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Online game and app invites can be total time-sucks

SOS! Can virtually anyone take a hint about online app invites?

These are the time-sucking virtual games, quirky quizzes, and other distractions that fill up a user’s notifications box and news feed on social networking sites like Facebook. And, no matter how many times a person posts cease-and-desist pleas, the invitations continue to come.

People crack me up. Honestly, they do.

I shared a friend’s “Please don’t send me Facebook game apps” graphic message on my wall recently. Guess what happened.

That’s right. A dozen friends immediately invited me to play a variety of virtual games. Others asked me to send them coins, hay bales, poker chips, and other virtual goodies. But my cyber-pockets are empty, because I do not play any of these games.

Let’s get this straight.

I don’t farm, run a restaurant, grow weed, race cars, fight dragons, crush candy, tend bar, guess song titles, sling short-tempered birds, play poker, shoot pool, test my IQ, or pursue any number of other virtual games online. I don’t wonder what breed of dog or cat or bird or horse I am most like. I couldn’t care less which Disney princess or Harry Potter character most embodies my world view. I don’t want to know how and when I am supposedly going to die or which four friends are the most fun or faithful. (Actually, that last one is pretty obvious to me already – thank you very much.)

Here’s a news flash: If I’m online, I’m probably working.

At least, I ought to be.

So why do people keep on sending invitations for all of these time-sucking games?

It’s sort of another pyramid scheme, I suspect. Many games offer participants free tokens, turns, or points for inviting friends. Do they receive extra credit for inviting folks that have already asked not to be invited? Perhaps not.

Yes, I know users can block Facebook apps. You can block all app invitations. Or you can block them individually, as you receive them, using the handy little button on the right of each invitation post.

But c’mon now.

Along similar lines, I disable the chat feature on Instant Messenger for the same reason. Scores of writer do the same. Few interruptions are as frustrating as seeing sudden conversations springing up all over the screen when one is honing an introductory paragraph, coming up with a creative caption, or tweaking a telling title.

Somebody stop ‘em! 

Hey, I am happy to hear from friends. I’m delighted to discover someone might be thinking of me. But I can also be easily distracted, especially when I’m working on deadline. Writing time is anything but playtime.

Adapted from public domain artwork

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RADAR: 5 quick steps for making email work for you

Email may have started as a communications convenience, but it can also be a tremendous time suck, especially for self-employed writers. Who can’t relate to the frustration of sorting through dozens of electronic mail messages each day? How many important messages become buried among the inconsequential ones, simply because of the constant overflow?

Here’s a simple system for dealing with daily emails.

The secret is simple. Just as desk workers did for decades, the goal is to clear out the in-box promptly and often. That’s the ticket.

Many of these email efficiency tips employ basic common sense and self-discipline. But they may merit revisiting periodically. RADAR can help.

R = Read

The first step is to scan the list of messages, flagging anything that looks suspicious or spammy. Lots of freelancers don’t even open the lion’s share of the emails we receive each day.

Whenever I click to open an email message, I try to examine the sender line closely. Often, scammers will closely approximate familiar friends or company names. Their email addresses generally offer clues on their false identities. For example, suppose a message is labeled as coming from Wells Fargo. But the sender’s actual address is bankbiz @ sender . com. That’s sort of a dead give-away that the message isn’t worth a blink.

Once these mystery missives are flagged and bagged (so to speak), the list is a lot more manageable. Then it’s time to read and move on what remains.

A = Assess

It’s time to open and consider one email at a time and consider its content. This step takes a little deliberation sometimes – and sometimes a bit of tough love. It’s time to take a stand. Does this note include a deadline? Does it call for action? Does it deserve a response?

D = Do Something

This step is critical and needs immediate action. Each message should lead to action or the trash.

Maybe the right course is to send it along to someone for whom it is more appropriate. (This doesn’t include those trivial cutesy stories, tired jokes, already debunked hoaxes, or supposedly remarkable images that seem to recirculate atop endless addressee listings. Please stop forwarding these by email! Isn’t that why social networking was invented?)

OK, occasionally a message may need to be tabled for a short while. In such a case, it’s easy to mark that email as unread, so it stays highlighted (or bolded) for future attention.

A = Assort

Some messages simply must be filed for future reference. These might include book or article pitches, upcoming event notices, research information, and the like. Why not clear out the email clutter and store these in the email file cabinet (if this exists), in computer document files, or as hard copies in office files?

R = Remove

Trash anything that isn’t worth sorting and storing. Then empty the trash. Watch the email account storage capacity reopen. Whew!

Ding. That’s it.

Once the massive list of incoming email messages is cleared, and these simple upkeep tips are implemented, subsequent log-ins are a breeze.

Adapted from public domain artwork

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Why do writers write?

It’s an addiction. Real writers cannot help but write. Most of us are helplessly caught up in the passion for words, particularly printed words.

Perhaps the wordsmithing addiction is encoded into a writer’s DNA. Maybe a love of writing is simply an acquired taste or even a learned discipline. Still, verbal expression is habit-forming, particularly to those who are verbally inclined. For whatever reason, a passion for phrasings arises spontaneously in writers.

Most often, this seems to happen in the darkest sleepless hours of the night, in the center of a maelstrom of crowded commuters, or even in the middle of a lecture or speech. Inspiration knows no timetable. And, when it hits, most writers feel the need to record the words immediately. At such times, nothing else counts.

What motivates writers?

Certainly, many writers do ply their craft for pay. Writing careers abound for advertising copywriters, campaign scriptwriters, corporate speechwriters, dramatic scriptwriters, ghostwriters, magazine feature writers, news reporters, promotional slogan writers, and other communications professionals.

Other writers adore collecting their own bylines, finding satisfaction by finding their own names in print.

Perhaps some even write because they want to insist their ideas are right, or they wish to have the last word (even for a moment) on a topic about which they are particularly passionate.

Still, for most writers, the act of writing itself is reward enough. Playing with creative phrasings and finding just the right wording to express an idea or emotion fascinates writers. Wordplay excites writers. Clever communication draws us.

To the writer, a well-planned paragraph can be a work of art.

A real writer may find editing and revising his or her own sentences, draft after draft, as intriguing as an athlete may find practicing new skills and strategies for his or her sport.

How can you tell if you are a writer?

Do you love to write? Do you wonder about wordings? Do you fantasize about phrasings? Do double-entendres delight you? Do you memorize meters and reiterate rhythm when you speak or write? Do you dream of authorship, press tours, and book signings?

A real writer actually enjoys writing letters and notes. He or she may journal for the pure joy of putting pen to paper. True wordsmiths enthusiastically edit their emails and tap out precise text messages. After all, for a real writer, every word shared reflects upon his or her writing reputation.

Not for fame or fortune?

Most writers will never become best-selling published authors. But they don’t care. Those who write for the love of words are addicted to a passion for expression, rather than popularity or profit.

A real writer will share the written word in any media possible. From keyboards to crayons, true writers cannot be stopped. Wrong or right, a love of writing will persist. A writer’s fingers may fail, and his or her eyesight may fade. Still, the words will find their way from mind to page or screen.

Adapted from public domain artwork

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