Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Active voice, passive voice — what’s the difference?

Active and passive voice - what's the difference?

Remember back in school when you learnt about the different ‘voices’ in your writing?

No? Active voice and passive voice?

Still nothing?

Well that’s okay. This blog post will explain all you need to know about active and passive voice, and when you should use each voice.

 

The difference between active and passive voice

In its simplest terms, active voice occurs when the subject of the sentence (or performer) is performing the action. For example:

Tom loves Jess. Tom (the subject) is performing the act of loving.

Passive voice is when the subject receives the action. For example:

Jessica is loved by Tom. Jessica (the subject) is receiving Tom’s love.

 

 Using the active voice

It is generally recommended to use active voice when writing. Active voice is clearer and more succinct. It clearly identifies the action and who or what is performing the action. It is stronger, and enables us to communicate our message more effectively. It also can be used to point the reader in a particular direction

Active voice has a kind of energy that passive voice lacks. It is the perfect choice in business writing — particularly when using a ‘call to action’ (e.g. ‘Call us now!’). And it is usually the choice for creative writing.

 

Using passive voice

While passive voice is often wordier than active voice, it is useful to use it in certain situations. For example, health writing often use the passive voice, because the ‘performer’ is less important than the action.

e.g. Carbohydrates are found in fruits and vegetables.

While using active voice in scientific writing is sometimes preferable, passive voice is useful because it is considered inappropriate for scientists to insert themselves into the paper.

e.g. The subjects were tested instead of We tested the subjects.

Passive voice is also used when the performer is unknown, irrelevant or obvious.

e.g. Every year, thousands of people are diagnosed with cancer.

It is also useful when hedging around a topic. You will notice that police officers, managers and politicians often use passive voice when they don’t want to, or are unable to identify the person who has performed the action.

e.g. Mistakes were made and the procedures were misinterpreted.

 

How to recognise passive voice

As we have seen, using passive voice is not wrong. However, active voice is preferable in most cases. To determine if your writing is passive, look out for the following tell-tale words:

  • be
  • is
  • are
  • a
  • was
  • were
  • has been
  • have been
  • will be

If any of these words appear, then you have written a passive sentence.

 

Changing from passive to active

Active sentences follow a logical order:

i.e. doer of action (performer) + action + receiver of action

To change a passive sentence into an active one, simply:

  1. begin the sentence with the doer of the action
  2. make the verb active
  3. put the receiver of the action after the active verb

e.g.                                        

The novel The Power of One was written by Bryce Courtenay (passive)

 CHANGES TO:

 Bryce Courtenay wrote The Power of One.

  

Final tips

Remember, passive voice has its place in writing too and in some instances if preferable. The type of voice you use in your writing will depend upon what you’re writing, who the audience is, and what the aim of your communication is.

But if you want your message to be snappy and clearly understood, always choose an active voice.

If you need help deciphering active and passive sentences, or just don’t want the bother of doing it at all, please contact me.

Cheers
Nerissa

 

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How to get down to the business of writing…when you really can’t be bothered

Lacking motivation to write

Let’s face it, every now and then, despite the deadlines looming we really struggle to find the motivation to write.

It’s not exactly writer’s block — it’s just that motivation has disappeared as quickly as our morning coffee, and we just can’t be bothered.

So, what do you do to get out of the funk and back into business?

Write a List

Sometimes I can’t quite get into my writing  because I have other things buzzing about my head — things to do, things to remember, phone calls to make, etc. Writing them down is a bit like a brain dump; you get them out of your head, but you put them in a place where you know you can attend to them later.

Get rid of distractions

Do you have your email open in the background? What about Twitter? Facebook? Other social media platforms? While it’s tempting to run them in the background, they will only make it worse for you, if you’re not in the writing zone. Shut them down. And while you’re at it, turn off your phone.

Grab a cuppa

Chances are, before you struck out on your own as a freelance writer, you worked a 9 to 5 job, right? What was one of the first things you did before you sat down to work? Grabbed a cuppa. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, it really doesn’t matter. But the very act of starting your writing session the same way you used to start your regular work day, will help your brain to switch on to ‘work mode’.

