JJ Murphy – The Writer’s Life With JJ Murphy

Meet JJ Murphy, freelance writer, professional photographer, “tree-hugger,” and author of her own website, Writer By Nature.

Murphy is that rare individual who successfully blends professional skills with personal interests. “Perfection” is one her trademarks.

I recently caught up with Murphy and here’s what she had to say:

DD: Hi, JJ. First, thank you for doing this interview. What can you tell readers about yourself?

DD: Can you share why you became a writer?

M: My mother loved to read. Children imitate the adults around them, so I was reading before I even started school. I remember my mother laughing at a little story I wrote in second grade. Growing up in Guilford, CT, our teachers placed a great deal of emphasis on writing well, not just in English class, but in history and science as well. My first writing award came when I won $100 in a high school essay contest on a local Revolutionary War hero.

DD: Can you tell us a little about the clients you serve?

M: My clients come from various walks of life. As one business client said, “JJ cleans up my writing without taking my voice away.” This client relied on me for ghost writing. Some clients are authors who need proofreading services or manuscript editing. Some clients count on me to provide relevant content for their websites or blogs. Some clients need resumes, professional biographies, or curriculum vitae. Sometimes, the muse visits me and characters speak in voices that often surprise me. Yes, I have published fiction.

DD: Your website is interesting and very informative. I had trouble choosing a favorite. But, I especially like your free writing tips. Please share with readers a little bit about that.

M: The writing tips were part of a weekly series I had created in an effort to create relevant content that would encourage repeat visits to my site from people who enjoy playing with words. [In addition,] as an environmentalist interested in sustainability, the idea of working online appealed to me, so in 2000 I started a virtual assistant business, figuring if I couldn’t sell my writing, I could sell my typing, resume writing, and administrative support skills. Then, in 2005, a casual conversation about tweaking my website resulted in an extreme makeover.

DD: Who created your site?

M: Angela Allen Parker asked me what I would do if time and money were not an issue, and I said “Hang out in the woods and write.” It only took a little bit of brainstorming to come up with Writer By Nature.

DD: I’m certain other writers feel as you do and would love to know who maintains your site.

M: Jodi Diehl maintains the technical structure of my website. She has guided me as technology changes and tools for building websites have evolved. Technical terms like “PHP” and “SQL” look like alphabet soup to me, but Jodi has mastered “geek” language.

WordPress allows Jodi to custom build each client’s website. All I have to do is add my photos, articles, hot links and moving pictures. I would not have lasted online without her support.

DD: Can you describe what a typical writing day for you is like? Do you have one?

M: Until this past year, typically, I’d hike first thing in the morning in mild weather, come back and work, and then get back out on the trail. In winter, I’d work early and hike during the warmer hours,and then come back and write. This year I joined a consumer-supported agriculture garden, took several classes in mycology, wild foods foraging, and winter wilderness survival skills. Being literally in the field for work and study meant that I had to allocate my writing time differently. It also changed what I wrote about.

When gasoline prices skyrocketed, I looked at the number of miles I drove to get to hiking trails and decided to walk or take public transportation, when I could. Even if gasoline prices plummet to 29-cents, I still won’t drive as many miles a week as I used to. The impact on my writing is that I’m spending more time making sustainable choices (like working in the garden) in the hope that this effort will preserve more of the natural world in the long run.

DD: Finally, JJ, what words of wisdom would you care to share with readers about writing, freelance writing, photography and journaling?

M: Words have power, so be mindful of the words you hear and read. I always liked that line in “Desiderata” that goes: “Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.” Get rid of the TV and the inflammatory images and words that masquerade as journalism. By sustaining a fear-based message, they are toxic, even if you’re not paying full attention. Give the best hours of your day to writing. Whether you’re writing for hire or for a devoted fan, well-written work resonates with the reader.

Academia and Ghostwriting Don’t Mix

Every time I look at the writing gigs listed on Craigslist, I see headlines like the following:

  • “Publicity & Rewards For AMAZING Admission Essays & Personal Statements”
  • “Model Essay Writers Needed”
  • “Individuals Needed to Help Students Write and Edit Essays”
  • “Do You Love School and Writing?”
  • “Looking for help on writing essays for business school applications”

And those are just the ones from the essay factories. The ads posted by students are even less subtle: “Were you a straight-A student?” or “Write my college paper.” To add insult to injury, the students usually want the paper written overnight for little or no pay.

