Writing Oasis (and the power of HootSuite)

Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating. – John Cleese

I am currently enrolled in an online seminar called Exploring Personal Learning Networks: Practical Issues for Organizations (#xplrpln) where we were encouraged to try something new to kick off the seminar. The tweet below from Cathleen Nardi, a member of my personal learning network (PLN), helped me respond to this call for action.
John CleeseOne of my goals for this seminar is to work on blogging more regularly – I tend to get sucked into my long list of to-do items rather than taking the time to write. To combat this, I tackled blog writing in a new way this week after watching this 1991 video of John Cleese talking about the five factors to make your life more creative and to get into the open mode.

As John recommends, I sealed myself off from the rest of my hectic life by creating a writing oasis. I made a quiet space for myself for a specific period of time. And it worked!

How did I create the writing oasis?

  • I brewed a good cup of coffee and cleared off my dining room table (staring at bills and school fundraising forms is not helpful to this endeavor).
  • I did not log into the Jive community that I manage or into my e-mail (those are my derailers that help me procrastinate).
  • I watched Mr. Cleese again for inspiration and a good laugh — humor can’t hurt!
  • I set a timer for 40 minutes.
  • I picked one of the blog ideas that I have stored up in Evernote and just started writing thoughts down without worrying about the structure of the post.
  • I stopped when the timer went off.

I plan to create another writing oasis this weekend to come back and polish up the post before publishing it next week. I have designated Wednesday mornings as my writing oasis time so if you try to reach me prior to 10am that day I hope that I don’t get back to you until after 10:01am central time.

Will I be able to turn this into a habit? I hope so. I’m going to reread a series of blog posts from my colleague Susan Barrett-Kelly about forming new habits over the weekend to pick up some more tips.

1) Change Habits, Keep Resolutions | The Development Sherpa

2) Make Your Habits Your Allies | The Development Sherpa

3) Never Too Old For New Habits | The Development Sherpa

I’m writing this blog post as a result of reading a blog post by Lauren Klein in the Jive Software user community: Blogging – How to Get Started? She recommends to just do it!

What blogging technique has worked for you? Please share!

SIDE NOTE: The Power of HootSuite

In this week’s first #xplrpln Twitter chat, there were some fellow participants who mentioned that they had not tried HootSuite as a way sift through the the onslaught of information that bombards you when you try to learn via social media. So I thought I’d share why and how I use this tool. I’m sure there are other similar tools out there as well – share in the comments!

In an effort to #showyourwork, I’ve shared how I happened upon Cathleen’s tweet below. Cathleen, Rick Bartlett (@rbb2nd) and several other #edcmooc colleagues are currently enrolled in a massive open online course (MOOC) called Creativity, Innovation and Change that I have been following on Twitter at #cicmooc. While I decided that I couldn’t commit to enrolling in #cicmooc during this busy time for me professionally, I have been reading a few blog posts and lightly following the tweets by watching a stream in HootSuite that appears next to my #xplrpln stream. Cathleen’s John Cleese tweet appeared in my #cicmooc HootSuite stream earlier this week.

I find that setting up Search streams in HootSuite helps me quickly scan through tweets that might be of interest based on particular hashtags. Note that you can use OR searching to have one stream bring back tweets from different hashtags that you want to group together in some way. I can’t imagine using Twitter without a tool like HootSuite. I do not monitor Twitter on a regular basis so want to be able to see older tweets that I would miss if I only look at my real-time stream.


My Hootsuite Tab called ‘Online Learning – MOOC’

Another great feature of HootSuite (and I swear they aren’t paying me to say this) is that you can create a stream that follows a particular Twitter list. So, for example, I have a HootSuite stream that is showing me all of the tweets from people on the @NU_MSLOC #xplrpln list, all participants in this seminar.

Q: Why would I want to do this in addition to following the #xplrpln hashtag in a stream?

A: Because I can learn so much more and further develop my PLN.

When I follow a list in HootSuite, I see all of the tweets from everyone who has been included in that list, not just the tweets that include the #xplrpln hashtag. I’m going to make an assumption that people who have signed up to participate in #xplrpln are a pretty interesting bunch (and this has proven true so far!) so I’d like to see what else they are sharing on Twitter, not just their #xplrpln tweets. And this is one of the benefits of building a PLN. I will likely learn something new from one of these tweets. I will be able to get a sense of who amongst this group of seminar participants I might want to connect with in other ways outside of the context of this particular online seminar.

