Write Hard. Share Soft.

Writing has been on my mind a lot lately, even though you haven’t seen much of it here this month.Lapel pin that reads "Write Hard. Die Free"

Two posts on writing crossed my radar this week that I wanted to share – the first of which is actually about how much you should share on the Internet.

Since this is a personal blog in the sense that I’m not trying to generate any business through it, my topics can sometimes be of a personal nature. Alongside a lot of posts about social media, I’ve blogged about vacation trips and parenting, issues facing women and girls, books I’ve read and talks I’ve attended.

But, there have been times when big things were going on in my personal life that I didn’t share here. Sometimes because I’m thinking about how they might reflect on me personally and professionally, but often because I’m thinking about the impact on other people involved and what their comfort level is with me sharing.

Sarah Kathleen Peck shared her personal rules for this on her blog this week when she asked “How much should you share with the internet, anyways?

Peck says she only shares about a quarter of the things she’s written, if not much less, but she still writes to process things that will remain private. “Share everything with yourself. Put your words down, write your heart out, and keep that journal flush with ideas,” she suggests. Perhaps it’s something I should consider doing in an old-fashioned paper journal.

If I get to the point where I’m typing it out long-form, I’m probably going to post it, so for me there’s a lot left unwritten. Unlike the many emails I’ve typed saying what I really wanted to say in response to someone, but deleted before hitting send. <wink> And, I have often censored myself on Twitter. Learned that lesson early.

The platform of Twitter was a big part of the next essay that caught my eye – “The Ongoing Story: Twitter and Writing” where Thomas Beller ponders how great literary figures might view Twitter and how much we currently think in public.

He also hits on reason I might like Twitter so much: “…because it is a medium of words and also of form. Its built-in limitation corresponds to the sense of rhythm and proportion that writers apply to each line.” He also notes that it brings a sense of performance to writing, because it’s being done live.

I’m not sure I’ve written much about it here, but a somewhat dormant passion of mine is dancing. When asked in a creative writing class once to write about my favorite place, the dance studio with its well-worn wooden floors and walls of mirrors was the place I selected. But, the stretching, the learning, the practicing done there is all about taking it to the stage. As much satisfaction as I get just from the act of dancing, there’s something to be said for the validation of hard work through the applause of an audience.

But writing and tweeting are different from dancing because they involve words rather than movement. Beller ponders if putting an idea into a tweet makes it public and whether that fact diminishes the chances it will grow into something “sturdy and lasting.”

I’ve often thrown out tweets with the hope I might get some nibbles of interest in the topic, so I could then use the resulting conversation in a blog post. But, more often than not, they simply drift along the twitterstream like one of many fall leaves in a creek. Lost in the multitude and not eliciting any response.

Are they unseen or is the topic just not intriguing to others? Beller asks in his piece, whether writing that is never seen by anyone other than its author even exists?  I think I know what Peck’s answer would be.

I started this blog as just a writing practice exercise and I try to remind myself that is all it is, rather than worrying about Google Analytics or how many comments, shares or likes each posts receives. But, I’d be lying to say I don’t get a little joy whenever someone does say they like what I put down here.

My thanks to both Peck and Beller for their thought-provoking pieces this week. May they start their weekend on a high note knowing that someone out there was listening.

Image via Creative Commons by Mel Green

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Thank You Authors

A wooden chair sits atop a stack of booksJust got an unexpected free hour & a half to myself and I haven’t had time to write here in a while; so now, what to write about?

I’m too far out in the back yard for my wireless connection to pull up all those myriad articles I’ve been saving to Evernote for just this moment of inspirational need.

So, I’ll go with something off the usual topic of social media. Nothing about the latest platform or new updates to the old ones. No content marketing, just commentary on content – the content of books to be precise.

You see this past week I had the chance to fly to San Francisco for a work event. (The results of which you can read here and here.) Even though many flights now come equipped with wi-fi and plenty of opportunity to keep working through the business day, when I fly I prefer to pretend I’m completely disconnected and use that time to read.

