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April 2008

April 30, 2008

Foozle And Fribble In Word Nerd Meet Up

Today's a red letter day for me.  I'm heading out to Geneva, Illinois to meet up with Brad Shorr from Word Sell Inc.

Brad and I got to know each other through blogging conversations about words, a shared interest in and love for words, and over time some guest posts on each other's sites and a group writing project that we ran together.  One of the guest posts I wrote for Brad inspired this word nerd cartoon of foozle and fribble (two words I'd used), and the picture has come to represent Brad and me in my mind.  So it seemed like a good choice to open up this post!

Geneva, Illinois has also stuck in my mind since Brad wrote about it in the home town meme.  It sounded so different from my busy-city image and stereotype of American life, and I felt it would be interesting to go and explore a different kind of environment.  Here's one of the photos Brad included - see what I mean?

While we're off having a blether and exploring downtown Geneva here are some of the words Brad and I have shared over the last 12 months:

Brad writing here:

Leap Before You Write That Letter Of Apology

9 Steps To Clear Business Writing

Guest posts I've written for Brad:

A Plain English Guide To Writing With Difficult Words

Driving Lessons: 10 Rules Of The Writing Road

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

April 28, 2008

Planning Ahead For Chicago

As most of you will know I'm heading off tomorrow to go to Chicago: for a holiday, to meet some blogging friends, and to go to SobCon08, the business school for bloggers.

I've been gathering together ideas and suggestions on things to see and do from readers here and friends on Twitter.  Here's the list of suggestions and recommendations for things to do in Chicago, for any of you also lucky enough to be going to SobCon, or planning a trip to Chicago in the near future.

If you can't get to SobCon don't forget you can still learn with me. To sign up for the coaching consultation on applying the lessons to your blog and business just head over to this page, and send me your question before the conference starts on Friday evening.

I've written a few posts that are scheduled to appear while I'm away.  I don't like doing this as much as writing 'live', (kind of feels like I'm not really 'here' somehow) but I think it's better than shutting shop for a week or so.  I'll try and reply to comments as we go but it might take me a bit longer than usual to get back to you.

Any other blog management things I should be thinking about before I go?  What do you do with your blog when you go away?

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

Picture of the Cloud Gate in Chicago by terren in Virginia

April 25, 2008

The Simple Power Of Words: Guest Post By Debbie Yost

Smile. That’s all the note said. I was having a bad morning. In fact, it was one of the worst I had had in years. My husband had come to my rescue and brought me the things I asked for to get things back on track. I almost missed the note. I thought it was just a piece of paper that had been accidentally left in the bag.

The power of that simple note revived me. It gave me the courage to go back out there and enjoy the rest of my day and forget about the unfortunate beginning.

When you think of powerful writing, you usually think of Hemingway or Emily Dickinson or any of those long ago authors and poets.

However, writing does not have to be thought provoking to be powerful. Personally, I don’t like poetry and although I had to read Hemingway in school, I did not care for him. Poetry does not make any sense to me. I don’t understand all the symbolism.

Writing is much more than symbolism and drama. It is joy and laughter and fantasy and escapism. I love to sit down with a good book by Nora Roberts. I love to escape into her world of romance and remember those early days of my own relationship with my husband. A good fantasy like the Harry Potter series allows me to travel through time or to another world and helps stimulate my imagination.

For me, these books and authors are no less powerful than Hemingway or Dickinson. My days are filled with enough drama and mystery trying to raise three children in a world that continues to scare me. I am grateful to have such powerful writing to give me a break from life and a chance to recharge.

Sometimes I feel a sense of snobbery among certain writers; a feeling that unless you can quote Shakespeare or write poetry you are not a true writer. I probably do not fall into their criteria, but I refuse to comply or give up.

All writing can be powerful.

Not all people appreciate all forms of writing, but when they connect with an author or style, the power is always there.

Guest author Debbie Yost is a work at home mom who has run a small in-home day care for the last five years.  She and her husband have three daughters ages 11, 5 and 3.  Deb’s youngest daughter has Down syndrome.  Because of her daughter, Deb has become an advocate for people with Down syndrome to ensure they have the same opportunities to live a full and rewarding life as others.  Deb writes from home whenever she finds time between bottles, diapers, naps and other parental duties.

