Category Archives: writing

Do the Work: Steven Pressfield on Beating Resistance

Do The WorkFeel resistance to writing a book, shipping a product, completing a marketing plan, or trying something new? If you have ever felt resistance in doing what you know you should be doing, then Steven Pressfield’s book, Do The Work, is the book for you.

In Do The Work, Steven categorizes all the various forms of resistance we create in the way of getting things done. He doesn’t just do so from a superficial level, but he sets things up from the big picture. For example, one of big text callouts is:

The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it” (Location 116 of 920).

If we can elevate ourselves from the work and get some distance from it, we can begin to diagnose what type of resistance we may be feeling. If we know that a particular project is something very high on our list of values, then when we reflect on our progress (or lack thereof), we can start to overcome what is holding us back.

When it comes down to doing the work, he urges us, “Don’t think. Act” (Location 157 of 920). In other words, just do something. Begin. Anne Lamont would say, “write the shitty first draft.” Don’t worry about whether it’s beautiful. Get out of your head and just start.

When we’re able to make progress on our work, “we discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion” (183 of 920). I don’t know if I’m with him all the way on this point. I’d like to believe that it’s true. However, I’d go so far as to say, we have moments in which we feel an “inexhaustible well of passion.” Moments, like states of grace when we realize how happy we are with where we are in that moment.

While Steven doesn’t discuss medidation, it may be a way to help control the “chattering brain” that creates “excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications, and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do” (Location 196 of 920). In order to get past this type of resistance, Steven advocates avoiding one thing in particular that can be my hang up: staying stuck in research. He says, “You’re allowed to read three books on the subject [before you begin]” (Location 203 of 920). While I had significantly more than three sources when I wrote my Master’s thesis, it would have made a significant difference in my progress if I had started drafting sooner in the process.

I just love two additional and related things he writes: “Stay stupid. Follow your unconventional, crazy heart” (Location 394 of 920) and “Trust the Soup” (Location 410 of 920). In other words, during the drafting process, follow the twists and turns — whatever whims you might have as you’re in that beginning mode. Later you can analyze what you’ve started and pull the pieces together. As a former instructor of College English, I think this section of Do the Work would be helpful for beginning writing students who often get stuck in trying to draft a finished project right out of the gate.

Disclaimer: I received a free kindle version of Do The Work as part of The Domino Project.

Search engine optimization a/k/a SEO

In perusing the job sites today, I realized that writing for search engine optimization is not a topic that I remember seeing in any of the technical writing textbooks I’ve reviewed over the past few years.

When looking at jobs for web content managers, I realized how important writing for search engine optimization is for many companies. Several of the job tasks I read revolved around knowing and using SEO best practices.

So my question is, am I just looking at the wrong technical communication textbooks? Are there authors out there who are covering this issue, or is there a gap between what we are teaching vs. what writers are doing on-the-job? Or, would this topic only be covered in a web writing text and not a technical writing text?

From the research that I did today in search engine optimization, the following resources would be useful.

search engine optimization — The page for SEO at Wikipedia is quite detailed. It provides background information on the issue and over 50 linked articles.

Search Engine Ranking Factors – This well-designed page at seamoz.org provides details on what a web content writer or manager would want to focus on in order to optimize web content.

If I was going to teach a technical writing or web writing class (or manage web content), I’d want to discuss this issue, especially how it is important to pay attention to the following factors:

1. Good meta tags: page title tags, page descriptions, and alt attributes for each tag. Discuss how it’s important that each of these is unique on every page (of course, this would involve some discussion of web content development).

2. Write keyword rich copy: include semantically related terms, hierarchal page headings and paragraph headings (h1, h2, h3, etc). Also, write good anchor text for links. Avoid click here.

3. Consider the use (within reason) of the strong tag to emphasize/bold key phrases on the page

4. Develop good internal links within the site, and also focus on writing good copy surrounding links.

5. Propose a file-naming procedure with developers to include good search terms in URLs (e.g. search-engine-optimization.html).

6. Develop Web 2.0 social networking initiatives which may improve external linking and page rank position.

The thesis

It’s completely drafted!

Meta on the draft (which will no doubt change):

14,875 words in the body,
77 sources cited at the end,
the last word: work.

yes, it was. 🙂

Now, the calm before I tackle revisions…

I may just live large, make some popcorn and have a beer.

Tonight, I will sleep like the dead.

Call me inspired

Things are looking up around here. I’m figuring out that, yes, I can write a thesis. Parts of it I even like. 🙂 This last chapter is a case study of my professional writing class and I’m writing about the ways that I have updated the course to include digital literacies. I’m enjoying looking back over past course blogs and seeing the things that I’ve done.

