Everybody writes. Yes, you too.

Chances are, unless you avoid it altogether–which would take a lot of effort–YOU are a writer. Be it email or notecards or the occasional report or marketing copy–writing is done when writing is needed.

If you post on Facebook or LinkedIn, or even if you Tweet more than links, you are a writer.

As a species (except for those of us who were born mute and/or deaf) you are a wordsmith, willingly or out of necessity.

Some seem born with a storytelling gene (lol).
Some develop the skill to make their mark in the world.
Some hire others to be their instrument for capturing the story they can tell but will not write themselves.

I’ve had the pleasure, honor, and adventure of working with all three major types of writing clients:

  • the willing and eager,
  • the willing and resistant,
  • and the unwilling but wise enough to delegate and collaborate.

Why do I write? Since I was nine years young, I have been writing “something.”

I understand that I write to self-express, self-soothe, self-evaluate, stay self-aware, and to integrate what I experience daily. I write to learn from what I observe, share it with others, be of service, and, ultimately, to understand better my personal history–that it might support my evolution as a human being in all my relationship roles.

I write that I may first honor what happens in my life, then learn from it, then support others who learn from what they read–and if it inspires others to take up writing for self-discovery ALL the better.

I write for both sacred and mundane and practical purposes.

Back in 2010, I facilitated a weekly Writer’s Support Group for the Reticent Blogger at a most magical venue,–Friends, Philosophy and Tea House in Bellevue, WA.

One Tuesday in early August, Warren showed up for the weekly event. That week he was the new guy.

Our group of 14 met in the Yoga Room. We were bursting at the seams to fit one more chair in that room–but we liked being cocooned in that space (until we outgrew it and 16+ were coming each week.)

Warren was a career executive with an impressive resume of Business Development, Marketing, and Organizational Development–with an equally impressive academic background in Applied Mathematics. He was also Australian, candid, funny, sharp-witted, outspoken, and he had been recently “released.” He was broadening his activities beyond playing tennis while looking for his next professional assignment.

He had discovered Biznik, where our weekly group was promoted. He had also recently self-published a book on his British-Australian lineage that went back to the 1600s! That impressed me and every person in our circle that day. We implored him to bring the book with him the next time he might come. He committed to nothing.

Warren was curious about one big thing that day–that remains a peak experience in my memories of him and the Writer’s Support Group:

“Why does someone write for anything other than business (or profit)? What’s the point?. I can’t see it.”

Writing for business, finance, sales, marketing, that he could do well, and he saw the value. Writing for personal reasons made no sense to him. He couldn’t see the point of it.

I remember telling a friend later that night how a bright, charming, curmudgeon of person had attended my writer’s support circle that day. Warren wit and his accent had impressed me. Everybody weighed in on the benefits they got from writing (with motivations being all over the map!) and the weekly support of the circle. That lively meeting warmed my facilitator’s heart. I was hoping that Warren didn’t feel singled out for dissenting.

I also presumed he’d not be returning based on the last thing he said before leaving:

“Thank you for an interesting afternoon experience.”

To my surprise, he emailed me late that night still perplexed by his experience earlier that day. I  thoughtfully replied as is my MO and did my best to remain detached. (For I can’t make anyone change their tune about writing now can I?)

To my great surprise, the next week he showed up again.

That fine summer day of August 2nd, on his inaugural visit to the weekly meet-up was the last day he clung to that “reality.”

He started a blog.
He wrote personal stories each with a lesson that could be applied to life (and business).
He took the idea I suggested to him to fictionalize his families’ “most interesting” history.
He started with short stories.
He laced them together into a novel.
He got curious about writing from a female perspective.
He took on a female pen name, tried it out, and succeeded.
He started coming to the Thursday night working group that gathered at the Tea House to do timed writing with prompts of all kinds.

Those were the days of Steve, Karin, Fai, Pat, Deborah, and Warren. And, there were others who came and went, but we had our core group. We wrote. We shared. We laughed. We’d repeat for 90 minutes weekly. It was a beautiful weekly ritual.

Then Warren got an offer to return to work.
And, he kept writing, for now, he was hooked.
He made time for it–changed man that he was.

Last time I had lunch with him and Fai at Molbak’s in Woodinville, he handed me a brown paper bag with a copy of each of the volumes of stories he had written and self-published.

Four volumes of stories to date.
A historical novel.
With another novel in development.

He berated me that my memoir was still undone.
He pointed out that he made time for writing EVERY DAY.
I sidestepped the critique by reminding him we had Fai’s novel Le Maurais to celebrate.

********************************

Warren is one of many who came to the Writer’s Support Group on Tuesdays at the Tea House from 1-2:30 pm. It became part of his new set of rituals. He was one of many engaged in the vast weekly dialogue about writing and why one writes.

On a weekly basis, for two and a half years, a couple dozen people gathered, held space, and gave great advice to each other–and we forged friendships too!

A lot of writing got discussed.
A lot of reasons people didn’t write got eliminated.
A lot of writing got done after each weekly pow wow.

In the month of November 2011, our blogger version of NaNoWriMo produced over 100,000 words with 25+ active contributors.

The commitment was a simple one.
Five times a week.
100+ words a post.
Contributors far exceeded the minimums. :)
And, the group insisted the community blog be called Tuesdays with Deborah (which I was never quite comfortable with, but we were a democracy–sort of.)

http://www.authenticwritingprovokes.com/inspiredwriting/

We were a community of people who loved and/or feared writing. Those of us who loved it supported those who feared it–as they overcame the resistance they felt. People grew as writers by helping each other. Ours was a respectful circle that made a newcomer feel welcome immediately.

