Stop Using Weak Words

Good morning, an extra special bonus link today!

Photo credit: Jon Clegg (Creative Commons)

Jeff Goins is a fine writer, and even better at sharing the craft of writing. You can definitely count me in his tribe. His site is a must-read for those of us looking to hone our art. Today I came across a post about using words that weaken your writing. It is a useful list, and I highly recommend you read it. Whatever your writing is about, its helpful to be able to do it well and effectively. This will help.

Five Weak Words that Make Your Writing Less Effective


Just Start

Creative Commons via Jake & Lindsey Sherbert

Hello everyone, it has been a few days since I posted. I’ve been running, travelling, and visiting family. I’m actually writing this in my old bedroom of my parents house. Yes, everything is wonderful between me and my wife, that’s not why I’m in my old room. I’m on the road giving presentations for Camp Rockmont, and have been able to spend a couple days here. I know you were all dying to know those details, why would I even think you would? Well, let’s start there.

Writing has become enough of a practice for me over the past several weeks that when I don’t do it for a few days, I miss it. I get antsy, thinking about essays and topics to present. That feeling is also present when I don’t exercise or read for a few days. So that’s a good sign. The problem is that right now it’s 12:48 am, I’m tired, and want to go to bed. But that’s how I felt last night, and will probably feel the next 3-4 nights. Trying to come up with a good topic or inspiration in that frame of mind is difficult. But that’s ok, because it’s not always flowing prose and witty dialogue when any of us sit down to write. I even when over to my list of idea drafts, ready to remember and be inspired. That didn’t happen. I stared at them, trying to remember what the heck I was talking about in that idea. Then I felt a brief peace, and had the thought “Matt, just start, and see where it goes”.

So here I am, seeing where this goes. That’s why I started with a few details from the past few days. I needed a starting point. I can tell this is going to be one of those terrible essays about nothing that make people cancel their email subscription. I apologize, but I needed to write. We will all have these days and nights where the work isn’t happening, it’s just not our day or simply our moment (because in fact, I’ve had a great day). I planned on writing this evening, on sitting down and taking my time with an essay. But then I ended up talking with my parents for 2 hours about all kinds of things. That was important, I needed to do that and it was great to talk with them for that long. We don’t get the chance to do that very much anymore. A lesson in that is, maybe you don’t always get to do what you planned on, even if it’s good and important work. Because there can be just as important work, even more so, waiting in a good conversation.

Regardless of that, I still felt I needed to write today. Because on top of all that goodness I experienced throughout the day, I wasn’t quite done. I hope you can all keep that in mind too, that if you feel that you still have work or writing to do in a day, especially an intentional hobby like writing, that you make the commitment to making that part of your day. Because there is a cumulative effect to putting it off another day. The act of writing, or drawing, or woodworking, or exercising, becomes easier to say no to when you’ve practiced saying no for multiple days. You don’t have to do any of these things, but if it’s important you, if you love it, you will be compelled to sit down, and just start.

Let’s see what happens when you do.

Visual Example of Generating Blog Topics

Before you is a visual example of a 30 minute process on generating subjects, themes, topics, and intentions for your blog. A big thanks to Jeff Goins for putting these lessons together (if you didn’t get on his Intentional Blogging program, bummer).

What matters to you and why are you sharing it through an online presence? There are many things for me, as you see in the subject field. This process helped me narrow the subject down to actionable steps and topics, generating a flurry of ideas for posts. I hope that seeing how I went about it helps you guys do the same. If you would like the original photo file, just let me know in the comments, but you should just be able to right click and ‘save as’. Enjoy!

Blogging Lesson #1 - Focus

Anything is Possible

When did we lose our collective sense of the possible? Really, anything can happen at any time. I didn’t think September 11, 2001 was different from any other day, walking to class as a senior in High School. Or the day in 10th grade when I was introduced to my future wife (5 years in May). How about the day I was suddenly the Head Coach of a girl’s lacrosse team, after 2 weeks of coaching experience?

Anything is possible. It’s a statement that can carry a lot of fear, but also a lot of power. When anything is possible, you can do things, initiate projects, make stuff matter. As you consider giving that homeless person a few minutes of your time, and some food, or someone you don’t know a ride, you could also miss a car wreck in the amount of time it takes you to pull over. I’m not trying to make you think about checks and balances and filling up your ledger with good deeds, but feeling a security in the fact that anything can happen.

In your work, community, church, family, the people who are making a difference are the ones who are ok with doing things and being present with others. It doesn’t always work out, no one is perfect. But wouldn’t you rather be working/playing/living with someone who is willing to do something, anything, to make a positive difference. I think we are more comfortable with them failing in the act of doing than those who never try to make a difference at all.

Handwritten Posts: Starting a Journal

I received a new moleskin journal for Christmas, courtesy of my brother and sister (wonderful people). I did have to finish up my last one, but was still putting of beginning this one. The art of beginning is a difficult one, and this is what I wanted to share with you. Enjoy!


