Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

  • Rabbits, Privet Hedges and a Planters Peanut Bar: How John Updike Brought What Is Peculiar to the Moment to Glory

    0

    Many times we have tried to describe the importance of details – in your writing, your work and your self-marketing – in this blog.

    This morning, when I read Sam Tanenhaus’ article, John Updike’s Archive: A Great Writer at Work, I was struck by a remark he quoted from Adam Begley, a critic and literary journalist now at work on a biography of Updike. Begley said, “Updike’s archive may be the last great paper trail. Anyone interested in how a great writer works will find here as full an explanation as we’re likely to get.”

    Tanenhaus says, “In addition to literary ore, the archive offers a picture of an all-purpose, do-it-yourself man of letters who typed his own manuscripts, designed his own book jackets, chose type faces and binding cloth and kept careful lists of corrections (down to errant accent marks) for new editions of his work.”

    “Updike was also leaving a trail of clues to his works and days: an enormous archive fashioned as meticulously as one of his lathe-turned sentences. ‘The archive was vitally important to him,’ Mrs. Updike said in a telephone interview, especially in his last days. ‘He saw it not just as a collection of his working materials, but as also a record of the time he lived in.’ Today the material crowds an aisle and a half of metal shelving in the basement of Houghton Library, Harvard University’s rare book and manuscript repository.”

    “There is even a wrapper from a Planters Peanut Bar, as lovingly preserved as a pressed autumn leaf, evidently used by Updike to describe the moment when Rabbit, addicted to high-cholesterol junk food, greedily devours the candy and then, still unsatisfied, ‘dumps the sweet crumbs out of the wrapper into his palm and with his tongue licks them all up like an anteater’ — an early warning that he’s headed for a heart attack.”

    Be sure to listen to Updike’s remarks in the video interview included in this article.  Updike says, “I do not think of myself as writing stylishly but rather precisely.”

    He remembers details such as the time he described the way in which “a man who’s about to leave his wife runs his fingers over the top of a privet hedge.”

    Updike says, “This age needs men like Shakespeare, or Milton, or Pope; men who are filled with the strength of their cultures and do not transcend the limits of their age, but, working within the times, bring what is peculiar to the moment to glory. We need great artists who are willing to accept restrictions, and who love their environments with such vitality that they can produce an epic out of the Protestant ethic… Whatever the many failings of my work,” he concluded, “let it stand as a manifesto of my love for the time in which I was born.”

    We cannot all write like John Updike, but we can try to capture details “Peculiar to [our] moment.”  These are the details that will illuminate our lives, our experience and our passions – be it for the work we hope to continue or the manifesto we wish to leave behind.

  • Newsweek Magazine Metaphors and Gladiators in Northern England!

    0

    This morning, as I read David Carr’s article, “How to Save Newsweek,” in the New York Times, I realized that Carr’s 8 steps to salvation are equally applicable to anyone striving to achieve a unique brand and strategically position themselves in today’s job market – which is in just as much trouble as the legacy, print-on-paper media world.

    I highly recommend you read the entire article, but three of Carr’s steps which I find especially relevant are:

    “1. IT’S A MAGAZINE

    Yes, it’s a brand. But mainly, it’s a magazine.

    Whatever revenue Newsweek attracts comes overwhelmingly from the printed product. So while many savants have suggested it is as easy as dumping the print brand and its associated costs, the Web footprint of something called “Newsweek” is small and represents a tiny fraction of the revenue. The name may become more meaningful on the Web, but to make Newsweek work, someone has to figure out how to put out a magazine.

    4. DO THE SMALL STUFF WELL

    When editorial types rave about Adam Moss’s version of New York magazine, part of what they are reacting to is not the big booming features, but what the magazine does at either end — the provocative small display type, playful infographics, and bits of service journalism smartly and elegantly delivered.

    By comparison, Newsweek’s vocabulary draws on a previous century, reflecting none of the Web’s influence on print design. There is no texture: no big and little on the same page, no funny bits mixed with issues of civic moment, no jewel boxes of unexpected finds, nothing that doesn’t fit on a grid. Weeklies are murder to produce, but ragged and risky is better than rote.

