5 Ways to Walk Off Negativity and Criticism

It’s funny, the longer I spend on the Internet, the more I forget what a truly terrible place it can be. This goes doubly when you’re working for clients that don’t realize how difficult it is to intuit their intent from a few pointed words. Most of the time, these clients are corporate or working on behalf of corporations.

For example, I have done a great deal of work for a particular window manufacturer that I won’t name (but there’s a cartoon Martian that has the same “goes by”). When those suggestions and edits come down the pipe, it feels like a ballistic bean bag to the heart. Every time. Even though I know this is the way they do things.

This is probably why so many freelancers avoid corporate clients like the fucking plague.

Rub Some Dirt In That Wound

As painful as it can be, those edits are semi-solicited comments. They’re included in your content package. You told them to bring you comments, in not so many words.

I mean, you still pray to God and Dog and whoever else ya got that you don’t hemorrhage during the process, but you persist because you like having a roof over your head and whatnot.

You do the thing because that’s your job and you are the adult in the room.

But it’s not kind, it’s often not fair and frequently very confusing. When six people are editing your work at the same time, they will end up contradicting themselves. Then your head explodes.

Of course, corporate clients aren’t the only people in the world dropping buckets into the Ocean of Negativity that is the virtual world. Sometimes it’s smaller clients — or worse — your social network.

I Get By With a Little Help…

Last night, a thing happened in the Tubes that shook me up more than it should have. And I did eventually walk it off, but it took me by such surprise that it took the breath out of me for a minute.

I posted to my social network something kind of personal about how this calendar I bought in — who knows, let’s say the 90s — profoundly affected my outlook on life and whatnot. It was called “Nuns Having Fun.” Literally, this is a calendar series full of nuns having fun. What could be less objectionable?

Apparently we can’t have nice things because it wasn’t long before someone came along to shit on my parade. Because there are bad people in the world and a few of them happen to be nuns, we can’t secretly spy on the joy of those nuns that aren’t doing bad things and enjoy it.

This was the lesson. Or, so it tried to be. Several of my very clever friends came in with sarcasm and sharp wit and potentially ruled the day. If anything that happens online can be considered to be real.

Face That Ish Head On

I realized in that moment that the two things, the edits we endure as writers and the slings and arrows chucked at us by online moral purists aren’t really all that different.

Edit-By-Committee means to weed out all the imperfections in short editing rounds by involving every person who might be remotely attached to a project; Online Moral Purity seeks to weed out all the problems of society by raising awareness, even if that means shitting on everything you love.

Now, as to what to do about it.

Face that ish head on. Here, have five ways to do that:

  • Remember that you’re in control. Even when you aren’t in control of the situation, you’re in control of how you respond to it. You can cry, you can freak the fuck out, you can punch a pillow (not a person), but do it in the goddamn closet. You rule the day, keep a handle on yourself.
  • Bitch loudly to your friends. Get that poison out of your system, but not where there’s anyone in your professional network to see. Tell your friends, who almost certainly don’t understand what it is that you’re upset about, that your client is squirrely. Just saying it outloud can give you some perspective.
  • Sleep on it. Seriously. This makes all the difference for me. When I have a good night’s sleep after an edit, I wake up with an improved outlook. I can see those comments in their very best light, as awful as they may have felt the day before. Sleep. It’s really awesome.
  • Address the offense. Hey, that’s a perfectly valid point about your stupid windows, you dumb window making people. Or, hey, boot makers, guess what? Women work construction, too, so don’t be telling me that only a man can review your dumb work boots. Because you’re all dumb. (but be more eloquent)
  • Get down to business. Look, you’re a pro or you at least want to be one. There’s absolutely no reason to act like anything but. Don’t let them see you sweat, just clean up the mess of comments in your working document and move the fuck on. They’re paying for it, so if they want something changed, just do it. Let them kill your darlings. You can make more.

Social media and clients can both be full of malaria and alligators, much like Florida, but you don’t have to spend your life bogged down in the fucking swamp. Remember that you are amazing and that the swamp is also a great place for orchids, which really makes some of the malaria pretty tolerable.

Writers! Know Your Worth, Then Add Tax

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome is an ongoing struggle for so many of us in this here writing life.  You can be on a winning streak, with so many happy clients and then one comment will send you spinning out of control.