Write anything

Just start writing. Anything. It doesn’t matter what it is. You could write about how you don’t want to be writing. You could write about what you plan to do on the weekend. The content isn’t important, but the act of beginning the writing process is. Most of what you’ll come up with will be unrelated to the task at hand, or totally rubbish. But the process of just writing, will do something in your brain, and soon enough, your writing will become focused.

Apply some ‘bum glue’

Renowned author, Bryce Courtenay used to talk about a substance called ‘bum glue’ when it came to writing his books. While it sounds like a magical substance, there’s nothing magical about it, and it’s not something you can buy at the local store. ‘Bum glue’ is simply the discipline involved in sitting in your seat and getting your writing done. And it’s not just reserved for novelists. It can be applied to any kind of writing. So why not give it a try. I often find that bum glue is only necessary for around 10 minutes of solid writing. After that, my head is in the zone, and my fingers are happily tapping away.

Take a break

If after trying some of the strategies above you still can’t bring yourself to write, take a break. It may be for an hour, half a day, a whole day, or a couple of days — only you will know how much time you need. Time away from the keyboard and your computer screen, doing something totally unrelated, will free up your mind. You’ll probably find that when you come back, you are eager to get started, and you’ll have one of your most productive sessions.

So, the next time you can’t be bothered to write (and you know you really need to), try some of the above strategies. And if you have any of your own that work, let me know. I would love to hear them.

In the meantime, if you have writing that needs to be done, and you just can’t bring yourself to do it, why not contact me and see if I can help.

Cheers
Nerissa

 

 

9 problems associated with writing for FREE

Problems when you write for free

Starting your freelance writing career can be very daunting with many challenges along the way.

One of the most challenging aspects is landing work; gaining clients; winning writing jobs.

What can sometimes make this difficult is that potential clients want to see your portfolio. But hang on! You don’t have one because you’re just starting out! So how are you supposed to get work without a portfolio? And how are you supposed to create a folio without any work?

So, you decide to write for free for a while, until you build up a worthy portfolio to show your potential clients. Right?

Wrong!!

 

Problems when you write for free

While it may seem like an easy solution to your problem, writing for nothing can actually lead to more problems — for you and for your fellow writers.

Problem #1: You set the precedent that you will continue to work for free.

Once a client or editor realises they can get writing from you without paying for it, guess what they’re going to do next time they need something. Yep. Ask you to do it — for free. Why would they begin paying you when you didn’t request payment the first time?

Problem #2: You tell people your work is not valuable

When you don’t place a monetary value on your work, you send a message that you don’t see value in your work. And if you don’t see value, why should they?

Problem #3: Exposure means nothing

Many potential clients will offer you something called ‘exposure’. That is, they will promote your work on their social media channels, etc. While that sounds appealing, ‘exposure’ rarely leads to paid work, because their target market is usually not YOUR target market. Besides, most of us write to make money, and last time I checked, you can’t pay for your groceries or your mortgage with ‘exposure dollars’!

Problem #4: Writing for free actually costs you

You might think you’ve got nothing to lose by writing a few articles for nothing. But how much time do you spend doing that? Time is money. And if you’re not earning money with your writing, then you should be spending time working on tasks that WILL bring you money, or building your business. Don’t use your precious time or your talents making someone else successful at your expense. You’d be better off getting paid employment.

Problem #5: You encourage the exploitation of writers

Every day, in every city, around the world, writers are asked and expected to write for nothing. In short, this is exploitation. When you agree to work for nothing, you’re sending the message that it’s okay to exploit the writing profession in general. Stop doing that.

Problem #6: You undermine the value of artistic industries

Artistic and creative professionals have always struggled to be considered as valuable as other professionals. When you agree to work for free, you contribute to this misunderstanding and perpetuate the problem.

Problem #7: You make it harder for other writers to earn a living

Each time you say ‘yes, I will write for free’, you empower that editor to ask the next writer and the next writer the same thing. Soon, there is a belief amongst editors and businesses, that it’s not necessary to pay for writers, and so they stop investing in the industry.

