Three Steps to Website Revision

I recently completed the three stops to website revision: Procrastination, New Headshot, Revised Content.

Procrastination

I’ve needed to revise the Writing Services section of my website for almost two years. During the previous iteration, I called myself a pen-for-hire. I do have reliable and lucrative clients who pay me to write for them, but the truth is more people hire me to teach and to talk, activities that build audience and allow me more time to write what I want. I kept planning to revise the content on these pages – as soon as I had a new headshot to go with.

New Headshot

Moose

Camera shy charismatic mega fauna photo by my friend Kathy Lena

Like most charismatic mega fauna, I don’t like to stand still for the camera, so I kept “forgetting” to ask my friend who’s a wildlife photographer to snap a new headshot. Then, I lost the names of the two professional photographers my hairdresser recommended. I put it off, cleverly combining this task with procrastination.

But on a leadership retreat in February, I met Kelly, someone I knew by sight and got to know better. I liked her a lot. It turns out, she’s a free-lance photographer. Even before I saw her spectacular portfolio, I hired her.

alternate headshot

I love this shot, too.

Working with a professional photographer was a revelation. It taught me new respect for both photographers and models. Posing is exhausting, but working with Kelly was a blast. She put me at ease; I trusted her; she encouraged me. We spent most of two hours and ended up with more than a dozen really good shots. She took so many good pictures of me, it was hard to choose which one to use.

In this case, procrastination paid off. Or maybe waiting for the right photographer wasn’t really procrastination. Maybe procrastination is really just another way of saying, Readiness is all.

REVISED CONTENT

Once the headshots were done, I doubled down on revising Writing Services, which now includes Manuscript Development, where I can help you tell your story, as well as Pen-for-Hire, where I can write your story for you. New sections on Teaching and Speaking are in the works.

The goal is to make it easy for  visitors to find out how to hire me to tutor, teach, or talk. It’s a work-in-progress. Ultimately, it will include some new headings in the navigation bar, and some changes in the sidebar, including notice of upcoming speaking events. Stay tuned!

My webmistress is Codewryter, who does the customized coding. She’s also teaching me how to navigate the back end of the site, which is surprisingly user friendly. Even though the site upgrades aren’t all finished, I’m pleased with how they’re taking shape. I hope you’ll visit and let me know what you think.

Deb wearing purple

Another great photo!

Deborah Lee Luskin posts an essay every Wednesday on a variety of subjects centered around Living in Place in rural Vermont. You can visit her at www.deborahleeluskin.com

Word of Mouth and Other Marketing Options

I see this statement on the back of business cards all the time now:

WordOfMouth

“The finest compliment I can receive is a referral from my friends and past clients.”

Personal referrals are definitely (the most?) powerful when it comes to  building a business. And when referrals become the driving force that brings you new business, well, it might be time to have a staff!

However, word of mouth marketing can’t start until you’re established, so having it be your only method of marketing probably won’t work well. I mean, people can’t refer you until they know you can deliver what they need when they need it, right?

So, what other marketing options do you have? You want to use the best method(s) for getting the word out about your writing service that enables people to get to know, like, and trust you — with the goal of them deciding to work with you.

A great place to start is to think about a recent purchase you made – especially for a service – how did the business owner attract you? What captured your attention enough to pursue picking up the phone (or e-mailing) for more information? What did you find most important and particularly appealing?

  • Website
  • Newsletter
  • Blog
  • LinkedIn / Facebook / Twitter / Other social media
  • Print ad you received through the postal service
  • You met and spoke with the business owner at an in-person event
  • Article you read written by the business owner
  • A webinar or other online event you participated in
  • A book you read
  • Business card

You can also look at a competitor to see what marketing methods they use for attracting business. Ask yourself these questions and how they relate to your target market:

  • What is it that I like about what they are doing?
  • What is it that I don’t find particularly appealing?

These are just some overall questions to ponder and ideas to consider to get you started in marketing your business.

It’s insightful to realize what pulled you in enough to ‘make a purchase’ — and a great way to start connecting with your market, since what you find attractive is probably what your target clients will find appealing.

What is one of your go-to marketing methods that works well for you? (mine is LinkedIn)

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Are You on LinkedIn Yet?

LinkedIn_logo

If you haven’t heard, LinkedIn is a powerful marketing and networking tool. It offers a lot of opportunities for writers of all calibers and in all industries.

