Case of the Mondays: Tap Into Your Creativity

Credit: writeitsideways.com

A change of scenery may help you tap into your creativity. Credit: writeitsideways.com

I hate to tell you this, but the weekend is over. You may have stayed up all night, still excited from the “Breaking Bad” finale, but Monday is here and for most of our writers that means back to assignment claiming they go. But don’t let a usual start of the week routine slow down your creative juices. We found some great tips in Real Simple’s “How To Be Creative” article. So, if you’re looking for a Monday pick me up and needing to find some inspiration for the week, try these exercises to get you going:

Position Can Make a Difference

It is very easy for a writer to feel trapped at their desk. If you always write in a particular spot in your apartment or house, try moving the to the bed or floor. Changing the point of view from where you write can generate momentum. Give your back a break from its usual upright position and lay out on the grass at a nearby park. Switching up your surrounding or body position is key to coming up with fresh ideas.

Day-Night Switch Up

Do you like to get your morning yoga in and then dive into a pile of assignments? Try writing before exercise in order to enjoy yoga time without the gloomy feeling that you have to rush home and submit a rewrite. Let the gym be a reward after a morning of writing. On the flip side if you are a night owl, try writing earlier in the day and leave your nights open for more leisure time. We often get tied up in our routine so shake things up a bit (even for a day to two out of the week).

Find Your Inner Circle

Bouncing ideas off of other writers could be what you need to make sure that next pitch or subtitle is just right. Look outside of your fellow Demand Studio writers and see what your friends may be working on. Having a diverse group of colleagues to work with when you need inspiration can always get the ideas flowing. Even if an idea isn’t quite right, it could be what you need to start writing- or hopefully at least start typing something on a page.

Come Back To It Later

If all else fails, there’s always Tuesday!

By D. Audrey Cash

Watercoolering: National Comic Book Day

Quote

Credit: wired.com

Credit: wired.com

A day for good triumphing over evil, and for saving the damsel in distress, Comic Book Day is all about enjoying a good comic.

A mystery colleague's desk.

A mystery colleague’s desk.

We confess. Today isn’t technically National Comic Book Day. It was Wednesday. That said, for a few of our beloved DMS employees–everyday is comic book day. These gents (and me) have action figures sitting atop notebooks and scaling the walls of their cubicles–not that anyone here wants to get out from behind our desks–we love working hard.

That's my (Jenny's) desk.

That’s my (Jenny’s) desk.

I may have Leonardo sitting on my desk, but I’m far from the biggest comic book geek (term of endearment) in the bunch. So, I tapped two of the biggest fans around for some insight into the Marvelous (pun) world of comics.

Here’s what they had to say…

Jordan Decker, Marketing & Community Manager

Best comic of all time: I’ve always been an Uncanny X-men fan, myself. Most of these answers are probably going to be Marvel-related, in fact.

Best comic strip hero:  Now that I live in LA, I always say I’d want to be Nightcrawler. If for no other reason than to avoid the LA traffic.

Best comic strip heroine:  I loved Storm in the old 90s cartoon. You’ve got to love a heroine who recites an entire epic poem about the forces of nature before using her powers, right?

Most overrated comic?:  I’ve never really been a big fan of the Spiderman franchise. Maybe that’s because I was never a big fan of the movies. Who knows?

Mike Moore, Editor

Best comic of all time:  Watchmen

Best comic strip hero:  Superman

Best comic strip heroine:  Nausicaa (from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind)

Most overrated comic?:  The Spirit


SERENITY NOW!: Connecting with your freelance friends

Credit: cltampa.com

Credit: cltampa.com

“I get by with a little help from my friends,” said The Beatles. We couldn’t agree more.

Whether you are new to freelancing, or have been making a living at it for decades, one thing will always help you be successful: friends. The great think about working remotely is that there are any number of ways to connect with fellow freelancers in the trenches. Here are a few resources we think might help:

Linked in groups like LinkEds & writers. Post questions for your fellow writers and editors about almost anything from style questions, how to start writing a book to organizing your desk. Or you might find your questions have already been asked and answered by other members of the group.

