Considering Emotions, Part 1: When Writing to Others

List of EmotionsWriting has a lot to do with understanding basic psychology. If we want our characters to be well rounded, or our copy to be genuine, the best place to start is by exploring natural human emotions and responses.

If you are somewhat new, or even rusty, on the subject of psychology consider checking out the links listed on this website: Psychology and Society

Of course, to some extent we all have a basic understanding of emotions, but with our busy schedules and the advent of technology, it’s often difficult to truly feel “in tune” with our emotions, let alone the emotions of others.

Sometimes the best way to get in touch with our own emotions is through journaling. I try to make it a habit to journal as much as possible. If you don’t have time to keep a journal, try taking moments throughout the day to check in with yourself and assess your feelings.

Finally, before you are about to write, Google search for a list of emotions. Sometimes I will just look at the image results and find the various charts to be helpful.

It might seem silly to read these lists of familiar words, but it can honestly help to put you in the right mindset for brainstorming. In this first post of a two post series we will explore the importance of considering emotions when writing for others.

Emotions You Want Them to Feel:

When you are writing something like a blog post, email campaign, TV commercial, etc think about what kinds of emotions you want your reader/listener to feel. What kind of language can you use to leave your audience feeling jubilant, hopeful, energized, or nostalgic?

Of course, deciding which emotion to draw upon depends on how much creative license you possess. If you are given an assignment in which you are unsure what kind of emotion you should look to draw out of your reader, consider the company for which you are writing and get a feel for the tone of their brand.

Emotions They May Already be Feeling:

Sometimes writers forget to consider what their audience might already be feeling – this notion is just as important to consider as what you would like for the reader to feel. Of course, we can’t read minds, and we shouldn’t try to pander to every possible emotion – this leaves no one satisfied. Instead, think about what your reader or listener might be doing when they come across your work.

For example, if you are writing an email, consider that your reader may be feeling stressed, overwhelmed, tired, etc. In this case, you’ll want to create only short, useful copy. Also, make sure your information is well organized so you take away any extra work for your reader.

What kinds of emotions do you consider when writing to others? How does this consideration change the way you write? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Stay tuned for Part 2 – Considering Emotions When Creating Characters. 

Image Credit: Tracy Rosen

But Isn’t Writing Easy?

easy-buttonI was recently out with friends when we began talking to a new group of people. I introduced myself to a gentleman in the group and the inevitable question came up, “what do you do?”.

He had mentioned that he did something pertaining to finance or business – I can’t quite remember, but at the time I showed interest. When I explained that I’m a writer, he made a face and said, “But isn’t that easy?”.

No I didn’t meet this young lad at a Mensa meeting, or a meeting of tactful people at that, but I did begin to wonder how many people really perceive writing as “easy”.

I was an English major in college. Growing up I always loved reading and was doted on by teachers for my writing skills. Despite a natural draw to literature and the writing process, I still often loathe writing. To be honest, the writing process makes me sick sometimes – I mean actual, physical sickness. Why is this?

For me, writing is hard work! Sometimes I literally sweat while I write. Writhing to put down the right words. Face reddened. Does this happen to you as well, Mod Writer? Or should I simply consider a new anti-persperant?

I was really struggling with this whole idea when I came across this quote from Thomas Mann:

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” -Thomas Mann

Perhaps it’s normal as a writer, with our perfectionist mentality, to find writing to be a chore. To be truly pleased with our final product, we often have to reach deep down to extract our best work. It’s exhausting, and at times overwhelming, but I think that the payoff comes when we know that what’s been created has come from our own true, hard work.

Do you find writing to be easy? Have you ever had someone say something like this to you about your career? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Image Credit: Travel Blog Advice 

Don’t Expect to Write Amazing Copy Unless…

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Does it seem like everyone is writing these days? Whether someone is putting out an e-book or hyping their blog through social media, it just appears that people have something to write about.

Of course, I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Writing is therapeutic – it helps us connect more closely with our thoughts, sometimes unearthing feelings we were previously unaware we held.

But how is it that there are only a small percentage of blogs or books that really gain a following?

