Category Archives: postaday2011

Finding focus: Writing an editorial policy


This is part three in a series of six on strategies for finding focus while writing a blog.

If your vision is the direction to go with your writing then editorial policies are your rules of the road. An editorial policy is simply a statement about how you are going to conduct yourself on your blog. This doesn’t have to be written in stone, but it should be close.

I come from a military journalism background and one of my favorite things to do was go through the archives and see what’s changed and what has stayed the same over the years. One thing that changed was the editorial policies. There were racist cartoons, Page 3 girls, cigarette ads and drink specials. Back in the day, this was perfectly acceptable. Society has moved on and the policies now reflect that by outlawing those things in military papers.

You might not want to share your vision, but the editorial policy is best out in the open. This will let your readers know what they can expect from your blog. A great spot for this is on an “about me” page. If people like what they read, the about the author page is the next place they’ll go. Give them exactly what they are looking for.

The policy for my blog is vague; no politics, no religion and very little swearing. I’ll add to it as I go and as I see fit. For now, it says what I need it to say.

To create your policy, as plainly as possible state what your blog is about, what you will write about and what you won’t write about. It doesn’t have to be long or detailed, just honest. Oh, and you’ll have to hold yourself to those rules because your readers will expect that. No big deal, right?

For the rest of the series, click below:

Part 1 Finding focus: The beverage of choice
Part 2 Finding focus: What’s your vision?
Part 3 Finding focus: Writing an editorial policy

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Finding focus: What’s your vision?


This is part two in a series of six on strategies for finding focus while writing a blog.

Another step in maintaing focus is to have a vision, the business kind not the quest kind (the later can be a post later if you’d like.) A vision is the basic idea of what you want to accomplish. It’s not a road map, but it is the compass that keeps you moving in the right general direction.

Picture where you want to go. Envision where you’d like to be as a writer even if you think it’d never happen in your wildest dream. If you need help, start by answering these three questions: Why are you blogging? What do you like about the act of blogging? What would be nice to get out of writing a blog and what do you need to get out of writing a blog?

I’m blogging because it’s good writing practice. I like getting feedback and the personal nature of writing for a blog. It would be nice to have my work noticed to possibly sell. I need the practice and to gain confidence in my writing as I work on a novel.

Combine your answers into a single sentence and simplify down until it sounds good to you. This is the vision. My vision is to write a blog to practice my writing and become a novelist.

Other people might have loftier goals, or not want to get paid for their work because writing is its own reward, or do it just for fun. It’s all fine because this is your vision.

Write your vision on a sheet of paper and stick it up next to your writing area. Are you writing just for fun? Then write “It’s just for fun.” and have at it. This is your own personalized motivation. It’s better than a poster of some kitten on a branch telling you to hang in there…unless that’s your thing, then just put the vision next to it.

For the rest of the series, click below:
Part 1 Finding focus: The beverage of choice
Part 2 Finding Focus: What’s your vision?

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Filed under postaday2011, Writing

Finding focus: The beverage of choice


This is part one in a series of six on strategies for finding focus while writing a blog.

Most writers are going to tell you to find a special place to write and make a nest by surrounding yourself with items that inspire you. That might work for some, but what if you can’t be in your area when you need to write?

I’ve written in airports at 3 a.m. after working the entire day. I’ve written in Haitian summer heat with no air conditioning. I’ve written in the Shenandoah Mountains in January with no heat. I have a work office, a home office and then I have the occasional hotel room or conference center. If I limited myself to one location, I would get nothing done.

The idea behind having a set location is a subconscious cue to the brain that it is time to write. I do the same thing by having a cup of coffee. Instead of having a fixed spot, I have something portable and readily available nearly everywhere.