Problem #8: You contribute to poorer writing standards

You may be a top-notch writer, but not everyone is. When clients no longer believe they have to pay for writing services (see problem #7), they will go looking for people who will write for nothing or for very little. Those who are willing to work under these conditions are usually those who can’t write very well or simply sit and churn out article after article with little thought to the quality of their writing or their target audience. What we are left with, is a bunch of hacks writing content, and poorer writing standards.

Problem #9: You waste your education, experience and talents

How much time and money have you invested in gaining your skills as a writer? How long did your education take? How long have you been honing your craft? Remember, the whole point of gaining professional writing skills was so you could make a career out of it. So why would you suddenly agree to work for no pay, now you’re out on your own?

 

Some final warnings…

Before I move on to when it is okay to write for free (because sometimes it is), I want to warn you about a couple of tricks found in job ads for writers.

Trick #1: “We aren’t in a position to pay right now, but there is the potential for payment down the track”.

Don’t fall for it. The likelihood of you ending up being paid later on is remote.

Trick #2: “We aren’t currently making a profit right now, so we can’t pay our writers, but you’ll get your work noticed”.

Don’t fall for this one either. That’s like you going into Officeworks and telling them you’re just starting out as a freelance writer, so you can’t afford to buy all the office equipment and stationery you need. So, instead of monetary payment, you’d like to write an article about how awesome they are. Yeah. Not going to happen. Besides, if you landed a position at a not-for-profit organisation, they would still pay you a salary for the work you’d do.

 

When should you write for free?

Even though there are numerous problems when it comes to ‘gifting’ your writing services to others, there are a couple of circumstances when it is okay.

  1. You donate your services in-kind for a charitable or community organisation that you feel strongly about.
    There is nothing wrong with doing this. Many professional writers donate their services to support charities and their local community groups. It’s no different to volunteering or donating money.
  2. You provide free writing services as part of an internship.
    An internship is a great way to gain experience as a writer and to put together a portfolio. However, under the guise of internships, the person performing the work should be getting the main benefit of the arrangement. Further information about internships (paid and unpaid) can be found at https://www.fairwork.gov.au/pay/unpaid-work/work-experience-and-internships

Finally, I came across this video which may help explain it in real life terms.

Don’t sell yourself short. Your writing is valuable and so is your experience.

If you’re not a writer, but would like to hire me (for money), please contact me. Not only will you receive high-quality writing with exceptional customer service, you’ll be entering a partnership with me which includes a promise to never take your business for granted.

Cheers
Nerissa

 

 

How to spot a good copywriter

How to spot a good copywriter

Unless you’ve been given a personal recommendation, it can be hard to know if the copywriter you’ve chosen is good at their craft or not.

While spelling and grammar are both important when it comes to copywriting, they aren’t the only measures of success you should be looking for. So to help you discern the good writers from the hacks, here are a few qualities to look out for.

 

They have a portfolio

A good copywriter will have a portfolio (e.g. samples of published work) and will be happy to share it with you. They should also be happy to provide you with a list of clients they have worked with. Understand however, that due to the nature of some projects, writers aren’t always able to provide you with actual copy they have written for some clients. In this case, client testimonials may also work well.

 

They prefer to work to a brief

An experienced writer will ask for and prefer to work to, a client brief. A brief is important for both parties. It contains vital information to assist the copywriter to come up with the type of content you are seeking. It will also save you money, as it reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings, and the need for expensive re-writes and revisions.

 

They ask questions

You know you’ve found someone who will do a good job when they ask questions and seek clarification when they are unclear on something. Steer clear of the copywriter who seems self-assured and seems to ‘know it all’ when it comes to your needs — unless of course you have delivered a very detailed client brief to them!

 

They know how to research and reference their work

The craft of copywriting sometimes requires the writer to undertake research. This is particularly the case when it comes to health and medical writing. If your content needs some background research, make sure the writer you engage knows how to research, where to research, and how to correctly reference this information. After all, YOU will be responsible for the accuracy of the end copy, not the writer you hire.

