Just keep reading. The advice part comes at the middle of the article…
Struggling to Focus
I really struggle to focus when it comes to my writing. To focus – not to concentrate. I can sit and do the same thing for hours. Unless I’m on my phone. Then I have the intention span of a two year-old and I can forget what picture I want to open only half a second after I’ve made the decision. I don’t have a search for the reason for my problem, because I know what the cause is. Ideas. I have too many of them. While I am busy researching links for my Writing Club Facebook page, I think of a new short story that I want to write and then I think of a great idea for my next blog entry and while still busy with that I’m struggling with the plot problem of my decade-old novel.
Multitasking towards Scatter Brain Syndrome
Every weekend I think of what to do the next week and plan it in my head, but come Sunday (when the work week starts where we currently live) I sleep too late, spend too much time on my phone checking Facebook, play Words with Friends or find something interesting that I have to do Bible study on. So by 10:30 I realise that our bedroom needs tiding, the building cats want food, our son wants to sound his view points on his latest university essay with me and while I’m listening to him, my mind wanders to have yet another few writing ideas on another few projects.
Am I too scatter-brained or do I have too many ideas? I can’t always determine, but I know that whichever it is – or maybe it’s both – it makes me unproductive. Having ideas as a (would-be) writer can only be good, can it not? I rarely have had problems with writer’s block in my life. That must be a good thing, mustn’t it? Having lots of ideas is good. But it doesn’t help if any of those ideas ever get finished. Oh, I have finished manuscripts in my cyber Dropbox drawer. It’s not if I can’t finish anything. I can sit down and work on a long project to finish it. It’s just that I can’t finish everything that I want to, because I don’t know what to work on and what to leave.
I do something and then I leave it and then I do something else and then I leave it when a new idea pops into my head. I know I have this problem. And I have tried to overcome it many times. I am currently in one of those phases. I have decided to finish my Writing Club business idea. I have started well. Then I got sick. And now, a week later, I am writing a blog while still editing a short story whilst I should be busy with that instead.
The problem I find with my writing – as also in other areas of life – is that I try to multitask, in spite of being a hater of multitasking. Because I multitask in life too. I start tiding the bedroom, and when putting away some stuff in the bathroom, I see that the toilet need urgent cleaning and when I go to the kitchenette to fetch the cleaning products, I wash the morning coffee mugs and then remembered that my son didn’t have breakfast yet and when I take his breakfast to the TV room where we normally have it together, we watch the breaking news and I quickly do some research on some of the facts the reporter gave and then I see some interesting article that I have to share to my Writing Club Facebook page and while on the computer I see that there are some messages from my family group on WhatsApp Web and then I get involved in a who-looked-more-like-whom baby pictures debate and when it cools down I see more interesting articles on writing and read a few, and get new ideas for blogging and then my husband called to hear if I have started doing research for our trip and then I get into the mood to finish my short story and I write for an hour. And when I finally come to my senses again, the bedroom is still untidy, the toilet is still not cleaned, the coffee mugs are dirty again after having breakfast though, the breakfast plates had to be cleaned, there is new breaking news on TV, the family had decided that the baby looks like herself, my Facebook page have more notifications, my short story is still not finished, I haven’t done the research for our upcoming trip and I realise that I haven’t thought about what we’ll have for dinner. Then I leave everything I’ve been busy with and rush to the kitchen…
That’s my life. It’s not perfect. I frustrate myself. Days and weeks and months and even years fly by and I’m not getting done what I want to get done. In a few years’ time I will probably look back and ask my husband and son: “What have I done with my time?!” And they will probably remind me to read this blog entry to answer myself.
Having many ideas is a good thing. For creative people it is a wonderful thing. But if you can’t channel those ideas into some productiveness, they will always be just… ideas. Ideas means nothing if they sit in your head. They have to be acted upon – just like dreams. Ideas also have a tendency to get ‘stolen’. If you don’t do something with an idea, someone else, who is more focussed will and before you know it, another opportunity will be lost.
A Few Tips
Multitasking must be killed. We must live in the moment and concentrate on the task at hand – one at a time. Here are a few ways to try to do it. Let’s try it!