You can follow Deb's blog, and watch her progress as she leaps into the writing world, at Three Weddings. She's currently competing for a TopMomma hotspot  - you can help keep her there by clicking on this referral link - thanks!

Debbie's first post here was on Pursuing A Dream.  Thanks for coming back Debbie and sharing these thoughts on the simple power of words.  I'm sure they will resonate with many readers.

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

Photo Credit: White Moment by Arquera on flickr

April 24, 2008

Powerful Writing In 30 Words Or Less: Part III: Twitter Contributions

What does powerful writing mean to you?

That's the question we've been exploring here this month, including contributions and definitions in 30 words or less.  Last week I asked the same question on Twitter, and these were the answers I got:

Powerful writing impresses the brain. As in, disturbs the synapses & leaves a mark. Hopefully in a good way. Spiritspring

Powerful writing is writing that has a (hopefully) positive effect, on a person or a situation ..... or the whole world! Such is the power of words, we have to be careful how we wield them :o) DMurphy_Rodgers

Powerful writing is writing that moves me (makes me feel, think or take action) DMurphy_Rodgers

Powerful writing (in fiction): Evocative, moving, compelling. NadineTouzet

Powerful writing means connecting with the reader in a way that generates a strong impact, feeling or response DazzlinDonna

Powerful writing? = it compels me to do/think/feel something; it compels me to have a reaction other than "so what?" Leawoodward

Topics that you are still thinking about days later that motivate you to reevaluate your own opinions. eeUS

It stirs up, captures, inspires. the words linger in your head long afterward. you write down quotes, or go back and reread. Captainstardust

Powerful writing is what makes ME want to write! rich, multilayered, evocative, beautifully arranged words make me want to do the same Captainstardust

Powerful writing engages the reader on more than one level, not just intellectual but emotional, spiritual, instinctual Captainstardust

Powerful writing accomplishes its goal. rjacabose

Powerful writing means getting into someone's head and creating thought that stays and lingers for days Men With Pens

Impacting someone's imagination with a visual scene they can't shake Men With Pens

Powerful writing is writing that inspires you - it's emotional Studio747

Powerful writing is the kind of prose which come from inspired intent. tldtim

Challenges me think about how I am and how I relate to others, especially with the women in my midwifery care SarahStewart

Powerful writing brings a spark of awareness in the reader's mind. Charkamman

Something that touches your spirit and soul. Owlbert

It has the power to move the reader - 'Jaguars Ripped my Flesh' has such a chapter about the massacre of Turtles... or 'Freakonomics' - where I sat up and thought 'you have helped me understand that topic'... or 'Perfume' where the whole book is written through the sense of smell... or 'Travels With My Elephant' by Mark Shand, when he has to leave the elephant at the end digitalmaverick

Powerful writing effects change: it enlightens, inspires, shocks, revitalises, clarifies. It demands a response. amypalko

There are some real gems in here, and hard to pick out just one or two.  I have to confess though I did particularly enjoy Captainstardust's suggestion:

Powerful writing is what makes ME want to write! (Me too.)

For those of you who aren't yet hooked on Twitter, here's how the answers look on the screen.

I've cut and pasted the answers - normally they'd be interspersed with replies on all sorts of other things from what people are reading, what films they're going to watch, a blog post that's sparked an idea, or... all sorts of other things.  I did this with SnagIt (with thanks to Rick Mahn for the idea) though I couldn't work out how to embed the links too... Something for next time.

For more definitions of powerful writing:

Powerful Writing In 30 Words Or Less: Part I

Powerful Writing In 30 Words Or Less: Part II

Exploring The Dimensions Of Powerful Writing

If you want to add your definition, it's not too late: just leave a comment here or send me a message on Twitter (@joannayoung).  All contributions will be published here.

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

April 23, 2008

Show A Little Faith: Thunder Road And The Power Of Your Own Voice

As I continue this exploration of powerful writing I started thinking about a song to add to the mix.  I wanted to include a song clip today - as it's Wednesday, which has been informally designated, by me, as audio day, and because I wanted to make the point about you and your writing voice being an essential dimension of powerful writing.

