I was lucky enough to be selected to speak at Ignite Minneapolis 7 last night! My five-minute talk was in defense of mediocrity! Check it out below (at 1:13:57), check out the other speakers, and please consider pledging for my crowdfunding campaign if you’re especially intrigued by the topic!
I’ve written a lot of posts this month, so decided to share them all now rather than waiting two more weeks.
- Patch Is Back, But It’s Destined to Fail Again. Here’s Why. (Content Strategist)
- Five Ways Newsrooms Can Catch Up to Digital-Savvy Competitors (Content Strategist)
- Here’s the Lowdown on Eight Professional Groups for Writers (Freelancer)
- Four Instances When Demonstrating Your Authority Can Be A Disaster (Copyblogger) When pulling authority erodes trust instead of building it.
- Add Sizzle To Your Content With Eye Catching Images (VerticalResponse) Exactly like it sounds.
- Useful Google Analytics: Goals and Attribution Models (VerticalResponse)
- Four Tips To Keep Your Search Strategies Up-to-date (VerticalResponse)
- Different Strokes For Different Folks (Performance Menu, behind a paywall) A look at 3 different training goals
- Why Dads Get Forgotten by Marketers on Father’s Day (G/O Digital)
Earlier this year, I noticed that I kept hearing people discuss hobbies they were interested in but decided not to pursue because they felt like they were past their peak. This even though they were activities they were interested in for fun!
Time and again I’d hear people will say things like “if I was going to be good at this, I would know it already.”
I started thinking about the topic and seeing tie-ins everywhere: posts about people learning to pitch even though they don’t have the ligament structure that would’ve developed if they started when they were kids, articles on language acquisition, and so forth. And I started thinking about the whole “women in tech” movement, and how people say it is very difficult for women, minorities, etc. to get involved in computer programming, which I always thought was strange since it’s something you can learn to do in your basement without ever needing to come in contact with an actual person. Also I was reading the Sports Gene and realized even people who do things “right” but are born with the wrong attributes never succeed at the top levels anyway, so it seems silly to follow their model for people who never cared about being world champions.
I decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to delve into seven fields more in depth and share my findings.
Check it out here:
Please consider backing this campaign!
I’m addicted to boxes with miscellaneous items. Perhaps this stemmed from my middle school days playing AD&D (Second Edition!) and being unreasonably excited about the bag of useless objects, a funner version of the infamous bag of tricks.
In my adult life, my obsession with boxes started as a foray into the world of Quarterly.co, where I could pay to have a box of random curated goods sent to me quarterly. (Nitinol! Music boxes! Lock picking kits!) I’ve also tried Good Box, handmade care packages based around a specific theme. I get Birchbox once a month. There are countless others: Barkbox for dog lovers, Loot Crate for gamers, PlaceInABox, you name it.
Some subscription services are based on convenience. If you can have clothes sent to you through StitchFix, or Bomb Fell or TrunkClub for men,why go to Nordstrom’s to try on clothes? Heck, True & Co. will even send you bras you can try on in the comfort of your own home and return the ones you don’t like.
Another reason for subscription services is to support the person making the products. It’s the same reason you sign up for a CSA to support local farmers, no matter what ends up growing.
But the big reason, in my opinion, is that we’re missing a bit of serendipity in our lives. As shopping moves more and more online, and sites — and ads — become increasingly targeted, picking up something random on a whim is becoming a rarity. If you happen to run across the same product twice, it’s likely because of ad retargeting, not coincidence. And so we buy boxes of random objects, to pick up items we could have obtained for a much lower cost. I’ve unsubscribed from a Quarterly curator because I felt like I was paying money to get stuff I didn’t need sent to my house. And as much as I appreciate the well-designed products, I’m noticing that they’re merely stemming a profound desire for something different in a world where random and different things are becoming more and more difficult to find. Have we optimized the serendipity out of our lives?
Boxes also allow us to explore items we normally wouldn’t have bought. If it wasn’t for BirchBox, I’d never wear bright pink lipstick or silver eyeliner. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I’d like to purchase products that are specific to my style (and skin tone). On the other, I’m tired of an overly regimented world and staying in my little box, and sometimes trying something that seems completely wrong for me can be a lot of fun.
I’m not sure if random boxes are a solution for an overly sterile shopping experience. Ideally, we’d all send boxes of random objects perfectly selected for each other. I am always looking for excuses to send people miscellaneous gifts, which is just as much fun as getting an unexpected package on my doorstep. Perhaps we need to curate more presents for one another, in a world of gift cards and registries and rigid expectations. Gift boxes seem to be a more artificial version of this.
