One Little Word

One Little Word – A single word can be a powerful thing. It can be the ripple in the pond that changes everything. It can be sharp and biting or rich and soft and slow. From my own personal experience, it can be a catalyst for enriching your life.

In 2006, I began a tradition of choosing one word for myself each January — a word that I can focus on, mediate on, and reflect upon as I go about my daily life. My words have included play, peace, vitality, nurture, and story. These words have each become a part of my life in one way or another. They’ve been imbedded into who I am, and into who I’m becoming. They’ve been what I’ve needed (and didn’t know I needed). They’ve helped me to breathe deeper, to see clearer, and to grow.

My word for 2011 is light.

It’s not so easy to pick your own word. I thought of so many but realized they are more a reflection of what family have told me I should be doing than how I really feel about what I am doing or want to accomplish myself. Your word should be a goal uniquely relevant to yourself. Don’t base it on what other people tell you or make you feel.

In the end I am choosing my word: plunge. I’m not going to explain the word, it’s something I understand – like a message in a bottle to myself.

Choosing your Word

Can you identify a single word that sums up what you want for yourself in 2011?
It can be something tangible or intangible. It could be a thought, or a feeling, or an emotion. It can be singular or plural. The key is to find something that has personal meaning for you. This is not your mother’s word or your spouse’s word or your child’s word – this is YOUR word.

One little word can have big meaning in your life if you allow yourself to be open to the possibilities. And here’s one thing that is totally interesting: sometimes a word will pop into your brain and it will not make any sense to you right now. Give it some time. Let it percolate a bit. I have often found that our hearts speak to us in very unique ways. Maybe this is a word you need to hear but just aren’t ready for it yet.

Again, be open to the possibilities.

Ali Edwards has turned One Little Word into a monthly workshop. Read more on this site.

Humour in Danger

Some of the best funny lines come when the characters in a story are in some kind of danger. About to be eaten by a dragon, about to be rolled over by a massive boulder, about to have the auditor tell them how much they really owe… all these are key points for humour. We use humour as stress release. When the tension can’t build much higher, humour is our value to let out some steam so we can think again.

Then there’s black humour, dark humour, the kind that appears to take life lightly and yet all too seriously if you look under the humourous front.

Well, the telling of jokes is an art of its own, and it always rises from some emotional threat. The best jokes are dangerous, and dangerous because they are in some way truthful. – Kurt Vonnegut

Write a scene with characters in danger then give them a smart ass line. See if you can come up with something sarcastic or just funny in it’s simplicity. Make even yourself laugh in the face of danger.

Try a Bio-Poem

Write your life (or someone of your choosing) into lines of poetry.

Make the first line the first name, the last line is the last name. In between bring your character to life.

Here is a plan, as a guide to get you started:

  • Line 2 – one key adjective.
  • Line 3 – Brother/ sister of ” ? “.
  • Line 4 – Lover of “name 3 things”.
  • Line 5 – Who feels “3 things”.
  • Line 6 – Who needs “3 things”.
  • Line 7 – Who gives “3 things”.
  • Line 8 – Who fears “3 things”.
  • Line 9 – Who would like to see “3 things”.
  • Line 10 – Resident of “city/ town name”.

Aunt of Zack.
Lover of red, adventure and unusually good ideas.
Feels soft, sharp and mushy.
Needs more coffee, less allergies and yet more money.
Gives very little backtalk, creative impulses and hair.
Fears hair and teeth loss, sharp objects and entrapment.
Would like to see just a bit more snow, the book I’m looking for and a train ticket.
Resident of Ontario, Canada.

Secrets to Charisma

Secrets to Charisma (from the Barrie Job Finding Club)

  • Good hand shake
  • Eye contact
  • Remembering names and names of family
  • Express emotions
  • Smile broadly and laugh lustily
  • Imagine that you are an electric generator
  • Humanize what you have to say and put others first

One thing I have considered for myself is to not always add my own stories to every story when people are talking. I don’t think it’s a matter of topping each story with one of my own, a better story than the one being shared. I think it has just become my way of keeping myself in the conversation. Starting as someone who hardly spoke at all. The easiest thing to talk about is yourself and especially, the things you have experienced.

So, I am going to try to talk about myself less. But, still converse. I think the key will be to discuss the story at hand, not give in to the temptation/ need to add my own story and steer the conversation my way by doing so. It will be interesting. I don’t think it will be an easy change to make either.

Truth or Dare

The game played in parties or in secret. We played on the front lawn, behind the hedges, of a neighbour’s house while they were on vacation. A group of kids, some teenagers and some not quite there yet. At that time I didn’t understand the game but you caught on quick to save yourself embarrassment and torture. Later in life I played Truth or Dare on IRC, Internet Relay Chat. At that time I became one of the tormentors and the best person at taking a dare when it became my turn. I found ways to twist their words back on them when they asked me a dare. It was the most interesting part of the game for me really. I’ve always enjoyed word play.

I found an archive of Truth or Dare questions. Most of these are PG 13 and intended as safe. Some are not. There is one about wrapping tape around your legs, leaving it on for 3 hours and then ripping it off. That would be brutal. I think whoever wrote that one forgot about leg hair. After 3 hours that tape would be ripping off some skin too. Unless they use really weak tape that dare isn’t going to be something you can laugh about.

The key to coming up with a good dare is just to embarrass someone a little. A good dare leaves everyone laughing, or at least having a sick smile versus a grimace of pain.

Come up with good dares for a Truth or Dare game. Here are mine:

  • Walk (or hop) through a grocery store with your shoelaces tied together.
  • Write a love letter to your significant other, but everyone in the room gets to read it before he/ she does.
  • Guess which colour underwear each person in the room is wearing and tell them why you think they are wearing that colour.

