I promised my kids, and myself, that I wasn’t going to go back into government contracting because it is way too unpredictable. Contracts come and go and change and the person sitting at the desk doing the work has no control over who stays, who goes, who tells the story (all respect due to Lin-Manuel Miranda, but I couldn’t resist). But, after being out of a full-time job for over three and-a-half years, I folded.
I took a job as a contractor for the United States Department of Agriculture on a contract that was up for renewal, but everything looked good for long-term renewal. I started the 2nd of January full-time in DC, staying at hotels and going home as often as I could. The plan was to move down after school was out for the summer. I was looking for places to live and everything seemed good. I was wrong.
Just under two weeks from the end of the contract major changes were made. It wasn’t just me. About 66% of the people on the contract were scoped out of the next phase of work. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t them. It just was.
If any of my former team members find their way across this, please know that it was an honor and a pleasure to work with each of you. I have rarely worked with a team that gelled so quickly and performed to such a high standard straight out of the gate. I am impressed with you, I am awed by you and I am inspired by you. I will miss the Breakfast Club like nobody’s business.
Now I find myself looking for the next new chapter just a few months after I thought I started the next book in the series. Frankly my friends, this story sucks. But it is what it is. This isn’t a great time to be looking for work. So many people are out of work that the market is flooded with people applying for anything that they are remotely qualified for (and yes, I fall into that category too).
It isn’t easy. It isn’t fair. And, it’s scary as hell. It is the life of contractor.
And I’m back with another addition of Lorie’s List! This one is pretty short and sweet because I wanted to tell you about two new websites I came across this week that you’ve got to know about. One is business related and the other is writing related. If your business is writing then I suppose they’re both business, so I stand corrected. Regardless – on to the websites.
getrecommended.com – I learned about this site during a freelance usability project I did earlier this week, and I’ll tell you I found something I was really excited about. The site is built to be an virtual word of mouth – a cross between LinkedIn and Facebook – where you talk about the business your do and recommendations from people that have used your products or services. It’s still somewhat early days for Aaron and the team at getrecommended.com, but I see a lot of potential here! After talking to Aaron and hearing about some of the things they’re working on I think this could be huge!
Inkitt.com – I stumbled across this a few days ago when I heard they were sponsoring a writing contest. They company helps get authors published, I won’t go into the details, but it’s based on algorithms to determine what’s getting the most hits and what is most likely to sell. Right now they’re sponsoring a novel writing contest that will see three finalists get their books published, a professional cover, and money for marketing. The books will also be presented to bigger companies for additional distribution – which could be huge if one of the companies pick up the book!
I would love to know what you think about both of these sites. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Throwback to my first real job – working at WWCP-Fox8 & WATM-ABC23 in Johnstown, PA! By the time this picture was taken I was Weekend Director. Fun fact: This picture was taken the morning after I got engaged !
Happy Labor Day! I’m not writing a long post today, but I wanted to take a moment to remember and solute the reason for celebrating Labor Day. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” Not to toot our own horn, but I think we have a lot to celebrate.
Historic Johnstown steel mills helped build America
For generation after generation, Americans and those who have made America home, have worked hard and build something out of nothing. New technology was created to make things easier and help improve our way of life. (I know that at least one of my ones of readers is thinking about the harm to the environment – I’m not necessarily disagreeing, but I am that’s not the focus of the post.) I’m proud to say that my family has been a part of that story for a very long time.
I come from a long line of steel workers, and coal miners, and farmers, and women working inside and outside the home. The story of American Laborers is my story. I am proud to say that I have iron and coal dust in my veins. The people who helped build the United States built my family tree.
While I may not work in a mill, or a mine, or field, I try to live up to the work ethic of those who came before me. I work hard to take care of my family and continue the story they started.
So, thank you to all of those who helped build the country I love. Thank you to those who continue that work.
I’ve gotten some questions recently about storytelling, and I thought I wold share some of the discussion with everyone. First, let me clarify what I mean about storytelling.
Tips for telling your story
To me, storytelling can be anytime you’re telling people something. That could be in the traditional sense like a novel or autobiography, or in a marketing sense like a marketing or social media campaign. Instructional design, script writing and video production as well as content development can all fall under storytelling – you’re trying to share information or persuade someone by telling someone something. I look at all these things as storytelling because it puts you more in the mind of getting your information out in a creative and/or interesting way that is more likely to hold interest and make an impact.