When I consider writing or reading a great book, blog, or piece of prose, I’m reminded of a quote from Stephen King:

You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.” – Stephen King

Perhaps I’m a romantic when it comes to writing and literature, but I think this quote rings true. How can one expect to give someone an experience that they themselves have yet to encounter?

Writing is laborious, and tough at that! Hemingway likened the process to bleeding. But it’s a labor of passion, perfection, inspiration, and ultimately love.

I believe that even if you have at one point in your life felt swept away by another person’s writing, that you should do your best to frequently renew that feeling. Seek out inspiration as much as possible.

Lately my inspiration has been Margaret Atwood, specifically her work Helen of Troy does Countertop Dancing. I love the juxtaposition of a Greek Goddess working in a modern club –  feminism, mythology, psychology, and politics all manage to find their place inside this idea. I highly recommend giving it a read.

What writing has swept you off your feet lately? Share in the comments! 

Image Credit: Technapex.com 

How to Write When You Know Nothing About Your Topic

8713536236_b78418ba99The beauty of the Internet is its ability to connect people to the information or product they need. As a modern writer you may be called upon to craft copy about a plethora of topics of which you may not be familiar, but for which you might be expected to produce expert level work.

So how do you magically become a subject matter expert on orthopedic prosthetics when you’re barely even sure what that entails? Here’s what I do when a client asks me to write about a topic with which I am unfamiliar.

Communicate With the Client

Make sure you have a clear understanding of what the client is expecting from the finished product. Obviously, they shouldn’t be looking for you to produce an academic journal on cold fusion if you don’t have a background in that area, so don’t be afraid to ask additional questions.

Ask your client if he or she could produce some examples of work that they would like you to emulate. Are there specific industry topics you should focus on? Ideally these things would be communicated to you; however, especially when work is outsourced, it’s easy for company insiders to forget that you aren’t as up to speed with the business as they are. Asking questions in the beginning saves time for both parties.

Research

Now that you’ve hopefully gotten some more information on what kind of work your client is expecting, it’s time to do some research. Check out websites from other leaders in the industry. It’s a bonus if they have social media sites such as Twitter because then you can see what kinds of topics they are  following or talking about.

If your client has a website, glean as much information from there as you can. If your client doesn’t have a website, you should turn to Google to find more information on the topic. Be prudent when using Google, make sure where you’re getting your information from is a trusted source.  Just because a site is first in the list of search results on Google doesn’t mean it’s legitimate. Sometimes you have to research your research.

You Won’t Be an Expert – Do Your Best

You can’t be an expert in just a day or week, but you can do your best in your area of expertise: writing. You were hired because you can write and make things sound good, so do that as best you can. Don’t spend too much time researching. If you’re really unclear on what to write, research as much as you can then give your best work quickly so that you can at least turn something in. Edits or revisions can be made later on.

Don’t let an unfamiliar topic stop you from the practice of writing. It’s challenging to take on new subjects when writing, but with some reading comprehension and confidence in your abilities things should fall into place.

What steps do you take when you are asked to write on an unfamiliar subject? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Photo Credit: Keegan

Themes That Scare You: Poe and the Heart

Perhaps it’s the looming approach of October and all the spooky festivities the month brings, but lately I’ve had my mind on Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve always admired his work, especially his belief that a short story should be read in a single sitting.

Though tales of darkness and images of creepy character spring to mind when I consider Poe’s work, I recently realized that there seems to be a recurring theme in his works and quotes: the heart.

It’s as if Poe was haunted by the heart; bot the physical and metaphorical heart. Where do we see this theme take place in his work and life, what is the underlying idea that creates intrigue within his audience?

An Unexplainable Force:

Sometimes I’m terrified of my heart; of it’s constant hunger for whatever it is it wants. the way it stops and starts.” -Edgar Allan Poe

The way Poe personifies the physical human heart here is provocative and eery in Poe’s own crafty manner. We get the sense that the heart is a driving and mysterious force with a will we are helpless against. What does the heart want? What keeps it beating and why does it beat? Asking these questions is human nature, but Poe explicitly admits to being “terrified” of the heart, demonstrating his own reverence for the entity inside us all.

