On Writing…

Writing. It’s something we all learned to do at an early age, but some people are more adept at it than others. If you’re trying to improve your writing, here are a few tips I’ve picked up since I started writing at age 3. 🙂

I still love filling notebooks with my thoughts and chicken scratch.

Write often. Then write some more. It’s amazing how much more confident you feel about your writing when you practice, practice, practice. Blogging, notebooks, a journal or your Mac, the platform and audience doesn’t really matter. Just keep writing.

Can’t write? Read. Even if you’re not an avid reader, find something — or someone — you like. It doesn’t have to be business-related or in your field. As much as I enjoy psychology and sociology books, my favorite author of all time is Stephen King, a master of words. I’ve learned so much from reading his works.

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” –Stephen King

Say something. Seriously. Read what you just wrote and ask yourself what the takeaway is. If you can’t come up with anything, then neither can your audience.

Don’t waste words. While the type of writing depends on your audience, platform and objectives, never waste words. If a word or paragraph doesn’t add anything to your work, leave it out. Being eloquent doesn’t have to mean being wordy.

Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Proofreading isn’t optional, even in the era of instant publishing and smartphone communication. Poor spelling, grammar and punctuation reflects poorly on the author, no matter what platform. It’s usually helpful to have others proofread your work, but if that’s not possible, at least try to walk away for awhile. It’s amazing what fresh eyes can see.

Grammar can change everything.

So grammar’s not important, huh?
Photo credit: Writers.com (h/t Kathy Yoho)

Beat writer’s block. It happens to anyone who writes sooner or later, but there are actions you can take. Get moving. A brisk walk, an energetic game of basketball or an afternoon hike can be just what you need. They also draw your attention elsewhere. Sometimes when you try so hard to think about something, your brain locks up. It’s not a coincidence that so many great ideas, from novels to solving a client’s issue, happen in the shower or during a run. Think about something else, and the words will probably start flowing again.

Carry a notebook. While I’m old school and love to fill notebooks with my chicken scratch, you may prefer the digital domain. Either way, always carry a notebook (even if it’s your smartphone). You never know when, or where, an idea will strike.

Related reading: Things I Carry: Pen and Paper

Write to your audience. It’s helpful to know who your audience is so you can write to them. Speak in their language, play to their interests and use words they understand. Have you ever read something that seemed like it was written just for you? That’s the power of writing to your audience.

Pay attention. The world is full of writing topics; you just have to see (hear, smell, feel or sense) them. Pay attention to your surroundings, even during mundane tasks. You’ll be surprised what can come out of a walk in the park or your daily commute. I’ve had ideas for blog posts pop into my head while driving through a local metro park and making leg lamp cookies.

What tips would you add?

Where’s your favorite place to write (or read)?

Have you ever read writing outside of your ‘comfort zone’ and loved it?

While we’re all expected to be writers these days, some people just aren’t comfortable putting their thoughts on paper (or screen). Is that you? Then I’d love to work my magic for you

Writing away,
Jaime

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What inspires you?

Inspiration. It’s a beautiful thing but can be hard to come by sometimes. Where do you draw inspiration from?

Need inspiration? Look at nature.

Typically, I hit the ground running. Physical activity, especially in serene natural settings, does wonders for my creativity and mind (not to mention my health). Today, it was a candle-lit bubble bath with a great book. Delving into another world opened up my mind to blog topics and content marketing ideas. Other days, a quick meditation may do the trick.

Related reading: Need an Idea? Just Walk Away

So, what inspires you? Whether it’s an intriguing piece of art, an upbeat Zumba class or a person you hold dear, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Chime in and help inspire us all to greater things.

Humming the Rocky theme song,
Jaime

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Blink: The Power of Snap Decisions & First Impressions

“On straightforward choices, deliberate analysis is best. When questions of analysis and personal choice start to get complicated — when we have to juggle many different variables — then our unconscious thought processes may be superior.” –Malcolm Gladwell

Do you agree? Or do you think the opposite is true?

This quote is pulled from Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, a book that takes you deep into the unconscious and explores the power of thinking without thinking (i.e. thin-slicing, snap decisions and first impressions). It’s amazing how powerful (and correct) our snap judgments can be although it is easy for them to become flawed by a number of factors. As Gladwell notes, “From experience, we gain a powerful gift, the ability to act instinctively, in the moment. But… it is easy to disrupt this gift.”

blink_malcolmgladwell

Discover example after example of people using thin-slicing to make impressive quick decisions in the face of pressure, and learn how we can practice these abilities to improve them, just like anything else.

What’s remarkable to me is the wide range of people, places and events represented in this book — inner city detectives, Civil War generals, marriage counselors, musicians who defy genre. I love psychology and learning about the powers of the mind, but even if you don’t, this book can help you in your life and career by helping you make better decisions.

At the end of this intriguing read, Gladwell leaves us with this final thought.