In August of 2012, my favorite venue closed its doors. That was a sad day, but we all accepted the reality. And, while efforts were made to find a new home for our circle, none could hold a candle to the Tea House.

Writing kept showing up on the community blog. Karin Q started the Salon at her place. Others carried on independently. Books got written. Blogs got posted, micro-blogging on Facebook happened, and I began working on an all-encompassing project…even though I had said yes, to a half-time commitment. 

Things always take more time than we imagine.

There were always other writing projects and clients too, but the big focal point of my work for nearly five years (until this May) was to support the larger vision of someone who had engaged my services as a writing coach, editor, marketing specialist, and content development strategist. We (aka the team) collaborated on books, a lot of blogs, and an online course derived from the main title.

WHAT a journey it was and remains.

I tend to immerse myself in supporting clients as they developed their writing and communication skills, as they develop their stories, their brand, and their online presence. The way I see it, it’s all interconnected.

It’s satisfying work to see someone grow and evolve as a writer, speaker, presenter, and first and foremost a person.

It’s gratifying to see a client, a colleague, or a friend say YES to “bolder, shameless, self-promotion” that remains aligned with who they are.

In a word: Authentic.
In three words: Authentic Always Provokes.

Now, whether you enjoy writing is an entirely different conversation.

When people tell me they don’t like writing and avoid it because they don’t think they are good writers, I ask with pure child-like curiosity, “Who was the first person to suggest that you weren’t good at writing? What exactly happened!?”

For some it takes a pregnant pause to recall that early peak experience of feeling critiqued, shamed, or discouraged.

For most, there is a story buried in memory that rises from the depths of the subconscious mind. Some said, they simply knew that they didn’t like writing.

And, at that point of recognition, we have something we can work with and transform–if that is what is wanted.

the same old thinking and disappointing results, closed loop or negative feedback mindset concept  - a napkin doodle with a cup of coffee

The Critic is strong in all of us–AND it can be tamed, put in its place, and accessed in ways that are helpful.

The Perfectionist can become an ally; active when needed and quiet when appropriate.

The Creator exists in all of us–AND it needs support and encouragement (from both inside and outside).

The Writer can be cultivated and could become an integral part of your inner leadership committee. (Who is running the show in your life?)

Knowing you want to enjoy writing for business or personal might involve adopting practices that are not second nature to you.

Knowing you want to embrace marketing and promoting your work might also require adopting practices that are not second nature to you.

Mastery of what is not second nature will always involve hard work, persistence, and knowing how to be gentle with yourself.

I see myself as a multi-faceted communications specialist who understands the intersections of content development, production, marketing, promotion, and most importantly–staying aligned with your essence.

And at the end of each day what gives me the greatest joy as a wordsmith, storyteller, and guide?

Seeing you embrace the idea of getting over your concerns about writing for yourself and as yourself while doing it for your intended reader (or client)—THAT is what I champion.

I’m Tired of Waiting: A Tale of Self-Publishing and Personal Growth

Ever since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of being a published author.

The year I was nine, a poem of mine was published in the Pacific Grove’s very own Poetry Shell AND I got to have lunch with the editor, Lois who happened to be a PG resident like my great-grandmother. I interviewed her over a milkshake. It was a sunny day in Pacific Grove, which was notoriously foggy more than any other weather. To me, Lois was an inspiration. She told me to never stop writing.

She was the first of many teachers/mentors to encourage me.

So much has changed since “then.” We all know what I am talking about.

There are infinite platforms to “Just Do It.”

Nothing stops one from publishing themselves, but themselves.

I embrace blogging as I do because it offers so much immediate gratification. Perhaps it is because I have written in journals so many years and learned to type fast enough to keep pace with most of my thoughts, that it is easier for me than some BUT…

If you will get out of your own way, and develop a writing practice and get support and mentoring from an enthusiastic “posse” of one or more, you too can gain a new level of comfort with writing for your well-being or your business.

It doesn’t matter if you think your story of what you learned about (fill in the blank) has been told a hundred times by “better” writers.

Your story is unique to you. Your voice is unique to you. Just get yourself started.

And seeing yourself as an important voice that deserves to be fully self-expressed is what my work in this world is all about.

As your Self and with a Sense of Self.

For business, for spirit, for entertainment, for whatever you decide.

When Blogging Becomes a Chore

What comes to mind for you when you see the words?

Chores. The very word conjures up memories of Saturday mornings spent dusting, vacuuming, doing laundry, weeding and many other unpleasant tasks BEFORE I could play with friends and have fun.

Blogging. The other name for writing short pieces or longer articles that are timely, relevant, contribute to marketing efforts, and has the POTENTIAL to attract more ideal business inquiries.

SEO. Search Engine Optimization or as a gifted translator of a person I know put it to a newbie in the Weekly Writers Support Circle on Tuesday, “How your site and its content get found by people.”

Are you among the many who jumped on the WordPress/Blogging Bandwagon? Did you start excited, promise yourself you’d blog weekly or more and lose steam over time? Are you growing self-conscious that your last post was from February of 2012 or worse, in 2011? (Please read on and be gentle with yourself.)

Are you of the belief you must write according to a proven “form” or “system” or “with such intense regularity”?

