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Why Writing About Your Life Has the Power to Change It

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you could start over? 
 
Or maybe you’re the kind of person who admits regret but wouldn’t change a thing. 
 
While each day offers us an opportunity to restart our lives, unfortunately we don’t get do-overs…
 
Except when it comes to writing. 
 
In fact, the word revision actually means to see again. And if you pause long enough to consider its meaning, you’ve actually performed the word's intent. Here, you see a familiar word, a word with connotations related to writing [and pain] and next you add another layer of meaning. 
 
In writing, the capacity to see the stories that make up your life again has enormous implications. What happens when we look at our lives not just critically but with imagination? 
 
What happens when we say to ourselves “I thought I was headed this way, but I ended up going another way” or...
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How to Get After Your Next Writing Project

When I taught college writing courses, almost no one enrolled willingly. Whether it was required for their major or expected on their transcript for graduate school, many of my undergraduate students would have been quite happy to skip a composition course altogether. And with classes called College Writing or Research Writing or Advanced Writing, who could really blame them? 
 
Over the years, however, I noticed an interesting trend among the truly motivated. The students who admitted, even at the cost of their social currency, they wanted to become better writers generally had two reasons: 
  1. They would imminently face an important writing project. 
  2. They were graduating, and although they were almost ‘college educated,’ they felt their communication skills were poor. 
Both groups were dealing with as much fear and dread as the uninterested students, but they’d decided that becoming a better writer would make their lives easier and...
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Is Your Website a Lecture or a Conversation?

When I was growing up, it was not uncommon to find myself on the wrong end of a lecture. Don’t get me wrong—I was a pretty good kid. The problem, at least as I saw it, was that my parents came from the old world where long [and often boring] talks were used to address missteps, wrongdoings, and of course, to occasionally secure [or was it manipulate?] good behavior. 

In a modern world, us parents are encouraged to instead start conversations with their children. Why? Because asking Timmy why he pulled the cat’s tail [again], puts the focus on the mentee, not the mentor, where assumptions [Timmy is a mean kid who will grow up to take his feelings out on innocent cats] are delayed rather than made.  

Now it would be unwise to suggest that a parent comes to a conversation with his or her child as a blank slate. In fact, having a theory or two about how your child might be feeling [Timmy is feeling jealous of his baby sister or Timmy needs a nap or Timmy...

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How Healthy is Your Writing Mindset?

"If you don't like something, change it.
If you can't change it, change your attitude.”
—Maya Angelou 

On the first day of classes at the University of Portland, I routinely asked my freshman students to free-write about a series of questions. Before I gave them the list, I’d ask the class just the first one:

What is your relationship to writing?

Our class was an introduction to college writing, yet despite this emphasis students were often surprised by the question. I’d give them a few minutes to take out their paper and pens, before I invited them to begin. Most first days looked like this: two students furiously writing, a few whispering for more instructions from a peer, half of them staring at me in bewilderment, and one student bravely raising her hand for clarification, “You want us to write about what exactly?” 

If I knew this scene was likely to replay, semester after semester, you might be wondering why I continued to let...

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Why Your Journal is Not Your Diary

If you were lucky as a child you had one of those fancy diaries, engraved with mysterious symbology, and fastened with a very important feature: a lock. 
 
And not just anyone could open that diary—only the one who had the key. That way no one else could know your secrets, your sins, your confessions, your hopes, or your dreams. 
 
Sound dramatic? Welcome to the inner world of a child who one day would grow up to become a writer. 
 
But back to you. 
 
If you [this time I really do mean you, not me] ever had or wanted a diary as child, you’ll remember the connotation of secrecy. After all, that was part of the fun. Key information documented about yourself for yourself
 
It’s tempting to see the daily practice of journal writing as the same as writing in a diary. After all, it is a private place to record your thoughts. And if you’ve ever had a fight or even a misunderstanding, it really is a great place to...
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Why Your Business Needs an Email Campaign

Not everyone is ready to buy. Some people aren’t even ready to meet you. But lots and lots of people are willing to learn from you. 
 