“This is the real lesson of Blink: It is not enough simply to explore the hidden recesses of our unconscious. Once we know about how the mind works — and about the strengths and weaknesses of human judgment — it is our responsibility to act.”

Have you read this book? What did you think?

What other books would you highly recommend?

Blink cover courtesy of Gladwell.com

Your favorite bookworm,
Jaime

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Winning As The Underdog: Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths

I’m only 30 pages into Malcolm Gladwell’s latest, David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants, and I’ve already learned much.

David And Goliath bookcover

Pic credit: Gladwell.com

This highly publicized new book starts off with a bang, taking a closer look at the ultimate underdog story: David vs. Goliath. Upon further review of this epic confrontation, David wasn’t nearly at the disadvantage we all thought he was. Therein lies the answer; oftentimes, the very features that make the favorite the favorite also make him vulnerable. Make sense? Read the book; it’s definitely worth your time.

The very features that make the favorite the favorite also make him vulnerable.

Next, Gladwell moves on to discuss how a small army and an inexperienced basketball team are successful by not going toe-to-toe with their much better, highly favored opponents. That’s noteworthy and can be applied to your business. Do one or two behemoths dominate your industry? Don’t worry, you don’t have to beat them head-to-head. Target a different demographic; offer your customers a different experience.

Target's bulls eye logo

Bulls eye? Target’s famous logo.
Pic credit: Target

Who’s a perfect example of this philosophy? Target. The discount retailer never tried to go head-to-head with Wal-Mart, who has dominated this landscape for years. Instead, Target aimed for a slightly more affluent, design-conscious consumer who still liked to be money-savvy. From the beginning, the discount chain aimed to be invested in its stores’ communities, donating to local charities and giving back to local schools. It also was into being green before being green was cool. Target was a leader in its industry with pushing reusable bags (by offering a 5% discount on each purchase bagged in one) and offering in-store recycling centers.

The irony is now that Target is very competitive with Wal-Mart’s pricing (its calling card), and is even less expensive on some items. In keeping with its philosophy, you’ll never hear Target advertise this fact specifically though. The company is staying true to its vision and will not directly confront Wal-Mart, even when it proves to be superior.

Take a tip from David, Target and all of the other underdogs out there. You don’t have to be big and mighty to win. Sometimes your ‘weaknesses’ turn out to be your biggest strengths, when you use them to your advantage.

How have you outmaneuvered a favored opponent?

How have you turned a supposed weakness into a strength?

Who’s your favorite underdog in history?

Always the underdog,
Jaime

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Finding Courage

“America woke up that day from a decades-long slumber and found to its surprise that it still possessed the courage, can-do pragmatism, inventiveness, idealism, and teamwork that had made the nation the envy of the world.”

                                                                        –Frederic C. Rich, Christian Nation

Intriguing read that gets more difficult to put down page by page… Have you read it? What were your thoughts?

What book do you highly recommend to your fellow readers? Why?

Happy Friday!
Jaime

50 (More) Things I’m Grateful For…

It’s been too long. I’ve had it in my mind to write this post since I published my first 50 Things I’m Grateful For… post last year. I kept finding cool things to blog about, and before I knew it, more than a year had passed. So here goes…

I’m grateful for (take 2)…

The sun sets on Lock 3

     

I love classic cars 

Wilson -- my idea generator

water view

Alright, so there’s my second list of 50 things I’m grateful for. (If you want to browse the first list, here you go.)

Now it’s your turn. I would love to hear about what you’re grateful for! No matter how tough life gets, we can all be grateful for something. Share your list (however big or small) in the comments below, hit me up on a social network or tag me in your blog post.  Cheers!

Grateful & blessed,
Jaime

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Wild: A Journey That Takes You Along For The Ride

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild, an amazing memoir by Cheryl Strayed

I recently crossed an entry off my ever-growing reading list by tackling Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Part memoir, part cathartic experience, this gripping read brings you along during Strayed’s journey of hiking the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT).

“I was alone. I was barefoot. I was twenty-six years old and an orphan too. An actual stray, a stranger had observed a couple of weeks before, when I’d told him my name and explained how very loose I was in the world. “

During this life-altering experience, Strayed dips back into memories or moments from her life that explain her actions, decisions and how she arrived at her starting point of the trail in the Mojave Desert, via a hitchhiked ride, completely unprepared even though she was overloaded with the weight of her pack (aptly named “Monster).

Cheryl Strayed on the PCT

Cheryl Strayed on the PCT in southern California, June 1995.

From page one, I was hooked. It’s not only the life-or-death moments (although those do happen on the remote PCT); it’s the inner journey that Strayed takes to finally heal from her mother’s death and move on with her life. Despite the rapidly changing conditions, wild animals and extreme exhaustion, the author is able to hear her own voice on long, lonely stretches where it was only her and Mother Nature.

Cheryl Strayed at Crater Lake

Cheryl Strayed at Crater Lake near the PCT, August 1995.