I’m the worst.  No one deserves to have me inflicted upon them.  I knew eventually they’d figure out that I have no idea what I’m doing.  The Doubting Man echos nad amplifies these sentiments because it’s his duty to ensure that you don’t reach your potential.  He’s a manifestation of Imposter Syndrome, with one solitary focus: to make you quit.

Never Give Up, Never Surrender

It’s one thing to have a panic attack when you get an unmerciful edit sent your way and quite another to slip into a sneaky self-hate spiral that destroys everything else around you.  I think most writers panic a little when they get any sort of comments.  I can’t blame them, you put yourself into those words, so a criticism of them feels a bit like a criticism of the writer on a personal level.

Let me make this clear:  That’s not actually what’s happening.

In fact, many of these kinds of comments are made to help you improve your copy on the next go, or to educate you about something the client really wants you to stress.  Comments and constructive criticism are tools you can use to build your work up.

They make you better.

Even if they feel awful.

Never give up, hold on to yourself as the overwhelm sets in.  Let the fear pour over you like so much water off a duck.  Remind yourself that you are enough.  Tell yourself that surrender isn’t an option.  Eat the elephant one bite at a time.  Remember your worth and then add sales tax.

Five Things That Are Worse Than Extensive Edits

Sometimes it also helps me to reframe the situation.  So a client sent a document over with a lot of suggestions.  So what?  It’s not the end of the world, you knew this was going to happen.  It’s part of the process.  Let’s pick out five things that are much worse than a lot of red pen.

#1. Oranges that are hard to peel.

Look.  It’s the most important meal of the day and you should be eating more fruit.  But when them bastards won’t shed their skin, it’s just… it’s like the universe, or at least the part that belongs to Citrus, is against you.  No breakfast oranges, no early morning vitamin C boost.

#2.  Overly catchy songs that you despise.

I’m never gonna Rickroll you, but I know when I get a song stuck in my head that’s mortifying to admit to, there’s no good way out.  Recently, I managed to get Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass stuck in my husband’s head.  This is because of Just Dance 2018.  It has a bee dance set to this song and I do it a lot.  Because I’m all about that bass, that bass — no treble.

#3.  Running out of toner.

I have one stinking set of mailers left to send out and BAM.  It happens every time.  I run out of black or blue or yellow or magenta toner.  Amazon’s got lots of cheap(ish) toners, but they’re slow.  UGH.  Cannot bear the wait for new toners, cannot bear the cost of buying them in person.  It’s a rough call.

#4.  Decluttering my office.

Dude, you should see this fucking mess.

#5.  Running out of desk candy.

It’s that important.  Running out of sugar at my desk is career suicide.  That’s why I keep a backup bag of candy in the set of plastic drawers behind me.


Edits Happen, They’re a New Beginning

We’re none perfect, no matter how much we may want to believe we are.  Our work is highly subjective, which is why it’s sometimes difficult for clients and writers to communicate effectively enough.  If only we could do a Vulcan mind meld, we’d not need to mess with edits because we’d have the full picture of what the client wants the very first time.

And it’s not the client’s fault.  And it’s not your fault.  It’s the fault of this language we have.  This inefficient, confusing, maze-like shitty language.  English is cobbled together from spare parts, making mastering it one of the greatest challenges you may ever face in your life.

English is awful.  I should go back to writing that series.  Because it is.

Take your pen into battle with The Doubting Man.  Stab that bastard in the eye.




Karoshi, Copywriting and Why I Shaved My Head

Look, I got the keywords in.  Ok?  I thought you’d be happy about that.

This isn’t about copywriting, or — at least — it isn’t directly.  This is one of those rare pieces when I speak plainly about my life because I think it might help you, too.

Anyone who knows me is probably aware that a couple of months ago I shaved my head.  I mean, not to the skin, but the best you can get with a beard trimmer.  It’s some kind of scorched Earth approach, anyway.

And while I never thought of myself as the kind of person who cared about that sort of thing too much, I’ve noticed a big difference in the way I’ve been acting toward others and how they act toward me.  And that’s what this blog is all about.

So, read on or bounce away.  You’ll get what you get from it, I guess.

