Author Archives: Steve Aedy

20 Laziest (But Effective) College Life Hacks

Study may sometimes try to get you down and leave no time for anything else! So what should you do? Here are some tips to hack your college life and enjoy it to the max.

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1. Get Stuff Done! You know the drill – you sit down to seriously work – for real this time! – on that paper that’s due on Tuesday. Three hours later you’ve gone through another four levels on a FaceBook game, commented on a status update from your ex, watched a video of a pug jumping up a set of stairs and gotten into a bit of a flame war with someone on a message board. Self Control and Cold Turkey are here to help. These web based programs let you enter a list of websites or programs that are off limits for a certain amount of time. Just load in the website addresses and program names, set the timer and Bingo! You won’t be able to access any of them – or turn off the blacklist – until the timer is up.

2. Lending out a Book, lecture notes, MP3 player or anything else you actually want to get back one day? Snap a picture of your friend with the item about to be borrowed. Set a timer on your phone for when it’s supposed to be returned.

3. Are the charging wires for you MP3 player, phone, tablet, e-reader and laptop turning your desk into the land of spaghetti? Grab a box of medium or large binder clips, attach them to the edge of a shared table or desk and thread each charger end through the wire handle. They’ll keep the ends sticking up and ready to use and keep them from slipping back into the tangle of cords.

4. Setting your alarm for an especially early class? Change the alarm to a song you can’t stand, set the volume to max and then toss it across the room before you go to sleep.

5. Need a cold beer or soda, like, NOW? Make the most of your study break with a cold drink. Wrap a wet paper towel around your drink can or bottle and pop it into the freezer for 15 minutes. You’ll get an ice cold drink without having to wait.

6. Your parents just told you they’re coming over and the whole place smells like dirty feet? Tape a few dryer sheets over your air conditioner or air vents and turn them on. The place will small amazing in no time.

7. Don’t throw out that Post-It note quite yet! Pop motivational or flash card post-its all over. Once the test has passed, run the sticky side between the rows of keys on your keyboard to get out dist fluff and whatever else gets stuck in there. You’ll have used them to help prepare for your exams and you get a clean keyboard too!

8. Tired of marketing emails clogging up your Inbox? Filter by the word ‘unsubscribe’ and you’ll catch them all. Just move them to your Trash or set your filter to do it automatically.

9. Getting ready to haul your textbooks, DVDs, games or other books down to sell them to a student or secondhand store? Use a rolling suitcase instead of cumbersome boxes. They’ll be easier to transport and you won’t have to worry about the box falling apart.

10. When you need to copy a direct quote from the internet into your paper, use Ctrl+Shift+V to paste it into your document. You’ll copy the text but all the internet page formatting will be stripped away.

11. Get some quick sources for your paper by grabbing a definitive book on the subject. Flip to the back and go through the book’s bibliography – instant source list.

12. Make the most of Office Hours. Hitting up professors during Office Hours can help you get a better understanding of the material and it also makes you more memorable to the instructor. You’ll stop being thought of as a student number and start being remembered as that clever kid with all the questions.

13. You won’t need to buy textbooks for every class. Not every professor insists you buy the recommended textbook. Check with former students or email the professor directly before the class is set to begin and ask if the textbook is mandatory.

14. Check out international versions for textbooks. Often, textbooks printed as International Versions have the same content, just on lower quality paper. The price is typically less than half of what you’ll pay at the student store but you will have to order them online and allow a longer delivery time.

15. Grab your gum. Chewing gum – particularly minty gum – has been shown to boost focus and concentration.

16. Go old school when it comes to notes. Writing notes and brainstorming by hand helps you to retain information better than typing on a computer. Go back to pen and paper to outline a paper, make notes about a chapter or brainstorm for thesis ideas.

17. While you’re at it, take notes for someone else. Taking notes that someone else will need to understand will force you to take better notes in general. Being able to explain a concept to someone else will force your brain to process the information more thoroughly.

18. Need to get practice exams for a class? Enter “site:edu [subject] exam” into a search engine to get old exams to practice on for classes you find especially difficult.

19. Underpromise and overdeliver. When you’re planning out how to tackle studying, get your part of a group project done or finish a paper, give yourself plenty of time and set small, realistic goals. Give yourself more time than you need and you won’t end up with deadline jitters.

20. Get rid of your phone! When it’s time to buckle down and study out your phone on silent and leave it in another room. Text messages, phone calls, status alerts and breaking news can all wait for an hour.

Fighting the Blank Page: Kamikaze Writing Mode

We all know it. We all hate it. That darn blinking cursor won’t move on its own. And when we find ourselves in the position where we desperately need it to move, it won’t.

Writing under pressure is one of the bloodiest, most soul-eviscerating activities. Really, it is quite messy.

It also happens to be a situation few writers can avoid. Some (sadist) say we should actually embrace such tension-filled occurrences. After all, we are tested during moments of pressure. How we respond to the pressure is a choice. And it is the choices we make that become the foundation of our character.

Author James Bilkey said, “You never will be the person you can be if pressure, tension and discipline are out of your life.” You may come out of the situation with some bumps and bruises, but you’ll still be standing.

So, if it is the choices we make that define our character, how will you choose to handle your next pressure filled writing project?

