Start Writing Even When You Don’t Want To

Sep 01

Any writer can have a slump once in a while. If it happens to you, you can always just walk away from the computer and get back to it tomorrow, right? But if you’d rather get your blogging mojo back and actually make some progress, take a look at the following tips.


Have a purpose

Have a purpose beyond just getting another post out. Don’t worry that it’s been a little too long since your last post. If you’ll write a better post by spending more time planning and writing, that extra time will pay off.

Set a timer

Set the timer for 10, 20 or 30 minutes and just start writing. You might come up with parts of a few good posts, or you may come up with a list of random thoughts. If you complete an entire post, that’s great. If you just vent to yourself and get some ideas flowing, that’s worthwhile too.

Fix up an old rough draft

If you have an old draft that you got stuck on, take another look at it. You had enough ideas for it at one point, maybe doing some editing will bring back those ideas. It might be a quick way to finish a quality post until you think of your next great topic.

Offer a solution

If you can entertain your readers with great writing, you can give them even more motivation to come back and linger on your blog if you can help them solve their problems. Even personal blogs that don’t try to sell anything can be useful to readers who relate to you. They may come for a fun distraction from their day, but they’ll stick around longer and come back if your post also help them in their daily struggles.

Make it timeless

If you’re looking at current events to find a potential topic, keep one thing in mind. It’s fun to read other people’s opinions on current events, TV shows, political debates, trials, reality shows, talent contest finales and celebrity gossip. It’s especially fun the day after the event. But if you want your post to get emailed, tweeted or Facebooked for longer than a day or two, keep in mind that your post might have a limited shelf life.

Treat it like a job

Blogging really is a job and you’re fortunate to have found a way to be your own boss. Plan to work  for a certain number of hours each day, and you can use that “on the clock” mentality to just sit down and start making things happen.  You’ve already done so much work to set up your blog and find your own voice and audience–put in your time and you’ll get paid back in one way or another.

Change your environment

One way to change your environment is to move your laptop (or good old pen and paper) to another location. It could be a coffee shop, the library, a park bench or your patio. At home, if you can turn off the TV or music, the silence might allow more creative ideas to come forth and be heard. Getting rid of piles of papers, books and post-it notes filled with miscellaneous notes and usernames can clear your head and make you feel ready to dig back in to your writing.

Don’t wait until you’re in the mood

If you wait until all the chores are done, the emails are read,  appointments are made AND you are in the mood, you might not post for several months. Sometimes just sitting down and starting to write will get you into a creative zone, even if you thought you had no good ideas for a post.

Finally, if the mood to do some creative writing does strike, don’t turn on the TV or go get a snack before starting. That bowl of ice cream will taste even better after you hit “Publish.”

How Much Time Do You Spend Blogging?

Aug 26

Should You Make a Blogging Schedule?

Bloggers are creative. We may be artists, poets, musicians at heart. We could also be sales reps, teachers, tech geeks, pundits, wiccans, humorists, moms, dads, risk-takers, introverts and class clowns.

In addition to our talents and writing skills, a lot of us are also time-stretched, conflicted, uninspired and disorganized. Creating a blogging schedule could be just what we need.


Source: Cover of Saturday Evening Post from May 16, 1959 features Norman Rockwell’s painting Easter Morning.

I’d Read This Grammar Tip if I Were You

Aug 24


Have you ever wondered whether to use if I was versus if I were? Either of these can be correct, depending on the situation.


  • The expression if I was refers to reality.
  • The expression if I were is supposing something that is hypothetical, impossible or untrue.

Jennie Ruby makes it all clear in the following explanation.

When you use indicative statements, you are talking about facts or asking about facts, like this:

  • Stating a fact: I was home yesterday morning.
  • Asking about a fact: Was I there when you called?

In both of these sentences, you use the verb was with I. They are both singular.

When you are supposing the impossible, however, you use a plural verb, were, with the singular I, like this:

If I were you, I’d order the steak. (I am supposing the impossible–I can’t be you.)

