When you check your stats,
are you thinking about numbers
or are you thinking about people?
Just wondering . . .
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Archives for February 2006
PART 1 IN A SERIES
Personal Computers as Tools
When personal computers first became standardized and affordable, and software for using them was readily available, it wasn’t that long before they were sitting in every office. The ability to push rote tasks down to the lowest level has always been a strength of an effective business. Taking advantage of computers to do that–calculate spreadsheets, retype and revise documents, generate mailing lists–was an immediate no brainer for business folks focused on productivity. It wasn’t long before Information Management and IT became terms, then whole departments.
Personal computers changed how we work. They changed how we organized information, how we stored it, and share it, and even how we thought about it. Businesses–some more quickly than others–recognized that the computer was a tool of great value.
In American K-12 Schools
Schools, on the other hand, didn’t see the computer as a tool. They saw it as a subject, a class called Computer. Its highest honor was the day it replaced the class in touch typing. Even now in some prestigious New England high schools, the college prep strand kids still only officially see computers in the mandatory class called, “Computer Applications.”
It’s worth saying again. Schools don’t see computers as tools–like pencils and paper and textbooks or desks. Granted this a is gross generalization, but as an entity, Amercian K-12 schools can’t see past the contraption to take full advantage of its uses. The problem is not one of resources; it’s one of not enough folks feeling the need for them.
Blogs as Tools
Now companies and the mass media are acting like schools did. They see the physical blog and not the uses for it. They stop at the idea of what they think a blog is. Just as the school who sees computers as another subject, companies often see the contraption–blogs as another form of website, possibly as a way to do viral marketing.
We’re all missing that blogs are technology too.
The beauty of blogs is they are a flexible tool. The technology allows them to be that website and so much more–intranet, team project site, email replacement, advertising platform, billboard, company picnic, conduit to ideas, real connection to customers.
What Every Company and School Should Know
What most non-bloggers should know is that the number of both public and private blogs will continue to grow. They will outnumber websites based solely the fact that the expertise required to run a blog makes it inevitable. Small businesses start blogs because they already know that blogs are more flexible–can do more things, more easily, more quickly, and for much lower start up costs.
We owe it to our readers and our customers to to let them know that a blog isn’t just a poor person’s website.
If you want to add value to a business relationship, share that information with someone who needs it.
Let’s talk about how many ways blogs can be used. What do you see when you look at your blog as a tool?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Part 2–Blogs: The New Black in Corporate Communication
Business, Blogs, and Niche-Brand Marketing
Chicago Goes Wi-Fi . . . What Does that Mean to Business?
Marketing Strategy ala Mickey Mouse
Four for Four
When my son was four, my husband was forty-four, they both were my business managers of sorts. We’d discuss my business problems, and they’d give their advice, each in their own fashion–one the engineer and process piper, the other the master of alphabet letters and all things thoughtful or graphic.
Now I face a dilemma, and I need that four-year-advisor now.
You see, one of my dear, dear readers has “tagged” me. You might know him. His name’s Mike Sigers. His blog is Simplenomics. The tag in question is a tag of fours.
I read his post link four times. And answered it with four sounds. “ouch, ow, ooh, oh.”
You see, in my life I’ve had four jobs as a teacher, wholesales shirt rep. for Van- Heusen, a Publisher, and a writer. That’s easy. I’ve been to more than four places on vacation and business–Sydney, Dublin, Bologna, and London. I’ve seen four movies I can watch over and over Beautiful Mind, Armageddon, Silverado, and Sleuth, but I’ve only ONCE been tagged by a blogger.
To tell the truth, deep down I get self-conscious when people are looking straight me. My life is pretty boring. Who’d want to read about it? But this is for a friend and a reader. Business is all about relationships. So what does a blogger do? Especially a nice one. I am the nice one after all.
A Four-Year-Old Advisor
I thought about what my four year old’s advice would have been,
Mom, I thinked about it and my think said “Is there a clown suit involved? No. Do you have to stand on your head? No. Are there letters? Yes.”
Mom, you should do it for your friend.
How can I argue with sage business advice like that? Okay so here I go.
Four TV shows I love to watch when I watch TV (if they’re still on) NCIS, The Apprentice, Two and a Half Men, and Business Unusual. Four books I read I really love are The Once and Future King (White), I Touch the Earth, the Earth Touches Me(Prather) Creativity (Csikszentmihalyi), A Beautiful Mind(Nasar), and a bonus Illusions(Bach).
Four websites I visit daily? It’s more like forty. Let’s see there’s Tom Peter’s blog, all of those at Bloglines, several SOB blogs, check the b5 media blogroll, and I go exploring business blogs daily. Four places I’d rather be are the same four places I mentioned earlier. My four favorite dishes are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, flourless chocolate cake with no extras, pizza in Bologna, Italy, and a good porterhouse steak with mushrooms.
A special note to Mike and all of my readers:
As I finish this I hear four tunes that play in my head
I Live in the Groove (Paul Carrack) and Surrender (Lisbeth Scott). I know there must be More than This (Peter Gabriel) and I will be your friend when you feel your Back Against the Wall (Alan Parson Project).
Can’t wait to hear more about you guys now. Don’t leave me standing here. Say something. 🙂
I think I need to go find the
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Dave Barry and I agree.