Freelance Switch offers a ton of resources for folks new the writing game, including job postings, organization tools and forums to chat with fellow freelancers.

National Association of Independent Writers and Editors is a professional association for writers and editors. While it will cost you $99 a year, but you will get access to your very own WordPress blog and a build-in support organization.

MediaBistro is a B2B site that focuses on all aspects of media news and career advancement. Sign up for their daily newsletter and you’re guaranteed to find interesting tidbits that will help you feel more knowledgeable.

And when you find you need an answer to that burning grammar question, The Elements of Style, Grammar Girl and AP Stylebook can be your  best friend.

Now tell us, what are some freelance networks that help you feel connected?

Ten Things My Studio Bio Won’t Tell You

Credit: picstopin.com

Credit: picstopin.com

We spend too much time hanging around Demand Media Studios not to know each other better. Let’s fix that. Each week we’ll profile a DMS contributor or staffer and ask them 10 questions in our feature, aptly titled, 10 Things My Studio Bio Won’t Tell You.

Name:  Sterling Gray

Location:  An ivory tower, of course, in the woods of Tennessee

Years in the Studio: 3+

Sections I write for:  I edit for Business & Finance, Careers, Food & Drink, Home, and Real Estate

1. If I had to describe my work in three words, they would be…

Why only three?

Credit: dailyshotofcoffee.com

Credit: dailyshotofcoffee.com

2. My favorite websites to waste time on are…

Engrish.com helps me get perspective.

3. The one thing I wish I could do well, but can’t is…

Sleight of hand.

4. The difference between writers and editors is…

Writers today apparently think that the way to sound important is to begin as many sentences as possible with “However.” This editor thinks that any writer who can’t write 400 words without starting a sentence using “However” should either be writing for a federal bureaucracy or looking into night school to learn something useful, such as refrigeration repair.

5. If I ruled the world for a day I would…

I would ban all sentences beginning with “However.” This would make prose readable again, but also, regrettably, would bring down the Internal Revenue Service.

6. I couldn’t make it through the day without…

Coffee, and buckets of it. gettothemusic.lama.edu

7. The greatest risk I ever took was…

Walking out on jobs. I once asked to be let out of a staff songwriting contract with MCA. They had never heard of such a thing. Apparently nobody had done it before, and nobody has done it since. I heard, but don’t know for a fact, that it took a coven of lawyers some time to conjure a way to do it. (Perhaps “coven” is not the best choice of words there, but I can’t find a collective for lawyers, so it will have to do. If I were editing this, I would ask the writer to please see the AP Stylebook’s entry “parentheses,” and remove all parentheses in text intended for publication, throughout. I’m very glad I’m not editing this, because this is purely parenthetical commentary.)

8. I am saving up for…

Somebody special.

9. What is your theme song for life?

You’ve never heard of it: “It’s Been a Long.”

10. My favorite movie of all time is…

“My Fair Lady,” and it’s a musical play, too, so that’s a twofer. No extra charge.

Tip ‘O the Hat: Your DMS Auto Guys

Credit: 123rf.com

Credit: 123rf.com

Having car trouble? Great!

Just kidding. We wouldn’t wish automobile woes on anyone, lest alone our co-workers and loyal contributors! But should you happen to run into a mysterious car calamity don’t phone the tow service just yet because your DMS family has you–and your check engine light covered.

The experts and contributors from the auto section have a special section devoted to dispensing mechanical wisdom in this studio forum. Whether your car won’t start or you’re just curious about that silly noise coming from under the hood, Community Moderator Pete Gatlin and his crew of experts have the answers. We figure the least we can do is tip our humble hats to their generosity.

Case Of the Mondays: Write Short

Pre-Twitter Shakespeare knew what was up when he said "Brevity is the soul of wit." Credit: songsmj.com

Even pre-Twitter Shakespeare knew what was up when he said “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Credit: songsmj.com

Strolling around our office, it’s easy to spot the former writers – and now editors – by the short stack of industry texts next to the monitor. AP Style and Elements of Style seem to be the go-to guides for any grammar/style battle, but there are endless possibilities when it comes to instructional writing on writing.

