Thursday, March 22, 2012

From Public Speaking to Writing

I joined Toastmasters International back in 2003 and grew a lot as a public speaker. I've joined contests--and won a few of them--, made numerous presentations, conducted seminars, and been sought after as a speech trainer and adviser. So, what is a Toastmaster doing trying to develop himself as a writer?
Looking back in history, the idea that I may make it as a writer actually started early in my years as a Toastmaster. After delivering one of my basic speeches, my evaluator commented that I had the makings of a good storyteller. Of course, the thought of becoming a writer had not occurred to me back then. I was totally focused on developing as a speaker and even thought of becoming a paid speaker by conducting seminars and training others in public speaking. In retrospect, continuing with Toastmasters was the right thing to do for my future as a writer and here's why:
Some of what I've learned in Toastmasters actually apply to writing. The very first thing new Toastmasters learn about public speaking is that your speech must have an opening, a body, and a conclusion. In your first speech, that's all they really tell you. As you progress through your training, you learn techniques on how to create good, attention-getting openings; how to make transitions between points in the body of your speech; and make memorable, motivating, and inspiring conclusions. The same can also apply to writing. In fact, if you think about it, a speech usually starts in written form before it is delivered orally.
Another learning is that you should avoid using jargon. Jargon is a language used by a group or profession. So, doctors have a jargon all their own, as do lawyers. If you're speaking in front of office-mates, you can get away with using your company's jargon. But if you're delivering a speech to a mixed group, use common or simple words. The same advice works for writing.
Staying with words, one of the best advice I've ever received is to try to experiment with using different words from the one you originally thought of using. In one speech, I used the word “audacious” instead of “brave” and made the speech that one little bit better. Be careful, however, of using too many uncommon words else your audience or readers will focus on wondering what the words mean instead of understanding the message or hearing the story.
Speaking styles vary widely. Some people like to speak in an oratorical manner, while others prefer to use a more conversational tone. Both styles have their place. Most writers use the conversational tone but even oratorical writing can be a good read. The Gettysburg Address is an inspiring speech whether you hear it or read it.
So, in terms of writing skills, I'd say Toastmasters gave a lot to me. But skills alone don't make a writer. You have to want-to-be a writer. So, what was it that got me into this thing?
I would have to say that it's the reach. When I'm talking to a roomful of people or an auditorium or function room filled with 200 to 400 people, that's how many people I'm reaching with my words. With writing, it's potentially a lot more, much more if I do it right. Of course, you can reach a lot of people with public speaking too, if you're always on the speaking circuit.
I haven't quite given up on public speaking. Speaking and writing are two different things but they both give me a different kind of lift and they can even complement each other. I've tasted public speaking so I guess, I need to give my writing a chance to grow as well.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Blogger Paragraph Spacing

Blogger's editor has an annoying bug.

I prefer to have a space in between paragraphs so I press "Enter" twice to insert an extra line break. In the editor, the space looks fine but when you look at it after publishing, there's at least two lines in between paragraphs instead of just one. It's driving me a little crazy.

I couldn't find anything about it in Blogger's Help but I did find a lot of complaints about the same bug when I used Google Search. It's strange that Blogger's programmers haven't solved it.

I'm making this post to make an experiment. I'm going to try copying and pasting this post in MS Word and OpenOffice Writer and format it before copying and pasting it back into Blogger's editor, just to see if it'll fix it. I read one hit in my search that  he had tried the same thing and the post had become completely messed up. I'm still willing to try in case I do something differently.


Okay, I've copy-pasted this same post to MS Word 2003. I've configured the "paragraph" setting to add a 12 point space after each paragraph. Then, I'm going to copy-paste this back to Blogger. Now I need to add a couple of paragraphs.
I'm doing this because I'm a bit annoyed at having such a large expanse in between paragraphs. I find it strange that Blogger hasn't fixed it. It's so obvious to anyone. It shouldn't be difficult to fix right?
Or does it only happen in Google Chrome? I abandoned Internet Explorer a looong time ago. I tried out Firefox for a while but settled on Chrome eventually.
Okay, time to see if this works

Well, you can see the results. Blogger's editor has removed the paragraph spacings.


Okay, I've copy-pasted this same post to OpenOffice Writer . I've configured the "paragraph" setting to add a 12 point space after each paragraph. Then, I'm going to copy-paste this back to Blogger. Now I need to add a couple of paragraphs.
I'm doing this because I'm a bit annoyed at having such a large expanse in between paragraphs. I find it strange that Blogger hasn't fixed it. It's so obvious to anyone. It shouldn't be difficult to fix right?
Or does it only happen in Google Chrome? I abandoned Internet Explorer a looong time ago. I tried out Firefox for a while but settled on Chrome eventually.
Okay, time to see if this works
Final verdict: Blogger's editor preserves the spacing when you paste from OpenOffice Writer. From here on, I'm going to write my posts in OpenOffice and copy-paste to Blogger when I'm finished.


I've made a new post about the same topic with a possible solution. Read it here:
Blogger Paragraph Spacing 2

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Blogger Stats

I'm trying to understand what these blogger stats are. This is the stats overview page. Obviously, I haven't been promoting my blog too much. I'll fix that but I find the stats a bit interesting.

This one's the traffic sources stats. Curiously, the referring site with the most traffic is a medical drugs website. It tried finding where in that site I could see my blog but I couldn't find it. How does this work?

