Tag Archives: Writer

World Domination Summit 2016

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What do you get when you gather a group of convention-defying, quirky, passionate, intriguing people? A humble gathering that goes by the name of World Domination Summit.

As I remarked when I attended last year, I originally thought that this conference would be full of Dr. Evil wannabes with their Mini-Mes and hairless cats, but I couldn’t have been further from the truth. The WDS crew is full of gentle, kind-hearted people who want to make a positive impact on the world. Oh, and maybe fill it with light-up balloons and dancing T-rexes as well.

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Here are a few moments that stood out to me about WDS 2016.

The Hero’s Journey

On Friday morning, I opted to participate in an event called “The Hero’s Journey.” The first order of business was to choose a name for ourselves—as we went around and introduced ourselves, I shared a little anecdote about a friend who had attended WDS last year and dubbed the attendees “happy nerds.” Everyone liked that, so we became Team Happy Nerds!

Our quest took us all around Portland and presented us with several challenges, including holding doors open for strangers, trying (and failing) to start a spontaneous conga line, and arranging ourselves into a human pyramid.

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While it’s fun to run around a city trying to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do, it was also HARD! Communication was a real challenge in our group of nine, and as the appointed social media documenter, I didn’t always know where we were going or which challenge we were going to attempt to complete next.  And constantly taking photos, uploading them, and captioning them without missing any of the action (or getting run over by a car) is a lot harder than it looks!

Kindness challenge

Kindness was a definite theme of WDS this year, both in the types of challenges we were asked to complete during the Hero’s Journey, in the main stage presentations, and in some of the other activities as well.

Beginning at the opening night party, there was a large display filled with brightly colored envelopes and a large sign that read”Challenge Center” on top.

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People were encouraged to stop by the Challenge Center in pairs (though you could also visit as a singleton if you wanted). We were all given these beautiful coins as part of our welcome box. One side of the coin had the words ” Be Kind” while the other had a picture of  a globe. If you’d gone as a pair, you would flip the coin to determine who could pick out the envelope you’d be using.

I played twice and my challenge buddy won the coin toss both times! What are the odds?? (Kidding! I may not be the best at math, but I do understand the odds of a coin flip.)

The coin toss winner then got to tear open the envelope to reveal the challenges inside. We saw things like “Find someone who’s attending the conference for the first time this year and tell them you’re happy they’re here” or “Leave a positive review for something on Yelp or in the App Store.”

It was such a great reminder that there are so many kind gestures that we can easily build into our everyday life.

The goal was to achieve at least 1,000 kind deeds by the time WDS was over, and I’m pretty sure on the last day I saw that we’d achieved beyond that number.

During her talk, Amy Jo Martin shared how kindness can deliver serotonin not just to the person who performs the kind act, but to anyone who observes it as well. She suggested that we run a little experiment on Facebook to see if we could promote positive feelings among our connections.

Here’s how it works…

On your own Facebook page, create a post covering the main concept of Amy Jo’s on-stage discussion, and add the following action items so that your friends and family can join in on the fun:

1. Like this post (to make the Facebook algorithm happy)
2. Share something you could use help with in the comment section
3. Scan comments to see who can help.

Together we can have a positive impact on social media through empowering others and ourselves. Why not start now?

I just posted my message on Facebook last night and had a few people ask for help. I told Teresa I’d spread the word about her blog and Danielle that if I met any coffee roasters I’d send them her way. I also received a comment from Karen saying how much she liked this idea and she shared the post with her connections. Looking forward to seeing what else comes of this!

Inspiration

There’s no shortage of inspiring people at WDS—whether it’s overcoming adversity, challenging conventions, or being outrageously creative, this crowd does it all.

Jonathan Fields talked about the importance of mindfulness and clarity. If we don’t have those things, we won’t be able to live our fullest lives.

And, of course, there was the quote pictured below: “Before you can be unapologetically joyful, you’ve gotta be unapologetically you.” It sounds simple, but how often do we compromise who we are because we’re afraid of standing out?

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Michelle Poler shared how she decided to tackle a pretty intense 100 day project—100 days of trying to overcome her fears. And she had A LOT.

