Category Archives: miscellaneous

Here’s what’s in the queue!

Fall is such a busy time for me. Many of my clients – and on my own blog – shift attention to Holiday at the beginning of September!

I’m working on the gift guide for OhMyDog!, a gift guide for another pet client, and the December issue of Pet Age. For a retail client, I’m updating their blog with fresh content to help their clients incorporate well-designed pet products into their homes.

In the lifestyle realm, I’m drafting three articles for a wedding publication, which are always exciting projects and a good way to stretch my creative muscles.

Plus, school started last week, so I have 20 budding writing students who I see twice a week. Love!

Phew! It’s certainly busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Hope your fall is off to a fabulous start!

Pinterest boards for writing inspiration

I adore Pinterest.

It’s full of inspiration: from quirky DIY projects to healthy eating tips, plus lots of cute animals pics thrown in for good measure.

Recently, I started delving into writing inspiration on Pinterest, and I was thrilled to find a ton of motivating boards. Here are five of my favorite writing-related boards for your following pleasure:

Do you have any favorite writing-related boards? Truly, though, poking around Pinterest will give you a ton of ideas, even if you aren’t looking for anything writing-specific. It’s totally work a little creative procrastination!

Newsletters

What do you think about e-newsletters?

I’m torn. On the one hand, I love them… when they deliver relevant, fresh content that is useful/inspirational/entertaining. On the other hand, I hate them when they junk up my inbox with tons of sales-pitchy messages without offering anything of value.

So, on that note, I’ve launched not one but two newsletters! In an attempt to make the content super relevant to my subscribers, there are two different versions:

First is for the blog and for anyone who wants more dog, dog, dog! (And a little cat thrown in for good measure.) You can subscribe to that here.

Second is for marketing, communications, and public relations professionals who are interested in what projects are in the works. I share my blog editorial calendar, upcoming deadlines for my clients, and opportunities to promote their clients’ products and services. If you’re a PR professional, you can subscribe here.

This is my first year trying this out, so I plan to assess the newsletters at the end of the year to decide what’s working and what isn’t. If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it! Email me at info {at} maggiemarton {dot} com.

 

Happy Holidays!

My, this year has flown.

Although, I think I say that every year.

Christmas is a few days away. (Are you finished with your shopping?) I’m buttoning up a few last-minute deadlines before heading out of town to visit our family in Maryland. I’m looking forward to a week away, though I’m going to miss the herd!

Before I power down, I’m taking a few minutes to review upcoming priorities and deadlines. There is nothing worse than coming back after time away to discover that you’re late/rushed/panicked about a project. I always leave myself a list of all the things that are impending – with dates annotated – so that I can slide back in seamlessly.

But once I’m finished with that, I’m outta here!

Happy Holidays to you! Rest, recharge, enjoy! See ya’ in 2014!

 

The importance of down time

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my husband and I found ourselves with no plans. For the first time in 10 years, we were going to spend a holiday at home. Together. Just us (and the herd) without planes, trains, or automobiles.

We hosted a good friend and made the whole event low-key, relaxed, full of laughter and conversation… and tons of food, of course. Then, we took all day Friday to lounge around the house, sipping coffee, playing with the dogs, reading, and working on long-forgotten hobbies.

 

Dare I say: It was delightful. I didn’t power on my laptop until Saturday, and even then it was to look up instructions for a sewing project. No work. All weekend. That hasn’t happened in almost as long as we’ve been traveling for holidays.

And you know what? I hit the computer hard core on Monday morning. I was fresh. Recharged. I had ideas. Lots of them. I plowed through Monday and right into Tuesday. The pace continued.

When I stepped back and thought about it, I realized I’ve been skipping downtime altogether. And, based on my productivity immediately following the long weekend, it’s clear that was a mistake.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know it’s not possible to knock off every evening or stay away from email on both Saturday and Sunday.

But give it a whirl. See if you can commit to one weekend day every weekend to do nothing but things you enjoy, hobbies like hiking or reading that get pushed aside in the bustle of everyday life. Can’t do a whole day? Set aside a few hours.

Trust me. It’s worth it. You might just come back and thank me later.

Continuing education

I recently completed two college-level courses on Coursera.org: Animal Behavior (with distinction – wahoo!) and Creativity, Innovation, and Change. I also completed an InDesign course through SkillShare.

I think I’m addicted to taking classes!

I taught writing at a community college and loved the atmosphere. I loved helping adult students overcome their fear of writing. I adored seeing them make the connection between good writing and career success.

