ThinkWork

writing fountain pen

Everyone who puts the pen to paper, keystroke to the computer screen and even in this day and age, the snapping of metal against the ribbon on a typewriter, will spend time admitting defeat in the craft once in a while. Learning to dust oneself off and start over again is a difficult skill to master. It has taken me years to develop enough confidence to keep going after falling hard and falling fast.

It actually is getting easier to overcome those moments of fallen grace. Why? Because I can take the next step to keep going and look ahead to the next experience. Learning is about looking forward.

Here’s the thing,,,

For years I used to feel really horrendously guilt if I did not write for days at a time, or even longer. Sometimes the great ideas would happen and that is as far as they would go. Every single person in this business has come up with seemingly brilliant ideas only to lose them to that lapse of careful continuity.

There are mornings that I do not necessarily end up working at the desk. I may start the day with a workout instead. Just something else to help me work continually in balancing out the life scales. Unknowingly, while working out the physical, the mental creative side is getting a equal run-through. If I am thinking of writing then I am working. My guilt levels were increasing because I felt like I was neglecting work. One of my greatest discoveries over the last few years has been very simple. I am better when I am working.

Technology has been helpful in this journey of improved productivity. It is still easy to just grab a notebook page and fill it with ideas to be visited later. On a similar level it is just as much of a breeze to type or dictate something into the smart phone for later transposing. You can speak into your phone for a few second and email the very words you speak to yourself. Creative sparks are easily saved and convertible into real on-the-page products.

ThinkWork can be just as intense and creatively rewarding as hitting those keystrokes and marking pen lines on the notebooks. 

I treat writing as a full-time job. Like many in the world of word-work, I hold down a day job while in pursuit of the passion. This is not a hobby. This is an art-form. A craft to be taken seriously.

A business that can present a bounteous amount of opportunities if you are willing to work for them.

So if you are really driven to work and write then lose the guilt. Being away from the page for a few days does not mean you are self-consciously abandoning writing. Think on ideas. Freelancers can think about the next project for a client. You can also think on ways to improve your own business strategies. Better networking. Better social media delivery to readers. Endless things that could take an endless amount of time.

ThinkWork

Finding Peace in Musical Pieces

string%20bass

I’m a music person for life. Metal has and always will be my main passion of music. Bass, my instrument and voice, because my singing voice is just workable. Most of the nights that I would sit up writing in the many notebooks I owned, there was always music in the background. Because I was opening up to so many different bass players, I started listening to a ton of different music in my teens.

Thanks to Bass Player Magazine, I discovered jazz. Thanks to a music teacher, I discovered classical.

Metal and hard rock in general have always given me a shot in the arm when needed. Much of my influences have come from these genres. When I needed a break from the chaos, there was clarity in jazz and calm in classical. Jazz and jazz fusion opened up a whole new world of being able to hear these incredible bassists who did things that still continue to blow me away. Classical music continues to be an education in understanding orchestral arrangements and chamber music in general.

Many writers can work with the music in the background. On the few occasions it would become a distraction for me, the power would be shut off. I admit, I am easily distracted. When the words are flowing, I like to keep going. I have noticed lately that if I am reading and want music on, I much prefer to have classical music on. Even the high-energy classical music tends to bring me some peace. There is something tremendously relaxing about classical music. Even so, I can get distracted occasionally if I hear a passage that might stand out to me. Or, hear something rare like a piece where the bowed sound of the bass is being used to convey the melody in the music.

If I was to survey everyone in the word business who reads this, I am willing to bet that there would be a near 50/50 split as far as who needs some background noise going on while they are working.

Do you prefer to have something in the background while working. Is it music? Television? White Noise Machine? What works for you and what does not?

Reminiscing On Radio Days

radio

For many nights as a kid during the mid to late 1980’s and again into a period of the 90’s the radio was a great source of comfort and entertainment. That first period into the 1980’s was a great time for the glam metal bands that started to figuratively take over programming director playlists. It was about turning it up and having it really, really loud. I was just getting into different kinds of metal and discovering classic rock at the time. Let us not forget that the pop music of the day had several shining moments as well. Edie Brickell’s “What I Am”, was a personal favourite and was in heavy rotation at one point. This old track still brings a smile to my face. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In the USA” was a tape that I wore out completely.

My hometown radio station was an AM gem that has long moved over to the FM dial. Thanks to great on-air talent and dependable advertising revenue, it has survived. Heard all over the area clearly and across the Northumberland Strait into multiple points on Prince Edward Island. During the 80’s the station deployed a “Favourite 5″ countdown every weeknight. They played songs that were voted on by callers and the list would be run with a small number of commercials in between songs. It was always interesting to see what songs would make the list. As a fan of the louder stuff I made it a point to get votes in for the heavy favourites. Along with a handful of other callers we attempted to blind side the disc jockeys into playing songs with expletives which we knew existed as B-sides on some of the singles. It never worked but the effort was commendable.

