Taking a Step Back

The act of writing is a very intimate process. Whether it’s an email or a novel, we’re putting a bit of ourselves into the work, and this creates a problem. We become so close to the piece that it’s hard for us to critique it.

The words are so familiar that our eyes skim over them. The tone is ours, and sounds right to us, but how do we know? A good trick is to finish a piece, or at least part of it, and then walk away for a few days. When you come back, it’ll be a bit more fresh and you can look at it with a new perspective. This sometimes takes more than days, though, and not everyone has weeks or months before a piece of writing must be done.

SilverPen Publishing’s general editing service might be just what you need. This service combines both our workshopping abilities and our copy editing skills to produce a finished, polished piece of writing. When we think of things that need changed, improved, or added, we will add them as necessary. General editing isn’t just fixing typos, it also includes re-arranging, re-writing, and re-working as necessary.

The work is still yours, and we will work very hard to maintain your voice and tone–the writing will still be your writing. When you don’t have time to take days or weeks to reset and look at the work anew, SilverPen can do that work for you. Contact us to learn more about general editing and how we can help.

Just Short of Perfect

Let’s say you’re an artist who has constructed an awesome story with solid characters, plot, and setting. Or maybe you’re a business person who has put together a twenty page report for a one-hour meeting with a client and you’re ready to be done with the whole thing. Your focus is on the content, where it needs to be: let SilverPen step in and polish the piece with our first-rate copy editing.

Copy editing is the process of reviewing a piece of writing–be it an email, a novel, or anything in between–and making sure everything is picture perfect. We go over all the painstaking details of punctuation, grammar, and syntax to make sure nothing will detract from your work. No matter how excellent your writing is, if you have typos it will be disregarded, or at least looked upon unfavorably. Whether you just need a second set of eyes to proofread or you want to make sure every word is examined from half a dozen different angles, SilverPen Publishing’s copy editing service delivers.

Whether you’re local to Springfield, Missouri or you’re on the other side of the world, we’re happy to help. Ask us about copy editing to learn more about taking your writing that last step to perfection.

Constructive Criticism in the Workshop

When I was growing up, we had a workshop in our back yard filled with experiments. Most of these involved woodworking of some sort, from bird feeders to toy swords, and everything was always in a state of incompleteness. Once one project was finished we’d start tinkering with another–it was a place where work was done.

I once heard that “Writing is Rewriting,” and at no time is that more true than in the workshopping phase. No piece is ever perfect, it is merely at rest, and a workshop is a way to pick it back up again and smooth out the edges, repair the joins, and try a new tint of varnish. Workshopping provides direction for improvement.

SilverPen Publishing’s workshopping service helps you build a better piece of writing. Whether you want to make sure that important email or newsletter is just right, or you want feedback and advice on your epic novel, I will apply years of experience from critiquing (and being critiqued!) to help you find areas of improvement or ideas that need to be added or taken away.

There’s no doubt that criticism is a key to improvement–you can’t sand the rough edges off a piece of wood without applying some pressure. I pledge that only constructive criticism to help you build a better piece of writing will ever be given.

Interested in learning more about workshopping? Check out our services page and don’t hesitate to contact me!

Servant Introduction

You would not have to speak with many servants within the Christian church to find a member dissatisfied with the weight their service has placed upon their shoulders. Churches are notorious for taking everything a volunteer has to offer, wringing them dry, and then scrambling to find an equally gullible replacement when the previous servant could do no more. There isn’t anything malicious, per se, about this behaviour from the churches in question. Rather, it is simply the nature of the work: when one relies on volunteers, one often has a static or growing body of work with a small and potentially diminishing work force. Over time the workers the church has are required to carry a heavier burden than they are capable of.

When we were investigating a new church (Vineyard, by the way, which we have since joined), I was curious how they treated their volunteers. When people volunteer to help lead worship, or to work in the nursery, or to clean up, are they alone in their endeavour and subsequently worked to death? To find this out before we committed ourselves, I volunteered to cook for a Church Painting, where the outside of the building was being redone, to see how people treated and reacted to me.

I think this sort of introduction to a group is the most telling because it really lets one take a look at how they act. When a new person visits a church, it is easy to target them, to introduce oneself to them, and to invite them to small groups and social events. It is easy to make them feel the center of attention and valued. But when someone places themselves in the roll of a servant, in a corner or off to the side, how will the members treat them? Will they be taken for granted, or will they continue to be valued, included, and appreciated?

Thankfully I was able to find this out before we joined, and the results were quite pleasant. Everyone was complimentary of my cooking, people came by to see how I was and chat while I was at the grill, and other people volunteered to help set up, clean, and tear down the cooking area to my own service was equitable (if not minimal). The Vineyard has a strong and large group of servants, so one gets the sense they are serving alongside the church body, rather than simply for its sake. By way of another example, the worship team cycles regularly so no one person has to do it all the time, and there’s no pressure to always “be on.” Enough people volunteer that everyone gets a decent break.

Next time you want to find out how people will really treat you, serve them. You never know how someone will truly act towards you until they are placed in a position of power over you, and it is better to learn such a lesson before one commits.

First Prayer Walk in GBPN

April and I have been taking a close look at the Springfield Vineyard church recently, and after having attended several Sunday morning services we wanted to learn more about the community. As such, we are attending various church events in a bid to meet people, and last night was the second of those attempts. Though April was sadly unable to join me, I met a number (10, to be exact) of other Vineyard-goers for a prayer walk around our neighbourhood.

