Creative Writing: Can We Be Creative as Business Writers?

About Creative Writing

Creative writing is pretty loosely described. We associate creative writing with narratives, character development, prose and poetry. And sometimes, flow.

People ask me all the time “what kind of things do you write?” and I usually answer ‘business writing’ seeing as this is an accurate description of my work week. Or I will say something like, “writers, write” or “I’m versatile”. It seems like a cop out. And an apology for not having a spot on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Creativity and Perspective

But, when all is said and done, doesn’t creativity have to infuse web content? Does it not require creativity to find a vocabulary, navigate compliance, and get across a prescribed message? I think so. Feel so. I mean, you get these ingredients (search phrases, a product to sell, a certain number of hours, a specific audience). Then you have to actually create a piece that will both inform and sell. And be readable.

Creativity in the Digital Age

We need to expand the bounds of what defines creative writing. I do not mean add alternative facts. What I do mean is that for those of us who write content for websites, we shouldn’t feel that we have the short end of the creative writing deal. In fact, the internet has jettisoned words and sentences so that we no longer have to go out of our way to read. And with the short attention span of today’s reader, if you can get someone to click a link and sign up, buy your product or request information with some creative business content, hat’s off! That is a win.

A masterpiece

Don’t Go Stale

Sometimes,  a project can feel heavy. The subject is hard to grasp, resources are as scarce as water in the desert, and compliance has you up in a corner. When this happens to me I feel like stale bread. Useful but dry. I think these are moments to take a walk, a photo or doodle. Also, to remember that what got you here was something deeper than your ability to write what you have to.

Nature’s creativity is inspirational

For today, here is a poem from my own vault. Enjoy

The Breath is Dancing

Embrace the metaphysical moment in time

Breathe deep and deeper still

Lift up, lift up…

Feel the Spirit Soar

The vibrations sing and resonate within

Clear the negativity from the psychic space

The breath arrives as inspiration

Dance with the inner heartbeat of joy

Exhale in long, languid, sensuous surrender

Celebrate the temple of human being

Relax the mind and let it flow

Allow the inner creator to begin

Watch the design of light unfold

Eyes smiling, rejoice, renew

The happiness in the cells is bliss

Magic mood enhancing melody

Rise up, like sunshine overflowing

Move in compassionate calm and soundless action

Sadness is an illusion in the dreamer’s mind

Get into the grove of hope

The warrior protects the meditative trance

Lift up, Lift up… Dance…

by Rana Waxman copyrighted

 

This Blog is About Me

This Blog is About Me

have a focused but open mind
In Front of McGill University

I feel like this blog should have a soundtrack or at least a drumroll. That certainly sets the reader up with high hopes of fascinating content, perhaps a laugh or two, and maybe even a ‘top ten’ list. But seriously, the other day I got a quizzical look when I handed out my business card – Conscious Strategy? What is that? So today on the blog – and it has been awhile – a few things I have learned from nearly 2 decades of teaching and practicing yoga that have filtered into my work as a freelance writer. In other words, you may actually get a little insight from this blog post and maybe a few healthy lifestyle tips along the way.

The Flow Plan or Conscious Strategy

Blog tip 31 Flow Plan
Waterworks in Philadelphia

For one thing, teaching yoga (well) involves some planning and preparation. You don’t just dive into the most challenging asana (posture). You cultivate it by properly warming up with other postures that wake the muscles up and focus your attention and then winding down to come back to equipoise. There is, in other words, a flow plan.

Conscious Strategy: My Yoga of Penmanship

Blog tip #2 Have a destination and your writing can be a sales tool
The Steps Through Westmount in Montreal

In writer-speak, I use the term ‘conscious strategy’. Perhaps I can attribute systems thinking to years of having to think of things in terms of steps and stages, fluid movement, fluid thought, fluid writing. When I write I prefer the approach of having a beginning, a middle and an end. Where do you want to go with that? Writing, is after all, a sales tool.

 Your client should benefit from increased business. Anyway, this is my hope when I get to write the home page of a website. When you think about it, having a destination in sight has a powerful way of focusing us. I learned this from taking class from a newbie once. Teaching a bunch of random stuff  is very confusing. Writing randomly is fine for a biography (I guess) but not when you want to be hired for freelance writing.

A Calm Mind is a Creative Mind

Blog Tip #3 A calm mind is a creative mind
Street Haiku in Jersey City

Before the reader and the writer part ways, I want to leave you with another gift from yoga, and that is mindfulness. No I don’t meditate with business clients, but I do listen, I do slow down, I do try to be conscious about many decisions. What to do and how to do it. So just to recap, here are a few interconnections I have made. Your own life has its own links in it. I like to use the lessons of my day, it’s like homework that I get a gold star in just for showing up and taking note.