You can be starting your own business or be self-employed for numerous years. You can be a multi-published author writing fiction or non-fiction; long or short. You can be any type of writer with any level of experience and benefit from the power of LinkedIn to find jobs, connections, and resources. Resources that can gain you new clients and help you improve your craft.

I posted about Getting Started with LinkedIn a few months ago. Check that post if you haven’t delved into LinkedIn yet.

Your profile is a powerful marketing tool. Make sure you have it as complete and relevant as possible — to the type of work you are seeking, skills you can offer, and connections you want to make.  (Avoid diluting it with too many interests that are unrelated to your career.)

Connections are important. Decide if you want to be an open networker (keep all your connections visible) or private (hide connections). There are benefits to each – for instance, if you currently have a job and are seeking another, you probably don’t want your employer to be able to see you connecting with recruiters. (I prefer being an open networker and generally accept all requests as long as there is a profile, photo, and introduction in the Request-to-connect email.)

Building your platform (name recognition). By joining groups related to the industries you want to write for, types of communities you think will help you grow your business, and writers’ groups, you can comment on discussions and start your own. And since you will have a complete profile (with photo), people will be able to follow up with you as they see your name/photo appear in their feeds.

A venue to show your talent. There are multiple ways to share your talents with the world:

  • Publish your own posts on your own feed.
  • Upload samples of your writing.
  • Use Slideshare to share information.
  • Link to your website, Twitter, and other social media accounts.
  • Start your own group.

Use the multitude of opportunities on LinkedIn to get your name (and face) known by offering useful feedback, tips, references, and commentary whenever you can and watch your business grow.

**It takes a while to build up your network, so there’s no time like the present to get started if you haven’t already! Don’t wait until you are self-employed or are seeking clients to start on LinkedIn.

If you have specific questions about LinkedIn, feel free to ask in the comments. If you connect with me on LinkedIn, personalize the e-mail and let me know you read this blog.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Weekend Edition – 5 Questions to Ask When You Don’t Know What to Write

How to Figure Out What [You Really Want] to Write:

mary oliver wild lifeWhen I first saw the movie Contact, I was deeply envious of Jodie Foster’s character, the dedicated and driven astronomer, Dr. Ellie Arroway. Her single-minded pursuit of the truth about extraterrestrial life impressed the hell out of me. She was on a mission, a quest. She wasn’t going to let anything stand in her way. She believed in something, and that belief shaped every detail of who she was and how she lived her life. Because she was sure about what she was doing, she was able to throw herself into the work without reservations or doubts. Her approach was a full-court press that channeled all her energy and effort into achieving a single goal.

I would like to know what that feels like.

··• )o( •··

So far, my writing journey has been more pantsed than plotted. I know I love to write, but beyond that I don’t have much of a plan. This year marks the passage of four decades since I penned my first journal entry at the age of seven. Over those forty years, I have continued to practice and study writing. I have read innumerable stories, novels, and craft books. I have published hundreds of blog posts, written dozens of columns, and developed certain “marcom” (marketing and communications) writing skills enough that I now earn my living with words.

This is all good, but it’s not enough.

It’s trite but true that life is short. We only have so much time to create, and we never know when the sands in the hourglass will run out. It might be a little morbid, but I want to use my time wisely. The question is, what does time spent wisely look like … for me? What do I really want to write?

It’s an important question.

Each artist – writer, painter, dancer, etc. – creates because there’s something specific he or she wants to express. Whether we are writing poems or stories or novels, we writers write because have something to say. Sometimes, we know exactly what that something is, but other times we’re just sort of feeling our way in the dark, discovering as we go. While there’s nothing wrong with letting personal and artistic themes emerge organically over time, there is something to be said for honing in on your creative purpose – your “Writing Why” – so that you can craft your work more intentionally around that purpose.

As I’ve written before, clarity of purpose focuses your writing energy and effort:

It illuminates the ultimate reason you’re driven to write a thing and it helps you make critical decisions about what to include and what to leave out. Clarity is like a pair of enchanted glasses that filters out everything extraneous so you can hone in on exactly the things you need to tell your story. When you have clarity about your writing, you know what you want to say and you know how you want to say it. Writer’s Block becomes a thing of the past.

Study any artist’s body of work, and you will find recurring themes and “throughlines” that define and shape the work – certain ideas, beliefs, and questions. Writers often tell the same story over and over under different guises. A painter might paint the same subject hundreds of times – a sunset, a woman, a city. A musician might write song after song about the same experience. A poet might build an entire body of work writing about a single emotion.

