Posts tagged with “writing”

Content: There’s an App for That?

Thursday, 6 October, 2011

I recently came across Inbound Writer through a friend. I’ve shared my brief thoughts on it with the students in my Writing for the Web class blog, but it’s worth repeating here…

Inbound Writer bills itself as the “first social writing application”. It combines a keyword search tool, SEO prompts, a text editor and social media platforms. As a writer, I’m not sure how I feel about it. It comes across as a DIY writing with SEO tool, which is most definitely useful, but what concerns me is the impact of something like this on the quality of the writing. The number one rule of SEO, as far as I am concerned, is that you still need to write for people, not search engines, and although I’m sure this tool is useful in many ways, I don’t think it can or should replace a writer.

Maybe I just feel that way because I don’t like the idea of an app taking my job?


Creative Path Series III: Isabella Mori

Tuesday, 27 July, 2010

I’d like to welcome Isabella Mori, a Twitter friend, to the Creative Path Series. Read more about her and her pursuit of creativity, and feel free to add comments below.


Isabella Mori is a Vancouver writer and counsellor. Born in Germany to the painter Juergen von Huendeberg and his wife Elisabeth, she has lived in the UK, Paraguay and Chile. She immigrated to Canada in 1982. Isabella is the mother to three wonderful children and grandmother to the two most perfect grandsons ever to grace the universe.

While her mother tongue is German (and her grandmother tongue Russian), she writes mostly in English, with a little German and Spanish thrown in for spice. She blogs about psychology, creativity, spirituality and social justice at change therapy.

1. How long have you been a creative?

As Picasso said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” I was just lucky that growing up in an artistic family, not all of my creativity got stunted (although being told to take up the violin when I was 5 sure put a damper on my musical creativity). I was fascinated with typewriters all my life and made my first money by typing addresses for an invitation to a gallery opening for my father, who was a painter. And what did this 6-year-old do with it? Buy a fountain pen. I tried my first novel when I was 11.

Now you might say that because I talk about typewriters and novels, I should have said that I’m a writer. Which I am. But it’s more than that – and yes, I said “it’s”, not “I am.” The expression of my creativity may be most obvious in the word – in writing, and in conversation (I make my money as a counsellor) – but it is everywhere. “It” – creativity – moves through me in many ways, be it cooking, writing, thinking … it’s everywhere.

2. Is this your full time job? A career goal? A hobby?

It’s what I do.

3. If this is not your full time career, do you struggle to make time for this? Is there anything you do to ensure you make time?

While I also do lots of writing for my paid work (among other things, I blog and create resumes and artist’s bios), I do struggle often with making space for other creative writing efforts. Note I said “space” – not time. Making time is relatively easy (e.g. for a while, I did not allow myself to go to bed unless I had written a poem); making headspace is a bit more challenging. In the end, “just do it” wins just about every time, for example when I participate in NaNoWriMo, the annual challenge on the internet to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November.

4. If this is your full time job, how did you achieve this?

The part that is my paid work – the easy answer would be “it just happened.” However, this “just” was long and arduous. First, I inched myself closer and closer, not even knowing what I was doing. I always found a way to carve out a creative niche for myself, although for the longest time, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to call it that. The strangest time was when I worked for a lawyer and would occasionally make incomprehensible mistakes; only later did I realize that was my creativity forcing its way through. Shortly after, when I was going through a difficult separation, I was able to make the jump into the counselling field. Education – university and all that – gave me some credentials but also sharper tools in thinking and expressing myself, mostly through taking courses in philosophy. I’d say I’ve achieved where I am right now through refusing to work in an environment that does not allow me to be creative.

5. How do you deal with “naysayers”… you know, those voices/people who keep asking when the phase is going to pass? Or negative criticism about your work/creative endeavor?

I don’t hang out with people who are unsupportive of who I am.