Trouble was I couldn't fix on the song that would capture it.  My mind was going a-blank and a search for 'power' in song lyrics was turning up a lot of corny stuff on the power of love which wasn't what I was after at all.  Just in time my good friend Brad Shorr posted a piece on examples of powerful writing over at Word Sell Inc.  Included in his list were the lyrics from Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen, reminding me of another post Brad had written back last summer on the nature of authenticity.

The Thunder Road lyrics get to me every time, no matter how often I hear them. Springsteen’s writing strikes me as so richly authentic because -

It’s straight from the heart.
It talks about something true and something real.

I don't know about you, but I think this a vital dimension of powerful writing too.  Certainly the last point.  It talks about something true and something real.

So that clinched my choice of song.  Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen.

Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright


Authentic writing was the first theme I explored at Confident Writing.  You can dip into the archives of a very rich conversation on authenticity here

You might also enjoy the e-book that I wrote up afterwards.  It's a free pdf download:

The Courage To Hear Yourself Sing.

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

April 21, 2008

3 Keys to Powerful Writing: Guest Post By Robert Hruzek

So you want to experience powerful writing? Hey, that’s great! Well, all I can say is, ya better snug up those knickers, Bubba, ‘cause you’re askin’ for it! Just so ya know, though (hey, I’m a poet and didn’t know it – but my feet show it! Er, sorry), in order to experience that power, allow me to list three keys you’ll need.

Why don’t we take a few minutes, throw ‘em against the wall (sound of wet splat) and see if they stick?


Yep; sounds elementary, doesn’t it? But the sad truth is, when we write, most of us are guilty of the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach. Now, this may actually be a useful method of accomplishing something (as a means of combating procrastination, for instance, it’s an excellent way to “get off the fence”).

However, powerful writing begins with the end in mind. See, what you write needs a goal, a purpose – something that lets you know you’ve a) started in the right direction, b) managed to keep on track, and c) accomplished the goal.

From the very first word, direct your readers toward the point(s) you intend to make. And, while good writing may (and should!) include illustrations, examples, facts, figures, etc., never allow them to lead your readers away from your target. Hey, nobody steps up to play darts by facing away from the target, right? So why should your writing?


You’ve heard of empowerment, haven’t you? Empowered workers, empowered decisions, etc. – I’m sure you know what I mean, right? Well, in order for empowerment to be possible, one must have the ability and the freedom to act.

For instance, when an organization empowers a worker, they give them the freedom to make their own decisions. But, mind you, it’s not total freedom; no, it’s total freedom within clearly defined boundaries. Otherwise, chaos would ensue.

Hey, it’s true! Just for fun, take a look around you, at folks you consider to be empowered. Notice how their empowerment (sometimes called authority) stems from the boundaries they operate within? But – and watch this – let them exceed that authority for just a moment, and suddenly there’s no power at all! Sorta like a cop trying to make an arrest outside their jurisdiction – it ain’t gonna happen.

The same thing goes for powerful writing. For your writing to have power, you must work within set boundaries – else it’s called rambling, and you end up writing like me leading your readers down an aimless path with no way out. Except, of course, to click away (or close the book, or… whatever) and never come back!


Hey, I don’t mean you should always write with an extremely serious expression on your face, silly! (You'll want to avoid a goofy one, too. People might start to wonder.) Nope, I’m talking about, as Monty Python was wont to say, something completely different.

You know how gravity works, right? It’s that unseen force that pulls things downward. So imagine this scene: you’re sitting on a bicycle at the top of a long grassy hill. You throw all caution to the winds and push yourself over the edge. In moments, you’re speeding insanely fast towards the bottom with no ability to stop whatsoever. That’s the gravity I’m talking about.

In the same manner, powerful writing can move the reader forward, almost as if they can’t resist; always moving in that direction you want them to go. And what’s more, you get to be the Master of their particular universe, regulating the pull of gravity (the flow and pace) in subtle ways. Calm and serene or heart-pounding excitement – hey, it’s all up to you. Now that’s powerful!

Is There a Formula for Success?

OK; I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always manage to get all three of these elements into everything I write – at least, not very well. (I mean, you have to make allowances for… well, you just have to make allowances; after all, I’m still learning.) Besides, it's likely that not everything you write "fits the mold", so to speak. (Although… if you leave it out in the damp air it probably will get moldy.) But that’s one of the best things about writing; you can pretty much find the room – and the freedom – for any style at all.