(As an aside, I published this post at 10:25 pm EST. I have normally been publishing before 9:00 am. Any thoughts on which is better? It will be interesting to see if the stats change in any way. Please leave any thoughts/ideas in the comment box, thanks!)

5 Ways to Keep Posting Regularly

On Tuesday, I wrote about pushing through the Dip, or when the novelty has worn off and you need to figure out whether you really want to keep doing – “ya know, whatever it is ya do around here” – Bobs style.

I digress. Here are 5 ways that I try and keep the ideas flowing, and make sure that I don’t get 4-5 days in to a dip without anything to write about.

  1. Write down your ideas – This seems obvious, but you need to do it. Put it in your phone, carry a scrap of paper around, a field notes book in your pocket, whatever. I can’t tell you how many ideas have slipped my mind because I thought about it, and didn’t write it down. We are bombarded with information every day, and your idea probably will not make the cut. Write ’em down.
  2. Outline your idea in a first draft – When possible, take your idea from where you put it, and make a shitty first draft (click to read, and thank you Anne Lamott). Just get it all out there, and edit later. It may take a hundred words of crap to get to what you want.
  3. Write multiple posts a day – If you’re in the zone, keep writing. Just like you’ll have days where it’s a struggle, you’ll have some days where everything just flows out naturally, and you’ll feel like you can hardly type fast enough to get everything down. Of course, these days are rare, so take advantage of them!
  4. Stick to a schedule – Now, you must resist the urge to post multiple times a day (unless you’re a big deal and writing is all you do). Personally, I want to post 3-4 times a week, or every other day. This gives me a solid 15 posts a month, which isn’t too overwhelming for me or the good folks who subscribe. If I fill up their inbox 4 times one day, and then don’t post for a week, that has to be annoying. Be consistent. All of these steps build on each other, and give you content to write about when you’re in a dip.
  5. Ask for help (guest posts, reader requests) – Finally, be willing to ask for help. I’m sure someone would be willing to guest post for you, or do a poll to discover what  topics your readers would like for you to cover. Likely they will ask about something in your sphere of knowledge, or they won’t, and you can expand that sphere. A great part is you’re getting involved with people.

Incidentally, this post followed the rules listed. I thought of it a week ago, wrote it down on my phone, drafted, edited, and waited. As life turns out, the topic actually meshes with yesterday’s post on the dip, and is a nice segue.

I hope these rules help you out with your writing, and I believe they can help in work as well. For instance, keep a running file or word doc of your ideas, and keep throwing a couple out every meeting. Nobody wants to hear all 10 of your ideas at once, and you don’t want to implement 10 ideas starting tomorrow. Just get a couple out there each week, and get ready to make something happen!

What are some of the rules you follow for staying consistent in work, creativity, and life?

Daily Practice: Swimming Lessons vs The Shallow Area

The Child and the Ocean

photo via Daniele Sartori (Creative Commons)

My daily spiritual practice book for 2012 is A Year with C.S. Lewis, and I have already posted from it once here. The past few day’s readings have been thought-provoking, and I wanted to share it with you.

St John of the Cross once compared God to the ocean. To us, the oceans are the most vast, deep, and mysterious places on Earth. We still don’t know all about it, even with all our new technology. Yet what a speck it is compared to God! The temptation for us as Christians, is that since we acknowledge the ocean, are simply content to wade in to the shallow end, splash around, and enjoy the feelings of God spraying around us. We can do just fine there for the rest of our lives, having a little God, the spirit swirling around our knees. But we are still close enough to shore, to the temporal pleasures and things we hold on to in this life. Our castles made of sand. Of course the ocean can rise up at any time and wash our sand castles away, but most of the time it seems that it does not. Because to do that would make us see how fleeting they are, and how powerful the ocean is. But we hang on to our lifelines, and keep building.

The other option is to take swimming lessons. Sure, they’re awkward, you’ll choke on some water, and you’ll mostly feel uncomfortable for a long time. Then you’ll begin to swim, and feel that you can go a little deeper, perhaps make it out to the sandbar, then continue on. We become fully immersed in the ocean, and even though we cannot see when the next island or sandbar will appear, those are no longer ours to plan for.

In the Christian life, we can take swimming lessons by reading the Bible, attending the community church, sharing with others, having spiritual mentors, seeking out the poor, and daily showing up to swim. The idea of the ocean in spiritual life is quite apt, because God calls us to be fully immersed.

This idea also has application besides your spiritual life, because what ever you are passionate about will require that you become immersed in it. For writing, sports, eating well, your work, relationships, or whatever, do you want to learn how to swim, or are you comfortable piddling about in the shallow area?

What are your oceans, and are you taking swimming lessons? I would enjoy hearing your stories. Have a great day.