Stop Regurgitating Content – Write What YOU Know

Don’t be a bland and boring writer. Don’t pollute the Internet with regurgitated content.

Hate is a strong word, but I do (almost) hate people who blog about topics they really know nothing about. They use other sources for information; they quote other people rather than having any real knowledge or personal experience. In short, they regurgitate content.

Regurgitate is very much the right word for it. For those who aren’t sure what it means – think Mother bird bringing half eaten food for her baby birds, vomiting it up so they can eat without having to actually chew anything.

See? How appetizing is that? Why would you read something like that let alone be the one writing it and expecting people to come and read it. Readers want something to chew! Or, at least they want to do their own chewing. Reading recycled content is bland and boring, like an instruction manual, there is no life, no character, nothing personal. You could read the same stuff on half a dozen other sites or just pick up a book at the Library.

Most content regurgitaters write hoping to bring in traffic. They expect they just need to use enough keywords and the traffic will come. This doesn’t work so well. Yes, Google will pick up your keywords. But, when you write on a network like HubPages, Google will also check to see how fresh and original your content is. Google will look for duplication.

If you were writing from your own experience, your own perspective and knowledge you would not be spewing out duplicate content. Too bad you didn’t write about something YOU actually know about.

It isn’t so hard to write what you know. Take the topic you think will attract readers and find an angle that works for you. Or, write about an entirely new topic. You are more interesting than you think you are. There are simple skills you have or small experiences you have discovered which other people would like to know about.

Finding angles is kind of a game really. Take any topic, say knitting a sweater (as an example). I have never knit a sweater. I’m not even a knitting person at all. But, I can write a post about knitting a sweater if I want to. I just give it a spin and find an angle that works for me. In my case I would write about my Grandmother and my Mother who do knit sweaters. My Grandmother knit a lot and even got into using a knitting machine. My Mother wishes she knit more, she still buys patterns and does get a few projects started but they don’t all end up finished. She also tends to knit with big stitches so a hat could easily be converted to a tea cosy and a scarf she knit for my sister was so long she could wrap it around her whole body, like a mummy.

See how you find your own angle? Not so hard was it? Not so hard to read either. You can make almost any topic relevant to yourself. Not everything of course.

When you want to write about something you really don’t know about or have any experience… STOP. Think. What can you offer a reader about this topic? If you can’t come up with some original idea or a twist that can move the topic into something you do know about, you should not be writing that topic. If all you can do is regurgitate content, why bother? Why write such a boring, bland post?

Would you read a post by someone who has nothing new to say? A post that just says the same stuff another 50 posts all say? Unless you happen to be related to the writer and want to be nice… you’re not likely to read something like that. It’s not even as good as a re-run because even a re-run started out as something original when it was new. Your post will be secondhand, old new, a re-run right from the start.

If you have to write a topic you know nothing about – interview someone who does know about it. Get quotes and their experiences – but get the interview first hand. Send an email and request an interview. Most people are flattered and at least interested. Create and keep a schedule for the interview and the publish date. If they have a site they will likely give you some promotion too, telling other people to read your interview. You can interview a few people about the same topic. Give them all the same questions and write their answers in Q and A format so readers can compare how each person gave a different answer, had different thoughts and experiences to share.

The world is big. it has a lot of people on it. Somewhere there is something you can write about. First hand, new and unique and original content – something YOU know about so you can bring YOUR perspective and experience to the world.

 

How to Write Your Own Advice Column

Writing an advice column sounds fun and easy. Until you think about being responsible for the thoughts and actions of the person who takes your advice. Then it gets a little scary. None of us are omnipotent, all knowing. After all, how often do you take your own advice?

If you want to be an advice writer (and you don’t have some kind of background in therapy, psychology or anything else to particularly give you credentials) you can break into advice writing by doing it yourself. Start your own advice column.

Writing your own advice column will take a lot of promotion of yourself and the column you write. Be prepared to put yourself out there, especially if you tend to be the quiet type versus the social butterfly. If you really have a hard time with the social side then round up a friend to be your PR (public relations) person. You’re going to need friends to get you started in other ways too. Who do you think will be writing those first letters for your advice?

Finding a Niche for your Advice Column

These days, when there are already lots of advice columnists, you will need something to make yourself different. This can be your witty sense of humour, but it might be simpler to start out with a theme. I especially like the idea which started Dead Advice (though the site is now dormant).

