Life is like a huge banquet. At the table we can taste everything.

--(Dr.) Lauren Slater, author, Prozac Diary

The Light Bulb Flashes! ! !


Writers, Illustrators, and Thinkers Inspire Us

Every so often we need to be inspired by what other writers and thinkers have said about this business of writing. Let's face it. You will spend most of your life writing. The goals you set will determine whether you enjoy the task. Never treat writing as drudgery. It can be a mind-expanding experience that will change your life. You may be fortunate to have an article published or, perhaps, a book written. There is no greater joy than seeing your name in print. Get excited about the life of writing, especially business writing.

Still, you can make an impact with a simple memo or a directive. Someone, including your boss, may praise you for the clearness of your communication. You have achieved more than you ever realized. Become inspired to write well about anything you have to prepare. The simple act of writing a web page, for example, can be an inspiring experience.

Inspiring Words Occur in All Kinds of Sources

Today like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened.
Don't open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down the dulcimer (four-stringed instrument) and let the beauty we love by what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
source: Learning Organizations, p. 508, 1995

The famous illustrator, Al Hirschfield, who draws for The New York Times and the New Yorker magazine, believes in living life to its fullest:

Living is an art. You make it up as you go along.

Al Hirschfield knows what he speaks of. His cartoons of famous Broadway and movie illustrators have graced many programs and many magazine covers. In his 90s at this writing, I suspect Mr. Hirschfield will delight audiences with his clever drawing lines and stark contrasts for years to come.

"I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It's totally for myself. I never, in my wildest dreams expected . . ."

J. K. Rowling said those words. As the author of the Harry Potter series and the latest book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K. Rowling has inspired us with her perceptions about children. She has also become one of the hottest selling authors on the market with three of her books reaching the top ten on the New York Times' Best Seller Fiction List. It is no small achievement for a woman who used to spend part of her days scribbling and doodling on a pad in a Scottish restaurant.

Procrastination Becomes Rehearsal

The other day my wife remarked me that I hadn't accomplished enough in one evening. I explained to her I wasn't procrastinating, I was rehearsing. At that time of the evening I was worried about putting off a report for a professional organization that needed editing. Instead of worrying you are probably saying I should have been working on the report paragraph by paragraph. Still, I found my notes and pondered what the other members of the committee wanted me to change. That is a form of rehearsing even though I was procrastinating. When it came time late in the evening to start the editing, I knew what had to be done at the computer keyboard. I am indebted to Roy Peter Clark in his book, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer(New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2006, p. 200)when he gave all writers hope about procrastinating: "Almost all writers procrastinate, so there's a good chance that you do, too. Even among professionals, delay takes many forms." Therefore, the next time you are procrastinating on a writing project, think of the situation as constructive, not destructive (Clark, p. 200). Writing is an unusual process. Clark believes you write with your head before you write with your hands (Clark, p. 202). Actually, the procrastinating, whether walking, eating, or music listening, for examples, represents a prelude to planning and preparation (Clark, p. 202). What Clark is giving us as a concept doesn't mean we should postpone all tasks to the last minute. However, this view of writing and procrastination may serve you well on your next writing task.

Inspiration Software Provides Benefits

When you first look at Inspiration Software, all you see is a blank grid with one box labeled Main Idea. Then, you realize how powerful the program can become. You are embarking on a thinking journey that will change the way you view reports, outlines, essays, memos, and presentations. You begin to cluster think your ideas. You use the mindmap shown by the grid in Inspiration Software to create a document or a presentation. From your Main Idea flows thinking and the ability to visualize a written piece of work. You move quickly and create each box that further builds your document or your presentation. Then, the power of Inspiration Software takes over. You create an outline from your ramblings and patterns of thought. You see your document or presentation in ways you never imagined. The thinking appears on the screen and suggests other ways to think. You can change your outline by building families of ideas. Each Roman numeral and number on the outline can be changed to build the family differently. You see all the benefits come to life on the computer screen:

