Generalist or Specialist: Where Do You Fit?

What’s your opinion on being a specialist versus a generalist?

Do you think it’s best for a writer to focus in a single area or subject of interest and have a honed knowledge, or are there more opportunities for a writer who can write about anything and everything?

It’s a common quandry that all writers need to answer at least once. I find myself considering the options a couple times a year.

I admit to hearing more often than not that it’s beneficial for a writer to focus only 1 or 2 areas from the get-go — that becoming an expert in an area (or a couple areas) can lead to the most successful career.

The exceptions are journalists — and possibly ghost writers — who can make a living writing about a wide variety of topics.

Focusing on a single area and developing an expertise enables you to develop your platform as a writer.

And then once you have that platform established and start getting known for a particular area, writing opportunities within that area will find their way to you.

I admit it’s exciting to have work coming to you through different avenues rather than having to seek work out.

I haven’t selected a particular niche or area of expertise, probably because I’ve always enjoyed variety and have several years in journalism. I still enjoy trying different types of writing and learning about new products and technology.

Do you specialize? Or do you think being a generalist is the way to go?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

What Never Finishes What It Has to Say? A Classic

Can you believe that it’s December 1 already?

Honestly, where did this year go?

As one holiday is behind me and another is approaching, my mind has gone into holiday tradition mode. I know some people who look forward to the fun surprises of doing the daily reveal of an advent calendar.

Others who enjoy decorating or baking or having Christmas music playing all day long.

I know others who have favorite TV shows or movies they watch at least once each year at this time.

Knowing the words and songs verbatim is not a deterrent; it’s comforting and familiar.

What is it that we love so much about particular traditions, movies, stories, or books?

What is it about the classics that draw us back time and time again?

I found an answer recently that, funny enough, answers that question for me.

AClassic_HasNeverFinished

It’s so true, isn’t it?

A Christmas Carol pops into my head, as does It’s a Wonderful Life and even A Christmas Story.  No matter how many times I hear the words, read the words, or see productions (TV or stage), there’s something slightly new each time.

There are so many ‘classics’ out there; these are just a couple on my mind for the Christmas season.

What classics can you read, listen to, or watch over and over again?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Here Are Some People to Inspire You to Write

We’re nearing the end of National Novel Writing Month and entering the season of giving thanks, so I thought I’d share a few presentations by writers to inspire you.

These are TED Talks – short (~20 minutes) inspirational talks you can find on YouTube for just about any topic you’d like.

Writing books: Elizabeth Gilbert – your elusive creative genius (author of Eat, Pray, Love)

We’re all creative.

ElizabethGilbert

Storytelling: Andrew Stanton – clues to a great story (Filmmaker – Toy Story, WALL-E)

Greatest story commandment is “make me care.”

AndrewStanton

 Poetry: Billy Collins – Everyday moments, caught in time (former U.S. Poet Laureate)

Bugs Bunny is his muse. <smile>

From poem "Budapest"

From poem “Budapest”

Storytelling (~4 minutes): Joe Sabia – the technology of storytelling

You’ll remember the name Lothar Meggendorfer after this video.

JoeSabia

Enjoy the videos! I hope they inspire.

Have a great week!

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Conference Burn Out

Last week I shared tips about managing the excitement of attending conferences and that I had four conferences to attend in an 8-day period.

One conference was 3 days, the other 3 conferences were single days, but back-to-back. I wouldn’t recommend doing it and I knew I shouldn’t have attempted to for several reasons:

  • It’s too much time to be “on” – mixing and mingling with people, trying to forge new relationships, trying to absorb all the information.
  • It’s too much time away from the office – the work doesn’t stop coming in, nor do I ever want it to, and even with an assistant there is always going to be the game of “catch up” once back in the office.
  • It’s physically exhausting – with a multi-day conference there’s a good chance of finding quiet space (preferably a room for a nap), but with a single-day conference there isn’t any downtime. If you aren’t in a session, you have a break and breaks are where the networking happens. There is the travel to and from the conference and depending on distance, this could mean getting up early and driving more than an hour. It all contributes to ‘too much.’

