News and thoughts from CS Odessa, maker of the ConceptDraw product line: ConceptDraw PRO, ConceptDraw PROJECT and ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Roger Parker Maps The Brand of You

Double-whammy: Roger Parker at 7 writing tips for personal brand building success not only offers some great advice on personal branding, but he suggests mindmapping as a good way to help you put that advice into practice.

If you aren't aware of Roger Parker, you should be. He is a veritable gold mine of how-tos, lists, tricks, and just plain gool ol' advice for writers of all stripes.

It can be hard for some writers (like me, for example) to think of myself as a brand. It all seems like so much uber-marketing. I think, in retrospect, that I became a bit of a known commodity at one of my previous jobs. I didn't do anything to consciously promote myself as a brand. I was just doing my job, which got me in front of a fair number of people. And I had a certain amount of style.

As a result of that, I got some inkling into how useful it is to have people see your name and immediately feel like they've heard of you--that you're not a complete unknown.

I'm starting a freelance business here in Boise and am already thinking in terms of what I can do locally to put my company on the map. At this stage, it has to do with carefully defining and then promoting my distinct way of doing things--i.e., my "brand."

I've got some ideas about how I want people to perceive me, am looking forward to spread the word about myself--and I have Roger to thank for so freely sharing his knowledge. Thanks, Roger.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Blog Post That Will Change the Way You Think About Writing

That's a big claim, I know. But I put it out there because I think that a lot of writers are going about thinking and planning in ways that don't support--and may actually hinder--their creative process.

Bear with me and take this simple test:

  1. Think of two things you want or need to do... maybe your plans for the coming weekend, a home improvement project, a party you want to have, a vacation you want to take.
  2. With a blank sheet of paper before you, take about 5 minutes and make a traditional outline of what you need to do to accomplish one of these things.
  3. Now grab a new sheet of paper for the second thing you thought of. But instead of making an outline, try this approach to capturing your thoughts:
    • Put the name of the thing you want to do in the center of the page... maybe draw a circle around it.
    • Now draw a line out from the center and, at the end of the line, write down one thing you need to do to get the job done.
    • Now draw a second line out from the center and, at the end of this line, write down a second idea. Continue this process for 5 minutes. As more ideas come to you, just keep drawing more lines out from the center and writing down ideas at the end of the one.
    • As you do this, you might notice that some of the ideas you have are related to ideas you've already written down. If this happens, draw a line not from the center, but from the idea your new thought relates to.
  4. Now sit back and look at the two lists. How are they similar? How are they different? Was one list easier to make than the other? Did one method help you generate more ideas?

For many creative people, the process of working with ideas is fluid, with one idea leading to another--and not necessarily in a neat, linear way.

But in my experience, many of these same people use very linear methods like outlines. Why? In many cases, just because they haven't heard of any other way to do it.

Mind mapping can be such a great way to get the ideas out of your mind and onto the page. It's great for everyone who deals with ideas, but it can be especially helpful to writers.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Millenials Buy More Books than Baby Boomers

I ran across an interesting blog today at "How to Market to Me: Your Guide to Getting the Millenial Market.". The blog is owned by a very social media-savvy recent college grad.

The fact behind this particular post is that for the first time, millenials are buying more books than baby boomers. The conjecture is that this is because of the explosion, first, in ereader devices and, second, in ebooks.

When you think about writing, do you immediately think in terms of creating the kind of novel you pull off the bookshelf? Has your thinking about the form in which you write changed as a result of ebooks?

If you are free to publish on line any time you please, have you thought more about releasing a book a chapter at a time? How about taking suggestions from readers as you spin out the story?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

3 Keys to Writing 4 Articles About 5 Ways to Succeed

I have spent time lately browsing around to see what kind of business writing tips are available on the web. Pretty flat landscape... IMHO. Blogs are full of clever little articles that follow the hackneyed format of providing X number of tips, tricks, and trivia (8 Ways to Build Your Blog Traffic, 10 Things That Make Great Headlines, 15 Ways to Make Your Team More Team-Like, 297 Ways to Run a Better Meeting).

I've read the studies that say this format generates more traffic. But in my experience after you read five or ten of these, you've pretty much had your fill. I mean, can everything really be reduced to a handful of crisp bullet points?