This is a stream of @NU_MSLOC's #xplrpln Twitter List

This is a stream of @NU_MSLOC’s #xplrpln Twitter List

photo credit: Paul Stevenson via photopin cc


20 thoughts on “Writing Oasis (and the power of HootSuite)

  1. Pingback: Drinking from the Online Firehose — Preparing for the #FutureEd Coursera #MOOC | Gather with Purpose

  2. Pingback: Reflections on xplrpln | Explorations in learning

    1. Sorokti Post author

      Great minds Claudia. Of course, I did not follow my writing oasis tips today but am going to try to set the timer this afternoon. Looking forward to reading the fruits of your writing practice!

  3. Brandy

    Thanks to my googling skills I found you and this really helpful article! I work a 9 hour job, and I try to keep up a website with all the necessary social media accounts as well. Lately to make everything grow like it should I’ve had to really use my time and resources wisely and Hootsuite came to mind (leading me to you). Thanks for explaining how to use hashtags and Hoot to my advantage. It really helped out. Now just to put it to action. Thanks!

  4. Pingback: #xplrpln: Week 1: try something new | Explorations in learning

  5. David Kyle

    Wow, what an inspiring post to read.

    One of the best tips I ever received while experiencing writers block was to sit down with a pen and piece of paper and not let the pen leave the paper for 10 minutes. You could start by writing something as simple as “I have no idea what to write today, I’m sick of this.” After a minute or two of dribble I would find myself formulating thoughts and words starting to flow. It sounds like your 40 minute exercise without edits is similar!

    Thank you so much for the genuine support of HootSuite! We are working hard to make it easier to sift through the wealth of information on Twitter. Feel free to reach out if you ever have any questions, we’re here to help.

    – David from HootSuite

  6. tanyalau

    Thanks for your post – blogging regularly is something I’ve both struggled with and been wanting to make a more solid commitment to as well. I’ve read similar tips re allocating a specific time, writing sans editing for 45mins-1 hr…(but not yet actioned myself!)…so good to hear this works! I shall try it next time. My problem is not being disciplined enough to keep to an allocated time, or in fact, to write without editing (which always blows the imposed time limit!). Cutting yourself off from internet and phone during your writing time is also a tip I picked up from John Stepper’s blog http://johnstepper.com/2013/10/05/36-times-an-hour/
    Also thanks for tips on hootsuite- have been intending to check out for a while, sounds like a very useful tool. Will be taking a look tonight. Finally thanks also for mentioning #cicmooc, this sounds like it combines 3 topics I’m very interested and intrigued by so I’ll definitely be taking a look at that stream too!

  7. essgarland

    Great post thank you. I’ve been curious about Hootsuite but never seen it in action. Today I will start using it, so much easier than trawling through feeds. There we are. PLN in action :). Love the oasis idea… Maybe will try that next.

    1. Sorokti Post author

      Wonderful Ess! I have another goal this year to show my work more. Knowing that it is of use to someone else is very motivating so I’ll try to keep sharing.

  8. Susan Barrett Kelly

    Keeley, thanks for this post. John Cleese nailed the creative challenge for me. I find myself waiting to have a moment to write ( and thereby think) but that moment never comes. I love the idea of a bound space ( and will steal the timer idea) for reflection, thinking and writing.

    1. Sorokti Post author

      Susan – I think that moment must have come many times for you given your track record with blogging. You are one of my blogging mentors! Also reassuring to know that even you struggle with this sometimes. 🙂

  9. Pingback: Writing Oasis (and the power of HootSuite) | Ex...

  10. cathleennardi

    So glad to have inspired this post…and so glad that you are lurking on the edges of #cicmooc. That is exactly the purpose of building your PLN! Blogging is just like any other exercise. You need to be regular. I like your idea of setting aside time and setting a timer. I also invite you to read Alan Levine’s @cogdog thoughts about blogging. It helps you get rid of the mental roadblocks. http://t.co/Xp4vuuc2Sk Like you, I could not live without HootSuite. Right now I am following 7 streams — just added #xplrpln because it sounds like a great conversation to follow.

  11. Kimberly S. Scott

    Awesome, Keeley! You actually have two or three blog posts here, so any regret for not posting sooner should now be gone. Excellent Twitter tips, too. I used HootSuite for our #xplrpln twitter chats, and it makes a huge difference in keeping up with the chatter.


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