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What to read 12/9/08

The possibility exists that I could post twice today. I am very excited about this prospect.

Instead of waiting until later to post, I decided it would be better for you if I posted the articles I found useful today pre-dinner time. (Perhaps this will become a new Galley feature?!)

Till Later??,
C

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lightbulbWhat I think separates this blog from others about jobs and freelancing is that I am learning with you. I can’t claim to be an expert, but I can talk about my experience and what works for me (oh what wonderful things the web is doing to journalism?).

As you know, I’m taking an online freelance writing class through Ed2010.com. During tonight’s lecture, several students asked the instructor where to look for ideas, and he anecdotally answered with tales of walking into places and having story ideas almost hit him on the head. While that’s great for him, I understood where these students were coming from.  Though I’ve come into a setting and seen story after story walk by, when I sit down and say “OK, I’m going to develop some freelance pitches now,” I clam up and my mind goes blank.

Although the simple answer to “Where do you get story ideas from?” is everywhere, what works for me is focusing on when the ideas come.

5 Tips for Finding Stories

1- Write ideas down when they come to you.
I don’t know if you carry a notebook, put everything in your Blackberry or keep an insane system of organized post-its—but whatever you do, document your ideas when you get them. A twenty minute subway ride and two smelly passengers later, and that idea is long gone.
2- Document the ones that don’t make sense. When an idea hits you, its not always in its finished form. As a matter of fact, it hardly ever is (for me at least). You won’t see the whole picture right away, so jot down these ideas and come back to them later to flesh them out during a brainstorm session. These are valuable and can often lead to my best ideas—don’t toss them in your brain trash!
3- Please read the news. I can’t tell you how many students in my college media classes wouldn’t be remotely knowledgeable on major news stories. What’s in the news is what people want to know about! Now Ex-NY Giant Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg. The more interesting angle? The possibility he was carrying a gun because these diesel football players are scared they could get robbed in the bars and streets of New York City. Everyone wanted to know about Burress, so the story was covered from all angles. From reading the news you won’t just learn the trends of what is being covered, but you’ll see what isn’t. You’ll learn to distinguish what is actually lacking coverage and what people just don’t give a damn about—all vital information when you are trying to come up with ideas to pitch to an editor.
4- Open your eyes and ears. Make sure you aren’t just going about your day without noticing everything that goes on around you. If you overhear people ordering at Applebees and discussing how the calories listed on the menu deter them from ordering salads, that’s a story not to be ignored. Jot it down and flesh it out later.
5- Learn from ALL your experiences. Things happen to you all the time that are potential story ideas. A few months ago, I was going to my best friend’s sister’s wedding. I wasn’t in the bridal party, didn’t want to wear a little black dress and was so confused as to what to wear as a result. During last week’s freelancing class, a student pitched a story on what to wear to a friend’s wedding if you’re not part of the bridal party— everything from clothes to shoes to hair and jewelry, and to all different types of weddings (beach, church, etc). That’s a killer idea and it was right in front of me just a few months ago.

Till tomorrow,
C

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sickI know this is a cop out post, but I’m sick and looking at this screen is not making it better :(. I can tell you though, that if you have freelance work to do and you are sick, it is not fun. I have to play catch-up all day tomorrow to make up for the rest today.

What do you do to stay on top of your work when you are feeling under the weather? I obviously need to be schooled in this topic.

As to not have this post completely useless, I read two articles in the WSJ this morning that not only reiterated how many people are walking unemployment stats like myself, but really made me think about how many people are being affected and are suffering.
1- The Human Toll of the Credit Crunch
2- Job Losses Worst Since ’74

In addition to my vow to post once a day, I vow to be a useful source to this community. Stay awhile, take your coat off and take a look around the site. Many, many more helpful posts to come.

Till tomorrow,
C

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roller coasterSince I was a little too upset to blog directly after the lay off, I didn’t get to document the emotional roller coaster I was on. Sometimes (even six weeks after) that crazy bunch of emotions lets me on the ride again, free of charge. Today, I took a few rides.

Most of the time I feel energized, fueled with passion and ready to get my hands dirty in a whole bunch of tasks at once—learning the ins and outs of SEO, participating in a webinar on personal branding and compiling a list of indoor activities for kids, all in one day. And I’m totally cool with that and look forward to it, but sometimes I lose a little motivation, usually after some job news. Today’s news was only half bad, but still left me feeling discouraged.

I understand I’m not the only one feeling this way, so I wanted to share where I turn for a little career pick-me-up.

1- Your first job acceptance package. Mine is still in my inbox and though it makes me a bit sad, it reminds me that if I did it once, I can do it again.
2- Cards from co-workers. Almost everyplace I’ve worked or interned has given me a card at some point. A birthday, my last day, get well soon, etc. I keep all the cards along with others from friends and family in a pretty memory box, and read their positive messages: “You have such a can-do attitude,” “We are going to miss your smile” and “You are so intelligent and willing, it keeps us all motivated.” Those are nice statements to revisit when you’re down in the dumps about your career.
3- Read about how others are dealing with the economy. So many people are frustrated and struggling right now and many are willing to share—their stories are helpful in getting you through days like this. Don’t just think standard inspirational stories; I found this one today about living in a world of abundance and it really resonated with me.
4- Step away from your computer. Sometimes you just need to clear your head, stop reading articles (I know this contradicts yesterday’s post) and get some fresh air. Look for a job and work on your freelance assignments later, and take an hour walk to relax. Simply getting away from your home office can be very liberating and effective.
5-After your break, jump right back into it. Don’t take too much time away from your work either. You don’t want to lose your motivation or get tangled in your own disappointment. Nothing is going to fall in your lap (except maybe a winning lotto ticket. Hey, you never know.), so you still have to make things happen. I find that after I clear my head, the best way to get geared up again is to dive right back in.

Till tomorrow,
C

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Eye allergies

Last week my left eye was all red. I was extremely freaked out by this and assumed that I was going to go blind from my contact solution. (Hey–that isn’t as far fetched as you think.) It turns out my eyes are allergic to something, but me and the eye doc don’t know exactly what yet. It could be my contacts, my contact solution or just dust and pollen. Today my right is eye is tearing like crazy. I think it might be the dust and pollen. 

Today there were two little mice in the Envoy  office (oh City University), it was also our last meeting of the semester and my last meeting, well ever. I think it will hit me when I write my Letter from the Editor in the last issue. This paper has taken up the majority of my time (and my thoughts) for almost three years and I will definitely be sad to leave. I love this mice and rat ridden office. 

Yesterday was my last day at Time Out New York Kids. The editors had a little party with fruit and brownies for me and Emily, the other intern, and they gave us cards that they all signed and wrote good luck and thank you notes to us. It was really very sweet and kind. When it was time to go, everyone was telling us to just relax and not be so worried about getting a job. One of them even called Emily and I “very employable.” That was the best thing anyone has ever said to me, haha. 

Although a bunch of “last” things are going on, new things are happening too. I have an interview at an amazing monthly next week, I have options (well, a few) and although I’m scared, I am looking forward to graduation. In other news, I just got a blackberry and man is it amazing. I can check media news constantly and read The Times on my phone and apply to jobs on the street! I realize getting excited about all that really confirms that I am loser, haha. 

I PROMISE that when things calm down (i.e. when I finish these two final projects that stand between me and my degree) I will post consistently on all the media-related (and some non media) happenings in my life.

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