Monthly Archives: February 2015

Top 10 Gifts for Writers for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and it’s time to buy yourself (or the writer in your life) something special to support their writing addiction habit.  Fear not!  The Central Pen editors have a top ten worth all of your hard earned candy hearts.

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Library card tote bag from Out of Print Clothing

  1. Make an embroidered notebook for all those fantastic late-night ideas.
  2. Buy a classic (and classy!) typewriter so you channel your favorite modernist writer (or you can get the high-tech version).
  3. Library card tote bag (or really anything from Out of Print Clothing) to carry all those manuscripts.
  4. Fall down the rabbit hole with up with some Alice in Wonderland sheets and into some inspiration.
  5. Use Aqua Notes to make sure that you don’t forget all those amazing shower ideas.
  6. Sign up for a subscription to the Coffee of the Month Club to keep you awake for all those late night edits (or check out some Novel Teas if you aren’t a coffee addict).
  7. Let people know that your brilliance is not to be disturbed with the Writer at Work sign.
  8. Get comfy in a writer’s chair for all those morning to night writing sessions.
  9. Make a pencil and supply holder for all those glorious pens.
  10. Make your writing space smell truly literary with some soy candles from Frostbeard they come in such wonderful scents as ‘Old Books,’ ‘The Shire,’ ‘Oxford Library,’ and ’Sherlock’s Study’ (a personal recommendation from your editor).

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The Central Pen Staff

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Four Tips for Developing Successful Blog Content

by Paul Miller

As someone who has had a successful blog for the better part of three years, I often have students show great interest in blogging.  There is one question that continuously arises:  What should I write about?  Students have an easy time understanding why blogging is so important:  It gives them a place to showcase their writing ability, their knowledge of their chosen field, and their dedication to do something not (usually) required in a college curriculum.  The issue remains:  How do you develop content?

Answering this question is something that took me quite some time to develop an understanding for.  At first, I had the same quandary.  I started my blog after an influential moment in my life, the first time I attended Harrisburg University’s Social Media Summit.  I took great notes on each panel and decided that I would write my commentary about what I learned to share with my network.  The problem arose after I wrote about each session, accomplishing my initial goal:  Now what do I write about?  The tips that I discuss are ways that I’ve managed to keep my blog going strong over the past few years and I believe these tips can help any blogger for both the short and long terms.blogging

Tip #1 – Develop a frequency of posts and stick to it

When I first began blogging, I felt that a weekly blog piece was the direction that I wanted to pursue.  After about two months, I felt that this was a goal that was very difficult to achieve.  I wasn’t because I didn’t like to write or that I had trouble finding inspiration; it was that I was working multiple jobs.  Making sure I was doing my job to the utmost of my ability superseded the need for a weekly blog.  Since then, I have vowed to have at least one blog per month.  While I’ll admit that some months I didn’t have the opportunity to write, I’ve averaged about 10 blogs per year.

For those starting a new blog, my advice would be to start with what you are comfortable with.  Don’t be unrealistic and think that you’ll be able to blog daily, or even weekly.  If you love to write and have plenty of ideas at your disposal, make an idea bank with potential topics.  That way, if something doesn’t strike you between entries, you always have ideas to fall back on.  Secondly, don’t write just to write.  Be inspired about your topic.  Show that it is relevant to your career path or at least of interest to you.  The worst blogs are those that show no passion, as if the writer is just going through the motions.

Tip #2 – Follow Influencers on Social Media/Reach out for comments/interviews

Social Media has been a communications revolution unlike any the world has witnessed in the modern era.  The world has totally changed the way we as humans communicate with one another.  This also allows us amazing access to those that influence our field of choice.  One strategy that I’ve employed is to look at the field that I’m involved in and find those that are on the cutting edge.

I continuously read and interact with these individuals so I can be in the know of current and important topics.  This has been one of my largest inspirations when it comes to writing my blog.  Also, reach out to your network and ask them questions.  I’ve never had one person turn me down for a three question email interview when I told them I was writing a blog piece.  People want to help you and you shouldn’t feel intimidated to contact them.

Tip #3 – Read articles related to your field

Beyond following people that are influential in your field, it’s important to constantly read anything you can find about these topics.  To be successful in the modern age, one must love what they do.  You have to be able be immersed in the topic on a daily basis.  Read at least two articles a day about your field of study and understand the current problems or issues that go along with it.  This will help you become educated and more importantly, well-rounded in discussion.  You can then use this knowledge in interviews with potential employers.

Tip #4 – Develop an informed opinion

This tip is the most important of all with regards to developing content; you must form your own opinion.  No one wants to read a blog that conforms to the status quo; people want to read viewpoints that differ from the norm.  This is where your knowledge of your field can truly come in handy.  Show your audience that you know what you are talking about and (more importantly) have something of value to say!In the modern day, audiences have more content at their fingertips than they could read in a 24-hour period.  If you don’t provide some sort of value to them, you risk losing them forever.

I encourage you to give blogging a try.  I cannot explain enough the value of a blog to your potential long-term career goals.  I give this example every time I speak on this subject:  Most college students are acquaintances or even friends with others in their major.  What these people really represent is competition for every job that we seek.  Stellar grade point averages are expected now from college students in the open market, so every available job is like a chess match.  With things equal, who gets the job:  Someone that has demonstrated great knowledge of their field via a blog or someone who doesn’t have one?

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About the author.

Paul Miller, paulmiller@centralpenn.edu, teaches courses in communications, business, and writing at Central Penn College.  He has blogged for The Pen before about How To Blog Effectively in Today’s Landscape and teaching courses on writing for social media and business.  You can find Professor Miller at his LinkedIn page.

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Filed under Career Advancement, The Writing Life