I believe “writer’s block” is the normal state of writing; that is, you rarely have anything just flow easily from your brain to the keyboard. And if it does, it’s usually pretty bad. Good writing is almost always hard, and what I think sometimes happens is that writers forget how hard it is, or don’t want to do the work anymore, and they call this “writer’s block.” —Dave Barry
When I researched that quote I was staying with a lifelong friend in a boy scout camp that my older brothers had gone to when we were kids. The camp had been turned into a bed and breakfast. Our room was cabin that had once been the poolhouse. I had an article to write before we could break out the wine. So I went through my warm-up to avoid what folks call “writer’s block.”
Preparation: Accessing the Subconscious
To my friend, Nancy, I probably looked like I was in hyperfocus. Actually, I was. I was doing two kinds of things at once. I was preparing a space to work, and I was preparing my brain to write–accessing my subconscious to see what ideas I might have.
What the heck does that mean?
Ever notice that you get ideas when you’re driving . . . or in the shower . . . or doing something other than trying to have one?
I always start my writing with a warm-up that involves some physical activity like ordering my work area, getting my coffee, or taking a walk around the block. Doing that gives the subconscious the room to let those ideas bubble up.
At the cabin I needed a place to work efficiently, so I went through setting up what I think of as an “endangered writing space.” That’s one where writer’s block is not permitted by protected writers species laws.
Checklist for Endangered Writing Spaces
This is the checklist writing spaces I use.
- Select the work area. I picked the table where I would write.
- Remove all things unnecessary. I got rid of all visual distractions and things that might get in the way.
- Check that all tools are there. I didn’t want to stop to find things.
- Place favorite healthful, thinking snacks near the computer. Hunger couldn’t tempt me to lose my train of thought.
- Test to see there are no discomforts to nag me. I tried a test run in the chair and got a pillow to make it higher.
- Lower the cloak of invisibility. I put my headphones on as a sign to myself, and to my friend, that I was no longer in the room. Those headphones meant I would have to physically detach to do something else. I also listen to music when I write..
When my space was ready. So was I.
Fanning the Flame
I didn’t have a whole idea, but I did have a spark. Here’s what I did to fan that spark into a flame. This part went bing, bing, bing, quickly.
- I did a brain dump, writing phrases and words on paper before I started.
- I picked one big idea from the brain dump and narrowed it to the size of an article.
- I visualized article and decided what my main point would be.
- I started in the middle, writing that main point as best I could without stopping.
- When cool ideas popped up, I typed them as phrases at the bottom of the page and kept going.
- When I got stuck, I looked at those phrases for motivation.
- If the phrases didn’t unstick me, I got up, walked outside, looked at the sky for the words I needed, came back in and wrote them down. No other words–talking, reading, listening–interrupted my “break for thinking.” The point was to do something visual, to let the verbal loosen up.
- I wrote the snazzy ending and the grabber beginning last.
That’s what I did that night in the cabin to earn several glasses of my favorite white wine from Italy, Ronco Cucco. Boy, I do like that stuff.
Why Dave and Liz Don’t Get Writer’s Block
We just don’t call it “writer’s block.” We call it writing. Staying stuck is not allowed. So like an actor or a musician who once had stage fright, we do writing warm-ups before we step on stage.
The good news is writing warm-ups work like scales for a musician or stretching for an athlete. They keep you at your best game. If you stick to it, warm-ups for writing actually make the writing get easier. Just like an athlete–a skater–you break through that wall and start skating with more speed and grace.
Imagine yourself writing when you no longer worry about writer’s block.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Writing: Ugh! 10 Reasons to Get Jazzed about Writing
How To Beat Writer’s Block
Questions about Burnout and Writer’s Block
Editing for Quality and a Content Editor’s Checklist
Introducing Power Writing for Everyone
Editing for Quality
It’s true that every writer needs an editor. We all know that I sure do. In textbook publishing, we say that every writer really needs two–a content editor and a copyeditor. The first makes sure that the logic and ideas make sense. The second makes sure that the work is readable. Readable doesn’t mean much, if the ideas are all over the place.
Content editing doesn’t need to take bundles of time. You’ve gotten the ideas onto the paper. Print the post out and read it. A pause for a content edit makes sure that your information is accurate, relevant, and accessible. Why not make sure your ideas move in a way that readers can follow them? It can only make you look smarter.
For that purpose, I offer you this basic content editor’s quality checklist.
Content Editor’s Quality Checklist
- Does the work have a clear focus on one topic?
- Does the introduction grab interest and offer a clear purpose for reading?
- Are the facts accurate?
- Does the work follow a logical plan from beginning to end?
- Does the body of the work present well-ordered paragraphs of main ideas with relevant, supporting details?
- Does the conclusion leave readers feeling satisfied, feeling a sense of conclusion now that they have reached the end and know what to do with the information?
Use this checklist for the content edit first. Then move on to copyediting — making sure that the spelling, grammar, and punctuation are correct. Do the two tasks separately. Trying to do both at once is like trying to have dinner with two dates at two different restaurants — not a good idea.
Use the content editor’s quality checklist and you’ll be that much more confident that your reader won’t get lost looking for the forest among the trees. Now whether they’ll agree with you . . .
–ME “Liz” Strauss