6 Tips to Becoming a Writer

Writing can be hard, but it is necessary to formulate your thoughts and to understand the world around you.  I once read that, as humans, we don’t write because we understand, we write to understand.

We write to understand, to share, to express ourselves, to heal – to communicate.

Whether you’re writing a blog post about DIY Halloween Costumes or a very personal experience, there a few key factors to note when getting started.  Here are my 6 tips to becoming a writer:

 

  1. Write What You Want to Read

If you don’t enjoy what you’re writing, chances are you wouldn’t enjoy reading it either, so why would anyone else?  Austin Kleon writes about this in Steal Like An Artist in the chapter called Write the Book You Want to Read. 

He talks about how you should write about what you like.  He tells us to think about our favorite writers and then think about what they would create if they all collaborated – Write that.

 

  1. Make it Engaging

When you write, don’t tell the reader how incredible you felt on the rollercoaster, make them feel it.  Or, maybe you’re writing about a painful experience or the most exciting time in your life.  Whatever it is, take the reader there.  Words exist so that we can express ourselves to others.  Are you more likely to be drawn to a piece that just tells you something, or are you more likely to be drawn to a piece that makes you feel something.  We read to learn; We read to experience a world different from our own.  JK Rowling didn’t tell you about Hogwarts, she took you there with Harry and she did it with words.

We all have the ability to take the reader there, we just have to be creative with our words.  If you’ve ever been to an impromptu show, you may have seen the game they play where one person leaves the room and the other stays behind with audience.  With the remaining person, the audience chooses an object to describe to the other person when they come back into the room.  When the person comes back into the room the audience has to describe the object to them without explicitly saying the name of it.  As you write, think about what you are wanting to write about, and then leave it on the page as if you are describing it to the person coming back into the room.  That is how you take the reader there.

 

  1. Have a Point and Maintain That Point

Whatever the topic is that you are writing about, make it a point to have a point.  That means that with every sentence, you need to be able to come back to your point.  As a reader, have you ever read something that didn’t stay on topic and by the time you get to the end of the piece (if you get to the end of the piece), you wonder how you got from point A to point B?  As a writer, you never want to create a piece that doesn’t have a clear journey beginning to end.  As you are writing, take time to pause throughout your process and read different bits and pieces and ask yourself if there is a arrow pointing directly back to your point.  If not, it probably doesn’t belong.

 

  1. Be Vulnerable

When people read something, they are either desiring to learn something new or to hear “me too”.  Writing a piece that lets the reader know “me too”, is 10X more effective than a “how to”.  That’s why local parenting magazine Mamalode is so successful.

CEO and Founder, Elke Govertson, was looking for “me too” not “how to”, but continued to only find the latter.  One year, on the night before Mother’s Day, she thew a party in which she called “Mother’s Day Eve”, and invited fellow mothers to come together in the name of motherhood.  Out of vulnerability, these moms began to share their experiences with one another – the good, bad and the ugly.  For the first time, Elke didn’t feel alone or lost in the perils of Motherhood.  Instead, she felt uplifted and empowered and, most importantly, part of a larger community who could say “me too”.

Through her own experience, Elke wanted others to feel the same.  She knew from her own frustrations with the “how to’s” that a publication filled with “me too” stories, like the ones shared that night, would create value in the lives of mothers across the country and even the world.   Thus, Mamalode was born and is referred to today as “America’s Best Parenting Magazine” across the United States and in various parts of the world; all because of a little vulnerability.

You see, we’re all human.  At the end of the day, we’re all made up of the same stuff.  We experience upmost joy and happiness, as well as the deepest heartache and pain, all while craving to love and be loved; always wishing for more time.  What differentiates us from one another is how we experienced those commonalities.  It’s funny how some of the most gut-wrenching topics to write about are ones that every single human on Earth, has or will experience.  Think: love, loss (death) and time; the three abstracts that motivate every single human on the face of the Earth.  Be vulnerable and write about your experiences with those.  Let your reader know “me too”.

 

  1. Find Your Voice and Embrace It      

There is no one like you in this world, and there will never be anyone that is as “you” as you are.  That’s pretty incredible.  This means that your voice, whether you’ve found it or not, is yours and yours only.  We each have our own thoughts and experiences and opinions.  If you don’t voice them, no one will because they’re not you.  To find your voice you must be willing to be vulnerable (see #4).  Sometimes this is the hardest kind of vulnerability to engage in because you are forced to be vulnerable with yourself.  You must ask yourself questions like: “What do I truly think/feel about this?”, “What does my voice sound like?”, “Am I being honest with myself?”.  Once you’re honest with yourself, you have the key to unlock your voice, which not only helps you to find yourself, but also to discover where your niche is in the world.  Maybe your voice sounds at home in humor or dripping in satire, or how to create a multitude of DIY Halloween Costumes.  Perhaps your voice is more at home talking about the tough stuff.  Wherever your voice is at home, follow it there, put your feet up, get to know it and write.