In each of these cases, the artist has discovered and is exploring the Why behind the creative urge. Like Dr. Arroway searching the Universe for signs of life, the artist plumbs the depths of experience for meaning and connection.

··• )o( •··

I’ve written several posts about why we write, but they have mostly considered the question conceptually rather than tactically, universally rather than personally. I’ve looked at the subject from 30,000 feet up, but I haven’t yet put my feet on the ground so I can start digging in the dirt to unearth my specific reasons for writing. Up to this point, I’ve been content to meander along random paths; but lately I’m feeling a need to articulate my Writing Why in more concrete terms. I want to understand more about where I’m going and what I want to accomplish so that I can narrow down my choices and spend my time wisely.

To that end, I’ve put together an initial list of questions that I hope will help me better understand the reasons I write, and that – ultimately – will make me a better writer by focusing my attention and creativity around a cohesive and meaningful purpose. I realize that this is just a “starter list” and that I will likely need to add to it as I experiment with the process. I also realize that my reason for writing may evolve over time, changing in response to my life experiences. That’s all okay. At least this gives me a place to begin mapping out where I am and where I’m going. I can figure out the rest later.

··• )o( •··

Question 1: What do you love?

This is where most people start and end their search for their purpose. They ask themselves, “What’s my passion?” or “What am I passionate about?” Answering this question will never give you a complete understanding of why you write, but it’s as good a place as any to start exploring your motivations. Here are a few sub-questions to help kickstart your brainstorming process:

  • What are you most curious about?
  • What makes your heart leap with joy?
  • What makes you cry?
  • What makes you angry?
  • Are there topics that you return to again and again in your writing?
  • What do you collect?
  • What are your favorite things/memories/dreams?
  • Which are your favorite stories and books? (Bonus Question: Can you articulate WHY they are your favorites?)

Question 2: Who do you love?

We are often told to write for ourselves; don’t worry about anyone else, just write for you. While there is some merit to this advice (we should write from the heart and not be swayed by popular culture or the influences of our family and friends), if you write to be read you are writing to connect with other people. More specifically, you write to connect with a certain type of person. Marketers sometimes refer to an author’s “audience” or “tribe.” Whoever your people are, it’s important that you know who they are and what moves you to want to connect with them. Think about the following questions to help you get a clearer picture of just who you hope will read your writing.

  • Who do I love to spend my time with?
  • Who are your idols? Why are they your idols?
  • If you had to imagine your audience as one person, who would that person be? Who do you picture reading your work?
  • What attributes best describe your ideal reader? (Think about demographic attributes like age, gender, lifestyle, etc.; but also think about their personalities, philosophies, interests, and beliefs.)
  • Which people are not your people? (Sometimes it’s very helpful to find your “yes” by clearly defining your “no.”)

Question 3: What do you want to say?

This can be a tricky question. On the surface, it seems simple; but I can almost guarantee that once you start digging in, you’ll find it’s much more complex than you imagined. The best way to tackle this question is to keep asking it over and over, and each time you answer it ask yourself why you gave that answer. Be that annoying five year-old who never stops asking, “But, why?” Our off-the-cuff answers to this question are usually fluff. They are what we think we should say or a rehashing of what we’ve heard someone else say. That’s not it. Dig deeper. Ask again. Come at the question from different angles:

  • What do I wish I could teach the world?
  • What do I want to illuminate for people?
  • What do I see that others seem to be missing?
  • What questions do I want to ask?
  • Who or what needs a voice in this world?
  • What misconception or wrong assumption do I wish I could right?
  • What do I believe?

Question 4: What do you want to do?

If you are writing for an audience, you want to elicit a certain response. You want to touch their hearts or minds in some way. More to the point, you want to make them FEEL something. So – what is it that you want them to feel? Think about Maya Angelou’s words, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” How many stories or books have you read that stay with you more as a feeling than a memory of actual characters or events? The way a piece of writing makes us feel is its essence. So …

  • How do you want to make people feel?
  • How do you want to change their perspective?
  • How do you want to change how they feel about themselves, life, their dreams?

Question 5: What do you want your writing life to look like?

