Don’t travel empty-handed

Always carry a notebook with you. You never know when you will come up with an idea. When an idea comes to you your notebook enables you to jot it down. You don’t have to write out a full essay many times a word, phrase or general gist of you idea will suffice. Though, good penmanship is helpful for ease of reading later. That said, the sole purpose of your note is to be a memory jog.

LogoSketch

A rough sketch idea for my logo

As you know, inspiration comes when you least expect it. Then, once back in your working environment the note(s) you jotted down will help recall the idea and you’ll get straight to work. Piece of cake!

If your inspiration is visual a quick sketch would do or, better yet, keep your camera on you always.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Visuals are useful when discussing theories. How many theories can you see, hear, touch or smell? You can’t because theories are ideas not tangible objects.

They are, however, best explained with instantly recognizable inanimate objects- usually irrelevant to the idea too. A classic example is Archimedes’ bathtub! He proved the theory of displacement where the volume of water spilled from the tub was equal to the volume of his body. You likely didn’t need my definition to the theory as you already have a visual of the overflowing tub in your mind. That is the power of visuals to recall your memory.

Standard Icons

Icons used in Microsoft Word

 

Computer software constantly uses visuals to explain theories. The purpose of the visuals (icons) is to humanize the program for the end user’s ease of use. For example, an icon represents the concept or command to open or close a program or document.

The standard icon used for the open/close command is a familiar inanimate object – an open/closed door or file folder. In reality, the computer “reads” the open or close commands as a Boolean to either start or stop the application.  But the file or door has more meaning to the person using the program.

Eye to eye with an Orca

Unusual light patterns from the sunlight through the water

Sydney Opera House

How many times have you seen an amazing view or sunset that moved you to dream?

Something that caught you by surprise? Take a picture and save it for a  future source of inspiration. The next time you look at the photo your memory of the experience will instantly come back to you.

Trip along the Great Ocean Road

The 12 Apostles

Whatever method you choose to record your thoughts or memory don’t criticize yourself as you are taking down the information. Your only focus should be getting the idea down on paper or onto your digital device (computer, phone, etc). As you do this other ideas or questions may pop into your head – record them too. The act of regularly gathering snippets of inspiration should weather you through the tougher times in future projects.

Long Beach, BC

An inspirational location for moods created by natural light effects and textures

 

No more writer’s block

Simply put, writer’s block is FEAR.

Writer’s block can start as early as looking at a blank page or trying to find the right topic. Mid-project blocks usually arrive from not knowing your audience, worrying that your audience won’t like it or you run out of steam because you haven’t researched enough. These latter examples are the self-confidence killers and can rear their ugly heads at any stage of your project.

Many writers feel as though they have hit the wall when a block develops

Regardless, of when your fear begins, from then on your struggle is to complete your thought. Sometimes you have a topic but lack inspiration and the stress from a looming deadline stops you cold. Or you have a multitude of inspiring ideas? This too, can prove just as problematic. Bizarre I know, but when you have many closely related topics you can find this overwhelming and can stymie you from writing. Or with topics already heavily published, finding an original angle to present your information is no easy task. Large projects are an obvious problem. Just by their size and not knowing where to begin the project, never mind managing it to completion.

So what’s the solution?

Relax.

Easily said but it’s true. Participation in sports is the most immediate and effective form of relaxation. Besides, flexing your muscles you also release endorphins. Essentially it’s a group of peptides that are secreted from the pituitary gland in your brain giving you a natural rush or sense of euphoria.

As you know, any physical movement not only makes you look better physically. But exercise is a great mental stress release too thanks to the endorphin’s feel-good-effect. Your mind works most efficiently when in a relaxed state. Therefore once you are out of the state of stress or high anxiety your brain will begin computing solutions again. Most software companies recognize this and provide a gym and playing fields for their employees.

Fennel & Radish Coleslaw

That doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon every time you`re stressed because even walking around the block will release some endorphins. A change of scene can also help such as taking an early lunch or doing some small errands. My favorite problem solving environment is the kitchen. I`ll go in and cook or bake something complicated where my focus is purely on the color, smell, texture and taste of the food, resulting in a couple of possible answers as well as a solution to dinner too!

In severe cases of writer`s block begin regular writing exercises to help get you back on track.  As with any pursuit you have to train regularly to improve and make the task easier. Surprisingly, a letter to a friend is your most valuable writing exercise. Your audience is one that you know well. Therefore, you will use a natural tone as if you were talking directly to them. Your fear of the audience is negligible because you know you have a receptive and nonjudgmental reader for whatever you have to say. The best part, is the topic is something you are intimately familiar with – YOU. Writing letters also end naturally.  Other recommended writing exercises are listing out your day in a journal or on a calendar. Alternatively, write out a top ten of something. Putting constraints on your exercise is important because they detract your focus from your fear. Occasionally, heavily constrained tasks can kick in your imagination and bring about something inspiring.

Remember, it is important to keep your writing exercises small where there is a predefined end. That way you know when to stop. You restore your confidence and enjoy the euphoria of completion.