 

  1. Actively Pursue YOUR Human Experience

 There’s an incredibly metaphoric, on-going scene in the first Princess Diaries movie that is so important to remember when it comes to this tip.  Princess Mia’s neighbor in San Francisco is a writer who sits in front of his house every day working on his autobiography.  The ironic part of his “autobiography” is that is filled with events that he sees happening in the lives of others within a hundred-foot radius of his front porch.

As a writer, you need to make sure you leave the porch.  Pursue and engage in YOUR human experience, because no one else can truly write about that (see #5).

In contrast, there’s another movie called Stuck in Love that hits this head-on.  About a family of writers, it follows the life of a father – a writer, who hasn’t written a single word since his wife left him for another man three years ago.  He’s raising two teenagers – one of which is publishing her first novel and, the other, a Stephen King fanatic.

Raising both children to be writers from birth, the father gets hold of his son’s journal (a journal he has paid him to keep since he could write, along with his sister too), and tells his son that he needs to really experience life to become a better writer.

To become a better writer, you must actively pursue your human experience; you must really experience life.  You can’t do this from your porch.

 

 

 

 

 

…And since we’re talking about Stuck in Love, I will leave you with this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meg Dowaliby is a Senior studying Marketing at the University of Montana, who has a passion for content creation and storytelling.  Meg considers herself to be a “creative” with the objective of evoking emotions that bring people together as a marketer.  

10 Must Watch Shows On Netflix

Being a broke college student without cable TV, I’ve been around the Netflix lineup my fair share of times. It’s easy to get caught into the same old, same old shows like Orange is the New Black, Stranger Things or How I Met Your Mother (which if you haven’t watched any of those – stop reading right now and go watch them) and it’s easy to forget that there are actually a lot of good shows out there that people just aren’t talking about. So I’ve went and put together a list of shows that I feel are “must watch” if you need a shake-up in your traditional suggested TV shows.

Sherlock 

9.2/10 IMDb and 91% Rotten Tomatoes

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Many people know or have heard of Sherlock Holmes. This BBC TV series did a great job making this show full of twists and often very funny scenes to keep you totally engrossed while watching. It is brilliantly acted and by far the best iteration of Sherlock Holmes ever to air on TV.

Downsides: Each episode is an hour and a half long so make sure you grab some popcorn because these episodes are basically like a continuous movie.

Jessica Jones

8.2/10 IMDb – No Rotten Tomatoes score

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Everyone seems to be talking about the series “Luke Cage” but I find that not many people know that he was originally introduced in the “Jessica Jones” series! I personally like Jessica Jones over Luke Cage but to each their own. Jessica is a personal investigator who is trying to leave her life as a superhero behind her. Marvel’s Jessica Jones is extremely addicting to watch and a must see in my opinion – if you like Marvel / superhero type stories anyways.

Downsides: None – it’s a great show!

Black Mirror

8.8/10 IMDb and 96% Rotten Tomatoes

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For some reason Netflix has this listed as 3 out of 5 stars but you have to give it a chance. It is seriously such a good series! Each episode is completely different from the next and no episodes are tied together. They are like little movies with new actors and actresses in each episode, chalked full of mind blowing theoretical future technological scenarios in a twisted, Twilight Zone type of way. Trust me, watch one episode and you’ll be hooked.

Downsides: There are only 3 seasons and the first two seasons only have 3 episodes (but the last season has 6! Woohoo) so you might go through them fast.

Shameless (U.S. Version)

8.7/10 IMDb and 92% Rotten Tomatoes

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This was one of those shows that I binged watched all summer long. It’s an honest comedy about an alcoholic father (Frank) who can hardly take care of himself and his family of six children who struggle to keep life going together. Despite the seemingly harsh premise, Shameless is seriously hilarious and it is so easy getting caught up in the Gallagher’s dysfunctional world. Netflix has 6 seasons available so you have plenty of episodes to keep you busy.

Downsides: There is a lot of sex scenes. Like a lot – but you get used to it after a while. Just a heads up haha

Broadchurch

8.4/10 IMDb and 88% Rotten Tomatoes

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Broadchurch is a British television crime drama. The premise is typical of a crime show in the sense that there are two main detectives that are investigating the mysterious murder of a young boy in a small seaside town in England. Give it two episodes and I promise you’ll watch the whole two seasons in no time flat. Make sure to watch the BBC version and not the U.S. version for this one though!

