The Word Grower

I heard whispers of a new beginning

New ideas, crafty notions and lofty aspirations come to us in mysterious ways. Sometimes we attribute revelations to a brief moment of clarity. Others arrive when our senses are working in the perfect state of harmony. But maybe the kind of inspiration that floats in on a breeze of stark reality, is simply random.  That’s how it came to me. Or that’s how I perceived it.

As I witness the change in seasons, the harsh promise of a cold winter makes itself known. I’m overwhelmed by a sudden heavy sadness. Grasses lay withered at my feet and the hint of what was once a bed of fragrant honeysuckle is ravaged by the autumn decay. Time has a way of passing no matter how hard I try to savour and slow each sensory moment.

Instead of lamenting the inevitable, I’ve decided to embrace it. Take a walk with me as I capture the subtle beauty of a road less travelled. It’s the story of Leon and me and how he carried me home. I once believed I saved my equine companion from a harsh existence. But the reality is, he saved me and began his rescue the first day we met.

The pipes are bursting…

For the record – minus 30C is too cold, even for my standards. You know it’s bad when you need to wear three pairs of socks to bed, the dog’s tongue is stuck to his food dish, and the highlight of the week is the purchase of a new balaclava. And it gets worse. What started as a laundry room flood, turned into a wall of ice. The pipes are bursting…

Two plumbers, three metres of electrical heat tape and four blow torches later, I’m back in business. All it took was some ingenuity and perseverance.

Do you ever feel the same way about your writing? It’s as though you have a tremendous amount to convey, the words are overflowing, and it’s imperative to get ideas down on paper before the creative energy bursts? Often I will become so immersed in the act of writing, once it’s finished I wonder, “Did I just craft all this? Where did it come from?” I call it the writer zone. You absorb yourself in the enthralling environment of words, imagery and ideas. Physical boundaries fade away and you’re oblivious to everything but the thoughts in your head.

That’s what it was like for me this week. I’ve been focused on the final consummation of my thesis. I’ve been editing my digital narrative and working to refine my portfolios. I must admit, it felt as though I was churning out ideas faster than I could articulate. The end must be near because I’ve stopped muttering.

I’ve graduated to sporadic periods of reflection. I find myself wondering, pondering, contemplating the future. What’s next? Does it have to be over? I have more to say. Where shall I focus my energy? The writing will continue, that much is certain. My creative non-fiction piece is being published in a historical Donnelly anthology and my thesis will be showcased on two provincial education platforms, but there has to be more. For now, I will be content to keep writing, to let the ideas flow, and see where they lead me. If the pipes burst, I will patch them up and keep going. The leaks – they are inevitable, they show us the flaws so we know how to improve.

 

Dormancy is an illusion

The wind is howling outside; the air is so crisp it bites me as I make the daily trek out to the barn. I gasp for breath, fighting the assault that comes with the frigid air. I’m bundled up with three layers of clothing, thermal gloves, woolen socks and my winter riding boots.

I worry about the horses but despite their frost-laden whiskers, they seem in good spirits. They’re anxious to get outside where they’ll surely roll in the snow and make leaping bounds through the drifts.

horses in snowIt’s amazing how resilient creatures are to survive such   harsh conditions but to also grow and evolve despite adversity. Beneath the snow, timothy and alfalfa grasses lay dormant and wildflower seeds await the warmth of a spring melt and the roots of another glorious summer. Dormancy is an illusion. The snow’s protective blanket masks the wondrous possibilities below.summer

Like the seasons, I’m going through a change. I’m consumed with the evolution of my work. Even though it seems as though I’m buried in endless contemplation, there’s more going on than meets the eye. I’ve realized you have to dig deeper to unearth the treasure you’re seeking.

It’s been quite an excavation and one that I was tempted to abandon more than a few times. I immersed myself into a exploration of presentation platforms, photo selections and animation design.

I wanted to include an early sample of my radio broadcast work in the digital narrative but most of the audio files were incompatible for conversion. I chose a selection from the very beginning of my career. The next challenge was to embed it in my PowerPoint (which proved unsuccessful.) I managed to upload it to Brainshark in an mp3 format. The audio levels appear to fluctuate, the transitions need refinement and I think there’s an opportunity to tighten up the copy.

I’ve been working behind the scenes to nurture this digital narrative with a hope that once it comes to light, the vision it offers will stimulate reflection.

The sun itself sees not till heaven clears. ~Shakespeare

Tearing out the weeds

I admit it’s been arduous at times, but elevating the craft of writing is an endeavour that doesn’t yield an immediate result. Producing a commodity that resonates with an intended audience requires an open mind, an aspiration for a higher standard, and the discipline to make constructive revisions.

I’ve been consumed with the revision process lately, looking at my portfolio platforms with a fresh perspective and editing for greater clarity and ease of navigation. Feedback from both our professor and classmates proved invaluable this week as I noticed some broken links, formatting issues and copy weaknesses.

It doesn’t matter how intent I am as I draft, edit and produce content, inevitably I will miss something. A fellow classmate picked up on some inconsistencies in my professional portfolio that likely would never have been corrected without her keen eye for detail. That’s one thing that a writer can never do without – peer review. Even in my professional capacity, I cannot function without it. Before copy advances for subject matter expert approval, I have a colleague peruse it for any subtle errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation or syntax.

