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A Writer’s Love Affair With Writing

“There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice.”

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Fitzgerald nailed it when he wrote this line in The Great Gatsby. Although he wasn’t talking about writing, it seems to apply because writers often write because they love to write and not just to earn an income. Each book, each poem, each article, each short story is a bit of a love affair.

One of the things that stands out for me when I write is that I am deeply focused on each thing I am writing almost to the point of fascination. It’s nearly constantly in my thoughts, much like the object of a first love.

I find myself jotting notes for it. Asking myself how I can make it look and sound better. What I can do to clearly convey my message to readers.

So on this lovely Valentine’s Day, I wish you a beautiful day filled with love, joy, and laughter! May your love affair with writing continue and take you to ever greater heights.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my fellow writers and our readers!

I invite you to share your love affair with writing with us in the comments section below.

Write on!

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What Makes Technical Writers Successful?

Success comes to technical writers in many ways. Each of them requires focus, writing expertise, and work.

For some writers, writing is difficult, so the road to success is hard work. For others, writing is fun, so the work is easy, almost like play.

There are as many paths to success in the technical writing field as there are writers. Here are 6 of the most common.

1. Choose a field to specialize in, for example, hardware, software, semiconductors, scientific analysis, and more.

2. Work as a generalist in several fields where technical writers are needed.

3. Select a particular type of documentation to write: user guides, internal documentation, academic research, white papers, to name a few.

4. Teach. You can leverage your expertise in a particular technical field to teach others about it.

5. Consult only with startups.

6. Consult only with a particular type of company: local, national, or international corporations.

I’ll expand upon each of these technical writing fields in future posts. Until then, remember that whether you consider writing hard work or play, the road you travel on your journey to success is your choice.

Sometimes it’s crowded. Sometimes it’s the road less traveled. Dip your pen into the Inkwell and tell us in the comments below about the road you’ve chosen to travel on your journey to success.

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10 Writing Warm-Up Exercises

I’ve written before about how writers need to treat writing the same way they treat exercise. Do it regularly—everyday, if possible, because the creative muse easily grows rusty and stiff when it’s not used.

To that end, I’ve developed a series of Writing Warm-Up Exercises you can do to get your creative muse revved up.

If you were following me on Twitter (@writersinkwell) several months ago, you have probably done these 10 Writing Warm-Up Exercises. Try them again because this time you’ll write even more. You should know, however, that these 10 writing exercises are only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. I have developed more than 100 of them over the years. Someday, I’ll make all 100 available. Until then . . .

I’ve collected the 10 Writing Warm-Up Exercises I posted on Twitter and now you can read them here in one place. Print this post and keep it on your desk to help you get warmed up each morning.

These exercises work best if you can do them at the same time each day. However, if you can’t, just doing them daily still helps get the creative muse working more easily.

Writing Warm-Up Exercise Guidelines

Remember to set a timer, so your thoughts and your writing are not interrupted by you having to look at the clock.

1. For each exercise, write in what I call ‘Stream of Consciousness’ and do not edit anything. Just write.

2. Select an object on your desk & write about it for 2 minutes.

3. Look out the window and write for 3 minutes about the first thing you see.

4. Write for 5 minutes about the last book you read.

5. Write for 5 minutes about your favorite recurring daydream.

6. Write for 5 minutes about planting a summer garden even if you’ve never done it

7. Write in the first person for 7 minutes about what it’s like to be a pirate.

8. Write 7 minutes about yourself from your pet’s perspective.

9. Write 8 minutes in the 1st person about your life in an 1865 log cabin.

10. Write for 9 minutes about your first day of school.

Write 10 minutes about when you realized you wanted to be a writer.

If you want to be a good writer, whatever you do, don’t stop writing!

A Cure for Writer’s Block—Part 3

Failure will never overtake you
as long as your determination to succeed
is strong enough.

Those words were penned by my favorite motivational writer, Og Mandino, in his classic book, The Greatest Salesman in the World.

I first read them when I was 12 years old. I’ve carried that book with me ever since, reading it in good times and in times of distress. It’s always served me because if anyone needs determination, it’s writers.

The standard words of encouragement that many new writers often hear from their more experienced counterparts is that they have to be ready to paper their walls with rejection slips (and not let the rejections defeat them) before they can begin to succeed.