With the Olympics on, I couldn’t help to recognise again the athletes’ commitment to their respective codes. The archer’s focus on the target is a good example of how we as writers or other artists or people of any other career should learn to focus on one thing at a time. The archer can only hit one target with one shot. If his focus is on anything other than only his target, he surely will miss. Focussing on one writing piece at a time will eventually means that one project will be finished. And if that one is finished a next one will get finished and a next and a next.
Do Something Productive with those too Many Ideas – Make a List
Write down all the writing projects ideas you have in your head. By getting them out of your head and onto paper, you can start focussing on getting them done. Keep this list close and update it as you get new ideas.
Then Make a ‘To Do’ list
Now make a ‘To Do’ list. Decide what it is you want to achieve with your writing. Be very, very honest with yourself and focus on your strong points. Identify the projects that will be the most probably to get published and/or bring in some money. Prioritise you list. Then start and finish the first priority project on your list.
Don’t Move on Before a Task isn’t Finished
Don’t move to number two on your list unless number one is finished. In the case of number one being writing your novel, you can do blogging or other smaller projects in between, but always finish the allotted daily writing time for your priority project first, before going on to doing the smaller ones.
Plan your day – Have a Routine
You know the saying, ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail.’
If that archer didn’t practice for hours every day, he wouldn’t have made his country’s Olympic team and he wouldn’t have been able to win the gold medal. If he failed to aim at his target, he would have failed to hit it. If you want to go on holiday in Greece, you need to plan to take leave, buy plane tickets and book accommodation. Otherwise you will remain where you are. If you don’t plan anything, you won’t get anything done. It is as simple as that.
‘Go to work’
My husband gets up at the same time every morning, showers, clothes himself, takes his bag and goes to work. And he remains there for eight hours of every five week days – working. For that he is rewarded with a salary at the end of every month. Input equals output.
Some writers have a day job and write for an hour or so every evening and some more over weekends. Well-known writers had got published for the first time this way – by writing only for a short time every day. Every day.
Some writers have the privilege of staying home and have more time than others to write. If you are one of those and still struggle to fill at least a few hours every day writing, you have to become more creative with managing your time and the way you work.
- Identify your favourite writing place in your house/garden.
- Decide on what part of the day your writing hours will be.
- When the time arrives, literally pack your writing tools (laptop, notebooks etc.) in a bag and walk out of the house, through the garden (if you have one), back into the house and to your working place.
- If possible, leave your phone ‘at home’ or switch to silent.
- Stay at your working space for the time you have allocated.
- If you have a whole study or office as working space, close the door after you have finished and open it again at the beginning of your writing period. This way you know that you can shut down and have time to do things with your family without feeling guilty, because you have already done your writing for the day.
- Be jealous about your writing hours. Allow no disturbances, other than real Don’t make unnecessary appointments for those hours and say no to appointments that can be made for another time.
These tips may seem like common sense and they actually are, but we certainly tend to lose our common sense when we get distracted. Keeping to a regular routine and staying disciplined helps to divide between your living and working spaces and may help you to get into the right mind for doing more productive work.
Keep a writing log
I’ve started doing this years ago, stopped and started again. I make a simple monthly spreadsheet and write down what writing related work I do every day, including reading. (I also keep a separate yearly reading list.) My columns include, Writing, Editing, Reading, Blogs and Other (like time spent updating my Facebook Writing Club page or journal writing). I blot out days that we travel and on which it isn’t possible to write, although some travels can offer wonderful writing time.
Keeping a writing log shows you how many hours per day you effectively spend on your writing projects and it serves as a motivational tool to better your productivity from month to month. It also helps with planning your writing schedule, because you can see how much time you need to spend on certain projects.
Take Stock Every Week, Month and Year
At the end of every week, month and year, evaluate your writing effort. Check your ‘To Do’ list and see what you have achieved. Go through your monthly writing logs and see where you can improve your productivity. Make changes and stay focussed – one task at a time.
Keep a Personal Journal
If you don’t keep a journal I have a question for you: Why on earth not?! Apart from being a therapeutic tool to write down your emotions, problems goals, dreams and feelings, your journal can be a treasure chest of ideas. Many of my journal entries have become blog entries. It also serves as a reminder of the dreams and goals you have and is a place to blow off some steam – as you are the only one who reads it.
You don’t have to write in your journal every day or even every week. Write when you want to, but keep writing, even if there are two-month gaps.