Chapter 1: The Backstory

The day I decided to shave my head I had had it.  I was fucking done.  I spent hundreds of dollars a month trying to protect it, trying to heal it (even though I know it’s dead), trying to keep it from abandoning me, but the longer the fight went, the bigger the clumps of hair I was pulling out of my head daily got.

I mean, one was the size of a small mouse. 

That was the day I was done.

I had been hiding, trying to keep anyone from noticing that my hair was thinning visibly, trying to avoid having to answer any questions about it.  I asked my doctor, I asked my friends, I asked the people I trusted to not judge me.  My meds were the culprit, but overall, I was doing better than I had in years, maybe a decade even.

They. Were. Not. Optional.

My RA is still not controlled the greatest.  My Parkinson’s flares up from the exercise I do to keep my joints from screaming.  It’s all a delicate balance that makes me tired just thinking about it.  But for now, it is in balance, and I only had to give up my hair.

That Cancer Look…

I felt ok about my shearing decision in the moment (it wasn’t a decision I made that day, I had been pondering it for months).  I felt ok about it afterward, for about three days.  And that was when I got that cancer look for the first time.  I was horrified and embarrassed.  This woman thought I had cancer.

Later, at the market, I got asked about my chemo regimen.  I bought some ill-fitting hats and then couldn’t stand wearing them.  I went back to the grocery store weeks later and another person cornered me at the check-out wanting to talk about my cancer treatment.

I told all of these people that it was a side-effect of my RA drugs.  I’m not a complete dick.  But I also was apologizing for something I shouldn’t be sorry about.

I was sorry for being sick and having to take drugs that make my hair fall out and thus, giving the wrong impression.  I was sorry because of how *my* illness was affecting these strangers who were jumping to conclusions.

It took me until just now to realize that’s what I’ve been doing.  I’ve been apologizing for doing what I have to do.  And I think — no, I know — that this is the last fucking thing near what a proud, angry, (potentially sugar buzzed) celebrated and successful writer does.

Or anybody with any fucking self-worth.

Today, I changed it.  It’s Sunday, September 30.  And today, things are different and I also have a lesson to share out of it.

Bold Marketing is Your Bald Head

When you boldly brand you company, or you run a clever and risky marketing effort, you’re really putting yourself out there.  When you ask for referrals, you risk that your audience will say no.  In fact, the chances are better that they will say no than that they’ll say yes simply because it’s easier for people to do nothing than something.  We’re awful like that.

But we also try really hard to get along sometimes.  Since I shaved my head, I’ve been trying WAY TOO HARD TO GET ALONG.

For example, I wrote a blog a few weeks ago for my marketing company, In the Cloud, about how my company was unfortunately branded what with the serious hurricanes and whatnot pounding the Carolinas at the time.


That’s not how you do branding.  You do branding from a place of strength.  Your branding may be done in a moment of sheer adrenaline, like the time you took that razor to your scalp and watched as your ringlets fell into the sink, but it has to be maintained like the twice a week shave in the shower that ends up with a neat pile that looks like you’ve pulled a bit of lint off your sweater.

Your branding is you.  And it’s your people.  And it’s your bald fucking head, because it’s impossible to tear away from your company once you’ve set it in motion.  And In The Cloud being branded with weather themes is fucking brilliant, and you can all go fuck yourselves if you don’t like it.

My Plan Going Forward

My bald head is my own fucking business.  My company, its logo, its branding, its clients, its employees, all of that bullshit is my own fucking business (except where the IRS gets to be involved).

I am not going to apologize for my bald head.

I am not going to apologize for In The Cloud.

I was wrong to do it for even a moment.  Hell, I was wrong to think I was the one with the problem.

Copywriter, there are always going to be people who think their offense is your fault and therefore your problem.  And I say fuck that.  If you’re going about your own business and someone else feels the need to tell you that you’re wrong, you show them that middle finger and walk the fuck away.  You don’t have time for that shit.

And I don’t, either.

When I was in the newspaper business, I got a really nasty response to an Op-Ed way back in the Dark Ages.  I was really upset.  Visibly.  My editor handed me this little pebble at the time and I’ve held on to and rubbed the shit out of it like my little worry stone for decades.  “If they’re not complaining, they’re not reading.”

And fuck all if that’s not the case, my friends.

Final Thoughts

I included karoshi in the title, so I guess I’ll wrap it up with this thought:  If your bald head is caused by stress and overwork, karoshi could be coming for you.