    8. THROW A HAIL MARY

    …In magazines, time is both your enemy and your friend. Yes, the 24/7 cycle will run you over, but the opportunity to take a breath can sometimes provide a much needed respite. A section of look-backs could be called “Wait a Minute,” and could aggressively use the second look to deconstruct events we thought we already knew. (Was the blown call in Detroit a huge pratfall for Major League Baseball, or perhaps one of its crowning moments?)”

    Carr has mixed his metaphors here but we’ll let that slide…

    Meanwhile, the three parallel job-hunting related strategies I mentioned would be:

    RE # 1, “You’re a Magazine” – Focus on what you are and promote those assets. Don’t try to be a Chief Financial Officer or even an accountant, if you cannot balance your checkbook without the aid of three calculators. It’s up to you to identify your authentic strengths and sell them; don’t leave it up to hoping the hiring manager “will see” the strengths you bring to the table. They do not have the time for second guessing, nor do they want to take the risk. Show them what you can do!

    RE # 4, “Do the Small Stuff Well” – Details, details, details. Do the small things well and they will hold the big picture together. All good storytellers know that the heart of a story is in the details: each and every word, image, every character counts. It’s your story, your brand, your career and your life. No one is better equipped to capture the essential details than you.

    RE # 8, “Throw a Hail Mary” – Don’t be afraid to step back and take a well-calculated risk. If you think strategically, have researched the top challenges facing the organization for which you’d like to work, and have identified what you think are a few good solutions – don’t be afraid to speak up. If they are way off the mark, the worse that could happen is that you may not get the job. But is that so bad? Perhaps it is not a good fit and better to find out before you’ve been in the position a month or two. On the other hand, your ideas may be perceived as brilliant and you land the job. Now you have to be sure you can deliver on what you’ve promised. It’s those blasted details again!

    Last but not least I mentioned Gladiators. I had one of those “park in my driveway moments” today as I listed to an NPR story about the possible discovery in northern England, of  “the world’s only well-preserved Roman gladiator cemetery.” A key clue was that the teeth marks found on some of the remains could only have been made by a lion or tiger (in northern England?). Now that’s what I call a telling detail!

  • “Head to Head: iPhone and iPad Square Off”

    0

    Just a short snippet to share a great example of the value of infographics which we waxed on about in yesterday’s post: “A Picture: How Logos and Information Graphics Tell Your Story or Convey Your Brand in Much Less Than a Thousand Words.”

    This morning’s infographic by Henry D’Andrea aimed at those trying to decide which device – an iPhone or an iPad – is the best all-around deal for them will find this “Head to Head: iPhone and iPad Square Off” post from thetechupdate.com illuminating.

    Courtesy of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

    The Bard continues to be in awe…

  • Picture It: How Logos and Information Graphics Tell Your Story or Convey Your Brand in Much Less Than a Thousand Words?

    0

    Courtesy of: http://www.how-to-draw-funny-cartoons.com

    In our digital world where vital “Tweets” can be no longer than 140 characters – not words but characters – visual information is even more critical than it is in traditional storytelling.

    Budding entrepreneurs will find some great tips and – of course – pictures in today’s “Quack” (aka Post) by Rebecca Hume at Duck Call, that zippy, smart, brandraising blog.

    Bulletin from the Duck Pond is:

    “Good infographics can illustrate ideas that might take pages to explain in writing. They function as a visual shorthand, clarifying relationships with a degree of immediacy and impact text just can’t offer. Effective graphics can be created for many types of information, but they are best suited for showing comparisons, structures, and processes.

    Figuring out what type of infographic is right for a project typically requires three steps:

    1. Know the story you want to tell.
    2. Find the information that best tells the story.
    3. Determine the form that most clearly displays that information.

    Just as with writing, information design must have a thesis statement…”

    Continue reading until you reach the other side of this duck pond because there’s lots of good data here.

    Meanwhile, should you wish to pare those words down further, perhaps even eliminate them altogether and create a successful brand logo, check out this one-page snapshot of all the elements to consider. It was “Tweeted” to you today from the SE Toolbelt, that fabulous and free open-content community resource center, created to help social entrepreneurs plan, start, manage, and grow successful social enterprises.

    Shakespeare would have been proud of your literary gambols…

    Courtesy of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

  • “Bold But Not Brash:” Still Working and Blogging Full Time At Seventy

    0

    This morning I found “The 70-Something Blog” by June Kugel – thanks to Paula Span’s post in the the New York Times, The New Old Age: “A Blog About the Road Ahead.”