I was particularly excited about this because it really is around our neighbourhood. Specifically, we prayed for the Grant Beach Park Neighbourhood, and Grant Beach Park is just outside our back door. It is not just a blessing to me that the Vineyard is serving the community in which I live, but I’m also really excited about [potentially] having the opportunity to join them in further service in the future. April and I, if you aren’t aware, are pretty introverted and quiet people, so we’re hesitant to just go out and meet our neighbours and be unilaterally active. Having a group we can join that is already doing these things is a lot easier.

The prayer walk was really good, but talking afterwards with everyone was even better. I feel like I may have potentially found the community I’ve been looking for for years, right here in my back yard. It’s startling to me and I keep waiting for the hammer to fall, for everything to fall through, but I can’t foresee that at this time. What’s more, when I have had glimpses of this sort of community, they were always in the context of college ministry, which is transient at best. People are in and out, and its ever-evolving nature means that what community can be established is quickly gone. It has to be continually rebuilt, relearned, and reshaped, and there is never enough time.

Most of the people at the Vineyard are here to stay though, and that gives me hope. The girl at whose house we met lives just a few blocks south of us, and another is moving in even closer. Opportunities abound, and I’m thrilled.

In addition to the communal aspects, the prayer walk was humbling as I found myself having a great deal of difficulty listening to God. I always have some trouble with this, but I can usually get to a quiet place, close my eyes, still my mind, and hear God speak. I can’t when walking, and the truth is that I won’t always have the luxury to get away physically. I need to learn how to separate myself from this world spiritually so I can hear God no matter the circumstances, and I think there are people at the Vineyard who can help me with that. The people I walked with seemed to have it down better than me, that’s for sure.

We’re out of town this weekend so we won’t be able to attend church, but next weekend we’ll be bringing food and helping cook at the Church Paintin’, which is something of a dedication of the new church building where a bunch of people will be painting the outside. The best way to get to know people is by serving them, and that’s what we’ll be doing in a couple of weeks. At that point, we’ll have done all the community-based things we can except attending small groups, which April might try (though she hasn’t said anything about it yet). Sadly, I won’t have time for small groups until after I graduate next spring, but I’m already pretty confident about this church. No final decision yet, but I’m pretty darned ready.

Great times tonight, and God’s sovereignty was foremost in my mind. God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. Hallelujah.

It’s The Thought That Counts

This post is part of an ongoing series of collaborative conversations. See that initial post for a table of contents of all articles in the series.

I was recently having a conversation with a young photographer I know about his aspirations for having a fancy new website designed. He was looking at spending a decent amount of cash to have something really slick put together for his photo gallery, and though the company was going to charge him a reasonable rate for that level of design work and manageability (meaning that it would be easily updated by the photographer himself), I wasn’t sure spending that much money on a website was a good idea at this point in his career. Though a fancy website is nice and will help accent, present, and convey your material, it is secondary to the material itself.

This might seem a bit contradictory to my earlier post which detailed how a poor design will stymie communication, so allow me to elaborate.

I read an article several years ago that looked with great curiousity at a number of online businesses that seemed to be succeeding despite their best efforts. These businesses had ugly, poorly formatted websites with outdated modes of communication and little information about their business or product. Designed in a style I usually refer to as “Angelfire-esque” or “Geocities ghetto,” the independent owners had put together something on the web that looked similar to what a cat might produce after eating too fast. They had a product, but they had no idea how to market it on the web.

And yet, they were succeeding. They were doing business online and turning a decent profit, to the confusion of everyone else who felt that a great design was needed to make your voice heard.

When surveying their customers, the journalist discovered that the people ordering goods from these sites actually preferred the poor design. It communicated to the customer that the owner cared less about a fancy website and more about them, the customers; that they spent more time on their product than on marketing; and that the end-result was higher quality service and goods.

I would never go so far as to say that this is always the case. Rather, I tend to think that if you are a seller of repute and quality, all aspects of your business should be of similar quality, and that extends to your website. But I do think the story highlights something that a lot of people are beginning to forget: the Content is More Important than the Wrapper.

Yes, a good design will help sell your product better, and once you’ve got a good product, your next step should be a good marketing approach and/or website design.  If your product is no good, though, the fanciness of your website becomes irrelevant.

I have known numerous photographers, webcomic artists, and authors whose websites were little more than a page with a single picture and the most rudimentary of navigation, or maybe they just threw their work onto a Blogger account (note: I personally detest Blogger and highly recommend WordPress as an alternative), and yet they were remarkable successes. This is because their work was of high quality and appealed to people. The content was good, so the wrapper or site design didn’t matter as much.

And generally speaking, once you’ve got the audience and fans, things move of their own accord and you eventually get a nicer website. But no one starts at the top, and likewise it probably isn’t wise to invest like you’re already there when you’re not.

A beginning musician doesn’t buy a five-million dollar Stradivarius violin, just like a beginning photographer doesn’t learn how to shoot photos on a ten-thousand dollar camera and a beginning author usually has nothing but a pen and paper. We all have to start somewhere and learn what we’re doing. We move up to the higher quality tools as we learn how to use them most effectively. Eventually, we reach a point where our work demands a better toolset, and we adjust accordingly.

But just because you have a Stradivarius doesn’t mean you can play like a master, and just because you have spent a few thousand dollars on a site doesn’t mean you’ll instantly have a booming business. So start small and focus on the quality of your product. Your customers will be attracted by your work, and they’ll be more attracted if they know that your focus is on them, not on yourself or your site. Put your work and your fans first and the rest will fall into place.