Occasionally, I’ll read something that might be career related, but most often I enjoy the opportunity to escape into a bit of fiction. This time, I’d forgotten my Kindle, so I went really old school. I picked up a paperback copy of “The Kite Runner” in the airport bookstore. I think everyone else probably read it 10 years ago, so you don’t really need my review, but I will say that it left a deep impression.

I’ve found myself referencing it several times since I’ve been back home. I’ve censored it a bit, especially when talking with my daughter, but I didn’t spare all the details of the tough times depicted in it. I’d like her to also benefit from the insight it gave to life in a country very different from ours.

But, I know my description of it to her will never take her there as vividly as reading the book would. And that is the amazing power of a well-written story. I admire those who can write such realistic pictures into my mind and bring out so much emotion through written words. (I was at a very sad point of the story when my plane was landing in SFO and I’m sure those around me wondered why I was so verklempt.)

I use the same basic words to communicate here, but my copy is more informational, less inspirational. Next week at the dinner table, no one is likely going to say “Oh, that reminds me of this blog post Laura Thomas wrote.” And I don’t say that to be self-depreciating. I just know that this short-form expository style of writing doesn’t have the same lasting impact long-form stories do.

I’m so happy that my daughter enjoys reading. I’ve learned so much from reading – and not just textbook type stuff. I know I’ve learned just as much, if not maybe even more, from fiction. Judy Blume taught me more about adolescence than my parents ever did. That high school phase of historical romance novels did include the historical element. Anne Rice’s vampires traveled through time and across continents that I’ve never stepped foot on, but I feel like I have.

And, this last book gave me new insight into a country I’ve heard about for years on the evening news. I now know a different side of Afghanistan. I learned more about the history and customs that shaped its people, and more importantly, I have a better understanding of them as fellow human beings trying to grow up and raise families of their own.

Sure it was fiction, but all good fiction has a basis in reality.

So, I guess this post is just a great big wet kiss to all the authors out there who work so hard to bring characters and locations to life for us. I know writing isn’t easy. It’s hard enough just to do the little bit I do here simply for the sake of exercising.

Thanks to a good book, I not only went to California last week, I also went to Afghanistan and made a side trip to Pakistan. Without great authors, I wouldn’t have been to nearly as many places as I’ve traveled through words and I do indeed thank them all for that.

Image via Creative Commons by cogdogblog.

Challenging Myself to Write

When I started this blog several years ago, it wasn’t to establish myself as an expert at anything. I didn’t even have a topic of focus (hence the boring name of the blog). I mainly did it in order to practice writing.

I’ve always enjoyed writing and hear often that the best way to become a better writer is to write. Since I was at a point in my career where I wasn’t doing much writing for my job, I took to the blogosphere to ramble about whatever came to mind.

Looking at how long it’s been since my last post, however, you’d think my mind was pretty empty.  It’s not. My Twitterstream can verify that. I’ve just had a hard time making time for thoughts longer than 140 characters.  At least, that was the excuse I made to myself – lack of time.

Then I saw Alexis Rodrigo tweet:

lexirodrigo tweet

And – bang – it hit me that I was really letting that very thing get in my way. For some reason, I put more pressure on myself in my blog to write something meaningful, well-researched, balanced. It must contain links to related posts or news articles to make it richer. I hear my journalism professor reminding me to include at least three sources in my article.

But, that’s a false pressure I put on myself here. I’m not a reporter. This is not a daily newspaper. No one’s paying me, and they’re not necessarily expecting me to present unbiased reports on the day’s top stories. Heck, who knows if anyone even reads it.

And that’s the point. Or, really, it’s not the point. I need to remember that I’m doing this for myself, and if someone else gets something out of it along the way, well then that’s just a bonus.