First, Proof That It Can Be Done

It may feel like you are the only person in the world who has been forced into such a precarious position. It may feel totally unfair, unjust and downright mean for someone to ask you to church out exceptional content under such circumstances.

Guess what. You aren’t alone. You are not the first person to write under pressure. Nor will this be the last time you are asked to do so.

Perhaps all you need is a little encouragement – proof that it can be done. Not only can it be done, it can be done well.

  • Agatha Christie wrote her first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in two weeks.
  • Ed McBain spent about a month on each of his earliest novels.
  • Erle Stanley Gardner wrote for more than a half century and produced more than1,000 books. In fact, he churned out four novels, eighteen novelettes, two short stores and five articles in 1939 alone.
  • John Creasey wrote more than 500 novels in 47 years. In a single year (1939), he published 38 novels.
  • Georges Simenon wrote 10 novels in 11 months. His goal was to write a novel in 11 days. In total, he wrote 220 novels
  •  John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath in five months.
  • Herman Melville wrote Moby-Dick in six months.
  • Noel Coward wrote Blithe Spirit in six days.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in three days.

Now that you know it can be done, let’s take a look at how you can make it happen too.

How You Ended Up in This Situation

There are various reasons why people find themselves in a stressful writing situation. We are going to take a look at the top three reasons why a writer might feel pressure to compose: the need to earn money, bouncing back after a major life event, or facing a very tight deadline.

Writing Under Pressure Scenario #1: Writing to Earn Money

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky was a Rusian novelist, short story writer and essayist. He was also a gambler.

Dostoyevsky wrote Crime and Punishment in an attempt to pay off his debts. Unfortunately, the staggering amount he earned wasn’t enough. He had to ask his new wife to sell some of her possessions to cover the rest.

After placating his debtors, Dostoyevsky fell right back into old habits. Just three weeks after venturing out on their honeymoon, he had to wrap things up early. Dostoyevsky had gambled away all the couple’s money. Returning to his typewriter, the poor, broke writer churned out the first 100 pages of The Idiot in just 23 days.

Many people use their pen as a money maker; writing is not a new career venture. However, some writers need to earn more than just the average pay check. They need extra money and they need it now.

This is a very harrowing situation to find yourself in. The pressure is intense and the need to produce results can sometimes be a life or death situation. At times like this, drastic measures need to be taken.

If you don’t have any time available for frivolous things like writer’s block or procrastination, try this intense writing app. Write or Die encourages writing by punishing your attempts to be idle.

Based on the idea that a tangible consequence is more effective than an intangible reward, Write or Die offers negative reinforcement. Studies show this method strengthens a behavior because a negative condition is undesirable.

What kind of punishment is dreaded by a writer under a strict deadline? The Kamikaze mode of the Writer or Die app has the answer – keep writing or your work will unwork itself. After just a few seconds without activity, the app will begin to delete words. These consequences will persist until your preset conditions have been met (time is up or you’ve reached your desired word count).

Not everyone falls into the category of stressed, broke writer. Sometimes, there are other reasons why we feel stressed.

Writing Under Pressure Scenario #2: Bouncing Back

Often times, it is difficult enough to force yourself to write when things in life are going well. Even if you feel emotionally happy and ready to work, the muse just won’t come.

When you are in the midst of a stressful or upsetting life event, it seems downright impossible to put pen to paper. After all, how are you supposed to think about a blog posting when a loved one has just died? Is it possible to write a witty newspaper column after learning you have cancer?

So what can you do?

1. Don’t feel guilty.
As long as you aren’t neglecting the person or thing that needs attention at that moment, you have every right to attend to your own needs. You don’t need to feel selfish because you are getting your work done in the midst of chaos.

In fact, it is almost necessary for you to return to work. If writing is what makes you feel like your old self, you might need to write in order to regain a sense of normalcy.

2. Schedule time to think.
This new life event is probably dominating your thoughts. You dwell on the situation all day and perhaps all night. As a result, you haven’t given any thought to what you are supposed to be writing.

Make an intentional effort to sit and think about your writing task. Try to block everything else out of your mind. Don’t succumb to mindless activities like watching TV or Facebook stalking. Instead, use that time to think about how this recent event could enhance your writing.

3. Remember why you write.
This major life event has probably taken over your life. You may think it ridiculous to add even more to your to-do list; you have enough on your plate without the task of writing.

However, if writing is your heart’s passion, it won’t add to the stress – it will take the stress away. You’ll probably feel relieved to be engaging in a very natural impulse.

Maybe you don’t have excess stress or sadness in your life. Maybe you are just facing the pressure of a run-of-the-mill deadline.

Writing Under Pressure Scenario #3: Facing a Very Tight Deadline

Deadlines are a fact of life. As a writer, you can’t escape them and by now, you have probably grown accustom to them. However, some deadlines are tighter than normal.

When you find yourself facing an extreme deadline, consider the following tips.

1. Do your chores first.
It happens without fail; the moment a deadline rears its ugly face, you feel the overwhelming need to procrastinate. Whether you have an uncontrollable urge to clean your home from top to bottom or you absolutely have to take the dog for a walk, we all have procrastination triggers – random things we do instead of writing.