How long was it before you lost your zest for writing a pithy bi- or tri-weekly post because you:

  • Ran out of “great ideas”?
  • Tired of how long it took to write a post worth publishing?
  • Got discouraged when no one commented (presuming commenting was turned on)?
  • Simply were forcing yourself to write in the first place?

Writing a blog is a wise activity when you naturally enjoy writing or can learn to love writing about your business, your process, your experiences, as yourself in a voice and tone that reflects you. It serves to let your site visitors (and potential clients) meet you even before they call or reach out via email. And who doesn’t want a warm inquiry as a business be you solo, small, medium or large in scope?

The new and exciting opportunity that blogging platforms offered was a “boon” (a gift) to those who were already prolific writers. And where once upon a time it was more difficult to get regular writing out in the world, if you weren’t also technically proficient with Website Software Programs that were Content Management Systems as well, the current era offers many CMS options.  Options that are very plug and play too.

It is Do It Yourself heaven. My first blog (that still exists) was a Blogger blog I started for myself alone in 2005. I chose a design of the 23 offered and started posting personal pieces. I actually still love that blog and its design and always mean to post to it more than I do these days. (Note to self: start next week!)

Then I met “WordPress.” It was love at first site.

Oh, WordPress! How much more I can do for myself than before and from anywhere and anytime and with relative ease. I am part of the choir that will forever love writing. I appreciate technology that lets me help myself and helps me get found that much easier. WordPress does that easily and while the Dashboard may be intimidating at first, once understood, it is LIBERATING to compose on the fly and in the cloud.

What do I say to clients who feel like they are running out of gas where writing “intelligently” and “consistently” gets in the way of writing “with creativity and enthusiasm?”

Stop trying so hard and give yourself permission to take a break.

Try crafting an editorial outline that reflects your new business goals (a professional bucket list)

Write some stories about your life and business lessons and then decide do you want to publish them or no?

Take some time to determine your ideal client and profile that person in rich detail and imagine that you are blogging to them.

If all else fails, take yourself or your dog for a walk! Get outside and get some fresh air at the very least.

Once when I was really stuck and in an unhealthy thought loop while I was on a writing deadline, I called a friend who was a professional coach for support. What did she advise me to do?

“Go outside for a walk for a minimum of 15 minutes and look for all the white and purple flowers.”

“Why?” I asked in complete confusion.

“Just do as I say please. Will you? And call me when you get back.”

So I did. And guess what happened!!! I took the walk. I saw some white and purple flowers and noticed other garden beauties too. I got home and called my friend. She asked me if I was ready to get back to it. And in truth, I was.

My Creative Block was GONE! And writing came with more ease and I liked the results.

If you aren’t a naturally obsessive writer like some of us, but see the value of blogging for business (or pure self-expression) know that becoming committed to it and enthusiastic about writing can be learned–provided you are willing. And use some tools to support you such as:

A community of like-minded people (I can recommend a great writing support group and facilitator!)

A calendar with dates you keep with yourself to write for writing sake (and take the best ideas farther!)

Practice. Practice. Practice. (You needn’t publish what you don’t want)

Read. Read. Read. (At least an hour a week the blogs of others you admire and consider…)

Commenting in a constructive and pay it forward style. (This has been known to inspire people to reciprocate!)

Use “the canvas” that inspires ease: maybe you compose emails well or write differently directly in the WordPress Post Window? Who said you have to write in a Word Doc first? (Do though save your piece to your hard drive and not just on the cloud)

Set the scene. Establish the environment. Dress the part. One client of mind laughed they might start wearing dress clothes to write for their business blog, even though they worked at home.

Try anything once to see if it frees your writing voice and stick with what works for you.

Writing and Reading and Interacting with other Writers is bound to affect your opinion of writing for business and pleasure, as well as develop a skill and an artistry in you and your own writing. Over time your skill and confidence will shift so notice and celebrate the breakthroughs.

Think of it as the equivalent of teaching yourself how to walk (fall down and get up again) or tie your shoes (bunny ears worked eventually) or learning how to print then write “cursive.”

Many talents aren’t second nature but that doesn’t mean we can’t make them so. WordPress makes blogging possible on your schedule be it planned out or in the moment.

So let’s reframe what we started with:

Chores. Serve to keep our creative energy and productivity flowing well and mastered can save us time and set us free to play that much sooner.

Blogging. It is at its most basic an opportunity to express yourself: casually, candidly, professionally, playfully, and virtually from wherever you may be wanting to capture a relevant moment.

SEO. Think of it like being on a scavenger hunt or geo-caching with a GPS device that makes it easier to find the prize. The prize being a happy client and a happy service provider or product “sold.” What are the magic words that used well get you found faster?

So knowing you have the platform, the best of motives, and the means, how about saying yes to the writer within?

 


 

 

 


Why I “really, really, really” love ~ admire ~ respect Paulo Coelho

There are three big reasons I “really, really, really” love this man Paulo Coelho, (who has 8.1 Mil FB fans for good reasons–and what about all the fans who don’t do FB).

Please take a moment to scan his bio…it is quite inspiring to me. Every time I read it.

One could say these things about him ( I do!):

1. He was a late bloomer who had some early rough patches in determining WHO he was and wanted to be.

2. He gives back, so much.

3. He does what he loves and it shows.

Are you?

I invite you to consider making whatever change it takes to be “being” your best self!

What is required to make it happen for you?

Do you have the right support to see it through the patches of resistance?

