Newsletter John Boyter; Learning to write and building a habit of writing.
I know I am not the sharpest tool in the box. I have been told this by many people and especially in recent years. I am not an international businessman and investor. This was made clear to me by my former bank contact at RBC in the Cayman Islands. He said “You came to the Cayman Islands thinking you were this international business man and to feel important”.
From, 2002 to 2022 I lived in the Caribbean. In the Cayman Islands, from 2014 to 2017, I wanted to set up an online business in a tax-free zone, build a house and move there. I failed miserably. The first 2–3 years, 2002–2005, I spent mostly in Cuba, and I luckily didn’t set up a business there. Seems I was smarter when I was younger. For almost 15 years, I worked with real estate in the Dominican Republic and set up a workspace facility with virtual office services in Santo Domingo, which I closed at the start of the pandemic.
Recently, when getting feedback on my writing, I have been asked if I like to write. When I started to write it took me a long time just to write a social media blog post. I wouldn’t say I love writing and I don’t always like it but I enjoy getting better at it. Which I find is the best part of creating content. You only get better at it. Practice makes perfect, they say. The last year living in Denmark I have been trying to write more and improve my writing. It was something I could bring with me from the Dominican Republic. And it’s an activity I can travel with and bring with me anywhere. Now I am writing a newsletter, this being my third edition and my blog on social media now works as either an introduction to or a resume of my newsletter.
The first edition of my newsletter was also my e-book preview. Possibly my final e-book will partly be about starting and developing this newsletter and in my second newsletter I started covering that topic. This edition of my newsletter is about learning to write and building a habit of writing.
A habit of writing
Am I good at writing? I know I must be improving as I get more positive feedback. Any feedback is very valuable and I am very grateful for it. It’s not easy to write, and I have chosen to write in English which is not my native language. It’s not hard work though. At least not yet. I am not particularly disciplined around writing or in general. I try to make up for that by building a habit of writing. Maybe I first need to do something else or maybe exercise and then I sit down and write. I don’t write at a specific time but I am most productive in the afternoon. I am not the most detail-oriented person either so I am trying to learn to use some tools for editing and proofreading. Finally, finding the right space to sit and write is a challenge. I prefer to go out somewhere to sit and write.
First trying to make it more simple and clear
On the LinkedIn Learning platform, I have finished the learning path Develop Your Writing Skills, including a course by Shani Raja A Crash Course in Writing Well: Learn to Write with More Style, Flair, and Impact, and I have started on the more extended version of his course Writing with Flair: How to Become an Exceptional Writer, and learning about his principles of simplicity, clarity, elegance, and evocativeness. I am working on using his method in my writing. First, I am trying to make my writing more simple and clear. Later on I will work on making it more elegant and evocative. The video courses on LinkedIn Learning obviously lean towards being business writing. In the learning path there were some videos about email marketing useful for my newsletter. But I will look elsewhere to learn more about creative writing.
The right weather for writing
I find the months of autumn until the end-of-year pleasant in Denmark. Including the Christmas period. January to March is when it gets difficult and the cold wears on you and I felt it especially in March and April. Where I go swimming for exercise — the water suddenly felt a lot colder even though it was the same temperature. The weather change in Denmark is enjoyable though and now it’s summer. There is really a difference between seasons and people’s moods changes with the weather. Some feel it more than others. In the Dominican Republic it is warm, warmer or too warm and hurricane season can be nerve-wracking when storms pass by. I don’t think I need warm weather to write. It doesn’t influence me that much. If anything, it’s cozy to be inside and write during cold weather. But I think a weather change and change of scenery can be helpful as inspiration.
Coffee shops as work space
I have been using coffee shops as space when I needed to work on my laptop. Some are more cozy than they are comfortable for writing and I don’t like it if they are too busy. There are some who seem to have a policy that you can sit and work and are practically designed for it like Starbucks and Espresso House, both chains present in Aarhus. Others are not too keen on the idea but can be nice and cozy. You can then sit and read through your writing and reflect on it. I have gotten used to reading a lot on my iPhone 11 which I now use more as a computer for my writing than as a phone. I have an android phone I use more as a traditional phone.
Serviced office space in Aarhus, Denmark.