    Span writes, “Ms. Kugel believes in recording and reflecting on big transitions. In her 59th year, she had kept a journal in a loose-leaf binder, which she still rereads on occasion. On her next milestone birthday, updating her technology, she launched “The 70-Something Blog” and committed to posting twice a week. ‘I’ll let you know my triumphs and my low points,’ she promised her readers.”

    “I don’t write the blog for a million people to read,” she told Span. “I write it for me, to document this particular decade.”

    June Kugel is associate dean of students at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and she still bikes the two miles to and from her office everyday.

    Two of my favorite excerpts from her blog posts provide a flavor of her writing and her zest for her work and her life.

    This first is related to a bathroom refurbishing project she and her husband undertook:

    “We were efficient about choosing and ordering everything, and had the contractor all set. True, our project started four weeks later than scheduled, but that’s to be expected. Once the work started, it was just five days of disruption until the bathroom looked beautiful. A new shower curtain would be the final touch. That was a bit complicated, however, involving six visits to the Marimekko store. But on Thursday night we hung it and everything came together.

    When we went on our usual Saturday walk, Peter [her husband] and I commented on what a difference the shower curtain made, how it was worth all the trouble to get it. Peter called the shower curtain “bold (fearless and daring), but not brash (impudent or saucy).” I walked a few steps thinking about how he characterized the shower curtain and how I wished I could be described that way…. Maybe it’s not too late.”

    My second favorite is about her work at Harvard:

    “My new boss has been on board for eight weeks. I had mixed emotions about giving up ‘his’ position after being the interim boss even though, as I have written before, I did not want the job. I knew I could be helpful to him since I know the ropes, and I wanted him to succeed because I care deeply about the mission of our organization. But I could not predict how it would feel to have a boss who is the age of my children.

    “We’ve spent a lot of time together since he arrived. He’s smart. He gets it. He has a lot of good ideas. He is moving in measured steps, and he is very consultative with me (and others). He considers me a partner. We are developing trust for one another. All that is good.

    “But what is even better is that I feel like I have renewed energy, that it’s a whole new job, a whole new challenge. I’m seeing things through his eyes at the same time that I am giving him a lot of context and experience. I’m working as hard or harder than ever before, but I feel like I have a new purpose and a new challenge, even while staying at a place I’ve loved working at for almost thirty years.  Am I lucky or what?

    Yes she is lucky and so are we – her readers!

  • Creativity and the Power of Imagination – for CEOs as Well as Wizards!

    0

    I was delighted to see Frank Kern’s article, “What Chief Executive Officers Really Want,” in the May 19th issue of Business Week. He discusses the radical ramifications of a new survey of 1,500 chief executives, conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value. The survey results demonstrate unequivocally that CEOs value one leadership competency – creativity – above all others.

    Kern notes that when, “CEOs identify ‘creativity’ as the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future, …creativity – not operational effectiveness, influence, or even dedication – something significant is afoot in the corporate world. In response to powerful external pressures and the opportunities that accompany them, CEOs are signaling a new direction. They are telling us that a world of increasing complexity will give rise to a new generation of leaders that make creativity the path forward for successful enterprises.”

    I was struck by the ways in which the survey results manifest the ideas set forth by J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, in her brilliant 2008 Harvard Commencement Address in which she focused on the power of imagination.

    Speaking before that bastion of education, nurturer of past, present and future world leaders, Rowling extolled imagination not just for storytelling as one might expect from such a successful author but rather as a tool for transformative social change. She said, “Though I personally will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation.”

    Quoting the ancient Greek historian, biographer, essayist, Plutarch, Rowling notes, “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” She says, “We do not need magic to transform the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: the power to imagine better.”

    Invention and innovation from Hogwarts to the CEO’s boardroom and beyond. Dare we imagine transformative social change is possible???

  • For Editing Out Loud!

    1

    Write, Edit, Print, Proofread, Squint, Read Aloud and Then Have Your Computer Read Your Magnum Opus Back To You!

