Writing is an opportunity, not an obstacle

“Writing is an opportunity, not an obstacle.” –Dr. Kilgore, University of Texas at Arlington– 

I wish I could take credit for these words, but someone much wiser than myself said them first. This phrase has been resonating with me and I thought I  should make it into one of those cheesy motivational posters or something for my office.

Cheesy Motivational Poster

By the way, you can make all of the cheesy motivational posters that you want to using Motivational Poster Generator…it only takes a second or two and it’s free!

I’ve always had a passion for writing. I wrote short stories and founded a poetry club in elementary school. Recently, I stumbled upon a collection of our poetry club’s works that my third grade teacher had bound for each of us. Wow! I laughed so hard that I cried and I contacted one of my old friends who had also contributed to the book. We reminisced about the many recesses spent rhyming words and stringing together limericks and a haiku or two while spinning around on the merry-go-round. While our collection of poetry isn’t something that I would send to a publisher, we were writing daily and I think that that, in and of itself, is pretty special.

Why should you write every day?

  1. Writing can be therapeutic. Have you ever kept a diary or a journal? If not, I definitely recommend it. Often when I feel stressed or overwhelmed, writing is a wonderful way for me to collect and process my thoughts. It allows me to write (or type) until I have released that ball of energy (either positive or negative) and can then begin to think more clearly, to focus, and to see my own situation from a new perspective.
  2. If you don’t use it, you lose it. This is true with a lot of skills. Writing is not like riding a bike. The skills that you use need to be kept up and sharpened. If you don’t feel like you are a strong writer, do not be discouraged. Writing improves with time and practice. If you aren’t a good writer and would like to be, write, write, and write some more!
  3. Writing helps to build communication skills. Whether it is a restaurant review, an op-ed for a newspaper, or a letter to your grandmother, your written word has to be understood by your intended audience. Learning to express yourself in a clear, concise manner through writing spills over into other aspects of your life.
  4. You can improve your critical thinking and analytical skills. Writing often requires you to pull information from various sources and to determine what material is credible, valid, and important. It encourages you to ask questions, to search for answers, and to fill in the gaps in the current body of knowledge.
  5. Vocabulary maintenance. One of my old coworkers and I play a game together. We take turns finding new, interesting words that the other has to work into either daily conversations or their writing. Not only is it fun, but it makes us both accountable for expanding our vocabularies. Can you work the word boondoggle into daily conversations or into what you’re writing? I can.:PBoondoggle
  6. You’ve got something to say. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people mutter something along the lines of, “I don’t write because I don’t have any ideas” or “No one cares what I have to say.” You don’t give yourself enough credit. You do, indeed, have things to say that someone, somewhere wants to hear. Maybe you haven’t found the right audience or maybe you haven’t let your creative juices flow yet. Stop limiting yourself. You have a voice, which brings me to my next point.
  7. You are the only person who has lived your life experiences. Your story is unique and you are unlike any other. This alone gives you a reason to write. Your perspective is shaped by all of the events that have happened to and around you. Your perception, emotions, judgments, resiliency, passions, etc. make you uniquely you. If you ever feel like writing, but are discouraged by your lack of audience, please feel free to send me your written work. I would be more than happy to provide you with feedback and to support you on your journey.
  8. Write often so that you can see your growth and progress. Am I still the third grader who writes poetry on the merry-go-round? No, but I do write often. I write continuously as a researcher and a student. I write this blog which provides me with a voice in the social media stratosphere. The blog has been an interesting experience thus far because it is so different than writing for academia. This type of writing forces me to cater to a diverse audience that I do not typically write toward and it leaves me open and vulnerable. Occasionally I dust off an old journal or read a paper that I had long forgotten about. It is incredible to see the progress that I have made, not only in my writing skills, but in my perception as a whole. My outlook has changed and I have a vastly different worldview than I had, say four years ago. I can see that in my writing and it is a great indicator my personal and professional growth, the goals that I have reached, and the areas in which I still struggle. I can then use that information to plan my future trajectory. I know where I was, where I am, and where I want to be, and it is all reflected in my writing.

