Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Never Stop Learning with Free Online College Courses

by M. J. Joachim
I’ve always enjoyed learning, regardless of the setting. When I graduated from San Jose State University with my degree some 20+ years ago, my college goals were satisfied well enough. It was time to focus on my young and growing family; thoughts of returning to college were and have remained pretty much non-existent.

It’s not exactly like I want to go back and listen to professors give lectures every week. Time for such things has fallen by the way side, and hasn’t been a top priority in recent years at all.

Learning, however, is another story altogether. Last summer, I looked up all sorts of free online college courses to take, many from very reputable schools like MIT, Harvard and Stanford.

The catch, like we didn’t know there’d be one…

Text books cost a fortune!

Each of the courses I found was offered in previous semesters, some dating rather far back. Students could read lecture notes, watch videos, download required information and documents and study required reading. Depending on the curriculum, they could also take exams. The entire system seemed rather clunky to me, especially when I got to the part about purchasing class materials – namely textbooks, which could run as much as hundreds of dollars each. 

There was one class I was really interested in taking. I never actually did, because the program was so difficult to access and the book was almost impossible to find. When I did, the price didn’t seem worth it, considering how much I was already struggling with the online program itself.

Today, however, I found a different type of online learning…

I’m referring to Education Portal Academy.

I only watched the overview video, so I’m not completely sure what this is all about yet. What I do know is there are hundreds of college courses (all free of charge for the taking), taught by instructors with Master and Doctorate degrees, covering all sorts of topics worth investigating.

Resource material is vital to writers! Seems like taking free online college courses, described as brief and highly engaging, is a fabulous place to find valuable information. Apparently, you can even earn college credit for taking the courses. All you need to do is pass a CLEP exam, when you’re done.

Here’s to higher education, everyone!

That’s all for now, good peopleJ Wishing you every success with your writing!

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

Monday, October 29, 2012

Presenting Yourself as a Writer

by M. J. Joachim
Presentation matters. Formatting, designing, manipulating paragraphs and fixing up sentences may be tedious at times, but doing these things has the potential to make a huge difference in how much time people spend reading our work.

As a blogger, I take great pride in how I present my posts. Some of them are streamlined and formula specific, like this one and FlashTyme. There’s a reason for this – the content must speak for itself. Photos, pictures and other ascetic features could easily distract from the intended point.

However, Lots of Crochet Stitches and Being Catholic are enhanced by a few extras. Photo tutorials on my crochet blog make it easier for my followers to see exactly what I’m referring to in the written text; visual enrichment on my catholic blog, intensifies the reflective experience intended there.

Content is always king. Lest we never forget, the king wears a crown of glistening jewels! His majesty presents himself to a royal audience, grand and glorious – every detail matters!

It’s an attitude, really… something we express in our writing and share in our publicity of it. We either jumble up the words, bunching them together and throwing them toward our audience on our way to somewhere else, or we take extreme care in producing exactly what we want to say, in just the right way, empowering our words with how we choose to publish them. 

Do you think this is a bit of a stretch? The next time you go out in public, skip the grooming part. You’ll see what I mean in a heartbeat!

That’s all for now, good peopleJ Wishing you every success with your writing!

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikicommons, Creative Commons Attribution

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Taking the “Ech” out of Technical Writing

by M. J. Joachim
Derived from the Greek word tekhnikos, evolving to tekhne, before eventually becoming techno, the word technical itself refers to skill and expertise in a certain subject. Naturally, this includes understanding vocabulary and language associated with one’s subject matter, as well as the natural level of comfort and confidence, which automatically happen when you’re familiar with your topic.


All you have to do to present yourself as a technical writer in any field, is understand your topic, know the lingo and be able to express your knowledge and skills, in written communication.

Practice makes perfect. Enjoying the subject and expressing a certain confidence and comfort level doesn’t hurt either.

Oh, you should some of the first drafts I write, when they relate to topics I’m not as familiar with – edit, Edit, EDIT!!!

I could just see myself writing about installing a dishwasher…the blind leading the blind comes to mind, and you can bet it will never happen, without lots of research and (preferably) personal instruction first.

Writing about crochet, on the other hand…

Well, for those of you who have seen my Lots of Crochet Stitches blog, you understand exactly what I’m saying. I could teach people how to crochet with one hand behind my back, and being able to write about it is simply an extra perk. I love this stuff and it shows in every post I publish!