  1. Visualizes thinking and ability to see patterns
  2. Prepares mind to receive new thoughts
  3. Places patterns of thinking in more logical order
  4. Allows brainstorming on computer screen of unrelated ideas
  5. Ranks ideas in order of importance by outlining mechanism
  6. Branches thinking from Main Idea to all subordinate ideas of document or presentation

Mindmaps Provide Flow of Ideas

This link, Inspiration, also allows us to look at the Inspiration Software and some of its more efficient uses. When you prepare a mindmap with the help of Inspiration or any suitable program, you are venturing into creativity. At that point you need to remember the thinking of Tony Buzan, originator of radiant thinking and the term, mindmap. Buzan believes you should try to confine each box or icon to one noun. He believes you will generate more ideas with nouns than verbs and adjectives. Nouns are less limiting. Nouns allow the mind to more fully grasp new thoughts. Nouns allow the branching of many boxes. Nouns drive the mindmap.

Nouns Drive the Mindmap

Let's say you are writing a report about why the union contracts are turned down at a particular entertainment company. If you place, "unionism," as your first or "main idea" box, you are limiting how the report will be developed. Please remember that mindmaps can be used to generate proposals, reports, essay exam outlines, and to-do lists. As an all-inclusive activity, mindmaps cause you to think. Therefore, why not try "negotiation" as the main-idea box? It expresses what the report problem contains and allows a freewheeling thinking with the mindmap approach.

Turn Verbs and Adjectives into Nouns

Our next concern is the ordering of information with a hierarchy of nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Go for the nouns in most instances because the mind can more freely spin with nouns. Let's say you have written the word, numerous, in one of the boxes of your mindmap. Why not try variety or size, depending on the context of your report? "Collect" can become collection. "Dissatisfied" can become Dissatisfaction. "Long" can become length. "No response" can become two noun boxes of "Response" and "None." A thesaurus may even help to trigger the mind for more nouns.

Directions Aid Inspiration 6.0 Operation


Compiled by Dr. G. Jay Christensen

You are embarking on a new adventure with software. For the first time you have the opportunity to use all the "bells and whistles" of this much-used program. To do a more effective job with the commands, icons, and buttons, you need these tips:

First, you need to find the program. Here are the steps:

Before You Begin
  1. Login with your Student I.D. and Password.
  2. Find Start in the left hand corner of the screen and move to Programs.
  3. At Programs, look for Inspiration Pro 6.0 and the icon with the Stars.
  4. Click on that command.

    Symbol Palette

    The large vertical area with geometric shapes to the left of the screen is called the Symbol Palette. Here you can test the symbol about whether you to place that representation on the Diagram. As soon as you click on a symbol, that symbol appears larger to you to decide on its significance for your mindmap.

    Saving a Box

    You face a dilemma when you remove "Main Idea" and substitute your noun. How do I save that box? Here are the steps:

  5. Press Shift and Return to always save a box you have keyboarded.
  6. Otherwise, the box, especially Main Idea, will not remain what you keyboarded.
  7. This operation ensures you will save your golden words.

    Inside the Program--Diagram View

  8. You are looking at a grid and one box labeled Main Idea and the Diagram View.
  9. Study the screen for the different buttons.
a. Outline View--toggles back and forth to the outline from the Diagram View.
b. New Look--sets default for new symbols and attributes. Not used as much as other buttons.
c. RapidFire--lets you link ideas quickly. You create boxes as fast as you can think of them without regard to organization.
d. Symbol Link--creates a new symbol linked to the last one you created.
e. Link(shaped like a misshapen fork)--creates a link between two symbols.
Caution: Start with the box you want to link to. Then, press the link button. Go back to the box you want to link from. Click on that box and move to the box you want. Finish linking by pressing the first box again. You should not have an arrow connected. Click anywhere in the grid to make the arrow more permanent and to remove the "linking symbol" from the grid.
f. Add Notes--opens the notes section so you can add ideas below or around the geometric shapes.
g. Create(vertical arrows)--allows the arrows to be placed vertically and horizontally to connect the boxes.
h. Create(angled arrows)--allows the arrows to be placed sidewise up and down for the placement of boxes or circles.
Caution: Be careful about how vigorously you move the boxes around on the screen. You have to stay with the dotted vertical and horizontal lines. I would tend to move the boxes individually rather than always using the "grabber hand."
i. Arrange--lets you arrange the symbols as organization charts or trees of some sort.
A Look at the Screen Bottom

