Archive for the ‘Improve Your Writing Skills’ Category

Simple ‘Writes’ that keep you close to your clients

I love writing, and normally I expect other writers to love and enjoy it like I do! After all, how can you be a writer and not love writing? That would be weird, right? Well, I have slowly discovered that writing often doesn’t come easy for most people, including even those who profess to be writers. It takes a while to perfect the task or even get used to a regular writing schedule.

There are some things, though, that we must all learn to write no matter whether we enjoy writing as a task or not. They are very important things that tend to add value to what we are doing regardless of the field in which we operate. I would like to call them ‘little writes’ as they usually require very little time and are very short in length. But VERY IMPORTANT! We use them everywhere, everyday, in every sector; they need just a little bit of extra care in wording and style to produce the right effect.

However, the thing that I want to emphasize is that they are valuable as items that communicate volumes to both potential and existing clients. They are small tokens which, when used in the right manner and at the right time, can produce priceless benefits for your relationships with clients. I am referring to welcome notes, thank you notes and acknowledgements.

Welcome Note:
One of the things I am learning about doing business online and maintaining a community of followers is that although people have a very short attention span and move quickly over the net, most still appreciate a personal touch when it comes. For instance when someone likes my Facebook page I usually make a point of sending them a message of welcome to my page. This is because I value every single follower whether they end up taking up my services or not; they are a potential client right from the start.

You can do this not only for Facebook pages but also for email lists on your website or blog. You can also add a welcome note to the home page of your site. It makes you appear more visitor-friendly.

People love to be recognized and appreciated so learn to do it often. Make sure to keep it simple and short – a greeting, describe what your page or blog is all about in one sentence, and appreciate the fact that they have come to you. Then make an offer for them to call or email if they need your product or service. That’s all.

Thank You Note:

This is one of the most precious things in a relationship – saying thank you in written form. Writing is visual, enabling a lasting impact in the mind of the reader/recipient. Saying thank you in speech is not the same as writing it out in rich language using beautiful note-paper. Ok, the paper doesn’t have to be all that fancy, but you get my point. Remember that two people can do the same thing but one of them stands out simply because of the way it is done, so make sure you write something fresh, something unique, something memorable. Exercise your writing skill to the fullest!

Address the recipient by name and make sure to mention what it is you appreciate or like or value about that person or about what they did. Again, be short and simple. Remember that a note and a letter are two very different things, so don’t turn into a letter!

 

Acknowledgements:

A very important thing about communication (actually a very basic thing) is the ability to respond to a letter, an email, a request, an inquiry or outstanding service in the shortest time possible. Now, I know these are probably the busiest times we have ever lived in and sometimes it takes long for things to be attended to. However, you can choose to stand out from the pack and be one of the few people who make sure to acknowledge receipt of an inquiry, request, letter or email so that the person who sent it does not feel unattended to.

Acknowledgements should be written immediately before you move onto something else and forget. Make sure to thank the person for taking the time to contact you. If you are not in a position to give a concrete response to the need, then at least let them know you are working on it and give a time period within which they are likely to get their need sorted out.

 

Okay, those are what I call ‘little writes’. They are essential and small in size but large in impact. I hope you have been writing them and will continue to do so. If not, it’s never too late to start!

 

 

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Your Writing Talent Is An Asset

Robert Kiyosaki, author of the famous book, Rich Dad Poor Dad, talks about the importance of building more assets than liabilities if one wants to be successful in business and life. In business terms, assets are simply items that bring in or increase income and thus have a positive impact on wealth. The synonyms for the word ‘asset’ give us a broader understanding as they include benefit, advantage, plus, positive feature, quality, skill and talent. Does that sound like your writing skill?

When I was younger, about eight or nine years old, my older sisters asked me what I would like to be when I grew up. My instinctive and completely sincere answer was, “a writer!” At that age I already knew about a few writers like Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie (my all-time favorite fiction writer) and I definitely admired them. I was totally in awe of the art of writing, and I still am.