If your bald head is caused by RA drugs and/or other systemic issues, you’re a glorious motherfucker, so don’t sweat it.  Flaunt that shit.  Buy fancy hats.

If your bald head is caused by cancer, that’s terrible and I hope you go into remission soon.  I don’t have cancer, though, never claimed I did (even for free dessert) and I’m not sorry I shaved my head because your hard is different from mine.

*flounces gloriously motherfuckeredly*

Twitter is a Cesspool and Other Things I Shouldn’t Say Aloud

I mean, you could also call this “something something social media neighborhoods blah blah,” but I have neither the brains nor the energy to come up with a title like that.  So instead, I’m going to call it as I see it.

Twitter is a cesspool and our President is the Creature from the Twitter Lagoon.

I don’t care who you are, what your political leanings happen to be, you cannot continue to ignore the fact that Twitter is one motherfucking bully convention and the President of the United States practically lives there.  Birds of a feather and so forth…

Looking at Social Media Neighborhoods

When social media started becoming popular among the Plebs, it was a golden era.  We were kind to one another.  We shared our days, our lunches and our pets.  It was innocent.  Even Twitter, albeit in short sentences.

But that was nearly a decade ago and those neighborhoods have sort of started to attract like-minded people to different areas of their platform.  Twitter, for example, is filled with negative people who spend their days cyberbullying others, threatening women and generally being assholes.

And the biggest asshole of all seems to think that he’s the King Badass of Twitterdom, which, even if he was, that’s like being the biggest fucking salami at a vegetarian buffet.  Who fucking cares?  The Donald is slumming it, or he’s actually showing his true colors.  It’s hard to know.  The one thing that’s obvious from his tweets is that he knows what kind of God-awful people live in his neighborhood and he’s ok with it.

I’m not saying #AllTweeters, but there are enough waffle stompers in Toupeeland to make it an incredibly bad neighborhood.  And Twitter knows it.

If you were a brand or even a human starting out with social media, the last fucking place you should be is Twitter.  You might as well be throwing ad spend at a burning billboard that’s in the middle of nowhere and also it’s inside of a volcano.  The leadership has tried and tried to get a hold on the problem (or so they say), but it just doesn’t get better.

The Twitterverse, my friends, is a plague on humanity.

But the Others Aren’t Much Better

About six months ago, I stopped following any of my Facebook friends who were on the “extreme” ends of things.  Of course I want justice for black people who are being shot down in the streets like animals.  Of course I want immigrant children (often asylum seekers) to be kept with their parents.  I’m not a fucking monster.

But there’s a difference between raising awareness and becoming obsessed with a cause.  My best friend in the world’s oldest kid loves pangolins.  He adores them.  And they’re adorable.  But he doesn’t spend every fucking waking minute talking about pangolins.  He’s got more to him than that.  He’s seven and he has more dimension than a lot of the people I know on Trump Era social media.

I believe Facebook can be saved.

Twitter should be burned to the fucking ground.

Pinterest didn’t do anything to me.

Instagram?  Love the photos of your breakfast.

Reddit.  What are you even?

SnapChat, I don’t even understand you, so you’re gold for now.

But the problem we have, the big one, is that there are still echo chambers.  There are still left-bookers and alt-right-blockers (is that even a term?), there are people who collect from all over the world just to be vile to others on a global scale.  We have to recalibrate before it’s too late to save our own souls.

Dialing Back the Anxiety

I believe, though I have nothing to base this on besides observation, that the heart of this issue, the thing that’s ruining our neighborhoods isn’t the guy that forgets to mow his grass in 100 degree weather, it’s the anxiety level that social media is magnifying.

We, liberals and conservatives alike, became anxious when we realized somehow we were going to have a game show host for a President.  And not a charming one like Reagan (who was actually an actor and may have had his own hair).  After the election that brought Trump to the White House, we were all suddenly on The Apprentice, and he was firing people like crazy.

Of course, the firings weren’t as bad as the hirings.

He blew his Horn of Racists Summoning and gave tactless, witless troglodytes that believed they were superior to people of color, people with different beliefs and people who had completely intact prefrontal cortexes the impetus to come out of the shadows to where they had been banished.  They had the fucking nerve to march on neighborhoods where people of color lived.  They felt strong.  They’re still not sorry or embarrassed.  They’re spineless shitewads.  Oh, and btw, they also live in the Twitterverse.