So, thinking along the lines of Nikki Pilkington’s blogging challenge, I’m going to challenge myself to post something here every day for the next 30 days.  You’re forewarned if you do read this that there’s no telling what might be coming. It may be related to my work or my family. It may be useful or simply something to pass the time. Heck, it might even be what I had for dinner (maybe with the recipe to add a little something useful to the post).

The point is simply to get myself back into a habit of hitting the “publish” button again. So … here we go!

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Twitter Can Haz Zombie Stringers?

The other night I glance up from my laptop to view the heartbreaking images Nightline was showing of the devestation in Haiti and the photo credits began to catch my attention.

There amongst credits for the New York Times and other mainstream news organizations was Twitter.  Not, the individual who tweeted the photos, but just Twitter. And it led me to muse (on Twitter) about whether Twitter is now a news organization and we’re all its stringers.

Not the paid sort of stringers that freelance their writing, photography or video skills and get paid individually for each piece that a news organization decides to purchase. No, we are all a vast team of unpaid zombie stringers.
Zombie Stringers
Thank you to Eric Jusino for this photo to use via Creative Commons!

It’s not like paid stringers get any more glory.  When credits are given they go just to AssociatedPress or Reuters or such, rather than the individual who took a photo (writers at least get the byline in most cases).

Stringers can be a great resource for smaller news organizations who want to expand their coverage internationally. But, being a stringer can also be dangerous work for low pay and little glory.

Maybe I was just in that sort of questioning mindframe from reading Simon Dumenco’s AdAge post titled “Be Honest: What’s Your Real Twitter and Facebook ROI?

I’d love to hear more thoughts from some of you out there like Old Media New Tricks. It’s not like Twitter is selling our tweets or anything. Oh, wait. Yes, they are. It would only be a small step for them to start seeking payment from local newspapers and television news shows…

All you zombies hide your Twitpics!

I Want a Fact Checker

These days we most often hear reference to fact checkers in regards to the U.S. presidential election. After every debate, the major news networks and newspapers have their cadre of fact checkers hard at work to see if the things each candidate said ring true.

But, the fact checker I want is the one I learned about during my days at the J-School at LSU. This fact checker researches the stories set to be published in periodicals such as The New Yorker where this entry-level job is apparently considered prestigious. And, not only do I want one, I think everyone who blogs should get one (even though it will probably mean hiring ourselves for the position).

This is not said as a rant about irresponsible, inaccurate blogging. And I’ll not dip my toe into the debate about whether or not a blogger is a journalist. No, this is simply a little story I share in the hopes that it reminds anyone reading it who also blogs that it is important to make sure we get things right.

I was working on my next post for ThisMommyGig.com. It is the fourth in a series of reviews of kid-focused virtual worlds. It was pretty much wrapped up and ready to go when I started surfing for some links to add to back up points I’d made. That led me to find out that one main assumption I had – that you had to be a paid subscriber to get full access to this latest world I was reviewing – was totally wrong.

Turns out, there is no charge while they are in their beta launch period. When I had seen that there were two levels of membership, I just assumed the higher level cost money because that is similar to the subscription-based model other kid worlds use. In this instance, however, the upper level simply was one that required the children’s parents to create an account of their own and verify that their children were indeed permitted to access the world.

Wow! That totally changed a large portion of what I had written about this world called Dinokids. Instead of pay-for-play it was free. And, not only that, but they have additional parental involvement and controls that had not been visible to me before – something my review readers should definitely be told about so they can take full advantage.

Now, I’ve got to go back and rework a large portion of what I’d written. It’s more work, and my post will be later than anticipated, but going out with such inaccurate information could have been very detrimental to this new virtual world just getting its start.

I won’t flatter myself into thinking that I’ve got tons of people ready my material, but I do know the long life of anything that is published on the web and the long reach of Google’s spiders. Someone asked by their child to let them join Dinokids is very likely to Google it before giving an answer and my inaccuracies would have influenced their decision.

So, I’m just putting this out there for the record and as a reminder to other bloggers: Just because we don’t work for The New Yorker doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time to get our facts straight.


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