After reading this week's pieces, I saw a recurring theme emerge from almost all of them: common sense. The advice and practices the readings promoted seemed to follow the basic rule of common sense, which is refreshing to see. Common sense and logic sound easy to practice, but they are more elusive than one might think. If everyone could easily practice common sense, we would see it everywhere. As it stands, I see glimpses of it, but describing logic as "everywhere" is far from accurate.
In "How to Write a Query Letter", the article itself was simple, easy to follow, and the perfect length. It did not drag on with unnecessary fluff, and it wasn't too brief. Some of the bullet points were very brief, but that's because they needed to be. The tips it lent readers were also quite logical.
With "9 first-sale mistakes to avoid", many of the steps listed were simple and logical. I was particularly impressed with the steps that went over how to handle a contract negotiation. Not only was the material logical, but it was also something I never really considered as a writer. In reality, contracts are hugely important, and when negotiated properly, they can make a writer's life very good.
"Bypass Obstacles to Traditional Publishing" promoted logic as well as hope. First of all, the approach taken by the author was easy to follow (essentially, the formula was "Here is another tip, here is a testimony as to how well it works, here is why it might be for you"). Additionally, the tips provided were new to me, and they seemed reasonable to be able to do alone. I had never heard of Amazon's CreateSpace or Mashable.com before reading the piece, but now I might seriously consider using them.
Most of the articles were very logical and straightforward, which I appreciated. It is an interesting dilemma writers face, having to be logical and calculating, but also creative and colorful enough to craft nicely written pieces. This seems like a particularly pressing problem for writers of fiction, and if you are a fantasy writer, god help you. Either way, the conclusion I drew from this week's readings is this: if you want to be successful as a writer in this day and age, you must wear two hats; one of a logical computer, and one of a creative storyteller.
I really liked the article on why we pick ourselves up after getting rejected. I have gotten my fair share of rejections of my writing, and I don’t ever think it gets much easier. Whenever I get a rejection, I feel that my writing wasn’t good enough. Sometimes I lose confidence and wonder what about it was “wrong” or what I could have done better. I don’t send my writing out unless I think it’s the best I can do, and what do you do when your best isn’t enough? Sometimes I get so discouraged. Lately I have been wondering if any of my writing is any good at all, even though I have been published a few times. I wonder if I should just stick to one type of writing and never branch out into other genres or styles because no one will think I am good at them. But I know if I stay in my comfort zone or stick to one type of writing then I will never grow or learn and never know what I can do.
But this article went beyond writing for me. I have also faced a number of job and internship rejections, and those are also very frustrating. Last summer when I was looking for internships I got three interviews, and only one company offered me a position. I figured if I was good enough to get the interview, I should be good enough to get the job.
But in the job search and in writing, you have to keep trying. Unless you’re Bill Gates or the Queen of England, you need a job to survive. And I need stories to survive, too. This is why I pick myself up after getting rejected--there is no other choice but to keep going.
Barri Evins’ article Does This Script Make Me Look Fat? resonated with me more than any other article that we have read. My ultimate dream in life would be to become a screenwriter, and I have dabbled around and written a few things here and there myself. To get into the mind of an actual industry executive who knows how the behind the scenes stuff works was invaluable to me.
The part that hit me the hardest was her candid insight into writer’s groups. I actually am a part of one here at the school, but I have to disagree with her a slight bit. They are not my friends—well ostensibly they are, just by being a group that gets together, but they aren’t the type to sugarcoat things. I respect them because they take the time to explain what they enjoy and what they were not so thrilled about from the scripts they receive. Granted, we aren’t professionals by any stretch, by on the off chance that one of us turns into the next Quentin Tarantino or Charlie Kaufman or Aaron Sorkin, I’m sure they would pass some recognition to the small Rowan Writer’s Room.
Everything else that Evins talked about was totally awesome. I love have frank and pointed she was, it was really eye-opening. Two particular aspects stuck out to me—about being soft-spoken and having conviction in your own story. I’m generally a quiet and laid back guy, and I don’t always voice my opinions strongly. I understand to get anywhere, not just in pitching a script, you have to be willing to defend your thoughts and ideas and explain why you feel as strongly as you do. That’s something I certainly have to work on.
Also, the thing about how executives and producers read scripts was really enlightening. I never thought about how extraneous settings and characters names were, I just thought they were logical script format parts. It’s something I’ll keep in mind for future scripts I come up with.
In the end, I am very happy I read this article. Evins had a ton of helpful advice, and helped me refocus my method of thinking.
