Jan 252016

Dana Fontein, a fine blog writer over at Hootsuite, posted a really helpful piece this morning, “So You Think You Can’t Write: 8 Writing Resources for Non-Writers.

Many believe that they simply cannot write, or that they aren’t a “writer,” when the truth is that they really just believe they are not a good writer.

For content marketers, writing is obviously an integral component to most, if not all, aspects of the job. Everything from drafting blog posts to crafting the perfect video script requires the ability to write. While of course the act of stringing words together to form sentences can satisfy the basic requirements, writing is a skill that with time, dedication, and a desire to improve, can be mastered to an exceptional level. Just like the perfect set of graphite pencils helps with drawing, there are numerous tools available to help you improve your chances of writing success.

Bless her heart, Fontein includes two nondigital resources (books!) that I can highly recommend as well: Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (remember the birds, my KPU students?).

Among those digital resources she lists, I follow Copyblogger (“the bible of content marketing”) closely. Others were new to me. Portent’s Content Idea Generator is whimsical and fun and occasionally absurd – and therefore a fine boost to brainstorming blog-post ideas. Others include Co-Schedule’s Headline Analyzer. (The headline “Why I love kittens” earned me a lowly 51/100 score, but with some precise guidance on how to improve it.)

Fonteyn annotates these and each of the other resources beautifully.

Jan 202016

In a post called “Cognitive” my good friend Jonathan Mayhew explores one of NoContest’s recurrent themes:

There is the idea that you can prevent decay in cognitive function by doing inane, mindless games on the computer, such as those peddled by lumosity.

I do the NY Times Crossword most days, and usually try to use five minutes per degree of difficulty (Monday 5, Tuesday 10, Wed. 15, etc…). I do a puzzle called kenken as well. Then I compose music or work on previous compositions. I try to work on my research every day, not breaking the Seinfeld chain. I have to figure out how to teach what I know to groups of students…

I have another goal of being able to read novels in all the romance languages. That’s another cognitive stretch. If someone can find me a novel in Rumanian or Provenzal I would appreciate it.

Really, though, my whole life is devoted to the cultivation of intelligence. That’s all I’m about. There are two or three ways of doing this. Learning to do novel tasks stretches the mind in different ways. So I have tried to teach myself to draw, to compose music, to read Italian. Delving deeply into a subject matter that is not novel, that you know very, very well, is also good. So writing a third book on Lorca… A third way is to solve puzzles or memorize poetry.

I hate that this sounds arrogant, but if I am intelligent it is because I do these things, not the other way around. If I am stupid about other things, it is because I haven’t cultivated thoses sorts of intelligences. Put me in a home depot, and I am a blithering idiot.

Jonathan’s blog is one of the best places in cyberspace. You need to put it in your feed.

Jan 182016

A Faculty Focus piece published today by Linda Shadiow and Maryellen Weimar called “The Rhythms of the Semester” highlights ways professors can help students negotiate “the arc” of the course.

The early weeks hold promise and high hopes, both often curtailed when the first assignments are graded. The final weeks find us somewhere between being reluctant or relieved to see a class move on. There is an inexplicable but evident interaction between our teaching persona and the persona a class develops throughout a semester.

It’s a good discussion. The authors advise

  • Calling attention to the structure of the semester
  • Developing a community in the opening weeks
  • Revitalizing the class during mis-semester doldrums (inviting a guest speaker, for instance, or “using an unusual resource”)
  • Achieving closure in the final weeks.

The creative ferment a classroom can bring into being – educator and students together – is a most wonderful thing, and can go on beyond semester’s end.

Jan 172016

The acknowledgments page to B. M. Pietsch’s book Dispensational Modernism is very funny:

I blame all of you. Writing this book has been an exercise in sustained suffering. The casual reader may, perhaps, exempt herself from excessive guilt, but for those of you who have played the larger role in prolonging my agonies with your encouragement and support, well … you know who you are, and you owe me.

These three sentences do reflect the loneliness, exhaustion, and self-doubt often involved in completing a book – or, worse, a doctoral dissertation. Gratitude in these cases is a learned response for some authors.


Back in the day, as senior editor at Prometheus Books Inc., I would have conversations with authors who had omitted spouses, editors, agents and mentors in their acknowledgments page. One author refused to acknowledge *anyone* – though, following a stern recommendation, he permitted me to write a happy paragraph.

h/t Clarissa

Photo by Robert Basil