writing

Updates 2018

I <3  Garner's Modern American Usage

I <3 Garner's Modern American Usage

So many things. Fasten your straightjackets.

1. I moved to L.A. Well, Pasadena, technically. I also ran a live music-live lit variety show at my friend's bookstore for an entire year. That was pretty great.

2. A few wonderful ideas dawned on me. I could get my MBA online to rid myself of my imposter syndrome once and for all. I could suspend TML in order to get a full-time gig in order to fund things, including my co-working space/board game cafe and my short film. I could keep writing stuff that may never see the light of day but keeps me sane.

Qapla'!

Qapla'!

3. And so you'll have to forgive my post lag. I've been busy working on things that I hope to share with you soon. But if you want me to cover a topic for you here in this tiny nook of the internet, I'd be delighted to do so. Just hit me up.

The Communication Equation

Photo by Awkward Robot. It'll be relevant later.

Photo by Awkward Robot. It'll be relevant later.

I recently discovered Unstuckable, a podcast where you can "get daily inspiration and learn ... how to work on your own terms to achieve the freedom you desire and the stability you crave." While that statement is pretty fluffy, Episode 43 featured a discussion with Cory Huff of The Abundant Artist, who offered this nugget wisdom to artists looking to make art their living:

Figure out the best way you communicate and use that method to communicate what you do, why you do it, and why it matters to the people who are looking at your work. And then don’t be afraid to ask people to buy things.
— Cory Huff

Below I've illustrated Huff's communication equation:

TML Formulas.jpg

While this basic formula is exquisitely effective as is, my research and experience leads me to recommend a few edits. I would posit that the result of such an equation isn't necessarily success (whether that be defined as freedom, financial security, or something else), but rather a response to the stated, specific request. Oftentimes a request can be too vague to result in a desired outcome that could be described as success. (Clearly defining success would be the first step in crafting a request that would lead to a desired result.) Therefore, I propose altering and simplifying the equation:

TML Formulas.jpg

But that equation still leaves room for redundancies and inaccuracies. First of all, starting with "what" isn't necessarily going to attract and retain your audience. There are probably a lot of people who are doing what you're doing, and the details of that "what" may not matter to those who aren't sure they should invest their time/interest in the first place. Instead, your initial message should engage your audience's emotions, which is best accomplished through the element of "why"--go ahead and tell them why they should care. Furthermore, your "what" could be stated directly in your request. For example, if you're a landscape photographer who wants to make a living selling landscape photography prints, instead of starting off your message with, "I sell landscape photography prints," you could end your message with, "Buy my original landscape photography prints by visiting my virtual gallery."

The element "why" can also be simplified. If you want to capture emotion via the expression of your personal reasons for doing what you do, you should avoid saying something like, "I specialize in landscape photography because I enjoy taking pictures of unusual geography." Why would strangers care about your likes and dislikes? It is much easier to tap into emotions by stating an authentic belief: "I believe that capturing and promoting our planet's unique beauty can inspire people to make conscientious environmental choices."

By sharing your personal belief, you can connect emotionally with people who share your belief, the people most probable to respond to your request. But before getting to that request, you should squeeze in a persuasive, audience-centric "why." Your audience's "why" is not about you. It should not be a list of features: "My landscape photographs are printed in black and white, so they will match any decor." Instead, it should be presented as a benefit: "Viewing stunning landscapes everyday in your home or office can reawaken your appreciation for nature and motivate you to do your part in making Earth a healthy, thriving place for generations to come." Better yet, make it both informative and emotional: "With stunning black and white landscape photography greeting you everyday in your home or office, you can reawaken your appreciation for nature and find motivation to do you part in making Earth a healthy, thriving place for generations to come."

Below is the final equation:

Put it all together and you've got this message:

"I believe that capturing and promoting our planet's unique beauty can inspire people to make conscientious environmental choices. With stunning black and white landscape photography greeting you everyday in your home or office, you can reawaken your appreciation for nature and find motivation to do your part in making Earth a healthy, thriving place for generations to come. Buy my original landscape photography prints by visiting my virtual gallery."

The equation below indicates what each element should aim to do.

Ta-da!

Delicious, Ugly Meatloaf: Why Quality Writing <3 Quality Design

Good writing paired with bad design is like ugly meatloaf.

Most people wouldn't feel inclined to eat it, and the people who would eat it probably wouldn't Instagram it because their followers might lose their appetite. That would be a shame if you spent good money or time on your meatloaf.

Delicious, ugly meatloaf.

Delicious, ugly meatloaf.

Or maybe not that much money. If I could have treated myself to a creamy chai latte, I would be a little upset if my investment was thwarted by ugliness.

Things that help your audience read your writing:

  • bullet points & lists
  • good typographical choices
  • hi-res, pretty images
  • white space
  • concision

If you're writing blocks of text, it's a good idea to break the blocks up with headings or white space so that skimmers can get the gist. White space is breathing room, and headings can serve as Cliff notes. Just don't over-do it.

Consider the following examples:


Example 1:

Nutcrackers are weird.

It would appear that we perceived our gods to be angry. They might notice that these figures were primarily used during winter. Nut remains would be found with them.

If aliens were to find the remains of our current civilization, they would discover small, idol-like figures in many households.

It would seem as if we believed that nut sacrifices catalyzed the transition to the next season.

 

Example 2:

Our gods seem angry.

Our gods seem angry.

Nutcrackers are weird.

If aliens were to find the remains of our current civilization, they would discover small, idol-like figures in many households.

They might notice that these figures were primarily used during winter. Nut remains would be found with them.

It would appear as if we believed that nut sacrifices catalyzed the transition to the next season.


