Tag Archives: writing

Sand Castles

Blogs are Stickier Than Social Networks

I had a walk back through memory lane. This revisiting was mostly of my old posts — circa 2008 and 2009. It’s quite interesting how much one evolves in a span of three years, in terms of writing. Back then, I managed the Blog Herald and Performancing, and I offered writing- and blogging-related tips and advice.

As  I write for a living, I find my three-year old articles to still be very much applicable to my profession. Even as I mostly write news reportage and enterprise-related editorials these days, one can perhaps still find underlying hints of the same writing style in my output. But what’s more important here is that I get to learn more about myself in looking back.

Back then, people still had time to read tips and advice on writing. Today, I think the online community has an increasingly declining attention span. Discussions have moved to microblogging services and social networks.

These discussions are not as sticky as articles, though. For instance, you can only go so far back in your Twitter timeline. Facebook discussions are the same, although it’s more straightforward to check out a posted article than a Facebook discussion.

Most great sites today use a combination of both: posting the main article on their blog or CMS and using a social-aware commenting plugin. As such, you can post your comment as your Facebook or Twitter profile. This simplifies the login process and helps reduce spam.

I still believe that these are just media, and the more important thing that drives value are content and engagement. Reading my old posts has been fun, though. I feel like I’m rediscovering myself.

Featured image credit: Shutterstock

How to be Productive When Working in Your Pajamas

Pearl Aufrere (LOC)

Writers have quirks. It’s a fact of life. In fact, I can say that everyone has quirks. One way or another, you have certain habits, lifestyle choices, or even simple mannerisms that set you apart from everyone else. When you work in a supposedly creative setting, you want everything to be in place so you can think and do your thing.

A lot of freelancers, online workers and telecommuters work in their pajamas. After all, why bother to dress up? No one’s going to see you, anyway. You’ve probably just risen out of bed, made coffee, and checked your email inbox. Why not start working on that article, website layout or client call, while you’re at it?

The problem with working in your pajamas is that it might not necessarily get you in a mood to be productive. Some people might feel less professional if they are not in decent attire. You’re talking to clients. Won’t it help if you at least feel good? Won’t you feel confident if you’ve at least showered?

Still, some people might prefer to have the freedom of working in their PJs. There’s no harm in that. But here are a few things you can do to become better at it.

Clean up. Working in your boxers or nighties doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go to your computer straight from bed, complete with disheveled hair and drool running down your cheek. At least get cleaned up. Wash your face and brush your teeth. If you have time, take a shower first. Go to work clean and fresh.

Get everything else out of the way. It’s nice to work in a situation in which you have no boss to hound you or colleagues to peer over your shoulder every five minutes. But there might be other distractions that you’d like to attend to first, so you can focus on your work. Brew that coffee now. Start that laundry cycle now. Make your bed now. If you put it off until later, you will end up having some nagging feeling that you meant to do something, and this could distract you from work every few minutes or so.

Wear your best PJs. Sure, you can go to work in your PJs. But have you seen Hugh Hefner photographed in a threadbare robe? Threadbare clothes can sometimes be comfortable as sleepwear. But if you’re spending your workday in your PJs, then get yourself some good PJs. You’ll be able to work better if you feel more decent.

Of course, “working in your PJs” does not necessarily mean literally wearing pajamas. Any sort of comfortable clothing will do. Some actually work in their underwear and probably earn more than the rest of us do! More conservative persons would probably be comfy in a tracksuit or a T-shirt and shorts.

Working in your PJs doesn’t mean you have to be less productive than a suit-and-tie person. You’re being practical, and you’re enjoying the flexibility that working online affords you. Still, you will need to make some preparations, so you will be productive while you work.


Going Old School

The first time I used a word processor was in the late 1980’s (or early 1990’s). Back then, WordStar was the most popular option, at least to my knowledge. I was fortunate enough to experience something that I think was better, though. The IBM compatible I used at work came preloaded with WordPerfect, and so that was my first exposure to the foray of word processors.

Watching the written word go from screen to paper, back then, was quite a wonder. Computers didn’t have GUIs, and most monitors didn’t have color. Print preview was a luxury only a few people could afford. You, therefore, had to know the meanings of various onscreen markup symbols by heart. And because mice were quite rare, you had to know all sorts of keyboard shortcuts and commands (most of which still work, with some variance).

Today, modern word processors are full of features and functionality. You can insert graphics, cliparts, create tables, insert different headers and footers, separate content by sections, and all sorts of bells and whistles. You can even find online versions of these document management programs, such as Google Docs, with some of the bells and whistles that their local counterparts have, with the added functionality of working from just about any browser, and from anywhere with an internet connection.