Think about your own background, the things which interest you and consider a topic which you can sustain over a long time. Something you can keep fresh and have new opinions and ideas about for a long lasting column. You might focus on people fresh from divorce – if you have experience in that area. You might focus on new Mothers – if you have been a new Mother yourself. You might give advice to Grandparents, from the perspective of a new Mother.

Perhaps your advice is less personal and intimate, career oriented or more about how to do things than writing about feelings and emotions. You might write advice for people who work in office cubicles, customer service, online craft sellers, freelance writers, musicians, inventors, dog lovers, figure skaters, tourists, fast food vendors, beauty school drop-outs, any career, business or hobby. There are endless genres and topics and circles of people which you would be suitable to give advice.

If you really aren’t sure what niche you could fill, think about the last time you gave someone advice. Who did you give the advice to? What was the situation? What made you feel competent to give the advice you gave at the time?

When Giving Advice…

Read the question carefully, more than once. Understand what is really being asked under the emotions, the frustration or negative feelings expressed. As you begin your reply work in the original question, repeating back the information in order to make clear communication.

Stay focused on the main question, the point of the advice asked for. Don’t wander off topic into your own personal issues or agenda. You don’t need to judge your readers, lecture them or over explain things and make them feel belittled or stupid. Give them options for moving forward, whatever the problem may have been. Give them empathy and ideas, stay optimistic rather than discouraging them.

Give the reader different view points, a fresh perspective and help them see solutions which they may have been too close to the issue to see themselves. Show your readers the skills they have (and may have forgotten, or taken for granted) which could help solve the problem. Often people just need someone telling them to focus on what they do have, rather than what they don’t have. To look for what they want to find, rather than focusing on the things they don’t like.

If you don’t know the answer, or the question is somehow more than you can handle, don’t just answer it anyway, hoping for the best. Write back to the reader, explain that they are asking too much from an advice column but also, offer them other resources where they can get trained/ skilled help.

Get Writing It!

When you know what you are going to write, it’s time to decide how you will write it. This is the same for any writer in any topic. Should you choose a newsletter, a weblog? What about a podcast? Maybe you want to create a zine (an independent print publication)? The format should be something that will work for you. Consider the ups and downs of each and decide which of them you can work with and distribute to readers/ listeners.

At first you will have to begin your advice column with letters you write yourself for advice, or get family and friends to take this seriously and write the letters for you. Unless you are trying to write a humourous advice column, don’t start out with tacky, soap opera sounding advice requests. Begin as you mean to go on, as they say.

As you answer the advice you will find your voice, your tone, your personality and your perspective. Try at least a few practice letters before you begin to publish anything. Having your niche isn’t enough, now you need to find your style too. Are you practical and sensible, witty, sharp, or even abrasive? Is your column going to be snarky, for the point of making fun of people or genuine and sincere?

Whatever voice and style you choose, make sure you can maintain it for the long haul. You also want to develop loyal readers. People who will make up your fan base and stick with you each week, or as often as you publish. In order to find readers who stick with you and believe in your advice you need to be both visible and predictable as a publisher. Pick a publishing schedule and stick to it. If you need to be away, announce it first and give a return date. Answer comments from readers on your posts or in your forums, contact forms, etc. Try to answer every reader comment in less than a week and give readers an expected response time when they leave comments. Respond quickly and give them the feeling of having your personal attention and being someone you wanted to reply to.

Don’t forget to actually ask readers to send in their questions for your advice. Never assume people will understand this without being given instructions. Use a contact form in your blog for people to send you questions. Or, give them an email address which you have created just for the advice column. (You can set up a new email address on Gmail or another web account for free). Give instructions for asking advice in the top of the newsletter/ site and give the instructions again at the end of your site/ newsletter. (Don’t use the same text – write it differently for people who didn’t understand the first instructions for whatever reason).

Treat your readers well, promote your column and give good, authentic advice from a real human being – those are the important things for publishing your own advice column. Good luck and have fun with it.

Could you be a Full-Time Lead Writer?

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DashBurst – a social media magazine, design agency and technology startup – is looking to add a full-time writer to its staff.

Since launching our blog two months ago, DashBurst is now one of the top 50,000 sites on the web with a rapidly growing community of over 250,000 subscribers. DashBurst is a go-to source online for the latest in social media, business, marketing, technology, web culture, humor, art and design.

We’re looking for an experienced writer knowledgeable in these and similar fields. We feature breaking news as well as exciting videos, photos, guides, infographics, presentations and more. Take a look at our blog and topic categories to get a better idea of what DashBurst is about.