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She documented everything from singing karaoke to holding a snake to dressing up as an old woman. And she reminded us that at some stage, we all have a big decision to make: We can either step forward into discomfort or backward into familiarity.

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A few fun memories

Here’s just a little assortment of moments I loved throughout the event.

When we came back to the theater in the afternoon, we’d generally slowly fill the seats, and darkness would descend on the room. Then, out of nowhere, a giant plastic bouncy ball would materialize, and then another, and then another.

Suddenly, the room was full of multi-colored bouncy balls soaring through the air, colliding with each other, and causing a lot of laughter and smiling.

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I was fortunate to meet a friendly crew of fellow attendees and we had a lot of laughs and good times together. One evening we had dinner together and went around to share what we could offer and what we were hoping to get out of this experience. It’s such a simple thing, but a really useful reminder that articulating your needs is often the first step towards realizing them.

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Marli Williams, one of our awesome group members, created these cards that she calls “Stoke Quotes.” These small cards were printed with inspirational quotes, like “Believe in yourself” and “Choose your mood.” Marli had so many creative ways to use the quotes to start conversations and make people feel, well, stoked!

At the opening party and near the theater entrance, she created an interactive installation with a sign that said “Take what you need.” She’d sometimes walk around with a bag full of cards and invite people to pick one. And she’d always leave one for the waiter or waitress who’d been taking care of us during a meal.

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Here’s a photo I found of myself in the WDS Flickr stream. It was totally candid—I had no idea it was even being taken. But it pretty perfectly sums up how I felt during the event and how I continue to feel when I reflect on my time there.

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I hope that during the next year, I’ll be able to look back on some of the ideas and excitement I discovered during WDS and make some positive changes in my life as a result.

I’m already so excited for WDS 2017!

Photos courtesy of Armosa Studios.

Review of Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder

writer crush

Let me just come clean and put it out there: I have developed a serious writer crush on Christian Rudder after reading Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking).

Christian Rudder is the cofounder of OkCupid (and on-again off-again author of the popular OkTrends blog) so it’s not too surprising that his writing has the power to evoke some pretty serious swooning.

Here are the reasons why I loved Dataclysm:

  • Powerful storytelling and hooks. Every chapter opens with some sort of story or anecdote that draws you in, whether it’s about the power of nostalgia or the internet’s ability to build up heroes and tear them down instantly. Pretty impressive for a book that’s centered around data, numbers, and charts.
  • Strategic usage of witty one-liners. One of my favorite parts of the book is the rubric that Rudder creates to categorize the most commonly used phrases in people’s OkCupid profiles. These are broken down by race and gender, so you can see what the most common phrases are among white males, Asian males, Latino males, etc. Rudder’s overall assessment of the white male demographic? A lumberjack music festival. (Of course this makes much more sense when you can see all the phrases, but some of the highlights in the white male section include “Phish,” “redneck,” and “Flogging Molly.”)
  • The subject matter/cocktail conversation fodder. I find dating and relationships fascinating, and it’s super interesting to learn about common misconceptions, like the idea that you and your partner have to have matching political views. Rudder argues that it’s actually the strength of your convictions (in other words, whether you care about politics or not) that’s more predictive of a relationship’s success than whether both people are Democrats or Republicans. Also, the two questions that tend to predict compatibility the most accurately are: “Have you ever traveled alone?” and “Do you like horror movies?” (If both people answer yes to each of those questions, they have a higher rate of compatibility than other couples.)
  • Rudder’s sensitivity to limitations and privacy concerns. In a brief interview on Amazon.com, when asked about whether he’s worried about any of his research and its implications, Rudder says, “I have mixed feelings about the implications. I myself almost never tweet, post, or share anything about my personal life. At the same time, I’ve just spent three years writing about how interesting all this data is, and I cofounded OkCupid. My hope is that this ambivalence makes me a trustworthy guide through the thicket of technology and data. I admire the knowledge that social data can bring us; I also fear the consequences.” I also appreciated how in several instances, he explains why he’s only looking at a certain segment of the population and what impact that can have on his overall assessments.

Dataclysm is definitely one of the most well-written and thought-provoking books I’ve read in a while, and I hope that taking the time to make these observations will help me to become a more sensitive and skillful writer myself.