You actually feel like you’re along for the ride. For a lot of us, this is as close as we’ll ever get to hiking the PCT, but you feel a connection with Strayed early on. Why? She’s grieving, lost and flawed, yet determined to find herself and right her ship before it’s too late.

Haven’t we all been there on some level? Maybe you’ve made a poor decision, let a close friend down or found yourself in a depressing relationship that you can’t get out of. We’ve all faced obstacles, some more than others, and had to overcome them in order to move on with our lives. That’s where Strayed’s story fits in.

Wild reaches out, grabs your heart and makes an emotional connection. When you’ve read the last page, you may feel like you’ve made a journey yourself — not hiking the PCT but tackling a demon or problem in your own life.

If I haven’t piqued your interest enough, check out the book’s trailer…

Have you read the book? What did you think?

If not, are you interested in reading this book now?

What’s the best memoir that you’ve ever read?

Photos and video courtesy of Cheryl Strayed’s website

An early happy birthday, America! Best wishes to you and yours for a fun, safe and reflective 4th of July.

Cheers,
Jaime

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My 2013 Bucket List: Six Months In

“Some people create a bucket list because they are dying; I created one because I want to live.”     –Lesley Carter

Earlier this year, I came across Lesley Carter’s 2013 bucket list and was inspired to create my own. (Ed. Note: If you haven’t checked out Lesley’s Bucket List Publications, please do so. What an inspiration!)

Related reading: My 2013 Bucket List: What’s On Yours?

It struck me a few days ago that we’re already half way through the year. Crazy, isn’t it?! So I wanted to post an update and see how I’m doing so far.

Without further ado… (items crossed out have been accomplished:

  • Attend a Kent State University basketball game (my alma mater!)
  • Go ice skating
  • Watch a hockey game live
  • Attend a professional networking event
  • Go for a twilight hike
Lake Erie Monsters hockey

I love Zambonis! Watching the Lake Erie Monsters

  • Enter a trail running event
  • Register for my first triathlon
  • Get together with my family at least monthly <So far, so good!>
  • Celebrate special occasions with family & friends <Just celebrated my sister-in-law’s birthday and Father’s Day this past week! Next up, my brother’s birthday.>
  • Watch the inauguration festivities for the first time
Valentine's Day wreath

A slightly different take on a Valentine’s Day wreath…

  • Bring on 5 new dream clients <On pace, lots of activity right now…>
  • Read 100 books! (Yep, full fledged book worm here.) <I need to start counting!>
  • Write the first chapter of my novel
  • Make time for me 🙂
  • Jump out of another airplane!
Dark Tower Series

Finished 6 of 7 Dark Tower books by Stephen King… along with a few others.

  • Go to the theatre
  • Pay It Forward
  • Learn a new skill
  • Take advanced coding classes
  • Attend a NASCAR race
KSU + Haven of Rest = Pay It Forward

Proud to join the KSU Alumni crew at Haven of Rest for National Day of Service 2013

  • Spa day 🙂
  • Finally bring home a furry friend
  • Travel, travel, travel — across town & across the world
  • Watch the sunrise
  • Watch the sunset
sunset at Canal Park

Watching the sunset at Canal Park

  • Step outside of my comfort zone
  • Watch the fireworks at an Aeros game
  • Book a spontaneous getaway
  • Unplug & connect with nature for a day
  • Laugh often
  • Create with my hands
Mother Nature's beauty

Enjoying the serene Alder Pond at Gorge Metro Park

  • Swim in the ocean
  • Walk on water again –> paddle boarding 🙂
  • Get up close & personal to the octagon at a UFC event
  • Be ready for my next great opportunity & pounce on it
  • Get muddy often

How about you? How are you doing on your 2013 bucket list? It’s not too late to create one! Leave your thoughts in the comments below or hit me up on social media.

Dark Tower books photo courtesy of The Dark Tower Official Website
All other photos from my personal collection 

Smiling in the sunshine,
Jaime

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This is a bookshop.

Love this sign! So true… books open other worlds for us to travel to and open our minds to possibilities we previously hadn’t thought of. Books can educate us, take us to distant lands and enrich our lives with culture. Books can spark love affairs that last a lifetime and lead us to pursue answers to life’s most intriguing questions.

What book has changed your life? Made you stop and think? Opened your eyes to new worlds? Pushed you to pursue your vocation or what you love?

Business or pleasure, or a little bit of both. Biographies, trade journals, fiction, science fiction, “chic lit…” A skinny novella or an epic masterpiece.

Join the discussion by leaving your comments below…

Cheers,
Jaime

101 Books

I saw this image in the Reddit Book forums a few weeks ago, and I had to share it on my 101 Books Facebook page.

I just have one question:

Where is this bookshop, and how can I go there? I’ll just forget that they incorrectly hyphenated bookshop and crossroads.

P.S. I’m not trying to start a flame war between digital and paper books. I’m pretty much over that. But I still love a good, old-fashioned “bookshop,” and I hope they never go away. I don’t think they will.

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