The only way to survive writer’s block is to push your way through your fear. Combining regular physical and written exercises are your first steps to overcoming your writer’s block.

Have you ever had a block? Leave a comment, tell me how you over came it.

 

3 Easy Fixes for Resumes & Curriculum Vitae

Recently finding myself beginning the job hunt again I began by updating my résumé. While writing I did a little research on the Internet to find the latest resume writing trends. Surprisingly, the “advice” I found online amounted to fluff as the information I found was of little value or simply linked to yet another site. This explains the poor quality of resumes that have passed my desk recently.

As you know, few can afford to be jobless during a recession.  So ensuring you have as perfect a résumé as possible is key.

Spelling & Grammatical Errors

I cannot stress enough how important this is to ensure your document is error free. To be honest, I discard a résumé as soon as I see one. Tough, yes, but think about it – you have taken the time to write your résumé or curriculum vitae (CV) but you don’t have the time to proofread it?  Will you have time to proofread your work in a busy office? Having an error free resume or CV is proof that you are detail oriented! Detail oriented, how many times have you read that on a job requirement?

Recently, professionally printed portfolios have passed my desk. Complete with beautiful architectural drawings, but this means nothing as they’ve misspelled a basic common word on page one.  In this circumstance, the spelling error looks even worse as it’s more noticeable. How many times have you found a spelling error on the menu? Once spotted, you’ll laugh but that instance has distracted you from the food and experience of the restaurant. Your next visit you’ll likely look to see if there are new errors instead of focusing on what you will order – not the point of going to a restaurant is it? Same story happens with a résumé. The reader (your potential employer) sees a spelling error, chuckles or sighs, and looks for more. Rarely error riddled resumes get you a job a job interview. Spell Check – use it.

The spelling and grammar checker built into Microsoft (MS) Word is a great start but is far from perfect. Many times the MS spell-check allows the wrong tense or even worse – slang, such as “eh”.  If you’re anti-Microsoft anything Google’s spell check tool bar is a great alternative. It’s set in into your browser’s toolbar so you can spell check everything you add to the Internet including your latest Facebook wall post.

Other spelling and grammar checkers sources are on the Internet. Simply enter free spell and grammar check in your search engine and you should get at least 3 million hits.

Layout

Layout in a résumé is tricky and full of contradictories. Detailed but brief. Easy to read but professional. No more than 2 pages with a balance of white space to ink. These contradictories have a purpose it’s to make your résumé as easy to read as possible. Remember you have 40 seconds to win your potential employer over.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before but have an equal balance of white to ink. This means avoid cramming all your information right across the page. To be honest, this is another reason for your potential employer to turf your résumé. This time, your document is difficult to read. Remember, it’s filled with facts. They are about you and that’s an interesting topic when one knows you. But to a potential employer your résumé or CV is just facts. So make it professional but easy to read. Side margins are for a reason. Yes, you can reduce the margin size but more importantly you need to vary your sentence lengths across the page. By doing so you succeed in a more interesting layout and white space!

Below I’ve included two one page examples. I’ve converted the text to Latin gibberish as I only want you to focus on the layout of the résumé. First, which of the two resumes look easier (faster) to read?

Original Example            Simplified example 

The example named Original where every line is right across the page? It’s so crammed with facts that you can barely pause to take in what you’ve read? Or the example named Simplified, where there is sentence length variation and significantly more white space compared with example Original.

At first glance both examples look professional but the example named Original may look a little better – until you try to read it. Yes, neither document makes any sense because they are in Latin. But, for the 40-second readers crammed resumes will cause their eyes will glaze over similar to how yours just did now.

Other simplification tricks restrict your résumé to one font. You can vary the size to mark sections but keep it consistent. Also don’t misuse the use of bold or italics they are for emphasis. Overuse equals texting in all caps – SHOUTING.

Lines across your résumé for sectioning off areas are both good and bad. Obviously the lines are a fast way to separate sections but it also causes your reader to pause. At which point they may turf your résumé because your resume doesn’t flow. Try not to use the lines right across the page or better yet restrict them to underlining title sections. Again you can compare the flow between the two examples. How far after the first line in the example named Original do you continue? How far down the page to you go in example Simplified?

Proofreading

Lack of or inadequate proofreading is the main reason so many errors slip through on resumes and CVs. Once you have written your document print it. Then go do something else for 20 minutes. Come back and reread your document. The break from working on your résumé will allow you to proofread your work with a fresh set of eyes. The benefit of printing your résumé out from your computer is you will see it from a different view and errors are usually easy to see. The next proofreading trick read it out loud. Does it sound right? Or are you correcting it as you read? Go back make your corrections and then repeat your proofreading process. Better yet find an opinionated friend teacher or parent. Preferably one who is critical and has good spelling habits! Repeat this proofreading method until you are error free.

Spelling, grammar, and layout are three of most common errors in resumes and CVs that I have seen.   Fortunately, they’re the easiest and cheapest to fix!