Caution: What you’re about to read is not for the faint of heart, and anyone who can’t handle this need not apply…

  • Do you write for some big time magazine? Good for you. You can stop here… We’re not looking to hire writers away from plush jobs, we’re trying to train new ones.
  • You’re required to work your ass off at this firm. 40+ hours/week writing 2 to 4 articles per day.
  • Working knowledge of English, WordPress, Photoshop, PowerPoint, HTML, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, Apple, Android, Microsoft, Skype and other current technology is needed.

What you’ll get:

1) Ok, first three months at the firm are as a trainee. You will make $150 dollars/week.*
2) After that, if you pass the test of successfully running the blog on your own for a day, you will get a full-time offer to join DashBurst, salary commensurate with your experience, including equity in the company where the sky is the limit.
3) Every article you write for DashBurst will get massive exposure, building your portfolio and personal audience.

via DashBurst is Looking to Hire a Full-Time Lead Writer.

Scared and Excited

If making that leap of faith is something you want to do, here are 3 ways to make it easier.

Some of life’s best moments come with both fear and excitement attached

  • Are you both scared and excited?  Fear is pretty much guaranteed, but are you also feeling excited about what might happen?  Some of life’s best moments come with both fear and excitement attached – if both are there you gotta jump on.
  • You’ve fallen on your arse before.  You’ve screwed up and looked silly before, and while it probably wasn’t your best moment you’re still here and are still going strong.  What matters is picking yourself up, not falling down.
  • Remember what matters.  Taking a leap becomes easier if you’re completely aware of what you’re jumping towards.  If what you’re jumping onto means something to you and has a personal relevance, it becomes a no-brainer.

It’s not easy to take action when you’re not feeling confident enough to take action, but that’s no reason not to do it.

via The Confidence Catch-22 | The Confidence Guy.

A Different 30 Day Blog Challenge (Personal Bloggers)

Here’s the entire 30 Day Blog Challenge list.

I’m slowly, very slowly, getting through this list (like it’s taking me months!).  If you want to join me, let me know and I’ll post a link to your blog.

Day 1: List 10 random facts about yourself.

Day 2: Describe 3 legitimate fears you have and describe how they became fears.

Day 3: What is the greatest amount of physical pain you have ever endured?

Day 4: List 5 things you would tell your 16 year-old self if you could.

Day 5: What are the 5 things that make you happiest right now?

Day 6: What is the hardest thing you have ever experienced?

Day 7: What is your dream job, and why?

Day 8: What are 3 passions you have?

Day 9: What defines you?

Day 10: Describe your most embarrassing moment.

Day 11: Describe a few of your pet peeves.

Day 12: Describe a typical day in your life.

Day 13: Describe 5 weaknesses you have.

Day 14: Describe 5 strengths you have.

Day 15: If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

Day 16: What are your 5 greatest accomplishments?

Day 17: What is the thing you most wish you were great at?

Day 18: What is the most difficult thing you have had to forgive?

Day 19: If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?

Day 20: Describe 3 significant memories from your childhood.

Day 21: If you could have 1 superpower, what would it be and what would be the first thing you did with it?

Day 22: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?

Day 23: List your top 3 hobbies and why you love them.

Day 24: Describe your first job.

Day 25: If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you eat?

Day 26: What popular notion do you think the world has wrong?

Day 27: What is your favorite part of your body and why?

Day 28: What is your love language?

Day 29: What were your three favorite toys/games as a child?

Day 30: List 5 things you would hope to be remembered for.

via Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine with my morning quiet time?: 30 Day Blog Challenge.

Would you Read your Mother’s Diary?

I “Accidentally” Read My Mom’s Diary Over The Holidays And It Turned Out Terribly | xoJane.

I think it would be one thing, if you had never known her. If  she was deceased and you wanted to get to know who she was. But, in that case you would not be reading her thoughts about yourself as an adult.

My Mother does keep a diary. But, she encourages all of us to write in it too. So, I do read her notes and she reads mine. This kind of diary is filtered through your personal censor as you write it, knowing others will be reading it. In the case of our family, we don’t filter much. Things are pretty open and we aren’t waging battles against each other, holding grudges, etc.

The post on xoJane was written by a daughter in a different kind of relationship with her Mother. I don’t think she ever should have read that diary. She had no right to pick it up and read anything in there. Using the excuse of finding it is pretty awful and kind of phony. There are all kinds of things you might find in a bedside night table drawer – to pick out the most personal and read it is really arrogant and disrespectful.

This was my comment on the post, written thinking of my Dad who is now deceased.