As for most of us, the biggest challenge are my inner gremlins. There is the Procrastinator, then there is Mr. Nobody-Cares-What-You’re-Doing and good ol’ You’ll-Never-Be-Able-To-Finish-This. The trick is to catch them talking out loud, then I can usually do something about it. The Procrastinator is easily defeated by simply doing one little thing – even a little haiku on Twitter – right now. The “nobody cares” voice can often be countered quite rationally by saying that a) it doesn’t matter and b) remembering there are at least a handful of people (including myself!) who do. The last one is the trickiest; being accountable to others really helps there. Unfortunately, finding someone suitable and reliable to be accountable to can be hard. But as I said, being attuned to those negative is a bit difficult; I’ve always been the kind of person who is more successful dealing with a direct challenge than with the quiet, subtle manipulation that those negative voices are so good at.

6. What would your dream project be?

Oh Gawd, you want the list? Ok, here’s one thing: I’ve always wanted to be a corporate philosopher. Work in a biggish organization, wandering the halls having deep conversations with people. Mostly for the fun of it (I’m really, really big on fun!) but also to help the organization become wiser, more creative and more humane, and to become a better force for the good in the world.

7. Is there something you have worked on that you are especially proud of? Or received accolades for?

There’s a few things that I look back on with a big grin on my face. Creating Mental Health Camp with my friend Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega, a conference about the intersection between social media and mental health, is one of them, particularly since the 3rd Mental Health Camp had a strong artistic component. Another one is my Tea Table Book which I created with my friend and book coach Carol Sill. In it, I make poetry more accessible (I hope) by accompanying each poem with a little story. Receiving the annual best thesis award from Athabasca University for my little opus on transformative learning in distance education wasn’t bad either.

8. What does creativity mean to you?

I’m sorry but I never know what to make of the word “meaning.” That’s what happens when you deal with words a lot. It’s hard to just glide over them; their sound, their many dictionary meanings, they way they look on a page, even the way they feel in the body when I say them – all of it easily sparks thoughts, associations, dreams, none of it seems insignificant. But I guess before I write a few pages about the many possibilities I see in this question, I’ll move on to the next question …

9. What advice would you give to others trying to follow a similar path?

DON’T STOP! Whatever it is that you’re doing – pottery, dance, writing, filmmaking, anime, oil paintings, throat singing – DON’T STOP! It doesn’t matter whether it’s “good” or “bad” or “mediocre”, DON’T STOP! Follow your creative urge because it’s the spark of life – not just for you but for the whole wide world.

Creative Path Series I: Al Zacklen

Tuesday, 20 July, 2010

The Meerkat Creative Path series kicks off with writer, drawer, designer Al Zacklen. Al is the designer of the Meerkat logo and our ‘go to’ guy for website questions.


I am a 30-something software developer who would prefer to spend his time writing and drawing, often both at the same time. With a full-time and very demanding job it is difficult to make these more than hobbies, but I’d like to change that as soon as possible.

I have a very new blog at, and I will soon be putting examples of my writing here. You can see one of my drawings in the header of the website you’re currently reading.

1. How long have you been writing? How did you get started with it?

I’ve been writing ever since I was old enough to browse through the vast collection of books my parents had collected. In particular my dad had a fascinating selection of old sci-fi which inspired me to think up many bizarre stories and kept me speculating ever since.

2. Is this your full time job? A career goal? A hobby?

Right now it’s a hobby, but …

3. If this is not your full time career, do you struggle to make time for this? Is there anything you do to ensure you make time?

I do struggle, but I have recently been focusing more seriously on making time. I have set up a blog for myself and I will be putting the first few chapters of a story I am working on there – this is my way of prodding myself to work on completing it, since other people will be able to read it and give feedback. It’s not easy to write in the evenings after a work day, but once I get going it’s a lot of fun.

4. If this is your full time job, how did you achieve this?

It isn’t, but I am lucky enough to be in a position to make it a serious part of my working day very soon.

5. How do you deal with “naysayers”… you know, those voices/people who keep asking when the phase is going to pass? Or negative criticism about your work/creative endeavor?

