One of my talents that serves me and my clients well is an ability to devise a framework, a structure for ideas to build on. I was once described as a mason, repairing and building the pillars that hold up the roof. Structure creates order, sequence and a foundation for ideas to take off.
I have known and worked with people who only understand framework and structure. They’re adept at outlines, at plans and calendar systems. They are intent on planning and order for the sake of order alone. But what good is a structure if nothing is built with it? It becomes a bare skeleton, never fleshed out.
Neither extreme will get you very far. It’s the partnership between those two that creates worlds! And what a partnership it can be! The idea person explains the creative idea, what it means, who it is intended for, what the results would be. The mason can take that concept and develop the structure that would provide the support and plan to actually make something of it that can have real-world results.
Now one challenge can be the “language barrier.” Have you ever conversed with a left-brain IT programmer? Or have you listened to a highly intuitive writer when they’re on a creative roll? Neither of those will communicate well with the other without a bridge.
The moral of this story is that you creative types will benefit from working with a more left-brain foundation-builder, and you left-brained structure folks will benefit from working with those who can flesh out your structure. Choose your team carefully to ensure that ideas don’t die on the vine – the world needs to hear from you!
Have you ever taught a class or workshop and didn’t create any handouts, workbooks, or training manuals because you didn’t know how? Here’s your brief guideline!
Start by looking at your notes or script for the class. Type (or write) the key points you will teach. Under each, in outline format, type the sub-points. For instance, let’s say you want to teach a class on how to create an organic garden. Your key points could include soil, water, light, fertilizer, plants to choose, etc. Under the heading for soil, you might write what key components of the soil should be, nutrients, maintenance, etc.
Be sure to include some form of paper take-away for reference and marketing purposes. Your workbook or handout should include the key talking points (but not all the information you discussed), branding and contact information for your business, and perhaps other resources. Be sure it is professional and attractive in appearance, and reflects the colors and fonts of your branding.
If you are creating an actual workbook that you want students to use during and after class, you may need more expertise than you have, unless you’re excellent at Word or Pages. The workbook should reflect all the considerations above, but also be easy to use. Ensure sufficient space to write, offer open-ended and provocative questions to get students thinking and feeling, and offer clear organization of the material.
This overview of content creation will get you started on creating a more useful and engaging training or class. And when you need more help, you know where to go: LightseedsbyHolly.com!
Think carefully about this – how often during your average day do you explain something to someone? How often do you find yourself teaching something you know, whether related to work or play? Do you realize the wealth of information, experience, guidance that you contain in your mind? Last question: have you ever considered deliberately sharing this with a target audience?
When I self-published my own book, The Spiritual Virtual Assistant, the intent was to encourage and teach others to do what I do – administratively support Lightworkers. The feedback from readers has been wonderful! And now because I have shared a portion of my expertise with a wider audience, I am (rightfully) perceived as an expert in my field.
A book also, of course, serves as a reference tool for the reader. When you write non-fiction based on your experience, it becomes a resource for the reader to refer to again and again – and in the process bringing you and your work back into the conscious mind.
And of course, if you write fiction, you’re offering hours of entertainment, and perhaps enlightenment, to the world.
With the rapid rise in popularity of self-publishing, book publication is no longer a pipe dream. If you choose to obtain a traditional publisher, the initial process can be a great challenge, however once you find an agent and/or publisher, the marketing and sales process is largely off your shoulders. With self-publication, the initial process is simpler and shorter, but because you’re on your own the marketing and sales are part of your process. Do a great deal of research on your options, and be prepared to do your part, whatever you decide.
Bless the world with your thoughts and experience – write a book!
If you work from home as I do, how do you keep your life separate from your work – or do you need to?
Without firm boundaries (working hours, privacy, accessibility) we can too easily become overwhelmed and overworked. It's important to me, and perhaps to you as well, that my spirituality surround and fill everything I do in my work and my home life. However when you work from your home it's important that you not allow your working life to overtake your home life.
For example, your work may rely heavily on phone calls. Do you have set working hours after which you will not accept calls? You should! Do you check your work email 7 days a week? Probably not a good idea.
Give yourself (and your family) the courtesy to honor your everyday life. Your work may be important, but your health, family and friends are your very life.
Because I offer both proofreading and editing, I’m often asked what the difference is. This may not be the textbook answer, but it’s my process and it might help you in your next writing project.
Proofreading is the act of reading through written material for errors – spelling, grammar, punctuation. All word processing programs have a spell checker, and I always recommend you start with that, but ONLY start with it, as these are far from infallible. If you’re the author of a piece and you know you aren’t great at grammar and punctuation, ask a friend for help (one, obviously, who IS good at it). It is important, however, to honor an author’s writing style in this process. If he or she capitalizes words for humorous or emphatic purposes, unless it’s a downright screaming error it should be left as is.
There are countless resources online and in the library to help with this important process. These kinds of mistakes can drastically change the meaning of the writing so it’s important to get it correct. We’ve all seen memes online like these – don’t be one of those people!
Now, I also do line editing, the task of looking at meaning rather than structure. Line editing is the act of reviewing the flow of the meaning. Are you using the correct word in context? (The old their – they’re – there dilemma.) Do the words and structure convey the meaning behind the words? Is a sentence out of place and better in context elsewhere? Did you repeat a phrase used earlier?
