

As we gear up for Thanksgiving and the holidays, it’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of our daily activities. Our semester at Rider University is winding down (already!). I’m so grateful for the students I’ve had the pleasure and honor to work with this semester. Some were new acquaintances in September, but many were “repeat students.” Both classes (COM106 Writing for the Communication Professions and COM240 Public Relations) have been productive and fun — for me, at least! :-)

In my writing class, we’re closing the semester by exploring career opportunities. We’re creating LinkedIn profiles and discovering new ways to find jobs in a very difficult job market.

In my public relations class, we’re working on developing public relations strategies and campaigns to raise awareness about thyroid cancer. Yes, it’s a serious topic, but my students seem to be tackling this project with a lot of enthusiasm and creativity, and I’m confident in their abilities to develop ideas that can make a real difference in the “real world.” ;-) I’m looking forward to the presentations of their ideas during the first week of December… I will keep you posted!

I’m thankful for many things right now, including you. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and sharing your ideas and comments with me here — and on Twitter @kathymagrino — throughout the year!

Sincerely,

Kathy Magrino

Cupcakes and Creativity!

Shelley Tibbetts (@ShelleyTibbetts), a former student of mine, visited my COM240 Public Relations class this week to speak to my students about a non-profit organization she’s currently working for, She’s The First. She’s The First was founded by Shelley’s sister, Tammy (@TammyTibbetts) two years ago, and it was created to promote girls’ education in developing countries.

She’s The First is coordinating an international fundraiser — a “Tie-Dye Cupcake Bake Sale” — during the first week of November, and I’m happy to say that I’m working with a group of students from my class to plan and host a cupcake bake sale at Rider University.

This is an excellent opportunity for my students to “learn by doing”! It’s public relations in action! (And event planning…

and promotion… and publicity… and media relations…)

We had our first “event planning” meeting earlier today and I was wowed by the creative ideas and the energy of my students. I can’t wait to see how this turns out — and I plan to keep you posted as we move forward. In the meantime, if you have any ideas, or would like to help us help a good cause, let me know. You can comment here on my blog, or tweet me @kathymagrino. Thanks — and I hope to hear from you soon!

Kathy Magrino

 

Steve Jobs knew it’s not about numbers, it’s about quality

Steve Jobs passed away today at the age of 56. Jobs’ lifetime may seem short, by today’s standards, but the quality of those years is what really matters. I’ve never written a post like this before, but I feel the need to share my feelings tonight…

Since the 80s, I’ve been inspired by Steve Jobs’ vision and have been equally impressed by the company he built. Jobs certainly changed the business world — and the world in general — with his innovative products and creative ideas, where quality and design were always top priorities.

Quality is evident in every product created by Apple — especially while Jobs was at its helm. Yes, I’ve used other products, but, for me, nothing beats Apple’s products. My first Mac was one of the all-in-one units with the smallish screen. Tonight, I’m typing this post on my MacBook (several years old, but still going strong!). My next phone will be the iPhone 5, and I also plan on getting an iPad in the next few months.

I remember those days when Apple stock sold below $10 a share (wish I bought some then!), when you couldn’t find software for your Mac in stores,  and when people used to laugh at you for “spending all that money” on a computer. While other computer and technology companies pumped out more units and kept the prices low, Apple slowly became more and more competitive, and eventually became the leader. Apple did this by sticking to its core concepts of offering unmatched quality and innovative design.

While not always popular, Steve Jobs and Apple had the courage to follow big dreams and the vision to “stay the course.” How inspiring! And, we thank you for that, Steve Jobs.

— Kathy

How do you get ready to write?

Another semester has started for us at Rider University. One of the classes I’m currently teaching is COM106 Writing for the Communication Professions. Each time I teach a writing course, I like to start the semester with a discussion about the writing process, in general, and the steps each of us need to take in order to get ready to write. As I’ve done in past semesters, I’ll be sharing the post below with my students and requesting their comments here. But, feel free to add your comments, too. We’d love to hear about what motivates you to write! Hope to hear from you soon!

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! ;-) After you read what I do, please tell us what you do to get ready to write by sharing your comments below. Thank 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. Then I make a list — or an outline — for the project at hand. 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. Then I shut down TweetDeck and close the browser window for my email account on my laptop. I turn off the radio or TV, if either is on. 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. 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 TV break. If I’m really on a writing streak, I’ll reset the timer and keep on writing.

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 sometimes pretend I’m having a conversation with my readers, like I’m doing right now. I hope you’ll tell me what you think by responding to this blog post so we can continue the conversation!

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 here.

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

Kathy Magrino

 

Back to School and New Beginnings

It’s back-to-school time here! My son starts school tomorrow, and I start teaching again at Rider University this Thursday.

I’m excited to be returning to campus this week, and I’m looking forward to seeing my students again. Many of the students enrolled in my COM106 Writing for the Communication Professions and COM240 Public Relations courses I’ve met before in previous classes… I’m also looking forward to meeting my new students. ;-)

I’ve always loved this time of year and the whole back-to-school routine. My son thinks I’m “crazy” and he can’t understand “why I love school so much.” When I was younger, my brothers used to say the same thing. So, maybe I am crazy, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t enjoy going back to school!