While reading the readings of this week I had an interesting thought slither its way into my head.
There were many tips and pieces of advice in this week’s readings as to how a cover letter should be written, and they all seemed to be ruled by one overarching theme: logic. The vast majority, if not all, of the bits of strategy seemed simple on paper, but tend to be overlooked because of their simplicity.
Personalizing a cover letter seems easy, as it should be. Knowing just what to say, however, can be the challenging. The solution to that problem is an easy one, though, and that is to do your research. As mentioned in one of the readings, every company will invariably have their own website, social media accounts, and press releases. And if a company is devoid of these things, then you might want to reconsider working for them. Just putting a little time and effort into something can go a long way, and sometimes the answer is right in front of you.
Another aspect of a cover letter that is very logical yet has the potential to get overlooked is starting from scratch. I will admit that I am guilty of this crime. Again, this issue is discussed in one of the readings, and the point is a good one. It is troublesome to start a cover letter completely over when you feel as though you can just make a few subtle edits, but the result is bland and unappealing. Companies are run by humans, and humans love to feel like they are special. As such, personalizing a cover letter can mean the difference between landing a job and continuing your job search.
These are my two favorite examples of logic ruling over how one should attack a cover letter. Simple logic can be the deciding factor in your job search, so it is important to understand how much it can affect the process.
Job: Junior Editor--Goodreads
If you asked me about my first reading experience, I couldn’t tell you anything about it. That is because I was introduced to books long before I had the ability to read. My parents and babysitters read to me every day, and, when I was old enough, I started reading to them. I have been reading every day for the past 22 years.
My love of reading extends to all genres—fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, biography, and everything else out there. Because I have experience reading and writing in so many different genres, I can identify the conventions of those genres and edit accordingly.
My work at JerseyMan Magazine and at the The Spectrum has provided me with several opportunities to edit everything from human interest stories to scientific research papers. This varied experience makes me a great match for this position.
Thank you for taking the time to view my qualifications, and I wish you the best of luck in your search.
I thought the readings about creating and maintaining online profiles were pretty interesting. There was one article in which six people were interviewed and asked how they use social media professionally. I still think that social media isn't as fluid for many of the authors who are published today. What I mean by that is that for people my age, using social media to connect with people comes fairly naturally. I am almost always being invited to like people’s pages or being prompted to check out people’s blogs through Facebook. I think this type of advice and these types of “how to use social media” articles might become obsolete as a new generation starts getting published, because almost everyone in my generation is already familiar with using social media to promote themselves and their projects.
However, I still think some people in my age group aren’t smart about how they use social media. I always see pictures on Facebook and Instagram of people drinking and partying. Even though it’s perfectly legal, as an employer I wouldn’t want to see that all over the page of someone I was considering hiring. Because social media is so much a part of our lives, and because using it comes naturally to us, sometimes we don’t consider that we shouldn’t post certain things, or that certain important people will judge us for what we post.
At least one of the articles suggested having a personal profile as well as a “professional” profile on every social media site that a person is a part of. However, I think that is too much work. I wouldn’t update my “professional” page as often as I would update my personal page. Besides, the infographic told us that employers look at personal pages to get a sense of a person’s likes, culture, style, etc., and if you have a bland “professional” page, you might miss out on some great job opportunities. For me, it’s easier to keep my personal page employer-friendly.
A cover letter is a substantial part of the job seeking process—maybe the MOST substantial. Yes, resumes are important because they spend time building up the mystique of you by detailing your personal qualifications and achievements, but the cover letter is your chance to actually be you. You get to be personal, creative, if not totally informal than at least more casual. You get to color yourself in.
It’s easy to see how a cover letter can make or break your candidacy for a potential job or internship or what have you. Write an engaging, intriguing, knockout cover letter and you might as well set your weekly suit-and-tie rotation. Write a bad one, and you can forget you ever applied for a position In the first place.
The articles for this week offered some very helpful tips on how to craft a successful cover letter, and the two examples were very good samples. Both were intimate without being too self-centered, and well-written without being overkill.
I think the most important point from the tips—and this speaks directly to why the two samples were so strong—is that you should never under any circumstances recycle your cover letters. The same can be said, at least to an extent, for resumes, but it’s especially critical here because it takes away the best part of a cover letter, and that’s the idea behind it that I mentioned earlier. You’re taking a page to show a little bit of your true self and connect with the company you’re going out for; that personal touch is what makes it hit.
