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Yesterday I read a recently published online article by a major news outlet about a tragic incident that happened on the Gold Coast in 1990 to a young teenage couple. The man who committed the atrocity against the two was found, charged, convicted and is still in jail. It’s a sad ending to an unnecessary story, but nonetheless, it’s an ending.
Then the question came to mind “Was this article and its content necessary and relevant?” The headline insinuating ‘a monster lurking in the darkness’ was obviously going to intrigue people and make readers click through to the article. Ten sentences in, I was transported into a horror movie with a graphic and disturbing blow-by-blow description of what happened to these two kids and the lack of remorse shown by the man who did it.
But firstly, allow me to digress for a moment . . . . .
Last year I completed a course at QUT where one of the lecturers simplified on how to write content that matters and will positively enhance the readers experience, the rule was ‘So what?’ You have written this content, so what is the reader going to achieve by reading this?
These are some of my own ‘So What’s?’ I wrote down during this course on creating content that mattered:
- Will the reader be informed?
- Will the reader be provoked in their thinking?
- Will the reader be encouraged to change something in their lives for the better?
- Will the reader’s life benefit in any way from this knowledge?
I read through this entire article and blinked away tears as the description left nothing to imagination. I read the article simply to see what possible ending and ‘point’ of rehashing this tragedy would be.
A park had been named in memory of one of the victims many years ago so maybe the ending of this article would be something meaningful such as a foundation set up for one of the victims’ families or charities. Perhaps the point of the article was that the convicted attacker was up for parole and they were petitioning to have him kept in jail? Or maybe this article was written reflecting on how security had since changed on Gold Coast beaches at night time since the incident?
There was nothing new to print. No point. No moving forward. Just re-hashing a terrible thing that happened to some really nice kids and leaving readers in shock with no direction to turn.
In addition to not giving the readers any tools to move forward, the reality was that the victim’s family and friends probably still live on the Gold Coast and undoubtedly replay the nightmare in their heads every day. Now, their personal tragedy is used as Shock Content which served no other purpose than for readers to click through to the article.
The thing that upset me most with this article was the disrespect which was left to the last paragraph of the article when the publication noted that they had contacted the mother of one of the victims. She chose not to comment as it was still too painful and yet the article was published.
Yes, the point of writing an article is for people to read it but as a writer, you have a responsibility to your readers and as a human being, you have a responsibility to the victims (if there were any). You are responsible for choosing content that is relevant, informative and – if appropriate – entertaining.
It’s not fair to kick the wind out of someone and just leave them gasping for air and that goes for writing as well. As a writer you need to take responsibility for your actions and ensure your writing is serving a purpose.
Make Your Words Count. KM.
As a little side project, I have been creating content and managing the social media for the newly published children’s book ‘The Tooth And The Sixpence.” This project is special to me because the book’s author is indeed my wonderful Grandmother, Eillea Mayfield.
Grandma is now 89 and whilst she is a whiz talking on Skype building websites and posting photo’s on Facebook is not really her forte, so I thought I’d help out. Just between you and me, I love doing it for so many reasons but the main being, it’s for family.
Tonight, I was up late, tea in hand and setting the keyboard on fire as I was writing up a bio of Grandma for her books website. It was challenging condensing 89 years of life into a few paragraphs and keeping it in the theme of the website. What was even more challenging was my urge to start doing even more research on my family and learning more about the incredible journeys and lives of these people I have the privilege of calling my family and ancestors.
I did get a chance to have a look at a few of the branches in the family tree when my Mum let me borrow their copy of The Mayfield Family. This book was compiled by the very dedicated Pat Uppill and spans over a history of thirteen generations of the Mayfield family. Mayfield is my maiden name and one that I was particularly sad to let go on my wedding day but proud to see it continue in strength through amazing individuals like my Grandma who wrote the book and my little sister whom is responsible for getting it published.
Enough of the nostalgic ramblings . . .
Here’s 5 reasons why finding out some family history will make you a better writer:
- Writers need to be able to research – this is good practice.
- It will reconnect you with your family past and present.
- You will gain a better understanding of where your inspiration as a writer comes from.
- It gives you a real life understanding of timelines – this is good for script writing and novels
- You may find a hidden treasure – royalty, celebrity, pioneer – you just never know which influential individual you may be related to.
Make your words count. KM.
I love my job and the diversity it offers me. On a daily basis I can write a website update on childhood obesity, a blog article on Australia’s new immigration laws and a Facebook post giving tips on First Aid practices. Whilst variety is the spice of life, it can also offer a challenge to copywriters who need to become instant ‘experts’ on topics that are very foreign to in their current knowledge base.
So how can you make unfamiliar content familiar? Here’s some tips:
- Accept the challenge: If a client needs someone who is familiar with laser skin-care treatments, accept it. You will be amazed at how quickly you can learn if you set your mind to it.
