I Took a Sabbatical

September 30, 2014

I took a sabbatical from blogging. Actually, I never quit writing. I just quit posting.

My Journal

“We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.” – Cecil Day Lewis

When I began blogging more than half a decade ago, I gave myself permission to post when I had something to share, and to refrain when I did not. That has worked well for me. Now that I’ve returned to blogging, I’ll still adhere to that rule.

I often write my unedited thoughts in a private journal where they can incubate. Journaling helps me to sort things out, especially during times of transition and confusion. At least ninety percent of my writing is done only for me. I write to understand, and therefore I’m usually the exclusive audience. Although I am a professional communicator, only a small fraction of my writing is shared with others.

In a noisy, cluttered world, we sometimes need to be comfortable with our own solitude and silence. In a fast-paced society that demands immediate results and constant production, we sometimes need to stop and catch our breath.

We need sabbaticals to replenish our energy. We need downtime to incubate ideas. We need periods of silence to nourish creativity that would otherwise wither in the arid atmosphere that permeates where we live and work.

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How to Edit Your Own Writing

November 25, 2013

Every good writer needs a good editor. The skills required for each are usually contradictory, though. Writing requires creativity whereas editing demands critiquing what has already been created.

Sometimes it works well for a writer to also serve as his or her own editor, though it’s nearly impossible to do both simultaneously.

My daughter is a strong communicator and often edits my blog posts. Recently she suggested this topic, and she even emailed me the following tips on how to edit your own writing:

  1. Give yourself time to write and then revisit it later. With fresh eyes and a new perspective, it’s usually easier to reword or rewrite the rough draft of your earlier writing.
  2. Read and then reread. Skim the draft to get your overall reaction to the coherence and flow of the writing. Once it reads the way you want, then go back and edit for spelling and grammar.
  3. Read your writing aloud. Words sound different when read out loud. Make sure your writing has a certain rhythm and melody.
  4. Read your writing from the reader’s perspective. When read through the lens of your target audience, does your idea make sense? Is it relevant? In a world full of distractions, is it even interesting?
  5. Have someone else edit your work. Two minds can collaborate and create something that neither can do as effectively on his or her own.

That’s what my daughter and I did on this post. We both wrote and we both edited. Thanks, Jennifer.

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To Be Relevant, Know Your Brand

January 18, 2012

Before you sell something, you must thoroughly understand the product you are selling. Likewise, in a job search, you must know your brand (yourself) before you can sell yourself to a prospective employer.

Begin by creating a clear picture of who you are, where you’re going and the impact you can have in the workplace. This requires quiet, thoughtful contemplation, so don’t rush the process.

Several years ago when I lost my job as a marketing professional, I began my job search by spending quality time in a re-branding process. Though I love everything digital, I deliberately went “analog” for this planning exercise. I took a journal and a fountain pen to a local coffee shop. Journaling is a magical practice for tapping into a deeper creative consciousness.

There in the coffee shop, over several sessions, my brand came into focus as I wrestled with answers to questions that were easy to ask but surprisingly difficult to answer.

Questions I Asked Myself

The foundation for my introspection was laid by a series of questions such as:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Where have I been?
  3. What have I done?
  4. Where am I going?
  5. What can I do?
  6. Why would someone hire me?
  7. How am I different than other candidates?

Wresting with these questions proved to be invigorating and I gained the momentum necessary to find an incredible career opportunity.

In your job search, you may be tempted to hurry through the planning stages. If you do, I predict you’ll flounder later.

Keywords Describing My Brand

As part of my planning process, I also brainstormed a list of  keywords that defined my brand. I made a lengthy list of what I perceived my brand to be. I pulled keywords from my resume and cover letter. I also listed the phrases others used when describing me, my performance and my reputation.

Make a list of at least 25 keywords that define your brand. Go for quantity and make the list as lengthy as possible. In a later post I’ll describe how to focus this list so you can differentiate yourself from your competitors. For now, though, be creative without unnecessary editing or critiquing.

In the early phases of a job search, my advice is to become very conversant on the basics of your brand—who you are, where you’re going and what you’re looking for.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH



Giving Thanks in the Tough Times

March 24, 2010

If you’re like me, there are times in life when you wonder if you’re caught in a bad dream. You want to pull the covers over your head and sleep it off, hoping you’ll awake to a completely different reality.

I’ve had three such times—1) being diagnosed with cancer, 2) losing a job and 3) dealing with my mother’s unexpected death last month.

Journaling is a practice that helps me get through those rough, white-water times. As I write, I deliberately focus on positive thoughts, thinking of all the things I have to be thankful for in spite of my circumstances.

As I’ve tried to mend the hole torn in my heart with Mom’s passing, I’ve developed a lengthy list of things that I’m thankful for. This has already been an essential part of my grieving and healing process. Here’s a partial list of what I’ve come up with so far: Read the rest of this entry »


Journaling through the Tough Times

March 17, 2010

We all experience difficult times in life, and we each find different ways to help us get through those times. Meditation, prayer and physical exercise are common methods we use.

I have found the practice of journaling to be especially effective.

Journaling for Comfort

Last month when my mom died unexpectedly I received an e-mail from a friend and former co-worker. She also lost her mother unexpectedly within the past year, so she expressed her condolences and then passed along some practical wisdom, saying, “A dear friend told me the day after mom died to keep a diary of those first few days. You may think you’ll never want to remember them but there comes a day when you’ll look back on a particular kindness or a surprise visitor and smile.”

Though it’s been less than a month since Mom died, I’ve already filled more than 20 pages in my journal. I also kept a detailed timeline of everything that happened during the first week. I instinctively knew that the events transpiring during that surreal time would soon become a blur and my memory would inadequately recall everything. Read the rest of this entry »


Questions I Asked Myself During a Career Transition

September 3, 2009

Everyone approaches a job search differently. Several years ago when I lost my job as a marketing professional, I looked at my career transition as a marketing opportunity.

I had watched others in similar circumstances as they obsessed on finding the right answers. I took the opposite approach. Rather than seeking answers, I began by asking myself a series of questions, recalling the wise words of James Thurber who once said, “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”

Only after developing what I felt were the right questions did I begin wrestling with the answers. The questions were incredibly easy to ask but excruciatingly difficult to answer. To my amazement, however, this turned into a most insightful and even invigorating process. I’ll share with you the questions, but first let me explain my process.

For a couple hours each day, I went to a local coffee shop and found a secluded table where I could engage myself in a private conversation. I left my laptop at home because I wanted to drill deeper. I used an old-fashioned method of communicating—handwriting on blank sheets of paper. I purchased a leather-bound book containing only blank pages and on the first page I wrote the title:  Journal for the Journey—A personal assessment, a scrapbook of ideas, and a map for navigating an important career transition.

Read the rest of this entry »


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