Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Archive for the month “July, 2015”

12 ways to beat writer’s block

12 ways to beat writer's blockYou know the feeling. You have an article due, time is ticking and you’re coming up blank.

The more you try, the more blank you become (if that’s even a thing?!).

Then you start to feel stressed, overwhelmed — the article you thought would come together relatively well, now seems more complex than ever.

ARGH!

Writing can be a tricky business. You need to be creative, coherent, and concise. Most of the time, you have to be ‘in the zone’ to get the job done. The zone is where the magic happens. It’s when your fingers can barely move across the keyboard quick enough, as the thoughts tumble out of your head. Adrenalin flows through your veins and words appear on your computer screen with little effort. What’s even better is that when you go back to edit them, you marvel at how well everything flows and fits together.

Yet ‘the zone’ doesn’t always happen. It can come and go — usually disappearing when the pressure is on and you MUST meet your deadline.

So what do you do, when writer’s block sets in?

12 tips to beat writer’s block

I have suffered from writer’s block numerous times. I will probably continue to as long as I write. However, I have found the following tips have helped me. They are in no particular order, and some days, I need to engage in more than one of them, before my brain kicks into ‘writing gear’ again.

  1. Relax — It’s important to remember that writer’s block happens to everyone — even the most experienced and proficient writers. So chill out, and don’t get upset about it. The more you can relax about it, the quicker you will return to your ‘creative self’.
  1. Just write — “But I’ve got nothing!”, I hear you say. It doesn’t matter. Just start writing. Anything. It doesn’t matter what it is. It can be as simple as: “The cat sat on the mat.” But set yourself a goal to just write whatever comes into your head for 10 minutes non-stop. Most of it will be rubbish of course, but the simple act of writing, will help your head get back into the game and beat that writer’s block.
  1. Write a plan — If you are stuck on how to start your article, plan it out. Write simple bullet points of the key things you want to cover. Then start to flesh those out with one or two sentences. Come up with a working title (you can change that to something more snappy later), and you are on your way.
  1. Read other articles — Research other articles online that are similar in topic to the one you need to write. Sometimes seeing the way someone else has approached the topic can get you thinking differently, unlocking your creativity.
  1. Listen to music — Sometimes you just need to do something totally different, but something that will make you feel good. Put on your favourite song and sing along or dance. It will relieve stress and anxiety, and may unblock your writer’s block. Just make sure you put a time limit on your dancing, otherwise your writing time may turn into a dance party for one!
  1. Write down some goals — Forget about your article and do some goal setting. Think about what else you want to achieve in your life and make a plan, using the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). Write down action steps. The simple act of goal setting can stir up a fire of motivation and excitement. All of a sudden, you will feel ready to take action — and you may be ready to put that form of action into writing your article.
  1. Research — Leave your current article for 30 to 60 minutes and conduct some research for another piece you need to write. A page of links to information you require for other articles gives you a good starting base for them, and it leaves you feeling like you have actually accomplished something, other than banging your head against the keyboard in frustration.
  1. Rest your brain —Fatigue can lead to writer’s block. If you have been doing a lot of writing of late, or if you have just come out of a particularly productive ‘zone’, your brain may get tired. Give it a break and do something else that doesn’t take much brain power. Tidying your desk, folding the washing (if you work from home), or cleaning out your filing cabinet are pretty mindless tasks.
  1. De-clutter your desk — Our environment often influences our productivity. If you workspace is cluttered, your mind is likely to be as well. Take 30 minutes to clean your desk and declutter. You may be surprised at just how motivated you are to work once you have a clear space in front of you.
  1. 12 ways to beat writer's blockRead something — Pick up your novel or that magazine you’ve been itching to read. Give yourself 30 minutes to get lost in another world. Reading someone else’s work sometimes motivates you to write your own!
  1. Go for walk — Research has shown that going for a walk can boost your creativity by up to 60 per cent [i], so don those runners to get over your block.
  1. Grab a coffee — A cup (or two or three) of good, strong coffee can help you focus, and get your brain into gear.