Even so, we were intrigued by the subject of journalist and writing teacher Roy Peter Clark’s latest book: How to Write Short. Blogger Trevor Quirk dissected the writing guide that explores the prevalence, and the pros and cons, of short-form texts (Clark defines “short” as a 300-word piece).

“Clark sees the shift toward short writing as an opportunity to refasten our attention to details that are too often ignored in mainstream writing, especially in journalism. This is How to Write Short at its most interesting and innovative,” Quirk said.

Quirk goes on to say his world isn’t too rocked by the book’s exploration into the post-twitter, soundbite-crazed world of content, because Clark never really settles on whether shorter is better. Even if the book doesn’t render a verdict, it’s still an interesting question to ask ourselves as we strive to make effective content that – while it exceeds that 300-word mark – is still brief.

Clark’s cheerleading of distilling writing down to the need-to-know points makes the soon-to-be Studio guidelines mantra of “Keep it tight. Get it right.” even more relevant.

Watercoolering: Primetime Emmy Awards Are Here!

Award season is upon us people!

This Sunday, September 22, the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards will air on CBS. Hosted once again by Neil Patrick Harris (He’ll always be Doogie Howser to us.),

Credit: screencrush.com

Credit: screencrush.com

this year’s show is brimming with steep competition in nearly every category and the nominees for  best drama series essentially dictate what we’ve been DVRing all year: Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Homeland, House of Cards and Game of Thrones are up for the win. And those are just the broad strokes. Imagine how torn you’ll feel when Peggy Olsen and Carrie Mathison are dueling it out for best female actress. It’s the kind of dread that recalls the anguish endured during Game of Thrones’, “Red Wedding.”

Credit: articles.latimes.com

Credit: articles.latimes.com

Okay, okay, that might have been a bit dramatic. But, what are award shows for, if not celebrating drama? Celebrating victory, of course!

That’s why we’ll be casting our votes at home and competing with fellow office-mates and cronies to see which of us has the best predictive abilities. Check out this handy at-home-ballot from the LA Times.

While your ballots print, here’s some Emmy trivia:

What show has won the most Emmy’s ever?

A. M*A*S*H

B. Guiding Light

C. E.R.

D. Sesame Street

What was the Emmy Award originally supposed to be called?

A. Ike

B. Lucy

C. Murrow

D. Gracie

Which of the following wasn’t a category at the first Emmy Awards?

A. Best Actor in a Drama

B. Best Film Made for Television

C. Station Award

D. Most Popular Television Program

To get some answers, click here.

SERENITY NOW!: Getting Proactive With Your Procrastination

Credit: s224.photobucket.com

Credit: s224.photobucket.com

First, it’s just a quick check of your Facebook newsfeed, but then you might as well see what’s new on Reddit. And hey, you probably need something on Amazon, and chances are there’s a new cat video somewhere on the Internet that you should totally watch right now…click, click, click and you’ve just spent half your day wasting time instead of making money.

Procrastination opportunities are almost inescapable when you work in front of a computer all day, especially if there’s no boss to yell at you for watching just one more episode of Orange Is the New Black on Netflix while you “work.” Thankfully, you’re not alone and some folks (likely fellow procrastinators) have com

Credit: absolutevanilla.blogspot.com

Credit: absolutevanilla.blogspot.com

e up with tools to keep you away from those time-sucking websites we all love so much.  Check out these site blockers extensions and add-ons out there, depending on your Internet browser.

Firefox: Check out LeechBlock, an Add-On that lets you create groups of websites to block and then set times for when you want them blocked. Alternatively, you can set time limits on how long you can be on a blocked site. If you want to be really good, have someone else set the password so you can’t access the extension options.

Google Chrome: The StayFocused extension restricts the time you can spend on specific sites. Once you’ve reached your time limit, you’ll be blocked from the site for the rest of the day and then it’s bye-bye random YouTube videos.  The nice thing about StayFocused is that it’s super customizable and you can block not only specific websites, but even types of content, like videos, games, etc.

Safari: Look into the WasteNoTime extension, which functions similar to the Firefox and Chrome site blockers.