On days that you really can’t get other writing done (for whatever reason) – just journal. At least it will help you to stay in routine and not get rusty. I write in both languages I speak, depending on the reason, subject or mood I am in.
Learn more about journal writing at https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/03/17/article-on-writing-journal-writing/
Go forward one letter, word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book at a time!
(OK, the bedroom is not going to tidy itself. Off I go…)
© 2016 – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt, with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s ginger cat, her friend and two kittens (so far) – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function as a normal human being.
Life is speeding so fast that it can overtake us very easily, leaving us clinging onto whatever we can to survive. And when we are in survival mode, we tend to focus on just that – survival. Sometimes we need to get off the runaway train, stay on the ground and just enjoy the moments of experiences added together that is called ‘life’. So many of us live for our “one day” – that day or days near or farther in the future when all our dreams will be realised into the utopian existences we spend all our free time imagining.
But sometimes we need real life to give us a slap through the face or shower us with the proverbial bucket of ice water to slow us down from our busyness or even to bring us to a halt in order for us to stop and be alive within the actual moment we find ourselves in.
It can happen through the shock of sudden death, the scare of illness, being faced with dangerous situations or just recuperating from something less serious – but as disruptive.
Shock or trauma or failure can sometimes be good for us. It can help us clean our systems, re-organise our priorities and re-evaluate the impossible goals we set for ourselves into obtainable ones and making us pause for a while. Very few things in life can be so good to us than coming to a complete standstill. And I really mean to stop doing what you’re doing and to live in the moment, with no looking forward to the tomorrow that may never be born.e always dreamt of living abroad for a period of time. Due to circumstances that dream got lost for a while, but after some time it found its way back into becoming a possibility and our lives were frozen in their tracks. Everything we did or didn’t do, planned or didn’t plan and decided had to be weighed first against the probability of going away for a few years. It changes one’s whole focus, lookout and pretty much everything you do.
The realisation of a dream can be a horribly, scary affair and takes courage to pursue. (Read my previous blog on this at https://fieliesdekock.com/2015/11/10/the-process-of-realising-a-dream-can-be-a-nightmare/)
We only heard six months later that we were going to live abroad. In Egypt. I cried for a day and then my previous positive-self reappeared and I made a pro’s and con’s list and, surprise-surprise, the pro’s list convinced me – not that it was the longest! (How is it that when your prayers are being answered and you get what you ask for that you get confused?) But the crying subsided and the excitement and frightfulness kicked in. We had a lot to do – easier stuff and more difficult stuff. All the easier stuff had to do with the ‘whats’ in our lives. The more difficult ones had to do with the ‘whos’. My mother lived with us for 17 years and she had to be relocated. And we had to find houses for our four dogs. It wasn’t easy.
…to living in Cairo, Egypt, for two years.
It takes time to settle into a new environment. And it took me one year an nine months to get so used to the new place to fall into a little bit of a rut – in spite of (or maybe because of) busyness.
Precisely one year and nine months after arriving here, I fell into a not-so-slightly ‘down’. (Don’t worry – it was caused by stupid pains, and although they remained, the depression flew out of the window after a few doctor’s visits. ((And I realised that my ‘depressions’ are always health related.)) And it is a fact that everything seems worse if you are far away from ‘home.’)
Now that the background history is told, I will get to the point. Since that day, three years and three months ago when we first heard that we may be moving, I have learnt to live in the moment. Because of the uncertainty of our situation, we stopped buying unnecessary things, didn’t make decisions with long-term consequences and just started taking every day as it came.
Due to the fact that we came to live in a country where the security situation can be volatile, our circumstances can change at any time and our stay can end unplanned and abruptly. So, I decided to keep living here the way we lived back home for those uncertain fifteen months before we left – in the moment. And I already decided to keep doing that when we get back home one day. But, as I am writing this – even that isn’t a certainty, because that is a tomorrow that is still to come. I pray though that it will happen for us all.
But back again (!) to the reason for this writing. During all these experiences the last few years, I have learnt to enjoy the ‘little’ things in life. Don’t get me wrong. With our current, temporary lifestyle come lots of privileges, which we enjoy and appreciate enormously! I mean, without this experience, my dream to see at least something of Europe would probably always have stayed only in the dream phase. We have cruised the Nile and we are scheduled to go again soon. We have snorkelled in the Red Sea (and fell in love with it)! On a French mountain I have played in the snow for the first time in my life! I attended my first (second, third and shortly my fourth) ball! I have stood in a chamber in The Valley of the Kings outside Luxor containing the petite mummy of king Tut. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. These are memories I will cherish for as long as my mind allow me.
