I am thrilled to tell you I will soon be the new Executive Director for the Community Arts Center of Cambria County! I’m very excited to be part of an organization I’ve admired for years and can’t wait to get started later this month. Most of all, my family and I are thrilled to be coming home to Johnstown, PA and being part of the community in such an amazing way.
I’m going to try my hand again this year at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For those who aren’t familiar, it’s where you spend the month of November trying to write a 50,000 word novel (and no cheating by using something you started writing at an earlier date). It starts at midnight November 1st and ends at midnight November 30th.
As is my usual style, I’ll be honest here and tell you I haven’t finished in my previous two attempts. In my defense, the first year I didn’t find out about it until after November 1st and started off the several thousand words off the pace needed to finish on time. Last year I was working for an organization that had their biggest event of the year in late November, there wasn’t much time for eating or sleeping and writing was luxury.
Instead, my goal each year has been to use the month to form better writing habits. To do things like carve an hour out of each day to write without interruptions. To get better at focusing when I do write so I can make the most of my time. Figuring what if tight outlines or free-flow works best (a kind of combination, thanks for asking). It’s really been a great chance to get to know me as a writer. Sure, I’d love to make 50,000 words, but I also know I have enough major stressors in my life that block the flow if ideas to let one of the things that let me relax become a major source of stress.
But this year is a little different. I finally have some freelance work coming up, but I’m not working full-time for an organization going full throttle towards the end of the month. I usually have at least a couple of hours to myself each day. I’m not saying it’s a sure thing, but things certainly look a lot better for success than they did last year!
Since it seems like the only thing getting done in Washington, D.C. today is a lot of stories being told about why they aren’t to blame for the government shutdown, it seemed like a good time for Tell Me a Story Tuesday! This week’s theme? Unexpected Day Off Edition!
The Challenge: It’s simple really, share a few lines about what happened on an unexpected day off. Maybe it was when you were a kid and school was cancelled because of snow. Or when someone hit a power line on campus and all of your college classes were cancelled. Maybe it was Snowmegedon a couple of years ago and you could stay home and have a snow day with the kids. All of them are awesome and we want to hear about them.
It can be the best memory. Or the worst. Feel free to embellish if you’d like, but try to keep it plausible (I think we’ll all call shenanigans on you if you tell us you went to Saturn for the afternoon). Use the comment section below to share your story to make sure everyone can see it (if it’s posted somewhere else or if it’s long you can share a link instead).
The Rules: Yep, there are a few rules, but there aren’t many. It’s more to keep things nice and friendly like. You can read the Ground Rules here or just visit the link at the top of the page.
The Prize: Our undying love and devotion. Alright, that’s kind of lame I admit. But, if people start to share stories than we’ll see what we can do about getting some sort of prize. In the mean time you are more than welcome to say you participated in the weekly storytelling event.
So, tell me a story! And who knows…you tell me yours and I may just
PLEASE NOTE: I am in no way trying to make light of what’s going on in Washington. I spent a number of years as a government contractor and have a lot of friends who are government employees and contractors that are in a really rough spot today. But if I can give them, or you, something else to think about for a few minutes, then maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
I realize I’ve been MIA, my apologies. I was using every spare moment to work on this years attempt for National Novel Writing Month. The final results? I ran head-on with real life in the middle of the month and was unable to write for more than a few minutes for days at a time. I fell short of the 50,000 word goal, but I did more than double the total words I wrote last year! I also like this year’s results 100 times more than what I wrote last year, which I think is even better.
I’m going to keep working on what I’ve written. I’ve really enjoyed having these sort of organized bursts of creativity. It’s so easy to get focus on the day-to-day creative things you need for telling stories for a living that you forget how important it is to stretch yourself. You forget how amazing it feels to push yourself and leave your comfort zone.
To me that’s the most important part of NaNoWritMo – to help people who want a chance to let their creative flag fly a reason and focus to push themselves. To give us a little push, motivation and support to attempt something we wouldn’t think of otherwise.
So what about you? How did your attempt go this year?
A few weeks ago I saw this great story about two Vancouver film students trying to track down Morgan Freeman for their film final. First, it’s just awesome in and of itself. But it also speaks to something else. Video blessings in disguise.
I have lost projects. I’ve had footage turn out to be trash. I’ve had a full day’s worth of interviews pretty much ruined because the back-focus of the camera went out while I was on location and there was very little I could do about it. But, most of the time, things seemed to work out. Mistakes and issues and things seeming to go to hell-in-a-hand-basket can force you to think more creatively. They can steer your project in a direction you never saw. On more than one occasion the replacement piece I did when my masterpiece fell apart turned out to be 100 times better – the storytelling was tighter and the flow was better because I had a better feel for it.
The same is true for all kinds of things in life and work. So many times the things we’re ripping our hair out over today will turn out to be something that made all the difference in our lives. Sometimes it’s the delays and wrong turns that point us in the right direction.
Oh, there will still be swearing and gnashing of teeth the next time a project goes wrong. But I’ll try to remember the lesson I’ve learned, the lesson those two really cool guys just learned, sometimes a video problem is a blessing in disguise.
Stanford Smith makes some great points this post about “preaching to the choir” if you will. And he’s right. It’s great to have the support of like-minded people, but if the right people aren’t getting your message the right way, you’re getting nowhere. I’ve talked before about how it’s important to know your audience. And, whether your marketing a university, developing adult learning content, or producing a killer video, you need to make sure the audience you’re creating your story for is the audience that gets it. It happens all the time. We write a marketing piece in a way that appeals to our executive, but is it written in a way that will appeal (and sell to) your audience? Will your learners love the content as much as the other instructional designers do, or will the be confused and turned-off by it? Those special-effects and artistic edits are awesome, but are you doing it to show off your favorite skills or to reach wedding and corporate clients? It’s so easy to study your audience and develop something for them but do it in a way that appeals not to the audience, but to ourselves or our peers. I think we’re all guilty of it from time to time. I’ll be the first to admit that I have. I’ve done promos and videos that I thought were great but missed the mark with the audience because they just didn’t get it. But, I’ve also done videos that I didn’t really connect with that were exactly what the client and the audience needed to see. I challenge you to go back and take an honest look at the stories you’re telling. I have and I’m going to be doing a few rewrites on a project I’m working on where the target audience is very different from the people involved. I did a pretty good job in the beginning, but I can see now that I lost that edge a bit. Now that I’m aware I can make it right. If you’re in the same boat I’m in, here are a few suggestions to help you stay on track:
- Get out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to the interests and environment of your audience. Remind yourself where they’re coming from. Don’t assume you know.
- Do a focus group or have an informal chat with folks from your target audience. What story do they want to hear from you or your client?
- Look for outside experts. Don’t just listen to the usual people get opinions from, find someone from outside your circle to give an objective opinion.
- I’ve been known to put up signs up around my desk to remind me about the audience I’m trying to reach.