Archive | September 2008

10 Ways to Show Kindness to Writers and Editors

September, I found out just a week ago, happens to be “Be Kind to Writers and Editors Month,” and while this is a bit too late, the cliche goes, better late than never. I didn’t know there was actually a month that encouraged everyone and sundry to show a little more loving to writers and editors, who have such vast egos that need a lot of stroking. (Do I hear someone saying, “Shoot all the writers”?)

Here are ten things you can do to show some kindness to writers and editors this September and always:

1. Give them a few hours of silence. Writing is an arduous task that involves a lot of thinking, so show a little respect by keeping your voices down when writers or editors are working. I can tell you, a writer who is struggling to put together a fantastic punch-them-in-the-solar-plexus lead is not a good person to cross.

2. Send them great articles you’ve come across–they will love you for it! Writers and editors are probably the only people who will appreciate that very funny piece you saw over at Jugglezine or the theater review on New York Times that you couldn’t stop reading and re-reading. I am sure you will get a lengthy and excited (dare I say breathless) comment, more than the one-word “thanks” that most people will send back.

3. Send them a complimentary cup of coffee when they’re writing. I love a hot cup of mocha from Starbucks. I just thought you should know.

4. Mean it when you say “I love your blog/book/piece . . . ,” especially so when you’re dating a writer. They’ll understand if you don’t dig chick lit or spec fic, and they’ll love you more if you don’t pretend you do.

5. What you see as surfing idly is actually feeding the mind. Most corporations clamp down on what they deem as personal use of the Internet, but in truth, writers need to read everything–Jehovah’s Witnesses pamphlets, hair removal treatments, captions, even billboards–because the only way to improve one’s writing is to read, read, read. So the next time you catch me on New York Times reading something about theater, you know I’m doing supplementary reading.

6. Don’t comment on the Barry Manilow playlist. Just don’t say anything about a writer’s choice of music. Some writers need music when they write; others don’t. They’ll love you if you don’t smirk when “Weekend in New England” is playing.

7. Respect their away time. Sometimes a writer does need to recharge and step back from the world. You can be sure she’ll come back when she’s ready to write (and you can bet it’ll be soon). You can be a good boss by giving writers a complimentary pass at their favorite spa (I am thinking of a Balinese boreh scrub right this minute–can you read my mind, boss?)

8. Pay promptly and don’t wait to be billed. This applies to projects, especially. Nothing is more stressful to a writer than having to remind you that your cheque is two months delayed. Be kind. Like everybody else, writers don’t live on bread alone (they need Starbucks coffee and a Balinese boreh scrub too).

9. Give them books, lots of them! If your girlfriend hated the marked-down book from the thrift store that you gave her just because, you can be sure you’ll be greeted with a big smile when you give writers books as gifts.

10. Invite them for coffee and some brilliant conversation, which may not have anything to do about writing, but they’ll appreciate the mental workout.


Words of Writing Wisdom

While cleaning up my inbox, I came upon an e-mail I sent a 20-year-old intern six months ago. I had assigned her to cover a pop art exhibit of a local design group that produced shirts, buttons, bags, and practical items with witty one-liners, and the next day she turned in a piece that began with “I am allergic to pop art.”

I remember how enraged I was. Did she think she was writing a reaction paper? She was writing for an arts and culture blog, I said, and what she just wrote wasn’t funny at all.

Maybe you should let go of your negativity for once. You are young. There’s so much in the world to explore. There’s so much to be happy about. Go out and discover . . . experience new things. I trust that you will take up that challenge, be more open-minded, READ MORE, and spend less time with and on inane people or things. Read good sites like NY Mag and NY Times. Study how [other journalists write their] articles . . .

Pay attention to how writers tell the story without injecting themselves. Tell the story for others to know, not because you want to be a star in it.

I thought it was just the perfect advice for me, who has been remiss in her own writing. I must admit I haven’t been updated on my reading because everything of late has been about SEO writing, marketing, and e-mail marketing, or what my favorite writer Butch Dalisay calls “professional writing.”

This is all for my own career growth, I know, but I never imagined myself writing headlines for e-mail campaigns, wishing that recipients would buy the products I was peddling because of the witty call to actions (this I can say, with much embarrassment, that copywriting isn’t rocket science, at all, but why is it so hard for me to come up with a sexy, moving headline?)

I promise to do something more, uh, literary in October. Such as going back to finishing (or rewriting) my second book, which, by the way, was wiped out when a virus hit my system.

How’s your writing? Tell me about it.

Working from Home and Lonely?

Working from home doesn’t mean you don’t get any social interaction whatsover. With co-working spaces, you can work on your own and yet not work alone.

The new way to work on your own is to work alone together.

Across the country, spaces are springing up to meet the demands of a new workforce, made up of self-employed entrepreneurs or part-time employees for whom the freedom of padding down the hallway to their home office in slippers and pajamas has turned into a home-based version of solitary confinement.

It’s called coworking, and the places where it’s happening are as flexible as the hours of the people who use them.

Whether it’s a concierge suite at a Connecticut hotel, a small office on Chicago’s Northwest Side or a Silicon Valley company that combines day care for children and work space for parents, these shared work sites allow people to have a desk and an Internet connection without having to shush the kids during a conference call or hunt for a power outlet at a coffee shop so they can plug in their laptops. [Full article here.]

I heard about a group in Manila that did this a year ago, although am not really sure whether it’s a regular thing now. Certainly, it sounds like a good idea, and it’s helpful to be around people who do the same thing that you do. No one else can be as understanding, surely.