Picture"Lemonade Stand" image by Celeste Lindell @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/64401168@N00/485938950/
The old adage says that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

This past week has been a "lemon" of a week for me. Although several aspects are still not within my control, one thing is.

"My Worst Week of 5K Training for the Resolution Run" explains the problems, and how I'm dealing with a setback in my running program. It's a suitable topic for my DeHaan Fitness blog.

Since that article promised a follow-up story, I added "My End of 2013 Resolution Run after a Bad Training Week". Did I rejoice or weep after the run?

Resolution Run? What's That?

My "5K to Couch in One Bad Training Week" article in DeHaan Services explains and links to the Resolution Run.

It also explains the "5K to Couch" reference!

One Fit Writing Tip

Today's writing tip is simple, but it's new on this site.

If you encounter an obstacle, and especially if you discover a way to overcome that problem, write about it.

Many readers may face the same difficulty, so you have a ready audience. Some will be inspired by, or learn from, your example. So share your knowledge.

In my case, I know how to handle a glitch in my 5K training program.
That's the inspiration for my article.

Don't just make lemonade from life's lemons; open a lemonade stand too!
Picture"School Shooting Incidents in 2013 in the USA" : Image by Mike DeHaan
Regular readers realize that posts named "Preview of..." know that the first purpose is the copyright notice. I hand-crafted the above image, and want to publish it here online before it is shown elsewhere.

Now that "Risks of a School Shooting versus an Airplane Crash" has been published in Decoded Science, this promotional post is complete.

A reader had asked about the risk of being involved in a school shooting as different from an airplane crash. Do the statistics surprise you?

You probably will never need an airplane crash attorney; but what about suing for trauma after a school shooting incident?

Also read "Statistical Risk of Airplane Crash versus School Shooting" in DeHaan Services for a few Canadian examples of school shootings and airline incidents. Do my anecdotal recollections support or contradict the main article's conclusion?

One Thankful Writing Tip

Regular readers also expect a writing tip based on "how I came to write the primary article".

Today I'm sitting comfortably in my church, using their internet connection and electricity. Most of Toronto is recovering from a power outage caused by an ice storm. While my neighbourhood's electricity was restored within a day, my home's wires were severed from the grid by a tree limb.

However, we're fortunate that there was only minimal damage; and blessed because neighbours are helping us cope. If our church were not available, I'm sure that we could have bunked with the folks next door, or across the street.

I'm also hearing about others in similar circumstances, either giving aid or being helped. Meanwhile, the professionals are quietly repairing power lines, while experienced volunteers staff "warming centres" for the coldest or frailest.

So my article is perhaps the smallest Christmas miracle of 2013, and the least significant achievement compared to staying alive, warm and fed.
Picture"Matrix" image by Lakeworks via Wikimedia Commons
One little irony in a writer's career comes when a reader asks about a topic currently under investigation. My recent "Preview" article here shows that I had been thinking about vectors and matrices already.

Then a Decoded Science reader asked about practical applications for matrix math. I quickly responded with "Practical Uses of Matrix Mathematics".

As a writer, I'm a bit disappointed, since I'm still working on building a series of online articles to include this narrow topic.

On the other hand, it's gratifying that someone, somewhere, was willing to ask that question.

If you want a pointer on where to start learning more about matrix math, that's covered in my online article in DeHaan Services, "Practical Matrix Mathematics in Canada". The same principles work in other countries, but I like to keep a Canadian perspective for my home blog.

One Responsive Writing Tip

One joy of writing for Decoded Science is the clever "Ask an Expert" section, which invites readers' questions even if the topic had not yet been covered.

Let me encourage you to consider the same approach in your own web sites.

This writing tip actually comes with a warning or disclaimer: if you don't respond quickly with something useful, you may lose readers.

Decoded Science enjoys the advantages of having a strong managing editor and a variety of experts willing to take on challenges. In fact, that's part of the process: the editor will flag a topic for the appropriate writer, who usually jumps at the chance.

You don't need to solicit readers' questions to apply a similar discipline. In fact, you should practice by simply:

  1. Read news items or new background material in your field of expertise.
  2. Challenge yourself to research and write about the topic, with a specific question and a tight deadline.
  3. Review for quality: is it accurate? Is it well written? Did you make your deadline?