  • For any project, have an outline, menu, flow plan or conscious strategy
  • Think about where you hope to end up
  • Be available to be flexible if **it happens
  • Creativity can come in when you take a break from over-thinking
  • Catch yourself from going off on too many tangents
  • Wrap it up, let go and start another project

SEO or Streaming ~ what is your writing style?

I recently attended the ICC where one of the best sessions I attended was about writing for SEO. This is what I do for my job so I admit, I have been less than diligent about posting on my own blog. So what is my motivation? I am reading a new book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”. I’m not that far into it, but the theme can be applied to writing style as much as to organizing a closet. So the topic for today is: Are you writing for SEO or Streaming of Consciousness? How to stay relevant to search without getting messy or too wordy and how to tidy up your act.

Intelligent Content : Writing for SEO
Intelligent Content : Writing for SEO

SEO or Streaming ~ What is Your Writing Style?

If you are writing for SEO, you want to make use of search phrases. However, you don’t want to just stuff the same key words into one paragraph. That is akin to putting all your clothes in a bundle on your floor.

The act of tidying is a series of simple actions in which objects are moved from one place to another. It involves putting things away where they belong ~ Marie Kondo

I found, ironically, that the few first paragraphs of this book are cluttered. Repetitious. I’m not disparaging it. For a novel, stream of consciousness writing is acceptable. If you don’t like the author’s style, you don’t have to read the book. Arguably, if you are writing for a website, your goal is two fold: write for the audience, and write for the spiders. Some repetition is necessary although keeping it spaced out is a better option. Akin to hanging your white blouses on separate hangers.

Cleaning up your act: Writing with style and SEO in Mind

Writing for content generation is a layering process. 

You have the visible layer that you readers see, and the text that is woven through to ensure that your brilliant penmanship is not buried on google like the proverbial heap of clothing on your floor.

SEO and the art of layered writing
SEO and the art of layered writing

Cleaning up your act may involve:

  • Determining your search phrase
  • Organizing your thoughts: having a beginning, a middle and an end
  • Categorizing your posts/pages so they are easier to access in search
  • Expressing  your key words in a variety of ways (don’t be too repetitious)

If you use stream of consciousness you have to balance that with the art of tidying up.

Functional Writing: Interviewing @Josepf

Functional Writing: An Interview With @Josepf

Functional writing is a phrase I am using to describe the intersection between content generation and purposeful presence online.

 I believe as writers, we need to have integrity in what we express; this comes across in our writing style or voice. The other component is the idea of practical and functional expression, if what we are doing is to be relevant in digital marketing.

Functional Writing for SEO and SOCIAL
Brainstorming: functional writing/SEO/SOCIAL with @Josepf @Emmalish @Yoginiqueen

Interviewing Josepf Haslam

This is an interview with @Josepf, well known for SocialSEO, strategy and his Udemy courses among other things.

ME: I was teaching a workshop the other day, and one of the participants mentioned that he had been advised not to write for keywords. As an SEO expert, I thought I would ask you what you thought of this.

J: It’s more accurate to say ‘search phrases’. If you’re not writing to be found then you can completely ignore key words and search phrases, but if you do want to be found for either a key word or a search phrase, you damn well better write for it.

ME: I understand you are presenting at the Intelligent Content Conference (ICC) in March. I look forward to hearing you speak. Would you give us a snippet of what your seminar will be about?

J: My approach is that most people have learned how to use toilet paper and clean up after themselves. I’m giving away 10 expanded pro tips on how to optimize your content for SEO and Social before you publish. Each of these tips is as easy and necessary as using toilet paper. If you’ve mastered the first part, I’m sure you can master these tips. 

ME: What is the number one misconception about SEO out there?

J: Unfortunately SEO has been likened to a snake oil salesman and there is a lot of truth to that stereotype. The best way to think about SEO is that you are actually writing for 2 audiences; the search engine spiders and people. You need to understand how to write for the spiders of you’re never going to be found by the people.

ME: What do you feel makes a good blog stand out?

J: A good blog is one that understands the 4 “S’s” of content marketing 

  1. Segmented: who is the micro-segmented audience you are writing for?
  2. Searchable: people are actually looking for the content and you know how to make the engines find it
  3. Snackable: Like a great snack, people are always reaching for it; you want your audience to consume your content
  4. Shareable: the #1 KPI for content is “was it shared”

ME: How did the nickname Godfather of Social Media come about?