For me it wasn’t my Mother but my Dad. Still,.I would never have read his diary or put his private thoughts online for anyone to read. You can’t control what your Mother says, does or thinks. But you should work on your own actions. Just because a diary is in a drawer, rather than locked up, does not mean you should sit there and read it. You and your Mother seem to feed off each other. If neither of you changes things will stay the same. If you want love from her you could at least not treat her like “the enemy”. It’s not easy to ignore all the history in your relationship but if you act like you’re in battle – always trying to win something from her, it just won’t ever work out. Neither of you will get the type of relationship you want because you both focus on your own needs and winning rather than (if not giving something) at least not taking something.

Online Editor Wanted at HerCircleZine

I like reading job descriptions for online web publishing. I started reading this one, thinking it would be a way for someone who loves illustration and arts to get into being part of the ‘art department’ for a publication. It’s not. They are looking for someone to publish and managed the visual arts section. Still worth reading.

This is a volunteer thing. They want a lot out of someone they won’t be paying. So, anyone looking into this will have to be doing it for the experience and the fame, not the fortune.

Online Editor – Visual Arts

We’re looking for a volunteer Web Editor to play a senior role overseeing the editorial content of the Arts section. With a working knowledge of feminist theory and socially engaged contemporary art practice, you will play a pivotal role in shaping the voice of HerCircleEzine.com.

You will be a self starter with drive and creative energy; responsive, bold and confident with your ideas. Your main goal will be to work to our creative and editorial standards to enhance and broaden the appeal of HerCircleEzine.com.

Responsibilities include:

* Researching article ideas relevant to the HCE mission

* Maintaining an editorial calendar

* Assigning articles to volunteer bloggers and freelance writers

* Monitoring expected contributor submissions (features, blog posts, etc.)

* Managing routine communications with contributors

* Posting all content to WordPress CMS with appropriate formatting

* Sourcing and adding graphics, photos, etc. as necessary

* Managing content for monthly eNewsletter – based on editorial calendar/schedule

* Take an active interest and personal pride in the aesthetic appearance of the site

* Promptly correct any typos or other errors noted on the site

via Opportunities.

Editorial Intern Post

Job post for an Editorial Intern at XOJane Magazine (online site). It reads like a blogger’s to-do list. Some of these I do and some I try to do and one I have not done for quite awhile.

 

Editorial interns should be creative, hard working, and able to multi-task. Familiarity with Jane Pratt’s work, the voice and tone of the site, and a desire to contribute to the production and growth ofthe site is crucial. Must have a go with the flow ‘yes’ attitude and sense of humor. Interns should be comfortable with delicate topics. Writing for xoJane.com often means sharing personal stories, so those looking to get clips should have the desire to write in the style of the site’s current editors. Responsibilities:

  • Reading xoJane daily
  • Working with social media to contact individuals and brands who are mentioned on the site
  • Creating creative #hastags for @xojanedotcom
  • Managing our Tumblr page
  • Contributing and creating site content
  • Assisting editors on photo shoots
  • Tracking traffic from link partnerships and syndication deals
  • Attending weekly editorial meetings
  • Planning and managing giveaways
  • Assist beauty and fashion editors with special projects and creating content

Interns must receive and provide proof of school credit for this internship. This opportunity is unpaid.

14 Reasons Why Artists Keep Visual Journals

14 Reasons Why Artists Keep Visual Journals.

April 13th, 2005

By Joan Martine Murphy

Keeping a visual journal helps the artist develop a sense of self–discipline.  By drawing in your journal everyday you are developing the habit of creativity.  The drawings can be ever so simple and as time goes by you will have developed a repertoire and a visual source book.  When the time comes to design a long term drawing, a painting or sculpture you will have a wealth of ideas available and you will have developed your skills so that drawing up your design is just a matter of applying what you have learned.

The chronological nature of the journal means that you are automatically recording your personal improvement.  By recording trouble spots that need attention you are creating a path for yourself to follow.  Because the internet is such a rich source of instruction and example you should put aside time to go online to find out what the solution to your artistic problems may be.  Once you have collected a variety of examples and ideas use them to work out a personal solution by trying out all that you have seen.  This process will nurture your artistic development and help you develop a sense of direction.

A journal can become for you a ‘place’ where you can work out what themes are developing on the journey.  As issues, questions and ideas develop ‘go with them’ and let them give you direction.  Themes are good because they give you a dialogue and point of interest.  This can be a good starting point for discussions with other artists and fellow students.

It is always good when you are presenting your work to be able to fit it into a theme.  Many exhibitions are grouped in this way.  The working out of a theme also gives the artist a sense of completion when that thematic response has been followed to its logical conclusion.