Selling student essays is big business, and the Internet makes cheating of this kind simple for both buyer and seller. Not that it was by any means impossible for students to cheat before the advent of the World Wide Web, but they’re no longer limited to their own classmates as sources of better writing skills.

Craigslist being what it is, a number of people have posted responses to these ads blasting the would-be cheater. (The lower the amount of money offered, the more forceful the response.) Yet someone presumably responds to them often enough to make it worthwhile for the repeat posters.

The Professor’s Perspective

I work as a ghostwriter. In most cases, I’m perfectly happy to write something that someone else gets credit for as long as I receive appropriate payment in exchange for my work.

Before I was a ghostwriter, however, I was a career scholar and a university instructor. That’s why, no matter how good the pay, I won’t write essays for students.

I can be fairly confident that my own students never paid someone else to write their essays–or at least, if they did, they didn’t get their money’s worth. (Or their beer and pizza’s worth, for that matter.) For one thing, the overall style and quality of the typed or printed papers they handed in matched the style and quality of the essays they wrote on exams where I and others were watching them. For another thing, whenever I had the option, I asked students to choose their own subjects. At the very least I would create a list of several possible themes, each specific enough that it would be difficult to find an already-written paper on the topic available for sale. And since the texts covered and the essay topics differed from year to year, students couldn’t sell successful essays. (It would in any case be a very foolish student who tried to re-use an essay from the previous year’s class of 15 people.)

I did once create a sample essay, however. This was when I was a teaching assistant at the University of Michigan in the early 1990s, and after seeing some of the essays handed in by Classical Civilization 101 students, I realized that many of them, even the bright ones, knew very little about how to write this kind of a paper. So I wrote my own essay on the same topic they’d all been assigned and gave it to them–as well as to the professor I was working under and the other teaching assistants. In retrospect, it probably depressed them as much as it helped them, but there’s no way any of the professors would have believed it was actually written by a freshman.

College instructors are not stupid. If a student performs poorly in class and on exams but hands in a flawless essay, it’s going to look suspicious. And getting caught cheating is the fastest way to fail a course completely. You might get away with it at the time, but you’d better hope you never run for office, because someone will dig it up and use it to discredit you.

Why Students Need to Write for Themselves

In business, the purpose of writing is to communicate: internally, with vendors, and with customers. The important thing is the message. If a professional writer can convey that message more clearly than the CEO, then the CEO should hire a professional writer. Professional writers can also help experts get their hard-earned knowledge out to a wider audience.

In academia, the purpose of writing assignments is to help students learn about a subject and develop their critical thinking as well as their writing skills. A consultant who hires a ghostwriter to help with creating a business book already knows the material and can probably express his or her main points clearly when speaking. A student who asks someone else to write a term paper doesn’t know the material, or what to say about it, or how to say it.

Undergraduate essays rarely tell their readers anything new, at least as regards the facts. (They do sometimes include very creative interpretations of literature, however.) Their professors (or teaching assistants) aren’t reading these essays for their own edification. They want to know whether the students have understood the material and can synthesize it in support of an argument.

Twenty-page term papers are not intended to be instruments of torture. I always tried to make the topics I offered students interesting and to give them the opportunity to pick subjects they wanted to know more about. It’s true that some instructors assign the same reading materials and essentially the same essay topics year after year, but even the more obvious “compare and contrast these two characters” essays serve a pedagogical purpose.

In order to produce a satisfactory essay, the student has to read the material closely, think about it, create a thesis, and provide supporting arguments and evidence for that thesis, perhaps reading and quoting from secondary literature as well. In doing so, students develop skills they need throughout their lives. By avoiding the work of writing the essays, the cheaters are pouring their tuition money down the drain. The purpose of going to college is not to get high grades, or even to get a degree. It’s to learn.

The penalties for an honest but unsuccessful attempt are lower in college than they are anywhere else. If you screw up your first term paper, you have a chance to make up for it with the next one. You might even be able to do an extra-credit assignment and come out of the course with a good grade after all. If you screw up on the job, there are at least a dozen people waiting to replace you, and you’d better have a compelling reason why your boss shouldn’t fire you for incompetence and hire one of them. Having someone else write your school papers isn’t just dishonest. It’s wasting the opportunity of a lifetime.