Why, just the other day, someone exceedingly famous, amazingly good-looking, and incredibly generous wrote this statement (aw, shucks; I know you were probably thinking of me – but it ain’t), and I believe there’s a great deal of truth to it: Success isn’t something you can copy. It is a process you have to understand.

BUT (and that’s a BIG ‘but’, baby!), if you’re aiming for powerful writing, well Bubba, like it or not you’re gonna need these 3 keys, and no mistake.

Howdy! I’m Robert Hruzek, and I’d like to thank Joanna Young for the opportunity to once again pontificate (which I believe is a Polynesian expression that means something like to blather on and on) over here at Confident Writing.

If you’d like (or if you dare; whichever is appropriate), drop on by Middle Zone Musings every now and then and pull up a chair; we’re always open.

Note from the Editor: I don't think I can possibly add anything to this introduction!  Just wanted to say thanks again Robert for joining this conversation on what we understand by powerful writing.


(Photo: Keys 3, by littlestar19)

April 19, 2008

Can't Get To SobCon? Learn With Me

I know it's frustrating when you hear everyone talking about a conference you'd love to get go but just can't.  When you recognise the benefits you'd get from attending but can't find a way to make it happen (this year).

SobCon08 is pitched as a business school for bloggers, promising to help us think through big questions like:

  • The connection to our purpose (blog and business)
  • Managing time inputs
  • Knowing your ideal reader
  • Making the most of social media (but not making too much of it)
  • Having an exit plan

If these sound like the the kind of issues you want to think through in relation to your own business blog - but you can't get to Chicago (this year), why not learn with me instead?

I'm offering readers of Confident Writing an hour's one-to-one tele-coaching as a follow up to the conference, looking at ways to apply the key findings and most important learning points to your blog.  I will (of course) be sharing my learning in a general way with readers in the weeks and months that follow on, but this gives you the chance for some focused conversation, applied to you, your blog and your  associated business.

The cost of the coaching is £45/$90.  To get the most from the opportunity you'll need to sign up before the event so when I'm there I can pick up ideas, suggestions and learning points not just for my blog but yours too.  If you're interested, just pop over to this page to sign up.

Oh and don't worry, if you want to keep on working with me after the coaching call to achieve your blogging goals or boost your blogging confidence... I'm sure we can find a way to make that happen too :-)

Taking a breather tomorrow - not just for me, you too I'm sure!  I know there's been a lot recently, but what with birthdays, bloggiversaries, blog tournaments, 2,000 comment milestones, guest posts and fabulous blog entries and one liners on powerful writing... there's a lot to get through this month!

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

April 18, 2008

9 Authors And 9 Aspects Of Powerful Writing: Guest Post By Damien Riley

Powerful writing: how much do you read nowadays on the internet? Mostly, when I read blogs in my "travels," I don't expect much powerful writing. Instead, I've learned to look for widget ideas, graphics stuff, and new features I haven't yet heard about. That's sad I think. I think my focus needs to change.

Publishing has become possible in the 2000's for millions now through blogs and the internet. There should be a cavalcade of powerful words out there. I believe wholeheartedly that powerful writing is better than the best "gimmick" out there claiming to bring your blog more traffic. Maybe the reason we spend so much time on these foolish gimmicks is because we've forgotten what powerful writing is.

As a daily writer online, published author in real books, teacher, and MA of English, I have my opinions. When I saw this writing opportunity, I decided I wanted to quote some great authors for my reader. As I researched, the quotations extant proved beyond abundant. I managed to narrow them down to nine authors and nine aspects of powerful writing.

1. Use metaphors. Robert Frost: The Road not Taken is so much more than a road. "2 roads diverged in  a wood and I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference."

2. Be brief. William Carlos Williams: At 4 short lines in length, The Red Wheelbarrow is one of the shortest poems in literature, and yet so full of truth.

3. Be an artist. Henry James: In his The Art of Fiction, Henry James says so much about writing and being received through artistry.

4. Be unique. John Dos Passos: A largely unknown writer about America and the 1920's, this guy is my favorite author. I discovered him my last year of my undergrad work in English Lit. He writes in a newsreel format... very powerful... like no one else I've ever read.