I’ve spent almost every day of Spring Break at a local coffee shop, Rendezvous, working on it. The women, Stacey and Lori, who run it are just great people. They speak to me by name, tell wonderful jokes, and will run a tab for me. Today when I go in, Stacey will have some farm fresh eggs for me from her mother’s chickens.

I had a good time in New York. It’s inspiring to hear what everyone else is doing. By the way, if you haven’t read the C’s reviews that Michael Faris has done, do, go read.

While I was cruising through the book exhibit, I picked up a copy of Take 20: Teaching Writing, a film by Todd Taylor. Good stuff for new and experienced teachers of writing.

Also inspiring are a couple new group blogs I’ve subscribed to:
Teachers Teaching Teachers
HVWP Tech Teach ’06

Check them out for some good conversations about integrating technologies into your courses.

Have a good day ~

Trimbur Carnival

I would answer Trimbur’s question, “should writing be studied?” with a yes. However, by answering yes to that question does not mean that I want to pick one narrow definition of Writing or want to answer no to “should we study rhetorics?” I want rhetorics and writings.

As a gta, I need the studying of writing to be justified–even if the process is messy and contentious. I need courses to teach. While it would be nice to have individual courses, in the short term, a broad Topics in Writing would work as long as I didn’t have to compete with Literature students to teach it. I’m so outnumbered that I’d never have the seniority or the stature. Plus, I can’t convince faculty who schedule courses why courses in writing for the web, writing design, technical writing, screenwriting, screencasting, documentaries…etc, etc. would be the types of courses would appeal to a broad audience (I’m thinking here of how my course proposal in writing design was turned down for just that reason.)

I’ve taught professional writing for 4 semesters now. I had thought about teaching composition this semester, but they needed another person to teach professional writing, so I said I’d do it. But, those are my choices right now: professional writing or composition. And, the rhetoric course here is a 4000 level course and so it’s out of my reach.

Then, as a grad student, I need the types of courses that Jenny suggests for Writing Studies:

– emphasize an historical understanding of how certain genres, expectations, and literacy customs came to form in the ways that they have

– help students to understand the connections between cultural ideology and literacy (the English-only debates, for example)

– provide a knowledge of developing media and the cultural changes that such media are creating (think Web 2.0)

Jenny also asks “what these shifted spaces might produce?”

Perhaps, they might produce:

– new frames, ideas, perspectives
– new (proactive) responses (instead of reactions)
– new identities
– new systems

To use Jenny’s example of Reed Elsevier, maybe the next time someone starts a new journal, they’ll choose a different publisher or they’ll check the holdings of the corporation. We can’t know all of the possible ramifications the conversations might have. Sure, I want progress now. If anyone wants to call for a protest, I’m sure there is a local office in NY and lots of us will be there next month…. Does taking the critique public and adding media attention create a different outcome?

In the professional writing course I’m teaching, I’m trying to suggest that there is more than one way to write and design a resume than how their college or the career center advises. Early on, one student said that he didn’t want his resume to stand out from 100 others because he didn’t want to be excluded. It killed me. Thursday we worked on designing a logo for their letterhead and maybe even their resumes. They’re learning how creative and unique they are and how what they have learned and done translates to different audiences. But, this is a teaching example.

I’ve been revisiting George Lakoff[‘s text, “don’t think of an elephant,” He talks about how conservatives have the think tanks with ideas and intellectuals who come up with ways to frame issues, and progressives, well, they’re not funded as much.

A carnival also makes me think of merry-go-rounds. If we take this idea of framing and then ask who are we doing critique for? If we’re just Posturing and Critiquing for an audience of others like us, then I can see where it would get old, going round and round, as Jeff suggests and Donna agrees, without any of the excitement of a carnival. Why not sell more tickets? That is, why not widen the audience scope?

I realize that Book #1 usually has to be for an academic audience, but why can’t Book #2 or #3 be for a different audience? (I’m thinking of something on the order of what Johnson or Gladwell has written). I think there is value in reframing for different audiences. I know there is some intellectual disdain from colleagues to get past, but it would be possible, right?

I’d love to learn more about (multimedia) course development and building writing centers with free wireless. I’d like to learn how to get grants and public funds so that with what I learn, I can build things. Yeah, I’d like to study writing so I can learn something new, share what I know with others, and build things. I don’t know that it’s possible to escape critique entirely or that we’d want to, but it might be possible to have less Critique?

By the way, I created a del.icio.us tag, carnival-trimbur if anyone still wants to contribute to the carnival and wants to catch up on all the posts.