As you look to the bottom left of the Diagram View, you see an arrow pointing to two heights of so-called "mountains." The smaller "mountain" allows you to zoom in. The larger "mountain" allows you to zoom out. Do you see the figure, 100? That means the percentage of the work you are doing that can be seen. You may want 75 or 150 percent. You decide as you are developing your mindmap and outline.

Inside the Program--Outline View

You have "toggled" to the outline view. A whole new series of buttons confronts you:
Ready to Print
  1. Check the Print Preview to see if the diagram fits just the page.
  2. Then, go to File and Print.
  3. Make sure the fit to page is "buttoned" or clicked.
  4. Ask instructor if page looks right before actual printing to save printing account allowance.
Don't Forget to Save
  1. Go to command, File, and Save.
  2. Name your document.
  3. Quit the program and exit.
Caution: Don't forget to Save the Diagram before printing. Don't forget to Save the Outline before printing.

Concepts to Remember

Inspiration 6.0 works with the view you are in. If you started in Diagram, it will return to that view when you restart the program.

The Great Writers Pronounce Their Wisdom

From the subject of mindmaps, let's turn our thinking to some of the great writers and thinkers past and present. Let's hear what some of the authorities in writing have to say about the writing task.

"I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork."
--Peter De Vries.
The famous actor and playwright, Noel Coward, made the following statement: "I love criticism just so long as it's unqualified praise."
Ernest Hemingway, the famous author of The Old Man and the Sea and A Farewell to Arms, has this to say about the joy of writing: "The writer must write what he has to say, not speak it."

Gene Fowler, the famous Western writer and author of Pikes Peak, provided a writing quote for us: "Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead."

William Faulkner, the famous Southern novelist, suggested we need to read widely when he said:
"Read, read, read. Read everything-trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it.
Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master.
Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it
out the window."
A point aside: Faulkner speaks a great deal of truth. I find, if I pick up and read one chapter from one book and then select another book, my life is richer. I have now been exposed to two authors. Their ideas may be quite different. Still, I have tried to become a verbivore, a lover of words. To write any business communication well, you must become a verbivore.

Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver's Travels, talked about proper words when he said: "Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of style."
Don't be afraid to revise your work again and again. Samuel Johnson, the friend of Ben Jonson, talked about effort in writing: "What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure."

All of these quotes are coming from a colorful book, W.O.W. (Writers on Writing), by Jon Winokur (Philadelphia: Running Press, 1990).

Words Inspire from Anywhere

Sometimes we just hear words that inspire us in general. Such a quote is from John Hockenberry, author of the book, Moving Violations:
Life is to be reinvented. What is normal is to adapt.
If we could remember these resounding words every time we feel sorry for ourselves, John's message would be forever ingrained. He has been in a wheelchair since about his mid-30's after being injured in an automobile accident. Lately, a webmaster from the John Hockenberry site has recommended that I change the age to 19 when John was first injured in an automobile accident as a passenger. He is considered a paraplegic for most of his news reporter life.

Scientific Programs Also Give Us Inspiration

Paraphrased: The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.
Source: A Science Odyssey (A TV program), 1-12-98

Will Rogers Provides Success Formula

"If you are to be successful in what you are doing, love what you are doing, and believe in what you do."
Source: Outlook, Spring, 1996

The Academy Awards Offer Us Insight

The 1998 Academy Awards (for 1997 pictures) brought us memorable lines from major stars. During his interview, Robin Williams, winner of best supporting actor, offered us "dramady" instead of comedy. Kim Baisinger, winner of best supporting actress, told Barbara Walters, the interviewer and co-anchor of 20/20 news program, that Kim succeeded because she "beat the fears in her life." Peter Fonda, nominated for best actor, has posted a sign on his computer: "no whining." Billy Crystal, host of the 70 Academy Awards, summed the awards evening: "It's late. I'm hungry."