- Spend time with the client: There is nothing more important than face-to-face content and conversation with your client – even if it is via Skype. This is essential to not only accurately understand their needs for content, but how they actually speak. You’ll very quickly be able to determine if they’re style is casual or articulate and this will give you a clue on what style of writing they will appreciate and relate to.
- Read: See what your clients competition are doing right and what is working for their website and content. Follow social media pages to see what is engaging people in that industry and especially the terminology people use. Some industries feel like they’re speaking a different language, particularly if they’re very specialized in their field. Understand what is out there and how people who are affiliated with that service are talking.
- Research! There is no excuse for poor research. In 2016 we have an unprecedented amount of knowledge literally at our finger tips! The internet not only has an answer for everything but means in which you can contact people and ask for advice through forums and social media groups. You can even try the old fashioned way of actually going out into the industry you’re righting about and having a more hands on approach.
Above all, remember to enjoy and embrace the challenge. It’s a gift to be able to write for a living and knowledge, no matter shape or form is a reward in itself.
Make your words count. KM.
When you see the name Hugh Grant on a movie poster, what immediately comes to mind? I’m guessing probably a romantic comedy. How about downloading a Celine Dion album? Are you expecting R&B or more soulful music?
The same can be said for writing. Writers and authors need to create a certain style of writing so their readers and clients know what to expect. The style of your F. Scott Fitzgerald is a long way away from the style of Helen Fielding and their readers know that.
Focusing on not just your content but your style of writing is just as important as you are building your brand through your words. So how do you make your style of writing your brand?
Write how you talk: Your unique creative personality is the reason you are writing and not studying to be a mechanic (or maybe you’re doing both?!). Think of how you talk to your friends and how they would describe you. A thinker? Life of the party? Compassionate? An ideas person? These attributes are what you need to hone into because they are the real you and the reason people like you. Your personality is your POD – Point Of Difference.
Create a lingo or tagline: Rove McManus finished everyone one of his television shows signing off with “Say Hi to your Mum for me.” This is a fantastic way of creating a personality and creating a brand. Finish everyone of your articles, or even add it on to your email signature – with a sign off, quote, anything that sets you apart from the rest.
Observe: Take some time and check out other copywriters, content creaters, SEO experts etc and try and figure out what their Point Of Difference is and why people would chose them over you. Watch their online interaction and try to pinpoint what their brand is and who their clientele will be. You will learn a lot about your writing by observing others in the industry.
Create your online presence: If you speak with any marketing guru usually their first piece of advice with branding is to keep it consistent. As a writer, this means both visually and content wise, your style needs to be creating a known personality and a ‘brand’ that people want to be affiliated with. Ensure your website and your social media platforms are all delivering the same message and attracting the clients you want to work for. You need to keep your content on all of your online platforms updated and accurate so people can find you.
Write for yourself: As a copywriter your job is to create content for other people’s businesses which is an amazing opportunity to learn so much more about different industries you would otherwise never hear about. When you get busy, your own projects will always get thrown to one side and this is not good for your craft. Creativity thrives on creativity so ensure you are allowing yourself a bit of time each week to work on your own best-seller or blockbuster!
Make your words count. KM.
It never ceases to amaze me how stories find me. Last night I was embarking on clearing up the spare room of our house which had inadvertently turned into a dumping ground. I needed some background noise to help complete this colossal task so I switched on some talk-back radio for a change of pace and was thrilled by what I had found.
ABC Radio was broadcasting the BBC Radio 4 Bookclub program in which an audience has the opportunity to speak directly with an author. Much to my delight, today’s author was the fascinating Judith Kerr. Judith was responsible for one of the most famous – and one of my personal favourites – children’s books of all time, The Tiger Who Came To Tea.
Instead of a conversation about children’s literature, which is what I was fully expecting, the content of the interview took an intriguing turn. Born in Germany, Judith Kerr was the daughter of a prominent theater critic and essayist, Alfred Kerr. Through his participation of drama and literary criticism, his open hostility towards the Nazi regime forced his family to flee Germany in 1933. After several years in exile in Europe, her family finally settleddown in London.
Although her most successful book-to-date is still The Tiger Who Came To Tea, it was another one of Judith Kerr’s books which was the focal point for today’s discussion, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. I felt ashamed that I had never heard of this book but I can assure you after listening to the humble and reflective words of Judith Kerr, I will be buying it. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is Ms. Kerr’s accounts of growing up in Berlin at the beginning of the Nazi occupation. Her narration in this book, as described in the BBC interview, is written from the eyes of innocence, in-experience and the ignorant bliss of an 8-year-old child.