Drinking while writing serves a couple purposes. First, the mug, glass, or cup is the cue that says it is time to write. It sits in the peripheral vision and serves as a constant reminder. It doesn’t matter where you are sitting as long as a beverage is close by. Second, it guarantees you will be getting up in about 50 minutes to either refill the glass or, well, take care of a certain basic need. It’s a nice break that gives the brain a bit of a rest so you don’t burn out.

Certain beverages need to be avoided because sitting and writing isn’t exercise. Some are better than others:

  1. Water: Obviously the best choice for health reasons, but let’s be real, we don’t like things that are good for us.
  2. Coffee and Tea: They aren’t bad and they have caffeine, but you want to avoid more than two cups a day because then it affects brain function. Watch the sugar and fat intake with what you put in them. You don’t want a sugar crash in the middle of writing or have to work off an extra 400 calories every time you have a francy coffee shop drink.
  3. Juices: A middle ground. Vitamins are good, sugars not as much. If you’re going to take in the natural sugars then you might as well eat the fruit itself and get the fiber.
  4. Soda: Don’t. At least, don’t do it often. Even diet soda is believed to cause belly fat. You really don’t want to get hooked on the stuff, or come to rely on it for inspiration.
  5. Alcohol: The absolute worst to get you through a writing assignment. I’m not saying I don’t drink once in a while, but I’m not trying to be a hardboiled detective story writer and I certainly don’t want to end up an alcoholic author.

Reconditioning takes practice. Start with having the same beverage every time you write. After a few weeks, move to another room. It shouldn’t take long to make the switch. As they say, if you do something for 30 days it becomes a habit.

For the rest of the series, click below:
Part 1 Finding focus: The beverage of choice
Part 2 Finding Focus: What’s your vision?

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Bringing focus back to my daily blog


I’ve been following the Postaday challenge like a homework assignment and it’s really done nothing more than give me 24 touchy-feely posts about random topics concerning the inner workings of my thoughts on vague ideas. Yesterday I waited hours to see what the next topic would be only to be  a little let down again. The topics aren’t bad, but they don’t seem to fit either.

The topic that brought this call to action: What’s your idea for a perfect Sunday? Reading, writing or taking pictures. The follow up question: How would it differ from a typical Sunday? It doesn’t. That’s what I did. I did that Saturday as well. I also spent too much time trying to find something to write about because the topic didn’t hit home for me.

Let’s get Dr. Phil on this situation:

Dr. Phil: Why are you writing about topics that don’t hit home for you? You should be writing on topics that matter to you instead of waiting for someone else to come up with topics.
Me: Well, it was easier to write about the topic than to come up with my own.
Dr. Phil: Has it been easier?
Me: Not really.
Dr. Phil: You’re cheating yourself out of your own ideas. How does that make you feel?
Me: Dirty.
Dr. Phil: You need to get focused and take charge of your blog.
Me: People seem to like what I’m writing, though.
Dr. Phil: Do you afraid people might not like your ideas? Maybe they like the way you write.

Thanks, Dr. Phil.

The way the blog topics are going currently feels very unwieldy and chaotic. I cannot keep going as is for another 340+ days. Most folks seem to be enjoying the topics, but I know me and I have certain needs as a writer and editor:

  1. I need coffee.
  2. I need the vision.
  3. I need an editorial policy.
  4. I need cohesion.
  5. I need a focus.
  6. I need my next five stories right now in case something falls through.

In a series of posts this week I’ll show how all those work together to keep you on track. Yes, even the coffee.

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The sound of rain


Rain through a forest of Oregon’s Douglas Fir trees is easily my favorite sound on Earth. I say favorite because that sound never gets on my nerves. I really could listen to it all day…and have thanks to the wonderful Pacific Northwest weather. I even have an app for that.

Baby laughs are a very close second. A coffee maker first thing in the morning, owls and U2 round out the top five.

Not all rain sounds the same. Rain on a car roof is different from a tin roof which is different from pavement.

