Writers and Social Interaction

 

            As a writer, I struggle with social interaction. Not in the sense that I’m awkward and don’t have the ability to relate to others – no, social interaction just takes a lot of energy. A social event is fun, but I need alone time to recover.
            Many other writers are this way as well. This is because we are introverts. I would have never guessed this about myself. I am confident at public speaking and don’t mind teaching or leading others regularly. Two years ago, I was teaching a weekly adult class at church, speaking monthly at a prison, and creating teaching materials for a class I taught new-hires at work. That doesn’t sound like the typical life of an introvert. But what I learned was that introverts aren’t necessarily anti-social, they simply use a lot of energy to be social. They need lots of alone time to recuperate after social events.
            Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy by being social, and being alone and reflective uses a lot of energy. Most people in American society are extroverts, and there’s a lot of misunderstanding between these two groups.
            Even the most introverted among us has social needs, however. And everyone, introverted or not, needs to stretch outside their own comfort zones and create relationships with others. This is especially true with writers and marketers, who rely on relationships to gain clients and market their work. So what’s an introvert to do?
            There are many online sites that can help you reach out and form new relationships. I’m a big fan of Meetup.com, a site that helps you find social groups based on your interests. I have a much easier time meeting new people when there’s a common interest already in place. Meetup offers groups with focuses on business networking, cooking, hiking, biking, and more. Some are gender or age specific, and many are not. I really enjoy the variety I find there, even in the smaller city I live in.
Another site a lot of people enjoy is Foursquare.com, a site I haven’t tried but am intrigued by. It allows you to check in at various locations and find out if anyone you know is nearby. Also, many businesses offer deals and discounts to Foursquare members to entice them to visit and check in there.
You never know when you’re going to meet your next business lead or networking contact. The best places can often be the least obvious ones, where friendships are more natural than at a networking event. Meetup and Foursquare are only two of many options, but the point is simple – even introverts need to get out and meet new people sometimes. Just give yourself plenty of alone time to recharge afterward. 
Anna Brown

 

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Take Care of Your Body to Boost Your Mind

As writers, or really as professionals in most settings, we spend a lot of time sitting in an office behind a computer screen. We focus largely on mental work, and our physical bodies are often neglected. Unfortunately this leads to a huge variety of health problems. Obesity, heart disease, and even diabetes can be caused simply by sitting for long periods of time with no breaks. An article from Women’s Health also noted that regular exercise after sitting may not be enough – you actually need to take breaks from your sitting time if you want to take care of your health. Even a walk to the coffee machine or water cooler would be an improvement.

Many of us would make the excuse that we simply don’t have time in our busy day to get up and move around. We get into creative flow – or we look for creative flow – and we don’t want to interrupt that by distracting our minds with something else. We think that sitting still and focusing makes us better writers and better employees. However, studies have shown a strong link between a sedentary lifestyle and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

As writers, or professionals of any sort, we can’t afford to be plagued by these physical and mental issues if we want to produce our best work.
The solution is simple – we need to move. Our bodies were built for movement, and in less developed times in history, we moved quite a lot. We had farms to tend, animals to look after, and miles to walk in order to get where we needed to be. In our modern age, we have many conveniences that make it possible to shop, catch up on the news, and talk to our family without ever leaving our chairs. However, these same conveniences are slowly killing us.

The flip side of all this bad news is some good news – exercise can dramatically increase mental performance. The New York Times recently reported on an Irish study showing that memory was enhanced by only 30 minutes of exercise. In addition, studies have shown that anxiety and depression symptoms are significantly relieved by exercise. All of these positive effects can help you focus more on your work, feel more optimistic about what you are accomplishing, and create your best content as a writer or other professional.

Here are some simple ways to work more movement into our lives:

 

  • Take breaks. A lot of them. Most folks can take a quick five or ten minute break every hour without any impact to their work. In addition, a quick break will renew your mind and you will return to your work with a new perspective, less stress, and more creativity. You may even come up with a key idea on your break, when you mind is feeling less stress. 
  • Park far away and take the stairs. These oft-repeated tips really will help you feel more invigorated when you arrive at your desk. They are a good way to work in some exercise without having to go to a gym
  • Walk or bike more places. It generally takes only a slight shift of mindset to realize that many places we usually drive to are actually close enough to walk or ride our bikes. How far away is the bank? Your friend’s house? Your workplace? While walking or riding may not help if you need to carry things, there are many trips that you could easily make in this way. 
  • Try yoga or stretching exercises. Some people have health concerns that keep them from being able to do strenuous exercise. However, yoga or stretching exercises are easy on the body while still getting blood flowing. In addition, meditation is easily combined with these practices to help bring an overall feeling of centering to your day. 

As writers or other professionals, we need to produce our best work as often as possible. Our mental state, our creativity, and our long term health all depend on frequent movement throughout the day. The truth is, you don’t have time in your workday NOT to move! Maybe now would be a good time for that break.

 

Anna Brown

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Writing When You’re Stumped

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. 

Sometimes the content requests you receive from clients – or need for yourself – will leave you stumped. What is there to say about brown foxes and lazy dogs? It’s so cliché – hasn’t it been said before? What new do you have to add?

At times like these, you may need a boost of inspiration to get started writing. Here are some steps that can help:

Google. What?? You’re writing FOR the web, why should you look ON the web? Well, sometimes before you can know what to say, you need to see what others are saying. A quick Google search can help you see what’s out there, determine where the gaps are, and create unique content. In addition, if you’ve been creating content for awhile, you may have written about brown foxes and lazy dogs in the past. You can see what notes you have from previous content, which may help.

Angle. What angle is the client looking for? Do they need a business look at brown foxes and lazy dogs? In the 1st Quarter of 2012, the number of brown foxes jumping over lazy dogs grew by 37%. Or, is there a need for a more storytelling angle? My brown fox Sam recently made me laugh by jumping over my lazy dog Tom while the sprinkler drenched them both in my front yard. Determining what type of site your client – or you – are trying to create will give you some immediate ideas how to create your article.

Brainstorm. Once you’ve done the previous two steps you will likely have some notes, and some ideas about sentences, openings, and conclusions. Open a blank word document and start writing them down. Don’t worry about format, order, or even punctuation at this stage. Also include any ideas you already have about how brown foxes and lazy dogs relate to each other. This step is very free-form, so just let it flow and don’t worry about silly or ‘bad’ ideas. They don’t have to make the final copy.

Write. Using your brainstorm page as a base and write your article. You’ll be surprised how quickly the content will come together now that you have your juices flowing. Of course, when you finish the text, read over it twice to make sure you haven’t made any accidental mistakes in spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Then pat yourself on the back – well done!

When you create content for a living, you will come across unusual requests by clients on a regular basis. At times, these initially difficult topics will yield some of your best writing! Don’t be nervous about being stumped by a client request. With these four simple steps, you’ll have your article done in no time.

Anna Brown

Are you looking for great content and help with overall content strategy? Take a look at my professional services and contact me today to begin!

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