There are many articles out there with tips on how to be a better writer; so much that sooner or later every tip feels recycled. Thought Catalog released an article from one of its contributors who wrote a list of 33 tips for writers; the difference between this list and others is the more unconventional advice the author gives.
“Be honest” and “Don’t be afraid of what people think” are the typical pieces of advice you hear. “Break the laws of physics” and “Bleed in the first line” are not the typical pieces of advice you hear. I expect most of these are to be taken tongue in cheek, but they’re good pieces of advice, nonetheless.
Ok, so you graduated from college, your diploma *finally* came in the mail, and with any luck you’ve settled into a job or freelance work or an internship, or some delightful combination of the former. You’re paying off student loans, you’re settling into your work routine, you’ve moved into an apartment (or back into your childhood bedroom), and it’s finally sinking in that you’re no longer a student.
Now, that is not necessarily true. Besides the more obvious choices like graduate school or other types of higher education, you are in fact, still a student. The only difference is that you can pick what you want to learn (and there’s usually no one waiting to give you a rolled up piece of paper at the end).
There are numerous ways to continue learning even after you leave your dorm room or college campus. You can, for instance:
Read. Read everything under the sun. Books, magazines, blogs, newspapers, web comics, Twitter feeds, etc. My favorite thing lately has been re-trying out all of the classic novels and bits of literature that were skimmed at break-neck speed during my undergrad English classes. Now I can kick back and enjoy some Steinbeck or Bradbury (or Julia Child and Ingrid Bergman biographies) at my leisure, and not have to worry about looking for symbols or finding applicable quotes for a final paper. Or, if you miss those final papers, you can blog about what you liked/disliked/discovered along the way.
Go back to “school.” One of the my favorite discoveries during post-college life have been online tutorials and actual “classes” you can take. Some examples include Codecademy, Coursera and Hack Design. Best part? Almost all of them are free, and you can learn at whatever pace is comfortable, or if you work full-time, convenient for you.
Listen. If your eyes are already tired from staring at computer screens all day or you have a lengthy commute, try a podcast, or NPR, or one of those books on tape/CD if you’re feeling a bit old school. Or, find people that you think are interesting, or who are doing interesting things in your field, and hear what they have to say, whether it’s through a speaking engagement, a phone call or initiating a conversation via your favorite flavor of social media.
But hey, maybe some of these things are a no-brainer, and that’s fine. Maybe some of you have other methods of learning that you prefer, and that’s fine too. Heck, maybe you actually are still in school but you like to add things to the coursework you’ve already completed (that’s more than fine – in fact, go you!). All that matters is that you keep on learning new things. And if you like what you find, share it with others.
Noelle Sciarini is an alumni of MSU’s Professional Writing program. Now a resident of Ann Arbor, she currently works as an email marketing copywriter for a series of charitable “click-to-give” websites. Sometimes she’s on Twitter, where you can tweet her at @NoelleSci.
If you’re somebody that writes in your planner like your life depends on it, WorkFlowy is a great alternative. By creating an account, you can start writing on your to-do list, which is basically an expandable piece of paper.
The great thing about WorkFlowy is you can have an infinite amount of subtopics under each topic. You can then choose to open or minimize each subtopic. Upon completing a task on your list, you can click “complete” and WorkFlowy will cross the task off for you. You can also move tasks and lists very easily. The greatest thing about WorkFlowy is the user experience – easy and uncomplicated.
It’s so easy to have WorkFlowy open all the time as a tab on your browser. There is no way to forget it, like you might a planner, or lose it. Anybody that needs to have this kind of organization in their crazy lives should try WorkFlowy. You’ll wonder how you ever lived your crazy life without it.
If you’re anything like us, you have many different things going on in life that you need to keep track of. As students, faculty, and active members of the community, it seems like there’s always something lined up on that “To Do” list. One crafty and helpful way to stay organized is through the free website, Trello.