Its Power Over Our Mind:

I was never really insane, except upon occasions when my heart was touched.” -Edgar Allan Poe

Here Poe is speaking about the figurative, “feelings” heart. Again, the human is not in control of his or her heart’s feelings. Poe implies that even the mind can be taken captive by the heart, with the outcome of insanity. It’s a gripping quote, and certainly one that most everyone can relate with. Who hasn’t felt a bit “crazy” from anger, love, jealousy, etc?

A Haunting, Ugly Conscience:

It is the beating of his hideous heart!” -The Tell Tale Heart

Poe’s heart theme is no more obvious than in his short story, ‘The Tell Tale Heart’. The heart takes on a couple of roles in this story. The beating of the neighbor’s heart acts as a will for the neighbor, and as a kind of conscience for the narrator.

Despite lack of a pulse, which the narrator is sure to check, the neighbor’s heart continues to beat – as if calling for vengeance. The increasingly loud beat of the heart leads the narrator to confess to the murder. Despite all his attempts to repress the beat (will) of the heart, the narrator could not silence it.

As we welcome October, let’s ask ourselves what haunts us, and how does that surface in our writing? As evidenced by Poe, there is nothing wrong with fear, and its presence can inspire us to great works of art.

What scares, or intrigues, you enough to have become a driving theme in your writing? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

My Kingdom for a Comment!

A horse! A horse! My Kingdom for a horse” – Richard III, Shakespeare

This oft recognized quote from Shakespeare’s play is shouted by King Richard during the battle of Bosworth Field when he is knocked off his horse. Ultimately the King meets his demise in a duel against Richmond. It is Richard’s proclamation, made during the climax of the battle, that reminds me of the tactics we bloggers  succumb to in desperation for comments, likes, shares, etc.

Perhaps, like a king in battle, you are confidently riding on the field with your soldiers at your side – social media, SEO tactics, design. And you’ve even managed to keep a strong horse – a steady following with decent interaction on your posts. You feel strong and confident. You’ve even rallied your troops – sent out newsletters, tweets, updates, publicized to countless peers and colleagues.

But suddenly, your horse is weakened, and even taken from under you. Your soldiers are retreating, and it seems your battle cries are largely ignored. You cry louder for help – attempting to draw attention to yourself and your blog as much as possible – the sound of defeat and desperation filling the very air around you, becoming your only companion.

Now your enemy approaches, and your Achilles heel is marked with a bullseye – you’ve ignored your training in weaponry – the practice of creating new content. In all the effort, you realize that your sword has become dull from lack of use, and it’s no longer fit to fight off the enemy or protect your kingdom.

Unlike Richard, you have a chance to train. It’s a matter of partaking in the daily discipline of writing. If you are spending the majority of your time promoting your blog instead of writing, you are doing it wrong. Keep your strength and don’t give up! Make sure you are on top of all of your training, especially your swordsmanship (content), so when you are alone at the pinnacle of battle (writing),  set backs won’t leave you defenseless.

How much time do you spend promoting your blog, and how much time writing? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

 

Image Credit: oceansbridge

How to Quickly Create an Awesome Email Campaign

If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter”

With only seconds to impress your reader, it’s imperative to include only the most pertinent information, especially when you are creating an email campaign. Here are some tips for creating an email  that your users will actually want to read. I’ll be using a newsletter I received from Anthropologie as an example for this post.

Have a Theme

A theme is especially important if you send out several campaigns a month. People want to know right from the start what they’re getting themselves into by opening your email. You can be playful with the title, as long as there is some idea of what the newsletter is about.

Anthro Subject Line

In our example, we can see from the subject line (“Rooms, refreshed.”) that the email is going to be about new items that have been added to Anthropologie’s home decor.

Use Familiar Idioms

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 4.40.25 PMDon’t shy away from using familiar forms of speech to aid your story. Readers like to catch on to witticism, and familiar phrases create connections for your readers.

“Turning over a new leaf” connotes positivity and fresh starts. Notice the subtle switch in how the idiom is written though, the title is simply “new leaves” – this alone hints to the old saying, but, in the subtext, we see that the company is “turning over” their decor.  In this example, the word ‘leaves’ also coincides with the literal floral print on the chairs in the picture. This union of words and image is a perfect way to truly give your reader a story.