Finally, reel yourself in from the conceptual and philosophical explorations and spend some time thinking about the Real World aspects of your writing life. What kind of writer do you want to be? What kind of writing do you want to do? Visualize your ideal writing life: What time do you get up in the morning? Where and when do you write? How do you publish? Do you travel? Do you work solo, or collaborate with other writers? Are you autonomous or do you work for hire? What does your perfect writing life feel like? The questions are endless here, but let’s start with a few basics:

  • Do you want to be a storyteller or a Writer – commercial or literary?
  • Do you want to be a generalist or a specialist?
  • How much money do you want to make? (Be specific.)
  • Are you in it for fame?
  • Who do you want to impress?
  • Do you just want to be heard?
  • How do you define happiness?
  • How do you define freedom?
  • What does your ideal day look like?
  • What do you really need? (vs. what you assume you need)
  • When do you feel fulfilled artistically? Emotionally? Spiritually?

This is a long list of questions, I know. But, aren’t they fascinating? Don’t they make you wonder about how you might answer them and what those answers might tell you about yourself and your drive to write? It’s a process to uncover your Writing Why, but it’s a process that’s well worth the effort. The return on your investment of time and toil is a stronger sense of what makes you unique, what inspires you, and what you really want to offer the world – what you really want to write.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this question of your Writing Why and the process of trying to discover it. Please drop a note in the comments if there’s a story or idea you’d like to share. And, if you’d like to also share a few quick opinions, here’s a brief poll:

Thanks & happy writing to you! 

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Weekend Edition – Just Be Yourself. Yeah, Right. Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

The not-so-easy art of being yourself

pin who you wereBeing yourself is hard. Maybe you’re more evolved than I am, but I’m pretty sure that when it comes to who I am, I’m still figuring it out. I know I’m supposed to be a grown-up, but I still feel like an awkward kid half the time. I still have so many questions and doubts. I still feel like an unfinished story.

People say “just be yourself” as if it’s a simple matter. They mean well. They intend their words as reassurance or encouragement, but whenever I hear that bit of advice, it’s as if someone opened a trap door beneath my feet.  As I hurtle down into who-knows-what, my head echoes with the question, “But … who am I?”

··• )o( •··

When I was in high school, I was what you might call a “floater.” I did not belong to any of the usual cliques. I wasn’t a jock or a brainiac, a drama geek or a teacher’s pet. I wasn’t a cheerleader or a goth chick, a troublemaker or a goody-goody. While part of me is grateful that I was able to avoid the noose of any particular label, another part of me recognizes the possibility that I just wasn’t willing to commit too heavily to being any one version of myself.

Even now, almost three decades later, I still feel a sense of fracture in my identity. This isn’t unusual. Most of us live multiple lives that are defined by the many different roles we play – child, parent, spouse, friend, lover, worker, boss, artist. The situation becomes exponentially more complex as we layer on other aspects of the self – nationality and ethnicity, political and religious leanings, financial and social standing, etc.

And then there’s the fact that we are always changing. New experiences and perspectives change how we perceive and feel about the world and ourselves. We learn and adapt and evolve. We try new things. We change our minds. We change our style. We change our lives. We change who we are.

I just listened to a passage in Buddhism for Busy People that explained how our bodies are constantly regenerating so that every seven years or so, we are – in essence – an entirely new person. Perhaps that idea is what inspired the concept of the “seven year itch.” It certainly inspired one inmate to petition the courts for release after serving only seven years of a much longer sentence on the grounds that he was, literally, no longer the person he was when he was incarcerated.

··• )o( •··

I have always thought of myself as a kind of chameleon, subtly changing myself to match my environment. I admit, with some amount of self-reproach, that I am generally a people pleaser. It’s not that I present myself falsely. It’s more that I present myself in pieces, only showing the parts that are relevant and acceptable while keeping other bits to myself. While this approach to dealing with people is an excellent one for minimizing conflict, it’s not necessarily a great personality trait for a writer.

As writers, we depend on the courage of our convictions. Our beliefs and the identity they create are not only fuel for our work, they are also the source of our writer’s “voice.” As E.B. White said, “Writing is both mask and unveiling.” Even if we craft fictional stories, they still – if they are good stories – contain elements of truth, and those truths spring from our identity – from who we are.

This is why learning to “be yourself” is so important to a writer, to any artist. Knowing who you (really) are is the mandatory first step to developing your writer’s voice.

