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.  

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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

Group Projects Are Bullshit

by Bridger Frandsen

You know the drill. You’re sitting in class when the professor explains the next dreadful group project. Instead of letting you choose your group, meaning your friends or the smart fucker in class, he demands you count off by numbers, randomly assigning you to your new clusterfuck.

Now it’s awkward

You find yourself in a 4 week long polygamist marriage with 5 strangers.

There’s always one who isn’t a complete stranger though. You’ve had classes together for years but now you have to awkwardly ask them their name because you didn’t care to remember it in the past.

You get stuck with that overly outgoing guy in class that you want to punch in the dick already, and now you have to listen to his bullshit in your spare time. There’s a reason none of you are friends, and its painfully uncomfortable putting on a half assed smile as you introduce yourself.

You get to exchange phone numbers and emails, 35 useless digits that take up space in your phone. Leading to the group text message that inches you closer to homicide every time someone suggests meeting up to collaborate.

Group think

For the uneducated who don’t know what this means, group think is a decision making process that discourages creativity or individual responsibility. For example, when overly confident Carol chimes in and nobody has the balls to refute her, her idea stands, whether or not her idea is worth the ingrown hair on my left nut. Or perhaps the hot dumb girl is in your group. She presents a stupid ass idea, and because you want to treat her like your big toe and bang her on every piece of furniture in your house, you smile and agree with her senseless suggestion.

Low Priority

Everyone has shit they’d rather do instead. When you’ve got a few weeks to finalize your presentation, might as well put it on the back burner. This is college, you procrastinate. We let it marinate in a shit stew until the night before. Then, when it’s time to rise to the occasion, like the drunken students we are, we word vomit all over our professor’s lap and hope for a pitiful C.

Schedules

You’re busy with other classes, assignments, exams, and your job. Five students will rarely have overlapping free time. You have a personal life and don’t want to spend your precious free time working on a project you don’t give a damn about with people you don’t like.

Free loaders

There’s never an equal distribution of the work load. There’s the group leader and one person who isn’t retarded that they can bounce ideas off of. Other than these two, everyone else is useless. The excruciating part is everyone is going to receive the same grade, even though two never showed up to a meeting. Tom was too hungover and Susan was on her knees getting her A- for another class. Still, the workhorse and the worthless turd get the same grade. Too bad it’s not like survivor where you can vote off the village idiot.

 

Unfortunately group projects are abundant in college courses. Professors see the importance of teamwork and use these agonizing assignments in an attempt to improve our cooperation skills. Group projects are inevitable. Each a nightmare in its own. When given a group project, don’t be one of the douchers mentioned earlier.

American TV vs. British TV

American TV vs British TV
Who makes them better?

As a student, it’s pretty common for us to succumb to the stagnation of human movement and sit for hours’ binge watching tv shows (it’s almost a rule of nature). Lately for me it’s a continuous battle whether to watch more British television or more American television.
Maybe I’ve made myself more open to it than others but for me in recent years I find that the quality of TV originating from English broadcasting companies, predominantly BBC, are constantly improving the quality of TV that we’re looking for.

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Over the last few years, in majority, American script writers have lacked originality (I’m not saying they’re not of high quality). There has been a burst on the American streamline for everything and anything superhero, although I am a fan to most if not all of them, I do have a keen interest for watching something that is always different and unique. Nearly every network on the American agenda has a current or future development for a superhero television series (Take a look at the CW they have 4 ongoing series at the moment). What essentially seems to be the problem is that America has a stereotype or rather continuous dramatic plot lines. Example – how many takes of detective shows are there? We’ve got CSI, Hawaii Five-0, a few NCIS’, Criminal Minds, Castle, Lucifer … (My brain is spinning thinking of this many already).

Compared this to what’s being broadcast in the UK – for example the long running sci-fi series Doctor Who. It has been running from the 60’s with its revival in 2005 and is going strong since. While initially introduced to educate its audience on astronomy it brings together different creative elements that make it a masterpiece – horror, comedy, drama (who doesn’t love some of it) and the ability to open your mind to endless possibilities of secret civilizations, different worlds while also making its connection to the 21st century. I can’t think of an American tv show that does this, at least not off the top of my head! (Could argue your case for Supernatural!)

In the past, a few American networks have had countless takes on attempting to remake British TV and introduce it into the US and the failures certainly outweigh the success’.
Obvious failures include Little Britain, Skins, Misfits, The IT Crowd and The Inbetweeners. Very few have proven successfully including Shameless and The Office.

The main reason for this high failure rate (if the fact that America tried to remake Little Britain into “Little Britain USA” wasn’t the first clue) is that humour between the 2 nations are extremely different. Firstly, English humour (similar to Irish humour) embarks on a much more sometimes darker humour than expected, much of the time people take the absolute piss out of each other (translation = people spend much of their time mocking each other) especially to those you dislike but also there’s a tendency to do it to yourself.

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If it was obviously apparent from the GIF screenshot, this example of Sherlock backs up my point – and also, who played Sherlock better: Robert Downey Jr vs Benedict Cumberbatch? Obviously goes to Benedict Cumberbatch. The first mistake you’ve already made is if you’re aware of this incredible show and have put it on the back-burner (Please fix that immediately)

I also feel like “foul” language or cursing doesn’t seem appropriate for American shows – as I’ve come to know them as Cable and Network channels with Cable TV allowing for it up to a certain level. English TV, depending on the culture that is being depicted, the characters, and the overall form of the TV show you could have every character cursing maybe a dozen times in just one sentence (probably the reason why Misfits USA never went ahead)
I’m only rejoicing to the fact that America haven’t tried to disrupt the long-running sci-fi Doctor Who. Can’t imagine that being successful!

I think the most obvious way to describe the change in humour is comparing the two primary characters of the US Office, one of the successful remakes, and the UK Office – Michael Scott a more exuberant character who could still be childish compared to David Brent’s dark and narcissistic character.

In my opinion anyway, I do feel that the quality of tv and script writing in the UK market definitely trumps over the American market (probably because I’m Irish and I understand both extremely well while some American’s wouldn’t understand the writing or have a hard grasp on the accent). I also think that the repetitious storylines don’t help – but who knows? The market seemed to have moved away from teen drama/comedies (Dawson’s Creek / The OC / One Tree Hill / Gossip Girl etc.) from the early 2000’s to dominating superhero’s in 2016. Maybe something new will come in the not so distant future?!
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