I’m No Friggin’ Mary Poppins AKA: When Writer’s Block Suggests To Friends And Family You’re In Dire Financial Need

I like to keep it pretty positive, but there’s something I need to address. This isn’t just for my sake, this is for all of my friends and the friends I have yet to meet who have started their own business. This is also for everyone that seems to think “owning a business” means “excessive free time,” “in need of money,” and “unemployed.”

I was asked this morning, for about the third time in six months, if I wanted to nanny this summer. The exact sum up upon asking was, “you mentioned looking for a new client or two on Facebook so I thought you could use the money.”

Woah. Let’s back the jolly trolly up a bit.

On the one hand, this person and I don’t speak regularly. She probably thought she was being nice. Helpful, even. But let me just get one thing straight: my business has never included nanny work. It is a writing service. It is a social media management service. It is writing copy for large and small businesses on a variety of topics including law, healthcare, automobiles, non-profit, television, marketing and more.

By working for myself, I am not unemployed. By working for myself, I’m not looking for any available opportunity that will put money in my back account. By working for myself, I’m not skipping out my front door at 11:00am every day singing “I’m done! Time to go shopping!”

By working for myself, I’m employing myself because I know my own value is worth more than the 40k salary and “great benefits” a big business thinks they can recruit me for. By working for myself, I take on clients that are in line with what I do and only what I do: writing and social media. By working for myself, I have 60+ hour weeks and I have 20- hour weeks. Business ebbs and flows as it does anywhere else on the planet. It doesn’t mean I’m writing 500 word articles for $5 on About.com and it sure as hell doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly become a nanny.

My seeking out new business is just that: seeking new business. It doesn’t mean I’m circling the drain pipe. It means that if you have a referral, send it my way because I’ve got the time to help new clients this month. It means I’m growing as a business. Branching out.

So the next time you have the urge to offer your self-employed friend an odd job that makes them a fast twenty bucks, think: have they asked you directly for such an opportunity? If not, hire the help from outside your friend pool and call up your self-employed buddy to ask them out for a drink.

Starting a business isn’t easy – it takes guts. But the truth is that for me, life without guts is nothing more than a death sentence.

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Raw

Are you all apologized out this week?

Excellent.

I’d like to discuss a new writing topic: sharing difficult stories.

I once said that writing what you know is terrible advice. I stand by that blog 115%.

However, for those writers that feel the need to write what they know, deciding to do so is often the first step in a long, painful process.

Recently, I was approached about how to write on some very personal subject matter. Without it, the triumphs of the story weren’t as meaningful.

That didn’t mean it was easy to write. However, the decision had been made that, no matter what, this deep rooted pain was going to be the story. How to make it sound real without making it sound whiny, victimized, or a slew of other negatives?

Here’s the truth: it’s easy to let our emotions take center stage when we write personal things. To be whiny, to be a victim. Hell, it’s from YOUR point of view. Recall in the apology blog when I told you to keep it short and sweet because the more you think about it, the more pissed off you’ll get?

I’m going to give you just the opposite advice this time.

Let it all out, my friend.

I truly believe that to write the tough stuff, you simply have to sit down and write it all exactly how YOU feel it happened. Let every hurt, every scar, and every insult just pour out of you. Cry about it. Scream about it. See red. Play the victim. Feel pain. Take no prisoners. Throw everyone under the bus. This is YOURS.

Are you a mess, now?

Good.

Walk away.

Leave it for a day.

Return.

Deep breath.

Edit.

It’s time to take that puppy from raw to personal, deep and meaningful. You’ll find that you’re much clearer about a written situation when you can come back to it. It’s almost like a time machine or a second chance.

Give it a try.

 

 

 

 

 

Writer’s Block is Real, or, How To Write A Proper Apology

You’ve gone and screwed it all up, haven’t you?

Well if you haven’t yet, you will. Trust me.

Or someone will think that you did.

Yes, my friends, at some point in our lives, we’re all going to have to apologize.

They’re not the easiest things to write – and I’m a writer. If my writer’s block is kicking in, chances are I’m poised to write an apology.

Nonetheless, it’s important to know exactly how to write them because they’re not going away any time soon. True apologetic letters have turned into apologetic emails (because one should never, ever text an apology and let that be the end of it).

Nonetheless, there’s a formula that goes in to writing them properly, professionally, and in a way that doesn’t make you want to chase the send button with a few tequila shots.