I don’t believe the situation is quite so dire. Although writers must have strong egos, so they can deal with rejection easily and move on because writing is subjective. You can write an article, give it to 10 different people, and get 10 different responses from good to negative.

The Greatest Salesman in the World is the story of the persistence and determination of Hafid, a young camel boy, who dreams of becoming the greatest salesman in the world. When the caravan leader learns of Hafid’s ambition and recognizes his potential, he gives Hafid the gift of 10 scrolls of wisdom, each of which comprise a chapter in the book. Hafid carefully studies the scrolls and eventually achieves the greatness and wealth he desires.

Whenever I find myself wondering how I can possibly write because the words don’t seem to be flowing easily or how I can possibly achieve a goal I’ve set for myself, I remind myself of Og Mandino’s words: “Failure will never overtake me as long as my determination to succeed is strong enough.” Then I sit down and start writing.

If you’re looking for a way to strengthen your determination and persistent in building your writing career, I encourage you to check out The Greatest Salesman in the World. It’s one of my favorite pick-me-up and kick-me-into-gear books.

As an inspirational side note—this book was not only Og Mandino’s first book. It was the book that catapulted him to fame and inspired him to write 18 other books. His books have been translated into 25 languages and have sold more than 50 million copies. Although it takes most writers a while to achieve a modicum of success, I hope this book, if you choose to read it, and Og Mandino’s success, inspire you.

What inspires you to persist in writing? Please tell us in the comments.

(Note: If you do not see the comments section, click on the title of this post, then scroll to the bottom.)

3 Do’s & Don’ts When You Meet Potential Clients

You have a meeting with a potential client and you’re excited. The phone is finally beginning to ring and your business is taking off. Congratulations!

After the euphoria subsides and you slowly float to earth, the anxiety sets in and you begin to worry about what to do, what to say, and how to make sure he hires you and not some other freelancer.

Here are 3 Do’s and Don’ts to help you make a great first impression and turn this potential client into a paying client.

3 Do’s for a Successful First Meeting


1. Arrive on time.
This one’s a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many freelancers show up late for meetings. So arrive on time, even a few minutes early. Your potential new client will be impressed by your punctuality and you will feel calm and focused.

2. Observe the proprieties.
Make eye contact, smile, and shake hands firmly. Okay, that’s three packaged as one because you do them simultaneously when you first meet someone.

3. Arrive prepared.
Arrive prepared to sign this client at this meeting. Make sure you have the following items with you: your business cards, marketing brochures, laptop, portfolio, and two copies of your contract (one for you and one for your client, so you both have a signed copy).

Avoid These Don’ts to Make a Good Impression


1. Do not wear jeans.
Let me repeat this because it is critical. Do not wear jeans even if it’s casual Friday for the client company. Make sure you are dressed professionally.

2. Do not answer your cell phone.
Better yet, turn it off as you enter the meeting. When I am in meetings with clients or potential clients, and even when I visit with friends, I turn off my cell phone, so I can give them my undivided attention. When I first enter a business meeting of any type, I usually take out my cell phone and casually say, “Let me turn off my cell phone, so we’re not interrupted.” This subtly indicates that I think they are special because they deserve my undivided attention. It also acts as a prompt for them to shut off or silence their cell phones, as well.

3. Do not lie.
When you lie about your experience or on your resume, you will inevitably get caught because the publications community is a small one and people talk to each other.

Use these three Do’s at every meeting you attend, avoid the 3 Don’ts, and you will be on your way to impressing potential clients right into hiring you on the spot.

Do you have a favorite Do or Don’t for meetings with potential clients? I invite you to share it with us.

Write On With Confidence!

Cara
The Writers Inkwell Muse

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Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead

Imagine my surprise when I opened the unexpected package and learned that I’d won an amazing book, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead.

It was sunny, warm, and beautiful, and I had a clear schedule, so I took the book outside, intending to read it from cover to cover. Instead, I found myself savoring every word as I realized that this is a book to read and study, so that its lessons can be learned and applied.

That was Thursday. Today, I want to share with you what I learned in the Introduction and Chapter One, “Create a Unique Business Model.” As most Deadheads know, and as the book’s authors write, the Grateful Dead turned the music industry’s “business model on its ear.”