One thing remains the same, though. The quality of work still relies on the one typing on the keyboard.

I know how some of the best writers and commentators used to prefer old-school technology, such as typewriters, to create their best pieces. Somehow, the presence of all those bells and whistles might be daunting and distracting. Remember when Word 2007 first came out? A lot of people complained against the ribbon interface, saying it was confusing. Well, innovation is supposed to bring about easier ways of doing things. But I guess the human brain isn’t programmed to take innovation that easily. It’s very difficult to unlearn habits and practices you’ve already ingrained into your being, even if those habits and practices are old fashioned and stifling.

Still, when it comes to writing, I think simplicity is best. There may be many tools and applications that can help the technical writer produce his content. But I would go for something that’s distraction-free.

I’ve recently installed Dark Room on my Windows machines. Somehow, I’m enjoying the plain text on black screen again, like I used to. (Well, WordPerfect was white-on-blue, but Dark Room can be configured as such.) It’s not so much the feeling of being old-school. But for a person who’s easily distracted like myeslf, I like the fact that I can launch the application in full screen and just start writing. Sure, you can run Word in full-screen and change the colors, but it’s just not the same.

In fact, I’ve started working on my oldest laptop, for a change. I’ve just installed Windows 7, and the speed boost is great. The lack of bells and whistles lets me focus on what’s important.

Going old school can sometimes be so refreshing.

Featured image credit: rahady

Have You Grown Bored With Blogging?

Typewriter angle
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mel B.

A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project suggests that young people have grown bored with blogging.

Meanwhile, the use of social networking applications (except Twitter) has been on the rise. Is this yet another indication of a fickle population with a very short attention span?

While blogging among adults as a whole has remained steady, the prevalence of blogging within specific age groups has changed dramatically in recent years. Specifically, a sharp decline in blogging by young adults has been tempered by a corresponding increase in blogging among older adults.

Sometimes I ask myself why I still maintain several blogs. These days, I’m so busy I rarely get the chance to regularly post even on my main blogs. I remember the time last year when I promised myself to write at least one substantial post here each day. For a time, I succeeded. I often took a few minutes each morning to clear my mind, and try to meditate on the events of the previous or recent days. Or sometimes, I try to plot the direction I’d like my day to have. And then I would write.

Due to one reason or another, I got tired. And now I only get to post one to two articles per month. Still, I tell myself, better to write something nice and well thought-out rather than some dull, inconsistent, babble not worthy of a read.

I don’t think I’ve grown bored with blogging. Every day I still write. It’s a different kind of writing–definitely different from blogging. I do consider blogging as a medium, but writing still remains the primary activity. And so, while I have moved my focus away from using my blogs as a medium, I have not moved away from writing at all.

Or, perhaps, the fact that I don’t consider myself losing interest in blogging means I’m getting old.

How Well Do You React To Inspiration?

Written in Gold
Creative Commons License photo credit: Anonymous Account

Thomas Edison said that genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. I can say that much is the same with creativity. You can only get so far with inspiration, but you actually have to do something about it in order to actually be creative. Creativity involves both the output and the process through which that output comes about.

This comes to my mind because of a few things I have noticed this week. I seem to be quite reactive to certain inputs that influence me. In particular, what I write about and what I do are often affected by some of the most mundane of things that I come across.

Watching a film the other day, for instance, has inspired me to pursue some things similar to actions done by the protagonist. This is largely in line with my profession, and I was able to relate to the protagonist very well. I would hope that outcomes are as positive in my case as it was in the film (which was biographical, therefore giving me much optimism).

Sometimes it’s obvious, but sometimes, the source of inspiration might not really be fully related to the choices and courses of action that I would do, but still relevant to some extent. I read an advertisement for a mobile service yesterday morning, which inspired me to do some hacks and tweaks on one mobile device I already own. Reading one thing had pushed me to do something. I was glad I succeeded this time, as I had actually been searching for answers and results since more than a year ago. Sometimes the answer can be glaringly obvious, but we always see past them.

Humans constantly react to various stimuli, after all. Inspiration is just one of them. Some would think of inspiration as being touched by a muse, having a vision, and being shown some secret of the universe that can only be bestowed on a chosen few. In reality, though, inspiration can come from the most mundane of things. Like Archimedes, you can get that Eureka! moment in the bath (it has certainly happened to me several times). You don’t need special things to be inspired. Look around you. Anything and everything can be a source of ideas and inspiration. It all depends on how you look at things, and how these affect you.

The question is how well do you react? And how do you react?