Be aware of these triggers and complete those tasks before you sit down to write. Think of it as procrastinating in advance. Once you sit down to compose, you’re mind will be clear and you won’t have an excuse to stop.

2. Know where you can and can’t work.
Ray Bradbury once said he used to write on his typewriter in the living room. The radio would be on and his mother, father and brother would all be talking at the same time.

Not everyone has the mental focus to compose under such conditions. More often than not, we need a quite, distraction free environment. Of course, it is impossible to find the perfect spot to write. And according to E.B White, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to find a quite place to write. If you are truly under the gun, you might consider checking yourself into a hotel for the weekend. On Friday night, take your favorite snacks to sustain you and work until check out Sunday afternoon.

By removing yourself from your regular environment, you greatly reduce the chance for distractions.

3. Define your task.
Don’t blindly jump into a writing project. Take the time to think about your topic and the purpose for writing.

4. Do some chunking.
Chunking is the process of taking a large task and breaking it up into smaller, more manageable projects. When we are faced with a writing project, it often seems insurmountable. The pressure we feel leads us to engage in some self-sabotage in the form of procrastination.

However, if you have a list of smaller tasks, they seem more manageable. For example, you could chunk your writing project like his:

  • Research the idea
  • Contact and interview experts
  • Write a rough draft
  • Revise and polish draft
  • Submit final product

The more intimidating the project, the more you need to strategize your time. Calculate how much time is available to complete each step. Don’t forget to include a few breaks. This lets your mind breathe between tasks, making you fully focused on completing the next one.

Once you have established a timetable, stick to it. If you hit a trouble spot, skip it. When you come back to it later, you may find you can remove it entirely.

Don’t stop working until you have met your goal. Jack Kerouac said writers should place the desk near the bed with a good light. He suggested working midnight till dawn and getting a drink when you get tired.

Susan Sontag said, “Once something is really underway, I don’t want to do anything else. I don’t go out, much of the time I forget to eat, I sleep very little.”

5. Just get it down.
Get words on the page. Humorist James Thurber once said, “Don’t get it right, just get it written.”

If you spend time worrying about every little world, you will simply heighten your anxiety level. You’ll distract yourself from the overall purpose and hinder the larger goal – which is to finish on time!

6. Use unorthodox methods.
Ray Bradbury once said, “When I wanted to write Fahrenheit 451, I went up to UCLA and found a basement typing room where, if you inserted ten cents into the typewriter, you could buy thirty minutes of typing time.”

You’ll be hard pressed to find many typing rooms with typewriters. However, you can find plenty of people willing to charge exorbitant fees to use their services.

Find a coffee shop that charges for their WiFi. Go to a computer lab at the local university and pay by the hour to use their computers.

If you know you are throwing money out the window, you’ll be more tempted to make the unreasonable spending come to a screeching halt as soon as possible.

7. If all else fails, use stimulants.
There is one time a caffeine addiction comes in handy – and that is when you have to write under pressure. If a harmless addiction to a stimulant isn’t handy, reach for a common sugar high.

These caffeine-high and sugar-rush states of being are the cure for writers block. Plus, they are responsible for eradicating mundane, boring writing.

If you tend to lean more towards healthy mental stimulation, try exercising. The endorphins you receive after just a brisk walk will be magical.

Looking Towards the Future

If you really want to get good at writing under pressure, you’ll need to practice. After all, practice makes perfect. Learn to navigate the big stressors with ease and your next writing-under-pressure task will be a cake walk.

While you are practicing, be realistic about your capabilities. Don’t be negative with yourself. No matter how hard you try, you are bound to miss a deadline every once in awhile. Unexpected setbacks creep up and cause delays.

When this happens, it is important to stay positive. Don’t think of yourself as a failure. Ask yourself why you didn’t meet the deadline. See if you can pinpoint a way to prevent it from happening again. What can you do differently in the future?

Don’t let negative thoughts like, “Why did I even bother?” creep in. Instead, think, “At least I tried. I’ll do better next time.”

No matter why you find yourself in a stressful situation, head this advice. Susan Jeffers says: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

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Are You Still a Good Writer: How Not To Get Outdated

The great folk singer Bob Dylan once said: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” You may not need a weatherman, but a good writer always knows which way the wind blows. Journalists, creative writers, copywriters, essayists, academics, researchers know how to write about contemporary issues in a succinct and engaging manner.

This isn’t as lofty as it may sound; you don’t need to be a Pulitzer Prize winner to be a strong writer. Similar to keeping physically fit, to keep “writing-fit,” you need to regularly practice and hone those writing skills and take on new challenges that allow you to explore writing in new, exciting ways.

Here are some simple tips that will help strengthen and keep your writing fresh and contemporary.

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Keep a blog

In the past decade, the Internet has blossomed to become one of the most accessible and useful resources for writers. Keeping a regular blog on a favorite topic—let’s say, a blog about cooking or a blog on running—is an easy way for you to write on a daily basis and to build up your writing and research skills. Nowadays, you don’t need to be a CSS or HTML expert to use attractive blog platforms (for example, try your hand at WordPress.com or Tumblr). You can have a sleek, sophisticated-looking blog in less than half an hour. As an added bonus, you may also receive regular feedback — and compliments —  from an audience-at-large.