With that it mind, I’m weeding the garden of my work to let the words speak for themselves. I’m giving them room to grow so they don’t compete with the structure, layout and delivery of the message. And once I feel as though I’ve produced a polished product, I will seek feedback yet again, knowing the weeds can always creep back in if I’m not vigilant!

Fertilizing the garden

The fruits of my labour are beginning to blossom. I’ve been working diligently to produce portfolios that offer a stimulating and honest reflection of who I am as writer, and what compels me. I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished so far but I think I may have become obsessed.

My son made the fatal error of interrupting me to ask if I’d fed the horses and I said I had already taken care of them an hour ago. He said, “Mom I don’t mean to nag, but that was six hours ago and I think they’re hungry!”

Not only that, I’ve started talking to myself. In the midst of trying to upload a few piece to my professional portfolio, I resized the home page and the layout compressed all my content into the size of a thumbnail. I muttered, “Well now that can’t be good,” and started moaning. My son thinks I’m going over the deep end. He’s wrong. I’ve already jumped.

Okay, so I’m coming up for air and I’m certain it’s time to take a breath. As a writer, the joy I derive from a thoughtful and articulate narrative is immense. That’s what matters. I have a vision for the path down which I wish to lead my readers. But it’s more than the just the journey. I’ve taken a second look at many pieces in my portfolio and I realize there’s a consistent theme. Much of what I write is business focused. And while I’ve always been intent on injecting creativity into my work, I yearn for the opportunity to draft more material that depicts rich imagery and enticing plots. The next step I take will be one toward a creative writing project that is just for me. Stay tuned.

Cultivating design and structure

To say that I have learned much this week about the formatting, design, layout and presentation tactics for both academic and marketing portfolios would be an understatement. I believe the  amount of information related to Web 2.0 technologies is indeed “vast”.

This week, not only did I “play” around (to quote another classmate) with web design tools, digital archives, templates and e-portfolio platforms, I began an assessment of the ideal placement for both the professional and academic portfolios.

I am pleased with the ease of access to Google Drive and have been able to successfully upload much of my material. I have also begun some preparation with the voice/video reflection which will be added later in the course.

I have two sites that will serve to host the portfolios separately. While the academic blog is the platform to communicate our course outcomes and reflections (and so contains links to both portfolios), full details will not be showcased on it alone. I have been giving considerable thought to the contents of the marketing portfolio and how I wish it to be viewed. It needs a level of authenticity and professionalism that goes beyond the limitations associated with an academic site. Therefore I decided to include it on my marketing site. The idea is to present my best professional work within the business context of how it relates to plain language, grammar and active voice. The marketing portfolio isn’t uploaded yet but the placeholder is there on the writers page. This site is no where near complete, but it is providing me the framework for further development as I ponder how it may best promote my achievements and aspirations.

My academic e-portfolio is housed on google sites and I found that platform most conducive to an academic format. It gives the author the freedom to choose an ideal theme or the option to create a custom one. Also I was able to add some of my research (the grammar survey) as well as a poll. The google sites platform was easy to navigate and I had the portfolio up and running within a couple of hours. This site will contain my reflective letters, video comments and links to books and resources. There’s an option for visitors to subscribe to site changes or follow it I they wish.

What was most challenging this past week was to acknowledge that my drive for perfection may not be attainable as quickly or easily as I’d like. I admire the theory behind this course as it compels us to organize our material and present it a digestible yet insightful format. I have a vision for how I want to showcase my writing talents, skills and academic achievements but I know to work diligently with a methodical and reasoned approach will likely yield the results I’m looking for with less frustration. Sometimes I found the web tools tedious and difficult to navigate. But I stepped back, sought help at my local library (there’s a young IT student who works on the weekends who was happy to offer his guidance) and I realized each accomplishment was getting me closer to my goals.

I’m looking forward to seeing how I can continue to craft expressive and vibrant portfolios as we progress in the course but even more than that, how to derive insight from my classmates.

Here’s to an overwhelming but satisfying week!

Planting the seeds for a robust portfolio

This has been a productive first week. I’ve been able to organize my digital archives to include all the work I’ve produced in the program to date. When I first began studying for my Masters in professional writing, I set up an academic e-portfolio so that I could continue to build a defined collection of my work.

Now that I have had an opportunity to view many examples of professional writing portfolios, I realize there’s a tremendous range of styles, layout, structure and content that needs to come together to create an effective and appealing presentation to the audience. I think that is indeed the focus of our pursuit throughout the portfolio course. That is, to determine to whom we wish to target as our audience and then to craft our online presence so that it accurately portrays who we are, exhibits our best work and ultimately reaches our intended audience.

Earlier in the program I created a marketing website for myself (which I will showcase later), as well as a personal grammar blog. For the purposes of this exercise, I have decided to present my reflections in our portfolio research in this separate blog. Up to this point, I have always used Dropbox and SharePoint as my digital archive managers. I believe there are useful features in each, but I thought I would expand further to try Google Drive. I’ve been able to transfer all my SharePoint files to Google Drive and I see that I can provide URL links to each document as well. I arranged all the files in separate folders so I can easily identify to what course they refer.

I do realize that our portfolios will be a work in progress and we must take a disciplined approach to their design and maintenance. What I notice for my own preferences is that I want to be able to have an uncluttered yet creatively designed and visually stimulating platform. I’d like to offer simple and clear navigation tools. And above all, I want to be able to make a connection with my desired audience. I’m not looking to appeal to everyone but certainly want to present an authentic and professional image.