Jason Brimhall (B|T) is hosting this month’s T-SQL Tuesday blog party. (Thank you Jason!) The party was originally started by Adam Machanic (B|T) just over three years ago. The topic this month is “Standing Firm”. Jason had a great list of New Year’s words for this topic: Resolve, Resolution, and Resolute. I immediately thought of the word “Resolute” and how I am determined to have my blog be successful on my terms.
I have been given many talents, but writing “proper English” is not one of them. A simple blog post can take me hours not only to write but to reword, correct grammar and spelling, and make sure I’m consistent with my personal pronoun usage. But I am determined and Resolute about having a blog to share my knowledge and to proudly call my own. Thinking of my challenge I thought of Neo from The Matrix. He meets a prodigy at the Oracle’s home and she is bending spoons with her mind. Neo tries to bend the spoon by staring at it, but nothing happens. She tells him the secret is, “There is no spoon”. After he realizes she was correct, he is able to bend the spoon with his mind. Would he have been able to bend the spoon if he had never met her? Most likely not. He had to learn to see his reality differently so that he could achieve what he thought was impossible. Being able to write when it is not “my talent” can be approached the same way.
The first thing the “Resolute Writer” needs, is to determine where the weaknesses are and find tools to help overcome those weaknesses.
Tools For Planning
The first thing I do when I know what I’m going to write about, is I create a mind map. A mind map is a diagram that illustrates the ideas I have on a subject. All I need is a piece of paper and a pen, but since I’m a geeky girl…I use my iPad. I have this great program called Grafio. It allows me to create mind maps and save them as images. Here is the mind map for this blog post.
Since I love color as much as I love SQL, I color coded my mind map. The pink circle is my main topic, and the purple and aqua circles are used as my grouping mechanisms for the gray circles which contain the ideas.
Outlines are a great tool for working out the flow of a blog post. There are even products out there that turn mind maps into outlines, but I have not used them. Microsoft Word and simply numbering the circles on a mind map are other tools for creating outlines.
Ginger is a tool I use to correct not only my spelling, but also my grammar and word usage. However, it isn’t perfect. Technical languages like SQL can be challenging for Ginger, but overall I find Ginger to be a wonderful tool for me.
Help Beyond The Borders
When Neo was stuck in the train station in the third Matrix movie, he tried to will himself out just like he willed the spoon to bend. He found it difficult. I’m sure if he had been given more time, he could have willed himself out, but Trinity was willing to help get him out. Writing is no different. I can ask just about anyone in my life to proof read what I write, and sometimes I do. I had my husband Dan proof read my last blog post on Mentoring, and I had my daughter Victoria proof read this blog post.
Another way to improve my writing skills, is to write for someone else, because they will definitely have an opinion on my writing ability if it’s not up to par. For me, my first post for MS SQL Tips came out yesterday (Working With Multi-Select Parameters for SSRS Reports). I also try to visit different SQL forums to answer questions. This allows me to test my own knowledge as well as allow me to explain to someone else, with written words, how to fix their problems.
Finally I have a goal to participate in as many T-SQL Tuesday’s as possible. This gives me two things:
- A topic that I didn’t have to think up.
- A time frame to write (1 week) with a deadline ( 2nd Tuesday) that is manageable.
Follow the White Rabbit
The best thing I can do for my writing, is to be true to myself. If I’m true to myself, and my SQL code is sound, then a couple of misspelled or badly placed words won’t matter to the readers. They will remember my posts for the content.
In the end, writing is as scary as deciding between the blue pill and the red pill, but I choose the red pill and I plan to see how far down the rabbit hole I can go.
Hi Mickey. I’ve always started with an outline, and fleshed out the details from there. But I’m thinking about trying mind mapping for an article I’m working on and maybe some presentation ideas too. Do you have any recommended resources for getting started with mind mapping?
I learned how to mind map in high school, so I don’t own any books on the subject, but I did find this great blog post by Adam Sicinski: http://blog.iqmatrix.com/how-to-mind-map. The last half of the post talks about the “official rules” of mind mapping, compares several mind mapping tools, and has a list of books that he recommends. I have also found several mind mapping tools through Chrome’s webstore. The one I use on my iPad is called Grafio.
The best part of mind mapping, is you really don’t need any software. You really only need a blank piece of paper and a pen, or if you follow the “official rules”, several colored pens. 🙂
The basic idea of it is to start with a central idea and build outward using lines and shapes. I’ve seen some beautiful mind maps, but for me that is destracting. I use mind maps to simplify and calm all the noise, I mean ideas floating around in my head. Colored sticky notes are my absolute favorite to use becaues I can move them easily as the ideas move around.
I hope that is helpful. Let me know if you have any other question, and good luck on trying out mind mapping.