 

They have a good understanding of the industry they are writing about

This is not a pre-requisite, but it does help. Engaging someone who understands your industry will save you time and money. For example, if you need someone to write about diabetes, hiring a health writer who understands the key health concerns facing the general population will result in better and cheaper copy, than someone who specialises in financial technology. Better, because they are familiar with the topic and the health concerns unique to diabetes, and cheaper because they won’t need to spend as much time researching the topic as the fin-tech expert.

 

They are flexible, yet firm

Flexible but firm? Yes. Your copywriter should be reasonably flexible when it comes to considering suggested changes and revisions to text. They should also understand that you, as their client, have other priorities to juggle, which may mean you can’t always drop everything to attend to their queries.

However, they should be firm when it comes to providing you with a quote, their terms and conditions of contract, as well as changing deadlines, or the scope or focus of the project. If the deadline or scope of the project must change, then you should both negotiate these changes. Chances are, they are juggling more than just your project, and need to fit your needs in with the needs of their other paying clients.

 

They focus on building a partnership

When engaging a copywriter, you should want more out of the relationship than just good copy. Look for someone who views your working relationship as a partnership. While price is obviously a factor in hiring someone, having a good working relationship with someone who understands your brand, your needs and the way you work is priceless. Once you find someone like that do all you can to keep them. You will find they will go the extra mile for you.

 

By all means, the above isn’t an exhaustive list but it will certainly give you a few things to think about when selecting a copywriter.

Want to know if you’re a copywriter’s dream client, then click here.

And if you’re ready to work with me, or have some questions, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers
Nerissa

The freelance writer’s guide to working in the school holidays

Writing in school holidays

If you’re a freelance writer with kids, school holidays can be a tricky (and sometimes, frustrating) time.

Let’s be honest. In the freelance writing game, it’s very often ‘feast or famine’ — either too much work or not enough. And for the first few years, it’s very tempting to say ‘yes’ to any work that comes your way, until you are well-established in your field.

As luck (or Murphy’s Law) would have it, my busiest times have usually been during school holidays. This has often meant a stressful holiday period, trying to balance meeting deadlines and holiday fun. It is further compounded by the fact that writing for a living isn’t as simple as sitting down for a few hours and ‘getting it done’.

 

The zone — a near impossible place to find with kids around

Writing often means needing to be in the ‘zone’ — feeling the inspiration and getting the words to flow freely, rather than trying to extricate them one by one. As a health writer, I also need time to research my topic.

As any writer would know, the zone isn’t something you can turn on and off. It’s either there or it’s not. Sure, there are things you can do to help you get in the zone, but with a couple of noisy (and sometimes arguing) children in the background, getting there can be difficult. Even if you manage to find your way there, that magic place where the writing comes easy, can be shattered in an instant with the words “Mum, I’m hungry” or cries of “Stop it! Leave me alone!”

In the past, working during school holidays has meant early mornings, late nights and working across the weekends. By the time school term started up again, I was in need of a holiday myself. But of course, everything else that had been put on the back-burner while I was juggling work and school holiday activities was beckoning.

 

A different approach

After a couple of years trying to juggle deadlines, business activities and school holiday activities, I realised something had to give. So I started saying ‘no’ to new projects for those couple of weeks.

Instead, I work intermittently while I can, on things that are not urgent. They also don’t require me to be ‘in the zone’ so much, which means that I can make the most of snippets of time that becomes available.

 

Attend to non-urgent but important tasks

Things I focus on during this time include updating my website, researching for upcoming articles, planning out the remainder of my year, setting goals, planning social media posts, updating my folio, learning new things that will have a positive impact upon my business, as well as building relationships with key people.

Quite frankly, it’s been great. Instead of fitting school holidays (and the kids) around work, I’m fitting in my work around them. The great thing about this approach is that I don’t feel guilt. No guilt about not spending time with the kids when I’m working, and no guilt about not working when I’m with the kids.

 

Do less and be more productive

Interestingly, the quality of my work is a lot higher because I’m focusing more on what I want to get done, rather than the ever-present ticking clock when it comes to deadlines. I also don’t have to deal with the problem of how I’m going to fit it all in. There is a lot less frustration, because writing deadlines are not in the picture. It’s an arrangement that seems to work for me, and one that I will endeavour to employ in future school holidays.

