This post is inspired by the poem ‘Spelling’ by Margaret Atwood, one of the writers I admire most. While she uses spelling as a metaphor for the power so often denied to women, the quote about words themselves as a source of power resonates on many levels. Read the poem in its entirety below.
Margaret Atwood is a leading Canadian poet, short story writer, novelist, critic and environmental activist. A prolific writer, she is celebrated as the author of works from Surfacing (1972) to the Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and Alias Grace (1996). Feminist ideals are at the heart of her work.
Which means they must be used wisely, at the right dose, and targeted to your audience. Helping you inject the most powerful words into your communications is what a good writer does best.
Do you have something to say? Putting words on paper is the quickest way to focus your thoughts and find out. #writingisthinking
I had the privilege of attending the 11th Geneva Writers’ Conference last weekend. It was hosted by the Geneva Writers’ Group, founded in 1993, an international group that brings together 300 English-language writers from 30 countries.
It was my second time at the conference. I earn a living as a freelance corporate writer and when I’m not working, I spend my free time…writing. (Not all of my time, but a good deal of it.) Of course, there is writing and WRITING, and the work I do for my clients, while gratifying on many levels, is not the same as the writing I do for myself.
So, I hear you thinking, sitting in a room full of writers all weekend. Dotting the i’s and cross the t’s together. How nerdy is that? In fact, it was a lot of fun. We plotted and pitched, assassinated characters and created entire universes together.
5 ways to hit reset and reboot your creative mind
I love summer. But perhaps not for the reasons you think.
Holidays are great but what I love most about this time of year is that everybody else takes them. Leaving me, like most freelancers, with a bit of a lull. It’s tempting to just play hooky but who has time? When things get quiet at work, it’s the perfect opportunity to give yourself some creative development time.
I call this ‘hitting reset’. Because after several months of routine, you may have lost sight of those goals you set yourself at the beginning of the year. You may need to re-evaluate if what you’re doing is working. Or you may just be in a rut.
Here is my full reset program for summer creative camp: read more
Few people are writers but everyone has to write, even if it’s only an email to accompany their CV. Whether you are writing a social media post, a project report or a cover letter to a prospective employer, you need to get your message across in a way that is clear, comprehensible and letter-perfect.
I write for a living, which means I can’t afford to get it wrong. My clients come to me for copywriting and editorial support on documents that need drafting or ‘doctoring’ after rounds of revisions. Also, I write as a hobby. In addition to my corporate communications blog, I blog about life in France, am currently completing a memoir and starting work on a novel. When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading.
One of the most treasured tomes on my bookshelf is ‘Bird by Bird’ by writer and humorist Anne Lamott. Offering ‘some instructions on writing and life’, it wraps up nuggets of wisdom in simple, down-to-earth stories from the author’s own life. The title was inspired by one such tale about Lamott’s little brother, and how he became immobilized by the enormity of the task at hand: completing a class report on birds that he’d had three months to write and was due the next day. Her father sat him down and gave his son the best advice any writer could ask for: ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’
Breaking any big job into smaller, more manageable pieces can help move it forward. The important thing is to get it out of the starting blocks. Because let’s face it: even for those of us who do it for a living, writing can sometimes feel like pulling teeth.
Here are 6 tried-and-true tips to get that job written quickly and professionally. read more
This is a cautionary tale — about reputation, story and social media.
The world loves a story. United Airlines’ misadventure in passenger ‘re-accommodation’ on a flight from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday is a reminder of what can go wrong when companies fail to remember that.
If the world loves a story, the internet loves outrage. And nothing helps outrage go viral better than Facebook, where a fellow passenger first posted the video of the man – a doctor – being bodily dragged from the plane by security agents. Later images of his bleeding head only served to fan the flames.
It seemed that once the story was out, it was like a train speeding out of control – impossible to derail before the train wreck.
But it was only once the damage hit the company where it hurt – in its share price – that the CEO finally issued an apology. A real one, not the the wooden excuse first issued by United on its website. Timing is everything, and had this statement been issued immediately, it may have helped avert the worst disaster. read more
Interviews are a rich source of content – for your website, content marketing campaign or background research. Asking the right questions opens the door for the people who matter to your organization to tell their story: an employee talking about what makes their job unique, an expert sharing insight into the challenges of your industry or a satisfied customer telling us why they bring you their business. Whoever is answering the questions, interviews give a human face to your content.
Throughout my writing career I’ve conducted dozens of interviews. No matter who you’re talking to – from CEOs to engineers, scientists, medical professionals and people-on-the-street – each interviewee has a unique story to tell. Your job as the interviewer is getting them to share it. Sometimes the goal of the interview is just one good sound bite; other times you want to scratch the surface and discover the deeper story. No matter what the objective, each interview is different, as is each individual’s personality, story, mood and agenda.
One key quality of interviewing that should run throughout the discussion is empathy. The ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes will enable you to ask the right questions: the ones your audience wants answers to, and the ones the interviewee wants you to ask. That, combined with a certain killer instinct for probing questions, is the hallmark of the great interviewer.
Conducting a successful interview requires some advance planning and a lot of listening. Here are five tips to ensure you make the most of yours: read more
When you work as a freelance writer, you quickly learn the secrets of flying solo.
At first it can be daunting. Let’s face it: there are things you give up when you go out on your own. Like being part of a team, having colleagues to cover your back, not to mention the perks of full-time employment – the comfort of knowing you will be paid at the end of the month.
Then there are the amazing upsides. There’s the satisfaction of bringing real value to a client who chooses you for their project. The focus and perspective you are able to provide while sitting on the outside. The opportunity to learn about different clients and connect with their culture. All while enjoying freedom from team meetings, office politics, and the ability to pick and choose who you go to lunch with.
Independence doesn’t come without its challenges. When you are accountable only to yourself, there are no excuses. And there are plenty of objectives. First and foremost, find work. Get it done. Get paid. read more
“This is one thing I won’t miss!” said one of my clients the other day.
We were going over the latest round of changes to a document she had asked me to draft. She may have been referring to the politics of approvals, a tendency by certain members of executive management to nitpick, too many urgent projects and not enough time. Whatever it was, it struck me then and there: there are things we love and hate about our jobs, things that we will and won’t miss when we leave.
It has been three years since I left the corporate world to pursue a different work-life balance. It was the right choice. As an independent professional, I am fortunate to have good clients who appreciate my expertise as a writer. They come to me with (mostly) interesting and varied projects; I provide them with the level of support they need – creative, strategic, flexible, reliable. I don’t mind the wordsmithing on certain jobs because I know it adds value to have a text read just right. And I also know that sometimes you just have to roll with the punches when a top executive wants to edit out the best parts.
What do I miss most? There are days when I miss being part of a team. Going for coffee or lunch with people you work with and appreciate on a day-to-day basis. I miss my work family. Even though we had a few dysfunctional members and frequent moments of frustration.
What do I miss least? The endless hours wasted trying to achieve things as a group. Meetings that often felt futile; we all knew there was probably a better way but meetings were part of the process. And the commutes – I don’t miss them either. I have a dedicated home office with a door that closes and a view over beautiful Lake Geneva. I enjoy the days when I go to meet with clients or stop by my business center but the rest of the time is mine to manage.
If you left your job tomorrow, what would you miss most? Or not at all?