I believe as Deepak Chopra does (by definition in his book Creating Affluence (a longtime favorite of mine) that D is for Dharma and Dharma never feels like work.

One late bloomer to another, may you in divine time, fulfill your Dharma in this lifetime.

(To be doing what I do for a livelihood is quite simply a dream realized that I have imagined since 9 years old.)

Write Drunk & Edit Sober

So advised Hemingway.

So shared Linda Zeppa with me as we parted ways after her Sunday workshop on Developing the Intuitive You.

It was an apropos comment for in some way I did feel quite intoxicated.

On Tuesdays our rag tag collection of enterpreneurs and writers gathers to talk about what we would like to write about or what we are writing or what we would love to see feedback (aka comments) on.

And while I have considered making “writing” part of what we do, I have never done much about it because talking about writing and writing itself are two different animals for me.

Much like writing and editing are related–but not the same.

Today I was simply a willing participant following the guidance of a gifted facilitator. Simple prompts turned into writing that sparked thoughts of revisiting and going deeper down the writing rabbit hole.

I surrendered. I surrendered to being fully present and wrote from the heart space as the beginner I am always. If ever I get so uppity that I act like I know what I am doing, please somebody smack me with a velvet covered two by four (smile).

I shared writing time and space with a small group and Linda. There was perfection in the group that showed up on a Sunday afternoon for two hours of conversation, guided visualization and writing prompts.

My writing compatriots all questioned their ability to write like a writer, seeing themselves not as artists or writers but as less than, BUT they were not. They were wonderful and I hope my encouragement after Linda’s was received and stays with them.

I gently harass the regulars aka “the usual suspects” who come on Tuesdays to just start and write what is wanting to be written…You know who you are…You who doubt your natural abilities to self-express and question if what you say matters.

It matters. Your perception of your experience shared may help another make sense of something in their life. You understand things I don’t. You understand them better than I when it is your business and not mine.

If you dared to share, you could open a door of understanding for me.

If you dared to share your story, your perception, your “aha” moments and visceral experiences.

It matters and I get that it starts with getting over the fears and doubts you may have.

The gremlins that threaten creative self-expression must be dealt with I say.

And lest you think this “rant” applies only to personal writing, let me say this: your business writing acumen is grounded in how comfortably and agile you write. Period.

And that is where a writing cheerleader be it an individual or community comes in.

Developing the ability to “write drunk” and “edit sober” isn’t as easy as it reads. Mastering the ability to do so though could open up rich creative veins good for your soul and your business communications.

Support awaits those who seek it out. Write on!

It’s about finding TRUE enthusiasm. First yours. Then theirs.

Featured

Are you FABULOUS at what you DO and CARE about but hesitant to boldly express and market yourself?

I look forward to supporting you with…

Writing Coaching (Interested in enjoying writing for yourself?)…
Writing Services (Developmental Editing, Ghost Writing, Copyediting)…
Practical Marketing Coaching (Let’s determine what works for you!)…
Extremely Productive Brainstorming (will surprise you)…
Market Research (My favorite hobby!)…
Social Media Marketing Strategy…(It’s always about being relational)

It all starts with saying yes to an exploratory conversation.

Your Authentic Voice for Self-Expression will thank you for it.

To your thriving and success as defined by you.

SONY DSC

 

Deborah Drake ~ Catalyst, Writer, Editor
deb@deborahdrake.com
206.250.1855

Because Authentic Work represented by Authentic Writing and Self-Expression is Magnetic…

Publish or Perish? Really? (part 1 of 3)

Beloved author, Paulo Coelho has many fine quotes, as the prolific writer he is and I dedicate this series to the themes within this statement:

“Don’t expect to get anything back, don’t expect recognition for your efforts, don’t expect your genius to be discovered or your love to be understood. Act because you need to act.” ~Paulo Coelho

In an age when it is easier to self-publish, why not help yourself to it?

The name of the game this week for me is stay on task. Not only is there a manuscript to edit there is another to format and much to read and comment on. In this day of self-publishing, yes anyone COULD write a book but who actually does?

It is NEVER too late to start. There are many late blooming writers. Sometimes we first need the right dose and variety of life experience that helps us define our purpose clearly. And sometimes it takes big events and changes to catalyze the writing urge in us.

Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart. And while there may be a variety of do-it-yourself means to publish yourself, the fact remains you still must generate the idea, then the manuscript, thereafter the book, the play, the blog post before you can “publish” the beauty. There is a tremendous sense of self-satisfaction when writing is completed. It could be a singular blog post or a larger project and I say celebrate your writing with others.

I am a cheerleader and champion for writing for yourself. And while I also ghost write and act as “the journalistic medium” for those who are challenged to do for themselves with any consistency, I love, love, love being the editor to an excited author.

If I had my way all the time (smile), I’d turn every ghost writing client ultimately into a writer for themselves–for it empowers you deeply to write and speak as yourself, for yourself and with enthusiasm and self-confidence. A ghost or journalist can do a great job too but the closer to the source a message is born, the more potent it may be.

What stops you from communicating with EASE for yourself about your business, your passions, your hobbies, your causes, your personal writing projects?

I know what can stop me and what I work to keep out of my way. And it is my mission to help as many as possible get out of their own way too.

Call me Catalyst.

For the past 18 months I have been hosting a writing group that meets each Tuesday to TALK about writing and blogging and creativity and overcoming fear and resistance to writing for one’s self and one’s ventures, professional and personal.