Tease

This is not the time to be overly descriptive. Not only does an email full of copy deter the average online speed reader, but it also takes away intrigue. Remember, your ultimate goal is sales, which means they have to at least get to your website, and they’ll only want to go to your website if you “flirt” out your most seductive information, tempting them to click your links. Sexy, right?

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“Handles, hooks, and hardware” – Well, I see handles, what are the hooks like? What kind of hardware? The handles in this picture are pretty, maybe there’s other things I need to see. Click. See how this can go?

Add Related Content

What else can you offer the reader that might interest them? Advice? A free e-book on the email’s subject? Subtly place a link to related content and you can bring in the clicks.

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Anthropologie added a small link for their related content – “wondering how to put this with that? shop by room”, but what an impact it could have on their potential customer!

All of this decor can be overwhelming for your average Jane trying to spruce up her abode, but clicking on this link could supply her with the inspiration to take her dwelling from drab to decoupage! Pretty brilliant.

Stay on Topic

It would be annoying if this email tried to “sneak” in a picture of one of the store’s new sweaters at the bottom. Even if the sweater was decorated with “leaves” – it still wouldn’t be conducive to the overall subject: new home decor. Placing additional products in the email would cheapen the company’s excitement for its new home products.  Remember to always stay on topic.

What are some tips you keep in mind while crafting copy for an email campaign? 

Fair is Foul – Switching Voices for Client Work

IMAG2227-1If you are like many modern writers today, you probably find yourself switching between several client projects a day. This might be a simple task for the less dedicated, underdeveloped writer, but not you. Your painstaking attention to detail and commitment to cohesive voice forbid you from blindly bouncing about projects like some hyperactive kangaroo. Nonetheless, you are a professional and the keys must type on.

Fair is foul and foul is fair” -Macbeth, Act I scene i

This famous quote from Shakespeare’s play reminds me of the practice of writing for different clients. One minute you’re writing for “foul”, the next minute for “fair”. But unlike the play, we don’t have witches casting spells on us to switch our mindsets.  So what can we do to rinse out the “damn spot” of the projects we’ve been working on and come back fresh and in tune with the current assignment?

Take Five

Much like actors rehearsing a play, take a five or ten minute break after completing an assignment and before switching to the next. During this time, don’t stay in the same spot. Stretch your legs, walk around, step outside for some fresh air. Let yourself literally leave your work behind. Consider it “done” – even if you have more work coming for that project.

Get into Character

You’ve probably heard of the crazy lengths that some of today’s actors go to in order to “become” the character they are portraying. Consider this your time to soak up everything about the business or project for which you are writing. Just absorb the company voice by reading over its existing copy. While you’re reading, keep in mind the overall goals of the company and its audience.

Rehearse

Start tying it all together and just write out your thoughts. Consider creating an outline to help direct your thoughts into a simpler form, then expand from there. Remember, it’s just your rehearsal, the rough draft. Revision comes next.

Break a Leg

Make your final revisions and send it off to the client. If you don’t get a standing ovation, don’t worry. Plays are performed more than once, and each night is a new chance to make it the best.

 

What do you do to refocus when you switch between projects? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Once Upon an Infographic

There was a time when writers could just write, but not so for you, Mod Writer. To have the competitive edge you must be versed in technology as well; see also: SEO, content management systems, social media, and infographics.

Have you been tasked with the creation of an infographic, or are you wanting to create one for your personal blog? If you aren’t familiar with Photoshop or the like, you may want to check out these sites that allow you to easily create beautiful infographics for free.

Easel.ly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PiktoChart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Infogram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visually

A Pound of Flesh for Your Article

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We are seeing a shift in the nation’s appreciation for relevant content online. New job titles are appearing in the form of “content writers”, “brand associates”, “content marketers”, and more.

It’s a celebratory time for those whose craft is word smithing. A once under appreciated talent is now being put into the spotlight as “king”. But despite an appreciation of good, cohesive copy, the work behind the results is often misunderstood or overlooked.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. -Ernest Hemingway

How deeply does this quote resonate with you, the modern writer? I find myself embodying this quote every time I sit down to write. It’s a terrible mixture of passion and torture.

My thought for you today is this: If you are writing an article that calls for a pound of your flesh, are you bleeding for it?

Image credit: Althewebmaster