This one's interesting as well. More people from Russia have read my blog than the US. And there's only one from the Philippines! The stats are not complete however. I've got 93 pageviews total but the states only show 18. I guess that's just the amount that the stats can handle.

I've been going back over my posts and I can see where I need to improve a little. I've recently been repeating myself in several posts and that means I'm not offering new content. I need better marketing too.

More on Working from Home

If you hope to earn a living by working on the internet from home, there are a few things you're going to need:
  • You need your own computer
  • You need to devote a lot of time to any part-time or full-time jobs you take in (initially)
  • You'll need a quiet place where there will be few disturbances, if any
The first probably won't be too difficult. Computers are much cheaper than they've ever been and they're getting cheaper still. Which one you buy will depend on what type of work you want to do. If you just want to write, a not-too-high-end notebook will probably do. I'm only giving this advise if you can't afford a high-speed, high-memory and high-priced computer. If you have the funds, don't skimp. I'm actually thinking of getting a cheap notebook with WiFi, Bluetooth, at least 2GB of on board memory and at least 250GB of disk space for writing and a desktop for the more complicated stuff.

If you plan to work at home part-time, you'll have to spend at least four hours a day working on your part-time job. Note the word, "initially," at the end of Item 2. Depending on the job you've taken up, four hours may be the minimum. There may be jobs out there that you can spend less hours on, but I haven't found any at this time.

I once tried taking a job as a content writer. I enjoyed the work but I could only complete one to three 200 word articles per day instead of the required 10. It wasn't that I couldn't type fast enough (I can type fairly fast) but I only gave myself two hours per day to write. I would research the topics and write and rewrite until I was satisfied with the story before submitting it. There was also the problem with Item 3.

Writing is a job that requires concentration. It's difficult to work in a noisy environment and nearly impossible if there are interruptions every now and then. This is probably one of the pitfalls of working at home. Kids playing around you, kids asking you for help with homework, your wife wants to discuss what she's going to cook for dinner, neighbors coming around for a chat, it's worse than being at the office. If you don't have a quiet, private space for working at home, you can rent a small apartment or office space somewhere just to get work done. Else, you can wield an iron hand and tell everyone, "no one makes any noise while I'm working!"

I'm going to be eligible for early retirement in two years. I've got two desktops and one laptop. My daughter, who's studying in another city about 90 kms away, is using the laptop. I'm using one very old desktop (sharing it with my kids, 12 and 8 years old). I have another desktop but it doesn't have a monitor and a mouse yet. I'm planning to send that to my college-age daughter and donate the laptop to her cousin. I still get to use this clunker of a desktop. I hope to earn enough from my part time writing to buy a small notebook for my personal use.

I don't have much choice with time, unfortunately. I've got a full time job and need to share computer time with my kids. Homework takes priority over my writing.

Privacy is the big problem. Our house is small so there isn't much I can do about having some peace and quiet. The computer is up against the wall near the dining table and I get an occasional bump as people pass by. I'm thinking of using the garage as an office but my wife wants it for another bedroom. I may have to rent an apartment or office somewhere.

It's challenging but there's not much to do about it for now. Keep on keeping on. (",)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Update on Daughter's Condition

I'm back in Cagayan de Oro. 'Went home yesterday because my wife wanted to see our daughter. Since our son had dance practice in school, I had to return to be with him while Loida and Erin took my place in Iligan. They left yesterday morning.

Before she left yesterday, my wife told me that Dr. Estrada had diagnosed dengue as the reason for Erika's fever and rashes. With the fever gone and her platelet count above the minimum, Erika's on the mend so I can rest easy somewhat. However, I am starting to worry about myself.

I've been feeling feverish and cold all day. This has been coming on and off all week and I hope it's nothing but I remember there being a lot of mosquitoes in my sister-in-law's house and I felt their bites several times. I'm not psychosomatic but a case of dengue in the house is a bad sign. So, here I am, trying to make a sensible post and failing somewhat.

I signed up with oDesk a few days ago. I'm still building my profile and I haven't taken their tests yet. I'm not feeling up to it. Feeling the way I do, I might make a mess of the tests and lower my chances of getting  jobs.

My Daughter's Condition

Erika first went to the doctor last Monday and his diagnosis was stomach flu. He prescribed antibiotics, Paracetamol for pain and fever and one other pill. The last one was to be taken only when she felt stomach pain. So far, she hasn't needed the last pill.

Last Thursday, she started breaking out in rashes. My first thought was dengue so I rushed here to Iligan to check on her. She seemed fine when I arrived. Her fever had gone down and she was eating an apple with her cousin. She complained of pain during urination, however, so I decided we'd take her back to the doctor for another checkup.

The lab test showed her bacterial count as "abundant" but the doctor said that the antibiotic should take care of that. He advised that we continue with the medication. Then we mentioned the rashes.

At the time of our visit to the doctor, there was no electricity so it was a bit dark in the clinic. The doctor stood her by the window to check the rashes. I noted a look of concern on his face and I kind of worried what he'd say next. We had suspected measles since her fever had not returned but the doctor asked us to get a platelet count just to make sure. The rashes didn't look like measles to him. It looked like dengue. He told us to get a blood test and return with the results.

We had to go to the Mindanao Sanitarium and Hospital because that part of the city had electricity at that time. It's about 15 to 20 minutes away. After her blood was extracted, we waited one-and-a-half hours before getting the results. We went back to the doctor's clinic but he had left. It was already 6:30pm and there was still no electricity. He had probably forgotten that he had asked us to return.