  • Always keep the apology short and sweet. The longer you ramble, the bigger the chance of subjecting your reader to a lot of drama that probably has little to nothing to do with the situation at hand. Write a paragraph (that’s 5 sentences) or less. For those who struggle with writing, this is where you breath a sigh of relief. After all, a paragraph is often less than 100 words and you’ve already mastered that skill.
  • Don’t focus on the wrong things. So often our apologies are focused on exactly what happened as opposed to what is going to be done to fix it. Think about it: when you’re pissed at someone and writing up that nasty response, don’t you just get angrier and angrier the more you replay the situation in your head? You both know what the apology is regarding. Focus on what will be done to fix it.
  • Choose those words wisely. You want to begin a conversation and calm the storm, not throw wood on the pissed off frenzy of fire. Choosing the right words can be the biggest challenge for someone that doesn’t write often or doesn’t enjoy writing. I understand. Just memorize this sentence: “It’s imperative that you know how deeply sorry I am.” More details on why this is an awesome phrase to keep in your back pocket below.

Okay, let’s just say that you actually did something wrong. I can’t believe it either, but it tends to happen to the best of us. What does that apology read like, exactly? The exercises below are geared toward the workplace, but I’ll explain the basic idea in-depth so you can tweak as needed.

Situation:

You missed a phone call with a client.

Apology:

Client

OH NO! I had you on my calendar for 2pm, not 1pm. It’s imperative that you know how deeply sorry I am and I’d appreciate an opportunity to right this situation as it’s unacceptable on my part.

Can I offer a free hour of writing consultation services in addition to our consultation call?

Your Name

See what I did there? Let’s break it down.

OH NO! (Or some other phrase you like to use: Oh my goodness, Drats, Shoot, Fiddlesticks) in all caps signifies the importance and urgency of your email. It also suggests that you’re not an idiot – in other words, missing your call with them is totally outside the norm.

I had you on my calendar for 2pm, not 1pm. Give a reason as to why this happened. It’s so easy, especially when we screw up, so say something along the lines of, “this is all my fault.” Guess what? As nice as it sounds in your head, it just leads to future distrust. By offering up exactly why you screwed up the person reading your apology can see that this instance was likely an anomaly rather than the standard.

It’s imperative that you know how deeply sorry I am and I’d appreciate an opportunity to right this situation as it’s unacceptable on my part. Everything about this phrase puts you in a submissive position while you’re placing the reader of your apology in a position of power. However, in this position of power, your reader also feels your sincerity and understanding, which helps to cut back on the level of tension. Boom.

Can I offer a free hour of writing consultation services in addition to our consultation call? We all love free stuff. I love it. You love it. The person you’re sorry to loves it. There are plenty of free things to be offered too, even if this isn’t a business related apology. Stand up a friend? Offer to buy them a drink. Stand up your kid? A trip to Disney probably goes a long way. I joke. Maybe just offer them a puppy or something.

See that? Short. Succinct. Smooth. You’re on your way!

On the other hand, we’ve all had to apologize for things that are not our fault. Not by a long shot. That apology too, is something we all must learn how to write, damn it all. The most common apology I find myself writing on a Monday morning is when a client emailed then texted then called with an urgent task- and I didn’t do it. After all, it was the weekend. That one reads a bit differently.

Apology:

Client

Good morning! I wanted to let you know that I did receive your requests over the weekend. Unfortunately, because they were received after normal business hours (9-5, M-F) I didn’t get them until this morning, which I’m sure, must have been somewhat frustrating. I’m happy to make the changes that were requested and they should arrive no later than end of day Thursday, June 27.

I’m very excited to be working on this project with you. In the meantime, if you have any other projects or assignments to add, please feel free to reach out with them. I’m all over it.

Your Name

Now let’s break that down.

Good morning! Start with a pleasant greeting that has nothing to do with the fact you’d like them to stick it where the sun don’t shine.

I wanted to let you know that I did receive your requests over the weekend. Unfortunately, because they were received after normal business hours (9-5, M-F) I didn’t get them until this morning, which I’m sure, must have been somewhat frustrating. This part is two-fold. It not only shares with your client that you’re on the ball during normal business hours, but it also tells them where their expectations might have fallen astray. It does not offer any kind of solution because there is no solution to be offered to them and certainly no free things. It explains that you don’t work weekends (duh) and that isn’t something to apologize for (also duh). It also acknowledges their feelings (panic, frustration) when they couldn’t get in touch, but doesn’t feed them.

I’m happy to make the changes that were requested and they should arrive no later than end of day Thursday, June 27. You’re “happy” to make the changes for them. You’re not angry that their attempts to contact you went over the invisible line. You’re not pissed off that they intruded on your weekend. Rather, you’re feeling upbeat and helpful.  Not only that, but you’ve given them a date by which they can expect return which helps alleviate future bugging.

I’m very excited to be working on this project with you. In the meantime, if you have any other projects or assignments to add, please feel free to reach out with them. Reinforce that you’re happy and excited about the assignment. Give them an ego boost. You’re excited to be working with them. Assure them that they can continue sending you tasks and that this situation should not be off-putting.