Each week I am given the opportunity to “creatively unlock” not only myself but as many as two dozen attendees. Many come weekly and some since the beginning. One regular, calls the time her group therapy. We all laughed the first time. Now when someone new comes claiming they don’t “blog”  basically another term for writing) for who would care what they had to say and whatever would they write about, we regulars glance at each other and declare it time for a “creative intervention.”  And in shortly thereafter (most of the time) our reticent or would be writer is clear they have a perspective worth sharing with others. After which some jump right in and return reporting they are now officially blogging or getting set to start.

Gratitude is abundant in our weekly time together and the most striking feature these days of “Circle” as some call it or “Tuesdays with Deborah,” is the community blog of the same name spawned out of Tuesday conversations. What is striking about it is the variety of posts and the enthusiasm of the contributing writers. That enthusiasm is what it is all about cultivating for me.

The secret ingredient to the success in this instance is “community support.”  We are better individually for how we interact as a group. We are a growing and extended family. We come weekly wanting to write authentically, boldly and consistently. Or we come to find the motivation to try to begin. We are all at different places and stages. And all are welcome wherever they are in their Writing Pilgramage.

The act of writing is not always easy even for the natural writer (like Me!). And support makes all the difference. Let me say again, “Support Makes All the Difference.”

Again I ask, in an age when it is easier to self-publish, why not help yourself to it?

More to come. Stay tuned for Part 2 and 3. And if you are thinking you want to write but don’t have a clear sense of your voice and vision and purpose for your writing, may you seek out support from someone and soon. I am actively listening for one!

A Collection of Recent Thoughts on Writing

A songwriter and musician was captured on a radio interview, saying, “A lot of people are visited by the muse and forget it.”

I agree with this. I wonder why we as “writers/artists” don’t seize the moment and at least get a note or three down that we might recall our great insight to fill in the rest at a later time.

Creativity can be mighty spontaneous with me. It shows up at the oddest moments sometimes for me at least. Therefore I can always be found with pen and pad or digital recorder nearby. I know I can also plan writing time but it is the writing I do when the spirit moves through me that I am most happy with and most eager to share.

And, saying that, I also have planned writing that I am intentional about. My intentions for my writing time are to be a clearing for Creativity to flow through. I may have themes I write on and it could even be time to spend time doing research to write a better article. The point is I set a schedule but also allow for movement and shift in my focus, so long as it is helpful. What qualifies as helpful? If it moves me closer to my desired end writing goal, it is helpful.

I’ve taken to writing my observations when I am out and about again. I’ve been inspired first by the two writers I write with Thursdays AND by reading again the advice of Julia Cameron, Brenda Euland, and Ray Bradbury on Creativity. Some I know love the prose and ramblings of Annie LaMott, Bird by Bird, in particular. She is a keen observer as many a good writer is. Pick your mentor and invite in the Muse is all I am saying.

I realized that had actually lost my edge on observing the inner dramatics of life in a coffee house or cafe or an arboretum. My attention to background detail felt downright sloppy and I vowed to work on it. I got back into the habit of heading out and parking myself for several hours and I fell in love again with writing about what I was literally seeing and feeling and experiencing.

Coffee houses and cafes offer “the garbage collector” as British author Doris Lessing referred once to writers (collectors of details that they are) a chance to practice observing for detail and mystery and many an overheard dialogue has worked its essence into her stories. I heard her say this at a Stanford Lecture I attended back in 1990. She remarked that being a non-descript looking person, she could get away with being herself and taking in what was going on, undisturbed. That remark has stayed with me for over twenty years.

We all could watch what is going on about us.
We all could listen for the things not said by people.
We all could seek to understand more by observing without an agenda.

Have you ever tried this as a writing exercise? You can take in five minutes but you might be tempted to keep watching and waiting and listening to all that is going on around you.

Saturdays I spend at least an hour at the Taste Bar at Macy’s waiting for Bronte while she takes a class currently on improv. The prior class schedule had me there for four hours and a lot of life passes through a cafe in four hours. At first I tried creating a bubble and getting some work or writing done. But, inevitably I would take an interest in the other patrons around me or the interaction of the core staff that works the cafe. Myrna and Jay particularly are enjoyable to simply watch. When I realized I was missing a grand opportunity to practice observing and sharpen my wits, I started making a point to sit back, sip my coffee and take first mental notes and then notes for posterity.

All around me is dialogue, spoken or not, and sometimes it is down right outrageous.

Take Saturday morning for example. I thought I was witnessing a bit of a crazy person with a lot of personality issues but I now believe I was wrong. Those involved (a man and two women) were all quite unaware of the impact their loud conversation was having on others around them. They were literally unconcerned and doing their own thing. So I eavesdropped for the sake of stretching myself as a writer…

Macy’s Café, November 19, 2011 11am

Everything is not as it seems: Episode #1 — The Loud Talkers

Robert: You are so bossy. (He shouts into the echoey café at the woman in line with another, ordering coffee drinks and food.)

Okay bossy, where do you want to sit? One table or two?

I’m too sexy for my cane, I’m too sexy for my cane,” says the man in a tightly wound tenor of a voice that cuts through even the “white noise” from the woodfire oven and the seasonal music piping into the Macy’s Tastebar..

Melanie: Just sit down…Just sit down! (she barked still standing at the counter paying.)

