There are three parts to a really great blog post. Thinking, writing and editing.
“Thinking” is where you need to start if you want to write that article. Thinking abhors a vacuum. The inspiration has to come from reading journeys that stir the neurons and stimulate the emotions.
Stephen King said. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
“Writing” is doing the work. Putting pen to paper and fingers to the keyboard.
Maugham reckoned another, deeper truth: that by performing the mundane physical act of sitting down and starting to work, he set in motion a mysterious but infallible sequence of events that would produce inspiration, as surely as if the goddess had synchronized her watch with his. He knew if he built it, she would come.
So strap yourself in, turn off the social networks, close down your email and start the mundane action.
“Editing” is both painful and joyful.
It involves wrangling the words and phrases into shape so that it says what you mean and means what you say. Removal and banishment of visible thoughts is the art of editing.
It was William Faulkner who said, “In writing, you must kill your darlings.”
You gave birth to them and your emotional investment is high. You have become attached.
So take some advice from the best writers about thinking, writing and editing your blog.
“Writing is thinking on paper” – William Zinsser, Author of “On Writing Well”
1. People who think well write well.
The tall, slim and elegant original Mad Man, David Ogilvy, famously said, “Wooly minded people write woolly minded memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.” And of course, nowadays they write woolly blogs and woolly content as well. Take some time to research, plan and think about what you will write.
2. Write what you know … or what you want to know
Forget the rule “write about what you know”. Instead, write about what you’d like to know, or what you need to know to succeed. English author Michael Morpurgo recommends seeking out an area of expertise that will enhance your understanding of the world and write about that. Blogging is a perfect opportunity to learn all the things you’ve ever wanted to know. The world is a big place and there are a lot of people out there wondering the same things as you.
3. Write what you’d like to read
“If you wouldn’t read it why would anyone else?” – Hilary Mantel
If you blog about something you would love read chances are you will find readers who feel the same. Best to write only when you have something to say because if you wouldn’t read it, neither will they.
“Write. Put one word after another. Find the right word. Put it down.” – Neil Gaiman
4. Get on with it
British Author Helen Simpson is typical of many established writers. The only rule she follows is a quote scribbled on a post it note stuck to her computer. It says “Faire et se taire” which Google translates as ‘Be silent and do’. Simpson interprets it as “Just shut up and get on with it.”
5. Trust the Gush
“Don’t look back until you’ve written an entire draft” – Will Self
Like the girl in the scary urban legend, if you look back you might see something to make you panic. While it may not be your boyfriend’s head on a stick, the inexorable dread of reviewing what you have just written can be just as frightening.
Welsh writer Sarah Waters describes it as a “bowel-curdling terror”, as she contemplates “the drivel on the screen and sees beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends’ embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce . . “
This from a famous and respected writer…. Don’t look back.
6. Be Unique. Be a real person
“Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard” – John Grisham
Finding your own voice is an ongoing quest for most writers. That means letting go of the edge and discarding the beige voice prized by business, government and academic institutions. William Zinsser calls it “standing out among the robots”. In this case the robots are the content mills and bloggers churning out posts that nobody wants to read.
7. Go to the movies
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass”. – Anton Chekhov
Readers understand much better when they can “see” what you are talking about; it’s called painting a word picture. Bloggers can learn from the movies. Novelist Rose Tremain suggests using cinema as a guide to being economic with descriptions, using telling (rather than lifeless) detail and dialogue that people would actually speak. Think cinematically.
8. Talk to a friend
Jonathan Franzen imagines chatting to a friend as he taps his novels on his keyboard. James Patterson takes it a step further. He imagines a friend who looks ready to get up at any moment and only the intrigue of the story is keeping him there. Every sentence counts.
“Editing is everything. Cut until you can cut no more. What is left often springs to life.” – Esther Freud
That friend can stay only until the editing process. Zadie Smith recommends saying goodbye quickly, figuratively replacing her with a stranger, or even better with an enemy, to read the work with the most critical eye possible.
9. Cut out the boring parts and delete unnecessary words
“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” Elmore Leonard
Vigorous writing is concise. Avoid redundant words and flowery phrases. As a first step remove every “very”, “actually” and “extremely”. Remove any part that you know readers will want to skip.
10. Don’t be afraid to change your mind
“Good ideas are often murdered by better ones.” Roddy Doyle
Sometimes what you are really writing about only becomes apparent after you start writing. Roddy Doyle was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then he decided to call them The Commitments.
The final word on this blog post goes to G.K Chesterton, known during his heyday in early 20th CenturyBritain as a man of “colossal genius”.
“I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”
Guest Author: Margaret Pincus works in digital communications and also teaches writing/journalism at Griffith University. She blogs at bloghappy.com.au
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Hurricane Sandy left behind a full range of lasting and miserable effects. For some New York neighborhoods, one Sandy’s toughest legacies is mold. Nasty, smelly, irritating, and persistent, the forest of mold now growing in the basement apartments of the Rockaways is a discouraging and pernicious problem.