Review blogs

Spend some time each week reading what others are saying about the craft, as well as the business of writing. Being a strong fiction writer versus being a skilled copywriter demands two different set skills, and popular niche websites like Copyblogger, The Write Practice, ProCopyTips and K.M. Weiland include everything from writing prompts to practical advice related to the workplace. Whether you’re a creative writer or copywriter, these blogs will give you a good sense of how good writing is being defined by a larger writing and reading public.

Show your work

You won’t be able to say much about your writing without someone telling you what they think about your work. Rather than just trusting your instinct or the opinions of friends or family, go out on a limb. Show your work to another writer, a mentor, a professor or a professional colleague whom you trust and respect.

Take a writing course. Create a writing group.

Even the best writers need to brush up their skills. If you’re a professional writer looking to build new skills or review a set of skills you already have (let’s say, you are a copywriter looking to create a more sophisticated copy ad portfolio), taking a class every once in a while never hurts. Check out the writing classes offered at your local college or community-writing center. Mediabistro, an extensive online resource for writing professionals, also provides a wide range of courses for novice and experienced writers alike. A class not only helps you strengthen your writing skills, but it also gives you a group of writers and an instructor who will give you critical feedback on your work.

Another option is to form a writing group with three to four other writers. Set a realistic schedule, whether this means meeting once a week or once a month. Almost every writer will tell you having a trusted community to share work with is critical in keeping them accountable and “in the loop.”

Know your social media

Although this might not seem instantly important or obvious, keeping abreast with social media as a writer is important for several reasons. Most major publishers and news sources have a Twitter and Facebook account. Increasingly, innovative and well-circulated writing is being done exclusively via the Web. Think Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings; the Huffington Post; the Daily Beast. If being a strong, contemporary writer means having a pulse on what engages the public today, it also means keeping updated with the way the world communicates. You don’t need to regularly tweet or post Facebook statuses, but keeping connected with social media can help you become a more savvy and knowledgeable writer.

Publish

Even experienced writers bite their fingernails when it comes to sending out work to their favorite journals or publishers. It’s never easy, but if writing is a labor of love, being published in a forum that you respect is one of the most gratifying experiences you can have as a writer. It not only says that you are a good writer, but it makes your work accessible to a wider audience of readers and in the process, gives you a healthy boost of confidence.

Running on Empty: The New and “Improved” School Lunch

I used to love school lunches. Seriously, I did! Our school had a main dish called Flying Saucer. It was a slice of ham, topped with a scoop of mashed potatoes, and smother in a creamy cheese sauce. Delicious.

And where you sat was just as important as what you were served. We all know our friends’ preferences. Sit by Jane on PBJ day because she would trade her sandwich for your carrot sticks and dip. Or Bobby would swap tater tots for chicken nuggets.

Now? You couldn’t pay me money to eat school lunch.

What the Heck Happened?!

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, that’s what happened. The U.S. Department of Agriculture handed down this ridiculous mandate and put it into effect September, 2012.

Here is a breakdown of the program.

Portions are controlled for fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein. While there is strict maximum serving size for grains and proteins – you know, the foods that make you feel full – there are no maximums for fruits and vegetables.

There are minimums for the produce items though. Check out the serving sizes for each age range. Each student must be served at least this much for both fruits and vegetables.

  • Elementary school students – ½ cup
  • Grades six through eight – ¾ cup
  • High school students – 1 cup

This is the first program in history to include a calorie cap on each meal. Younger kids can be served a maximum of 650 calories per meal. How much do older kids get? 850 calories.

Want a reference point? Your average ¼ pound hamburger served plain is almost 500 calories. If schools don’t adhere to the calorie count, the district will receive less federal money the following year.

In addition to monitoring portion sizes and calories consumed, meals must cut back on sodium, fats and carbs.

And, this menu is mandatory in all public schools.

What it Means

First of all, it means you’ll never find me working food service in a public school. I’m surprised those little old ladies aren’t equipped with riot gear. Portions must be consistent for everyone. That means the burly football player is getting the same amount of food as the petite cheerleader. And – get this – high school seniors are served two ounces more protein than kindergarteners.

It also means that kids are eating less food. Milk is included in the calorie count. And at some point during the week, the fruit and vegetable offering must be red or orange. “Yum. Beets,” said no kindergartener ever. Considering many children from low-income families only get one good meal per day, it means they are forced to eat this junk or starve to death. And from the sounds of it, even if they do eat the entire meal, they are still starving.

What else does it mean? It means schools can no longer offer many of the student’s favorite condiments. Because of the high sodium content, students can have a single packet of ketchup. And to make sure the kids only take one, there is someone standing there, monitoring the students’ activity. That sounds like an amazing use of time and money, by the way. Similarly, all these marvelous, tasty vegetables are served without salt. Raw vegetables aren’t accompanied by any dip or sauce. Sounds tasty, right?

And it means a lot of money is going in the trash. Go to your kitchen cupboard right now and look at your measuring cups. A 5-year old is expected to eat ½ cup fruit and ½ cup vegetables? And what high schooler wants to sit down and munch on a full cup of raw celery? All that extra food is going in the trash. Meanwhile, more and more kids are bringing a sack lunch. In one school, over half the student population now brings food from home. However, the school still needs to prepare enough meals to feed those kids – regardless of the fact they bring their own. So all that food is going in the trash too – leftovers are illegal.