  • If I were home today, I’d take a nap after lunch. (I am supposing something that is known to be untrue–I am not home today. I know for a fact that I am not, and to suppose it is to suppose something that is not true.)

All this gets a little more difficult when you are supposing something and you don’t know or remember whether it was true or not. In this case, the thing you are supposing might have been true, you just can’t remember:

  • If I was home when you called yesterday, I did not hear the phone.

This statement is not impossible or known to be untrue. Instead, it might well have been true–I might have been home when you called.

Casablanca, 1942

Rick: I wouldn’t bring up Paris if I were you. It’s bad salesmanship.

The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957

Colonel Saito: Do you know what will happen to me if the bridge is not built on time?
Colonel Nicholson: I haven’t the foggiest.
Colonel Saito: I’ll have to kill myself. What would you do if you were me?
Colonel Nicholson: I suppose if I were you, I’d have to kill myself.
Colonel Nicholson: (raising the glass of scotch he previously declined) Cheers!

The Awful Truth, 1937

Lucy Warriner: I wouldn’t go on living with you if you were dipped in platinum! So go on, divorce me. Go on, divorce me! It’ll be a pleasure.


Duck Soup, 1933

Mrs. Teasdale: Closer. . . closer . . . closer . . . .
Rufus T. Firefly: If I were any closer, I’d be in the back of you.

Casablanca, 1942

Captain Renault: Mademoiselle, you are in Rick’s.
Ilsa Lund: Rick is what?
Captain Renault: Mademoiselle, he’s the kind of man that, well, if I were a woman and I were not around, I should be in love with Rick. But what a fool I am talking to a beautiful woman about another man.

In Conclusion
Now that you’ve learned how to properly use if I were and if I was, I have a little gift for you. Take a quick look at a scene from Casablanca, showing Rick and Ilsa’s happier days in Paris, presented for your viewing pleasure.

Making an Emotional Connection with Readers

Aug 15

Look at the photo of Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine. Do you see two movie stars flirting with each other? Do you think it’s a scene from a movie, or a candid shot on a movie set? Are they laughing about whatever Shirley is holding? Did she draw a picture of one of the aliens that she wrote about years later?

I don’t know what was going on when that picture was shot, but what I see in that photo is an emotional connection that bloggers can and should make with their readers.

Look at the photo of Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine. Do you see two movie stars flirting with each other? Do you think it’s a scene from a movie, or a candid shot on a movie set? Are they laughing about whatever Shirley is holding? Did she draw a picture of one of the aliens that she wrote about years later?

I don’t know what was going on when that picture was shot, but what I see in that photo is an emotional connection that bloggers can and should make with their readers.

I’m referring to intimacy, laughter, comfort, empathy, friendship, loyalty and a casual, close connection between two equals. Feeling understood. A shared moment. Two members of a tribe. (Hello, Rat Pack? We’re still intrigued by you.) I’m here if you need me, Doll.

Yes, I can read a lot into an old photo. That’s what I do.

Laughter: Inside Jokes

Any type of blog can benefit from a little humor. Your readers can feel like they are in on the joke with the following method from Kirsten Simmons.

Kirsten describes a great technique in her guest post on Problogger. She recommends sprinkling your posts with Easter eggs: obscure references that aren’t apparent to anyone who doesn’t know what you’re talking about. The people who don’t get the reference are none the wiser, and the people who do love you all the more for including it.

Friendship With Your Audience

Your writing is your performance, and your readers are your audience. The size of that potential audience is unlimited. You put so much thought and work into the blog, you deserve to have more than just your mom and your cousins reading it.


What would your reader like to hear about from a friend? What makes your blog useful? Are you teaching something that will help readers in their daily lives? Are you providing a service? How long would it take a first-time visitor know what your blog is about?

You might say, “Well, I write to express my own feelings, not to please anyone else.” That could be true, and that attitude might keep your writing very authentic. However, I don’t think there are any bloggers who wouldn’t like to have readers see their work, feel a response to it, and come back for more.