Gradually as my calls increased some of the disc jockeys were able to recognize me instantly. I would regularly call in to contests and just request songs that I really wanted to hear. Most times I was able to get a favourite track played on the air. Some of the DJ’s used to invite song dedications which of course remains a common listener reach-out to this day. I look back on in now and think I was laughably young of mind. Getting the on-air talent to dedicate a song to an elementary school crush who likely never listened to what was on the dial. Those dedications were wedged in between ones for high-school couples who would be at the local fast-food hangouts celebrating their 11-day anniversaries on a Friday evening.

For many years I had to fall asleep to the sounds of the radio. When I was done with my hometown station I would spend hours on the dial attempting to get signals from the entire eastern seaboard. Many nights it worked brilliantly. It was very common for me to pick-up a baseball game completely clear and clean with all the sounds of the park. As much as I preferred to watch baseball on television this was equally great because you had to picture what was happening.

On some of those nights I would end my active radio listening session by dialing back to the hometown station staying up to hear a taped feed of “BBC Classic Tracks”.  This is where I would hear a song talked-in by a DJ from the BBC. This was my early education in classic rock. I usually fell asleep afterwards to the hometown station or turned to CBC Radio so I could listen to classical music.

During a period into the early through mid-nineties the same hometown radio station started to take open calls on what they called the dedication line. Most of the calls were fairly serious and somewhat genuine. Gradually, the dedication line was taken over with a mix of prank phone calls and very pointless dedications. Someone would call and dedicate the night’s song to “Pee-Wee Herman from his hands”. The DJ was in hysterics with laughter.  A few days later I remember the same DJ hanging up on someone who threatened another individual. He then mentioned to the audience that everyone listening needed to have a cup of decaf. Things were starting to get out of control as more callers would prank the station with bogus dedications.

Towards the end of one episode of the dedication line, the same DJ who was dealing with more than his fair share of nonsense from these callers had enough nonsense. During one of the last dedication line shows he promptly phoned back one of the pranksters live on the air and said;

“Hi, thanks for being an idiot, and have a nice day.”

I did not blame the disc jockey one bit and would have done the same thing. Even though there were some funny moments from those days I certainly understood the frustration from the on-air staff.

Times have changed. While I remain a dedicated fan of the Howard Stern Show and satellite radio in general, the hometown station holds some great memories. I laugh now because in my younger days I was one of dozens who lobbied the station to play more classic rock. Now the company that owns the old station is running a classic rock station in the same market. It is giving listeners of the flagship station the chance to flip over to a format that remains popular in every market.

I wish everyone involved with the two stations well, and hope both can be around and co-exist for many years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Content 101.1 – Descriptions & Research

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Freelance assignment – Client contacts you looking for a description of a product, photo, or video. They might set a word limit and say off you go. Take the above photo for example. Client might tell you to research what the cup of tea is about. If you open the photo in a larger window, you will see it is Twinings Lady Grey Tea. Without looking at the website for Twinings for their description, you are asked to write 50 words describing what Lady Grey Tea in general is like. You are asked to describe it. Maybe it is for a landing page about tea and the different types and flavours.

What can your strategy be for the content? If you are a fan of tea then you might be at an advantage. You can combine your own knowledge of it with various descriptions online but translated into your own user-friendly words. You certainly do not want to steal content by copying someone else’s description down verbatim and submitting it as the completed assignment.

So if your tea knowledge is minimal to non-existent, what do you do? You could start by looking up general information about tea on a retail site. There are many online retailers who sell tea all over the world. Going further in-depth, you could check out a forum on tea written and maintained by tea fans to get an idea of what the general opinions of Lady Grey Tea might be like.

Transposing research into the submit-able work requires an open mind and steady approach. The client will likely want the content to be readable in clear language. Something like a product description is meant to engage the reader and offer them a perspective on what they are looking at.

As with any freelance work, if you can deliver the goods on the page, you set yourself up for more positive chances for a call-back from the client and future work opportunities.

@WriterDann

#MondayBlogs Amusing Musings

ties

Men’s Wear
I recently went to one of the big box Men’s Wear stores and bought clothing in the amount of just under $400.00. I ended up with some good deals. A few days later, I visited one of the oldest Men’s Wear stores in Canada and found a single great deal for an amazing jacket at $125.00. I admit, I have never been the greatest shopper when it comes to clothing. Yet when I finally decided to visit this small store it ended up being one of the best shopping experiences of my life. Men in general do not like to shop for clothing to such a point where many are just go in and get out. I’ve learned in the last few weeks that if a person wants to look good they need to spend time being part of the whole process and being patient with it.

Band Names
The music business is truly at a standstill. No one is coming up with creative band names anymore. You now have singer-songwriters who are giving themselves what sound like band names. At some point that is surely going to come to an end. If some of the newer musicians want to really grab the attention of audiences then they should start coming up with ridiculous names. I would happily audition as the bassist for an act called something like “The Clean BBQ Brushes”. Although that name is likely already taken by some folk group playing at some coffee shop in exchange for free hipster-roasted coffee.

Camp
A line I wrote a few days ago “I’ve signed up my boots for boot camp” made me think back to my kid days. I never wanted to attend any summer camp involving overnight stays so I didn’t. What drove me absolutely crazy though was having to attend “day camps” multiple summers for french-language training. My Dad thought it was a good idea but of course I had little to no interest, and wanted to be outside playing basketball, somewhere playing music, or anywhere but a classroom.  After all, I was supposed to be on summer break, wasn’t I?