Robert: Hi, how are you? (Said to a passing person he doesn’t know who gave him a quick and odd glance)

Melanie and the large young woman she is with join Robert in the corner window table and as the triangle continue a conversation. I cock an ear to hear what is the subject matter.Ah, boys, relationships…it always comes back to relating with us humans. I ponder sometimes if rocks and trees have conversations that are about processing feelings. The 20something appears to have a boyfriend issue. Robert and Melanie have their opinions and advice to give. They are determined to make her aware of something important. So I am privy to their dialogue and a small debate between Melanie, gruff and tell it like it is, and Robert who seems not to care who hears him play barking at Melanie?

The simple fact they are seated in the triangular corner near the entrance from the corner of 3rd and Pike means anyone who focuses can hear their conversation word for word.

Reflecting on this tonight, I am amused that upon seeing a surly and weather worn 50+ year old man in a plaid winter parka and black skull cap on his head, shouting unself-consciously at his companions in line ordering, I presumed he was angry or mentally unstable or both. 

I appear to be wrong again. Things again are not as they seem. He is simply a loud talker with his loud talking friends?

They are friendly while being surly to each other and I am about to stereotype them–if I am not mindful.

Outspoken need not be judged as obnoxious. There is a lack of gentile finesse to their language and the tone and delivery of the questions such as “Who does she live with? Where does she live?” Someone is being deeply scrutinized.

Melanie: You cannot tell me…when a woman is heavy, it is hard for them…that is why she is…(darn that the clarity fades in and out like cell phone reception being affected by simply traveling through a neighborhood.)

In the background a tune catches my attention: the sound of a trio of women with Dean Martin, singing  “I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on that…” fills in the background entirely but briefly.

Melanie: I want her to understand…(outside a Transit busses roars loudly, drowning out the clarity a moment.)

Robert: I have never cheated on her and now she thinks everything I say is a lie.

I did my best to make sense of the crumbs of conversation I overheard for the sake of my exercise, but it is futile with the bus engines combusting the conversation. I will have to “make something up” should I use this trio in a future piece.

Their dialogue continues bouncing all over thematically but orbiting about a woman they all know whose problems are greater than there collective comments allude to. I find myself wondering how would they feel knowing someone was talking about any one of them? How would they feel if they knew I was recording some of the things I was overhearing that are causing me to smile and cock my head to hear a little better?

They never catch on that sitting in the windowed corner as they are, with the acoustics being what they are in this café, that everyone who chooses to tune in can hear it all, as though they are sitting really close –at the next table and not ten + feet away tucked in a corner. (I’m grateful for the chance to test my listening…smile.)

THEN a memory flashes through me of being at the San Francisco Exploratorium, sitting inside a big round concave white plaster sculpture with a seat in the center to sit upon. Vertically situated, it placed you up enough and set back into the concave “bowl.” Two bowl like sculptures face each other 20+ feet apart, and if you have a friend sit in the seat opposite you, you can literally whisper and the sound carries over as if they are whispering into your ear directly. I thought that particular exhibit was so darn cool when we took a High School fieldtrip to the Exploratorium. (Why has this memory flooded back now?

Acoustics is an art and science that I am glad to be aware of. People sometimes forget that sound carries and say some pretty darn personal things in public. You never know when a writer might be listening in and inspired by you, so by all means, keep on talking and I’ll develop my craft.

To the Loud Talkers, thank you for creating a moment for the Muse to visit me!

 

Authentic Writing Starts with…Listening: Our Most Used Communication Skill

Most of us are poor listeners.
It’s a challenge to be a good listener.
Good listeners though get big rewards.

And some wonder why they can’t write with ease? The writer that I am LOVES THIS ARTICLE originally authored 1993 that remains as pertinent as ever. Read on and listen for your response and above all enjoy.

Ever notice how much babies and toddlers who aren’t talking are watching and taking in the environment all around them?

Some of my best writing emerges after periods of listening and seeking to understand what I am seeing, hearing, feeling, and observing in myself and outside me.

In practicing listening to others we can also learn how to better listen to ourselves.

Remember: Beyond practicing listening to others, listening to yourself allows you to capture your writing voice in glorious, graphic technicolor. When you find you have more than one voice wanting to express itself LISTEN for the distinctions and recognize what is at the CORE of both your “dialects.”

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Listening is the communication skill most of us use the most frequently.

Various studies stress the importance of listening as a communication skill. A typical study points out that many of us spend 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours in some form of communication. Of that time, we spend about 9 percent writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking, and 45 percent listening. Studies also confirm that most of us are poor and inefficient listeners.

Why? Several reasons are likely.

Listening training unavailable: Even though listening is the communication skill we use most frequently, it is also the skill in which we’ve had the least training. From personal experience, we know we’ve had much more formal training in other major communication skills — writing, reading, speaking. In fact, very few persons have had any extended formal training in listening.

The same is true of informal training. It’s not difficult to find workshops and conferences that provide opportunities to improve our writing and speaking skills. But it is difficult to find similar training programs to sharpen listening skills.

Thought speed greater than speaking speed: Another reason for poor listening skills is that you and I can think faster than someone else can speak. Most of us speak at the rate of about 125 words per minute. However, we have the mental capacity to understand someone speaking at 400 words per minute (if that were possible).

This difference between speaking speed and thought speed means that when we listen to the average speaker, we’re using only 25 percent of our mental capacity. We still have 75 percent to do something else with. So, our minds will wander.