But as it is in life – privileges don’t come free or cheap. And in between these very wonderful experiences are those that don’t reach Facebook status. And they take up way more time than those very wonderful ones. They are the ones that can make or break us. The in-between times when the heat, dust, cultural differences, strange religion, terrible traffic, the thin, sick, hungry street dogs, the stray cats, the tummy bugs, the illiteracy (mine!), the overwhelming crowdedness, the ‘ununderstandable’ customs, the poverty, the dirtiness, the interestingness, the bland food, the overripe tomatoes and all the things you miss from home, make you wonder how on earth did you make it so far and how on earth will you make the rest of the time?
I remember back home when we had some challenges, we would go for a walk in the afternoons and with my hand in my husband’s and with our son and our dogs tagging along, I felt like the richest person alive! And this, I personally believe, is where the secret of happiness lies: to find blessings and joy and thankfulness in even the littlest things in mundane life.
I have listed just a few of these things that make me happy. Some of them are not so little at all.
- Reading Bible and praying whenever I want to, because the Living God of the Bible is always everywhere.
- Mild weather.
- Walking to the shops.
- Walking to the shops on my own legs.
- Walking to the shops on my own legs in mild weather.
- Having good Egyptian people in our lives.
- Eating the last piece of biltong someone thoughtfully brought when visiting.
- Sitting (in the still mild weather) in our garden, listening to the birds chirping without the competition of the air conditioner sounds (because the weather is still mild and the aircons are still off).
- Aircons in summer!!!
- Drinking rooibos tea with my husband and son on a Saturday morning outside in the garden (when the weather is mild) or in the TV room or swimming pool (in summer, when the weather is not so mild).
- Sleeping through the night without fear of violent house-breaks.
- Waking up in the morning. (What a privilege!)
- Having an Afrikaans (my native language) speaking buurvrou (neighbour) in the building across ours!
- Having even more friends from home nearby and being able to lunch with some of them every week!
- Feeding at least two of the many hungry cats in this huge city.
- Watching ‘our’ two cats doing all their cat-things in our garden on top of the parking garage.
- Taking pictures. Lots and lots and lots of them.
- Being thankful for every ‘big’ or ‘little’ thing that works out.
- Being safe after there had been uncertainties.
- Aircons droning out the muezzin calls.
- Power coming back on after cuts. (These days they aren’t as frequent and as long as in during the first year. Something to be thankful for – especially in summer!)
- Experiencing everything with my husband and son!
- Kissing my husband good night.
- Kissing my son good night. (That’s probably not something he would like people to read on the Internet ((but he likes it – I can tell)).)
- Seeing my husband happy because he can watch South African rugby and cricket matches on the satellite TV channels.
- Paging through the teabags at my Japanese friend’s dinner to find a rooibos tea bag!
- Having lots of friends from around the world to hang out with, visit new places with and to learn from.
- Being able to buy the medicine I need and don’t get from home.
- Being healthy (I hope).
- Coming home to a haven of safety and tranquility.
- Having a good landlady.
- …the list can go on…
These are just a few things and when writing them down, I realise that they are not so little. They are pretty big and important. They are the glue that holds life together. To be in awe when seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time or feeling small against the largest of the Giza pyramids is splendid, but one can survive life without it. Of course travelling enriches our lives and I am a big supporter thereof (even if it is just exploring outside of you immediate comfort zone) and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on these experiences! But it really is the ‘small’ things that we can’t live without, which makes the mundane extraordinary – which is the difference between letting life get away from you and living in the moment. It is the ‘small’ things in life which brings sustainable happiness.
© 2016 – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock is trying hard to be an awesomest wife and greatest lover, finest mom and to write something all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s two cats and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function as a normal human being.
I remember my pre-school growing up years in two phases – a phase where we lived on two farms, although I actually only remember the second farm. Of the first I only have two memories – one where I received my soft toy monkey and namesake, Fielies, as a Christmas gift around my third birthday (yes, I actually remember getting the present and opening it) and the other where my sister, twelve years older than me, ignored my mother’s instructions and gave me Coke-Cola in a baby bottle, even though I wasn’t supposed to having Coke or be drinking bottle anymore.