I’m all over it. Final sentence equates nap time blankie. It’s comforting. The client has nothing to worry about.

So you see, it doesn’t have to hurt to write an apology even when it hurts to write an apology. It also doesn’t have to be something that you plot out half your afternoon to write. Sure you might want to add a bit of personalization if the apology is to a friend or about a more serious matter, but the above should definitely take the worry out of the basic apologies that happen on a (hopefully irregular) basis.

What do you think? Share the ways you like to apologize below. Flowers don’t count unless they’re accompanied by a letter of acknowledgement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Know Your Dirty Secret

Are you reading this blog, thinking that your dirty little secret is still just that?

Guess what?

I know…

Wait, not that one. Weird-o.The other one.

You have a little voice inside your head telling you to write a book.

I know this because ever since I wrote my own book, I can’t tell you how many people have approached me with their desire to do just that themselves.

These people are realtors, stay-at-home moms, doctors, lawyers, waiters, journalists, coffee grinders, and, well, you get the picture.

I’ve concluded that pretty much everyone, at some point in his or her life thinks, “I should write a book about…”

But you haven’t done it yet, have you?

Wait, wait don’t tell me why, it ruins the fun. You haven’t started yet because…hmm.

Your idea sucks. Like really sucks. It’s the suckiest book idea to ever enter anyone’s imagination and the thought of putting it down on paper makes you nauseous.

No? Then…

You’ll get around to it. Soon. You promise. You just have a lot going on right now. Or you’re really social and don’t have much time to write.

No? Oh, I see. Well in that case it could only be…

No one will give a damn what you have to say.

The good news (which you glass half-empty people will see as bad) is that you will always feel this way. Forever. Until the end of time. It doesn’t matter how many things you have written, how long or short these written things are, how meaningful or impactful they were on your target audience.

Even the brilliant, witty Elizabeth Gilbert has these fears. And frankly, if she’s worried, the rest of us writers that have had little to no success should be worried, too.

But don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Being fearful of your creativity is healthy. Normal, even. Allowing yourself to be paralyzed by fear, never moving forward to challenge it, however, is not.

Want to pull the wool over the eyes of your self-doubt?

It’s simple. Don’t look back.

When you stop writing and re-read and edit and change, that’s what feeds the inner voice telling you that your writing sucks. Maybe your writing DOES suck. You don’t need to be reminded of that – you just need a good editor. Duh. Which you can find once your book is complete. Which you completed because you didn’t look back.

Is this starting to make sense?

Sometimes what we chalk up to “writer’s block” is nothing more than fear or anxiety. Don’t you dare let those emotions talk you out sharing your story.

I want to read it. Share a link in the comments below.

Create your own Thesaurus

I’ll admit that when I think of copywriting, my original thoughts often wander to “copyright” which is a lot of legalese. Copywriting on the other hand is the act of writing copy or text for the purpose of marketing or advertising. You can do this for a product, business, person, opinion, or an idea. I explain it to those who question the profession like this: the words you read when you visit a website? The “About Us” the “Company History” the “Services” pages – those are all forms of copy to be written for clients. *Light bulb*

Now you may be saying to yourself, “plenty of people can write.” That’s quite true. But have you ever scoured the Internet and noticed just how poorly written some webpages are? Where there is a problem, one must create a solution. Mine?

Curly Q Media (check it out – become a client).

As a writer, especially when you’re writing for multiple businesses, you must be flexible with your words.

Flexibility in our words is often one area largely impacted by writer’s block.

So tell me: what words are tripping you up regularly? Share it in the comments below.

For me, it’s the word “said”. It’s so easy to use, especially when you’re quoting someone. But it’s boring, especially when you use it five times in a 500-word article. Trust me. The thesaurus, by the way, offers little assistance to this particular plight.

How do I push through overuse of words? Easy: I create my own thesaurus. Whenever I come a across a word that I feel I use too often, I open my notebook and I write it down. Then, I spend about 5-10 minutes brainstorming other ways to express the same thing. For instance:

Said (this is straight from my notebook, folks)

Spoke

Mumbled

Retorted

Shared

Breathed

Exhaled

Gasped

Lied

Cried

Muttered

Yawned

Laughed

Your turn. What is a word that you would really love to start using less?

1620

When I typed 1620 into Google, I was thinking in terms of the year. I had pictured corsets made of whale bone and gentlemen throwing their waist coats over a puddle for their lady friend to walk over. Romance. Chivalry. Historical. I can write about that. Here’s what I got:

I laughed. I actually backed out of the search and was prepared to type in something far more safe. Victorian, perhaps, where the strangest thing I would get would be an image of a house. Unfortunately, as a writer, you have to write about things outside your comfort zone in order to become better. I will probably never write a non-fiction book about cars. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be able to write a few words about them. In fact, learning to write a few words about cars, even if I don’t write directly about them but rather, tie it in to my overall concept, is going to make me better. I find that when I’m writing only a handful of words (25, 50, 100) about things I don’t understand, I’m much more careful- each one counts.