What do teaching, business, and creative client-facing work have in common? They are absolutely governed by your mood. Walk in with the wrong attitude and it could ruin your entire day. But trying to be cheerful all the time or attempting to force yourself to be happy when you’re just not feeling it isn’t realistic. Enter equanimity.
Being equanimous means that you maintain composure no matter what is happening around you. This can stop you from taking on other people’s problems or letting them negatively affect your mood, but it’s also important to remain equanimous in the face of praise. By not letting your emotions rise and fall like a rollercoaster, you draw your power from within rather than allowing yourself to be manipulated, positively or negatively, by others.
What does this look like? You might be sad if someone says something negative, or you’re not getting the attention you feel that you deserve, but you won’t become unhinged by it. You may be happy if you do a bang-up job on something and appreciate praise, but you won’t become addicted to it.
Practicing equanimity allows you to have control over your emotions, rather than being swayed by the wind.
I wanted to let you know about three great resources I’ve come across that I haven’t written about yet.
If you go to see Shakespeare any chance you get, this site will save you an awful lot of Googling. You can see a list of where’s playing what if you want to look up your town, or anywhere that you’re visiting. Or, if you want to go on a special trip to see Troilus and Cressida or All’s Well That Ends Well, check out the list of what’s playing where.
Geek Feminism Wiki Resources For Therapists
The geek feminism wiki is a treasure trove of information, and this new resource for therapists has been put together to get therapists up to speed on the background, issues and incidents relating to gender issues in tech, gaming and other related fields that are unfortunately rife with bullying, harassment and misogyny. Even though the resource is intended for specifically for mental health professionals, I think it’s a really good primer to get anyone up to speed. If you are writing about these issues or are just curious, I’d really recommend taking a look.
Reachable is a great resource for trying to track down a decision maker or someone else you want to meet, using social media profiles, provided that you’re okay getting intros to intros to intros until you meet someone who can introduce you to the person you’re trying to reach.
For the past few years, I’ve participated in the WordCount Blogathon, where 100+ bloggers sign up to post daily for an entire month. This year, the blogathon is a joint effort between Freelance Success and WordCount, and I’ve signed up once again.
Our fearless leaders have fantastic blogs of their own:
- WordCount: Freelancing in the digital age (Michelle Rafter) and What Freelance Success Says (Jennie Phipps).
If you just can’t get enough of reading, here is just a small sampling of some of the other participating blogs this year that are specifically focusing on writing.
- Dollars and Deadlines by Kelly James-Enger is a great resource year-round for tips on running a thriving freelancing business.
- Notes from a hired pen by Jen A. Miller is a beautifully written personal blog.
- The Writer’s [Inner] Journey by Meredith Resnick takes a fascinating look at the process of writing.
- Jaya Wrote This by Jaya Powell is another look at the business and process of writing.
- Kathleen Reilly‘s personal blog includes recent posts on meeting Maya Angelou. (I know, right?!)
- Page Scraps is Holden Page’s personal blog, which has some insight on content, social media and tech.
- RN to Writer by Elizabeth Hanes looks specifically at healthcare writer.
- Freelance Writing 4 Beginners by Nicky LaMarco is exactly what it sounds like.
- Association of Ghostwriters by Marcia Layton Turner is about ghostwriting, of course.
- Investment Writing by Susan Weiner has some great information on financial writing.
- The Content Marketing Writer by Jennifer Goforth Gregory focuses on, you guessed it, content marketing.
Poet, author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou passed away on May 28th in her home. She was 86 years old. Her memorial service will take place on Saturday morning from 9am to 11:30am Central, and will be live-streamed. Below is one of her most beloved poems.
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
In the words of content marketing guru Brian Clark, “the writer runs this show.” Whether you’re running an agency, publishing a magazine, or just trying to keep your brand’s blog updated, the quality of your writers can make or break your business. If you’re looking to hire and retain the best talent, here are ten factors to consider.
1. Do you have a strong core mission?
No, I’m not talking abut the statement you wrote in some retreat that’s been doing nothing but collecting dust. A mission for your business should be palpable. It should be a guiding factor in all of your decisions and be based on something greater than just making money. Having a strong vision will attract writers with the same vision, and it’s the reason they’ll go the extra mile to find cutting edge research, or scrap a draft and start over when new details emerge rather than turn in work that’s passably good–but not great.