Have you developed any writer crushes lately? What attracted you to a certain writer’s voice, content, or style? Let me know in the comments!

Editorial Calendar Basics for Lazy People, Part 2

EDITORIAL

In my last post, I talked about the first step of starting your Editorial Calendar/Plan of Awesomeness/Anti-Procrastination Toolkit. Did you miss that post? No prob. You can find it here.

Quick recap in case you don’t feel like clicking on that link: start by thinking of general templates or themes that can be used over and over again with different topics or subject matter.

Let me just add a word or two about that initial step. When you’re first going through your ideas, it’s helpful if you can be as unfiltered as possible. Don’t get too caught up in the idea of what may or may not actually be feasible with your time and resources. Think of all the possibilities and try to withhold judgment.

Then, once you have your list of ideas, you can begin to give them weight. Which ones are the easiest for you to write or create most easily? Which ones will have the most immediate benefit to your audience? Put those at the top of your list.

When I first started the AfterCollege Blog, I was lucky that I had a little bit of time to come up with a backlog of content before I actually started publishing. If you have the opportunity to do this, I’d highly recommend it. There are a few reasons for this approach:

1. You’ll feel less pressure once you start publishing if you already know what your next few posts are going to be (and already have that content ready).

2. It takes a while to find your stride with writing/editing/planning. How much time does it take you to bang out a first draft? Do you like to edit right away or leave some time between writing and editing? Will you ask someone else to look over your post before it’s published? You can use this initial content-creation period as the time to figure out how this all works for you.

3. Once you start writing, you’ll discover that certain posts are easier for you than others. In my case, I was doing a lot of interviews and posts that required another person to contribute in some way.

This was important because it lent my blog authority, but it was also really frustrating, because it meant that I couldn’t complete certain posts until I heard back from the other contributor.

Once I realized this was the case, I figured out that there were two basic types of posts: those I could write myself, and those that relied on someone else.

This helped me to create another list of “independent” content so that I could always create this type of post when I was waiting on someone else. It took some of the pressure off of the waiting period and helped me plan my strategy for the following months.

Keep in mind that your month or so (or whichever length of buffer feels comfortable to you) of content is not set in stone. You can always make last-minute additions and switcheroos if a timely topic comes up that you’d like to write about.

One final thought about editorial calendar planning. When I was first coming up with the ideas for the AfterCollege Blog, I assumed that people would be reading the content in a linear fashion, since that’s how I was writing it. But unless you already have a sizable mailing list (which is unlikely if you are just getting started), people are going to be coming to your posts in all sorts of random ways.

Sometimes people will find your blog through a Google search, sometimes it’ll be through a social media link, and sometimes it’ll be from a link in someone else’s blog or website. In the majority of those cases, they won’t end up on your top page—they’ll be arriving at a specific post.

This means two things—one is that you don’t need to agonize over publishing your posts in a certain order and the other is that each blog post really should stand alone.  Sure, you can link to previous posts, but don’t assume that your readers will have read them. Think about what would happen if someone ended up on a specific post through a Google search or social media link, and throw them a frickin’ bone when it comes to making your content clear and easy to follow.

Do you feel better equipped to go through the initial content planning stages of your blog now? Have any remaining questions? Let me know in the comments!

Editorial Calendar Basics for Lazy People, Part 1

What time is it

We’ve all been there: Staring in front of an empty screen, trying to figure out what we want to say. Some may call it “writer’s block,” some may call it “Writer’s Evasion,” like Ann Handley who explains in this hilarious interview on Copyblogger, “I believe in Writer’s Difficulty and Writer’s Procrastination and Writer’s I Wonder If There’s Any Donuts Left I Should Go Check.”

I currently oversee two blogs at work, where we publish seven posts a week. If left to my own devices, I would probably spend at least 70% of my time freaking out about not having enough content.

But there’s a funny thing about that. If you spend approximately 42 minutes out of every hour fretting about how much content you have, that leaves you with very little time to actually create the content.

I’ve found that one of the best ways to get over this conundrum is to have a plan. In my case, I refer to it as the “Editorial Calendar,” though I suppose you could refer to it as “The Plan of Awesomeness” or the “Anti-Procrastination Toolkit” or whatever else gets you fired up.