A grassroots volunteer group called Respond & Rebuild has made mold its top priority, and they’re attacking it with a basic arsenal: wire brushes, detergent, and elbow grease. Coastal Connection caught up with organizer Terri Bennett by phone in February. Bennett says there are thousands of homes in the affected boroughs of New York that have serious mold infestations. And she says homeowners are often at a loss about how to deal with the problem.
“We are an organization that uses volunteer labor to do various things in the recovery process,” Bennett explained. “In the beginning that meant we were shoveling out homes, cleaning debris, and gutting homes. And now we are really focused on mold remediation because it’s something that most people’s insurance doesn’t cover and it’s something that contractors can charge a lot of money for. So we provide mold remediation for people who can’t afford it, so that they rebuild safely and don’t just put up sheet rock over untreated wood that’s been saturated.”
Homeowners were surprised by the severity of the mold problem, says Bennett. “We started clearing out homes and gutting them, and we started talking to people about what to expect in terms of mold. And they were not prepared for what they were going to have to do. I mean, we were in a lot of homes where we came in and said ‘Hey, do you guys need some help cleaning out?’ and we wound up hugging homeowners who were in tears, because they didn’t understand that cleaning out after a hurricane meant gutting their first floor.”
“We had to do a lot of talking with people to convince them that we needed to take out all the sheet rock two feet above the waterline,” Bennett says. “But people who did not have their homes gutted right away, once things were gutted — you know, it stayed moist here for a long time and in the worst homes that we’ve seen, we walk in and it looks like cotton candy growing off the wall.”
The group’s methods are simple, but effective. It starts with drying out the houses: “If the house is already gutted,” says Bennett, “we come in and do some moisture readings to see how dry the house is. And we bring in some large industrial dehumidifiers, and heaters if people don’t have heat. We dry out until the wood is at 12% moisture content. For some people that takes three days. For places that are wetter, it can take seven days.” A rotating crew checks on the houses each day to monitor progress.
Next comes cleaning. “The actual remediation for the size houses that we are normally doing takes about three days,” says Bennett. “We use wire brushes and detergent. We brush down every bit of the structural wood that has to stay in the house. And we wipe everything down with detergent.” Respond & Rebuild uses a cleaning agent called Benefect (http://www.benefect.com), but Bennett says, “you can use a number of different kinds of detergents. Sometimes we use detergent mixed with Borax.” Once the building is thoroughly scrubbed and dried, it’s ready for reconstruction.
“We think the most effective method of mold remediation is also the cheapest and most accessible,” says Bennett. “But it’s just very labor-intensive — because scrubbing every single surface of the home with a wire brush is not fast. It’s not as fast as a fogger; it’s not as fast as a power-washer. But based on our research, it’s actually more effective than those methods.”
Respond & Rebuild’s method is based on advice from university experts in the area, as well as on the practical experience of volunteers who worked in remediation after other storms, says Bennett. “We were able to get someone here who did extensive work in Katrina,” she says, and he showed us research studies that looked at different homes that had been done in different methods — looking at them when they were done, and then looking at them months later to see what had happened. And we cross-referenced that by talking with experts at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College in the city, and at Long Island University.”
Respond & Rebuild is funded with private donations. In the early going, the group got in-kind donations of the tools and equipment they needed by signing up on the Amazon bridal registry set up by Occupy Sandy, a net roots relief group that grew out of Occupy Wall Street. And they raised about $40,000 with an online campaign on the “crowd funding” website indiegogo.com, says Bennett. On Saturday, March 2, 120 volunteers showed up to help, Bennett reports — college students on spring break. “For years now, people have been going down to work on Katrina recovery in New Orleans on spring break,” she says. “Now the kids from the Northeast colleges are starting to come here instead.”
Asking prices of homes listed for sale on real estate portal Trulia.com in February were up from a year ago in 90 of the 100 largest U.S. metros, according to a monthly report from Trulia released today.
The report, which covers roughly 4.5 million for-sale and for-rent properties listed on Trulia through Feb. 28, showed asking prices up 7 percent from a year ago, and growing by a seasonally adjusted 1.4 percent from January to February — the biggest month-over-month gain since the housing recession began.
February 2013 Trulia asking price summary
Time period Change in asking prices Change in asking prices, excluding foreclosures No. of 100 largest metros with list-price increases Month-over-month 1.4% 1.6% (N/A) Quarter-over-quarter 3.0% 3.5% 92 Year-over-year 7.0% 7.4% 90
Source: Trulia. Monthly and quarterly increases are seasonally adjusted.
Despite these asking price increases, inventory will remain tight throughout 2013, said Trulia’s chief economist, Jed Kolko.
“The inventory turnaround depends not only on how fast prices are rising today, but also whether prices have been rising long enough to encourage homeowners to sell and builders to build,” Kolko said in a statement.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – The state has partnered with a not-for-profit group to restore energy efficiency to eligible low-income Staten Island homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
While some homeowners have started – and in some cases finished – repairing their homes, many others are still living with severely damaged basements, eroded pipes and waterlogged walls.