 

Do you need to pull back in the holiday period?

It’s very easy to get caught up in the busyness of work and family life It’s even more easy to be swamped by the juggle that is work and school holidays. One thing I have learnt however, is that sometimes we need to take something out of the picture in order to have more balance, more fun and less stress.

And funnily enough, having that bit of time off means I am more than ready to get stuck into work when the kids return to school.

If you’re a freelance writer trying to juggle kids and school holidays, try pulling back a bit to see what a difference it can make to you.

 

Cheers
Nerissa

NOTE: With only one school term left this year, and my diary filling up, opportunities to work with me this year are dwindling. If you don’t want to miss out, contact me TODAY to see how I can help you.

 

 

10 tips when writing for business

10 tips when writing for business

Writing copy for your business is very different from writing for other media. With many other companies competing with you for the same customers, it’s essential that your message hits all the right notes.

Here’s a list of things to consider when putting together your business communications.

1. Know your message

What do you want your potential and current customers to know? What’s the one key point you need to convey to them? While you probably have a few things you’d like to tell them, stick with the one message to avoid confusion.

2. Be clear

Once you are clear on your message, convey it with clear and concise writing. Use simple, easy-to-understand language, avoiding clichés and jargon. Write in short sentences and get right to the point. When your message is clear, you customers are informed.

3. Watch your tone

Ensure that your tone matches that of your audience. If you need to be authoritative, try not to be patronising. If you need to employ humour, ensure that it’s not full of corny ‘dad jokes’. Whatever tone you choose, your audience should feel a connection to you.

4. Remember your branding

What does your company stand for? What is your brand all about? Your written messages are another opportunity to increase your branding. Remember that when you write. If your brand is all about fun, then inject some fun into your message. If your brand is factual and scientific, ensure your message is factual as well.

5. Follow your style guide

This comes back to your branding, but ensure all your written communications follows the same style guide. Not sure what a style guide is? Put simply, it’s a list of ‘rules’ and ‘standards’ to follow with your writing, that promotes consistency, branding and marketing. If you want some tips on how to develop a style guide, click here.

6. Be professional

While standards of business communications have become more relaxed over recent years, always maintain a sense of professionalism. That means avoiding slang, text-speak, too many exclamation points (!!!), and language or topics that may offend.

7. Include a call to action

Don’t leave it to your readers to decide what to do next. Tell them. And make it easy for them. If you want them to call, then give the phone number. If you want them to email you, include a clickable link. If you want them to follow you on social media, include a clickable link. If you want them to visit their website — you got it — include a clickable link.

8. Don’t forget grammar and spelling

When you are busy paying attention to what you want to say, don’t forget about how you say it. Grammar and spelling really do matter. Communications that contain grammatical and spelling errors will only detract from your message.

9. Proofread before you send

Most of us do our best proofreading after we send — whether that be via email, social media or through the post. Check and double-check for errors before you disseminate anything. Some useful tips on proofreading can be found here.

10. Hire a freelancer

While this is not exactly a writing tip, it’s good to keep the option in the back of your mind. If writing is not your strong suit, or you simply don’t have the time to devote to crafting your message, consider hiring someone who can help. A good freelancer can help craft letters, blog articles, press releases, memos, training manuals, business letters or just about any other kind of writing you need.

Great writing is key for business. Using the tips above, you can greatly improve the likelihood of your key business messages hitting the right note.

However, if you would like help crafting communications for your business, please contact me. You’ll find I’m very easy to work with, and my rates will surprise you!

 

Cheers
Nerissa

Games to improve your vocabulary and spelling

Improve spelling and vocabulary with games

How many words are in your vocabulary? Do you know how to use them in the right context? How good is your spelling? Do you know your ‘there, their and they’re’?

If you’d like to improve either your vocab or spelling (or even both), a fun way is through word games — both the ‘old-fashioned’ variety board games, and the electronic versions.