Getting a bit more technical now…

Technical writing, therefore, is the ability to communicate with your audience, relaying specific, reliable information about a particular topic. It’s using [topic specific, common words] written in a document or manuscript, which expresses one’s expertise of that topic, relaying it in a trustworthy manner to those interested in learning more about that subject, or because guidelines pertaining to the matter require technical documentation of it. [Think medical and legal profession here for more clarity, please.]

Are you already a technical writer, kind follower? I’m betting the answer is a big, bold, “YES!” In fact, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that most writers use technical writing skills in many of their projects and assignments.

Why, you ask? Because we all have a story, things we like to do and an uncanny ability to share those things with others through the written word. Most of the time, we write about what we know, sharing tips, advice and lessons learned along the way.

Sometimes, we learn a new topic. However, we use our skills as writers to bring it to life in an interesting and effective way, even when it seems a little bit out of our league. I’m glad I’ve never had to write about installing a dishwasher, but if I ever do, you can bet it will be an article worth reading. There’s no way I’d let my audience down on a technicality, which means I really would know how to install a dishwasher, way before the article ever got published in the first place!

That’s all for now, good peopleJ Wishing you every success with your writing!

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikiversity, Public Domain

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wiki This, Wiki That, Wiki-hone Your Writing Skills

by M. J. Joachim
Apparently you can’t hurt it, so you might as well have a little fun, play the game and become a better writer in the process.  According to Wiki Org, “Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser.”

Wikiversity is a fabulous place to start! Wherever your interest may be, you are likely to find a school related to them. Upon doing so, you can review various writings, become familiar with specific technical writing skills, engage in the vernacular vocabulary, find a multitude of resources – resources you can use for vital information, as reference points or for prospective writing opportunities, I might add, and enhance your knowledge by leaps and bounds about almost anything your topic(s) addresses.

The Wiki Foundation is non-profit. They have organized their site into countless projects and sister projects, providing an almost limitless supply of multi-level resources, research and information into a vast array of learning sites and communities.

Information and material found on Wiki can be reused. The Wiki Foundation clearly states that most of their site contains works of individual creators, who specify licensing rights for reusing their work. Personally, I find WikiCommons to be a wonderful resource, choosing to use it quite frequently when adding pictures to my work.

Next up…

I’m hoping Wiki will help me familiarize myself more with html and coding. I know a little bit, but I’ve always wanted to enhance my skillset in this area. My personal philosophy on the matter…

If you can’t hurt it and they want you to be bold when changing it, why not take the time to learn some new skills when the opportunity presents itself?

That’s all for now, good peopleJ Wishing you every success with your writing!

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikicommons, Public Domain

Monday, October 22, 2012

Charles Dickens, Writer Extraordinaire!

by, M. J. Joachim
True, honest to goodness writing doesn’t happen by chance. Like almost everything else in life, it is a skill that must be nurtured and carefully managed, only allowing the best to come forth and be shared with the world at large.

These thoughts came, front and center in my mind, while watching a biography about Charles Dickens over the weekend. Much can be said about the man; he was indeed quite a character. Writing from experience, Dickens portrayed the world around him (including all his judgments of it) through the fictional characters he created – based on real life, a fact history can attest to through his novels.

I found myself lost in aspects of his inspirations, as opposed to ordinary details and facts about his life. Oh, they were all interesting enough, but it was Dickens ability to transform these events into literary genius that truly intrigued me beyond imagination.
The man was a writer! He was not an aspiring writer, or someone writing for a paycheck. He was in fact, case and point, a real, honest to goodness, writer!

Everything he encountered had the potential of being transformed and articulated through his writings, not for fame or fortune, but because he simply couldn’t help himself!

Not only that! The works of Charles Dickens often made an inevitable impact on the world around him.  And they still do today. If that’s not the definition of a real writer, I’m not sure what is.

Oh, Dickens had many lessons to teach us from his life. He addressed social justice issues, relationships, working too much and making life decisions, both through scenes from daily life and dealing with ghosts from the past, present and future. For all the words he penned to paper, it’s no wonder Dickens was such a prolific and profound writer. He nurtured his talents, managed his skills and became infamous in literary circles for all time!