I was talking to a friend who tweets. I was telling her that it seems like 90% of the tweets I get are much the same--nothing more than armchair philosophizing: "To serve the meal of success one must first taste failure"; "It is only by talking that we truly communicate" and so on... You could sit around all day and make these things up. But she said the sends out a lot of that stuff because people love it. I don't get it.

I'm not saying that blogs or tweets needs to be masterworks of literature. I just think it would be refeshing if people blogged about things they cared about, rather than trying to come up quick and easy ways to "fill a page." It just seems like so many people have blogs because... because they want to be bloggers, I guess.

I'm a writer, and I think it is great when people are moved to put words down on the page. I just think it would be better for all if there was some connection, some emotion in what is being written. Otherwise, we reduce or our common body of thought to a vortex of numbered lists about numbered lists.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tango Tab: Dining to End Hunger

This post has nothing to do with mind mapping--just a pretty cool idea you might be interested in. It's about Tango Tab, a new company that works with restaurants to help them fill seats during slow times of the day.

In return, restaurants who are able to fill seats that day pay a small fee to Tango Tab. Tango Tab then takes a portion of that fee and donates it to local organizations and agencies fighting hunger. One of those rare Win-Win-Wins...

Tango tab says it has donated more than 90,000 meals at local food banks to people in need. So far, the company works with restaurants in Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, Hoboken, Los Angeles, New York City, Oklahoma City, Toronto, and Westchester (NY).

Maybe you could tell your local favorite eateries about it (or better yet, see if you can get a story in the local paper about it), and see if you can bring Tango Tab to your area.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How to Impress New Clients from Day 1

I read an interesting post today about how freelance writers can build strong, professional relationships with new clients. The post is on Freelance Switch and is about creating a smooth client intake process.

The gist of the article is that it makes a lot of sense to develop a repeatable way to bring new clients into your work process and your world. I've made a map of the blog post:

The author of the post, Thursday Bram, points out two distinct benefits of creating a repeatable client intake process:

1. By presenting the client with a well-ordered process, you immediately present yourself as a professional who knows how to get the job done--with the least pain and stress to your client.

2. By creating a repeatable process, you make it easier (should this happy day come), for you to pawn off some of this early client interaction onto your assistant.

Both of these benefits can mean more money in your pocket, a less-stressful experience for your client and, who knows, maybe a decent starting income for someone who's just getting into the game and is ready to assist you and learn from you.

As Bram notes, it's critical to gather this information in a way that you can put it right into the writing process. So you can gather all your client intake info in a CD MINDMAP, organize it and add to it, then export it all to an MS outline and get to work. By jove! Brilliant!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

ATTN Freelance Writers: You are Project Managers too.

As a freelance writer, you can get in trouble when you have too many writing projects going on at once. Each project is always at a different stage. Each one needs something different to move it forward. It can drive you seriously nuts (been there).

If you don't already, you need to think of yourself as a sometime writer, sometime project manager. ConceptDraw can help you assume this role without having to attend ze L'Universite de Project Management.

Here's the kind of map I use every week to keep track of my contracts. It takes me just a few minutes to create and update the map, which I do at the end of every day:

The map lets me see AT A GLANCE where I am with all of my work. I can visually track the milestones of each project. I can tell by the various icons that I have attached relevant documents, be they Word docs, emails, mind maps, or just notes to myself. I can add notations about things that went on during a phone call. I can add reminders. But best of all, I have all my projects--and direct links to all my documents, in one easy-to-read document.

Download a ConceptDraw MINDMAP free trial and give it a try. And enjoy your new status as a bona fide project manager.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Beating Back Writer's Block

Writer's block: Maybe the scariest two words for people who live and die by the output of their word processing programs.

I've been looking around the blogosphere lately to see what issues on are the minds of writers. Not surprisingly, writer's block is a big one--especially for people who do a lot of blogging. I can understand that. Blogging is like daily journalism: Blank front pages don't go over very well with your readership.

Some people trigger new ideas by using prompts--opening a book or web page at random and using something on the page as a starting point. Other people do stream-of-consciousness writing. Still others review past writing/posts--and the metrics for those posts, try to find clues to what topics people are most interested in, and then see if they can deepen that topic.

There are lots of tricks and tools to trigger our creative thinking. We, of course, think that mind mapping is one of the best ways to to it. But what about you? What do you do to keep the ideas flowing so that you don't smash into blank pages--at least not too often?