Whether or not you ever respond to requests from your readers, this approach should help in your own writing.

Thanks for reading about my quick response to a matrix math question.
Picture"Outdoor Carolling at Night" image by The Wu's Photo Land
I found a handful of venues for singing Christmas carols outdoors in Toronto for Dec. 2013, and shared these secrets in "2013 Outdoor Christmas Caroling in Toronto and Mississauga".

DeHaan Services often publicizes frugal but fun events in Toronto and in neighbouring cities. This article differs from most on the site, however. That leads to today's writing tip.

One Writing Tip for Multiple Images

Usually I illustrate each article in DeHaan Services (or in this blog) with a single image. The 2013 outdoor caroling article has three pictures: the family shown above, and two maps that I crafted.

Possibly I would have thought of making those maps to save on writing directions. (That's what I had done for a similar article last year).

Certainly I've added more images to articles in Decoded Science or for other online magazine sites.

But I recently saw an online magazine that deliberately put one image in every section...that is, after each sub-heading. That site's medium-length articles had quite a few headings, so the images really helped make the article attractive.

The writing tip is to experiment with the number of images you include in your article. Change your pattern, no matter what your pattern had been.

If you had been frugal with your photographs, then try being lavish. If you normally place an image with every paragraph, try leaving most out.

If you need to illustrate every step in a project, then do take pictures and do include them. If you just want one image to catch the reader's eye, but the rest of the article does not need illustrations, then leave them out.

You may need to change your writing style to do this experiment well.
Then ask for feedback, and make changes as indicated by your readers.

Thanks for reading about outdoor Christmas caroling in Toronto for 2013.
Picture"Toronto Mayor Rob Ford campaigns with puppet in 2010" image by Shaun Merritt
Both Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and DeHaan Fitness take a new approach to the mayor's goal of losing weight...and how I cover his new attempt in "Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Avoids SMART Goal for Fitness".

I'd covered his 2012 "Cut the Waist" contest against his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, in "Weight Loss Risks for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford" and "Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Ends One Cut the Waist Challenge".

Things are different in Nov. 2013 than they were in January of 2012. So my new online article takes a new approach as well.

I've also publicized this article in "One SMART Goal for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is Fitness"

One Writing Tip is Take a New Approach

People sometimes quote Albert Einstein as saying that "Insanity is trying the same things and expecting a different result".

Just as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is taking a new approach to his quest to improve his health and fitness by losing weight and exercising, so too did I analyze his attempt in a different way.

This writing tip presents a few practical ways to approach your "same old" topic in new ways, by comparing and contrasting two or more examples.

This was Mayor Ford's second weight loss attempt in public:

  • How did his approach differ?
    What is he doing the same as before?
    Are more people involved?
    Did it start the same way? 
    Are there more or fewer props?
    Are there new reasons or motives?
    Are the stakes higher?

Your new article might have different things to compare; explore them.

Just remember that your readers need to invest their emotional energy in these contrasts. Keep them guessing; take a poll; or simply present the differences as options that they can second-guess.
Picture"2009 Santa Claus Parade in Toronto" image by c'est la Viva
Perhaps the absolute favourite annual event in Toronto is the Santa Claus Parade. Naturally I've highlighted this free family event again, in my "Toronto Santa Claus Parade 2013 and Holly Jolly Fun Run".

But let's not leave the cities of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) out of the festivities. One day later, I wrote "Five 2013 Santa Claus Parades in the GTA" to satisfy those readers.

Let's Promote Running in Winter, Too

Soon I also realized that the Holly Jolly Run was only one of a handful of winter running races in Toronto. Some of those are uniquely local; others are franchise events held throughout Canada.

So I wrote "Run Races to Keep Motivated for Winter Running" in my DeHaan Fitness... blog. Hopefully people will find it helpful, even if they don't live within Toronto or the GTA.

One Tactical Writing Tip

You may recall a previous writing tip that advised publicizing two closely-related articles at once, as a time-saving measure.

In this case, I knew from the start that "Santa Claus Parade" needed two articles: one for Toronto and one for the GTA.