5. Use similes. Ernest Hemingway: Hills Like White Elephants takes on meaning after meaning, person after person. When I taught freshman college writing for a few semesters I was always amazed at what people thought these things represented.

6. Write about humanity. Arthur Miller: Have you ever read Death of a Salesman? Have you ever felt Death of a Salesman?

7. Be exciting. Jack London: Swashbuckling may not be the adjective for every blog post, but summon the spirit of Jack London's White Fang when you fire up your blog screen next time.

8.  Have a deeper meaning. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain): I had a professor when I started college who said that Mark Twain used ordinary stories to say things that were horrifying and dark about humanity. I thought he was nuts ... until I got bit older. Say something deep without saying it outright, that's Mark Twain's contribution to my idea of powerful writing.

9. (Fill in the blank). YOU! Now that you've read these authors and aspects of powerful writing, use them man or come up with your own.

What is in the powerful writing that you run across?

Let me introduce you to Damien: Damien Riley, author, teacher and dad, keeps an eye on pop culture, the news, and humor all around us. His blog, Postcards from the Funny Farm, covers topics including teaching, inspiration, humor, and psychology. Damien is married to Sarah, also a teacher and blogger and together they have 3 children.

Thanks Damien for picking up the challenge and sharing your thoughts on what powerful writing means to you.

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

Thank You

I'm really not someone who likes to blow their own trumpet, but I just have to tell you about this so I can thank you all for the part you played.  Having got through the first round of the Writing Blog Madness I found myself less than totally confident at being pitched against Copyblogger in Round 2...

This round's focus was on value added for writers plus comments, community and conversation.  I won't rehash the match analysis (you can check it out here) but Confident Writing managed to "pull off the upset with a narrow 12-11 victory".

I do want to highlight the comments on the comments though, as that's the part where all of you come in.

Confident Writing has approximately 1.5% of the subscriber base that Copyblogger has, but gets about 20% of the comments that Copyblogger does (at least for the last 10 articles).

The article seemed to strike a cord with her readers, encouraging them to discuss their own experiences with work.

The article provoked some introspective comments from her community as they contemplated their choices.

The Confident Writing community also seems to perk up when the topic drifts a little.

I particularly liked that last comment.  Do you want me to drift more? :-)

Anyway, thanks everyone for helping me to this sweet blogging milestone. 


April 17, 2008

Exploring The Dimensions Of Powerful Writing

I'm exploring the theme of powerful writing this month and inviting readers to contribute with one-liners, guest posts and pieces on their own blogs. 

The results have been electrifying and I'm delighted to have the chance to share some of the posts here today.  There may well be more to follow: watch this space!

Does it make any difference (or So What)? Is it something my children would be proud of? I always wonder what would happen if they stumbled across my blog archives in years to come. Sentimental as it might seem, it tends to be a good gauge of quality writing for me. Powerful writing makes a difference or has a purpose.

There you have it. Powerful writing delivers a message, speaks with authority, communicates simply, takes a risk and makes a difference.

Powerful Writing by wonderwebby

The power for fantastic writing is right there, in you, at this very moment. I don’t want to sound too New Age kind of mystical here, or anything, but it’s true. If you feel motivated to write, if you feel passionate about your writing (even if it’s a series of how-tos), and if you feel the drive … that’s all you really need.

Power Source by --Deb at Punctuality Rules

If I awaken cranky, and say thanks for the good in my life, it changes the nature of my day. Have you ever experienced that? Thanks touches the spirit of others and yours, too - when it burbles up from the heart.

The Power of Thanks by Robyn McMaster at Brain Based Biz

Each sentence or phrase is alive. Like a warm breeze, it can embrace us. Like an eagle it can lift us up, inspire and make us soar. Then like a knife, it can cut right through us. It has the power to make us weep, be angry, laugh or cry.

The Power Within You by Vern at The Idea Dude

If you've time do go and check these posts out: you'll learn something new about the meaning of powerful writing.

If you would like to join the conversation you can write about what powerful writing means to you at your own blog, and so long as you let me have the link I'll include it in a round up post here.

You can also share your answer in 30 words or less: just leave a comment here, send me an e-mail or a message on Twitter (@joannayoung).  They'll get posted in a round-up too!

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

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