Judith mentioned in the interview that the book was written from her own personal observations as a somewhat oblivious child. However, as the years have passed her appreciation of the magnitude of what she survived has caused for much reflection. She spoke how she often wonders how she would have dealt with raising and protecting her children in that environment. In addition, an admiration for her parents for how well they protected her and her brother from the atrocities surrounding them, still continues to grow to this very day.
What we can learn from Judith Kerr: Ms Kerr stated that firstly and foremost, she is an illustrator and she purely wrote stories in order to create a space to draw. Her affair with writing has had it’s high and lows and her change in direction from children’s books to young adult novels such as When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, came from an interest from her own grown-up children about her past.
Whether it be the fact that my Grandmother is German or the nostalgic affection I hold for reading The Tiger Who Came To Tea to my own children, Judith Kerr has most definitely led a life of intent. She commented that she is fully aware she is a living a life that millions of her countrymen did not get the chance to live and respects that. The discussion in this BBC Radio 4 Bookclub sitting also instigated a curiosity of wanting to know more about her father who’s literature was part of the infamous book burning in 1933.
There is a saying that you should never meet your idol as you will be disappointed. After having ‘met’ 92-year old Judith Kerr last night in the chaos of tidying up my spare room, I can safely say I was far from disappointed. In fact, it was an honor to be in the same room as her wonderful life and story-telling, even if we were half way across the world from each other.
Make your words count. KM.
There were no tears, no mindless carry on, there was just a man in a suit on stage pleading with us to look after our planet. It’s the Oscar speech everyone is talking about for the right reasons.
Leonardo DiCaprio has been nominated 5 times for an Academy Award for his work in film and the world applauded as this much deserved artist finally received his first Oscar for Best Actor in The Revanent.
What made this victory even sweeter for us all was the amazing speech DiCaprio delivered and his ability to tie in the relevance of global warming into his Oscar win.
Here’s why the world is still spinning from the words of Leo’s Oscar acceptance speech:
- It showed grace.
- It showed humility.
- It showed genuine gratitude.
- It was the perfect of example of paying it forward with his acknowledgement of saving the environment.
Just like the order of processions for the ceremony, the best was saved until last when DiCaprio parted the stage after this ending statement of his acceptance speech:
“And lastly, I just want to say this, making The Revanent was about man’s relationship to the natural world – the world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. Our production had to move to the southernmost tip of this planet just to find snow. Climate change is real, it is happening now, it is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.
We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters or the big corporations, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous peoples of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people who will be most affected by this, for our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed .
I thank you for this amazing award tonight. Let us not take this planet for granted; I do not take this night for granted.”
What we can learn from Leonardo DiCaprio: The message in his words were all the more powerful due to the platform in which they were delivered. The audience were not expecting a selfless act, they were expecting talk about agents, congratulations to producers, other actors and self-inflicted pats on the back. Leonardo’s plight for the environment is not new with his recent appearance at the United Nations but his dedication to the cause is still evident with this recent plea to look after the world.
Leonardo DiCaprio is an intelligent individual and this can be see in his choice of movie roles and his rare interviews. For whatever reason the Academy agreed upon this being the ‘year of Leo’, it was most definitely a fitting tribute to both the magnificent talent that is Leonardo Dicaprio and to the voice of humanity. This was not just a message to people and world leaders, this was a message to planet earth letting her know not to worry, that Leo’s got her back.
Make your words count. KM.
I read an interview many years ago with Sir Jeffrey Archer and there was one particular revelation that stuck with me. Despite the convenience offered through computers and technology in general, Sir Archer continues to write all of his novels by hand. This has become such an intrinsic part of his writing ritual that he uses a new black ink gel pen every single morning.
Although this process may seem tedious and un-necessary, 150 books later and sales of over 270 million publications world-wide goes to show that there is definitely proof in the pudding when it comes to putting pen to paper.
This proof is reaffirmed to me on a personal level whenever I receive a hand-written letter (yes they do still exist!). My letters are usually written between one of two authors; my darling Nanna who despite being over ninety and suffering from arthritis still manages to hand a birthday card for me every year as well as Christmas cards for the whole family; and my beautifully creative 6-year-old daughter.
My daughter has loved to write before she even knew how and regularly leaves little notes professing her love to me, her daddy, her brother or all three of us. Reading these meaningful words of emotion through her very carefully structured hand-writing on pieces of coloured paper, constantly tugs my heart strings.
So why is handwritten so much better than typed words when it comes to creating content?
It’s personal: The fact that there is such as a profession as a ‘Hand-writing expert’ reinforces that there is so much more to the written word that we see. The style of our writing in addition to the content, gives a personal insight to who we are, how we think and how we see the world.