Worst of all, it means the kids with the lowest self-esteem of all are being badgered even more. Rich kids who are still hungry simply go buy a second (or third) meal. After a poor kid snarfs down his meal, he has to sit quietly and watch everyone else eat a second hamburger. This program was implemented to combat childhood obesity. Everyone knows that. So the fit kids are mocking the heavier kids, making comments like, “It’s your fault everyone in school is hungry.”

Nice, right?

Do We Even Want to Ask What the Future Holds?!

New regulations for school breakfasts go into effect with the 2013-2014 school year. If kids weren’t hungry before, they will be in the future.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free (yeah right!) Kids Act is the first major change to affect school lunch in 15 years. It seems they went from one extreme to the other. Instead of making gradual changes, the federal government pulled the rug out from underneath everyone over night.

What are your thoughts? Has the USDA gone too far? Do the pros outweigh the cons or vice versa? Would you eat that rabbit food they are serving now?

5 Tips: Writing for Book Promotion

Many authors think that once they have written their book, the hard work is over. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Whether you decide to go through a publishing house or self publish your book, getting information out into the world about your book is the most important thing that you can do.

You work on a book because you wanted people to read it, but unless you have a magic wand and can make your book appear on every coffee table in the world, you have to do work in order to get your book discovered and in front of potential readers. Since you are a writer, take advantage of that fact and use your skills to write articles about your book in order to get it noticed.

1. Free publicity.

The best part about writing articles and posting them online is that the process is free. By subscribing to a few online ezine sites you can post your information and make it available to millions of viewers. Make sure that you include links to where the book can be purchased and your personal author website. This is a great way to get publicity for your writing and your newly released book. Plus, this type of publicity will be an ongoing source for your writing career.

Here is one great example of an online source of free publicity for a published book: http://www.expatbookshop.com/book-news/jo-parfitts-books-recommended-in-malaysias-the-star/

2. Exposure.

No matter if you are going through a publishing house or self publishing, you need exposure. The world of publishing has changed. Once upon a time you needed to get your books into the bookstores, travel around for book signings, and keep your feet on the street. Although these things are important for modern publishing, what is more important is showing that you are savvy to the current publishing trends; this means, using the Internet to the fullest.

The more exposure you create for yourself, the more places your information can be found the more attention you are going to get. When people find your information online and it is clear that you are Internet savvy, they are going to be more likely to order from your site and potentially order more than just your recent release.

Information online is free and readily available, so you need to make sure that you can offer something new, eye catching and interesting for your potential clients to read. Just regurgitating information that can be found anywhere else won’t be enough.

Here is another clear example of article writing for book exposure: http://www.expatbookshop.com/expert-guest-articles/forex-expert-tells-us-why-he-thinks-the-euro-will-survive/

3. Magazine articles can get you niche market attention.

Article writing is simple because you can take one simple idea and spin it several times so that the information stays the same, but it is written differently for each place you submit the article. One of the places where you can submit articles are paper magazines. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of niche market magazines where you can get your book information right to your ideal reader.

If you write in the horror genre send your promotional articles to magazines that cater to the horror niche reader. This is going to insure that your articles are read by people who are interested in the horror niche. This is a smart way of getting your information in front of the
right people. Plus, these magazines will often pay a small stipend for articles that are published in their magazines.

4. Magazine articles can get you in front of other markets.

Yes, publishing your articles in niche market magazines is going to insure that your information is in front of people who hold an interest in your niche, but what about related niche markets? If you have written a book about the history of Hawaii, you might consider sending your promotional articles to travel magazines. Someone who is planning a vacation to Hawaii might be interested in learning a little about the history of the islands.

Allow your thinking to go a little outside of your market niche and you will find that you get attention from areas you never would have expected.

5.Develop a plan.

Just like in any writing process you want to have a plan for how you will approach the potential article promotions. Research the best places to send your writing and make sure that anything you write falls within their publishing guidelines. Study the market and make sure that you are sending information to the correct people.

Write a clear and well written cover letter and make sure that you address it to the appropriate contact person. A good query letter is going to cover the points of your article and explain why they should publish what you have written and not what someone else might have sent to them.

How to Improve Your Essay Writing

The composition studies scholar David Bartholomae once wrote, “Every time a student sits down to write for us, (s)he has to invent the university. . .The student has to learn to speak our language, to speak as we do, to try on the peculiar ways of knowing, selecting, evaluating. . . and arguing.” Being a successful essay writer in college doesn’t happen overnight, and it isn’t the same as other types of writing (the way you write an email wouldn’t be the way you would approach writing an essay in college). In order to become a skilled writer, you have to learn the rules of academic writing and hit the right tone.

Here are some simple tips to help you hit the right stride:

Write a strong, “controversial” claim or thesis

The heart of your paper will be your claim or thesis (a statement that draws out the main argument of your paper). Your claim/thesis should not only be clear and coherent, but it should also be provocative and interesting. It should be something that you yourself would want to read. Your claim/thesis should not be a fact nor should it be a repetition of the assignment itself (if the assignment asks you to “Discuss the logical structure of the Constitution, particularly the assumptions that the founders of the country made when writing it,” you should not start with something like, “When writing the Constitution, the founders based their argument on assumptions that they deemed logical.”). Rather, your thesis should be wholly arguable, as an interesting claim is one that can also be challenged.

