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Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

It all started when I was climbing the conning tower of the UK’s latest nuclear submarine.  Yes – you’ve guessed it. HMS Astute. My knee not so much gave way as disappeared out of my leg completely.  And that was it – over twenty years of freelance journalism and poor workplace ergonomics (I work from home) were catching up with me. Musculo-skeletal disorders were rearing their pretty ugly heads. Along with a rather peculiar form of adrenaline-aversion which is triggered particularly by deadlines. And deadlines – as we all know – are an essential tool in journalistic productivity.

‘No work’ was not an option and ‘Less desk-bound work’ and ‘using my expertise’ were imperatives.  And – with unusual foresight as opposed to journalistic crisis management – I just happened some time ago to have taken a coaching course. So now, I was able to re-jig my career – for the fourth time if you include motherhood.

I still do occasional medical journalism assignments and I’m working on a series of short stories and a novel.  But, since 2005, when I founded the Lonely Furrow Company, a new world has opened up. Trained in co-active coaching, NLP and transactional analysis, I am now a writing coach.

As a result, clients ask for my help with projects ranging from novels to academic theses. And tricky but common writing coaching problems  include writers’ block, time management and work life balance, where to find ideas, how to handle feedback and how to write a book proposal.

But, it doesn’t stop there. I improve people’s communication skills – personal and professional – by drawing on my eclectic knowledge of literature and my Masters in Sociolinguistics. Communication impacts on human relationships and the simple equation is: better communication skills = better relationships. Of course, other aspects such as shared values and a GSH help. But communication contributes here too.

Within the Lonely Furrow Company stable, there is also the workshop facilitation service, Out of the Box Workshops. Some workshops on offer embrace creative writing for personal development – such as memoir writing and journaling – writing coaching, creativity and opportunities for peer review. Others deal with media coaching issues such as how to write a winning press release or how to give a good account of yourself, your work and your organisation when interviewed by the media. Other presentations deal with corporate interests such as the role of communication in leadership and team building and yet more, deal with the highly-charged areas of family breakdown and healthcare.

And I am a storyteller. I use story to help people reflect on their personal and professional lives. And I train others in the use of story. Clients for these workshops range from healthcare workers to family lawyers to organisational leaders.

In fact, put simply, I tell stories for a living and help others to do the same. And this – in the brave new world of the economic downturn – is what retirement means.

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Out of the Box Writing Workshops are changing!  Based on a blend of feedback from participants and my desire to give you the most effective format, Out of the Box writing workshops will now be a monthly event – to give you time between sessions to practice what I’ve preached.  But, in future, these workshops will also allow for more ‘reading’ and critiquing time.  This means they will now last for three hours – instead of two as previously.

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At my workshop yesterday we thought about the writing process including inspiration, where to find it and what to do with it when you have.  The workshop participants were creative writers but the process applies to pretty much any kind of writing.

We identified the writing process involves:

P – Preparation of yourself as a writer

  • Fitness – mental, emotional and psychological, physical.  Look at your working environment, your workstation, your general fitness levels.  You have to be strong to be a writer.
  • Writers’ Block – is this a reluctance to commit, evidence of a conscious vs unconscious struggle or inertia induced by panic?
  • Work/Life Balance.  When did you last see your father?

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Guidelines

1. Content: keep it simple

  • 250 words maximum, 1 page only, plain text.
  • Human interest – leave out graphs. (For business stories, include figures to illustrate performance or turnover).  Always find the human angle – death, tragedy, triumph over tragedy.  Remember money, food, health and sex sell newspapers.  That you have set up a new company is not enough (too much like advertising (advertorial).  So find a people story.
  • Details regarding people – name (properly spelled), age, occupation, marital status, location.  Some or all of these.
  • Topic Stories – can you relate your story to something happening now e.g. credit crunch, volcanic ash, bonfire night etc.
  • Beginning, middle, end, answering the questions: who, when, where, what, why and how (and how much, if appropriate).
  • What makes your release/event/story different?
  • Think locally, nationally, globally…
  • Timely – react to the news pages.
  • Editors’ notes: clearly marked and at end of piece (very useful), these explain all that cannot appear in the body of the text, including who you are and what your company does.

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We all need communication skills.  Relationships would flounder without them. And Management Guru Stephen Covey made communication the fifth in his pantheon of seven habits of effective people.  It is, he says, the glue of relationships.  And it comprises being able to read, write, speak and listen.  However, to these four, there are, I believe, three further subtle additions to be made.  These comprise:

  • Body language – its use and interpretation
  • Rapport-building
  • Tact – which involves choosing the right code to express what you want to say to whom and when. Remaining silent is an extension of this.

Develop these skills and you’ll succeed in developing your own facility for empathy.

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As a writer, the search for a value system may not seem relevant to you but it is – and not just ‘relevant’, ‘central’. Even if you’re surprised you have any values, the first step as always is to identify them.  Let’s see what comes up.

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On January 1st, some people start off the year with a bright new notebook.  “This is the year I’m going to write my journal every day, “they think.  Then, around January 6th – and, co-incidentally, Epiphany – they find their journaling has ground to a halt.  There’s too much to do.  They have too little to say.  Or so they think.

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