It’s makes you accountable: Texting, typing – it’s all pretty in-personal but not only that, it’s so easy! Predictive texting, spell check all of these systems that are designed to help us are in fact hindering us and making us very VERY lazy. Grabbing a pen and putting it paper makes us 100% accountable for the content – no blaming technology for a miscommunication.
It’s deliberate: When you are writing as opposed to typing, you are giving your brain a chance to preempt your next thought in a timely fashion. Touch typing demands your brain to be fast-paced and hasty in it’s thought process. Taking the time to actually write will allow your ideas to come at a much more natural and organic pace. In this demanding age of technology and distractions, the best ideas will surface from those who take to the time to appreciate their formation.
Although hand-written communication is a dying art (Exhibit A: declining number of Christmas cards received each year), that little stomach jump I get when I find a hand-written letter on my bedside table or in my letterbox – as opposed to the windowed envelopes – will never fail to excite me. And I really hope that somehow, handwriting will make a comeback.
Make your words count. KM.
We’d have to all agree it’s been a pretty average start to 2016 with the loss of not one, not two but three iconic voices. On January 10th, two days after his 69th birthday, the shocking news of David Bowie’s death spread like wildfire.
Less than a week later – before any of us got to catch our breath and process the passing of such an amazing artist – another cultural masterpiece joined the ranks when the marvelous Alan Rickman left us for a higher place.
And then yesterday to seal the deal, Glenn Frey, the voice of the Eagles let his wings soar and left the entertainment world reeling about another massive hole left by the departure of yet another icon.
I had a soft spot for all three of these artists and reading through all of the news articles, memes, quotes and old interviews what really stuck out was the power of their own words. Not lyrics from one of their songs, or a quote from a character in one of their movies, but their own words.
Words which were spoken in the purest form, not from a script but from the heart. Words that were spoken to fans on stage, to a journalist asking about their life, words that were spoken from a place that was true and it is beautiful to think that this is a part of the legacy they have left us to compliment their huge catalog of talent.
Here are my favourite quotes from the divine David Bowie, alluring Alan Rickman and glorious Glenn Frey:
“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it wont be boring.” On stage at Madison Square Garden, 1997.
“I’m a star. Just add water and stir.”
“As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?”
“There’s a voice inside you that you tells you what to do.”
“Talent is an accident of genes – and a responsibility.”
“It would be wonderful to think that the future is unknown and sort of surprising.”
“I’ve read somewhere that when you’re writing, you should stop while you’re doing well so you always want to go back to work.”
“My songs grow old on people – like warts.”
“Hey, I didn’t make a big deal out of Hotel California. The 18 million people that bought it did.”
Yes, the world will be a different place without their physical presence but these three brilliant chaps have all left a gift that will continue to keep on giving.
Through their music, their movies and their sheer existence, their words in whichever form they were spoken, have embedded themselves into our personal history and into our hearts reminding us that we can all in fact be heroes, even if for just one day.
Ten years ago, I spent New Years Eve with a small group of friends in the carport of our two-bedroom home. The table we were sitting around was actually a table tennis table and my fiance’ (now husband), came up with a great little game for us to play – over drinks of course. Keep in mind, this was before the age of us living on our mobile phones and updating our status every five minutes. The game was simple, everyone had to write down three New Years Resolutions and then place them in a glass bowl.
We would then take in turns of retrieving one of these pieces of paper, read out the content then try and guess who’s resolution it was. The idea behind it was not only how well we knew each other but also making us somewhat accountable to each other to fulfill these resolutions. In 2006, my resolution was to finish writing my novel.
Hmmmm. Weddings, funerals, travel, a new house, a new business, a new dog and two kids later my poor resolution is still patiently – if not sadly – sitting in the back row of my priorities, waiting. My New Years resolution of finishing a book that had been randomly attended to was starting to fade as was the urge to complete it. My inspiration was replaced by duties and ‘life’ and then it became completely lost. I couldn’t find it, even if I had wanted to.
It’s now 2016 and for whatever reason, my lost resolution started to give me clues on it’s whereabouts. I did a massive clean out of one of our cupboards last week and found a box of my writing. Ranging from primary school fiction to bits of torn out paper with ideas for movies scrawled across it in black biro. My resolution was back and I successfully dug it out from underneath the pile of distractions and excuses that started to become my normal way of thinking. I have committed to extending the same courtesy to my resolution as I have applied to many other things in my life and actually spend some time on it.
However, like myself, my resolution has slightly matured and somewhat changed shaped from its initial form way back in 2006. I am still committed to writing and completing my first book but it’s content and my reason for doing it, is completely different.
I am hoping 2016 will the year that I can start making a difference to many things in many ways. So please accept these words as my slip of paper retrieved from a glass bowl “This year I will finish writing my book.” And I am happy for you to make me accountable for these words and not let them lie dormant for another ten years.
Happy 2016 x