But the anxiety.  We’ve been so afraid of what Trump might do that we’ve forgotten there are still things we can do on our own.  We can feed that fucking anxiety or we can speak out, shield our friends and families when the Klan comes a-knockin’, say “No more.  No more of your shit, you imbecilic bleeding hemorrhoids.”


Sure, the bags full of dicks may move on to another platform, but we just have to keep saying no.  “No, you can’t spoil my lovely brunch photos because I’m too happy telling people about my eggs.  You can’t ruin this for me.  You’re a Godless cretan and a shitstain on society.  Get bent.”

As a marketer or freelancer, you can refuse to write their shit.  I know money is important, but have you ever considered the state of your soul?  If you look back, you’ll find me advocating for “work is work,” but since then I’ve realized how wrong I was.  You can refuse to help them spread their hate with effective advertisements and divisive fake news ala Cambridge Analytica.

YOU have the power to end this.  We’re a hive mind now because of social media, folks.  Do we want those goose-fucking buffoons poisoning our well?

Freelancers! Work from the Beach! CLICK HERE NOW!

Ha ha ha! See how much fun I'm having working on the beach? Holding the computer like this is giving me carpal tunnel syndrome. Hee hee hee. It's the best! Also why are my pants wet?

Ha ha ha! See how much fun I’m having working on the beach? Holding the computer like this is giving me carpal tunnel syndrome. Hee hee hee. It’s the best! Also why are my pants wet?

I love the ads that I see now and again telling people that they can “write from the beach,” or implying as much with a photo of someone with a laptop and a brightly colored fruity drink.  I get no end of amusement from these ads.  If you’re a freelancer, you know what I mean… they’re fine fodder.

Instead of posting anything useful today, I thought I’d just talk about all the great things there are about writing from a beach.

Wanna hear it?  Here we go! Continue reading

Counting the Dead Through My Uninterrupted Rage

I’ve been pondering the situation in Annapolis for several days now (I’m writing this on Saturday, June 30, FYI).  As I was once a member of that noble profession, in the role of lowly local reporter/photographer, it’s hit me surprisingly hard.

I wanted to say how important it is for us to continue to tell the truth.  How it’s important to keep going no matter what happens because people deserve to know what’s going on without rumor and conjecture.  I wanted to say that some of the most reliable and useful news comes from the local papers.

But I can’t.  I am so stunned that I’m wordless.  Continue reading

Some Days You’re the Butterfly, Some Days You’re the Windshield

There you are, flying around all glorious and free, flapping your obscenely painted, oversized wings, sweating glitter and promise, then BAM!  It’s all over.  That Chevy Citation ends you in truly epic fashion.  This is how I feel every time I do agency work.

Why?  Well, those kinds of jobs tend to practice “edit by committee,” where you’re not edited by one person representing the client, but half a dozen.  So you get things back that are commented all over, have requested changes from different people on the same item that are literally contradictory and there’s no one to go back to in order to ask specifics.  It’s enough to kill you a little bit inside.  Or at least smear you on a windshield.

But, as a pro, you can’t let that ish get you down.  At bare minimum, you have to pretend you can walk it off so you can function and write the other six things that are due that day.

Rub Some Dirt In It: Tips for Surviving a Brutal Edit

Now, some writers will advocate for drinking heavily and taking lots of interesting drugs in order to get past these kinds of things, but since I’m not that fucking person, I’m going to give you some real advice for functioning workaholics.  Edits aren’t the end of the world, even truly epic ones, but damn, they feel like it might be around the bend.  Rub some dirt in that shit with these tips:

1. Repeat “It’s not me, it’s them.”  Sometimes, people have the idea that editing a document means having to make lots of comments.  We know better.  Often, a good edit is just taking out Oxford commas or breaking up run-on sentences.  Clearly the corporate clients of your agency don’t really understand the process, so they’re bumbling along blindly the best they can.

2. Remind yourself that the only joy in corporate life is belittling others.  Working in a corporate setting, I’ve read, is sort of like sitting in a pressure cooker.  The people below you are always trying to undermine you in order to get your job and the people above you won’t retire, so you can’t move forward on your career trajectory.  You have little control over your own life.  The one thing you can do is make a writer cry, so you stick with your strengths.