Dr. Morrie Inspires Us about Facing Death

Normally, you would not expect to find this subject under business writing. Think, though, about the recent best seller, Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom, sportswriter and columnist for the Detroit Free Press. Mitch spent myriad Tuesdays with his former sociology professor at Brandeis, Dr. Morrie Schwartz, finding out what makes Morrie tick. In chapter after chapter Mr. Albom relates the courage of Dr. Morrie. One phrase continues to stay in my mind: "Death ends a life, not a relationship." How many of you have lost loved ones or friends to dreaded diseases, car accidents, and just plain bad luck? Dr. Morrie died of ALS slowly, better known as Lou Gehrig's (the famous Yankee baseball player of years back) Disease. Mitch watched his former professor waste away with no movement in hands and legs. He moved Morrie's glasses to the face and propped up the pillow during the Tuesday sessions. Dr. Morrie and Mitch had special subjects to discuss each Tuesday, such as Fear, Aging, Greed, Family, Society, and Forgiveness. As Mitch said in his concluding words of the book, "The teaching goes on."

The book touched me deeply. I was not even able to say goodbye to a dear friend I had known in professional organizations. She died of alcoholism--alone and uncared for. I watched my aunt waste away with lymph cancer. My dad died of prostate cancer. I listened to a doctor say on public broadcasting TV we should have a "good death." Dr. Morrie said his inner thoughts when he was interviewed three times by Nightline's Ted Koppel, "Don't let go too soon, but don't hang on too long."

Star Trek Conquers the Planet

On a lighter note you may be a Trekker or a Star Trek fan. I ran across the most fascinating book, Future Perfect: How Star Trek Conquered Planet Earth, by Jeff Greenwald during summer, 1998. After hearing him speak at a Pasadena bookstore and read from his book, I have vowed to complete the book. He describes Klingon picnics/suppers in Germany, attitudes about Hungarians identifying with Star Trek characters as "outsiders," and Japanese trekkers liking the orderliness and cleanliness of the Enterprise.
Jeff mentions in his book the special meeting with Mr. Spock or Leonard Nimoy, who, at the time of the writing, was in his late 60's. Mr. Greenwald expected to be greeted with "Live Long and Prosper," along with the proper salute.

Did you know that a fish line was used and tied to two of Spock's fingers so the Vulcan hand symbol could be used in the movies and television episodes? Jeff describes in the book how intimidated he was with Mr. Nimoy at first and continued to look for those Vulcan ears. Eventually, Mr. Greenwald recognized normal ears and had an hour conversation with Nimoy about the development of Star Trek. Nimoy impressed Jeff as someone who has "been there and done that." Nimoy comments during the interview that Star Trek was originally a language, and the viewer has to listen carefully to the words. According to Future Perfect, Nimoy created a character, Spock, that people identified with. Children were not scared of this strange person with funny ears. Women wanted to nurture Spock because of his "coolness." Women wanted to provide warmth to Spock. Teenagers who want their own identity prefer Spock who says, "This is the way I am; deal with it." If you can imagine, Nimoy closed the interview with Jeff by looking at the Mickey Mouse wristwatch.

Glennie Tells a Basic Truth

If you have never heard Evelyn Glennie, the famous percussionist, vibraphonist, xylophonist, and musician, who cannot hear, you have not lived. She feels every beat and every note in her body. She has a funny phrase that sums how we should think when approaching problems and situations:

"If you are going to make a mistake, make a big one."

Apparently, Glennie believes we can carry on, even after making a big no-no. Doesn't that give all of us hope?