That’s all for now, good peopleJ Wishing you every success with your writing!

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikicommons, Public Domain

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

by M. J. Joachim
As mentioned in a previous post, my first article, Honestwriting is about feeding the spirit and so much more! for SoWrite has been published.

The words flowed out of me like lava from a volcano when writing this piece. Can you tell? Did you literally visualize the orangish-reddish glow, tainted by black soot, oozing and creeping along? Is there a faint hint of sulfur in the air – or can you at least imagine it?

“Ish” is a big suffix these days.

Meet me at 3:30ish.
The autumn leaves are turning yellowish.
The candidate acted a little peacockish in the debate.

Without even thinking, we can easily determine the exact meaning of what is said. And yet, “ish,” like so many other prefixes, words and suffixes, tends to add an air of uncertainty – a hint of flexibility and room for doubt.

There’s nothing wrong with words being open to discussion. However, I’m of a mind where you say what you mean and mean what you say. People can debate it all they want. Once it’s been thoroughly thought through, complete with research if required and internal dialog that lets you live with your decision about it, a person needs to have a strong backbone and stand behind the words he or she put out there.

People can say whatever they want about them; they will whether you stand behind your words or not anyway. Your job is to stand firm in a well-prepared statement – be it verbal, written or otherwise. Hey, an awful lot gets said without anyone ever uttering a word! You know exactly what I mean by that, don’t you?

That’s all for now, good peopleJ Wishing you every success with your writing!
M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikicommons, Public Domain

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Secret of Freelance Writing

by M. J. Joachim
I saw it coming from a mile away. For the sake of this blog post, I chose not to click backwards and continued wading through page after page, testimony after testimony, to the final pitch. You see there’s a secret to becoming a highly paid freelance writer…

For only $49.00 you can …
-get free luxurious spa treatments to write about
-find out about paid writing gigs
-learn how singing can increase your writing ideas
-spend absolutely nothing traveling through Europe
-become more efficient at managing your time
-find out where to get hired as a writer with little or no experience

Oh yes, there’s a secret all right, and these guys have tapped into it big time! They’ve not only written the words that will get your attention, they’ve marketed their writing, so they can get paid for it by you!

Please don’t buy what they’re selling. You don’t have to purchase an MLM program or amazing offer to discover how to be a freelance writer. You don’t even have to join a writing group. All you really have to do is to WRITE.

I know. I know. It sounds so simple. That’s because it is simple. Writing is about getting the words out, making them readable and (if your heart desires) marketing them so they can be read by the masses.

Once you consistently produce quality content, moving onto other things is a natural progression. Freelance writing is not about finding the right magic formula or setting up a business. It’s about writing.

Publishing, marketing and branding your writing are entirely different fields. We’ll discuss them more in future posts. In the meantime, it’s best to avoid sites that draw you in with promises few would want to pass up. My personal opinion is, anytime you hear or read something like that, you should run (not walk) the other way as fast as you can.

That’s all for now, good people! Until next time, I wish you wellJ
That’s all for now, good people! Thank you for visiting my blog. J
M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikicommons, Public Domain

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Town Called Home in America

by M. J. Joachim
Heading down Las Vegas Boulevard, she paused. What by all accounts was a time for celebration, took on a somber tone from her surroundings. Construction littered the scenery – unfinished construction with few if any workers earning paychecks from it. Fences and boarded up walls, faded “Keep Out” signs, and people…dozens of lost and broken people.

Walking through the casinos told the story of their plight. It revealed evidence of technology, paving the way for business owners to make more profit by hiring fewer employees. It revealed one last hope of hitting it big, or at least making enough to pay this month’s rent, as well as hundreds of empty penny, nickel and quarter machines, because Americans couldn’t afford to gamble their food budget away, especially with their last bit of change.

By far, one of her most tragic observations, was the man crouched beneath the base of a bush along the sidewalk. He had a small bag of food nearby, an old tattered blanket off to the side, and a tiny cushion of belongings he used for a pillow. His orange t-shirt was faded and dusty – a sure sign of the miles he traveled on his journey. Scrunched up, like an animal in a cave, he rested through the heat of the day. Merely a glimpse of many living on the streets, in a town called home in America.


That’s all for now, good people! Thank you for visiting my blog. J

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: M. J. Joachim