You could argue that each city deserves its own article. Yes, true, especially if there are enough potential readers searching for their own "long-tail keywords".

One example of a long-tail keyword is "
Santa Claus Parade in Mississauga". The long tail starts with the word "in". The more your article sticks to one topic, the better for its rank for search engines.

On the other hand, there just aren't that many people in each GTA city who need to search online for their local events. In particular, the biggest events will advertise themselves; or people will remember from year to year. So it's not efficient for me to research enough for that many complete articles.

Back to the writing tip. Once you recognize a topic that can span multiple articles, decide on how you will split that material. In this case, "city by city" is obvious. The other day, I discussed a different split for another publication: group some items by popular category; and the rest by date.

The rest of the writing tip is to do the planning and research in one stage. Outline all your drafts before writing one article in full. Then review your plans: do they cover everything once, but nothing twice?

That's one approach for efficient writing while covering a topic thoroughly. Hopefully my 2013 Santa Claus Parade articles were thorough enough for my readers!
Picture"Kurt Godel" via Arithmeum Museum in Bonn
The great 20th century mathematician Kurt Gödel also wrote a trifling little proof that God exists.

My recent Decoded Science article, "How Modal Logic Proved Godel was Right, and God Exists", introduces the logic
Gödel used and how computers verified the validity of his proof.

I've also publicized this article in my DeHaan Services blog's "From Kurt Godel to God via Modal Logic". It  puts a Canadian spin on the topic. It also recommends a couple of books: one about
Gödel's life and work; the other that explains his famous Incompleteness Theorem in a whimsical manner.

One Niche Writing Tip

My Decoded Science article began as a challenge from my editor: could I write it overnight? The news media had learned about the proof of Gödel's God theorem, and my editor wanted us in the mix.

My first estimate was that it would take all night for me to touch on all the elements of
Gödel's proof:

  • What did Gödel write?
  • How was his proof verified?
  • What computer programs were used? What were their niche functions?
  • What is this "modal logic" that was so important to both his writing and for the verification?
I quickly realized I couldn't cover everything. However, the niche I could fulfill was explaining "modal logic" (once I'd briefly covered Gödel's God theorem).

That only took half a night; much better than estimated, and much more likely that someone would read.

So today's writing tip is to select a niche within one article, when the overall topic is far too large. You're better off covering one thing well, than spreading yourself too thin.

My bonus
writing tip is that you will do better writing a series of articles about that topic, with each article filling a specific niche. With regard to Gödel's God theorem, I could still research and write about the computer programs. In fact, each program (such as "Sledgehammer") could be the foundation for a few articles that explain how and why its approach is important and unique for computer-generated theorem verification.

Thanks for reading about
Gödel's new niche, the God theorem.

Picture"The Enemy of the Predictive Turing Machine" by Mike DeHaan
My latest article in Decoded Science, "Free Will, Determinism and Turing's Halting Problem", explains Prof. Seth Lloyd's use of Turing Machines to explain why we feel that we have free will.

By the way, I'd already previewed my home-made image because I was in a hurry to establish copyright to that bit of creativity.

I've also publicized this article in my DeHaan Services blog's new "Can Turing's Halting Problem Address Free Will vs Determinism?".

One Writing Tip thanks to a Free-Will Editor

Months before I wrote "Free Will...", I'd already explained the basics of Turing Machines in a series of articles in Decoded Science.

However, one must not assume that every reader knows the background. That's especially true of Turing Machines in this article, since many readers might be drawn first to the "free will vs determinism" question.

So I touched on the bare details about Turing Machines and the Halting Problem.

I listed & linked back to all my previous articles at the end of this one. I also added a note to the editor that I knew this was not a good approach, but that some readers would need the reference material.

My editor brilliantly put the links to my previous articles into the "bare details" of background, rather than in a list at the end.

My second-hand writing tip, based on this free-willed editor's approach, is to follow suit. If you have background articles, and you touch on those topics in your new article, add that link in the background or introduction.

You could use the same approach in other places. If you've written about the classic "Dick and Jane" primary reader books, build in the links to the character pages.

"The book invites the reader to share in Dick and Jane's their first adventure. Just remember that Spot is a dog; you should not see spots before your eyes". (No, those are not real links from this article).