 

Board/card games

One of the most iconic word games in the world is Scrabble. In this game, first released in 1938 , players use letter tiles to form words on a grid. Each letter is assigned a certain number of points, and the aim of the game is to score as many points as possible.

A relative of Scrabble, Upwords allows you to stack letters on top of existing words to create new ones.

Another great game is Scattergories. This is a creative thinking game where players list as many words as they can within a certain category, beginning with a particular letter, within a time limit.

If you want to continue to use your creative thinking skills and develop your vocabulary even further, play a game of Taboo. The aim is for a player to give clues in order to have their partner guess a particular word, without using the word itself, or other words typically associated with that word in question.

For those of you who love learning new meanings of words, then Balderdash can be great fun. The aim of the game is to win as many points as possible by listing definitions of obscure words. If you know the correct definition, you are awarded points, and if other players choose your definition as being the correct one (even if it’s incorrect), you also are awarded points.

For a fast-paced, quick-thinking game of words, why not try Bananagrams? It’s similar to Scrabble in that there are lettered tiles. However, everyone makes words at the same time with the objective to create a word grid (like a crossword) before anyone else can.

Another quick-moving game is Boggle. Players compete to find as many words as possible in a 4 x 4 grid, with a three-minute time limit.

 

Online games

There is a myriad of online word games, some of them versions of the games listed above. But perhaps one of the most popular is Words With Friends. Modelled on the game of Scrabble, you compete against online players to create words on a grid.

If you’re looking for a game you can play on your own, there are a couple of options. In the game of WordBrain, you move your way through increasingly difficult word puzzles.

Another game to play by your self is Bonza. This word puzzle game requires players to assemble a variety of crossword-style letter tiles, so they make a full word grid.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced game, try Scramble. The aim is to find as many words as you can on the grid of mixed up letters before the timer runs out.

Finally, 7 Little Words is a series of word puzzles you need to solve, with each puzzle containing a list of 7 words you need to find. You are provided a clue for every word you need to find.

And if you like using a pen and paper, don’t forget crosswords.

By no means is the above list an exhaustive one. But if you’re new to the world of word games, why not give them a try. Not only will you have fun, but you’ll be improving your spelling and vocabulary at the same time!

If you have any favourite word games you play, comment below. I’d love to try something new.

Cheers
Nerissa

Why you should be reading to your kids

Why you should read to your kids

This week (20-20 August 2016) is Book Week.

Each year, across Australia, The Children’s Book Council of Australia brings children and books together celebrating Children’s Book Week. During this time schools, libraries, booksellers, authors, illustrators and children celebrate Australian Children’s Literature.

Although don’t feel that you only have to read Australian stories. Book Week is a great opportunity to read anything, particularly with your child.

Literacy rates are lower than you think

You may think that here in Australia, we don’t have a problem with illiteracy (the inability to read or write). However, it may surprise you to know that around 46 per cent of Australian adults don’t have the literacy skills needed to cope with everyday life.

That’s almost half of us!

Furthermore, 51 per cent of Australian adults — that’s more than half! — don’t realise that reading and sharing stories with children from birth gives them the best start in life.

Sadly, Aussie kids spend around twice the amount of time watching TV as they do reading.

 

Benefits of reading

Reading has so many benefits. As a book-lover and a writer, I could go on for hours about how great reading is. But let’s just stick to a few. Did you know that:

  • Reading helps children build a solid language and literacy foundation before they go to school
  • Children who are read to have better cognitive skills later in life. And they aren’t just limited to spelling and language skills. Numeracy skills are also impacted in a positive way.
  • Reading sparks imagination, creativity and an enquiring mind
  • Reading relieves boredom
  • Reading provides opportunities for you to bond with your child
  • Children who read, tend to become readers for life.

 

Memories can be made with books

The other great thing about books is they can help build special memories of your children.

My son (who is almost 14) has always been surrounded by books. I read to him the first day he came home from hospital as a baby. I read to him in the morning and in the afternoon. It became a routine which he loved. Snuggled up on the couch, touching pages, repeating words — it was a very special time together.