Internet Explorer: There are no specific tools or extensions for IE (go figure), but you can always use the child safety functions and block sites that way. (Here’s an eHow article about it!) Additionally, the KeepMeOut service works on any browser. It won’t actually block

you from a site, but it will send you a warning if you visit specific sites too frequently. Sometimes just being told that you’re being lazy is enough to get you back on track.

So there you have it. Pull yourself out of that Wikipedia rabbit hole and actually get some work done. Just don’t forget to hide your smartphone.

By Jessica Noah

P.S. Reading the Demand Studio Blog is not a waste of time, a method of procrastination or rabbit-holing.

10 Things My Studio Bio Won’t Tell You

Lynette's quite darling, if we do say so, Shih Tzu, Chibi.

Lynette’s quite darling, if we do say so, Shih Tzu, Chibi.

We spend too much time hanging around Demand Media Studios not to know each other better. Let’s fix that. Each week we’ll profile a DMS contributor or staffer and ask them 10 questions in our feature, aptly titled, 10 Things My Studio Bio Won’t Tell You.

Name: Lynette Arceneaux

Location: SoCal

Years in the Studio: four years

Sections I write for (and edit for): Several, including pets, parenting, health and home, as well as working with features and slide shows and with new writers as a senior editor.

1. I’m usually working hard, but when I’m hardly working, you can find me…

I should say “at the theatre” or “reading classic literature” or something equally cerebral, but the truth is, after a long day of editing and writing, you’ll probably find me relaxing with one of my hobbies (making chain maille or beading, hooping or spinning poi, crocheting). Even more likely, though, you’ll find me giving my Shih Tzu all the love and attention he deserves.

2. If I had to describe my work in three words, they would be….

By the book.

Yes. That works on several levels.

3. The one thing I wish I could do well, but can’t is…

Credit: whitneyschaffer.com

Credit: whitneyschaffer.com

I wish I could dance or play music. That’s not to say I can’t follow a rhythm or a sheet of music, but I would love to have the grace and flow that natural dancers have or play an instrument freely and creatively like born musicians do. Alas …

4. The difference between writers and editors is…

Earth and Water: One is abounding and prolific, surging and sharing. The other is cleansing and clarifying, smoothing and polishing.

5. If I ruled the world for a day I would…

It seems my change would be rather pointless since once the day is over, whatever I’ve mandated could easily be overturned.

I’d somehow mandate — and make irrevocable — that every person, at all times, have and show respect and compassion for others. At first glance, that may seem like a vacuous beauty-pageant answer, but the world really would be a better place if we simply treated others in exactly the way we wished to be treated.

6. I couldn’t make it through the day without…

A Shih Tzu; namely, my little guy, Chibi.

7. The greatest risk I ever took was…

I suppose that would be getting married.

8. You’ll catch me saying this phrase far too often …

“Now, where did I put the … ?” (I do eventually find it. It’s usually right there.)

9. What is your theme song for life?

Oh, definitely Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra.”

(OK. Maybe not so much.)

Credit: collider.com

Credit: collider.com

10. My favorite movie of all time is…

I have no easy answer for this one — there are so many movies I enjoy, I could never name just one. Off the top of my head, I can safely say that “Citizen Kane” never fails to awe me and “Singin’ in the Rain” never fails to make me smile, but there are so many more films I appreciate as well.

Tip ‘O The Hat: Paper Walls

Credit: mintdesignblog.comThe studio has some really talented writers, editors, photographers and experts in their fields. So, we want to show off a little. Each week we’ll share a recently published piece of content that we find inspiring, helpful or simply impressive enough to merit sharing. It’s our way of tipping our hat to your talents.

It may just be me, but every fall I get a serious itch to embrace change. Whether it’s splurging on a new fall wardrobe (whoops) or making a bold interior design decision, it seems that I become as susceptible to change as the weather.

So, with change and redesign in mind, I’m tipping my newly purchased, totally on-trend hat, to this SFGate.com article that suggests utilizing wallpaper to bring some life into an often neglected space: the bathroom.

In her article, “How to Decorate a Powder Room with Wallpaper & Ideas for Borders,” author, Benna Crawford, has me all but running out the office doors to the nearest home decor establishment to purchase some wall coverings–and don’t forget the borders!