Remember that quoting the full title of an article intrudes more than a brief in-line link. The writing tip is to choose carefully, and be less intrusive for reference links back to your own articles.

Did you notice my sneaky link back to the "preview" article? No? For shame. Anyway, that's how to make a non-intrusive reference link.

Thanks for using your free will, or accepting your deterministic nature, in reading about their relationship to Turing's Halting Problem.
Picture"The CFL Grey Cup in 2006" image by roland (Roland Tanglao)
My latest DeHaan Services article, "The First Free Event for Grey Cup 2013 in Regina", continues a popular annual topic.

Last year Toronto hosted the Grey Cup. I wrote a pretty popular article about the precious few free celebrations associated with the Canadian Football League's championship game (and festival), including the parade.

This year Regina hosts the Grey Cup Festival. So although it's not an "annual Toronto event", my blog will cover the freebies anyway.

Continuity in a Follow-Up 2013 Grey Cup Article

(Added this section Nov. 17, 2013): I followed up the above article with "More Free Events for the 2013 Grey Cup in Regina".

I was pleasantly surprised to find a dozen free events in Grey Cup Festival week; more if you count the repeating items. This list of free Grey Cup events should find more favour among hard-core sports and music fans, compared to the first which had a decided "arts" appeal.

One Writing Tip for Continuity

(Updated this section Nov. 17, 2013, after added the second DeHaan Services article).

A standard piece of advice for writers, and especially for bloggers, is to build a niche and stay within it. Your readers want to feel comfortable with your style and your topics. On the other hand, you have to write something novel from time to time; otherwise you become the boring old geezer who always tells the same tired story.

Here I've publicized two articles that follow one theme in my blog: free or frugal annual events. However, I've broken away from my usual geographic limits of Toronto and its suburban neighbours.

Will this article attract new readers who specifically want to learn how to do the 2013 Grey Cup Festival in Regina "on the cheap"? Or will it be ignored by loyal readers who really only care about Toronto? It's an experiment.

The writing tip is to take deliberate steps to expand your niche: make changes but with some continuity. Stretch one dimension at a time, but keep another constant.

With these articles about the Regina Grey Cup Festival, I've stretched my geography while keeping the "cheap" approach. Perhaps some other time I will write about spending big bucks in Toronto: that would reverse the dimensions that change or stay constant.

So feel free to expand your niche when it may make sense for your current readers and also attract new ones.
Picture"Two Dogs in Halloween Costumes" image by Pets Adviser
Who can resist happy Halloween dog pictures? Hopefully not the readers of my latest DeHaan Services article, "Dog Costume Halloween Parades in Toronto and the GTA 2013".

This article points to three events in and around Toronto for pet owners to enjoy a Hallowe'en event with their dogs. It adds a bonus item for an annual event in a New York City park; one with almost a quarter of a century of history.

Squeeze in 2013 Hallowe'en Just for People

(Added Oct. 24, 2013): Let me also publicize "2013 Halloween Events in Toronto and the GTA", which I wrote a few days later. We can't let the dogs have all the fun, can we?

By the way, that new article is an example of "dogged" pursuit of this Hallowe'en theme, as well as the fact that it's a great time of year to write in the niche of annual events.

One Dogged Writing Tip

This writing tip uses "dogged" in the sense of "persistent" or "persisting".

We all hope that our very next blog post will go viral, to catapult us into the ranks of well-known and highly-paid writers.

In the mean time, be persistent. Doggedly pursue your goal. If you have a schedule, stick to it. Meet your deadlines.

At this moment, I'm suffering more from "too many timely topics" than from "lack of inspiration". It can be difficult to fit all the tasks into the timeframe.

By the way, I'm not saying "keep banging your head into a wall". Keep working, but do be open to new techniques and new inspirations.

Meanwhile, enjoy what you do doggedly, just as these animal lovers enjoy dressing their dogs in Hallowe'en costumes.

    Mike DeHaan

    Mike DeHaan began writing professionally in 2010 as the sole proprietor of DeHaan Services.To see this information with the best background image, please refer to "About.Me",  befriend me at Facebook, or circle me at Google+.


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