ARK Works


creating meaning with content

Getting over blog stall, blog lag, or writer’s block

Every writer invariably suffers from the dreaded writer’s block. (These days, it would more likely be called blog lag or blog stall, which is what happens when a blogger gets writer’s block.)

Back when I was writing daily news, writer’s block wasn’t a viable option. Either turn in that article on time or find a new job. But rather than sit around and complain about the way things were, I’d like to offer up my patented tips to help you get through even the worst case of writer’s block. These strategies have always come to my rescue during my times of need and I hope they can do the same for you.

1) No excuses. Whatever the reason, the first rule of writer’s block is to not make excuses. So shut up!

2) Just write. Be it nursery rhymes, a shopping list, your favorite songs, the names of your yet-to-be-born children — just start typing or scribbling. The act of writing anything can lead to inspiration and may even lead you in a direction you hadn’t even anticipated.

3) Notes, quotes, and info. To me, a story isn’t just composed of flowing words, but also facts, figures, and quotes. So gather up your supporting information and put that in order. From there, you can easily insert additional text and before you know it, your article is complete.

4) Edit. The best writers are usually the best editors (though there are definitely exceptions to that rule). So just write anything. It doesn’t have to be perfect or remotely decipherable. You can always edit it later.

Sure, there are other tips, like Faulkner’s patented “drinking oneself into a stupor,” but I purposefully didn’t include those. What about you? How do you get through writer’s block?

Filed under: content, journalism101

Be a better writer, in 50 words or less

Maybe I’ve been hiding under a rock or behind a very large shrubbery, but I hadn’t seen the Daily Lit web site until best-selling author Dan Pink pointed it out on his blog. The site brings literary tidbits to your inbox, PDA, or phone in five-minute chunks — a very useful service in this increasingly online and mobile world.

Daily Lit is currently featuring a 50-word writing challenge, inspired by Pink’s book A Whole New Mind. The little stories submitted need to have a beginning, middle, and end. That’s easy. The hard part is limiting your saga to only 50 words. Of course, being forced to chose your words wisely and edit yourself can help you become a better writer. Because being a great writer is all about being a great editor.

Here’s my entry:

Heavy gray rain fell that February Sunday. There she sat quietly sipping chamomile, reading, cheeks flushed, wearing a petit dejeuner t-shirt. He ducked in out of the damp, spotted her — could not turn away, yet could not walk over. Love. The next day, a Missed Connections posting. She replied.

Now, go write your own.

Filed under: content, editing, writing

Be a better media consumer

I recently spent some time with a friend who was outraged by Jim Cramer, host of the CNBC show “Mad Money” which has been described as, “[Occupying] some sort of netherworld between sheer entertainment and useful financial advice,” by Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz who profiled Cramer in his book The Fortune Tellers.

Appearing on a very heated episode of the Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” (clip here), the discussion with Cramer focused on whether he put entertainment before journalism and whether that was irresponsible, given the financial mess we’re in now. Of course, Cramer is no schlub when it comes to investing — his net worth lies somewhere between $50 and $100 million — but some say his advice unsound and that he knew the financial meltdown was on the horizon. But, in my mind, that’s not the real issue.

Don’t slap me when I say that one good thing to come of this financial mess is that we’re starting to question the media, whether we can trust the millionaires to tell us what to buy, and whether we can trust these age-old financial institutions to keep our best interests in mind. We are now reading the fine print.

To my friend I said, “Well, do you think everything you see on TV and read online is true?” She pursed her lips and furrowed her brow and I could tell she was wondering if it was a trick question. “No, of course not,” she said. And, I pose the same question to you.

Let me ask it in another way: do you buy everything that someone tries to sell you? If you want to buy a digital camera, do you purchase the first one a salesperson shows you without asking some questions or inspecting it thoroughly? Just as you wouldn’t blindly buy a digital camera, you must be a judicious consumer of information and news. Ask: What are the biases? Is there a political agenda? Who are the advertisers? Even objective journalists cannot be completely objective. (One of the first lessons learned in journalism school is that there is no such thing as objectivity in journalism.)

So as a consumer of the media, don’t be afraid to do a little fact checking. And, get a second opinion while you’re at it. It might just save you money and heartache down the road.

Filed under: journalism101, stories, , ,

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April 2009