Downsides: Becuase this show is a British TV series, all of the cast have heavy accents making it, at times, hard to hear what they are saying. Not a big deal but still wanted to mention it 🙂

The 100

7.8/10 IMDb and 90% Rotten Tomatoes

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Imagine a Hunger Games meets Divergent meets The Maze – That’s what The 100 is like.  After living in space for three generations due to a nuclear Armageddon that destroys civilization on Earth, the survivors of the international space station start running out of resources. The 100 is all about a group of kids trying to save the human race. If you can get through the first four episodes, you’ll be in it for the long haul.

Downsides: There are only 2 out of 3 seasons available on Netflix so if you really like it, you’ll have to get your fix by some other means online.

Limitless

7.9/10 IMDb and 57% Rotten Tomatoes

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If you have seen and liked the movie Limitless, then you will definitely enjoy this spin-off. Even if you haven’t seen the movie you should definitely give this a watch. Just like the movie, Limitless is about a young man who is down on his luck until he is introduced to a drug that enhances his mental acuity. While the show and movie parallel each other, they are quite different in their story line (although the TV show does a nice job picking up where the movie left off). Oh, and Bradley Cooper, the main character in the movie, makes appearances throughout the show as well which is pretty cool.

Downsides: There is only one season available right now and last I looked, there is no hope of a second season starting anytime soon. With that being said though, season one has 22 episodes and it wraps up pretty good while still keeping a small door open for a potential second season.

Nurse Jackie

7.7/10 IMDb and 84% Rotten Tomatoes

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This is a really easy show to watch. I would typically have it playing in the background while I was getting ready. Nurse Jackie is centered around the chaotic, relentless ER of a busy New York hospital as Jackie maneuvers through her busy work life, one Vicodin pill at a time. It’s a funny and quirky series that will keep you coming back for more.

Parenthood

8.1/10 IMDb and 90% Rotten Tomatoes

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Parenthood is a heartfelt family show with some popular actors and actresses in the cast including Lauren Graham and Dax Shepard. The show features the whole Braverman family tree and follows the ups and downs of four grown siblings as they juggle parenthood, relationships, and their daily lives. All six seasons of the show are available on Netflix and I highly recommend if you are looking for a feel good show!

The Following

7.7/10 IMDb and 55% Rotten Tomatoes

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While this series has the lowest ratings of all the shows on this list, it is still one of my favorites that I felt needed to be included. The Following is a mystery / detective show centered around the hunt for a serial killer who has escaped from death row. This show is full of twists and turns that will keep you wondering and wanting more. Don’t be surprised if you end up misplacing hours of your time while getting engrossed watching.

So there you have it, 10 shows to go watch on Netflix! Hopefully there is one show on this list that you haven’t seen yet that you can add to your queue. Happy watching! 🙂

By: Lauryn Wate – University of Montana student studying Business Marketing

10 Surprising (but true) things Wikipedia won’t tell you about growing up in small town Montana

1. Stargazing is a nightly thing and when you can’t see them, you miss it immensely.

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Growing up laying out on a blanket late at night is one of the best things in small town Montana. According to vox.com, 80% of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way. I consider myself one of the lucky ones that can still see stars outside my window and can see the Milky Way only a couple miles out of town. I remember multiple nights around the campfire (or bonfire depending on the time of year) and staring up at the sky talking with the family about everything imaginable. We still do this today, not as often as we should though.

2. Friendships are a thing of a lifetime, the few kids in your class easily become kids that you are friends with forever.

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I grew up with 80 kids in my entire school, it was a 9 grade school (K-8), that means less than 10 kids per class, on average. Can you imagine that? If you didn’t know every name for every kid then they must have been new. This had both good and bad aspects to it. The good was you created friendships that lasted a lifetime, but the bad was that growing up a girl there was a lot of drama among the girls in the school. When I was eight I remember coming home from school with different “best friends” every day. But the friendships that lasted are still strong 15 years later.

3. Hard work is a part of life, from getting firewood in 10 below weather to bailing hay in 90 degree weather, you don’t get to slip by without working hard.

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Have you ever come home from a long day at work, at 15 degrees and had no firewood to heat your house? I have and do you know what that means? You get to go chop would and wheel it to the house in a wheelbarrow. It really teaches you a lesson in chores and hard work. I can remember having multiple school days where the bus just couldn’t reach our house back on 2 miles of dirt road covered in feet of snow or inches of ice. I can count on two hands how many times my dad had to use his own personal truck to pull out the school bus in order for us to get to school.