Instead of doing concert tours to promote record album sales like other bands did, the Grateful Dead focused on earning their income from live concerts where they created an experience for their fans that was unlike that of any other music band at the time or since.

Instead of playing the same songs in the same sequence at each concert, each show, and I’m quoting the book directly here, “had a unique set of songs, and each song was played in a unique way.”

This is part of the reason fans were drawn to attend each show. It is also why some of the Grateful Dead’s fans, known as Deadheads, made a career of following the band and attending their concerts wherever they played.

Another thing the Grateful Dead did differently from other bands was they allowed their fans to tape and even film their concerts. The band was unconcerned about “losing control” of their music and, in fact, encouraged their fans to exchange their recordings. The Dead even set up an area at each concert where fans who were recording the concert would get the best sound.

By creating this unique business model that was unlike what any other band at that time was doing, the Grateful Dead created a multimillion dollar music empire and their fans were their biggest promoters.

How can you, as a freelance writer, use the Grateful Dead’s unique business model to take your business to the next level?

Businesses that stand out from their competition are few and far between. The book’s authors suggest that you ask yourself what you do better than your competition, then find a way to use that to position your business as the one with the solution to your customer’s problems.

As I read each chapter, I will report back to you, my readers, and we’ll discuss how you can use these marketing gems to help catapult your freelance writing business to success.

I’ll begin with me following the Grateful Dead’s example of losing control of their music content by ‘losing control’ of my blog content. If you want to reprint this blog post or any blog post on the WritersInkwell.com site, you have my permission to do so as long as you include the copyright and URL information that appears at the end of each blog post:

To Use This Article on Your Blog or Web Site, It Must Be Offered Free to Your Readers and Visitors and Include the Following Paragraph:
Copyright © 2010 Cara Morgan and WritersInkwell, LLC. This article is republished with permission of Writers Inkwell with the understanding that it is only republished on blogs and web sites that offer this reprint free of charge to their readers and visitors. To read more articles from Writers Inkwell, please visit www.WritersInkwell.com.

Good or Bad, Writing Is Subjective

In my last post, I wrote, “…the opinion that something written is good or bad is subjective” and I promised to explain what I meant by that statement, so here it is.

Many writers give up at the first sign of rejection. They let their emotions take over, yet this is the time when you, as a writer, need to let your business head remain in control and start looking for some answers that may help you avoid rejection in the future.

While I’ll admit that some editors help fuel the sense of rejection by merely sending a form rejection letter, writers add fuel to the rejection by supposing that it means their article isn’t any good.

If an editor writes a rejection letter, your first clue about why the article was rejected may be there. If you’re really lucky, the editor may mention why she rejected the article. Or she may suggest a different slant. A suggestion like this may be an invitation to rewrite the article and resubmit it. So start looking for clues in each rejection. They may just lead to future writing assignments with that editor.

Dip Your Pen into the Inkwell and tell us what you learned from a rejection letter.

The Writers Inkwell Muse

Never Give In—Persistence Is the Key to Writing Success

Many writers joke that the road to writing success is that you must paper your walls with rejection slips. For some writers, rejection slips are crushing. For others, they’re merely a stepping stone on the road to writing success. They take them in their stride and continue writing.

Persistence is the key to writing success because the opinion that something written is good or bad is subjective and I’ll explain what I mean by that in my next post. Today, I want to remind, no, urge every writer to always persist. If you want to be a successful writer, you must keep writing.

At a certain point during World War II, the world thought Great Britain was sunk. And, it was feared, if Britain lost, so did all of Europe and the United States, as well. But Winston Churchill knew that his country could not afford to give up. He demonstrated that by his stubborn persistence. And when the tide of war turned in favor of the Allied Forces, Churchill shared the greatest key to his and Britain’s success with the students at Harrow School.

Churchill said, “You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination.

“But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period–I am addressing myself to the School–surely from this period of ten months, this is the lesson:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Writers are especially vulnerable to an enemy called defeat because they put themselves and their writing on a very public stage. And, as we know, anything in the public eye is often criticized, justly or unjustly, and sometimes just for the sake of something to say by someone who otherwise has no opinion about most things.

So, to you, my readers and fellow writers, I say, “Persist and never give in to feelings of defeat. You know what is in your heart. Now, write it.”

Dip your pen into the Inkwell and share with us one of your writing successes.

Write On With Confidence!