Make an outline:

This might seem like extra work, but in the long run, by giving your argument a clear framework and pathway, you’ll be saving time. Your outline should include: claim/thesis; three sub-arguments that prove your claim (and for each sub-argument, the titles of well-respected texts that you’ll use to “prove” each sub-argument); and a one-sentence summary for your conclusion (which will help keep you on track).

Polished introduction

Remember that an introduction is just a brief statement about the question that you’re trying to answer and address in the paper. The main intention of the introduction is to present an intriguing problem that is often under-addressed when it comes to the paper topic you’re writing on. Keep it concise, and draw your reader in by writing an introduction that suggests and yes, seduces.

Write multiple drafts

It can’t be emphasized enough, but revision is key for writing in college. Professors will often tell me that B- or C+ paper could have easily been an A paper had the student taken the time to finesse a few points and/or strengthen their thesis. After you receive your assignment, take five minutes to map out a schedule for the paper writing. For most assignments, you’ll have the time to go through at least one major revision before submitting your paper. This can make all the difference.

Show a draft to your professor

Professors are frequently under-utilized by students. Most will be happy (and impressed) to review a draft of your paper, and you’ll receive invaluable comments on how to strengthen your paper before having to submit a final draft.

Utilize your writing center

Most, if not all, colleges provide a writing center for their students. Graduate students studying composition, creative writing or English are often the tutors. Make an appointment with a writing tutor at any stage of your paper writing process. If you’re having trouble creating a coherent outline, talking your paper out with a writing tutor will be helpful. After you’ve received comments from your professor regarding your draft is also a good time to visiting the writing center.

Ideas about Journal-Style Scientific Writing

Writing a good scientific paper is a real challenge for the majority of writers. Indeed,
there are lots of requirements and hidden problems associated with scientific writing.
Sometime the content is good but a paper does not meet precise style requirements,
or vice versa, it is writer as per certain formal requirements, however, presents little
helpful information and research facts. Journal style writing is even more complex. In
fact, failures in journal writing tasks are quite common, thus, it is important to consider
several points, namely:

Getting started

Some people claim journal writing should start with making of an outline. However,
many authors prove it is possible to make an outline in the end. Indeed, it is possible
to write an “after-the-fact” outline. At the same time, this is an option for experienced
writers with excellent research and writing skills. Do start with an outline of paper
abstracts and sections if you are not seasoned in scientific writing. In case you refuse
to write an outline from the very beginning, do create a list of major points and topics
covered in the paper.

Audience

Journal writing is not about submitting a simple essay that only your friends will
hopefully read. The article or research needs to have its audience. It is important to
know your audience. Is the paper written for fellow authors, professors or maybe
general audience? The content of your paper will depend on the audience. A paper for a
narrow and strictly technical audience will contain precise tech info, figures, researches
etc. Of course, you should not use any complex terms and definitions, if the journal
article is written for a general audience. You will be just misunderstood.

Style

Do not forget this is scientific writing. Thus, it is imperative to avoid any colloquial
expressions, such abbreviations as “don’t” or “can’t” etc. In fact, there is a list of
requirements for scientific writing which you have to make yourself familiar with. Often,
such requirements can vary depending on the discipline, however, the majority of rules
and norms are pretty much the same.

Research methods

Writing a research in a scientific journal can be a daunting task. This is not like writing
a 3-page personal essay. Everything written in an article should be based on a research.
Even personal findings and opinions should be supported with scientific data. There
are many types of scientific research, so you may choose any of them. Moreover, it is
possible to combine various research methods, however, avoid blending them. You
may include preliminary research results in the research methods section to motivate
readers.

Tables and Graphs

Any scientific research becomes more understood and comprehensive if it is illustrated
with graphs and tables. Sure, some scientific fields require more graphic info, while
others may need a few tables. Anyway, it is great to have an appendix with graphs and
tables that illustrate findings of the research.

Numbers and stats

Use of statistics is necessary in lots of researches, especially when it comes to industry,
sociology, biology etc. Many researches are based on stats figures which are used in
formulas or serve as a foundation of various hypotheses. However, be reasonable,
since too many figures will hardly make a research readable and understood for your
audience.

Used materials and plagiarism

Of course, it is impossible to write a scientific article without using someone else’s
ideas (unless you are the new Einstein). Therefore, it is important to correctly cite all
parts of texts and ideas belonging to other people. Luckily, it is not difficult to find
style guides on the net. Bear in mind that plagiarism is intolerable in journal writing.
In fact, plagiarism is intolerable everywhere. However, submitting a copied paper to
your high school teacher and offering a plagiarized article to a scientific journal are
wholly different things. If you get caught, forget about your scientific or academic
career! So, make sure you use plagiarism detection tools and properly cite all sources of
information.

No grammar mistakes

Well, this reminder may sound silly to you, but it is better to revise your paper before
submitting it to the journal. Editors of scientific journals are very scrupulous and
pedantic about mistakes. Thus, to keep a high profile reputation make sure the article
contains no mistakes. The best option is to have someone else revise your paper. As
known, when a person has been working on an article for a long time, he/she may not
notice silly mistakes that are evident to other folks. It is better to take time and revise
the paper 2-3 times, than to feel embarrassed afterwards.