Getting Help with Academic Writing

So what avenues are open to students who know their writing isn’t up to their instructors’ standards? Rather than having someone else do the writing, look for help in improving your own writing. Take classes in English composition. Read books like The Elements of Style. Pay careful attention to the comments and suggestions you get on your term papers and exams. And ask the people who are already there to help you, paid for out of your tuition fees.

Professors (or at least their teaching assistants) should be available to provide you feedback on a first draft of an essay before you hand in the final version. If your professor doesn’t do this, check to find out whether there are any student-run services to help with term papers. (When I was a student, they were called Writing Fellows, and the application process to become one was quite competitive.)

U.C. Berkeley, for instance, has an Academic Achievement Program for students from low-income families who are the first generation to go to college, in addition to the Student Learning Center writing program which offers drop-in and scheduled tutoring as well as writing workshops ( http://slc.berkeley.edu/writing/index.htm ).

If you are dyslexic, disabled, or not a native speaker of English, check with the programs for disabled students or international students. Universities will provide special accommodations (e.g. a quiet test-taking environment or extra time to complete an examination) for students with learning disabilities, psychological disabilities, and AD/HD, as well as assistive technology for those with physical disabilities.

Earning a B+ is a much greater achievement than buying an A+, and the value of it will last you far longer. Even if you pay someone else to write every word that comes out of you after you graduate, do your own writing while you’re in school. You’ll be glad you did.

2005 Sallie Goetsch

Outsourcing and Effective Leadership

The productive use of outsourcing totally depends on leadership, technology, human resources skills, and communication systems developed by the company to facilitate the cycle time, improve the process, and enhance productivity. The challenges will begin to grow as more companies under the same industry see the need to expand virtually and outsource globally by leveraging on global talents. Outsourcing writing jobs especially business plan, article, and essay writing could be risky for the entrepreneur. The task of producing high quality content largely depends on the experience and writing skills of the writers. It is a disaster to be hiring writing services with less experienced and less knowledgeable writers without research skills. This ultimately affects quality and information. Maintaining less skilled researchers and writers could be a costly mistake because the knowledge of the writer is being utilized to complete the project.

The concept of globalization has been driving entrepreneurs to create their businesses online as well as learn how to outsource specific tasks to service providers outside the company’s payroll. The effort of optimizing company’s support and services to both customers and service providers led to the discovering and setting up of equipment, software, and other tools that they may use online to facilitate discussion, support the providers, and make tasks monitoring easier. The process could be stressful, rigorous and sometimes, totally altering established systems and organizational structure. Dying businesses should learn to speed up the pace of adapting technology and initiating product innovation. Aggressive companies learned the language of offshore outsourcing fast as a means to create change on outdated office operations and save on overhead expenses.

Leadership

Efficient participation is crucial in supporting marketing plans and following systems and processes. There is the need to delegate and communicate the task properly to diversified teams. However, the idea of monitoring work is quite difficult with virtual teams or service providers. In remote management situation, effective leadership means sharing responsibility, visions, and goals with individuals coming from geographically dispersed locations. The leader ultimately deals with the organization’s goals, systems and procedures, and differing personalities and culture of the virtual service providers. Most companies neglect the importance of leadership and tends to focus more on financial management. Leadership is important in driving virtual workers to work on the goals of the organization that would lead to high quality output and faster project completion. Best practices across virtual organizations include human resource management and the difficulties that may arise with communicating and producing on-time high quality results. The leader could best manage miscommunication by establishing pre-researched links for samples or developing an FAQ page on the web portal of the company itself. Without the motivated skilled and experienced workers, any writing company would go down.

The Number of Ways to Make Money Online Has Increased – What is an Affiliate?

Technology today allows people to easily access everything they need by a clicking away. Online marketing, online shopping, online gambling, online jobs the online world is definitely becoming more popular. The addition of portable online devices such as the iPad and more capable mobile phones has helped this trend. Existing businesses are trying to keep their profit and increase their market share by making money and doing business online.