See? Isn't Example 2 easier on the eyes and mind? I not only hope that you now appreciate the importance of mindful design, but also the truth about nutcrackers. They are scary. Like clowns.

Email Blasts: the painful truth

The more I meet people at networking events, the more I get added to people's "contact list," which means that my inbox gets steadily more crowded. Which would be fine with me... if most of them didn't suck. After all, these smart, social professionals probably have some pretty valuable things to say. And they are willing to share their knowledge for free. On top of that, they're willing to reach out to me and share that valuable information so that I can sit on my couch in my pajamas and soak it all in at my leisure. But what happens to most of these convenient, informative, valuable messages? They get deleted. Why?

  1. They are boring. I open them up and there are blocks of plain text with canned messaging and no voice. I don't recognize the shining personality of the author. Instead, my eyes glaze over and I try to skim for important info, but it all blends together and I get overwhelmed and angry that this person made me spend my time skimming their email. I hit delete.
  2. They are not concise. If you want people to open an email and read something important, why bury it? Readers don't have time for an intro paragraph. They don't have time to click on that link that takes them to the tiny flash slideshow which, after text-dissolving slowly for three minutes, invites you to "click here!" for more information. Unless, of course, you've built up a solid reputation and you send an email blast with the heading, "THIS IS MY LAST MESSAGE, GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD."
  3. They aren't special. I know, I know, we can't all possibly be special. So, be honest with yourself: are you special? Think you might be a little special? THEN WRITE LIKE YOU'RE F***ING SPECIAL. If you're irreverent, write irreverently. If you're funny, write funnily. If you're super smart and nerdy, write smartly and nerdy-ly. If you're boring, don't write or hire someone who has a voice/personality. People will appreciate an irreverent, funny, smart voice more than a calm, collected, "professional" one. I'm not saying you aren't special if you happen to be a calm, collected, professional person... just consider what voice you can authentically inhabit and understand that people have a sixth sense for superficialities. Choose authenticity--you are what makes you special.

Here's an email you can send to your email-blasting colleague-friend:

Dear [special professional person who I happen to appreciate],
I've noticed that you've begun sending informative email blasts to, what I assume, a long list of contacts you've accumulated. I was wondering: have you gotten a lot of response from them? I ask because I've been reading these emails and I have a feeling not many other people have been.... And I bet that when they click on that link "Access Your Information," people don't stick around very long.
As your friend, I want to let you know that you're possibly hurting your brand with these sorts of email blasts. For one, people who know you (and obviously like you) might open the first few emails, but when they find the info boring/dry (no offense) and lacking your personality, they will stop opening your emails. And what's worse than being consistent in your messaging is having your messaging associated with "unimportant" or "boring and dry" or, even worse, "annoying." Because then, when you have something really important or valuable to share, people won't pay attention.
So, if you're interested in keeping your brand shiny and potent, my suggestion is to write with a voice, present your info in a more interesting/entertaining way, and make it prettier (graphic design is actually an important consideration for email blasts, especially when you're contacting people who don't know you very well since you'll have to visually attract them to read your content). Or perhaps consider halting further email blasts before it's too late and you lose your audience. Once you lose your audience, it's really hard to win them back.

And so, my friends, think before you send.

Communicating Like a True Human: Practical & Entertaining Exercises

I love that lady in the back. She knows she shouldn't be wearing that.

I love that lady in the back. She knows she shouldn't be wearing that.

Last week I gave a presentation to twenty small business owners on the subject of creating contrast for business. I went over my Bad Rules and led the following exercises, which I recommend printing and trying out on your own. Enjoy!

On Storytelling: The Importance of Reframing Reality

I came across a very TML-relevant article today on one of my favorite blogs, Brain Pickings. In it, Maria Popova discusses Phillipa Perry's book How to Stay Sane:

At the heart of Perry’s argument — in line with neurologist Oliver Sacks’s recent meditation on memory and how “narrative truth,” rather than “historical truth,” shapes our impression of the world — is the recognition that stories make us human and learning to reframe our interpretations of reality is key to our experience of life:
— Maria Popova

My latest client contacted me with an unusual, forward-thinking, and therefore especially welcome request: to write her story. Not for a website or a brochure or a stage introduction or a speech... Just for her. She wanted to clarify her story so that she could feel more focused and motivated while moving forward with her career as a motivational speaker. While I was somewhat thrown by the lack of guidelines, the end result, a pseudo-fantasy-editorial feature, really excited me and I found myself feeling more focused and motivated, too. This assignment was storytelling at its best: reframing reality to use for life experience purposes. And, as I network, meet new people, and describe my business, I find that most people don't understand the benefits of reframing reality. As Maria Popova and Phillipa Perry know, stories can be more powerful than facts, more lasting than memory, more real than actual life. That's exactly what excites me about this work. I hope to come across many more clients who are as open to the power of stories as my last.

how-to-stay-sane.jpg

The Beginning

Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise.
— Horace

The inception of The Magma Lab took me by surprise. I was expecting to find a "real job" and work at a handful of "real companies" before trying to make it on my own. But then I kept hearing the same message, like it was stalking me: "You can do it... if you get out of your own way." Everyone starts somewhere; one only needs to be willing to show up. Alas, being a beginner can suck. I remember my high school and college freshman years... Eww.

To counteract the awkwardness, I will log the development of this business on this blog. I will share information, lessons, stories, and anything that could be of use to people interested in business, advertising, marketing, copywriting, and the like. As a woman entrepreneur, as a writer, as a curious learner, as a beginner, here's to showing up and sharing stories that aspire to be both educational and entertaining.

 

'Ello 'Orace!

'Ello 'Orace!