Luckily for me I haven’t had anyone telling me I shouldn’t give up my current day job. As for negative criticism… if it’s valid, I’m happy to listen. You can’t please everyone all of the time, so I believe one can choose what one wishes to take to heart. It’s still your work, after all.

6. What would your dream project be?

I’ve already begun. I’ve wanted to complete a full-length novel for a long time and I am now working hard to get there. Keep an eye on my blog for a preview.

7. Is there something you have worked on that you are especially proud of? Or received accolades for?

For fun, I submitted a short story for the 2003 ITSF competition, which got me a place in the top five. That boosted my confidence somewhat.

8. What does creativity mean to you?

Building something awesome when you didn’t know you knew how.

9. What advice would you give to others trying to follow a similar path?

For anyone who is just starting on a creative path, whether it is your first novel, first drawing or first software application: Don’t be shy about showing other people what you’re working on. I have learned a lot from others, whether I liked what they told me or not – particularly how to take criticism without taking it personally.

Creative Path Series

Saturday, 17 July, 2010

Following my last post entitled “Are You Following Your Passion?“, I’ve decided to give kudos and a promotional space to those people who are doing just that… whether full time, part time, as their day job or hobby.

If you’re an artist, writer, actor, musician, photographer; participating in any creative realm, I want to hear from you! If you’d like to be interviewed (electronically), then email me: There’ll be an opportunity to link to your work/porfolio, and if you’re a visual artist, a spot for an image to be included.

I’d love to hear from you, and have you be part of the Meerkat Creative Path Series.


Are You Following Your Passion?

Monday, 21 June, 2010

I was invited to talk at the BCIT Tech Writing Alumni lunch and workshop on Saturday about using social media as a self marketing tool, as well as taking the online conversation offline. One of the other speakers, Kemp Edmonds, talked about he got into the world of social media and education, and one of the things he mentioned as his career starting point was passion.

To me, this is such a key element to success, in whatever your field of interest. You have to identify your passion, and you have to have the guts, and perhaps a bit of selfishness (in the best sense of the word) to follow that passion. It’s what motivated me to leave full time teaching and begin the adventure of Meerkat Communications.

When I was heading home after the lunch, I thought about how much I love speaking, and sharing information and knowledge with others. It was great to talk to a room full of fellow writers and also to reflect on my own journey. It also reminded me of how good it feels when you are doing what you are truly passionate about. It is energizing and also reassuring; reminding you that you are on the right path.

It got me thinking, too, about the three words I chose a long time ago to sum up what it is I do, and that are the pillars of what Meerkat Communications does as a business.


There is something about words. About how they can roll off your tongue, how they can inspire or hurt, compliment or destroy, humour or surprise. I have always loved words, and have to confess that I even love swear words. There are also certain words that I just hate. They just hurt the ears and seem wrong. I love how certain words just suit their meaning, and how others seem to say the opposite of their meanings. I love word play and jokes, poetry and prose. I really will read anything, from trashy holiday novels to serious academic journals.

I love being able to use words to create and illustrate ideas. I love helping clients express what it is that they do, and promote their company or ideas through their websites and marketing materials. It’s all about finding the right words..

I love being able to also use words to share my own information and ideas, whether it be through articles, blog posts, emails, and yes, even real letters! I am lucky enough to have some correspondents and we actually write real letters. It is such a great surprise to find a real, hand-written letter in amongst the bills and it makes such a difference from the brevity and speed of emails.


I love that I get to pursue both my passions: writing and teaching. I love been able to help my students and give them “real world” skills, and show them how using proper business writing skills can help them reach their goals. I also love helping them learn to feel more comfortable presenting in front of others. I also use my love of teaching to help people advance their skills, in the workshop context. It’s great to see people’s faces when they “get it”. It’s incredibly rewarding and I love being able to pass on ideas, tips, resources, and anything else I can think of to help other people find and promote their passion.