Know your goals

Every publication has certain goals. Publishing for the sake of publishing is not a good
idea. The research should impress readers or lay foundation for further, more detailed
researches that will stun the scientific community.

Productivity Tips for Writers

Writing takes time – how much time depends on how efficient you are. We aren’t going to waste yours with fluff and nonsense. We are going to get right to the point – here are productivity tips and tools that specifically address the unique demands of writers.

Productivity Tips

Here are eight tips that are bound to help you increase productivity:

1. Have a Plan of Attack

When you sit down to work, you should know what you’re going to work on. And saying, “I’m going to work on my writing,” doesn’t cut it. Have a specific plan. Are you going to write an essay? Are you going to write a post? Choose a single project and work on it.

2. Do One Thing at a Time

If you multitask, you will mindlessly jump between different activities. Not only that, but you will rarely complete any of those activities – at least not complete them successfully. Do one thing at a time. Put all other activities on a to-do list and come back to them later.

3. Give Yourself Deadlines

If you give yourself all day to complete a project, it is going to take all day. Give yourself deadlines and abide by those deadlines.

4. Do it Once and be Done

Proofreading once is good. Proofreading five times is bad. Don’t be a perfectionist.

5. Accept the Obvious

Writer’s block happens. There isn’t much that can be done about the unfortunate situation either. Just accept the fact. Don’t waste time staring at a blank computer screen. If you can’t write today, fine. Do something else. Reply to comments. Do some promotional work.

6. Get off Facebook!

For many writers, internet connection and self-employment are a deadly combination. Most of us relish the fact we don’t have a boss. However, the accountability of someone looking over our shoulder does come in handy. In the absence of a boss, you’ll have to monitor your own actions and limit your mindless surfing. A five minute break every few hours is fine. However, more than that is just a waste of time.

7. Organize your Email Inbox

Not all email messages are created equal. Some are more important than others. To make sure you attend to the most important first, set up automatic filters. You can route incoming messages to client specific folders. Set up tags for all submissions via your blog’s contact form. Then, you can address all similar subjects at once.

8. Take Your Job Seriously

Most writers rejoice because they have managed to escape the demands of a 9-5 job. There is a lot of flexibility in the hours we work. That being said, we still have a job to do. Your writing will suffer greatly if you are up all night partying. Remember coffee can only do so much. It can’t provide a clear mind or smooth thought process.

Productivity Tools

Let these tools make you even more productive:

Dictionaries and Thesauruses

Sometimes even the most genius writer needs a bit of help. Check out various dictionary extensions for Google Chrome or download Wordweb Pro.

Organize Your Thoughts

Sometimes we have too much stuff rattling around inside our brains. Luckily, there are various brain dumping technologies available. Simply jot down your thoughts and be done. Store ideas for future blog posts. Make a note of an article you want to read. Many of these apps sync across various platforms so you never have to be without. For example, check out Evernote.

Share Files

Whether you are sharing with yourself or a virtual assistant across the country, it makes life easier when files can be accessed from anywhere. Use file sharing tools like DropBox or Google Docs. You can get to your files no matter where you are; after all, you never know when inspiration will strike!

Do you have a productivity tip or tool we left off the list? Tell us about it!

Who Cares About Arts Education?!

Monet, da Vinci, and Van Gogh. Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. George Bernard Shaw,
Tennessee Williams, and William Shakespeare.

Arts Education

Other than their mothers, whose life has really been influenced by what these men
have done? Naturally, we’ve enjoyed what they’ve produced; but have any of their
accomplishments led to ours?

Why should we waste precious resources – which are already severely limited – on arts
education? Sure. Beating on a drum can help blow off steam. And brandishing a paint-
laden brush can foster creativity. Donning a costume and reciting lines on stage might
even boost self-confidence.

But other than that – what good are the arts?

Adios!

Art education in public schools has been on the decline since 1980. Due to sever budget
cuts that have nearly crippled public education lately, even the few classes that survived
the last three decades have pretty much become extinct.

Many people say, “Good riddance!” Classes that teach skills like playing an instrument
or painting a sunset are better off getting axed, leaving valuable dollars for worth-while
classes like reading and math.

But Wait Just a Minute…

It turns out art fans are crowing quite loudly these days. Why? The arts might actually
be more beneficial than we thought. Gasp!

New research shows that a well-rounded educational experience is best. And “well-
rounded” includes the arts. In fact, this teaching method is closely linked to academic
achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable
opportunity. Who knew?!

While everyone has been worrying about how to improve math and reading scores, one
of the primary study aids has quietly slipped out the back door.

A recent study followed high school students for three years. The participants fell into
two groups. One group took the minimum art education requirement. The other group
took more than the minimum. And guess what happened. The students who took more
art classes did better in both math and reading.

Students who took extra arts classes were 1.5 times more likely to meet or exceed the
ACT Plan national average composite scores in these subjects. Additionally, they
excelled in statewide tests for math, reading and writing.

Good grief. That kind of takes the wind out the sails of any naysayers.

That’s Not All. There’s More.