This is how it works: I started by coming up with a list of all the possible ways I could write about my topic. (This was not an exhaustive list, since I would still be in the list-making stage if that were the case!) Rather than come up with specific topics, I thought more about broader categories.

It can be tempting to get caught up thinking about very specific posts you’d like to write, and there’s nothing wrong with making a list of those as well. But in the early stages, it helps to think in these broad categories.

To give you some concrete examples, when I was starting the AfterCollege Blog, I thought of all the types of posts that would be helpful to student and recent grad job-seekers, and came up with things like the “Résumé Teardown,” which is where a hiring manager critiques a real job-seeker’s résumé, or the “A Day on the Job,” where we interview someone about what they do on a daily basis at work.

These types of posts serve as templates that we can use again and and again but with different topics. So for example, we have résumé teardowns for sales, front-end development, PR positions, etc.  And we do the same with “A Day on the Job,” “The Hiring Manager’s Perspective,” and many of our other categories.

In my next post, I’ll talk about organizing and maintaining your Editorial Calendar/Plan of Awesomeness/Anti-Procrastination Toolkit.

Until then, happy writing!

Review of Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

Should you get your hands on a copy of Everybody Writes by Ann Handley?

Short answer? Yes.

For the slightly longer answer, read on.

Confession time: I’m not sure if I’m exactly the type of reader that Ann had in mind when she wrote this book. As best as I can tell, she wrote the book mainly for people who:

  • have a strong aversion to writing, but need to write in their professional lives
  • are what she affectionately terms “adult-onset” writers (in other words, people who were scarred by negative experiences and swore off writing for a decade or so)
  • lack confidence in their writing abilities and need a friendly guide to coach them through some of the basics

I, on the other hand:

  • have been obsessed with writing for as long as I can remember (My earliest masterpiece was some text I dictated to a preschool teacher to accompany one of my drawings. “This is a monster. He scared a ghost. The ghost scared the monster. Last night I saw a Dracula and three debils [sic].” Chilling commentary on the post-modern condition or a factual narrative of Halloween? You decide.)
  • have loved every English teacher I’ve ever had (perhaps with the exception of Mr. Page, a cranky old Englishman who wanted us to write down everything he said verbatim. “It took me years to compile all this information and you’re not writing it down! TAKE NOTES!” But even he had a certain charm…)
  • have devoted the majority of my career to writing and pretty much spend a good chunk of every workday writing and editing

And yet, I’m not too proud to say that I still have a lot to learn. Especially since I’m relatively new to this whole content marketing gig and at work I often get asked to write or edit things like marketing emails or landing pages (which were decidedly not on Mr. Page’s AP English syllabus).

Everybody Writes appeals to me because Ann strikes a perfect balance between informative, entertaining, and straight up hilarious.

In one of my favorite passages, she alters a quote from Mean Girls to make a point about high school-mandated writing styles:

“What you learned in high school might’ve once been a helpful guidepost. But it’s time to let go. As Janis says in the movie Mean Girls: ‘That’s the thing with five-paragraph essays. You think everybody is in love with them when actually everybody HATES them!’

Actually, Janis was talking about the school’s mean girls—The Plastics. Not essays. But same dif.”

Whether she’s offering tips on the difference between “bring” and “take,” a cool app that’ll prevent you from opening Facebook while you’re trying to draft your latest blog post, or just making a Tina Fey reference (because… why not?), Ann’s writing is clear and helpful. And friggin’ hilarious.

In Everybody Writes, Ann talks about having “pathological empathy” for your readers. Basically, you always want to think about what benefits they’ll get from reading whatever you’re writing. What’s in it for them? I love this concept. Because even though writing can feel like a very egotistical pursuit, if you leave it at that, most people won’t bother to read it.

So, in the interest of anyone who happens to be reading this, I’ll stop telling you why you should read Everybody Writes and just let you get on with it!

P.S. Do you have a long, boring commute? Do you get amped up about listening to audio books while going for a run? Or maybe you feel nostalgic for your childhood days when your parents would read to you? Whatever the case, there’s good news! Everybody Writes is now also available as an audio book on audible.com. Check out a little snippet of it here.