In another article, I showed you why your business must have a lead magnet—a free resource or gift that lives on your homepage, in exchange for your prospect's email address. Creating a lead magnet is a first step but without an automated email campaign, you don't have a way to continue to build trust with future customers.
 
Creating an email campaign that nurtures new leads through a series of emails gives you a second chance to make a great first impression. Or perhaps it's more of an  opportunity to make a second impression.
 
And with each email you send, you get to make a third, fourth, fifth impression. It’s no accident that in advertising the word impression accounts for the number of times someone views your content. Impression is also a word that means to leave a lasting mark. 

What kind of...

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Your Writing Cheat Sheet

Why is it is so hard to start a new piece of writing? 

After teaching college students, coaching professionals, and writing for businesses, I’ve discovered three simple reasons: 
  1. You haven’t spent enough time gathering your thoughts or data needed to write. 
  2. You haven’t scheduled time to write. 
  3. You don’t know how to get started. 
I’ve written other articles focused on the attitude of getting started. I even wrote a whole chapter on the topic in Write Big, called the “Ready, Set, Mindset.” Essentially, you have to stiff arm your internal critic by writing fast so you can make the important discoveries needed to write your project. It’s a trick for getting started not for writing an entire work, so use with caution.
 
In this article, however, I want to talk about what’s underneath the uncertainty of getting started, and I don’t mean your 4th grade teacher’s criticism of your...
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How Recognizing Kindness Can Help You Make a Hard Decision


To visit or not to visit?

When it comes to applying to colleges across the country, every senior and their family has a strategy. For Emma, waiting to visit colleges after she received acceptances just felt practical. After all, she spent the summer before her senior year working a paid internship with Intel and writing her common application essay. Between writing more supplements, playing volleyball, and juggling her honors classes in the fall, letting the college acceptances introduce and eliminate her real options gave her just a bit of breathing room.

But when Emma received acceptances into honors colleges from Oregon to Vermont and more acceptances from schools like Boston University and Brandeis, she felt more confused than ever. 

With merit scholarships ranging from $6000 (UO and OSU) to $20,000 (Brandeis) to $23,000 (UVT) per year, and the WUE scholarship at Colorado State, she didn't know how to pick. “After hearing back from all my schools, I wasn’t...

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The Problem with Stories

Why can’t Harry Potter just go to Hogwarts when he receives his acceptance letter?

Why can’t Dorothy get back home to Kansas?

Why don’t the townsfolk believe the little boy who cried wolf?  

Even after two degrees in English literature, it wasn’t until my oldest son started 1st grade that I really understood stories. One morning when I visited his classroom, his teacher very simply laid out for her students the following little gem: 
 
Every story has a problem. 
 
Now this statement might seem obvious to you but when you begin to examine the story’s problem, or more specifically the main character's problem, that’s when the story gets interesting. 
 
In a good book or movie, everything from character growth to plot development to theme revolves around the problem. 
 
For instance, Harry can’t go to Hogwarts because his aunt and uncle forbid him. What does he do in response? That’s...
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How writing confidence translates to college acceptance

When Talya began applying for schools in the fall of 2018, she was far ahead of most of her peers. And that’s not only because she chose to apply early.

Talya is a parent’s dream. She operates on plans, checklists, note-taking, spreadsheets, and networking. If it’s important, Talya has seen it coming and she’s working on a strategy. These tactics are not new acquisitions either.

Talya, who grew up competing in sports, elected to attend a rigorous private high school, has volunteered hundreds of hours to Youthline, a crisis helpline with teen to teen support, and even sat on the Planned Parenthood Council before she was 18, is well practiced in getting her ship in order and aiming her sails at the high seas.

As she toured schools, tried on majors, and devoted herself to passionate causes, there was just one little thing (okay, it’s kind of a big thing) that kept Talya awake at night, worried that she might not be accepted into her dream school. That...

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