We all know there is more to life than math and reading scores. Learning to learn is far
more important. And guess what. Art helps with that too. In fact, it seems art education
helps with just about everything!

There is a direct correlation between the ability to read music and the ability to conquer
math problems. Music students in a recent study had much higher math scores than their
non-musical counterparts. And, students from low socio-economic backgrounds were
two times as likely to comprehend math topics if they had musical training.

Want to enhance your child’s vocabulary, phonics skills, and syllabification (the
separation of a word into syllables)? What about teaching them to appreciate history,
myths, folktales, geography and culture? Well, help them study the lyrics of music.
They can learn all that and more.

Thematic learning helps youngsters learn in a safe, enjoyable, student-centered
environment. This style is perfect for anyone who is struggling to learn a second
language. For example, non-native English speakers should study music if they want to
master the language faster.

Learning to play a musical instrument is no easy feat. Many people quit before they
really give it a chance. If a youngster can stick it out, they will learn the importance
of hard work, practice, and discipline. Many of today’s youngsters need to learn those
lessons. Entitlement is like a nasty four letter word.

Contributing to an orchestra, band, or choir forces students to collaborate, work as a
team, strive for a common goal, and develop negotiation skills.

Those fruity, creative types have always valued art education. Apparently, the rest of us
had better learn to appreciate the arts too. Go figure. The nutty ones have had it right all
along!

References:

Good Reasons Why Your Child Should Study Music. Retrieved from Schoolatoz
http://www.schoolatoz.nsw.edu.au/homework-and-study/other-subjects-and-projects/the-arts/why-your-child-should-study-music
Kloberdanz, K. (2012). Want Your Kids to Excel in Math and Reading? Teach Them to Paint.
http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/10/23/want-kids-excel-math-reading-teach-them-paint
Schwartz, J. (2012). Kids Like Blues: Using Music and Video to Rock Your Classroom.
http://www.edutopia.org/blog/kids-like-blues-music-video-jon-schwartz

Essay Writing Tips – Learn from the Greatest

For many students, writing an essay is a daunting task. Often times, they don’t
know where to begin. If students don’t know where to begin, they definitely don’t
know where they will end up.

Instead of letting them flounder through the writing process, break it down into
manageable steps. Here are eight steps to share with your students.

Essay Writing Tips

Instead of letting them flounder through the writing process, break it down into
manageable steps. Here are eight steps to share with your students.
Since youngster rarely do anything just because we tell them to, let some of the literary greats be the ones to break the news to your students. The success
of these famous authors will (hopefully!) spur your young writers on to equal
greatness.

1. Research

Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above
all others: read a lot and write a lot.” For essay writing, this tip is especially
important.

Students need to conduct thorough research until they become an expert on
the topic. They should consult the internet, academic databases, journals,
publications, and any other reputable source they can find.

Encourage students to immerse themselves in the words of great thinkers.

2. Analyze

Once students have a strong and knowledgeable foundation on the topic, they
need to start analyzing the argument of the essay. They should define the claims
they want to make, write out their reasoning for a particular stance, and find the
corresponding evidence to back up that claim.

Students need to sift through the research they accumulated to find the strengths
and weaknesses of the logic. Elmore Leonard said, “I try to leave out the parts
that people skip.” As such, analysis is one of the most important parts of essay
writing.

3. Brainstorm

In addition to all the mind-blowing evidence students will amass, they also need
to have insight of their own. Encourage students to engage in brainstorming
activities. A simple suggestion could be to make a list of questions related to the
topic and come up with answers for each.

When brainstorming, remind students there is no such thing as a wrong answer
or too much thought. Ray Branbury said, “Quantity produces quality. If you
only write a few things, you’re doomed.” This is especially true when it comes to
brainstorming.

4. Condense

Remind students they need to condense their ideas into a single thesis
statement. Encourage them to take their best idea and run with it. Use a thesis
statement to structure the entire essay. This will tell readers where they are
going and why.

Edgar Allen Poe could have easily substituted “essay” for “short story” when he
stated: “A short story must have a single mood, and every sentence must build
towards it.”

5. Outline

At this stage, students might feel they are no better off than they were before
they started research. Why? Because a pile of evidence is just as intimidating
as a blank piece of paper. Where is a student supposed to go next? According
to Erica Jong, “The hardest part is believing in yourself at the notebook state. It
is like believing in dreams in the morning.”

Students need to create an outline. This will help them organize their thoughts
and begin to give their essay structure.

Encourage them to write a one sentence description for each paragraph. Then,
list bullet points to express what information each paragraph will contain.

6. Write

Take the information from the outline and start writing. Students should skip the
introduction and go straight for the meat of the essay.

Each paragraph should be focused on a single idea that supports the thesis.
And students need to support each ascertain with evidence. Remind students to
expound on an idea, yet make their paragraphs concise and focused.

Richard Hugo advises writers to “make the subject of the sentence you are
writing different from the subject of the sentence you just wrote.”

7. Introduce and Conclude

Now that students have written the majority of the essay, it is time to focus on the
two most challenging aspects: the introduction and conclusion.

If students try to write the introduction first, they may never make it past the
opening paragraph. John Steinbeck could sympathize. “Abandon the idea that
you are ever going to finish…write just one page for each day, it helps. Then
when it gets finished, you are always surprised.”