Often, as students and young professionals, we think of writing as a means to an end. We write to get A’s in our classes. We write to complete our coursework and to get degrees. We write because our jobs require it. We write because we have to in order to move on to the next steps in our plans.

With that mindset, writing seems like a chore. People think and speak of writing negatively and, somewhere along the line, many of us stop writing altogether. We forget that writing is an opportunity, not an obstacle. I encourage you not to squander your precious gift, your voice, your opportunity. Write, write, and write some more!

Be the change,

Erin

 

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Read, Start Something that Matters, and Read “Start Something that Matters”

Because I’ve had some time to read for pleasure, I thought I would introduce you all to a book that I think can transcend all disciplines. My social worker friends and colleagues will enjoy its uplifting tone and its charitable themes, my business-savvy friends can gain insight into a unique sector that is both profit driven and leaves a positive social footprint, and those of you who are avid readers in search of a meaningful, quick read, well…you’re in luck, too!

Oh, and did I mention that for each book purchased, a new book is provided for a child in need? Now that’s a cause I can get behind! 🙂

A child who reads

What I have found throughout my educational journey in social work is that social work students and recent graduates are searching for a way to apply their clinical skills in a way that can positively change the world. Unfortunately, these individuals often feel as though their empathy, active listening, and other clinical skills do not translate into social enterprise and entrepreneurship. Start Something that Matters written by Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, provides an inspiring roadmap for anyone yearning to learn “how to make a difference in business and how to make a business out of making a difference” (Mycoskie, 2011, p. 20). Professionals of any discipline can find useful tips and tricks within this honest, straight forward, insightful text.

The book starts off my introducing a new definition of success, one that is adapted to today’s market of more socially conscious customers and employees. The author describes the foundation of a successful business model and business leaders as those that 1) have a story, 2) do not shy from an uncomfortable situation and who utilize fear to motivate and inspire, 3) are resourceful, 4) value simplicity, 5) establish and maintain trust, and 6) consider giving to be a main component of their business and personal lives. In addition to elaborating on ways to incorporate these six concepts, the author provides practical ways to develop appropriate an online presence, meet major players in the community, overcome mistakes, find and establish relationships with mentors, create community partnerships, make the most of free resources, promote creativity in the workplace, hire employees who are a good company fit, create titles and job descriptions for employees, become better organized, manage time effectively, and a myriad of other invaluable skills.

For each of the aforementioned concepts and skills, the author provides concrete examples from successful business leaders and the mistakes of those whose business ventures failed. Rather than learning only from the founder of TOMS, readers have the opportunity to gain insight from integral businessmen and women at Nordstrom, TerraCycle, Pepsi, Southwest Airlines, Donors Choose, OneShot, and a multitude of other companies that either began their business with giving incorporated into their model or have adapted with the changing times and redefined their ideas of success.

Further, the author provides links to a number of educational blogs, recommended reading, social networking groups to join, and a variety of free resources. Pages 92 through 94 list free resources to build websites, utilize conference calls, compare your company with competitors, and other services. By providing these resources, the author prepares readers to continue to gain knowledge and skills and to apply those skills as they implement their ideas. The book ends with a call to action where the author describes his evolving goals for TOMS and his supporters. “Today I would say that my goal is to influence other people to go out into the world and have a positive impact, to inspire others to start something that matters…” (Mycoskie, 2011, p. 182). Social workers and aspiring change agents will find Blake Mycosckie’s book inspirational and helpful as they go consider their options moving forward and, hopefully, Start Something that Matters.

Call to Action

  • What are you doing to incorporate giving into your business and personal life?
    • If you aren’t, what steps do you need to take to make that change?
  • What books are you reading/have you read that you feel could be helpful to inspire other change agents?

 

Reference

Mycoskie, B. (2011). Start something that matters. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau.

I have faith in you all. Let me know what you’re doing to Start Something that Matters. What do you think? Comment below.

Be the change,

Erin