Writing is a golden-edged gift that brings pleasure to both owner and audience. Most writers enjoy their work as much as the world loves to read their writing. It is also a tool of communication that has been effective over many centuries and will continue to be, regardless of how much the medium used changes. More than that, however, I see the writing skill as an asset that should be guarded well, developed continuously, used for the good of society and converted into income if need be.

There are so many ways in which writing can be used to increase your personal wealth. I will not go into the details of how to make money from your writing skill here – many other blogs do that. I just want you to place a lot more value on your talent than you have done before and see it in new light.

What does one do with an asset?

Increase it: The more you have of an asset, the better for your personal wealth. How do you increase your talent? By ‘taking it to a higher level’ such that it produces more for you. Mensa Otabil, in Buy The Future: Learning To Negotiate For A Better Future Than Your Present (Pneuma Life Publishing, Inc., 2002), refers to a process of “roasting” that transforms one’s gift into something of higher value. For writing, this simply means improving your skill in a particular field or gaining competence in other fields of writing. You could go for some training, for example, or venture into a new field of writing you have not done before.

Make it produce for you and others: An asset that cannot produce anything ceases to have value for its owner. If you have not been using your skill to produce income, maybe it’s time you began to think about it seriously. However, if income is not among your goals then you could still use your skill to help others achieve their own goals even if they are not paying you. Volunteer your help on major writing projects at work or in your community. You never know, your reward may come in a different way other than finances.

Keep Your Scribal Juices Flowing!

Writer Wordart

Writer Wordart (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

I regularly attend a writer’s forum where we encourage and build one another to become better writers. I have found it to be both enlightening and challenging as I keep learning new things. Recently, the leader of the forum decided to veer off our usual menu of reading and critiquing poems, short stories and essays and decided to talk about writing itself. He insisted that for one to be considered a true writer, he/she must write every day. Well, the response was not quite what he expected and a long discussion ensued about whether we should write ‘everyday’ or ‘as often as possible’.

The bone of contention was that it is hard for the average person to write often because sometimes the will or energy to write is not there. It’s not easy to keep the juices flowing! True. However, if one is to persist with that attitude in their writing career (or any other career for that matter) then we would have very little literature in the market.

Writing is a pursuit that must be nurtured often; the regularity depends on individual abilities and circumstances. Notwithstanding that, every writer has to find a way of motivating themselves to pen new thoughts, ideas, stories, descriptions, suggestions, etc. There is no universal rule of doing it; you just have to go for what works best for you. However, there are a few things you can do to maintain your passion beyond the norm.

Look for what inspires you:
Many writers work from inspiration, meaning that something in their environment triggers the desire to write, or provides the subject for a story. Find that single inspiration and keep it close by if you can. It could be an environment of complete silence, like when alone in the house; it could be nature, the outdoors, driving to a rural area, being at the lakeside, watching children play, listening to slow music, etc.

Spend a good amount of time reading:
There’s no better writer than a reading writer. I believe that reading fosters writing, and the more you read the more you get ideas to write about. Reading often exercises the mind to think in different ways and can also trigger you to evaluate your own writing as you compare it with others.

Allocate specific time for writing:
In the same way that you allocate time for bonding with your friends, do the same with your writing gift. You need to constantly and consciously get in touch with your writing ‘soul’ in order to develop it, and making time for it deliberately is the best strategy. It may appear a bit stiff at first, having to writ only at a certain time, but once you get into a steady routine you will be glad for it. It helps you focus completely on the task at hand without getting distracted.

These are three simple things you can apply immediately to your writing life. Go on, keep your scribal juices flowing with these suggestions and I hope you enjoy yourself.

Using Quotes in Your Writing

Quotes are like spices in a dish for the writer; they flavor an article and make it more enjoyable for the reader. Since reading is an exercise that most people find a bit hard to pursue and keep up for a period of time, writing articles that provide an extra zing can make a big difference and quotes are able to do just that.

I love quotes and once in a while I like to use them to spice up my own writing. There are thousands of them on numerous subjects, so all you need to do is to find the one that is appropriate for your piece. Always make sure that the quote you choose is relevant to your subject otherwise it will just turn out to be a rude interruption in the eyes of your reader. Remember that your reader is a prize treasure you wouldn’t want to disappoint.