In the early days of motherhood, when most things would bamboozle me, and I was feeling like a terrible failure, I would take solace in the bookshop. My son would sit or lie in his pram and soak up the atmosphere. We both became calmer versions of ourselves in a place where there were other worlds to discover, new people to meet, new adventures to be had.

By the time we’d bought a book (or a few books), and had a coffee, the world would be a happy place again.

I did the same when my daughter was born. Although the trip to the bookshop wasn’t always as calm, as I had a 2 ½ year old boy who kept excitedly bringing me book after book, asking if we could buy it.

As my kids grew older, I would ask them to choose several stories to read. They would both excitedly run into their rooms, search through their books and pull out five or six stories. Some of them would feature every day. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” was a particular favourite. But sometimes we would be treated to something different, like the story about “The Little Yellow Digger”, or “Lettice: The Flower Girl”.

Classics like “Guess How Much I Love You”, “Possum Magic” and a variety of “Hairy Maclary” were read over and over. As were books on dinosaurs, dogs, rabbits and birds.

 

Books bring you closer together

Both my children outgrew their picture books a while ago, and I no longer have the pleasure of seeing them run down the hallway and emerge triumphantly with a pile of books almost as big as themselves. But I do have the pleasure of seeing them enjoy more grown up stories. And I do have the pleasure of introducing them to stories that I love — stories I grew up with and loved like “The Faraway Tree” books, “Little House on the Prairie” and “Anne of Green Gables; and more recent stories like “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games”.

Regardless of how old they get, and the likelihood that they will forget just how much reading we did in those early days, I will never forget. I’ll never forget how a cappuccino (or bottle in my son’s case) and a new book made the world a better place. And I will never forget the warm snuggles and soft pyjamas as we would settle in for several stories each night.

So this week — just because it’s Book Week — read to your kids. If they are too old to be read to (are they ever??), then talk to them about the books they are reading. Talk to them about what you’re reading.

You know you’ll be helping them improve their literacy and learning. And you may just enjoy it too.

Cheers
Nerissa

If you struggle writing a good sentence and would like me to help you out, just flick me an email. I promise I’ll answer it – as soon as I’m finished reading!

How to juggle multiple projects…and a family…and a life!

How to juggle multiple projects

Life as a freelancer isn’t always on an even keel.

You’ll have periods where the work dribbles in (or even stops for a bit), and then you’ll have times when the work is flooding in and you’ll wonder how you’ll ever get it done.

And while others around you might say ‘don’t take it on’ or ‘tell them you’re too busy’, you know there will be times when the work won’t be so plentiful, so you elect to make hay while the sun shines.

But in the meantime, how do you juggle it all, particularly when you have a family and a life outside of writing?

Plan, plan, plan

I’ve just come out of one of the busiest periods I’ve ever had. In a nutshell, I have written 35 articles over three weeks — 30 of them were part of a big project for a leading health fund. In that time, I still had to find time for my other clients, my family, my training, social life and writing my novel. (Did you know I’m working on my first one?).

One of the best pieces of advice I can offer you is to plan out your week before it begins. I have this amazing planner I use every week, and I write everything on it — training sessions, kids’ activities, medical appointments, deadlines, reminders, social activities and what bills are due that week. My life is that planner. And the great thing about it, is that I can see my week at a glance.

Colour code and write ‘to-do’ lists

I like colour. It brightens my day, but it also helps me see how my week is panning out. Work time is assigned a colour, as is deadlines, kids’/social activities, training and household chores. I also write to-do lists and tick off or cross off my tasks as I get them done. Not only does it feel good, but it tells me whether I have attended to that task or not.

Prioritise

We all have the same amount of time, so why do some people get so much done and others don’t? It’s because they prioritise their time. Focus on the things that are important (e.g. working on your projects, feeding the kids) and letting some of the other things go for a few days (e.g. ironing, housework). Those things will always be there, but when you have deadlines looming over your head, you really need to work on those first. And be disciplined when it comes to social media. You may need to use it for your business, but schedule time for that. Don’t let it suck your day away.