All of us think differently and work differently. So try a few strategies and see what works for you. And if you come up with any more ideas on how to beat writer’s block, I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers

Nerissa

References:

[i] Journal of Experimental Psychology: Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking, Oppezzo, Marily, Scwartz, L Daniel, July 2014 Vol 40. No 4, pp1142-52,  http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-14435-001/

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Building credibility as a writer

Building credibility as a writerAs a health writer, I come across thousands of health articles every year. Just googling the term ‘health blogs’ brings up 628,000,000 (yes, 628 million) results.

That is a huge amount of web pages.

More and more people are turning to the internet for information, particularly health information. The internet can be a fantastic resource for information on health and wellness. However, there are countless websites containing inaccurate, unreliable and even dangerous information.

The problem with online health information

Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) is just one of these websites filled with inaccurate information. This free-content encyclopedia, offers information on a wide range of topics, including health and wellness. It is the most popular general reference site on the internet with 439 million unique visitors every month, as of June 2015[1].

However, its popularity does not assure accuracy, as a 2014 study discovered. Researchers found that 90 per cent of the information for costly medical conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, lung cancer, major depressive disorder, osteoarthritis) was incorrect. [2]

A further study found that information on Wikipedia relating to drugs was often incorrect and outdated. [3]

What is even worse is there are thousands of bloggers out there writing about health topics, who either don’t have a background in health, or don’t bother to fully research their subject matter.

I’m sure the same could be said for the majority of industries.

An opportunity to build credibility

If you are a freelance writer, lack of high-quality information provides you with an enormous opportunity to build your credibility.

Not all information found on the web is inaccurate. However, if you know how to source information from credible sources, you can use this to your advantage.

Knowing how to search the internet efficiently, source research studies, read and interpret research studies, and quote your references is a valuable skill, so do not underestimate it. In a world where unreliable information is everywhere, use your skills to stand out from the crowd.

A case study

Building credibility as a writerRecently one of my clients asked me to write an article on orthorexia. If you are unfamiliar with that term, orthorexia describes those who are unhealthily obsessed with healthy eating. I had some basic knowledge of the subject, but needed to do quite a bit of research to garner enough information to write an article about it.

One of the sources I used was the website written by Dr Steven Bratman, MD, who first coined the term ‘orthorexia’. He is a world-renown expert in the area. I used information from Google analytics, as well as information from the Dietitians Association of Australia and the U.S.-based National Eating Disorders Association. In total, I had seven references to back up a 1,000-word article.

Somehow, Dr Bratman discovered the article I had written and read it.

On my client’s website where the article was published, he wrote: “This is really an excellent article on orthorexia — and I can be quite critical! Well done.”

He then tweeted the article twice, stating: “Nice article on #orthorexia.” and “In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is an excellent article on #orthorexia”.

Taking the time to thoroughly research the article, and attribute my sources resulted in a high-quality, accurate article, and the world-renown expert in the area singing its praises. My client was pretty stoked, particularly as her article was shared and her website received extra traffic.

You have to be happy with that.

Regardless of what field you write for, thoroughly researching and referencing your articles is a very easy but powerful way to build your brand and your credibility as a writer. And the more credibility you build, the more work you can generate.

We would love to help you out with high-quality, fully researched and referenced blogs or articles for your business. Just contact us.

Cheers

Nerissa

References:

[1] Wikipedia: About, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About, accessed 22 July 2015

[2] R T Hasty, R C Garbalosa, V A Barbato, P J Valdes Jr, D W Powers, E Hernandez, J S John, G Suciu, F Quereshi, M Popa-Radu, S San Jose, N Drexler, R Patankar, J R Paz, C W King, H N Gerber, M G Valladares, A A Somji, Wikipedia vs Peer-Reviewed Medical Literature for Information About the 10 Most Costly Medical Conditions, The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, May 2014, Vol. 114, pp368-373 http://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2094583, accessed 22 July 2015

[3] T J Hwang, F T Bourgeois, J D. Seeger, Drug Safety in the Digital Age, The New England Journal of Medicine, 26 June 2014, Vol. 370. pp2460-2462, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1401767, accessed 22 July 2015

Why spelling matters – even when it comes to coffee

Yes, yes. Spelling matters, but only for the ‘important stuff’, right?