Alice Walker Shines a Light

When Alice Walker, the famous author of The Color Purple, appeared on Oprah, she expressed some profound truths about life. Walker believes the highest form of yourself is to be yourself. She phrased the question to Oprah Winfrey this way: "What else is there?" It is good to learn what we have learned and light the darkness. Walker believes out of the darkness comes the light. From that light emerges growth and sustenance. How are those comments for inspiration?

Conservative Economists Teach Us Thinking Power

Every so often I like to listen to liberal and conservative economists. Economics is not the dull science it is usually portrayed as. One such individual is Milton Friedman who believes strongly in private property. He said on a talk show, Think Tank, with Ben Wattenberg that you cannot have liberty without private property. Obviously, he believes the government is not performing as well as it should, as enunciated in his new book, Two Lucky People, co-authored with his wife, Rose. Friedman on the program raised the following thought-provoking question: "What kind of game will produce the best society?" Friedman believes the future of humanity depends on the growth of knowledge.

Julia Cameron Gives Us Inspirational Exercises

You have not lived as a writer until you read Julia Cameron's book, The Right to Write. At the end of each chapter Julia gives you exercises to start you thinking about writing and overcoming so-called writer's block. The initiation tool caught my eye as an exercise we all can do. You fill in as rapidly as possible the following ten items. Then, you write the opposite of the negative thought or hidden association you had with writers. You say on the right hand side of your paper: "Real writers are, for example, recognized." Suppose you write that "Writers are crazy." Then, you could follow that item with "Writers are inspirational" to stress the more positive side of writers.

  1. Writers are:
  2. Writers are:
  3. Writers are:
  4. Writers are:
  5. Writers are:
  6. Writers are:
  7. Writers are:
  8. Writers are:
  9. Writers are:
  10. Writers are:

    At the Pasadena Playhouse one morning Julia Cameron shared with some 300 budding writers other exercises to get them in the writing mood. Try writing five situations where you need writing. You could, for example, say "letters" as a situation. Does that make sense? Now, go ahead and write different situations not covered by the example.

    Tricks of the Trade Help Our Writing

    Ms. Cameron calls some of her ideas tricks of the trade. At Pasadena she grouped her "tricks" into five categories:

    • Sandwich call

      Comment: You "sandwich" or interperse this telephone call somewhere in your busy day. You say to the person on the other end of the line: "I can't talk to you now; I need to do some writing." This other person is amenable to your writing needs. You might also say: "I don't feel like writing. I am going to try writing for a little while and then call you back." Julia believes you experience some guilt that you actually do some writing after replacing the telephone receiver.
    • Writing station

      Comment: People who write--and most people write for a living--need several writing stations. You usually have a desk and computer. How attractive is that main writing station? That station looks like work. Now, let's consider some other writing stations. Remember all you need is a pad (8 1/2 x 11 lined) and a pencil or pen. Your second writing station could be a comfortable chair in the living room. Your third writing station could be the kitchen table. Your fourth writing station could be a booth in a coffee house or cafe takeout table. Your fifth writing station could be a park bench. Do you get the idea? We need to find some place to create thoughts and write those inspirational words.

    • Writing date

      Comment: You need to set aside one day a month or whatever to write for approximately one and one-half hours. You call up another friend who is also a writer and make that writing date. You could also choose a visual artist or someone in entertainment. It should be someone who likes to read. You say you will meet at your favorite eating establishment. You both write for that time period and do not interrupt each other. Think what you could accomplish.

    • Writing buddy

      Comment: You find another writing buddy, perferably the person you made the telephone call to earlier. You and writing buddy talk about your different projects and encourage each other.

    • Friendly reader.

      Comment: Julia Cameron reminds us that writing course and workshops usually have several people who contribute their thoughts and toss their projects for all to read. Your friendly reader can only comment on your strengths. We are not looking for the red pencil. We do not want to hear: "I have grave problems with your plot." Your friendly reader must love words and reading. It is always easy to find a critic, not necessarily a friendly reader.

      You may want to return to the home page for further help.
      Last updated Thursday, August 31, 2006