Of the second farm I have many happy memories, much of them involving my brother, father and grandfather.
The second phase was living in the neighbouring town. Here my memories contain mostly our house, my brother who was nine years older than me and in high school in the next town during the week – and my grandfather’s shop. (See my blog entry for more on this at https://fieliesdekock.com/2013/04/02/my-grandfathers-shop/).
My grandfather sold stationary, fireworks and also gifts and gift cards in his shop. My grandfather and grandmother taught me to read and write numbers and I helped them put handwritten prices on the products in the shop. This made me feel very smart. But what didn’t make me feel smart was that although I could write numbers, I couldn’t read letters. The gift card display cupboard filled with Helen Steiner Rice cards made me realised that. The cards were different than the other cards in the sense that they didn’t only have words inside the cards, but also on the outsides.
I was fascinated by these little symbols that, when put together with other sets of letter combinations, formed words. I was even more amazed by the fact that so many different words could be formed by using those letters. And with that, if you know how, one could make sentences using all kinds of different words. And these sentences became the keys to creating other worlds. Worlds full of stories.
To overcome my frustration I sometimes asked my grandmother or grandfather to read me some of the cards instead of a storybook. I didn’t understand much, because the words confronted emotions and life experience I could yet identify with. But what I did get, was the wonderful rhythm of the rhyme that made those words sound as beautiful as a symphony in my ears. I could just listen and listen. As soon as I learned to read in school, I used Helen’s cards to practice my reading.
Then one day a new order from the big city arrived which got mixed up somewhere and the shop got someone else’s order and to my shock and wonder I found out that Helen was speaking English too! I could now practice my English reading too. It paid its dividends, because my English spelling became very good and my vocabulary grew beyond my second language reading book’s arsenal. I won’t comment on my speaking ability though because in our town no one spoke English. There were Afrikaans, Tswana, Portuguese and Lebanese people living there, but somehow no one spoke English!
Only many years later I learned to my surprise that Helen Steiner Rice (I thought the name was a bit foreign) wasn’t a nice Afrikaans speaking boere antie (boer aunty), but actually a very nice American woman who started writing greeting cards when she took over a greeting card company and she realised the need for cards with feel good messages.
Although Helen was dubbed ‘Ambassador of Sunshine’ at the Gibson Art Company in Cincinnati, she didn’t only know the sunny side of life. Her father died when she was young and instead of pursuing her dreams, she helped her family survive. She married a young business man who lost everything in the 1929 New York stock market crash and was left widowed at age 32 after he took his own life due to depression related illness. But she became a successful business woman and ran the greeting card company for forty years, while keep writing her beautiful poems and unknowingly taught a little Afrikaans girl how to read, first in Afrikaans and then in English. And then to write. First in Afrikaans and then in English.
Thank you, Mrs. Helen Steiner Rice, for unlocking the world of words for me.
PS: You can read her story on a website dedicated to her at http://www.helensteinerrice.com/hsrinfo.html.
PPS: I found out today that either Google doesn’t know everything or that I don’t know how to get the information I need out of Google. I tried to find out who was responsible for the translation of Helen’s poems into Afrikaans, but I couldn’t. I also tried to find out into how many languages her work is translated into. I’m still searching. If you have more information on this, please comment.
© 2016 – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s ginger cat – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function as a normal human being.
I’ve travelled the world twice over,
Met the famous; saints and sinners,
Poets and artists, kings and queens,
Old stars and hopeful beginners,
I’ve been where no-one’s been before,
Learned secrets from writers and cooks
All with one library ticket
To the wonderful world of books.
Writing is one of the most important things we learn to do. With writing goes reading. If we can’t read, we won’t be able to write – not even signing our own names. We won’t be able to read labels on food packages or give our children the right dosages of medicine when they are sick. We won’t be able to read cautions to prevent ourselves and our families from danger. We won’t be able to learn or have the privilege to read all the wonderful stories that other people write – or write our own. This is the reality of many, many people in South Africa and the world today. We lived abroad in an Arab country for a while and not knowing their alphabet and their language for most of our stay, our family were experiencing ‘illiteracy’ first-hand and it wasn’t easy.