There are three things that could make me join a real serviced office center. One is if I need a business address. If my writing develops into a business. Another reason would be for access to meeting rooms. Occasionally you have the odd meeting where you need some more privacy. So if that need increases. Finally it would be for networking and meeting other people who are self employed. I know Perron Workspace in Aarhus and that would be my choice if needed. They also run Fellow Workspace which looks like any workspace you would see in a big city with an important financial center. Very corporate. It’s amazing how Aarhus has developed in the last 15 years and it is really becoming an international city. Aarhus only has around 350,000 inhabitants but in some places it comes across as a larger city. Only the traffic is not as bad as in a big city. One place like that is the public library in Aarhus Dokk1. Very international. There are several areas for sitting and working. It’s now my preferred flexible work space. I bring my MacBook Air, headphones and my iPhone for writing, reading and listening to videos for learning.
My “office” in the Dominican Republic
I used to run a serviced office center in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. We closed it at the start of the pandemic and my partner in the business carried on working with our company as a real estate broker. In, Santo Domingo the last few years I lived there and after closing my office I used several coffee shops in and around Bella Vista Mall where I was living or later staying when visiting from Las Terrenas. Only in Las Terrenas have I felt more comfortable sitting at home on the terrace and writing there as opposed to going out. There I also have good conditions for it. Las Terrenas is also like my ground zero for writing as I moved there in June 2020 during the pandemic and I lived there most of the time between then and April 2022 last year. Now I can go back for visits.
Writing in English.
My English is a mishmash of Danish-English, English-English and American-English. I hope it gives my writing a unique style. It makes sense to me to write in English considering that I lived in different countries and met many people while traveling. My contacts either have English as a first language or as a strong second language. My mother is English, so it’s a strong second language for me. The fact that it’s not my first language and that I am learning to write English now at a later age has some advantages I feel. I think this way I avoid it becoming too sophisticated and academic. I want my writing to be understood by a broad audience.
Editing and proofreading
I don’t have anybody to edit my writing in my blog/newsletter. That is fine as I think it’s part of the learning process to self edit. In Las Terrenas the Dominican Republic, I met a professional American proofreader, an expat living there, who I would definitely work with. She uses the Chicago Manual of Style, and she looked through a text once in the beginning of my writing and again recently — my e-book preview. I like how she works. So it’s American English, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use more British or international expressions. She doesn’t do any editing beyond fixing true errors — spelling, grammar and word usage. I have been using the editing software ProWritingAid but considering just using Google Docs which has a reasonably good spellcheck and grammar check. For my ebook, I would look at working with the proofreader and an editor.
The genre I write is creative nonfiction based on my own experiences and impressions and from meeting people on my way. I revisit the past 20 years of living in the Caribbean which to me is therapeutic and at times it brings emotions that surprises me but it’s helpful. It’s not meant to be autobiographical but has elements of being a memoir — depicting specific aspects of my life and mostly just from that 20 year period. I can only convey what I know, of course, and I don’t always have the full story or only remember details or I just remember how an experience made me feel. During writing my newsletter and in my planned e-book I go from past into present and in the newsletter I will mainly write in the present. I leave the past more to my e-book. I am aware I have to make sure it is something that people want to read and not just what I want to write.
I am very pleased when I get feedback on my writing. Especially around the style of my writing. Regarding the topics and content, while writing just on social media, I was less concerned with criticism as I quickly moved on with a new blog post. There is always something to write about. Now I will try to stick to some specific topics and with the newsletter I hope to improve the quality of the content. On, social media with my blog I would sometimes just write anything just for practice and to get into the habit of writing. The next 3–6 months I hope to develop this newsletter and then in the beginning of 2024 try with a more extended version of it with paid subscriptions. For this purpose I have to develop content there is a demand for.
My writing platform
I publish my “Newsletter John Boyter” on the writing platform Medium, as a LinkedIn Newsletter and I send it out to my contact database as email via the marketing platform MailChimp. On my blog site www.johnboyter.com and on my social media; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and my personal LinkedIn profile I post an introduction/resume with a link to the full newsletter. My writing platform is also my marketing platform for hopefully future e-books. The first I plan to finish at the end of this year 2023. Then maybe two more during 2024 around the same topics of living in Denmark, my past expat life in the Dominican Republic and possibly some travel to England and the US for inspiration for my writing; to improve my writing skills, create more content and to learn about tools for marketing my newsletter and e-books.