Through speaking engagements, workshops, teaching, my volunteer work for Wired Woman, and also through writing, I love being able to help people make connections – whether with other people, or connections in terms of ideas.  If it helps or inspires them to find their passion, or take even one step towards reaching that passion, then I feel like I have really made a difference, and helped motivate someone.

It is so easy to let the humdrum of daily life trick us into thinking that we have to do something. It is very easy to follow the security (I mean, who doesn’t want to live free of the stress of uncertainty?), but if you deny rather than embrace your passions, the stress can actually be bigger and have more of an affect on your emotions and mental well being. It is important, too, to remember (as a wise person once told me) that just because you have an aptitude for something, doesn’t mean you have to do it. You may have many passions or abilities that you can pursue.

Personally, I have been really lucky to have had great support in terms of family and friends, and wonderful mentors too, who have never let me feel like I have made a mistake and who remind me that I am doing what I love and am good at. It does, however, also take a lot of self belief and a definite leap of faith to stay on the path of your passions. I have learned to trust my instincts, and also to let people know not only what it is that I do, but also what I need help with.

If you follow your passions, your rewards are that much sweeter, but don’t feel afraid to ask for help, seek a mentor, network and put yourself out there.

You will get there.


PS – If you are looking for inspiration, you can read my review of The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People by Carol Eikleberry. I highly recommend the book.

Spring Cleaning?

Monday, 22 February, 2010

Hard to believe how time is marching on. Here in Vancouver we are right in the middle of the Olympics, of course, and so things have all but shut down everywhere as the crowds take to the streets and everywhere it’s red and white!

It’s important to remember, though, that life actually does go on and so you can’t ever really ignore those things on the to-do list. Tax time is coming up, there are articles to be written, I have midterms to set for my Business Communication students, and a lot of other things big and small to accomplish. The gorgeous sunshine we have been having (I hear the warmest winter in 114 years) makes it very hard to sit inside and do all these things as it feels like spring already out there. The cherry trees are blossoming and by tomorrow or the next day, I will have bright new daffodils in the garden. How can I possibly think about taxes at a time like this? 🙂 It’s all about balance though.

I’ve decided to attempt to do The Artist’s Way course again. About five years ago I started the book, and I have always been a ‘journaler’ and try to take myself off on Artist’s Dates as often as possible, but I really would like to try the various other activities Cameron suggests. I’ll be interested to see how it goes, and perhaps, as an accountability exercise, I will try and blog about my experiences. I also need to remind myself not to beat myself up if I don’t get through things, remembering that balance and the importance of being good to myself.

In other news, will be having an article published on Entreprenurial Woman; a fantastic online magazine aimed at female small business owners. I’ll also be starting on a new writing/SEO project soon, working in conjunction with the fabulous crew from Spectramedia. Its going to be a very busy next few months, but looking forward to it.


Dr Word Nerd: Writing as Healing?

Monday, 9 November, 2009

drsThe newest addition to the Meerkat Guest Blog Series is from Dr S, author of the Mad Medicine blog. Dr S is a young doctor performing the last few months of three years of compulsory state hospital service in Cape Town, South Africa.  Her stories should inspire fiction, yet all are real experiences from the trauma and casualty units situated in the ganglands of the city she adores.

There are shocking stories told with sarcasm, and sad stories related sentimentally. Some stories are simply hilarious, and some are just really gross.  All of them provide “fly on the wall”-type insight into the ludicrous lives of health care workers, and highlight the plight of the sick and poor accessing state hospitals in South Africa.

“Mad Medicine” indeed.

In this post, Dr S shares her insights into the therapeutic and cathartic role that communication (particularly writing) plays in her every day life. You can read more of Dr S’s thoughts and stories on her blog, Mad Medicine: A Doctor’s Dose of Mayhem.

Dr. Word Nerd

Expression is a form of therapy. Expression is a form of communication, and communicating facilitates understanding. Thus, we express ourselves to attempt self-knoweldge and to allow insight into ourselves by others.