I’ve been thinking about offering an online version of the Business Writing Basics Bootcamp course in 2014. It would be limited enrollment and probably offered only once.

If you’re interested, please send an email to info{at}maggiemarton{dot}com so that I can add you to the list. You’ll only get an email if and when enrollment opens. Sending me an email does not obligate you to enroll in the course; it’s simply to get advance notice of a limited enrollment class.

Now, I’m off to find another course I can take… I just love online education!

 

Work these days

The end of the year is so funny. It’s always rush-rush-rush until you slam headfirst into the gap between Christmas and New Year’s.

During this busy season, here’s what I’ve been working on:

I’m working with a consulting company to button up their website. It’s an exciting project. I’m helping them communicate their efficiency and professionalism in a global market.

I’ve been working on Pet Age and Shoptopia, two of my favorite outlets, while also toiling behind the scenes on two undercover (for now) projects. I’m also tying a bow around the Oh My Dog! Holiday Gift Guide. This was a huge undertaking, involving 20 of my favorite brands and PR companies and five product giveaways every day all week. It goes live next week, so head on over to subscribe so that you don’t miss a single giveaway.

Whew!

I’m ready to rest and recharge over the holidays! Hope your season is off to a merry and bright start!

The creative spark

I mentioned that I was taking a couple courses through the online portal Coursera.org. This week wrapped the Penn State course, Creativity, Innovation, & Change, and I wanted to share some thoughts about the synthesis of the course’s main topics.

The course focused on three main protocols: Intelligent Fast Failure (IFF), Creative Diversity, and CENTER, concepts developed by engineering professors at Penn State.

idea journals

Always keep an idea journal!

As I understood it, the gist of the three concepts is this: Creativity requires constant experimentation – even failure – and a lot of patience with yourself, your team, and the process.

I’ve noticed changes in how I approach my work as a result of this course. For one thing, I always resist failure. I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m an obsessive planner. I like to set goals, develop strategies, and execute specific tactics – all so that I can achieve success, thereby avoiding failure. But one of the instructors emphasized the importance of getting down as many ideas as possible, even ones that won’t/don’t work. I’m scheduling more brainstorming time into my work week to see how this plays out for me and my projects.

I’m also striving to apply the patience piece of the puzzle. When things don’t go well, I get frustrated, whether it’s with myself, my team, or my creative process. This course inspired me to step back, take a deep breath, and keep on keeping on!

The course was fascinating. I took away quite a bit, and I’m excited to read more about these concepts.

Think about your creative process. Has it gone through any changes? If not, is it time to try something new?

5 lessons I learned while teaching writing

When I taught English Composition at Ivy Tech – a job I loved so wholeheartedly and sincerely miss with the start of each new semester – I was heartbroken to hear just how much my students hated writing. They didn’t dislike it. They HATED it. After a handful of semesters, it was clear why. And I learned a few things about how to address and dismantle that hatred and – shall I be so bold? – turn it into love. Or, if not love, at least like. Or, you know, not-hate.

Here it is:

  1. Most people hate writing because they’re afraid of it.
  2. Most people are afraid of writing because they had a gruesome teacher who made them believe that “good” writing was something that only “some” people can achieve. Or they made them slog through James Fenimore Cooper or memorize (and recite in front of the class) huge passages of Shakespeare.
  3. Syntax isn’t the hard part. Getting the words down in the first place is. You can go back and revise later. Just write now.
  4. Many students (dare I say… most) think writing is only literature. They neglect to consider the vast quantities of writing we all do every day: email, Twitter, text messages, and so on. Refine your skills on those tasks. It’s less intimidating.
  5. Finally, and here I’m going to let you in on a big secret, if you want to improve your writing and eliminate nearly all your mistakes, you need to do two things. First, print it out. Seriously. On paper. Second, take that hard copy of your work and read it out loud. You don’t need an audience (though it does help to get a second opinion). Read it to yourself in the mirror, to your snoring dog, to your best friend, to your mom on Skype. It doesn’t matter when, where, or to whom (again, even if it’s just yourself). Every awkward phrase, every stilted cadence, nearly every typo will BLARE out at you when you read your work out loud. Go try it. Right now. I’ll wait.

See?

Oh, and bonus:

6. Putting a sticker on someone’s work makes them feel proud. Seriously. College students, adult learners, everyone. They all thanked me for putting stickers on their work. One dear student even told me she put hers on her fridge so her kids could admire it!

Now, go write something!