4. If you have more bars in your town than you have churches, that’s average.

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I can remember when my older brother had decided to go to the public schools in the larger town over a small school farther out in the country (both the same distance away) he made his decision based off of the fact that the town had more bars than churches and it definitely only had one school and one store. To a 13 year old this meant literally nothing to do, ever, besides drink. Just to let this sink in, Montana ranks #2 (according to eater.com) in number of bars per capita. The number for Montana is 1,658 people per bar, meaning that Montana has 602 bars in the state. That is a fairly daunting number and when it comes to small towns, don’t be surprised if you have at least 2 or 3 bars.

5. Seeing more animals during your commute than cars is a normal everyday occurrence.

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According to beef2live.com Montana has 2.51 cows to everyone human. That means there are over a million people in the state but almost 2.5 million cows. Seeing cows and driving over cattle guards on your daily commute is in no shortage in small town Montana. Also according to 50states.com, the average square mile of land in Montana “contains 1.4 elk, 1.4 pronghorn antelope, and 3.3 deer.” The last time I drove home for a visit (a 170 mile drive) I counted 6 cars and at least 30 herds of deer during the 2 hours I spent on the road. Talk about a stressful ride.

6. Driving miles to see a big box store is a weekly adventure.

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Take a moment and think about this; how far ahead do you decide what you want for dinner? 1 hour before you start making dinner? 1 or 2 days before so you can run to the store? Well living in a small town means not having the ability to decide at the last minute what you want for dinner, it means planning a week or two weeks ahead just so you can run to town (which maybe an hour or two away) and buying hundreds of dollars’ worth of groceries. This also means that pantries, gardens, and canning are almost necessary the farther you live away from a decently priced store.

Montana fun fact: Circle, MT is the farthest spot from a Starbucks in the continental USA which is 185 miles.

7. A story that starts with “so I was at this party in a field” is not uncommon, actually a rather common occurrence.

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I have heard so many stories about parties in fields, this is the normal once you hit high school in a small town. What also is normal is driving through the back dirt roads in a truck with a beer in your hand. Not that I condone this behavior, but there is nothing more impressive than watching your dad hold a beer, roll down the window (with the actual window crank), and shift the truck all at the same moment. Driving through the back roads and partying in fields are all a part of growing up in the middle of nowhere and the only thing that puts a damper on the party is the sheriff (who only comes around once a month, if you’re unlucky).

8. Dangerous animals are a large part of life and you better get used to it.

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On any given day during the summer months, you can trip over rattlesnake walking through a field or run into a bear in the woods. Both of which can kill you in a matter of minutes or hours, depending on the severity of the damage they do. As of this year, one Montanan was attacked twice in the same day by the same bear! And what’s even more surprising is finding a bear in a Target parking lot or finding an elk in a schoolyard. But when I was a kid, there was one time that my mom was walking through our own backyard and almost stepped on top of a rattlesnake. There is nothing scarier than hearing a rattlesnake rattler and not knowing where it came from.

9. Dial up internet is not a thing of the past, but a thing of the present. And having cell phone service in a really desolate place is basically impossible.

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That’s right, you read that correctly. My dad still can’t get high speed internet at his house, because guess what? They don’t have wires that go out that far from town. Can you imagine not having Netflix, Hulu, Amazon? Or not being able to update your PS3 because that runs off the internet? That’s a normal occurrence for small town Montana, even today. According to a study in January of 2015 by the Federal Communications Commission, 90% of the rural population is without access to 25 Mbps Broadband internet. And overall 87% of Montana is without this access… so basically most of Montana is without broadband internet. Scary thought, huh?

10. Fireworks, sparkler bombs, tannerite, and loud guns are not a thing for only holidays, but for whenever the heck you feel the need.

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If you have never put a sparkler bomb inside a snow drift or put some tannerite inside a pumpkin and watched them blow up then you are definitely not living yet. When you live out in the middle of nowhere there is a great chance your neighbors don’t care what in the heck you do, or are so far away that they can’t hear you from their house. There was many a time when I was growing up and we would have a great Saturday full of shotguns and whatever we felt the need to shoot. That could be garbage cans, televisions, kids toys, barrels, or even straw targets put out at 100 yards. Almost every year we would even take a barrel of used oil and light the weeds on fire to decrease the fire hazard of dry grass.

Small town Montana will always be a part of who I am and where I came from and I am proud to proclaim that we are still and forever will be the LAST BEST PLACE! 