Did I have any desire to do a writing exercise this morning wherein I had to create 50 words about the car pictured above? No. I wanted romance, damn it.

So I did both. I did something solid about cars – a sales pitch with a love angle. Exactly 50 words. No more. No less. Not great. Not terrible. You have to make a concept work for you. Be willing to think outside the box.

Now it’s your turn. Please feel free to share your 50 words in the comments. Trust me when I say that this not a judgmental space.

Just like first love, this car is strong, sturdy, and prepared to steal your heart. Recently restored, it is suited for collectors, first time owners or old souls. Relive your childhood or make memories to share with your children. Take it for a test drive today – you won’t regret it.

What We’re Doing Here

Let’s discuss writer’s block. I find that the opinions on this vary quite a bit. There are those who say that writer’s block is not a real thing – that muses are folly. Personally, I’m of the belief that writers block is a real thing.

“Pish posh!” You might say. Or perhaps, you screamed out a resounding “yes!” in your head upon reading those words. Either way, you’ve made it this far. You may as well keep reading.

I’ve spent countless hours, sitting in from of a notebook or a computer, writing, crossing out, rewriting, standing, stretching, walking around, cursing the heavens, sitting back down and having my mind still be totally and completely void of words. Or perhaps the words are there in a jumbled lot and they kind of trip and stutter their way out onto a page and then – no. Delete. Delete. Delete.

That’s how it went – for years and years and years. I had these high aspirations – writing a book was by and far my largest. And while it was a beautiful idea in theory, I could never write more than a few sentences or a few paragraphs before I’d read back through it, sigh in frustration and tell myself that I was a terrible writer, delete it, shut down my laptop, and writhe around in my disappointment for a few weeks before I tried again. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. For years.

Then, one day, I read some advice that totally changed my perspective on writing. It was in an interview done with one of my favorite authors. She said – quit deleting things or you’ll never finish. Just write it.

Well, gee, I’d never thought about that before. It seemed so obvious. So easy. So simple.

The problem then came down to my terrible writer’s block. It was one thing to write something so awful that you wished only to burn it, but it was an entirely different matter to have nothing to hate on. I had to fix this.

I didn’t know where to begin. I began taking notes. You know, like, when you’re out at dinner and inspiration strikes so you scribble your idea on a napkin, take it home, and turn it into a bestselling novel. The trouble was, by the time I’d get home, I couldn’t get beyond the idea that I’d scribbled down.

I started to do exercises for the old brain. I would wake up a full hour before I had to get ready and go into work. Sitting in front of my computer with a cup of coffee, I’d just type a random word into Google. Fish. Cow. Fire. Purse. Cup. Sing. Apothecary.

From there, I’d click on that handy dandy “images” link. Closing my eyes, I’d pick a random number from one through 10. Then I’d open my eyes, choose that photo (even if I hated it, and more often than not I really hated it) and write 25 words about it. After doing that for a week, I raised that number to 50. Then 100.

Around that time, I started to think, “hey, this whole writing thing is coming to me pretty easily now. I need a bigger challenge.”

That’s about the time that I got it in my head to do 365 with A Twist – a photo/short story challenge. It sucked. I’m not going to lie, I agonized constantly over my words. I freaking hated almost everything that I wrote – but that didn’t stop me from publishing them on my blog.

And then, one day, I decided that I was going to turn one of those short stories that I actually quite liked into a book.

And that took me weeks and weeks to actually begin. In fact, the only thing that got me to start AND finish was a challenge I discovered through a publishing company. Without it, I can’t say I wouldn’t still be sitting on my laurels. The truth is, however, that I have two books out and I’m working on a third.

So now we’re to the point where you say, “well, gee, that’s great, but what does this have to do with writer’s block and making me a better writer?”

Maybe something. Maybe nothing. The thing is, I deeply wish I’d had a mentor during this time of writer’s struggle. I could have saved myself years of agony if someone had just sat me down and said “you’ve got the ability, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice. And here is how to do that.” Writing is like anything else – a sport, learning to cook, learning to dance. Practice makes perfect. Or, if not perfect, better.

I plan to offer advice on here. Advice as a writer, advice as a woman, advice as an almost 30-something that will hopefully show you, man or woman, that you’re not the only one feeling like your writing sucks. I also hope to offer various free exercises for my readers that can help them hone their own writing skills.

The advice and the exercises aren’t professionally backed. You’ll be participating of your own free will because maybe you think this crazy red-head can help you out a little bit. You game?