According to www.100people.org 14 out of every 100 people in the world can’t read which means more than 150 000 out of every million people on earth! That’s way too much. Closer to home, it is estimated that 50% of the matriculants failing their Grade 12 exams, could have passed if they were better readers. That is a shocking statistic. Given these facts, it is obviously important to learn to read and to read well.
Here are a few pointers to help you as a parent to get your child reading.
- Set the example for your children. Be a reader yourself and tell them about the awesome and interesting things you have read about. That will result in curiosity and encourage your child to read too.
- Read for him from the time he is a baby. Use your voice to speak like the different characters, show him the pictures – act out the scenes if possible. He will probably laugh at you and he will start associating reading with fun.
- Since you know your child best, read stories to him and let him read stories that he is interested in. Don’t read a boy a ‘boring’ love story if he would prefer an adventure.
- Start reading a well-known story and let your child pitch in to create an alternative ending. It will be great fun and develop his creativity.
- If you are believers, start reading the Bible aloud together after dinner – even if it once a week. They might find it difficult at first, because of the older language and the not-up-to-date sentence construction, but the spelling is correct and the words are everlasting – literally. Start by letting them read the Genesis stories first and also books like Ruth and Esther, before moving onto the ‘heavier’ stuff. (And be ready to answer a lot of questions.) Reading aloud in the safe family environment will build their courage for public reading and speaking.
- When your young child outgrows children’s books, start with tween (10-12 years old) literature. Those series we read as children are popular again at this stage – Saartjie, Trompie, The Hardy Boys, The Secret Seven etc. (Trompie and Saartjie had been re-written into more modern Afrikaans, so that it is more digestible for our modern children – although my son still found it hard to identify with the Trompie setting and characters.)
- Cartoons and comics are wonderful reading tools. They are normally colourful and funny, short and – boys especially – love them. They help to get a child from not reading at all to getting them interested in reading. It also written concisely – which will help the child with his own writing.
- Help your child read their first longer book by taking turns to read aloud. You can start half a chapter and he can read the second half. Start out by reading only one chapter in the evening in bed. That way it is easier to read a longer book and they won’t feel overwhelmed by the many pages awaiting them. It is wonderful to reach the end of a month or two months or even three and see that satisfied little face when he realised that he read a whole book!
- If your older child still doesn’t want to read books, buy magazines or subscribe to a specific magazine that he or she would be interested in. Magazines as a rule are very well edited; therefore your child will learn correct spelling and sentence construction without even realising it. The more they read, the easier they will remember the words and the better there spelling and the sentence construction will become – without you even nagging or trying too hard! There are various teen magazines available these days – just scan the content before you give it to your child. So, take your child to the nearest news agency and choose some magazines for them to read. Alternatively subscribe to an digital version.
- Remember that boys love non-fiction, so encourage them to read books and magazine articles with facts if they don’t like long books of fiction.
- Internet surfing would also help them to at least read something. Just keep in mind that factual content can be incorrect on websites and that there are lots of spelling and language mistakes on the web. But, if it gets your child reading, why not? And he will even learn something. Let them research NASA and National Geographic pages or let them look up information on careers and hobbies. CAUTION: Make sure your child surfs safely and that his screen time is supervised!
- Join the library and regularly take out books for the whole family. It is a cheap and good way to develop a reading routine within the whole household. Make an outing of the trip to the ‘bib’ and give your children time to sit there and page through the books and magazines before taking out their books for the next two weeks. Libraries also have great holiday programs and encourage reading through various other initiatives. Encourage book talks around the dinner table.
Remember, our children are different from us. They live in a different world than we grew up in. There is an overwhelming amount of entertainment competing for their attention. They live partially virtual lives. Each child differs from the next and they are all unique individuals. They learn differently from us and they each learn at their own pace. Appreciate, respect and embrace those differences. And have patience. In time, they will get there.
© 2010 Fielies De Kock (Edited 2019)
Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest writer. Foreverest dreamer. Living in a coastal village in the Overberg, South Africa, with a husband and two dogs in a small heritage house and a job-seeking son in the garden cottage. Anyone out there interested in paying a new graduate a salary?