··• )o( •··

Because we work so hard to develop our characters and are also trying to hone our writer’s voice, we writers usually have more angst than the average bear about personal and artistic identity. For many of us, writing is more than a profession or even a vocation. It is part of who we are and a large part of how we interface with the world. Having our work rejected cuts us as deeply as it does because, on some level, the work is an extension of who we are.

This connection between self and art creates a challenge in a marketplace that expects consistency and continuity. The public does not always want artists to “be themselves.” In fact, the public is often outraged if a writer who is known for one thing tries to be something else. Take the case of J.K. Rowling, for instance. Loved around the world for her Harry Potter series, she was initially widely ridiculed for her work under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. But, whether the books she’s written under that moniker are good or bad interests me less than the fact that she felt the need to publish any non-Potter writing under a pen name.

Why isn’t Rowling allowed to be a whole person, instead of *just* the author of the Harry Potter series?

··• )o( •··

I think that many writers hold back for fear of being pigeon-holed. We sense the threat of permanence that hovers menacingly at the edges of success. Once we have become known for any one piece of work, we realize we will be expected to deliver more of the same. It comes back to that question of commitment – are you willing to commit wholly to any one kind of story, or even – as in Rowling’s case – one particular story?

The rub, of course, is that in saying “yes” to one thing – one self, one voice – you risk saying “no” to something else.

Most artists, writers included, are – once they have achieved some level of success – almost forced to work within constraints defined by their “public.” Though paparazzi and fans might fawn all over a celebrity, they do not really love her as a person. They love the idea of her and what she represents. If she steps outside the boundaries of their expectations, the fans can turn on her and feel justified in doing so because, to them, she has violated a trust … just by being herself.

··• )o( •··

My personal concerns about how I define myself and develop my writer’s voice exist on a much smaller scale than those of a global celebrity, but they still exist. The conflicts in my world are not dramatic, but they still pose a challenge in terms of how I see myself and how I present myself and my work to the world. For instance, I make my living as a content marketer for business-to-business companies, but I am also an essayist here on the blog, a columnist for my local paper, and an aspiring fiction writer. Just the simple act of choosing which articles to post on Twitter (business & marketing vs. writing and art) can start my head spinning.

Sure, I could split my identity into its component parts and create separate personas to address each audience, but I don’t like the idea of perpetuating this division of self. Even when I am “being” a content marketer, I am still a lover of fantasy fiction. And when I am “being” a columnist or a blogger, I might be thoughtful one day and funny the next, gently exploring a topic in one piece and taking an adamant stand against some injustice in another. There are many facets to who I am as a person, and also to who I am as a writer. Though I understand that some facets will shine brighter than others in certain situations, I do not want to have to shroud the others.

··• )o( •··

People often talk about “sacrificing for your art.” Usually, they are referring to an artist who gives up wealth, ease, peer acceptance, or a relationship. But, there is also a less recognized risk of inadvertently carving away pieces of yourself so that you can, ironically, live up to other people’s expectations about who you are – as an artist/writer and also as a human being.

Hanging on to your true identity is hard. First you have to discover who you are, and then you have to learn to inhabit that identity fully, wholly, and without inhibitions. Starting with first things first, look for clues about who you are by noticing what makes you laugh, what makes you cry, and what makes you furious.  Pay attention to who and what you make time for in your life – these are the people and things that matter to you most. Notice what spurs you to action, what compels you to get involved.

Be careful of labels. Try to rid your mind of all preconceived notions. Don’t get fooled into thinking that if you are one thing, you can’t be another. Go ahead and create your own crazy combinations. This is the art of being you. The rules were made to be broken. Know that the person you are today is different from the person were ten years ago, five years ago, yesterday. Don’t let that worry you. Change and growth are natural. Nothing stays the same for long, and you are no exception to that rule.

Maybe that’s the trick to “being yourself” with ease – simply letting go of any expectations and acknowledging that this question of identity is one that can never be definitively answered because the question is a moving target with an ever-changing set of variables. “Being yourself” becomes, then, not a destination, but a journey – an adventure with an unknown ending. I guess we are each of us, after all, an unfinished story. And that’s just as it should be.

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What I’m {Learning About} Writing:

risk graffitiAlthough I have been a busy, little B2B content marketer lately, and my personal writing time down to a nub (I seriously need to take some of my own advice about how to make time for writing) I still have my bi-weekly column deadline to keep my creative writing muscles flexing. This past week, I published a fun piece about the evils of clutter. Like many of my columns, I tried to fuse a little storytelling with a little humor and a dash of introspection. I was pretty happy with it, until I read my fellow columnist’s piece.