Some dance. Some sing. I like words.I have always been a word nerd. At school, I used to breathe a sigh of relief when the English period rolled around. It was a breath of fresh air in a stuffy timetable, and thus a glorious, stimulating respite from the austeres of Maths and Science. My top seven list of favourite final matric (Grade 12) subjects went like this:







Speech and Drama.

And yet, despite my love of words and all things expressive, I ended up becoming a medical doctor in the field of health sciences. Go figure. And for six years of medical school, the only literature I was exposed to included such stimulating gems as:

  • Neurology and Neorology Illustrated.
  • Electrocardiograms made Easy
  • Chemical Pathology for Clinical Medicine.

All contained particularly important information regarding the diagnosis and treatment of patients.Yet, none provided the same thrills I experienced when studying the literary masters.

After qualifying as a doctor in 2006, I then embarked on three years of compulsory state service in South Africa. These three years have not only served to hone my medical knowlege and clinical skills, but have also taught me that my body can stay awake and function for 30 hours straight.

They have taught me that my emotions can tolerate being on the front lines of our failing war against poverty and disease and unneccesary death. I have learnt to just put my head down and get on with the business of trying to save lives, despite a severe lack of facilities, because trying to highlight the deficiencies and attempting to better the situation only brings one up against the hard wall of bureaucracy and inefficient management. I have learnt to focus on doing the best for the individual patient under my care at that particular time and taking comfort in knowing that I have made a difference in at least one person’s life. There are times, usually during a particularly difficult shift overwhelmed with violent trauma and patients who only present to the hospital at the end stages of their disease processes, when it is easy to sink in to despair.

I used to go home and cry about the shocking stories of stabbed children, abused wives, or horrific malnutrition. The regailing of those stories to my sheltered friends and family was always met with horror and disbelief that this was actually happening in our beautiful city. Being thankfully sheltered far away from the Cape Flats ganglands they simply had no idea. Which is one of the reasons I started my blog. I wanted to inform those more fortunate among us of the plight of our poverty stricken patients. I wanted to expose to those not in the know, exactly what state our government health service is in.

My husband, being an IT genius and the world’s first cyborg, was the one who suggested that I capture my stories through blogging. I have always loved to write, yet was always unsure how to develop this love. In effect, my husband simply provided me with the permission to do it, which is sometimes all one needs to begin a creative process. Like Nike says, sometimes one must “Just do it”.

What blogging has done for me is provide a sort of creative catharsis. Rather than wallow in misery, licking my emotional wounds after a trying shift, I force myself to write about my experiences. And I’ve found that by the time I’ve deposited that final fullstop, my anguish has disappeared.

And in this time of recession, it’s much cheaper than a therapist, no? This expressive process has also effected change in my attitude. Now, whenever something bizarre/terrible/hilarious/ridiculous happens at work, it immediately gets logged as a great story for my blog, rather than a reason to be upset.

This is the phenomenal healing power of expression and communication.

Upcoming Guest Blogging Series

Monday, 24 August, 2009

Typewriter - copyright Geraldine Eliot

Meerkat Guest Blogging Series – Starting September 1st 2009

Starting September 1st, we are excited to be able to share with you the perspectives and insights of a range of business professionals on the Meerkat Blog. We will be focusing particularly on writing, business communication and social media, and you will hear from SEO experts, published authors, academics, magazine and journal editors and more. We will be featuring two or more guest bloggers each month,  and invite you to comment.

Some of our guests include:

  • Mhairi Petrovic – CMO and Founder of OutSmarts, Social Media and Internet Marketing Solutions
  • Andy Hadfield – Web 2.0 Strategist at First National Bank, ZA.
  • Darlene Webb – Business and Technical Communication Instructor at BCIT
  • Dina Grskovich – Founder of DMG Strategy, Strategic Change Consultants

Stay tuned for more information, and let us know if you are interested in contributing too:

Indulging Both My Passions

Thursday, 9 July, 2009

book I count myself very lucky. Not many people can identify what it is that they love to do, nor can they create the opportunity to do it (for whatever reason). I feel so fortunate, then, that not only do I know what I love to do, but I get to do not just ONE thing I love, but TWO!