Yes, being on the teaching side for the past seven years, I do have a different perspective now. But, I think it’s my lifetime love of learning and my natural curiosity that drive my feelings about this time of year. It’s also the fact that the start of each semester is a new beginning and an opportunity to meet new people.

How do you feel about going back to school (or your kids going back to school) and this time of year, in general? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please post your comments here or tweet me @kathymagrino.

Happy Back-to-School!

 

 

Kathy Magrino

Fall Semester 2011: The Hardest Part Is Now…

It’s one month to go as we count down to the start of the fall semester at Rider University where I teach as an adjunct in the communication and journalism department. I’ll be teaching COM106 Writing for the Communication Professions and COM240 Public Relations this semester. I’ve taught both of these courses before, but I always “start fresh” each time I teach a class, so it’s time to finalize plans for both courses. For me, the hardest part of each semester is the planning phase (which is now). Meeting and working with my classes throughout the semester is generally easy and fun (well, usually… I guess we’ll see if this proves true again this semester!).

I’ll be writing the syllabus for each course over the next few weeks: scheduling projects; reaching out to possible guest speakers; and planning what I hope will be some educational and fun activities for everyone. I like to inject as much creativity, freedom and educational independence as possible into each of my classes.

Do you have any suggestions for me? Or would you like to speak to one of my classes (if you’re in the Lawrenceville, New Jersey area this fall — or maybe via Skype if you’re long-distance)? Let me know by commenting here, or tweet me @kathymagrino.

Thanks for reading and, until next time, enjoy the remainder of your summer if you’re in the northern hemisphere ;-) !

Kathy

Tools Change, But Talent and Communication Strategies Remain the Same

I don’t know about you, but for me, the idea of learning another communication/social media tool or channel (I’m talking about Google+) is creating a little bit of anxiety the past few days… and I really don’t know why I feel this way. Over the years, with all the new technology that’s been introduced in the business world, I’ve learned to adopt the new tools and I have easily adapted to once-unfamiliar environments or ways of doing things.

My two favorite “business tool adoption adventures”: Back in 1990, when I started as a copywriter in the marketing department of a daily newspaper, I was thrilled to sit at my all-in-one Mac with its tiny screen, and I learned how easy it was to work on such a user-friendly computer. It was so easy to write creative copy and simply hit the delete key or backspace when changes had to be made. I fell in love with the Mac way back then (and I still love my MacBook today).

More recently, in early 2009, I joined Twitter and instantly became “addicted” to the real-time conversations and quick bursts of information shared by people from all around the world. In addition to improving my editing skills (learning how to say things in 140 characters or less…) through Twitter, today, I know I can rely on my Twitter friends to keep me on top of what’s happening in the world and to inspire me. It’s difficult to remember those days before Twitter when I was feeling kind of isolated in my home office. Those days are long gone, thankfully!

How am I planning to deal with my Google+ anxiety? Well, first, I’m writing this post — writing something down always helps me tackle it. Next, I’m going to learn as much as I can about Google+ by reading blog posts on sites like Social Media Today. Then, I’m going to “dive in” (I think I need to be invited first). “Diving in” is my usual method of learning.

But, most importantly, I’m going to remind myself about what I always tell my students: Tools and channels — like my computer, Twitter, Google+, etc. — can never replace the creative sparks and talent brewing within human beings. And, while it’s great to have these new tools and channels, we still need people who know how to use them effectively to communicate, both for personal pleasure and for business purposes.

So, what do you think? Are you having “Google+ anxiety” too, and how are you dealing with it? Also, please share your favorite and/or most memorable “business tool adoption adventure” with us by posting your comments. Thanks!

Until next time, take care!

Kathy Magrino

 

New opportunities require new ways of thinking

Over the past few months, I’ve been exploring new opportunities and paths, specifically looking for additional revenue streams to add to my “collection” as a self-employed professional. On several occasions, I’ve run into a similar mindset shared by people in management/leadership positions, and I’ve heard these words over and over again: “Don’t try to change us. This is how we do things…”

I can’t help but wonder why people develop this mindset, and why they’re closing off any new ideas. Why, at this time, when our economy is suffering and sales are slow in every industry, would we want to continue doing things the same way we did 10 or 20 (or even 30) years ago? Why don’t we want to change? Why wouldn’t we want to embrace new ideas and opportunities?

When I ran into my high school social studies teacher about a year ago, she said hello and she also said that she remembers that I always asked a lot of questions in class. — She did add that they were “good” questions, by the way… ;-) — I guess I haven’t changed much in that way: I’m still asking  a lot of questions. But, over the years, I have changed in the way I see the world around me, and I’ve learned that new opportunities require new ways of thinking.

What do you think? If you have answers to any of my questions, please share them here.

Until next time, take care and thanks for reading!

Kathy