Be a “Yes Man”

“Great stories happen when we take action.” 
— Donald Miller

 

What if you were to say “yes” to more questions from people to do something or go somewhere? Would your life be different from what it is now?

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Most of us enjoy being comfortable. In fact, it’s in our DNA. We naturally want to stay in our comfort zones because we view any sort of change as negative. Being in our comfort zones keeps us safe, away from change, but it keeps us in an idle position… we cannot move forward. We cannot grow in our comfort zones.

We are habit-forming beings, meaning we shape habits that become routines. We like schedules, some for the week, some down to the minute. However firm the schedule, all accomplish the same thing: repetition. Day after day, we keep to our schedule and do the same activities, with the same people. Occasionally, we will throw in a lunch with an old friend or a nice stroll through the park… oh how exciting!

So, why not change? Why not break the cycle? Why not try something new or explore a new destination? The only thing stopping you is yourself. Take the leap of faith.

With this being said, I challenge you to a game…. A game in life. But before we begin, there are a couple rules:

  1. Be open-minded.
  2. Step out of your comfort zone.

Here is the game: Say YES!

Answer “yes” to doing things and going places you would normally turn down. Of course, only do so if the idea is something you are OK with and morally agree to. The whole point is to push you to the point of un-comfortability.

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Try it for a day or a week, maybe even a month. See where this little game takes you. You never know, maybe you will find a new hobby, land a new career opportunity, fall in love!

If you are truly passionate and all in on this idea of “yes,” I promise you that your life will change. And that change is good! Don’t be afraid of this change, embrace it and ride on it.

So on this note… enjoy life! Have fun and take risks that lead you outside of your comfort zone. This is when you will grow as a human being. Nothing exciting happens inside walls of comfort. Break out of your comfort zone and SAY YES!

Be the One Everyone Wants to Meet

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By: Lia Sbisa

It’s no secret the power and benefits that networking has to offer. We’ve been told time and time again…or not, that creating a network of influential and successful people is crucial to one’s success. At a networking event, or just in a venue full of people, we all want to have that golden conversation with the biggest name in the room. It’s only natural to feel that the more people that know them, the more people they know. Your network does not stop with that one person, it extends to all of their networks as well.

As young adults making our way into the working world, and even those already well established in the workforce, it is important to make ourselves noticed and be the differentiator that radiates uniqueness. Be the person that everyone wants to network with at an event or even just at a casual get together.

 

  • Get Involved

 

Whether you’re seasoned in your extracurriculars or just starting out, being a part of something other than work or school is a great way to a) network and b) have something to bring to the table in an introductory conversation. The more you do, the more you will relate to a broader audience (not saying overload yourself).

 

  • You do not have to hold the highest or coolest position.

 

The status you hold within a company may help your networking reputation, but it does not solely dictate how marketable your other attributes may be. Just as we learn from those top notch professionals, they learn from us. Any influential being is on the lookout for more up and coming influential beings.

 

  • Take time to learn about your own experiences and learn to talk about them.

 

If you’re a college student or newly entering the workforce, become an expert on your experiences (internships, jobs, campus news, extracurriculars). Networking with older professionals can be intimidating, but much less tricky if you can relate to an experience even on the most minimum level. If you are more established in the workforce, know a little bit about a lot of things. Nothing is more attractive than being able to hold a thoughtful conversation over something that excites your audience, even if it may not be your cup of tea. This goes for anyone and everyone: READ THE NEWS. However you choose to keep up on current events, just do it, or start doing it if you do not. It is okay to admit that you do not know much about a topic, you become more interesting when you’re interested.

 

  • Be interested in who you’re talking to.

 

As previously stated, you become more interesting when you’re interested. Just a rule of thumb (whether you want to admit it or not), everyone loves to talk about themselves. Be able to relate to a few key topics during a conversation (talk about a travel destination that you have in common, ask about the company they work for and how they got to their position). People like you more when they think you like them just as much if not more.

 

  • Initiate a relationship that grows beyond your initial introduction.

 

Do not let the relationship end with the end of a conversation. If the conversation allows, briefly share your goals for your near future and give a rough timeline of where you’ll be in the next few months and express your interest in keeping in touch. Find common ground and set up a time to check in if you have established a relationship that will last longer than just one conversation. Grab a business card and follow up the conversation with an e-mail reminding whoever it is that you enjoyed their time and throw in your favorite topic from that conversation. 

Believe that you are worth meeting. Be interested. Involve yourself in things that you enjoy. Make people believe you’re worth meeting.