Now, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) EmPower New York program has enlisted the Community Environmental Center (CEC), a Queens nonprofit that brings energy efficiency to New York City residents, to assist with post-Sandy relief efforts for low-income homeowners in storm-battered areas in the city, including Staten Island.
“There are enormous needs in these communities, which Governor [Andrew] Cuomo is addressing through a number of efforts,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., president and CEO of NYSERDA. “EmPower NY is one way that NYSERDA can help.”
Through the initiative, CEC and EmPower NY will provide certain energy-efficiency services at no cost, including insulation, heating system upgrades, high-efficiency lighting, carbon monoxide testing, the replacement of inefficient refrigerators and freezers with high-efficiency models, and strategic air sealing to keep out the winter cold.
“This program can help people affected by the storm by providing insulation for their walls and roofs, energy-efficient refrigerators, and heating systems upgrades,” said Richard Cherry, CEC president. “We hope to bring additional comfort and energy efficiency, so these New Yorkers can continue to get on with their lives.”
To qualify for the program, homeowners must earn at or below 60 percent of the state median income, which is:
- $25,656 for households with one person;
- $33,552 for households with two people;
- $49,436 for households with four people.
EmPower doesn’t provide funding for repairs paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), insurance or other programs. But in cases where program reimbursements don’t cover the full cost of repairs or high-efficiency equipment, EmPower can pay the additional cost, provided the work is performed by a participating EmPower contractor.
Low-income home owners who wish to apply for EmPower NY assistance can call Community Environmental Center at 718-784-1444 or e-mail Carol Wiggins at email@example.com.
Generation Y is getting older, they’re buying homes and they are now starting to improve and remodel the homes they own. As more and more of them grow older the number of Gen Y homeowners will quickly grow. Therefore, they will quickly become a major share of the potential prospects for remodelers and other contractors. In an earlier blog about prequalifying and selling to Generation Y, I discussed the fact that members of Gen Y are used to getting information instantly and for free using key word Google searches to find internet content. Technology and the internet have definitely defined how Generation Y does all their research and makes their remodeling or home improvement buying decisions. Having a contractor web site and what is put on it for information will make or break whether Gen Y prospects will be doing business with a remodeling contractor or not.
There are two ways to think about the title of this blog
First, if you don’t have a web site, or if your site doesn’t offer the information Gen Y is looking for, they won’t bother with your business if another remodeler’s business does. Second, if your web site doesn’t explain how you do business as well as the kind of projects your willing to do, internet savvy gen Y remodeling prospects will move on. Remember, they’re probably not going to call you to find these things out. They’ll just go back to the Google search page and find another contractor’s site that does. So, if you want them to attract them and you want to motivate them to do business with your remodeling company you better make sure they find what they are looking for when they find your contractor web site.
“Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.
Wisdom is not using it in a fruit salad.”
What if you want them to go away?
Yes, you read that right. Not all Gen Y prospects will be right for a remodeler’s business. Their motivations to buy and what will be important to them may not be a match with what you offer, who you have on staff or how you do business. Working with the wrong customers can also compromise profits and might not be very satisfying for the business owner or employees. If you want to maintain a defined business process, and remain in control as you do business and produce your projects, you need to avoid working with customers who would probably be better off working with some other remodeling contractor.
To help Gen Y prospects prequalify themselves before they contact you (or for that matter prospects from any generation) make sure the content you put on your site has been strategically decided and written to serve this purpose. For example, if you charge for design services make that clear on your site. Or, if you won’t allow customers to provide any of their own materials make sure you discuss this fact on your web site. Conversely, to attract the right prospects, explain why you charge for design or won’t allow them to provide the materials. Blogging is a great way to accomplish these goals. Who knows, your logic might just discourage some prospects from wanting to provide their own materials or go with a contractor who offers free design!
Florida is known as the Sunshine State, but living there has a dark side, as the family of Jeff Bush discovered when the 36-year-old man was killed after a sinkhole opened beneath his house last week.
Authorities are now reporting the development of a second sinkhole in Seffner, Fla., just 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the sinkhole that destroyed the Bush home, according to NBC News.
Sinkholes are an increasingly deadly risk in Florida, due primarily to the region’s geology. The state is largely underlain by porous limestone, which can hold immense amounts of water in underground aquifers. As groundwater slowly flows through the limestone, it forms a landscape called karst, known for features like caves, springs and sinkholes.
The water in aquifers also exerts pressure on the limestone and helps to stabilize the overlying surface layer, usually clay, silt and sand in Florida. Sinkholes form when that layer of surface material caves in.
The collapse can be triggered by a heavy overload, often caused by a downpour or flooding, or when water gets pumped out of the ground. When water leaves the cavities within the limestone, the pressure that supported the surface material also goes. Depending on various factors, that overlying layer can give way abruptly, as it recently did in Florida, or gradually, said Ann Tihansky, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Florida. [See Amazing Photos of Sinkholes]
And Florida’s groundwater has been disappearing rapidly as the state’s population grows at breakneck speed: By 2015, Florida is expected to hit 20 million residents, making it the third-largest U.S. state, according to BusinessWeek.