Wrong.

You see when it comes to communication, everything is important.

Your spelling ability (or lack thereof) is a direct reflection of you, your standards and your business.

Rightly or wrongly, people will judge you according to your use of the English language. They will also make assumptions about who you are, how you run your business, how reliable your products are and how interested you are in your potential customers.

How do I know this?

Because I do it all the time.

I’m the first to admit I am a bit of a Grammar Nazi. Spotting spelling errors in a piece of writing (particularly marketing material), is a bit of sport for me. Sometimes the errors are funny; sometimes they are hilarious. But most of the time, they just make me cringe.

Berrie muffuns and cappachino

On a road trip earlier this year, I came across the following in a McDonalds store:

Why spelling matters

What is a mixed berrie muffun?

Professional? Hardly.

While most people would probably laugh off the mistake and realise that they were offering a ‘mixed berry muffin’, I for one deliberately avoided said ‘berrie muffun’.

The poor spelling made me feel the people behind the counter were careless, uninterested and slap-dash. I felt if they were not interested in the details that the customer actually saw, how attentive would they be when it came to policies, procedures and health regulations that the customer does not see?

I felt if they weren’t interested enough to check the sign promoting their wares, they obviously wouldn’t be interested in me, the paying customer.

They lost a sale from me because of their spelling error.

Here is another sign I came across while travelling:

Spelling matters

What is a cappachino?

Do you see what is wrong with it?

I was going to order a cappuccino, until I saw they were selling ‘cappachino’. I figured that if they couldn’t spell it, they certainly couldn’t make it. And so I left the shop empty-handed.

Certainly, the above are small examples, but both instances resulted in a lost sale and left me with a negative impression of their business.

However every now and then, a spelling error can spell (pun intended) disaster.

The importance of an ‘s’

Earlier this year, an extra letter ‘s’ caused a 124-year-old Welsh family business to go bust, leaving the UK government with a £9 million ($17 million) legal bill.

In 2009, Companies House, part of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, mistakenly recorded that the engineering firm Taylor & Sons Ltd, had been wound up.

In reality, it was another unrelated company Taylor & Son Ltd (not Sons), that had gone broke.

However, despite Companies House trying to correct the error three days later, the damage was done. The company had already lost credibility with their suppliers, with all 3000 of them terminating orders and credit facilities were withdrawn. Within two months of the spelling error, the company went into administration.

In January of this year, a High Court judge ruled that Companies House was legally responsible for Taylor & Sons’ catastrophic loss of business and ultimate collapse. They are now facing a multi-million dollar legal bill.

Spelling matters

Whether you are selling coffee, muffins or own a multi-million dollar company, spelling matters.

Correct spelling successfully communicates your message, while incorrect spelling distracts and confuses.

The way you spell displays your standards of business to potential customers. Correct spelling leaves a good impression of your values, your branding and your business. Incorrect spelling causes potential customers to question how seriously you do business and how attentive to detail you may be.

Like it or not, the way you spell may be the difference between gaining a customer and losing one.

In a world where businesses are madly competing against each other and first impressions count, spelling matters. In many respects content is not king — appearance is. How often do you judge someone, or something based on appearance alone? That’s why spelling counts.

Even if you are the poorest speller on the planet, it is your job to ensure the words you use are spelled correctly.

You can use dictionaries (the old-fashioned kind, or the online versions); you can use spell-checker (although this has its limitations); and you can get someone else to proof your work — preferably someone who can spell!

Just make sure your work is free from spelling errors.

If you need help with proofing, editing or spelling, contact us today — and we will be happy to lend a hand.

Cheers

Nerissa

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