 

Quotes are short sentences or phrases that other people have said and recorded on various subjects. They belong to somebody else but give added value to your piece, like when you want to emphasize a point, introduce humor or launch a new topic. Their value lies in the quick insight they provide into different ways of looking at things and thinking about them. For instance, quotes on love provide us with insights into how people conceive of love, which helps us write more about the subject of love. Quotes can therefore provide you with new ideas about what to write as well as new perspectives. If you ever have a problem getting started on a new topic, simply Google ‘quotes on the subject’ and you may just find new inspiration or a starting point at least.

 

When using quotes, remember that you are borrowing someone else’s words so make them stand out from what you have said (e.g. using italics) and ensure you give credit to the person by indicating who said it. Do not congest your writing with quotes, though, as much as it is a beautiful technique to apply. Use them sparingly but correctly positioned in the text so as to get the most mileage out of them. They usually work well at the beginning of the article to introduce your thought process or at the end when you want to leave the reader with something to ponder about.

 

On that note, I came across the following quote on the subject of creative writing. Most of the time we writers want to give people what they want to read; how about giving people what we want to say and quit worrying about what they think?

 

Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer. ~ Barbara Kingsolver

The Reading Writer (II)

Previously, I wrote about the various ways in which reading helps the writer (see “Reading Writer” under the category Improve Your Writing Skills) and looked at four benefits or advantages. This time I would like to focus on how to make the reading habit a permanent part of your lifestyle as a writer.

You see, it’s very easy to keep telling writers that they must read often in order to become better at their craft but this can be a tricky thing for some. Many writers are faced with deadlines to write copy or pressure to produce a certain number of articles that sometimes it’s hard to slot in reading of books, journals, magazines or other writers’ articles. This is especially so for the large number of writers who do it for a living as their main source of income. Besides, reading doesn’t come easily for everyone and so it takes real effort and commitment to inculcate it as a daily or even weekly activity, for example.

I, myself, have made it a goal to read at least one book every month, not necessarily in my field. However, it is a goal that I have to keep reminding myself to fulfill and sometimes it gets tricky when I do not have extra money to buy a new book. Borrowing is an option, of course, but that usually means I am limited to what is available with friends as opposed to what I feel I need to read (in any case, I prefer to own books, not borrow them). Your own case is probably different from mine but whatever your struggle is with getting to read regularly, I would like to offer you some suggestions that can help.

Here are five:

1. Cultivate a love for books
You may be asking, “How do I cultivate a love for books?” Well, the same way you would do it for a person. What are the factors that commonly lead to falling in love? One of them is spending a lot of time with that person, listening to them and enjoying their company. Spend time with the few books that you have, if you do, or buy one or two to start with. Read a chapter in the morning and another in the evening. Go to the library once a week and browse or search for something interesting to borrow. Attend the annual book fair (if it hasn’t happened yet) and visit every stand, talking to authors and publishers alike.

In simple language, go out of your way to acquaint yourself with the world of books. This is something you have to do consistently and consciously as there is no magic for it.

2. Set a reading goal
…and please stick to it, no matter what!
You could copy me and start with reading one book per month, or set a goal that fits in with your own schedule. Just make sure you are not over- ambitious (five books a month may be a bit too much) nor should you aim too low. By the way, it doesn’t have to be books only – feel free to pursue other reading materials like magazines. The key is to have a focus (the goal) and be consistent over time. Goals have a way of making us more focused and purposeful in what we are doing, both of which are essential for getting desired results.

 

3. Join a book club
There are plenty of online and offline book clubs where you could get to further nurture this new pursuit. You will find people to exchange notes with, discuss difficulties, discover new books to read and generally become more exposed to the world of reading. Some book clubs even have their own libraries from which members can borrow books that they may not be able to afford to buy.

 

4. Spend time with people who love to read
Enthusiasm is one thing that tends to rub off very easily! The more you hang around book lovers, who are enthusiastic about what they do, the more likely you will become like them, little by little.

