Jennifer K. Snyder

Developing People; Engaging Employees

Category: Personal Growth

5 Steps to Easier Writing: A Proven Model

by equusnyder

End of ropeYou’re sitting at your computer, staring at the blank screen. Your article is due tomorrow, and while you have an idea of what you’d like to say, you just don’t know where to begin. You become increasingly stressed. The words you type go nowhere. You get up for another cup of coffee, convinced that it’s caffeine that will stimulate your neurons. Still nothing. Perhaps your blood sugar level is dipping. A pint of Ben and Jerry’s will fix that. Nothing. You need to just clear your head so you take the dog for a walk down the street. You get back to your computer. And there it is. The cursor, at the top of the blank page, mocking you every time it blinks.

At a recent District Toastmasters Conference, I had the pleasure of attending an educational session taught by comedian and speaker, Darren LaCroix. The topic was “Create a Keynote: How to Write a Speech Step-by-Step.” I listened with interest as Darren took us through the motions and quickly realized the writing model he was using went well beyond speeches. It was an all-purpose model that could be used in many areas of writing.

He used a model developed by Patricia Fripp. The power in “The Fripp Speech Model™” is in its simplicity. I often have students who struggle to get their words on paper. I’ve shared traditional writing models with them in the past, only to watch them struggle further. Many of them know what to say, they just don’t know how to get it out in a logical form. They spend hour after hour writing, deleting, and moving text around. Some of them freeze from the start, not even knowing where to begin.

The Fripp Speech Model addresses both of these issues with five steps:

  1. Clarify your premise.
  2. Form your foundational phrase.
  3. Create your closing.
  4. Create your opening.
  5. Prove your premise.

What makes it especially easy is that once you write out each step, it’s just a matter of tying them all together. LaCroix illustrated each of these points through his own speaking journey. He shared how powerful stories are in capturing your audience. He also gave us a couple of his own strong foundational phrases: “What do I want my audience to do, think, or feel?” “Make your last words linger.” “Get your audience to picture themselves in the story.”

Last WordsThe model is not unlike many models I learned in my journalism classes, but for me it was a fresh perspective I could share with my students when it seemed like nothing else would work. It’s truly an all-purpose model, one that I’ve even used in writing this blog post.

If you struggle to get the words out, give Fripp’s model a try. The simplicity and direction will guide you into an effective and impactful article.

Do You Even Know You’re Stressed? What to Do When Stress Comes Knockin’ at Your Door

by equusnyder

StressI’ve been reading a lot recently about managing stress.
I had a professor in the latter part of my college career tell me, “Stress isn’t always bad; stress is part of what gets us out of bed in the morning.”

In my previous career as an instructional designer at Crew Training International, our company taught Stress Management primarily to pilots. You can understand how their job might be a tad bit stressful.

I learned a lot from my colleagues, themselves former fighter pilots. For instance, did you know that you often show warning signs of stress long before you realize you are stressed?

Here are some warning signs you may observe in yourself or others:

Mental Warning Signs

  • Lose ability to process information
  • Less able to plan/think ahead
  • Responses are spontaneous and limited in scope
  • Overreact to stimuli
  • Difficulty in perceiving patterns and relationships
  • Difficulty in focusing on and reading information
  • Miss subtle environmental cues
  • Revert to familiar “tried and true” behavior
  • Withdraw; inability to respond

Physical Warning Signs

  • Tensing of muscles
  • Heart rate increases/rapid beats
  • Breathing rapid, shallow, and irregular breaths
  • Skin cools; begin to sweat

Male StressedThese warning signs can tell you when you are encountering stress, but enduring stress in extended periods can be harmful. You may begin a habitual pattern of responding to non-threatening events as if they were threatening. In addition, because there is no time for the body and/or brain to recover, long-term stress can overwork the body and brain to the point of exhaustion.

According to the Mayo Clinic, long-term stress can raise the primary stress hormone, cortisol. When that happens,

“It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.” Stress Management

Long-Term Warning Signs include:

  • Depleted energy levels
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Lack of concentration
  • Poor memory
  • Digestive problems
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight loss/gain

My colleagues also taught me that stress can be managed. Stress can be reduced in part by planning, including establishing priorities, focusing on things that are within our control, and by seeking support when we are overloaded.

In addition, experts at Mayo Clinic recommend:

Identifying what stresses you and how to take care of yourself physically and emotionally in the face of stressful situations. Everyone handles stress differently.

  • Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep
  • Practicing relaxation techniques or learning to meditate
  • Fostering healthy friendships
  • Having a sense of humor
  • Seeking professional counseling when needed

So, am I stressed? Most decidedly.

Do I manage it well? Pick your day. I have learned what events triggers stress in me, and for the most part can be proactive in my reaction. I’ve also learned that pre-planning as much as possible for stressful events can often times both alleviate the stress before it arrives and better prepare me when things don’t go as planned.

What are your trigger points? What are your warning signs? How do you respond? What can you do to turn stressful challenges into productive opportunities?