NetworkingBubblesThese were 4 conferences I wanted to attend, and had attended in the past — it just happened this year that they were scheduled within the same week of November.

Two had the livestream “digital pass” availability and next year I’ll use those options.

I’ve found it’s just as time consuming to attend a conference virtually and just as, or even more engaging, since social media is usually involved (networking is done through Tweets and Chats), but at least there are the benefits of no commute, attending in comfy clothes, and taking bathroom breaks without waiting in line, and no line for lunch either!

Have you ever attended multiple conferences in the same week?

Have you experienced attending a conference virtually, yet?

I ended up attending the full 3-day conference; I left the 1st 1-day conference early; I stayed for the entire second 1-day conference; I didn’t attend the third 1-day conference at all – I started to attend virtually, but my brain had had too much 15 minutes into the first speaker. I’ll be able to watch all of that last conference at any point in the future, though.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

The Ups and Downs of Attending Conferences

I just got back from a 3-day mystery writer’s conference (Julie mentioned it last week), and am now looking forward to 3 day-long conferences to attend this week.

I go through highs and lows when attending conferences, so I thought it’d make for a nice topic of conversation.

Whenever I’m set to go to a conference, the excitement builds as the start time gets closer. The weekend’s conference was mostly for fun — I love hanging with other mystery writers and readers and hearing about what everyone is interested in. The day-long conferences this week are mostly business-related, so I’m looking forward to mixing and mingling with professionals and learning new ways to enhance and build my business.

Each has (or had) the excitement build up.

Then when at a conference, there’s the peak high while settling in, saying ‘hi’ to people I recognize and introducing myself to people I don’t know yet.

Next comes the thrill at the ‘official start’ and through the first workshops, panels, and presentations.

Breaks and food are much needed throughout the day. Staying hydrated is important, but those bathroom breaks can be a bit crazy!

The excitement level wanes a bit as the afternoon progresses, but it’s still there. Learning and socializing can be mentally exhausting to different degrees.

At the end of the conference, there’s a mixed feeling (for me, anyway!) One that combines the realization that it’s officially The End (a bummer) and Oh-Good-Back-to-the-Routine and my own bed (uplifting). The mixed feeling can be delayed if carpooling or traveling with others part of the way, but it hits at one time or another.

Once back home, in order to recover and get back to real life, I find it’s important to rest. Naps are my best friend. 45-90 minutes can go a long way to resetting the body and mind. The challenge is shutting the mind off from thinking over everything that just happened, but it’s worth the time to decompress and get back to ‘normal.’

Most important of all, though, is to not lose track of people or details to follow-up on after a conference. I put those on the top of my desk as soon as I walk in the door.

Follow-up is very important, especially from business-related conferences. Letting connections fall by the wayside defeats the purpose of attending a conference.

There may be the emotional/energy roller coaster with attending events, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m never disappointed to learn something new or meet new people.

Do you find your energy levels going up and down when you go to conferences? 

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

3 Familiar Places to Look if Your Idea Well Runs Dry

Have you run short of ideas for articles, your blog, or perhaps a client’s blog? Here are four places to look for inspiration and ideas.

Google Alerts – https://www.google.com/alerts

This is a quick and easy-to-use resource for getting ideas. Just enter a search term (1 or more words), hit that ‘Enter’ key, and voila, some ideas will (most likely) show up. You actually don’t even have to hit ‘Enter’, as it’ll start searching on the words as you type them into the search field.

The first random word that popped into my head was ‘applesauce’. Here’s a quick peek at what Google Alerts found:

Applesauce_GoogleAlerts

 

The first reference that came up was under News:

A Walking Dead Halloween party: Long pork and blood orange cake

Communities Digital News
Here at CDN we can’t vouch for that, but if it’s true, applesauce or a cherry sauce would probably be the best condiments to serve with a human roast.

No way I expected that to pop up, but it triggered a short story idea or two.