My fellow columnist is more of a traditional, op-ed style columnist. He’s also a bold humorist. The piece he wrote this week was a brazen condemnation of a local developer and the planning board that allows his irresponsible building projects. It was funny. It was entertaining. And it also very effectively addressed a real problem. It reminded me of the work that Jon Stewart did on The Daily Show (an compliment I don’t toss around lightly … I adore Steward).

While my column was “nice,” it lacked the “punch” of the piece on the ill-reputed developer, and the contrast between the two got me thinking about whether and how I should take more risks in my writing. Risks require commitment. They demand that we are audacious – speaking our minds, being unapologetically ourselves.

I do not yet know how this line of thinking will develop, but I’m interested to find out.

Have you ever taken a risk in your writing? What made you do it? How did it turn out?

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What I’m Reading:

bk one only ivanLife has been a little extra hectic lately, and when life gets too crazy I tend to seek out a good children’s book for comfort. After finishing Alice Hoffman’s magical and romantic The Nightbird last week, I turned to Katherine Applegate’s story of friendship, art, and hope – The One and Only Ivan. As it turned out, this was one of those “children’s” books that holds a great deal for readers of any age.

Here’s the description from Applegate’s website:

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

The story is told in the first person from Ivan’s point of view. The chapters are short and the style of Ivan’s delivery is very straightforward. As he explains early on, gorillas are all about brevity when it comes to how they use words.

On the surface, the story is about the plight of the animals at a roadside attraction, but just below that narrative there are deeper veins of meaning. Applegate deftly addresses the horrors of poaching (a topic that has been in the news a lot lately after the tragic murder of Cecil the lion), the mysteries of the creative process, the idea of freedom, the value of family, the weight of a promise, and so much more. Through the experience of her ape protagonist, she makes many astute observations about human nature.

This is a book that manages to expose some of life’s deepest tragedies and some of humanity’s ugliest tendencies, but still gives you a tangible sense of hope and joy. As a writer, it inspired me because of Applegate’s artistry, and also because of the messages in the story about the importance of art in our lives.

You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this book, and I highly recommend it for an afternoon’s read.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from the past couple of weeks:

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Finally, a quote for the week:

… because we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously …

pin be a unicorn

Here’s to knowing who you are and holding onto that even while you enjoy the journey to the next iteration of yourself. 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Risk Graffiti Photo Credit: greenhem via Compfight cc

Short and Sweet Advice for Writers – Embrace Your Dark Side

charging knightI once wrote a post called Get Mad: Marketing from Your Dark Side. I’ve mentioned it before briefly in the context of Terry Pratchett’s passing, but I’d like to come back to it again because I recently read two blog posts that touched on how artists use their personal fears, conflicts, and even tragedies to infuse their art with passion that resonates far beyond their own experience.

In my original post about marketing, I talked about how a strong brand is defined as much by what it stands against as what it stands for:

Without an opposing force, a hero is just a person who is going through the motions.

Without an opposing force, there is no fire in the hero’s soul. There is no sense of greater purpose, no fierce commitment, no do-or-die mission.

Without an opposing force, we never get to see what the hero can really do.

Like it or not, your enemy is a big part of who you are and why you are.

As writers, we are defined in a similar way – not just by what we write, but WHY we write it. Often the “why” behind what we write is grounded in some deep ache or longing, desire for justice, or mission to be a voice for the voiceless. These voids and wrongs that need righting are our “dark side.” They are the issues and experiences that touch us so deeply that we feel compelled to write about them.

Over the weekend, I read an interesting piece by Scott Belsky on Behance’s 99U blog. In Creativity is Nourished by Conflict, Belsky tells the tale of his friend, the young musician Rachel Platten, who – after ten years of relative anonymity – just hit big with “Fight Song,” an anthem that was born out of her own fears and frustrations:

This song is Rachel’s first major hit (we’re talking morning shows, rabid fans, sharing the stage with Taylor Swift, etc.), and like all great art, it came from a dark place: desperation, exhaustion, and the desire to prove oneself amidst universal doubt.

And then this morning I read The Secret of All Art (cc Louis CK, Kurt Vonnegut, JK Rowling, Casey Neistat, etc.) by James Althucher in which the Choose Yourself author talks about the importance of having an “emotional anchor” for your art:

Heres what I think all great artists do:

– They have a deeply personal emotional anchor they can tie their work to:

For Kurt Vonnegut, he was dramatically effected by the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, where he was a prisoner of war.