I try to put a little bit of my true character in everything I write, to a fault even. When I should be focusing strictly on factual details and crafting a formal, strict essay, I still slip in a ‘Rob-ism’. Cover letters are just that to me, one long, extensive, applicable, pertinent, ‘-ism’.
I'm breaking my own rules and not printing out my discussion questions. I assume we will have enough to talk about with your actual resumes as well as with Jackson's questions from last week. I do have a couple, which I will share below and write on the board:
There was one very specific passage in all of the readings that got me thinking and triggered a mental chain of events. In the piece "The Top 5 Interview Tips That Nobody Mentions", the section titled "Ooze Enthusiasm" struck me profoundly. When I read that employers commonly hire unqualified employees because they were fooled by their energy level, I thought to myself "Can it really be that simple?" I'm a reserved person by nature, so that fact sort of works against me. On the other hand, I think I'm capable of at least faking it long enough to get through an interview.
Initially, this gave me hope. If all it takes is a little extra coffee to land a job, I'm in the clear. Once I delved deeper into the implications of this, however, I realized how phony that is. Remember how everyone would always tell you to "just be yourself" when you were growing up? Apparently that was some really terrible advice when it comes to getting your career started. Employers aren't looking for people who are themselves, they are looking for entertainers and type-A personalities. Let's say hypothetically I get a job because the deciding factor was my energy level. I will obviously be happy and relieved, but the price would be essentially selling myself out. I will have told myself that who I really am wasn't good enough, and that I got the job mostly because I became someone foreign to me. Not to mention the guilt that would come from knowingly manipulating someone into thinking you are someone you're not.
The business world is cut throat and brutal, so job seekers need as many weapons as possible to make it in the big, bad real world. Enthusiasm is apparently a powerful weapon, and to natural type-A personalities, there is no problem. To those who are more stoic and shy, there seem to be two options open:
1) Stay the way you are and risk losing out on a job because you weren't peppy enough.
2) Fake enthusiasm and potentially land that job because you successfully escaped your own personality.
I would take the ladder 100 times out of 100, but I wouldn't be entirely happy about it.
My first resume was a piece of shit.
I apologize for the language, but it’s true. I knew the basics of what a resume should be like when I created it, and I understood the idea was to sell myself as best as possible—highlight my strengths and positive attributes, note my qualifications and experience, etcetera etcetera ad nauseum. But I didn’t know how to write it.
I used a billion and one grandiose, sensational sounding adjectives like I was writing the next great American novel. It just wasn’t very professional. That combined with the redundancy and rephrasing of a lot of what I was saying about myself, and I likely did more damage to my credibility than good.
Another issue I had—and I realize that now after reading the two pieces about resume building—is that I didn’t create my resume with a goal in mind. I just kind of had something that made me sound like a golden human being, thrown together with no real rhyme or reason. Any skill I could think of I had and stretch out, I just slapped it down. It made things really incoherent and inconsistent.
Now the most unfortunate thing about all of this is that it’s the only resume I have. I haven’t gone back and changed it or updated it or improved it. As naïve as it sounds, I haven’t felt the need to yet. So this week in class when everyone else comes in with their resumes, I won’t have mine. I’d rather start over from complete scratch, armed with a much stronger understanding of how I should put it together.
Now the funny thing is, I think I interview well. I am confident, cool under pressure, and I speak very well (when I have to, that is). I rather enjoy it actually. Now granted, I’ve only had a handful of interviews, and none of which have been for anything so impactful as, say, my first post graduate job (for which I will have a thorough resume, by the way). Maybe when that day comes I’ll be really nervous, but I think in the end I’ll still be a strong presence.
I thought the readings about the most common interview questions were interesting. The one question I hate most is “Tell us about yourself.” I’m never exactly sure what I’m supposed to tell them. Am I supposed to talk about my personal life? Am I supposed to go over my resume? I’m never sure if I’m giving too much (or too little) information. I also don’t like talking about my accomplishments because I feel like I’m bragging, and I don’t want to come across as boastful.
I am much more comfortable talking about my resume because I can expand on concrete ideas and things that have already happened. To me, that is much easier than talking about where I see myself in five or ten years. I don’t know where I see myself in five or ten years. I might have an idea or a plan, but I don’t like to lock myself in to a situation. I like having a plan because it makes me feel like I’m in control of my future, but I make plans knowing that circumstances change, and I like to be flexible.