This means we need to make a real effort to listen carefully and concentrate more of our mental capacity on the listening act. If we don’t concentrate, we soon find that our minds have turned to other ideas.

We are inefficient listeners: Numerous tests confirm that we are inefficient listeners. Studies have shown that immediately after listening to a 10-minute oral presentation, the average listener has heard, understood and retained 50 percent of what was said.

Within 48 hours, that drops off another 50 percent to a final level of 25 percent efficiency.

In other words, we often comprehend and retain only one fourth of what we hear. We all want to be more than 25 percent efficient. It’s not difficult to see the many problems inefficient listeners can create for themselves and others. Poor listening causes us many personal and professional problems.

Listening skill suffers with age: Other studies indicate that our listening skill suffers as we get older. Ralph G. Nichols, long-time professor of rhetoric at the University of Minnesota (now retired), says in his bookAre You Listening? that “if we define the good listener as one giving full attention to the speaker, first-grade children are the best listeners of all.”

Nichols describes an experiment conducted with the cooperation of Minneapolis teachers from first grade through high school. Each teacher involved was asked to interrupt classes and suddenly ask pupils “what were you thinking about?” or “what was I talking about?”

Results were discouraging but informative. The answers of first and second graders showed that more than 90 percent were listening. Percentages dropped in higher grades. In junior high school classes, only 44 percent of the students were listening. In high school classes, the average dropped to 28 percent.

Listening is hard work: Another likely reason for inefficient listening is that it’s hard work to listen intently. Have you been forced to listen intently for an extended period of time? Try to remember your feelings. You were probably physically and mentally tired after such a period of concentration.

Ten worst listening habits: Nichols has described in speeches and articles the “10 worst listening habits of American people.” He says that listening training is primarily eliminating bad habits and replacing them with good listening habits and skills.

Here are the 10 bad listening habits. You’ll recognize some that you have and that you can make an effort to correct.

1. Call the subject matter uninteresting

You go to a meeting, the chairman announces the topic or you see it on a program, and say to yourself, “Gee, how dull can it get anyhow? You’d think they could get a decent speaker on a decent subject.”

So you’ve convinced yourself the topic is uninteresting and you turn to the many other thoughts and concerns you’ve stored up in your mind for just such an occasion — you start using that unoccupied 75 percent of your mental capacity.

A good listener, on the other hand, might start at the same point but arrives at a different conclusion. The good listener says, “Gee, that sounds like a dull subject and I don’t see how it could help me in my work. But I’m here, so I guess I’ll pay attention and see what the speaker has to say. Maybe there will be something I can use.”

2. Criticize the delivery or appearance of the speaker

Many of us do this on a regular basis. We tend to mentally criticize the speaker for not speaking distinctly, for talking too softly, for reading, for not looking the audience in the eye. We often do the same thing with the speaker’s appearance. If speakers aren’t dressed as we think they should be, we probably tend not to listen closely or we may immediately classify the speaker as a liberal or conservative, a hippie or a square.

But if we concentrate on what the speaker is saying, we may begin to get the message and we may even get interested. Remember, the message is more important than the form in which it is delivered.

3. Become too stimulated

We may hear a speaker say something with which we disagree. Then we can get so concerned that our train of thought causes us to spend more time developing counter arguments so that we no longer listen to the speaker’s additional comments. We are busy formulating questions in our mind to ask the speaker, or we may be thinking of arguments that can be used to rebut the speaker. In cases like this, our listening efficiency drops to nearly zero because of over-stimulation. So, hear the speaker out before you judge him or her.

4. Listen only for facts

Too many of us listen for facts and, while we may recall some isolated facts, we miss the primary thrust or idea the speaker is trying to make. Be sure that your concern for facts doesn’t prevent you from hearing the speaker’s primary points.

5. Try to outline everything that is being said

Many speakers are so unorganized that their comments really can’t be outlined in any logical manner. It’s better to listen, in such a case, for the main point. A good listener has many systems of taking notes and selects the best one to fit a speaker.

6. Fake attention

This is probably one of the more common bad listening habits. If you’re speaking to a group and suddenly you become aware that most of your audience is sitting with chin in hand staring at you, that is a good signal that attention is being faked. Their eyes are on you but their minds are miles away. We probably have developed our own faking skills to a high point. Let’s recognize what we’re doing and eliminate faking as a poor listening habit.

7. Tolerate or create distractions

People who whisper in an audience of listeners fall into this category. Some distractions can be corrected (closing a door, turning a radio off) to improve the listening atmosphere.

8. Evade the difficult

We tend to listen to things that are easy to comprehend and avoid things that are more difficult. The principle of least effort will operate in listening if we allow it to do so.

9. Submit to emotional words

We’re all aware of the emotional impact of some words. Democrat and Republican are emotional words for some people. So are northern and southern for others. There are hundreds of examples. Don’t let emotional words get in the way of hearing what a speaker is really saying.

10. Waste thought power

Nichol’s 10th bad listening habit is the one he feels is most important. It is wasting the differential between thought speed and the speed at which most people speak.

Three ways to improve listening skill

Nichols says there are three things that you can do to help yourself stop wasting thought power and become a better listener.

One is to anticipate the speaker’s next point

If you anticipate correctly, learning has been reinforced. If you anticipate incorrectly, you wonder why and this too helps to increase attention.