Business owners sometimes spend so much time finding ways to increase their profit that they forget that it is not the only aspect ensuring a successful business. Often when reading through advertisements or brochures of SME’s and even large, well-known companies one finds the quality of writing notably lacking.
Companies spend lots of money and other resources on marketing and branding, but not enough is done to ensure that promotion activities are not undermined by the inability to communicate effectively. With a little bit of effort a business owner can change this.
Teach all employees to activate and use spell checkers on their computers. Ensure that ‘English South Africa’ is chosen as the default spell checker for everyday use. Use ‘English U.K.’ or ‘English U.S.’ for documents sent to the U.K. and U.S.A. respectively or the language choice for any other languages used.
Apart from encouraging employees to avoid sending and receiving personal e-mail at work, introduce the following guidelines for efficient and professional communication via the Internet:
· Include a signature below every outgoing e-mail, consisting of the staff member’s name, contact details (telephone, cell phone and fax numbers, e-mail, web page and Skype addresses) and the company logo and slogan.
· When employees are on leave or away on business and can’t access their e-mail, activate the ‘out of office’-reply.
· Write in full, well-structured sentences.
· Spell check all messages before sending.
· Use a professional, formal writing style for all external communication.
· Use the ‘Bcc’ function in the address box to keep clients’ e-mail addresses confidential and secure from companies or individuals who steal and sell address lists and also to prevent unwanted incoming e-mail to clutter the company server.
· Use the ‘read (or received) receipt’ function to keep saved records of sent e-mails.
Apart from being updated regularly, all content for uploading on the company’s website must be checked for spelling errors, statements and advertising that can cause legal action against the owner. Make sure that quotes are the original words of the person quoted and that all other information given is factual. Check the accuracy of the contact details every time when the website is uploaded. Test every button and every link on the page before uploading.
Use full sentences and proper spelling in all SMS communication.
Terminology and Names
Compile a list of distinctive terminology used in the company or sector of business, standardise it and make it available to all employees. Include clients’ and companies’ names and abbreviations of companies and organisations and update the list when needed.
Spend money on presentation designing courses for employees who need to make use of presentations regularly. Encourage users to spell check all presentations.
Start a Company Newsletter
Promote the esprit de corps in the company by sending out a monthly newsletter, encouraging employees to contribute. The newsletter can be used to:
· Convey company policy;
· Communicate new developments and research in the field of business;
· Publish company news and successes;
· Run competitions between departments or individuals and challenge employees’ Creativity regarding problem solving; and
· Announce the implementation of new work procedures.
The company newsletter will also improve contributing employees’ writing skills and give the staff some pride. Set apart a section for not work related issues such as book and movie reviews, announcements, advertisements etc.
Encourage Employees to Read
Employees can improve their skills by reading books and articles on work related subjects. Reading will also develop their writing skills and ability to spell accurately, which will have a positive reflection on the company.
Proof-reading and Editing
Improve the company’s image by investing in professional writing, editing, translation and proof-reading services to ensure immaculate external communication. When the company can afford it, an in-house department can be dedicated for this purpose, which will save money on the long run.
Crash Courses for New Staff
Initiate new personal with a one-day workshop by introducing them to the company’s writing style, rules and regulations.
The rules of language change as writing inventions and technological developments change worldwide, introducing new words in English and other languages on a regular basis. Workshops to update employees on language terminology and tips regarding writing skills can be conveyed via e-mails and/or the monthly newsletter.
With today’s advanced technology it is easy to install dictionaries, thesauruses, currency converters and other helpful aids on every computer desktop. This will aid staff in checking spelling, the meaning for difficult words, currency abbreviations etc.
With a bit of company effort, training and the technology available, no person on any step of the proverbial corporate ladder has any excuses anymore for not writing properly.
© 2007 Riëtte De Kock
I am trying hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellent wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful entrepreneur and freelance writer all at the same time! I share a living space in Pretoria, South Africa with my husband, son, mother, four dogs and sometimes the neighbours’ cats – and my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters.
Visit my website at www.thewritingclub.co.za and buy my children’s ebook, Yeovangya, on Amazon Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Yeovangya-ebook/dp/B008CP2RQ0
My Afrikaans blog is available on my website – or just click on this link: http://www.thewritingclub.co.za/writingclub/index.php?option=com_lyftenbloggie&view=lyftenbloggie&category=bloggies&Itemid=66
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