It is common knowledge that you should research a company and its mission/philosophy before going on an interview, but sometimes there is nothing special about a company that makes me want to apply there. For example, I might want to work at Amazon because the job for which I am interviewing sounds like a great fit and like something I would enjoy, but maybe there is nothing about Amazon as a company that stands out to me. Especially out of college, people are applying to jobs because they need jobs; they can’t afford to be selective. Sometimes I think this is an unfair question. Honestly, I want to work at this company because I’m unemployed and you’re hiring.
Seeing that most of you are able to get on and post to the blog. Hopefully we work out the kinks this week. Remember that before I see you all this week, you should have posted two blog posts. Let's shoot for even slightly more developed, longer posts for post #2. The readings are posted under schedule. Let me know who would like to lead discussion for the remaining weeks. Has anyone volunteered for Wednesday? We have Jackson bringing in questions for last week's readings, but I don't think we have anyone to bring in questions for this week. Someone needs to sign up!
The reading that I took note of was the "Best-Paid Writing Jobs" due to the fact a novelist was included. You often here jokes about how a writing will be a starving artist or how hard it is to become successful as one. It is true. The way to become successful as a novelist is one of two ways. One you get incredibly lucky and have a publisher say "This is amazing!". Two is that you work yourself to the bone at it. I have heard stories of people self publishing or working themselves ragged to make their book a success. The interesting part about being a novelist is that there are more options now than there were back when the starving artist jokes started.
So, how can one make a self published or unpublished book popular? This is how "How to create a buzz for your unpublished book" interested me. We often see it displayed on television or in books where a writer hands their manuscript to a publisher and leaves it to the hands of fate. However, in the article "How to create a buzz for your unpublished book" describes multiple ways on how one can create a 'buzz' about your book. It goes into making public appearances, charging fairly, and a bunch of other elements that come into play. It made me wonder that are authors not successful just because they get rejected or are they unsuccessful because they do not wish to do the work that comes after handing the manuscript to a publisher.
I found these two interesting because being a novelist is one of the things I wanted to do. I just never thought of putting such work into a novel after handing in the manuscript. I used to think the hardest part of being a novelist was writing a novel and getting it accepted by a publisher. Now I wonder if the work after that is the more difficult part.
I thought it was interesting that in the “Best-Paid Writing Jobs” article the authors included novelist. Obviously you can make millions of dollars being a novelist, but the reason I found it interesting is because we learned in Writing Children’s Stories class that only less than two percent of novelists become rich, and only about twelve percent make enough money to live on. But what is enough money to live on? That depends on many factors.
I wasn’t surprised to see science journalist and technical writer on there, because when I tell people I’m majoring in writing they always suggest one of the two (usually science writing). I think I would enjoy that more than technical writing because I do some science editing now and I enjoy it. I don’t understand everything, but it’s something I’m interested in and I’ve definitely learned a lot doing it; learning and furthering my knowledge is something I would look for in any job.
Some of them, like marketing communications manager, seem like they would require an extra degree--or at least some extra classes--to do with marketing or business administration. My mom was pushing a little bit for me to take some business classes or think about getting an MBA, but it’s just not something that interests me that much.
Even though freelance writing is not my primary interest (I’d like to have something with steady pay), I found it useful to read the article about how to find freelance jobs. Since I’ve been looking for jobs on my own I have discovered some editing and book company job boards, but these are more to find job postings that you can apply to. I like the idea of the freelance job boards because it lets you find one task at a time. I thought fiverr was pretty funny, and I wanted to see how much money people would offer for certain types of writing. I wonder if people ask other people to write their papers for them (they probably do). I don’t think it’s a reliable way to make a living wage, but it would be fun to try and to get some extra money.
Forgive the completely unoriginal title of this post, but it is very true. I read each of the articles and found them all very insightful and informative. It was good to learn about the vast opportunities that are available to me right here and now, and what my chosen field can do for me, but it kind of got me thinking. I shouldn't be waiting for things to break for me, I should be making them happen on my own now.
I want to be a technical writer, and on the side I would love to write short screenplays and animation scripts, shoot YouTube videos, blog, and other things. By the end of this semester, I will have accrued 96 credits...another 24 and that's it for me here. But, I've been looking at it all wrong. Since I started back up at school, I've been counting down classes and credits like I'll be in the clear once it's over. That's totally ass backwards, though--I'll just be beginning my journey once I'm out of here, which means I'll be behind. I need to get the ball rolling now.
I think I will take some of the tips the articles provided about making a name for yourself and improving your image. I will take particular note of the cover letter article, which totally makes sense. I will also start freelancing a bit to kind of getting myself on some type of schedule.
There are so many things available to me right now that I should be taking advantage of and haven't been. It's time for me to change that.