The next 2 references came from the Web — one was a Facebook post talking about how jarred applesauce may be convenient to purchase, but it’s easy to make your own; the other was a Pinterest reference to Spice Applesauce Cake.

Google Alerts will offer you variety at a minimum and maybe give you just enough to kickstart your ideas again.

Tip: if you set up an account, you can receive summaries of the alerts sent to your e-mail as they happen, daily, or weekly.

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com

You can use Amazon in a similar manner to Google Alerts, in that you type in a search term (or phrase) and then read through the options that pull up. Using applesauce again, here’s what came up:

Applesauce_Amazon

 

At a minimum you’re going to see different brands of applesauce, applesauce for babies, fruit butters, and so much more (that I never thought about in relation to applesauce). And if you start clicking off boxes on the left side of the screen, you’ll narrow your search and have new ideas leaping off the page at you.

The dropdown arrow in the main search box lets you select different departments. I left applesauce in place, then clicked the dropdown and selected the ‘Beauty’ department. Yes, there were items that popped up. 4 GoGo Squeezes, 1 Mott’s, and 1 Kirkland Optifiber. The avenues to travel down for applesauce keep widening, don’t they?

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com (requires an account)

And just for fun, if you have absolutely no ideas whatsoever, why not scroll through the posts you see on Facebook?

With Facebook, you get to eavesdrop on numerous conversations. See what posts are getting a lot of comments and a lot of Likes. Those could be great topic ideas for articles. If a simple Facebook status update can generate a lot of feedback, people will be curious to read more about it.

Where do you go for ideas?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. If anything, she has too many ideas, but when the muse needs a quick boost, there are many places to look for ideas. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Going with the (ebb and) flow (of the freelance writing life)

Having your own writing business involves dealing with work that ebbs and flows.

You may have a client hire you, but then delay the start of the project, delay payment, change the scope after you start, give you more than you expect a lot sooner than you expect… it’s seldom as straight forward as it should be.

It can be scary thinking about the ‘ebbs’ of a writing business. It can also intimidate if there’s worry about “too much” work flowing in.

How do you handle the ups and downs?

Writing life ebbs and flows are like the tides.

Writing life ebbs and flows are like the tides.

Here are some overall tips:

  • If you’re determined to start your own business, start it (it feels so good to take that step)
  • If at all possible, have enough money available to cover at least 2 months of expenses (to avoid worrying about bills)
  • Know where you want to go as a writer and accept any opportunity that is a step toward that goal (get your first byline, write that first feature, submit that first query, tell people you’re a writer, and so on)
  • Focus on one thing at a time: work in 30-minute or 1-hour blocks (set that timer and don’t let anything disturb you until the bell sounds)
  • Make sure you exercise

Tips for when you hit an ‘ebb’ (slow) period with your business:

  • Study up on social media and get more proficient
  • Update your website and any business listings
  • Seek out assistance for the busy times – a transcriptionist, virtual assistant, chef, cleaning service, whatever you might need when you’re flooded with work
  • Find ways to become more productive – read up on time management, learn to schedule emails, and so on
  • Get out and network
  • Find someone to collaborate with on projects – another writer, a graphic designer, whoever you need
  • Seek out new business; send out queries; answer job postings for writing jobs you find interesting
  • Review past clients; evaluate the projects you’ve done; identify changes you want to make and make them
  • Make sure you exercise

Tips for when you hit a ‘flow’ (busy) period with your business:

  • Call on that transcriptionist to transcribe your interviews or notes
  • Use that virtual assistant to help with your calendar
  • Have your house cleaned, your meals prepared, your errands run for you
  • Delegate social media posting (you’ve developed the content, but someone else can schedule it and post it)
  • Shut off email and close the Web browser while you’re working (if at all possible) to avoid distractions
  • Always make time for exercise, even if it’s in 10-minute increments; it’s so important to stay healthy
  • Focus and prioritize the work

Are you able (and willing) to go with the ebbs and flows of owning your own business?

LisaJJackson_2014

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. In 8 years of business, she hasn’t found a pattern to the ebbs and flows of assignments. You can connect with her on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.