2. What does the energy feel like?
Even remote workers can pick up on your company’s vibe. High expectations, consistency, and a clear company culture go a long way.
3. Are your expectations reasonable?
You may work 60 hours a week and on evenings and weekends, but expecting freelancers to submit rewrites at 1AM is completely unreasonable. Asking for twice as much work as negotiated in the scope of your original agreement is completely unreasonable. The list goes on and on. Remember that just because someone is responsive to these requests at first doesn’t mean they’re thrilled about it. Trying to see just how much you can get away with is not a good recipe for retention.
4. What about everyone else’s expectations?
You’re probably not the only person interacting with your freelancer. If clients treat them like automatons or are disrespectful, that’s a part of their experience with your brand. So are those endless conference calls where they’re not really supposed to talk and are playing 2048 or muting their line so they can do their dishes.
5. How do you resolve conflict?
You may think you treat your freelancers just fine, thank you very much, but what do you do when there’s a conflict between a writer and a client? Bending over backwards when someone’s being unreasonable may keep them happy in the short-term, but freelancers like to work with people who have their back. Drawing a line with a client when necessary is a sure-fire way to win points with freelancers. So is working on eliminating extraneous steps and streamlining a process, with everyone’s feedback. If you do this on your own without them having to talk to you first, all the better. This isn’t to say that you should always placate freelancers, either. Just be fair.
6. How much of a cut are you getting, and what are you doing for that cut?
You’ll never hear this brought up to your face, but every freelancer will wonder about this at some point. If they’re practically running one of your projects, and you’re pocketing a hefty percent, you damn well better be providing value in some way or another. If you are micromanaging, adding extraneous tasks, or making mistakes your writer has to clean up for you–and adding additional steps for them in the process–you may wind up with a retention problem.
7. Do you have a crazy Draconian contract?
Nobody wants to sign those. Even if you pay enough that they will, they probably won’t feel good about it.
8. What does your CMS look like?
Do you have a sleek, sexy CMS that’s easy to use? Or are you forcing your freelancers to use some antiquated system that is ridden with bugs and occasionally breaks? Redesigns that everyone complains about and which don’t actually solve the problems people have don’t count as an improvement.
9. Do you give specific feedback?
The best writers want to improve their skills. You using their work as is could very well be a red flag. That said, it’s important that the feedback you give them is actionable and specific. And make sure to throw some praise in there as well, when warranted. If you can share metrics, all the better.
10. Do you accept feedback?
If you ask for it and ignore it, it doesn’t count. If your company isn’t agile enough to act upon suggestions, you’ll likely have problems beyond attracting and retaining talent. Also, it’s worth noting that feedback isn’t always honest when you’re just chatting by phone. Anonymous surveys are a good start. Hiring someone else to analyze them is even better.
Following these steps will not only help you attract and retain top talent and win their loyalty and affection, it’ll also help you build a damn good business that can weather any storm.
Sooner or later, it’ll happen to you: you’ll have time carved out to write but will be absolutely unable to concentrate. In case taking a break isn’t an option, listening to music might do the trick. Here are some of my favorite tunes and sounds when I really don’t feel like doing anything, but need to convince my brain to work in spite of it all. Feel free to share your own in the comments.
Songza has all sorts of great playlists, but I always keep coming back to this one. The finger-picking acoustic tunes have a hint of country and a hint of blues. No lyrics, so it’s not completely distracting, but it’s interesting enough to help you focus.
It’s not really music, but rather an app that mimics the sounds of a local cafe. If you’d like to be able to turn the volume up and down at will, not worry about spilling coffee on your laptop, and have a strong wifi connection that isn’t slow as molasses, you’ll enjoy Coffitivity.
If you like white noise in theory but can’t find any that doesn’t want to make you break things, Focus@will just might do the trick. The free version plays 60 minutes of sounds at a time, and paying for a subscription unlocks all sorts of other features.
Other People’s Soundtracks
Sometimes when I’m writing a profile on a specific person, I listen to the type of music they like to try to get in their head a little bit. Of course, this only works if it’s not music you absolutely despise. I usually look for them on Spotify or just find soundtracks of the type of music they say they like.
Your Favorite Tunes
I know, I know, it’s so obvious that it’s barely worth mentioning, but you probably have some tunes laying around that just might work. I find myself listening to classical guitar and ukulele quite a bit (Jason Vieaux, Jake Shimabukuro, Adrian Holovaty, etc.) when editing, and more raucous music (Jayke Orvis and the Broken Band, for example) for idea generation. What do you listen to when you write?