Another is to identify the supporting elements a speaker uses in building points. By and large, we use only three ways to build points: We explain the point, we get emotional and harangue the point, or we illustrate the point with a factual illustration. A sophisticated listener knows this. He or she spends a little of the differential between thought speed and speaking speed to identify what is being used as point-supporting material. This becomes highly profitable in terms of listening efficiency.

A third way to improve yourself as a listener is to periodically make mental summaries as you listen. A good listener takes advantage of short pauses to summarize mentally what has been said. These periodic summaries reinforce learning tremendously.

In summary, most of us are poor listeners for a variety of reasons. We have had little training and few training opportunities exist. We think faster than others speak. Listening is hard work.

We’ve listed some ways to improve skills to concentrate, to summarize, to avoid faking, and others. Just as important are your attitudes — be positive, concerned, sincere.

It’s a challenge to be a good listener. But good listeners get big rewards.

CM150, reviewed October 1993

University of Missouri Extension

CM150, Reviewed October 1993

Listening: Our Most Used Communication Skill

Dick Lee and Delmar Hatesohl

Extension and Agricultural Information


Does Your Marketing and Writing Pass The Four-Way Test?

From the earliest days of the organization, Rotarians were concerned with promoting high ethical standards in their professional lives. One of the world’s most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics is The Four-Way Test, which was created in 1932 by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor (who later served as RI president) when he was asked to take charge of a company that was facing bankruptcy.

This 24-word test for employees to follow in their business and professional lives became the guide for sales, production, advertising, and all relations with dealers and customers, and the survival of the company is credited to this simple philosophy. Adopted by Rotary in 1943, The Four-Way Test has been translated into more than a hundred languages and published in thousands of ways. It asks the following four questions:

“Of the things we think, say or do:

1. Is it the TRUTH?

2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?

3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?

4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?”

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Redmond Rousers Rotary members and it was special for it was my inaugural Rotary speaking engagement (with opportunity #2 coming soon!). It was exciting to be the program speaker and it was simply a lot of fun. The members were good sports as I took control of the literal “classroom” we occupied and they “winged it” in a writing prompt I customized for the evening (smile).

A fine curry was served for dinner and my “non-speech” went off without a hitch and we accomplished good stuff in 20 minutes. Keeping the content simple and the conversation flowing worked like a charm. Yes, I easily stayed within the time limit and facilitated a rousing dialogue. (Communicating with heart and simplicity works pretty much all the time too!) Turns out the Rousers each have a favorite story to blog about in the future and I look forward to seeing the Rouser’s Blog feature many more contributors and perspectives. (Keep me posted Kelly!)

I had been invited to speak two months back by Kelly Kyle, current President of the Rousers, who is an enthusiastic leader of a now growing chapter. Kelly has done a lot of PR in the last 18 months that has boosted awareness of the Service Projects of this Rotary Chapter via blogging and writing and social media marketing.

The most recent fundraiser, the Coupe de Cascades, (a 425 mile bike ride in a single day) even attracted the attention of Race Across America and may soon be an official qualifying race that occurs in Washington State. Here again Authentic, Heartfelt and Savvy Social Media Marketing and yes, blogging and writing, helped raised the level of awareness on what one local chapter of Rotary is up to.

How did the Rousers get so “SMART?” I happen to know this story because it was more than a year ago, Kelly also started coming (when her busy schedule allowed) to the weekly Writers/Bloggers Support group I host. I remember the day that Kelly shared how the Rousers had invested and wisely so into learning how to use blogging and social media practices to genuinely attract new members AND community support for their events.

The Rousers as a chapter agreed to “invest” in something significant. Kelly received excellent coaching and support and training from Blaine Millet of Word of Mouth on Steroids. What Blaine suggested and trained Kelly on intensively (at first) is what I suggest all my marketing and writing clients embrace as well. Some do and some don’t and frankly, “It’s Simply A Smart Marketing Strategy.” (And if your hurdle is authentic self-expression, well there is a solution for that…close at hand) Writing (for Marketing YOU) is best done with a truly authentic voice (yours~not someone who writes for you) that can also pass the Four Way Test. Yes, I know  that last statement is my strongly held opinion.

Developing that “voice” may not happen overnight but working to discover yours and refine it is worth the effort. Then with thoughtful timing of social media efforts and all other marketing, you will see positive results. And like all great relationships, it takes time to develop and may seem like a whole lot of work at first ~ and it’s worth it!

Over the next year plus, Kelly got into a writing and PR rhythm and beneficial things began to happen that were good for the recipients of the Rouser’s support and good for the chapter’s membership base.Guess what grew? (Imagine, your business and you experiencing the same kind of growth and good will!)

I’d like to make a suggestion that I hope you dear readers take to heart and put to work post haste.

Please take a lesson from the principles of 1.) the Four Way Test and 2.) the application of it through Social Media and specifically blogging about the wonderful activities supported by the Rousers of Redmond. If Kelly can do it with the right support, so can you!

Why not let the Four Way Test be a litmus test each time you consider the writing and promotions you will be publishing in the name of growing your business and creating and supporting your online presence and reputation? And let being social while marketing with bold truth and colorful story and authentic intentions be your guiding tenets.

Being Real Inspires. Telling Stories Captivates. Paying It Forward Feels Great.

May you feel comfortable in sharing YOU in your marketing message and writing and know where to go for a champion if support and a push is needed.

P.S. (Funny thing, I’ve been hoping to meet Blaine ever since I heard that story from Kelly the first day I met her and “rumor” has it we are having a cup of coffee sometime soon…I’m counting the days!)