With that out of the way, let’s look at 4 ideas (and a bonus tip) that will hopefully make storytelling easier for you.
Who cares? I know, everyone should care about what you have to say. Unfortunately, that’s not actually true. So ask yourself, who am I telling this story to? Who is going to care from the first word, and who do I want to make care? Spend a few minutes thinking about the audience the piece is for and what you want them to take away from the story your telling.
These guys might care….
I know that’s the first step in any kind of writing, but too often I see people trying to tell a story, market something or teach something taking a shotgun approach – spreading the information as thin as you can to try to reach as many people as possible. The majority of the time that only makes the story boring and too diluted to have the impact you want.
Watch your language. It’s no secret that when people write for business they write more formally, it’s what we’ve all been taught. But, that’s not always the best option. You need to look at the audience and the story you’re telling. If you’re talking about profit and loss margins something more formal is probably the best choice. If you’re talking about a client’s theme park or telling people about the time you were having such a run of bad luck that your left shoe fell down a sewer grate and you never saw it again, you probably want to be a little more informal.
What do I mean by informal? Using contractions for one. A lot of people seem to have issues using contractions in their writing, and that quickly makes everything more formal. Word choice is important too! Using slang can also be a big help in making what you’re writing more approachable. If your writing a young adult (YA) romance novel and say, “Would you like to go spend time at the local shopping complex?” versus, “Do you want to go hang out at the mall?” your reader is going to feel like they’re reading a text book – and chances are if they’re reading a YA romance novel they probably get enough of text books in their daily lives and won’t give your novel the time of day.
Let your Medium guide you. I’m not talking about Madam Elaine, Psychic to the
Let your medium Guide you!
Masses, I’m talking about the medium you’re using to tell the story. Are you telling your story verbally or in writing? Are you doing a slide show presentation or blog post? Consider the length of time or space you have to tell the story. Shorten or expand as necessary.
Say it out loud! One of the easiest and fastest ways to check on how your story sounds is to read it out loud to yourself. Listen to how it sounds. Does it sound too formal? Not formal enough? Is there a sentence that’s hard to understand when you hear it? Is it something that is easy to understand and hit the notes you’re looking to hit? The answers to questions like these will tell you a lot about the writing style you used for the piece (or your writing style in general) and the how others will hear it – even when they read to themselves most of your audience will be hearing their voice saying the words so in a way they are hearing it out loud.
Bonus TIP! Reverse it! If you’re worried that your writing style or speaking style is too formal and you want to work on that, start verbally rather than in writing. This especially works well if you’re telling your life stories. Record yourself telling the story verbally before you start to write. Listen to it carefully. What do you notice about how you tell the story? Is your word choice different than when you write? Are your sentences shorter? Do you use a storytelling voice that is warm and approachable? Keep these things in mind when you start to write and see the difference it can make in the final product!
I would love to hear from you! Drop me a note and let me know what you think of the post and what tips or ideas you have to make storytelling easier!
I come from a long line of steel mill workers, assemblers, miners and other manners of true blue collars. Generation after generation working their way through the ranks at the unions. A few became “White Hats” (supervisors) along the way. These were men and women who worked hard their whole lives. Most of them didn’t finish high school — they dropped out help support their families. They were and are tough. I cannot be prouder to continue their legacy.
Labor Day has become about the end of summer. About parties, and pools and picnics. It used to be a little more about the men and women whose blood and sweat literary built the United States. The people who died in dangerous jobs to create a better world. To remember and honor those who fought for safer work environments and to establish the laws we take for granted today.
This Labor Day I want to thank the people out there doing the tough jobs I couldn’t do. Thank you to the people fighting for workplace safety and equality and making sure the laws are followed. Thank you to anyone whoever put in a hard days work on the production line, or down in the pit, and thought that what you did didn’t matter. . .
You see, it did matter. Because if it weren’t for my mom and dad, and my aunts and uncles, and my grandmothers grandfathers, and my great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers who worked those same lines I wouldn’t have been able to go to college. I wouldn’t have been able to learn video production or to tell stories the way I do.