Style is a process of evolution.  When you begin keeping your journal you may not even know what your preferred style is.  As you develop on a daily basis a personal style will emerge.  Dialogue with that style.  Ask your self why you have gone in this direction?  Does it make it easier?  Can you see patterns and relationships?  Do you know what is influencing you?  Write you’re self-questioning down in your journal as you go it will make interesting reading in years to come.

Once you have begun to develop the habit of creativity you will also have begun developing an intuitive awareness.  You will see things that stimulate curiosity and provoke fresh and new ideas.  You will not be able to keep up with them.  Jot them down.  Keep your journal at hand at all times. Make sure you always keep it handy and small enough to fit into any bag or in the glove box of the car.  Draw everything that catches the eye.  Later you will be excited by all of the things you have gathered as source material that you would have forgotten about entirely if you had not recorded them in the minute.  Collect ideas by jotting them down (scribble neatness doesn’t count) come back to them at a later date when that intuition or inspiration becomes relevant to the work at hand.  If notes aren’t taken at the time…the thoughts may be lost forever.

Everybody has artistic talent and can be good at drawing. You only have to tune in to the creative, intuitive and artistic side of the brain – the right side – and you will be able to draw accurate and imaginative portraits, landscapes, still lifes.

Regard your journal as your personal safe place. A collection of experimentations. No one should be looking over your shoulder …it is your space for trying out techniques in a non-threatened way before committing to a more public form of artwork.

It is also a means of communication, a holding place for ideas to share with other artists and students who wish to learn.  So keep it with you when mingling with other artists.  If you are making preparations for submissions or to win contracts make sure you are keeping your notes in this way as it can facilitate discussion at a later date if this becomes necessary.

Your journal is your note-takers paradise … as a place where ideas can be kept in the written form as well as visually…  Keep the writing short and precise but do write down any ideas that come to your head as we often forget what stimulated our visual inspirations and the writing may be useful.  Supplement your scribbles with poems, haikus, prose, and songs what ever is helping shape your thoughts and ideas at the time is relevant and may become useful.

Keep technical notes as well make sure you are learning about mixing colours, learning theory. Writing down and recording what you learn means that you have a ready reference.  Again the internet is a great way to find our information… if you are having trouble understanding light sources for example enter that as a search term and you will be amazed at how much free information you can find.  Be patient and don’t just click on the first few sites you find.  There is a wealth of information out there for the taking if you put in that little extra effort.

Set your self-learning tasks of specified natures with a particular learning outcome anticipated. For example record atmospheres by going for a walk in the same place on a daily basis for a month but at different times of the day.  Draw or paint in watercolour exactly what you see.  Or go to a different place but at same times of the day.  Don’t just look for atmospheric or natural effects look to at the kinds of activity you can find.  One example of this might new going to the same street corner at different times throughout the day – even the expressions on the faces of the people will change as they come and go.  Try it you may be amazed.  Another way of creating a learning exercise is to look at and examine objects from all sides and views.  Keep on setting yourself small learning tasks like tis and you will be amazed at how much you improve and how your understanding of techniques increases.

Again your journal is a safe place where you can experiment with abstractions finding ways to express emotions and feelings.  You can make your artistic journey a catalyst in your personal development by recording dreams, daydreams and locating meaning in them through exploration and analysis.  Again the Internet is a great place for subscribing to discussion lists where people want to explore self-empowerment and personal development.

Above all this safe haven of personal expression can become for you if you let it a source of relaxation.   A ready breathing space in a busy way of life.  Learn to do relaxation and breathing exercises before and after you draw not only so that you tap into the more intuitive side of your brain but that so that the discipline of drawing and the artistic pathway becomes a source of great personal pleasure.  Your journal should never be a chore but something you look forward to as a little breather in the busy pace of life.

Eventually your journal will naturally evolve into your precious planning tool. It will be a place where compositions are mapped out over a period of time before any major painting is begun.  Projects will no longer be daunting, as you will have a never-ending fountain of reference ideas and information.  Above all enjoy the journey and don’t let it cause you even the slightest stress.

Journaling is best if it is done daily.  It is also easiest to remember if it is the first thing you do when you wake up of a morning.  Start the day by recording a drawing of your dreams.  Or if you haven’t dreamt throughout the night, simply draw the first thing that occurs to you when you wake up.

I copied this for myself years ago. I had kept the link with the original post but that site is no longer online. I did find Joan, still writing at Suite101 and I have given that current link to her and her writing about art and creativity.