After a year’s hiatus, I have returned to teach at BCIT – this time in Part Time Studies and Continuing Education. Although I don’t entirely enjoy the admin and the preparation, nor the marking (so what does she like, I hear you ask?), I love the feeling of engaging with students, drawing them out of their shells and being able to help them achieve their goals. This is the same satisfaction I get with writing and editing work for clients.

For me, both writing and teaching revolve around idea development. I love being able to coach someone through the process of taking their ideas and turning them into concrete, tangible results – whether it be an essay or a company website. The satisfaction on a person’s face when they see those results is such a reward. I remember one student that I had who was so upset when she got 60% on a paper, but she listened to my comments and took them to heart and worked so hard that her end result was 80% – a fantastic achievement considering English is her 2nd language.

What really touched me was how proud she was of herself, especially when she came to show me a letter she had written, using all the Business Writing principles we had covered in class, to her neighbour to explain to him that he was damaging her car by bashing it with his car door. She said that he came over and apologised profusely and they sorted the matter out. Her face shone as she told me that she knew it was because of the letter she had written and she thanked me for my help. I told her that she was the one who did it, by working hard and by not giving up even though her initial grade had upset her so much.

For me, it is not a grade, or a professional title that defines someone’s worth. It is the hard work, effort and passion they put into it, as well as the refusal to give up in the face of adversity that does.

That’s definitely what I tell myself when I face a pile of marking 🙂


Finding the Recession’s Silver Lining

Thursday, 30 April, 2009

My path to starting Meerkat Communications began a while ago, with the realisation that I wasn’t happy in my position at the time as a Communication Instructor. I was hankering after my first love, writing, and felt that this wasn’t fair to my 2nd love, teaching. I mean I didn’t want to be a two-timer! I did a lot of thinking and did the decent thing – I let my 2nd love down gently and resigned (from my steady income and the good on paper job, you know, the one you can take home to your parents).

I did a lot of thinking, minor panicking,  and research, and then WHAM – The Recession hit. Circumstances meant I couldn’t find a job, which got me thinking. Why not create my own? And it seems I’m not the only one – recent stats say that jobs have increased in BC over the last few months because of a leap in the number of new companies formed (unfortunately I can’t find the article dealing with this). Somehow knowing that I am not alone makes me feel a lot better…

 In 2005, BC Government stats showed that 98% of businesses in the Province are small business, and these SBs account for over a quarter of the provincial GDP. So what could have been a total crisis actually lead to me figuring out the right path for me – something which would not have happened if I had got a job right after resigning. Strange how the universe works, isn’t it?

In the wake of the recession, many people are being forced to reassess their lives – unfortunately without the luxury of choosing to leave their jobs. There is, however, hope. Sometime these things can be a blessing in disguise because they force us to rethink the path we are on and force us to make a much needed change – for the better. Of course it is terrifying, unsettling, sometimes downright crap, but I firmly believe there is always a way to make things work. This can be a lonely path, but it is also infintely rewarding.

I want to share a valuable resource that I discovered on my journey.  The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People by Carol Eikleberry offers an insightful and practical approach to career changes. She has some fabulous quotes – so many favourites but here are two:

“Sensitivity to something combines the potential for a sublime experience with the agony of confrontation with the ordinary” (Eikleberry, p.32)

and a quote from Barbara Sher:

“Above all, don’t improve yourself. Improve the world, so that your characteristics stop being problems.”

I enjoyed the fact that this is a book that provides practical solutions and self-assessment tools, and presents creative fields as a viable option. She writes frankly and encouragingly, and it inspired me to write a book review for Suite101 – feel free to read my review and make comments – and ultimately to becoming my own boss. Obviously the book caters to a particular personality type, but many of her insights are broadly applicable. There are also plenty of other resources out there – websites, books, groups, and plenty of people who have been in the same position and can say, without having to lie to make you feel better – IT WILL ALL BE OKAY.