Functional Writing : an Interview with Josepf Haslam
“The GodFather of Social Media”

A twitter friend of mine @optioneerJM interviewed me about the future of digital marketing and she coined the phrase in that interview 

ME: What is your favorite social media platform and why?

J: My favorite platforms have changed over time, and each serves a different purpose. Today my top 3 are Instagram, Linkedin and WeChat, all for different reasons.

Optimized penmanship

Optimized Penmanship For Contemporary Readers

Today was training day as I headed to downtown NYC to speak with a team of writers who are looking to optimize their penmanship to become relevant in google searches. As with many companies and organizations, they have a fairly meaty website with lots of content. Nonetheless, despite the abundance of blog posts, they are not showing up in searches as much as they hope to.

optimized penmanship
NYC in the rain

What is Optimized Penmanship?

When we think of penmanship, classic authors like Shakespeare come to mind; those writers whose prose is a work of art, a piece of architecture that has been well thought out and utterly creative at the same time.

“Most entrepreneurs fail at developing ideas for their content because they fail to plan” ~ Joe Pulizzi

Penmanship Optimization Workshop NYC
Penmanship Optimization Workshop NYC

“Thank you for coming in, Rana! We all learned a lot”

What I conveyed yesterday in my workshop was that content creation takes some work and planning, but that does not need to over-ride innovation and creativity. An author’s voice, I believe, is what distinguishes him or her from other writers. That being said, when you are generating content for your website, you are engaging in marketing practices. Bringing these two sides together is what I mean by ‘optimized’. Functional key word use, a content strategy, originality and using social media to help disseminate your information, build engagement, monetize or educate. Ah!

 Bridging SEO and Creativity

Part of the misconception is that if you have a visually stunning website with weekly blogs this will be enough. The outward component is probably the most fun part of the job. Using the architecture analogy, this is like building without a foundation. The less visible aspects of writing are key components of optimizing your resources.

The technical aspect of writing out a content strategy, using meta descriptions, H1, H2 and alt tags on your images, categories for your blogs, may take time, but they set you up for potential success. And, of course, purposeful presence online.

Need help to optimize your content? Click here to contact me

To Review or Not to Review

To Review or Not to Review

Review are evaluations. Is a review useful to you? Do you write them or ignore them, and have you ever considered learning how to write one that is useful and purposeful?

review writing tips
To Review or not to Review

To review or not to review…that is the question. I am propelled to write about reviews because it seems like they are everywhere. I never paid much attention to them when I lived in Montreal, mostly because I never shopped online. Now living in the U.S. I actually do look at reviews, and as a writer, I examine them with a critical eye. A good review will either give you the motivation you need or save you from making a purchase, whether for goods or services. So what makes a review worthwhile? A few of my thoughts follow.

Writer’s Bias

Often, you can spot a writer’s bias. Words like “hated it” or “loved it” are strong statements that indicate a very personal experience. Yes, a review should reflect personal experience, however, it should also constructive so that the reader understands where you are coming from.

 “I loved the restaurant because the waiters were patient and kind although the food was too salty for my taste buds” as opposed to “I loved the restaurant” gives the reader an indication of why you enjoyed your experience, and might be useful to the diner who enjoys good service and salty food.

Put a Title On It

A catchy title will attract people to actually read your review, and trust what you are saying. I was truly on the fence about the above yoga mat I purchased. It has some good features but for the purpose I bought it for, it is not ideal. I expressed my bias, my reasoning, and then left it up to the reader. I wrote it with the intention, no of criticizing, but rather, reporting. Short and sweet is a good way to configure your heading

Reading Between The Lines

Match the review with the product description. If you are buying a yoga mat that is supposed to be sticky, and people are rating it as slippery overall, this is a red flag. This is a good tip for you if you buy clothing online. Read the body types of the the reviewers to see if “too tight” means they should really buy a size up and the product will fit right, or whether in fact, across all sizes, the arm holes run too small.

Write As If The Readers Were Your Community

Being helpful is a way of sharing your insights in a constructive way. If you don’t have anything nice to say, use good manners. “The staff was disgruntled” versus “the waitress was a be-atch” for instance.

Wrapping Up

Businesses are using reviews to create engagement and harvest feedback from clients. It is a tool that is being used more and more to gain a following, and show that there is social listening. We can choose to participate or not. For me the bottom line is: keep your online presence purposeful!