Writing for Web Skimmers

When you read articles about being a web writer they all really focus on one key point: skimmers.

People reading online are skimmers, not really sitting down to focus on a good book, they just want a quick read and expect to pick up the facts right away. It’s a shame. It isn’t a good way to read, even though I am a culprit of skim reading myself. I know I sometimes miss things. Sometimes important things. As a writer keep this in mind so your skimming readers won’t miss important things.

Consider these points to format your writing for skimmers:

  • Post your conclusion first. Your conclusion comes at the top and the rest of your information follows to support your conclusion with facts, ideas and resources. If the skimmers only read the first sentence you write then at least they got your main point.
  • Keep your writing simple and clear. Take out extra words, keep it short and to the point.
  • Subheadings direct the skim reader, like pylons at a construction site, especially for longer bodies of content.
  • Keep each paragraph on one topic. If you start another idea add whitespace in the form of a new paragraph. (Each beginning sentence of each new paragraph should be an inverted pyramid too, put your main point first. The rest of the paragraph supports it, if needed.)
  • Use bullet form lists to catch more skimmer attention. Their eyes flock to lists as they are specific points of information. They are also easy to find in your writing copy.
  • Add your links as part of the writing copy, as if they are just part of the conversation, to be clicked if the skim reader chooses to.
  • Proofread your copy, for any kind of writing. But, with skim readers, a typo can be a bigger stumbling block, more like a pot hole which makes them stutter in their reading and doubt you as a reliable source of information. Use spellcheck and read it yourself cause you still know more than the machine.

The Tale of the Haunted Can Opener

Think of something not usually haunted and come up with a reason why it is haunted. For instance…

The Tale of the Haunted Can Opener

It all began with Miss Henrietta Millstone and the can of sardines. Poor Henrietta didn’t know you just needed to turn down the key on the lid. She worked really hard trying to open that can wtih the mighty Pink Power Can Blaster 3001 but it did her no good. In the end, Henrietta was fatally wounded when the sardines (contaminated with radition from the pollution in the lake) got into a little cut on her finger from the rough edge of the can she was butchering open. Henrietta died, still holding the can opener, still stubbornly trying to open that can the wrong way.

Now, on pizza night at the sardine cannery, they say you can still hear Henrietta cursing and shrieking about her stubborn can opener. Her ghost is said to roam the halls, still holding her can opener in one hand and the sardine can in the other. You  smell her long before you see her.

Your turn now. Don’t forget to come up with a good name for your ghost.

Traffic Through Blog Commenting

The best way to build blog traffic is not through link exchanges or begging and demanding other bloggers become your instant friends and link back to you.

Instead be sincere, take some time and post comments to the blogs you like to read. Choose blogs based on how readable they are, not just on things like PageRank and Technorati ratings. Don’t make the mistake of judging a blog by social site rankings. It is phony and if you put out phoniness you won’t get back the genuine readership you are looking for.

It takes time to make real comments but they don’t have to be thunderously long. If you do have a story to share go ahead and type it in. More is better. But, if you just want to leave a stray thought in passing that is ok. The key is to come up with something that has some meaning. Something more than “me too”. It isn’t a huge stretch to type “I’ve felt that way, hope you have a better day tomorrow” instead. Pick your words to suit the post, of course.

Don’t forget spelling, punctuation and grammar. Perfection isn’t necessary but aim high. Sloppy looking comments aren’t going to impress anyone.

An extra plus from leaving a comment is that you get to add your link to the blog too. But an insincere comment or spammy comment can be deleted at the discretion of the blogger. If that happens don’t complain about it. Read another post and leave another comment. Try again.

The Key in the Tree and Other Stories

Some weird old guy in a dusty suit hands you a key and wanders off mumbling about the Fountain of Youth. The key has an address stuck to it with some mangy looking tape. It’s actually not far from your place. But when you get there it’s just an empty lot. Still, now that you’re here you decide to sit under the trees and read a book awhile. It looks peaceful and the shade would be great on such a warm day.

One of the trees has a metal plate on it. In the middle is a gap, just the right size for your key. You put the key in and give it a turn.

Somehow, you’re not totally surprised to find the tree opening up to a glowing path, descending down, way underground. What’s down there, when you finally get there?

The Book That Knows Everything

A handsome young man in a business suit stops you in the street. Your first thought is to feel flattered that such an interesting looking guy picked you to chat with. Just as you’re about to flip your hair and smile he gives you a piece of paper and walks away. You watch, but he doesn’t turn back. Just gone, just like that. Well, that was disappointing.

You nearly forget the bit of paper but glance at it, wondering if that was his way of just being mysterious. It turns out it was actually an envelope, inside there is a key with directions to what it opens.

Well, that’s kind of weird. But, you have the day off work, why not take a look? Turns out it is a locker at the bus station. Very busy there and even a nice looking coffee shop that seems worth a visit before you turn around and go back. The locker isn’t too hard to find, turns out it was right near the coffee shop, that was nice and tidy.

There is a book in the locker. One of those really old looking ones with a genuine hard cover. It’s even dusty and slightly mildewed. Not so great for your allergies. The cover says, “Everything There is to Know.” As if everything would fit into one book. You open the book. Inside the front cover is a handwritten dedication, to you. That’s just a little too bizarre. Feeling kind of funny about the whole thing, you can’t resist flipping open to a page.

Turns out the book isn’t actually about knowledge. It’s about fate. On page 1,064 you begin reading about your last boyfriend, the book shows his past, present and future, right up to his death crossing the street and being hit by a drunk driver on New Year’s Eve, two years from now. The book closes in your hands as your jaw drops and you get that sick, sinking feeling in your stomach. This really is more than you wanted to know, isn’t it?