I’m Here if You Need Me

Make your readers feel that you can help them. This can be your goal whether you have a personal blog, sales blog loaded with affiliate links, or a cooking blog showing non-cooks that it’s not that hard making pancakes from scratch.

Give them something they can’t get anywhere else. That something might be your unique voice and sense of humor, your way with a whisk on your cooking blog, or the marketing tips that give a discouraged sales rep a new sense of hope and enthusiasm.


Empathy: Feeling Understood

Andria from Drawing Near, advises sharing your own difficult experiences with readers:

Finding times and places to talk about your struggles—divorce, miscarriages, postpartum depression—can make a big difference to someone else’s life. Not because you offer any great advice or insight, but simply because you are willing to let your humanity show, and present yourself as a fellow traveler, a fellow sufferer, and a fellow survivor.


In Conclusion
Rat Pack leader Frank Sinatra explained how friendships are formed.
“You bypass the acquaintanceship stage immediately. Either your currents are different and the chemistry isn’t there, or else you’re hooked and you’re a friend immediately, and in most cases, permanently.”
That kind of emotional connection is just as possible between bloggers and their readers as it is between swinging Hollywood legends, Doll.


Grammar School: Advise or Advice

Aug 13

I Advise You to Take My Advice

Today we’re going to discuss another pair of words that writers often get mixed up.

Advice is a noun meaning an opinion or recommendation.
Advise is a verb meaning to give advice.

Loretta advised me to come back soon to color my
gray hair. I wonder why she would give me that advice.

Joyce advised Gerald to keep his hands
where she could see them, or he might end

up needing the advice of a lawyer.

In her advice column in the daily newspaper,
“Dear Amelia” advised the blogger
(known as “Blogging in Baltimore”) to use
keywords and links to increase blog traffic.

My Advice to You

One tip for remembering the difference between advice and advise: If you aren’t too young to know what an advice column is, you can make the connection that in the phrase “advice column,” remember that advice has the c in it, and column starts with a c.

If that little hint (which I just thought of) can help even one blogger, I will have done my job today.


Do You Get These Words Mixed Up?

Aug 11

If you ever needed proof that English is a confusing language, this list of words should do it. Each of these variations has its roots in either forfour or fore.

For (I’m quite aware that you know this) is a preposition that indicates purpose.

Four refers to the number, of course. (Insert your own game show joke here.)

Fore means at or near the front; at an earlier time.

Forth means ahead in time, place or order; onward.

Fourth is the position between third and fifth; one quarter. 

Forward means moving toward a place, point or time in advance; onward; ahead; in front.

Foreword is a preface or introductory note at the beginning of a book, usually written by someone other than the author.

Frank Sinatra sang, “So make it one for my baby, and one more for the road.”

In 1958,  four guys known as Danny and the Juniors had a 

huge hit with “At the Hop.” The singers from Philadelphia

were originally called The Juvenairs.

Perhaps Babe Didrikson Zaharias should have yelled “Fore!” before telling a group of women golfers,”You know when there’s a star, like in show business, the star has her name in lights on the marquee? Well, I’m the star, and all of you are in the chorus.”

      Elvis once said, “Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers,and some people sway back and forthI just sorta do ’em all together, I guess.” 

James Cagney sang, “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy, a Yankee Doodle, 

do or die; a real live nephew of my Uncle Sam’s, born on the Fourth of July.”


From this day forward, maybe the groom should be forewarned 

when his wife will be swinging a golf club at

him right in front of a clergyman.

If a book has a foreword, then is there an afterword? 

Yes, the afterword comes afterward. It’s 

concluding section or epilogue.

That’s all for now, folks!

Ten Phrases You Might Be Getting Wrong

Aug 01

One of the most amazing things about the blogging world is that it allows you to become a writer, no matter your age, education, work experience or grammar expertise. However, if you repeatedly use phrases incorrectly because you never really learned their proper spelling or meaning, you could be making yourself look less than professional.