People now expect to find out everything about everything with the click of a mouse or the touch of a fingertip. This is the age of mass transparency ~ Anthony Bradley / Mark McDonald

Keeping the Social in Social Media

Keeping the Social in Social Media

No doubt you have at least one social media profile, whether it be Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter. We have become a society who probably picks up the phone less than past generations, relying on texting and IM chats. We document our travels, food preferences, shout out birthday greetings, and curate coats on a variety of different platforms.  This can be a way to have online (social) relationships with people we know but live far from. Personal social media is pretty social. We engage.

Business Use of Social Media

So many awesome people working in digital marketing to inspire new campaigns. The most successful ones are cultivating a purposeful presence online by building engagement and getting people to be excited about their products. While you may think that getting likes gets you noticed, getting your content shared, and sharing your own content, has marketing potential.

Once you’ve chosen the right social media technology and created a great participant experience around a compelling purpose, only one question remains. Will they come? Maybe not. ~ Anthony J Bradley/Mark P McDonald.

My friend Ty made me into a meme:

social media for online presence
Sharing on social media trumps likes

Here are a couple of reasons I like to use social media channels:

  • To get my blog out there
  • To create conversations around something I might be doing, such as writing a new post, or advertising an event
  • To build engagement with audiences. Maybe we can share each other’s wisdom, or learn new things
  • To network. You can meet interesting people who share your interests, or want to hire you.
  • Good for organic SEO.

Social listening

Often overlooked, some pages get a lot of comments but don’t seem home. It’s like not answering your phone. I try to answer questions, or at least thank people for their comments. I would recommend, if you are trying to build a faithful network, or audience, that you check your page and at least “like” the fact that someone left a remark. Think long term fan base. Think engagement.

My personal preference is to keep my posts short and sweet, use a link to drive traffic to my site or a particular blog post. Long winded commentaries do not necessarily feel like conscious content.

If you are looking for a few tips to make your Facebook business page more fantastic check out this paid piece I wrote here. You can also contact me for social media management!

Reflections on Love

Reflections on Love

Love: Reflections… In honor of my anniversary, I am celebrating love and great marriages. As the site responsible for more Jewish marriages than other dating sites, JDate makes a great muse for my reflections on meeting new potential partners online, the dating experience, and finding a lasting partnership.

Why Online Dating? Why JDate?

The face of dating has changed over the past years.   People spend way more time in front of their computers, mobile devices and tablets than ever before. The digital age has made the need to rely on dating sites even stronger.

If you are new to the online dating process, it may feel awkward and hard to navigate. However, let me walk you through how simple it is!

JDate has responded to these changes by updating their website to make the experience easier and more streamlined for users. They also have enhanced their mobile presence, with JDate mobile apps for IOS and Android as well as improved the experience for iPad and Tablet users. For instance, if you have AllAccess, it enables you to message and chat via Instant Messaging with anyone, even non-paying members. So with this great new design, why not get started with putting a fresh face on your dating presence!

Your JDate Profile Looks Fantastic!

Your profile is the key to meeting the “right” person. Someone who is in love with you for your quirks, like drinking coffee with chocolate soymilk in it. Someone who enjoys walking in nature, people watching in Central Park, or is looking for a partner who has laugh lines. This being said, be honest and thorough. If I met someone who lied on their profile, I would say, “red flag” and move on.

JDate has so much room for you to share tidbits about yourself that make you real, like your hobbies, interests and goals. This way, someone can see your profile, and get to know you at a glance. In fact, you might reach out to several potentially interesting profiles with a simple email message that expresses that you like what you saw. Since your inbox is now organized by conversations rather than messages, you are able to see all these communications very easily. Don’t forget, you can upgrade to make your profile stand out even more. Shine and browse on!

JDating and the Art of Matchmaking

Ok, so you signed up, have a great profile. You are still a little tentative to actually choose someone to greet and possibly meet. That is ok. JDate’s new Daily Matches feature is a simple, curated look at your best matches each and every day. They base this on the information that you provide so, don’t be so shy, say hi. Now, if someone says hello, be polite even if you are not interested. And likewise, if someone doesn’t respond to you, move on with a sense that meeting your mate is on the horizon, or, even at one of JDate’s offline events.

Going out on a JDate?

Inbox encounters are fine but take things offline so you don’t waste hours typing. First meetings are a chance to see if you have good energy with someone, or enjoy being in their company. If you do, book a date, if not, return to JDate. Hopefully, that person is a profile match away!

*disclaimer: this is a paid piece for OmMedia group and JDate

love and possibility
Great Quote! Applicable to love and possibility