Make time for you

When you’re snowed under, you may feel tempted to keep ploughing on just to get the work done. You’ll skip lunch (and maybe dinner), and will only leave your desk for a bathroom break. But if you make time for yourself and schedule breaks (and eat lunch and dinner), you will be more productive. If you are a regular exerciser, keep that up. Exercising is a great way to clear your head, de-stress and recharge your batteries. And don’t forget to take regular breaks away from your computer to avoid headaches and neck problems.

Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’

You know, there’s a bit of an assumption that freelancers have all the time in the world because we work from home and are ‘flexible’. While flexibility is great, too much flexing will leave you with too little time to get your work done. During busy periods, be prepared to say ‘no’ to that coffee date, or shopping with your friends. Get your work done first, and use social activities as a reward for when it’s done.

Ask for help

Sometimes, it’s just impossible to keep doing everything you usually do, and complete your writing projects on time. So don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask your partner or kids to hang out washing, chop the veggies for dinner or clean the bathrooms. Ask a friend to bring your kids home from school so you get another precious hour of writing time. Ask someone else to cook your meal for you (aka take-away). Whatever help you can get, make the most of it. It will help you stay calmer and more productive. And you know it’s only for a short time.

Take time off

When your project is finally completed, and your client has signed off on it, take some time off. It may be a day, a couple of days or a week — depending upon how long your busy stint has been. Don’t be tempted to keep going, or you will run the risk of burning out. Get away from the computer and your phone and re-engage in the world around you. Go for a walk, go shopping, or just sit and read your book. Everyone needs a break from work — even us freelancers.

And on that note, my final task on my ‘to-do’ list has been ticked off. So it’s time for me to shut down the computer and take my book outside.

If you would like to engage me for one of your projects (after my break), then please contact me.

 Cheers
Nerissa

How to write (better) without a computer

Write better without a computer

Let’s face it. Most of us spend way too much time sitting down during the day. And if you’re a writer, then you probably spend most of your work time, sitting in front of a computer.

But have you ever tried writing away from your computer? I mean write without using it?

No?

Well you may want to consider it.

As a freelance health writer, I have the freedom to pick and choose my hours. This means that if I have lots of competing deadlines, I have the opportunity to work across the weekend to meet my deadlines, and then the luxury to take another day off in lieu.

What sometimes happens on my day off, when I have gone out for the day, is that I am inspired to write. It might be something relating to an article I am writing, I might get a great idea for a new article, or I may be inspired to work on my novel. (Did you know I’m working on my first novel?)

But how do you write when you’re not near your computer?

Well, I have a few strategies.

 

Write the old fashioned way

Notebook and pen — this is probably the most obvious because it’s what we all used to do before the advent of the computer. I always have a notebook, and what seems like a gazillion pens at the bottom of my handbag for when I need to write something down.

Serviette and pen — if for some unknown reason, I don’t have a notebook with me, I will head to the nearest café, grab a coffee and a wad of serviettes and get writing. Even if all I can do is write dot points, it’s better to get it down in some form.

 

Use technology

Most of us have a Smartphone, but do you use your ‘notes’ app? If you don’t it’s worth considering. While it may take longer to type using your phone, it can be very handy. Then there is the added bonus of being able to email the note — which means when you get back to the office, you have an electronic version of your notes/writing ready to go.

There are also a range of speech-to-text apps that you can use as well. Personally however, I am an old-fashioned girl when it comes to writing, and much prefer the power of pen and paper.

 

In my head

It may sound strange, but I often draft things in my head. I draft article outlines, letters, emails and even conversations between characters in my book. I do this when I’m stuck at traffic lights, waiting for my daughter at school pick-up or even going for a walk.

 

Write anywhere

When it comes down to it, we really don’t need a computer to write. Yes, it comes in very handy, particularly if you are using the internet for research or you’re toggling between different documents. However, computers can be distracting — the ding of your email, the temptation of social media — you know what I’m talking about.

While being away from your computer may be frustrating on some level, I think you may be surprised at just how focused you can become when it is just you and your writing.

Why not try it this week and let me know how you go?

Cheers
Nerissa

 

 

 

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