Even if you are not a grammar whiz (yes it’s whiz, not wiz, although that would make some sense if it were short for wizard), you can now be sure to use the following ten expressions properly.

Bated breath  (not baited breath)

Waiting with bated breath means holding your breath. It’s related to the word abate, which means to stop. The phrase is not about “baiting” or trying to catch or trap something. This confusion is understandable because bated is not commonly used in conversation.

Anyhoo  (not anywho)

Anyhoo is a humorous, slang variation of anyhow. This joking mispronunciation ofanyhow is used to indicate a change of subject, or to get back to the original subject. Anyhoo, if you like this sort of thing, you can read more about the use of anyhooor a surprisingly lively discussion of the history of the word.

Whet your appetite  (not wet your appetite)

If something whets your appetite, it interests you and makes you want more of it, whether it is food, a type of music or anything else. To whet means to sharpen, and the word is also used in the knife-sharpening trade.

Same old, same old  (not same-oh, same-oh)

Same-oh? Oh, no you don’t!  It’s same old, same old. It means that it’s the same old thing, over and over. If you want to use same ole, same ole, in casual writing, that’s OK.

There are two conflicting stories on the history of same old, same old. One is that it comes from the expression samo, samo, which means same. The other theory says that it comes from same old, same hold, said by employees getting their pay after the employer or government holds out part of the money. If you want to see an enthusiastic discussion of same old, same old, click here.

Pique your interest   (not peek or peak your interest)

The word pique means to arouse or stimulate. When you see something interesting, your interest or curiosity is piquedPeek means to look, and  peak is the highest point, as on a mountain. For more examples, see my blog post here.

Racking my brain   (not wracking my brain)

This one comes from the word rack, the medieval torture device. You are torturing your brain trying to think of something. Rack is also correctly used in nerve-racking,and is often confused with wrack (to destroy), as in wrack and ruin, and storm-wracked.

One and the same  (not one in the same)

This mistake is made because both expressions sound the same in everyday speech.One and the same means that two things are exactly alike. They are like one; they are the same. It makes sense.

For all intents and purposes  (not  for all intensive purposes or for all intense and purposes)

This phrase means in every practical sense; in every important respect; virtually.

(Example: We still need to do some paperwork, but for all intents and purposes, you’ve got the job.)

Wreak havoc  (not wreck havoc or reek havoc)

To wreak havoc means to to cause damage, disruption or destruction. The past tense is wrought havoc, but it’s fine to use wreaked havoc.

Moot point  (not mute point)

moot point is a subject that could be debated, but has become irrelevant.  There is no point in debating the issue, because it just doesn’t matter. A moot point is a decision that will have no effect on the outcome, due to a change in circumstances.

(Example: If your car won’t start, the decision of where to go out to dinner is a moot point.)

In Conclusion

You might have missed class the day that any of these phrases were discussed. Maybe you’ve never even considered using most of them in your blog, Nevertheless, you are now ready to go off into the world with the confidence that you’ll never get these ten expressions wrong.

Your future, for all intents and purposes, looks bright.

Grammar School: Using Who’s or Whose

Jul 29

God, I’d love to do a big commercial movie that made a lot of money and

whose plot was interesting too. –Bob Balaban (actor, director)

You’d probably love to produce a blog that makes a lot of money and whose content is interesting too, just like the actor and director quoted above. As you learn how to produce and publicize a quality blog, you can get occupied with an endless number of tasks.

Don’t forget that the most important task you have as a blogger is to write engaging posts. The quality of that writing affects the image that you are projecting, and simple mistakes should be eliminated. Today we’ll clear up any confusion you may have when choosing between who’s and whose in your writing.



Who’s is a contraction of who is or who has.
Who’s the person with the mask on? It’s the Lone Ranger.

Hint: In the word who’s, the apostrophe indicates a contraction, not possession. When choosing between who’s and whose, if you can substitute the word with who is or who has, use who’s. If not, use whose.


Whose is the possessive form of who. It asks to whom something belongs.