Thank you to everyone who helped build the United States of America figuratively and literally.
In my last post I mentioned that I was planning on rebooting my blog and my approach to things. It turns out that I’m rebooting more than I planned. I lost my job earlier this month and I’m in a position to make bigger decisions than I originally planned as far as what I want to do with the next part of my life.
It’s scary and exciting and overwhelming and thrilling. I am blessed to have an amazing family that supports me and is willing to following me anywhere. I am honored to have friends to come to the aid with leads for jobs and freelance work to keep us afloat. I am fortunate to live in a country where women are able to do anything and be anything. Being without a job is awful, but all things considered I’m feeling pretty fortunate.
As of today I’m a freelance storyteller! Have a story you need tell? I’d be happy to help you do it! I’ll be adding more information in the coming days on the kinds of things I can do to help get your message out to the people who need to hear it.
Please keep me in mind if you need any help and wish me luck!
I find myself this morning in the lovely position of having to restart a project I’ve been editing for a week in a new software program. Yes, I did actually finish the rough draft and it doesn’t look to bad. The issue is that the program I used (the only one available to me at the time) will not release the video in an acceptable quality. It acts if I am just asking too much and crashes about 2 minutes into the export.
Now I know some of my video friends out there will jump in with ideas, but the reality is that this particular program (I’m not going into detail to protect the guilty) is not designed to do what I was trying to make it do. I only had the option of 4 video tracks (I really needed at least 5, but made do). I was doing motion images, motion video, re-sized images…not very complicated from my human perspective, but from the software’s perspective it’s very complicated. I was finally able to get a low res, low quality version out. It gave the people I was doing the video for the chance to see what I had tried to get them to envision (they like it by the way!). I just can’t get a higher quality version to out-put.
After examining my options, I think the quickest and easiest will be to recreate the video in another software program. Anyone who has gotten towards the end of a project only to find out a file got corrupted, or a drive died, or someone erased the tape knows how it feels. It can be frustrating, depressing, and overwhelming to think of having to go back and recreate what you’ve already done. Especially when your deadline is less than 48 hours away.
I’m trying to look on the bright side. The video is only around 90 seconds, so it’s not that bad. I have the audio cut and soundbite already saved as a separate file so that can just be imported in. And, I know what I’m doing this time. In the past when I’ve been faced with situations like these I find that the second version is usually tighter and generally better because I had a chance to think through what worked and what didn’t and what would work better. And hey, waiting for the new software to download has given me a few minutes to update my blog. What more could a girl ask for?
And so back to the bowels of my project…”once more into the breach, dear friends…”
I was inspired after reading this post. In it Mike discusses the role happenstance plays in video production. Let’s face it sometimes we plan shots down to the frame and they turn out ok, making us wonder if we ever had any talent in the first place. Then we when we turn around we just happen to grab a shot where the light is amazing, just the right amount of wind and all the planets align to create the perfect shot. The shot usually ends with comments about our own brilliance, deserved or not, and we remember why we love what we do.
It can happen on the set or in post production. After hours of blood, sweat and tears (in my accident prone case blood is usually involved), after wondering why I didn’t go into some “normal” profession, like teaching or animal wrangling…all of a sudden the “magic” happens and I get a glimpse at perfection. These are the moments of greatness we look for. These are the moments I love.
The natural high from grabbing the perfect shot or doing the perfect edit is amazing. All the pain and frustration are forgotten. I remember why I chose to work in video, why I keep coming back to it after getting out for a few years at a time. All of a sudden I’m a little kid back again, on one of my family’s rare trips to the movies, watching The Empire Strikes Back. I remember that magic.
I’m probably never going to make that kind of magic, but just getting a taste of it every now and then keeps me coming back for more.
I finally finished a project I had been working on for the last couple of months last week. The same day I started on a project that needed completed it in a week. Isn’t it the way it goes though?
You pour your blood, sweat and tears into a project (HINT: if you aren’t, you’re doing it wrong) and then immediately jump into the next project. That is if you’re lucky enough to not being doing 3 or more projects at one time. Even then, when one comes off the list at least one more goes on.
So here’s to all of you who give your work all you’ve got to turn around moments later and start all over again. My hat is off to you!