Categorized into cards on boards—which, essentially, are simply lists—you can easily move tasks and items around, depending on when you need them done and what list you prefer. What sets this apart from just being a digital notebook is the fact that you can share boards with other people, making it an invaluable tool when working in a team or group situation. For example, if you’re organizing a fundraiser, you can create separate boards for keeping track of entertainment, food, and location. Within those boards, you can form lists on the cards, and then assign team members to certain tasks by adding their name and icon to that card. For a more detailed explanation, check out the video below.
Here on the WRAC Communications Team we use Trello to track web content and projects. We’re able to communicate about these projects with one another in a centralized location, while also sharing necessary documents. Whether it’s organizing events, coordinating team projects, or even keeping track of your own daily lists of things to be done, Trello has proved itself to be an excellent free resource to help you stay on top of things.
I’m a big fan of the backchannel and am always looking for more ways to incorporate it into my work, particularly as a way to generate instant feedback during presentations. I also imagine the backchannel as a valuable stream of feedback for classrooms too. The two tools featured here are TodaysMeet and PollEverywhere.
TodaysMeet works like a chat room – you create a room, choose a timeframe for how long the room stays open (two hours to one month), enter your name, then start chatting. The text box is limited to 140 characters, just like a tweet. TodaysMeet is very much intended for backchannel communication. They write on the About page, “Imagine you’re giving a presentation where you can read the mind of every person in the room. You’d have an amazing ability to adjust to your audience’s needs and emotions. That’s the backchannel.” How could you integrate this tool into your classroom space, across an assignment, during a workshop or presentation?
PollEverywhere approaches the backchannel a bit differently, identifying itself as an audience response system. First, it’s anonymous; there is no space to enter a name, which could generate interesting responses. Additionally, instead of creating a room like TodaysMeet, you pose a prompt or a question. PollEverywhere is also not bound by the 140 character limit. And probably the coolest feature of PollEverywhere is its mobile capabilities. Folks can respond to your prompt through text message, Twitter, smartphones, tablets, and computer – any web-enabled device. Keep in mind the free version of PollEverywhere limits your poll to 40 responses. This web tool is more robust than I have space for here, so I hope you take this as an invitation to explore integrating these free backchannel tools into your work.
VUVOX is a web based tool that allows you to take images, video, music, and text and create an interactive scrolling slideshow. I like to use VUVOX as an alternative to PowerPoint and Prezi because it offers a unique way of presenting information that’s not your typical set of slides. This platform also offers a different spin on the remix assignment in writing classes. And, of course, it’s free to use. Check out some examples, and imagine how you might use VUVOX yourself, or might encourage your students to use it.
It’s also easy to use if you’re creating a website for a business or organization and don’t want to use Word Press; you can edit the HTML to fit your needs and style as well as incorporate the Weebly themes and features along with it. You can even access Weebly on your iPhone or Smart Phone. What I like best about using Weebly is you don’t have to be an expert at HTML to have a great looking website. In 2007, it was named one of TIME Magazine’s 50 Best Websites of the year.
“Since then, we’ve stayed true to our original goal – providing you with the easiest and most intuitive way to build your web presence.”
It’s a great tool for people just starting out, domain hosting is FREE, and it’s easy and professional to use. What’s not to love?
Sumo Paint is a web based image editing website, a robust and FREE alternative to Photoshop, even allowing users to easily upload their own images to work on. This is one of my absolute most valuable online resources and I am so glad to be able to share it during this Week of Free here on the WRAC website!
Sumo Paint’s interface functions very much like Photoshop circa 1998, which is not a detractor, rather a bonus because it doesn’t get bogged down with all the bells and whistles of Photoshop. I use Sumo Paint when I’m on the go and need to quickly edit or create an image, and when I don’t have access to a computer with Photoshop. I can also imagine this being a fantastic resource for folks who are new to image editing software.
Sumo Paint interface – tools on the left, menu on the top, workspace in the middle, colors and layers on the right.