Since experiencing global economic crisis the number of jobless people have increased and they are now more people dedicating time on searching ways on how to make income online. Online jobs such as home based freelance essay writing and home based data entry are among the popular search on how to make income online. People must be very careful in choosing the legitimate websites that offers ideas on how to make income online. However there are a lot of legitimate websites offering ways to earn.

One way of earning online is by advertising your product or services or other people product or services as a affiliate. When we speak of affiliate marketing, this means transactions between online businesses and website owners. Website owners make and post advertisements on their sites that support services and products of their business partner. Both parties involved in affiliate marketing achieve shares of profit. You can easily earn profits with affiliate marketing through these three ways:

PPC (Pay per Click). This is one of the most famous ways to earn profits in affiliate marketing. This generates money during every customer visit in one of the products websites. Website owners usually provide a link to the products official website Website owners earn profits with each click of the visitor. Click amounts can be dollars or cents, which relies on the commissions amount and product.

PPS (Pay per Sale). Similar to Pay-Per-Clicks, Pay per Sale is another affiliate marketing tactic. Website owners also advertise the products of their business partners on their site and gains percentage or profits through every sale made because of website advertising.

PPL (Pay per Lead). This becomes effective when consumers register at the products official website because of website owners advertisements. Commissions or percentage are already determined by each party and deposited each time consumers register. As you can observe, affiliate marketing is the best way of earning extra income without hard time pressures, and difficult tasks. Affiliate marketing only needs your website for advertisements and you’re ready to online riches. Website owners only sit back and wait for incomes to increase without doing any promotions. Business partners of website owners also gain advantage through affiliate marketing. Business owners only need to find credible website owners for effective advertising.

Alternative Internet Business Opportunities to Try Out

The web is full of opportunities for people wanting to do business and earn money from home. This is the reason thousands of people are flocking online to discover the thousands of opportunities online. The main reason for its popularity is the flexibility and the luxury of time as offered by top business opportunities. Can you really earn hundreds of dollars on a 10-hour a week schedule? Yes there are some entrepreneurs who earn under this kind of arrangement thanks to their well-chosen internet business but for those just starting with their online business keep in mind that this is far from the truth.

If you are just starting out, you will start your first few weeks with a heavy workload. Instead of loving the 10-hour work week, your calendar will be packed with a 40-50-hour per week schedule! This happens, and if you are really interested in tapping a business opportunity then you need to be ready for this. When you want to consider an online business opportunity, you also need to widen your outlook. Of course, the usual options for making money online include setting an e-commerce site where you can sell products or services or you can join an affiliate program to sell products and earn commission for every sale. These are classic opportunities online that you can try, but keep in mind that all these popular options are already packed with people. What you can do instead is to take a look at the alternative business opportunities that are still flourishing online. Listed below are some of these business opportunities that you can try.

You can start an online coaching business. You can be life coach or stress coach online and make money from it. There are a number of people into this kind of business where they help the clients and customers live a healthier life by overcoming life and business’ obstacles and problems. In order to do well in this business, you need to have good listening and questioning skills to probe into the problems and concerns of the clients.

You can also start a business consulting business. If you are into business and have a vast experience in handling business problems, then this online business opportunity is right for you. For this business, you can offer your services to business and companies and you can offer suggestions and recommendations on how they can better run their organizations. The common approach in business consulting is to learn about the business, and from there make the necessary analysis and checks so you can make competent recommendations.

You can also set up a membership site where you can host an e-learning environment which can be accessed by paying members. The site can be a resource site when it comes to arts and crafts or focused on children books and stories. The choice is yours when you design an e-learning environment.

Another good idea that you can try out is the setting up of a tutoring website. If you have the knack for teaching and you want to impart knowledge, you can try this business opportunity. Instead of inviting students into your home so that you can tutor them, you can simply tutor the students using the web. You can use a number of online tools in this trade including YM, Skype and webcam. When you engage in this kind of internet business, just make sure that you have the right academic and teaching skills. Of course, you need to have the patience as well in order to do well. Another similar service that you can provide is an essay or thesis writing service online. This is an internet business where you can provide your writing service to students who are struggling with their papers and dissertations. Students and parents will pay for these papers if the papers are expertly written and of course they will get this kind of service is deadline is already looming.

Keep in mind that a number of options available online just waiting to be tapped. Just be creative in searching for your own business opportunity and for sure you find what you want!

Dany Cooper