Cara

The Writers Inkwell Muse

How to Sell What You Write

How good are you at marketing?

I can hear you saying that you’re a writer, not a marketer. Well, if you’re a writer who sells or wants to sell your work, you’re not only a writer, you’re also a marketer.

Everyday we find ourselves in situations where we need to sell a product (our writing), sell ourselves (in interviews with potential clients), sell a house, sell a car, sell “stuff” at a garage sale, the list goes on.

If you’re a freelance writer, it’s critical that you view yourself as a marketer because your income depends on your ability to market and sell what you write.

If you’re not quite ready to jump into the marketing arena with both feet, I’d like to recommend my favorite book for aspiring marketing and sales people.

I first read this book when I was only 12 years old and it inspired me. I’ve read it so many times since that my hardcover copy is fragile and torn. Although it is now falling apart, I still love that book. I just gave a paperback copy to a friend’s daughter for her 16th birthday because I want her to have a head start on achieving her dreams.

I had the great privilege of meeting the author, Og Mandino, when he spoke at a local college several years ago. I’m not one to ask celebrities for autographs, but that evening I brought my ragged, torn copy of The Greatest Salesman in the World with me in the hope that I might meet the author and have the opportunity to tell him how much his book means to me.

I couldn’t believe my good fortune when, after his talk, Og Mandino said that he would remain for a while to autograph his books.

When I handed my torn and battered copy of The Greatest Salesman in the World, to him with apologies for its appearance, Mr. Mandino graciously agreed to sign it.

He opened the book and looked at the copyright page. Then he slowly turned the ragged, torn book over and over in his large hands, lovingly stroking the cover.

For a few brief moments, he seemed thousands of miles away before he caught himself and returned to the present. He told me that my copy was one of the original print runs of that book and therefore quite valuable. I was stunned because I hadn’t realized that there was a financial value attached to it. I’d only been focused on the emotional value it held for me.

We spoke for a few minutes longer before he signed my copy of his book and I think he was a bit taken aback when I told him that I would not ever sell my copy and intended to keep it forever.

If you’re struggling with how to market and sell your freelance writing services or if you’re looking for inspiration, The Greatest Salesman in the World is a must read.

Dip your pen into the Inkwell and tell us about your favorite inspirational, writing, or business book.

Write One With Confidence!

The Writers Inkwell Muse

1

A Cure for Writer’s Block—Part 2

A Cure for Writer’s Block — Part I

Writer’s Block often strikes unexpectedly. I’ll be writing just fine and then, nothing. The words won’t come. They’re on vacation. No contact phone. No email. Nothing. Not a word.

When I first started writing for a living, my frustration level would rise quickly and fear would set in. “How can I not have the words to write?” I’d ask myself. “I’ve been writing ever since they put a pencil in my hand and taught me how to write my name in kindergarten!” That would only make it worse.

I knew I needed a more effective approach. It took a while, but eventually I began to find ways to cure writer’s block. Once I realized that it was not permanent, I was able to put aside the almost choking fear that would swallow up my ability to think clearly and calmly when I was suffering a bout of writer’s block.

I began to view writer’s block as a boulder blocking the way of my car on the Pacific Coast Highway. What’s the cure for that? Move the boulder. Go around it. Walk around it. Climb the hill. Go over it. Turn around and take another road.

Are you beginning to see that there are multiple solutions? The beauty of multiple solutions is that you only need one, so you can continue your journey. How I cure bouts of writer’s block depends on a lot of things, including where I am physically at the time (home, a client’s office, an airplane, or someplace else), what I’m writing (or supposed to be writing) about, how I’m feeling (happy, sad, fearful, irritated), what’s going on in my life and in my world…I could go on, but you get the idea.

One of my most subtle cures is to write about something else. The other day, I was working on a technical document for a client and the words wouldn’t come. Instead of trying to force them, I switched gears and hand wrote a thank you note to a friend who had done an unexpected favor for me a few days before.

After I finished writing the note, I returned to my computer and there they were—technical words—flowing smoothly, logically, and effectively. Sure, this was a simple block and a simple cure. What matters is that it worked.

This is the second of several ways to cure writer’s block. As I compile the various methods I use, I will share them with you.

Please dip your pen into the Inkwell and let us know how you cure writer’s block.

Write On With Confidence!
The Writers Inkwell Muse