130,000 people died in a single day. Compared with 90,000 in Hiroshima. Kurt Vonnegut survived and his job after that was to dig up all the bodies.

When he ANCHORS a book (in Slaughterhouse Five, for instance, he anchors to the most horrific moment of his life – Dresden), he can go CRAZY after that: time travel, other planets, placing the author as a side character in the book, all sorts of experimentation.

It doesn’t matter because he can always pull back to the emotional anchor when he needs to. And then we all relate.

No emotional anchor = no art. No meaning.

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So, while your stories may reflect what you find beautiful and precious in this world, remember that they are also a place where you can do battle against the darkness that would harm the things you hold dearest. And know that your most powerful writing will often be born of that dark side and your impassioned willingness to fight it with everything you’ve got.

Oh, and by the way, writing from your dark side can make a difference in the world. In her recent Writer Unboxed piece, The Power of Fiction, Jo Eberhardt shares some fabulous examples of how different stories changed the world, one life at a time. Pretty inspiring stuff.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition (a fun post and great community of commenters on the writing life, random musings, writing tips, and good reads), or introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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The Truth About Know-Like-Trust


Know. Like. Trust.

You’ve heard it before, right?

People buy from people they know, like, and trust.

 

So…

How do you get known?

How do you get people to like you?

How do you earn their trust?

 

Those are Big Questions with long, complicated answers.

… or, are they?

 

I may be an audience of one, but I know I’m not alone in how I assess the people and brands I buy from. It’s not really all that complicated:

 

I get to know people by:

  • Reading their blogs
  • Sampling their social content – everything from Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and Instagram to LinkedIn and Google+
  • Interacting with them on their blogs and social media (and, eventually via email, call, or video chat)
  • Checking out their body of work (products, cases studies, portfolio … whatever applies)
  • Looking at their associations with other people I know

 

I decide if I like them by asking myself:

  • Do their values align with mine?
  • Are they responsive when I reach out?
  • Are they generous with their time and knowledge?
  • Do they have a good sense of humor?
  • Do we have anything in common – hobbies, causes, pet peeves, lifestyle, etc.?

 

I decide if I can trust them based on:

  • Whether their actions are consistent with their words
  • How I see them treat other people
  • How other people talk about them

 

 

The bottom line is this: it all comes down to the old, writers’ adage: “Show. Don’t tell.”

You cannot tell people about yourself – they need to learn who you are by your actions. They need to form their own picture of you based on what you show, not what you say. If you say, “I’m an organic food guru” I may or may not believe you, but if you show me your incredible depth of knowledge and heartfelt passion through the information you share (blog posts, photos, curated articles, answering questions, etc.), I believe you immediately. I can see for myself that you are, in fact, an organic food guru. Each piece of content you create and share online is another piece of the puzzle that shows me who you are, what you do, what you care about, and so on.

You cannot make people like you – you can only put your best foot forward. You are not in control of how people judge you. (And, they will judge you.) Good rule of thumb: remember The Golden Rule. Think about the people you like. What traits make them likeable? Usually it’s not about them, it’s about how they make other people feel. It’s about how they listen, understand, and help. It’s about how they affect positive change for others – solving problems, providing answers, sharing insights, connecting people.

You cannot force people to trust you – trust must be earned. I may know you and like you, but do I trust you? Trust takes a relationship to a whole other level. Now it’s serious. Trust boils down to whether or not you consistently deliver what you promise. At a low level, this could be as simple as providing dependable content that always lives up to the hype. It might mean writing a story that exceeds expectations. Again, this is about actions, not words. Promises are worthless until they have been tested and kept.

 

At the end of the day, it all comes down to human relationships. The writer/reader relationship cannot be developed with a paint-by-numbers approach. There is no secret, failsafe formula you can follow to build a loyal audience. If you want to get people to know you, like you, and trust you, you’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way. But, that’s only as it should be.

So, the next time you’re thinking about how to grow your audience and nurture reader relationships, ask yourself these questions:

How do you help people learn about who you are?

How do you put your best foot forward?

What do you do to merit trust?
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition (a fun post and great community of commenters on the writing life, random musings, writing tips, and good reads), or introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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This post was adapted from a piece originally published on SuddenlyMarketing.com.