For me, a rain storm in an Oregon pine forest is something special. Thunder is rare. The wind blows through the tops of the 20-50 foot trees creating a swishing sound and makes the largest and oldest trees creak as they lean back and forth. The rain collects in the needles as it comes down through the trees softening the sound. The needles scatter the rain around the trees causing hundreds of tiny drops instead of the larger, harder rain drops. The rain trickles through the branches, and in the older forests, Spanish moss.

After the drops leave the branches and the needles, the water doesn’t hit the ground. It falls on the ferns and other foliage around the trees. Once through, the drops of water fall onto the 1-3 inch bed of dead needles at the base of the trees.

Why is this such a great sound? It’s just rain, but it reminds me of my years growing up in Oregon. Many of those years were rain drenched.

I didn’t know I missed it until I picked up an app for my iPhone that plays ambient noise. Thankfully someone in Oregon recorded the sound and now I have it to lull me to sleep 3000 miles away from where I was born.

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Entry 23: I’ve got nothing.


Are some days easier than others to find an idea to write about or on some days does the idea not matter as much? This is the 23rd day I’ve posted during this pledge to write every day in 2011. This is one of those days where no idea seems good enough.

I’ve stopped and started a few times, not to mention rewrote and restarted. I’ve deleted quite a bit that I probably shouldn’t have. Some of it might have been good later on a different day, or with a little editing and focus. Too late now. I wonder how many perfectly good ideas writers throw into the waste basket.

Right now I’m watching some really horrible movies while I wait for the NFL play offs. I guess these movies seemed like a good idea at the time, but really they should have ended up in the waste basket.

I’m throwing in the towel today. There is hope for tomorrow, maybe even later tonight. Right now I have nothing and I can’t find anything to watch I find inspiring. The TV is getting turned off. I have some Joseph Campbell to read anyway.

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Truth as I see it


It is best to know the truth even when it hurts. Ignorance is bliss. Both of these statements are true because I believe they are both true. Truth is perception.

The truth isn’t always the truth. Urban myths are a fascination of mine. I’ll listen to whatever someone’s sister’s cousin’s roommate told them, then wait till they are out of earshot and have a good laugh. Check out Snopes if you want to unlearn anything that sounds too weird to be true.

If a majority of people believe the truth to be false, then it is false. The Sun went around the Earth, but now it doesn’t. The Earth was flat, but now it is round. Pluto was a planet…and still is, damn it. I don’t care what they say.

“You will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”
-Obi-Wan Kenobi
“Return of the Jedi”

People are going to believe what they want as long as it supports their point of view. People that watch one news channel say the other one does nothing but lie. The only time someone jumps the fence to the other side is when there is a convincing enough argument.

The truth hurts when we don’t want to hear it and more so the more we don’t want to hear. Do you really want to know your butt looks big in those jeans even if you ask? What if the person said your butt looks big without you asking?  The more it hurts, the more likely the person is going to think it is a lie or are just being cruel.

White lies and half truths are a necessary evil in modern society. They help us get along with the people we don’t like, protect the feelings of those we do like and maybe land that job that you really need. Does anyone answer the “What is your worst flaw?” question truthfully and expect to get hired? Well, yes, but they are only lying to themselves. The person that is honest and says their worst flaw is punctuality is going to lose the job to the person that lies.

This brings me to the 800-pound gorilla on the internet: wikileaks. I think wikileaks is an effective tool when they shed light on human rights violations. I think they need a better focus on what they release because not everything needs to be known. The latest batch of wikileaks shed light on what I already knew, ambassadors don’t always like each other. For me, if ambassador A thinks ambassador B is a tool that’s fine as long as they get along.  Ambassador B doesn’t need to know A thinks less of him, that’s only going to strain the relationship and make the job those two ambassadors harder to accomplish.

In the same release, they put out information that may have been used to bring down the corrupt government in Tunisia. The important stuff gets lost when you don’t focus. If you don’t have focus and treat everything as important, people don’t take you seriously, or worse, take you seriously for all the wrong reasons.

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