Green Tea
Studies are constantly being released that say something is good for you followed up by another study that says that same something may be bad for you. I saw this example recently with green tea. I will take my chances and keep drinking it. The one study I do believe as far as a side effect is the one that says drinking lots of it will cause frequent urination….. Bravo Science for that obvious fact.

Gym Locker Room
For a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder, this place is a bit of a nightmare for many reasons. I can get into those perhaps at a later date. If I want a workout badly enough I will pull it together enough to walk to the cleanest shower possible and once completed, leave with the speed of light hoping not to accidentally crash into any other semi-nude men on the way back to my locker.

 

@WriterDann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audiobooks and The Connection To Content Quality

headphones

Audiobooks have been around since the 1930’s.  They started out as books on phonograph and eventually graduated to vinyl record and cassette tape. Some local libraries still have copies of some audio books on cassette tape that are in great condition.

Growing up as a kid, we had a ton of great story books on record that we wore out completely. We owned one of these small record players that were easy to operate. So we played as many books for hours on end to much enjoyment.

Before the beginning of the smartphone and digital music age, any newer audiobooks were generated for compact disc.  A variety of these discs are also still available at many local libraries. With smartphones being present now in many peoples lives, it has become more common for audiobooks to be downloaded from the iTunes store and through great websites such as Audible.com

I have come to believe that having an audio book on the go has become another great tool for entertainment and my continuing education as a writer. This is in addition to the many books I am reading at the same time. My ever-expanding bookshelf is evidence of my expanding mind.

Besides the entertainment of an audiobook there is much to be gained from as a writer. I would encourage anyone in this business to give some thought to listen to an audiobook and see if you can learn from it. To date, I have found that delivery in dialogue is something that one can pay very close attention to. An audiobook that is read by the author who wrote it will convey a strong message to the listener. They are reading the story as they told it and as they wrote it. It is as if you were sitting down in the same room with them as the hired gun to help them write and publish the written book with the tape rolling.

You can also find many classics that have been recorded for audiobook format in the iTunes store. Some of these classics are read by some of the greatest talents in the arts.

Britain’s Patricia Routledge is one of my favourite actresses. A real legend of screen, stage and sound. Her near flawless delivery has allowed her to amass an extensive list of credits for audio books. Check out some of her readings of some of the greats and you will agree completely that her delivery can teach many things about telling a story. She can take even seemingly dull classic content and make it come to life as it should.

No one in the word business wants to deliver product that is difficult, drab and boring. Even content written for webpages needs to be delivered with clean and clear language.

If you are writing a story, then tell the story as if you are reading it to a crowd of millions of people who are tuned in to every word. If you are a freelance writer working on something like a product description, then summarize the product as if you were selling it directly from a demonstration booth at a trade show. After all, that is what the client is likely paying you to do.

In the quest for continuing education in writing you should consider audiobooks as digital textbooks of the trade. If you come across a really good one you may end up listening to it a few times as I have. Just so you can take any lessons learned and apply them practically to your productions. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Memory of Taylor Negron. When Lost For Words, Work On.

 

Taylor

His role as “Milo” opposite Bruce Willis in “The Last Boy Scout” knocked me out. Even though the character of Milo was considered a secondary one, he was the best and most under-appreciated action movie villain ever.  

It is because of actor/writer/artist/many other things/comedic genius Taylor Negron that I no longer use Writers’ Block as an excuse to stop working. In one of our many exchanges he wrote to me once about how he was for a time working solidly almost every day. Sometimes for 4 or 5 hours. Usually there might be some idea to launch from but often the work would just flow as it should. Always finding a way to push through and to work on.

Since then, I have rarely run out of words to write down even when I feel lost, staring at the page with a complete creative freeze. A messed-up disorganized stack of papers with ideas on them represent some of those almost-frozen moments in time. They are things to go back to when it comes time to take the writing ideas inventory. It may be good to purge a few failed creative thoughts on occasion but I would be afraid to never be able to get them back.

So I keep working on. Turning out things that will work and won’t work. It is still productivity and still writing. Each key and pen stroke delivering expression and delivering possibility. Each word helping me to forget that perhaps I truly was never at a lost for words to begin with.

Taylor Negron showed tremendous kindness to all around him. As a fan I reached out via social media via a mutual contact and was fortunate to be one of a great many people that he stayed in touch with over the years. I would always be inspired when I would see a note from him or when he would read and comment on something I posted on social media or on this very site. You felt like you had the seal of approval from a comedic genius.

I close by excerpting a small portion of one of my exchanges with Taylor from just over a year ago. After my Dad’s sudden passing he sent a lengthy note of support and offered another bit of wisdom with the intent of helping me refocus on writing. What the quote below has taught me is to better manage distractions while working. It is hard to defeat those distractions.

But you can work through them.

I am forever grateful for his words. Please take whatever wisdom you can from them.

“Writing informs us of what we think about the world. Our tiny human brains are always trying to interrupt the massive information around us. They never do. Solitude and quiet peace, day dreaming”