Whose is it? It is his, hers or theirs.  (Just like the words his, hers or theirs, no apostrophe is needed with whose.)

Note: You can use whose, which is the possessive form of who, to refer to both people and things, because English doesn’t have a possessive form of that.  Example: That’s the house whose roof collapsed.

Bobby, who’s dressed as a cowboy, is going trick-or-treating
with Richie, whose saddle shoes are showing under his Aladdin costume.
Who’s the only pretty actress in Hollywood
whose love life is going nowhere?


Natasha is a designer who’s becoming famous, and
 whose future granddaughter will be known as Lady Gaga.


Who’s most likely to have a nightmare tonight? The children, whose teacher
got these masks for the class play, might have trouble sleeping.


Who’s the inventor of the Transparent Face Mask? He’s a scientist
whose future will probably include criminal charges.


Learning how to choose between who’s and whose in your writing doesn’t have to be scary. Just remember the tips here and you won’t have any nightmares about grammar rules. The photos in this post, however, might give you some trouble.


Resources: eLearningEnglishLanguage and GrammarGirl.

Ten Common Writing Errors

Jul 25


Do you get any of these words or phrases mixed up when you write? You can understand the proper forms of these words once and for all, and see our first Hall of Shame entry.

1.  Peace of mind vs. Piece of my mind

You have peace of mind when you are feeling relaxed and content. You give someone a piece of your mind when you tell them your opinion.

2.  Elude vs. Allude

Elude means to avoid being caught. Allude means to refer to something in conversation. An allusion is an indirect reference, not to be confused with an illusion (a false or imagined perception).

3. Imply vs. Infer 

Something is implied if it is suggested by the person speaking or writing. A conclusion is inferred if it is reached by the person listening or reading.

4.  Aisle vs. Isle

An aisle is what you walk through at the grocery store. An isle is an island. (A store may have stand-alone display called an island, but the aisle is the space between the rows.)

5.  Pored vs. Poured

You pore over a document to read it carefully. You pour a glass of lemonade.

6.  Site vs. Cite vs. Sight

site is a place or a website. To cite is to mention or refer to. Sight is the  process of seeing, or a spectacle. (You set your sights on the car you’d like to buy.)

7.  I couldn’t care less vs. I could care less

Always use “I couldn’t care less.” If you could not care any less, then you don’t care at all. “I could care less” actually says the opposite of what you mean.  Note: You never, ever say “I could of cared less.”  The expression is “I could not HAVE cared less.”

8.  Assure vs. Ensure vs. Insure

Assure means to declare with confidence. Ensure means to make sure. Insure means to issue an insurance policy. (According to some experts, ensure and insure are interchangeable.)

9.  Empathy vs. Sympathy

Empathy is a sense that you can experience and relate to someone else’s feelings; compassion. Sympathy is a feeling of understanding and support for someone, especially in times of sorrow.

10.  Compliment vs. Complement

You compliment someone by saying that her dress looks nice. Complement refers to something that completes something else, fills it in, or makes it perfect. (The necklace was the perfect complement to her outfit.)


 Blog Tips: Ten Common Writing Errors


Vocab Rehab: The Hall of Shame

I try not to deal in shame here, but this one had me shaking my head at the state of humanity. I recently started seeing this phrase online:

“That happens to me every once and a while.

It is painful to have to explain to anyone that the expression is “once in a while.” It means occasionally. It also makes sense, unlike the offending incorrect phrase, which is not as rare as I thought.

I had to try to find out where this came from. I was discouraged to see how often it is actually shows up online, but I had hope again for our future when I saw the answer to the following question.

Question:  Is it “once in a while” or “once and a while”?
Answer:    Once in a while! I’m nine and I know that!

j1987 Blog Tips: Ten Common Writing Errors


In Conclusion

Now that you can eliminate these common errors from your blog posts, you’ll be able to communicate more clearly. Whether you have a personal blog written in a casual tone, or a business or sales blog, it benefits all of your readers when your writing is as accurate as possible.


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