I know this is related to point 3 above but it doesn’t have to be a formal club; it could be just a single friend who enjoys reading as a pastime and you could agree to be reading together once in a while. Sometimes it helps just to have near you someone who does the same things you do for motivation purposes.

 

5. Build a private library


This is something I plan to do in the long-term, not just for me but also for my children in future. You can do the same too, little by little, with the literature you buy regularly. The advantage is that you have a 24/7 domestic resource center with a variety of literature to suit various needs, e.g. journals for research, novels for leisure, etc. Make sure the room for the library is well-designed with comfortable chairs and cushions as well as a reading desk and proper lighting. This goes towards providing an incentive to be there for long periods of time.

 

Well, these are action points that you can implement easily and become a Reading Writer. Let me know how it works for you or if you think of something else that can help.

Sincerely,

Edna.

Developing your writing skills: self-improvement for writers.

How many of us take time out of our busy writing schedules to focus specifically on improving our ability to write?

I called a friend of mine recently (we share the same writing passion) to pass on some vital information and after the usual chit-chat I asked him what he was doing at that particular time. It was a Saturday morning. He told me that he had allocated that whole day for reading; reading articles, eBooks and stuff he had gotten from the internet to help sharpen his writing skills. I thought to myself, what a lovely idea, devoting a whole day to an activity that doesn’t involve writing but contributes to your writing career!

 

Do writers have to spend all their waking hours scribbling or typing away till their fingers ache? I don’t think so. I believe there is a place for investing in self-improvement to become even more productive. Take some time off your routine writing and think about activities you can engage in to make you a better writer. I know this may not be easy, especially for writers on contract or when you have a number of clients waiting but remember that your future as a writer depends on what you do today. The sum of activities and decisions made in your present are a good indication of future outcomes. Try to invest in your tomorrow today.

You may be asking, so what can I do to improve my writing skills?

For starters, ask yourself where you want to be in the next 2 – 5 years. What kind of a writer do you want to be? Are you likely to change what you are doing now, e.g. from writing articles for sale to writing your own books and publishing? The goals you have set for your writing career will determine what you need to do. However, there are those basic things that every writer must engage in to develop themselves further regardless of their particular interests. My favorite one is reading (I wrote an earlier post on this entitled The Reading Writer. You can find it in the archives). Another one is mentorship or being mentored.

Let’s talk about these items next time. For now, keep mulling over what you need to do to develop yourself as a writer.

All the best,

Edna.

Reading Writer

How does reading help your writing? Well, here’s how:

(a) Improves your stock of vocabulary and richness of expression: Although the use of big words in writing other than for academic purposes is not usually encouraged (simple language tends to be more favorable for the average reader), knowing a few additional words and how to use them may just provide that extra punch to your writing. The idea is not really to borrow other people’s expressions, but to open your eyes to new possibilities and more creativity.

(b) Inspiration: One man’s verse could be another man’s chapter or paragraph. Some of the best poems I have written were inspired by reading the works of other poets. Don’t ever be deceived that your writing talent is the best; there are other writers out there who have the very gems you are looking for to beautify your own writing. Sometimes a poem can be the inspiration for a short story, or a short story can inspire the script for a film. Inspiration is a valuable asset that every writer needs to have, especially in creative writing.

(c) Creativity: Reading widely unlocks ideas that you may not even have been aware of. As you read, new thoughts are being processed in your mind and while some are immediately discarded, others are unconsciously filed away in your memory. These come in handy when you sit down to write your own works. Creativity is the other major asset that writers must have, so don’t be averse to reading on different subjects even if it is something unrelated to your own writing field. You never know where your next new idea might spring from!

(d) Improves thinking capacity: Do you know that thinking is a vital part of the writing process? It seems such a simple thing, but many writers just starting out tend to miss the connection. If you do not like doing a lot of thinking then you are not likely to become a good writer. Thinking is an ability that is developed over your lifetime, but its depth of development can be increased with regular reading of different literature, including magazines, newspapers, and journals.