    I’ve just discovered a new way to analyze the compositions (cover letters, business proposals, thank-you notes, stories and the odd bit of poetry) I create on my computer. I was familiar with all the time-tested functions: editing for content clarity; printing to assess narrative flow; proofreading to eradicate typos, misspelling, and punctuation errors; squinting at the printed document to check spacing and alignment; and reading aloud to determine if it sounds compelling.

    I’ve always been fortunate to have friends willing via email “attachment land” to back-up my editing, proofreading and squinting skills with their own ruthless critique of my writing. The “Read Aloud” component, however, has always been illusive. Reading my own writing aloud is tricky because my mind will assume words are there when I haven’t actually typed them or it races ahead since, after multiple revisions, I almost know the document by heart.

    My writing life changed when one of my editing gurus introduced me to “Alex.” Alex is just one of the many voices you can choose to read any text in your computer out loud to you. Once you know about Alex and his friends, it’s very easy to set up the “Read Aloud” feature on your computer. At least, it’s truly straightforward on my Mac. I’ll walk the uninitiated through the process here, and invite any PC users to please let us know how it can be done on your computers.

    First step: Click on the Apple in the Top Menu Bar and select “System Preferences.”

    In your System Preferences folder, select the microphone “Speech” Icon in the fourth column down :

    In the Speech dialog box, select “Text to Speech.” Then choose your “System Voice.” I chose “Andy” but there are a number of other male and female voices ready to read to you.

    I chose “Normal” “Speaking Rate but you can slow it down if you want to listen even more carefully. “Fast” may be okay if you want to speed read, but I cannot edit in speed read mode.

    The last and final set-up step for the purpose of this exercise is to Check the “Speak selected text…” box and “Set Key.” I kept the key stroke simple: Command S (for speak to me.)

    Give it a test run by retrieving a document from your files. Hit Command A to select all the text you’d like to hear. Then, type Command S and “Alex” (or whomsoever’s personality you have chosen) will immediately begin to read aloud to you.

    Apologies to those who already know about this nifty tool but I thought it simply amazing and wanted to share with others who, like me, had no idea Alex was poised and ready to speak!

  • Bare Words: Pare Your Writing Down to the Essentials

    0

    Yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I am a lover of words and writing. I try to be open-minded about the art, but this weekend I was struck by two less than artful abuses.

    The first was New York Governor, David A. Paterson’s ludicrous pronouncement, “I pledge I have not obfuscated.” Whatever happened to “lied”?

    The second occurred as my grandson and I drove to his 5th grade breakfast fundraiser.  As we were cruising along in the dawn’s early light, he proudly announced he was a PTP.  Science wizard that he is, I thought this must have something to do with the Periodic Table of the Elements. Not so, he smiled and said that’s “Pancake Transportation Personnel.” Are “waiters” no more?

    The late, E.B. White, master author and essayist, would have been horrified. White was adamant about clarity in writing.  One of his cardinal rules was:  “Avoid fancy words: Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.”

    White and William Strunk, Jr., wrote The Elements of Style, a tiny but venerable guide which is just as valuable today as when it was when first published in 1919.  As we struggle with résumés, cover letters and all other communications related to capturing and positioning ourselves for our job searches, we need to keep this little gem of a book at out fingertips.

    The guide begins with sixty-three words that could change your world of writing: “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

    In this weekend’s NY Times excellent essay, Writing a Résumé That Shouts ‘Hire Me’, by Phyllis Korkki, the advice is “be concise, tight, lean and clean” – an echo of  the 1919 Elements of Style, credo: Make every word tell.

    Muriel Barbery in The Elegance of the Hedgehog has written a remarkable passage describing a Maori rugby player that is a perfect metaphor for telling words. He “was like a tree, a great indestructible oak with deep roots and a powerful radiance – everyone could feel it. And yet you also got the impression that the great oak could fly, that it would be a quick as the wind, despite, or perhaps because of its deep roots.”

    As you write, take care to choose words that are grounded, words that are clear and concise – telling words which ignite the imagination, radiate and resonate so everyone can hear you.

  • Pages: Prev 1 2

Fatal error: Cannot redeclare wp_pagenavi() (previously declared in /home2/miw1/public_html/savvyseniors/wp-content/plugins/wp-pagenavi/core.php:13) in /home2/miw1/public_html/savvyseniors/wp-content/themes/Furvious/functions/wp-pagenavi.php on line 155