If you do or intend to write often, whether articles, blog posts or books, take the time to refresh your high school writing skills so you come across as the knowledgeable pro you are!
In my last post I gave you some quick Word tips – now let’s tackle Excel. Many people won’t even try using this easy software as they mistakenly assume it’s math-based and complex. But Excel is one of my favorite organizational tools – let me show you!
Excel is a great tracking tool – create a simple contact list, or balance sheet, or anything else you want to keep track of. Yes there are more complex programs out there for recordkeeping, like Access and other database systems, however those are not as accessible (ironically) or as easy to use as Excel.
I’ve created several done-for-you templates you can download for free! But if you want something customized, here are some easy tips.
In case you have never seen Excel before, you should know first that the columns with letters and the rows with numbers combine to create a “cell” – the small box at the intersection. So the example here shows cell F5 highlighted. This is important to know as you learn more.
You may want to create a simple address book for yourself. You would start by creating column headings so you can keep track of what goes where. In cell A1 (see why I said this is important?) you’ll type “First Name.” In cell A2 you’ll type “Last Name,” in cell A3 “Email,” and so on – include all the fields that are useful to you. Then under these headings, in row B, you’ll type your first contact. Keep going and I’ll show you a neat trick!
After you have a list of contact information, take a look at the menu at the top and you’ll see Sort & Filter. Click that. This offers you an easy way to sort your entries. Let’s say you want to see at a glance what cities your contacts are in. Click anywhere in your City column, then click Sort & Filter, then click Sort A-Z. Voila!
So, you can see that Excel will provide you easy recordkeeping, based on whatever column headings you choose. Take a look at the tools I've done for you, and play around with Excel to learn more. You can excel at Excel!
Does anyone remember the old Wang word processors, the “next generation” of typewriting? Then came along Wordpress. Now we have Word (for the PC) or Pages (for Mac). Super simple to use, yet do you understand the basics of document creation, whatever the platform is?
If you’re not a Word expert but would like to be proficient, take the time to play around with the many options that appear in your toolbars and learn what they do. There are also countless resources on YouTube and elsewhere online. The more you know, the easier it is!
I recently had a great conversation with my client Lisa Crilley Mallis of SystemSavvy Consulting. Well, they are usually great, but this one was was especially so because Lisa used a phrase that really struck me. As she discussed how important it is to use our time on tasks that really serve our vision and goals, Lisa asked, "What is the resentment factor involved in this task?"
Think about it from another viewpoint: what energy is behind a task you feel less than happy about performing? If you resent having to spend time on it, you put that energy into the task - how can it be successful? When we're faced with tasks that rate high on the resentment factor, it's time to re-evaluate.
Let's spend the majority of time on the tasks that don't even register on the resentment scale, and either eliminate or delegate those that do.
Have you ever attempted to come up with fresh ideas on your own, whether for a personal project or your business? Unless you are truly creative, it can be a challenge!
Many of us, myself included, do better when we brainstorm with others. The shared energy and shared ideas all feed off each other to create something new. Let's create an imaginary scenario here of the creation of a business logo.
Most of us have a community of some sort, whether business associates, employees, friends who understand our work, or like-minded network members. Gather everyone together, in person or by phone.
Present the topic of discussion ("I'd like your input on a new company logo. I want it to ________. I do not want it to _______. Let's discuss!") You may want to make it clear that all opinions are welcome without judgment.
You'll get a variety of opinions, some voiced more assertively than others - make note of all the ideas. One person's comment may seem off base, but an idea generated from it by someone else in the room works well for you. That's the value of brainstorming!
When the topic seems to have been sufficiently gone over, I always recommend stepping away from the project for a day or two. With fresh eyes, go back over your notes, and see what ideas jump out at you. Sometimes the right answer seems obvious after this exercise, and sometimes more discussion will help.
Don't go it alone - brainstorm the answers!
Anyone who knows me or has read my material knows that I am the "Grammar Nazi" - I have periodic rants about the level of error I see in professionally created content, and how UNprofessional it makes the writer appear. So, what needs to happen to appear professional if you don't know squat about proofreading?
It all goes back to what we learned in school: check your work! As I often say, anything you're typing in has some form of spell check - use it! However because spell checkers are far from infallible, your need to review the writing as well. Here's how I do it.
I'll begin reading a paragraph out loud because it triggers the brain to notice an error more easily than reading silently. I watch for words that are spelled correctly but are incorrect in context - the usual culprits of there/they're/their, your/you're, and so on, as well as other homonyms like threw/through, here/hear, etc. I watch for verb tenses, plural vs. possessive, grammar errors, and overall style.
But just as important is what editors call "line editing." I look at whether the writer's style is easy to understand. I look at the structure of the writing: Should that sentence be two pages further on with the rest of the discussion of that topic? Should this paragraph be broken apart? Should this be a new section or chapter?
Test yourself when you next have a writing assignment. See how well you can proofread yourself - have a dictionary nearby as backup! Taking the time to do it correctly means you can make a great impression on your readers.
And when you need a pro, you know who to call - Holly@LightseedsOffice.com!
Welcome! These stories, tips and tricks are intended to help you save time, and be more organized and effective in your work. New items will be added frequently so check back often.