3. Go for a walk on the beach with your laptop.  We writers have all been promised that we’d be able to go work on a beach somewhere, and it’s high time we did!  With the sound of the surf hitting the sand and the gentle “woosh-woosh” of the waves out at sea, it’s hard to be too intimidated by edits that have gone horribly wrong.  Watch out for those seagulls, though…

4. Take a kickboxing class.  Even if you haven’t yet reached “writing on the beach” level, you can still take those frustrations out on an innocent punching bag or trainer.  Take a kickboxing class and beat those edits out.  Imagine you’re punching the client over and over again (just the logo, not, you know, the person who did the edits).  Beat the fuck out of Coca-Cola, show Johnson & Johnson who’s boss.  Pound Walmart like you know you want to.

5. Check your bank balance.  Last, but not least, some universal advice for all sorts of writers.  When edits get you down, log into your bank account and check the balance.  Unless I’ve just had a client pay, I’ve found this to be the most effective way to motivate me to grab my big girl panties and move along.  Edits happen, they’re part of the process.  You don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept it.

Sometimes, those edits will mindfuck you a bit.  You’ll feel like the worst fraud ever and that no one likes you.  While this may be true, if you’re still making money at writing, then at least you can keep the lights on and the fridge stocked.  I don’t know you, you may be a tragic mess of a human.

Client work can be hard, it can be sad, it can be totally heartbreaking and doubt-inducing, but at the end of the day, it’s better than being a professional dog poo scooper.

Self-Care is Fundamental to Your Writerly Health

I’m writing this blog from the end of the road, the bottom of the barrel, the length of my rope.  You see, I’ve been neglecting my most important asset for the last month: me.  I’ve not been sleeping well, I’ve not been eating well, I’ve been overworking myself, I’ve been skipping the gym, I’ve been pushing when I knew I had nothing left to give.  I’ve been on empty and there wasn’t anything for it.  I continued to plunge ahead.

If you stay in this business, this life, for long, you’ll find that this state of workaholism isn’t unique to me or something to admire.  It’s a kind of sickness that some of us get.  We forget to stop.  We get wrapped up in the work, in the thrill of the keyboard, the rush of a new project (never mind the old one isn’t getting finished because you’re spread so damn thin).  I’ve been pretty good to keep it at bay, but I met a fella recently who brought me some really special projects and there it was, peeping at me from around the corners.

So, my fucking friends, today we’re gonna drag this ugly beast out of the motherfucking shadows and talking about the thing we don’t talk about.  Because tomorrow it might be you, it might be the person you’re collaborating with, it might be your best fucking friend.  Freelancing draws a certain kind of person, they’re often quite intense and have quite intense reactions to life.

Workaholism and Burn-Out: Where We Are Now

I collapsed from exhaustion this week.  At my desk.  I am ashamed to admit this, but I need to own it because that’s literally the only road out of this pit.  If you’ve fought the battle against workaholism, you know what I mean.  You can’t pretend that you’re just really hard-working or that it’s just that you’re really interested in *this* project.

It’s a full on obsession with creation, breathing life into a world that never existed until you strung the words together like so many fairy lights.  But if you don’t own your shit, it will absolutely kill you and take everything you love.  Burnout is real, my friends, and it’s mighty unpleasant.  Mental collapse is awful.

I don’t know where the act of creation turns into the act of self-destruction.  There’s a line there somewhere… but it’s fuzzy.  It’s easy to cross over, it’s easy to get too deep into that and forget to eat and shower and take care of the basics in life.  That’s where you start dancing with burnout and all the nasty stuff.

American culture elevates work addicts and workaholism, but it’s one of the most dangerous compulsions you can possibly have.  Like with compulsive eating, you have to work, so you’re always sort of risking it, every day.  Is today the day I’ll slip?  Is tomorrow?  Am I already in a downward spiral?  These are the things I have to ask myself to keep my head above water.

Your Daily Self-Care Checklist

I’m writing this blog more for myself than for you, but I figure that if I’m having this issue, some of you are, as well.  I know a few of you are also serious workaholics and will hurt yourselves to make deadlines and so forth.  I once believed that was admirable, even something to aspire to, but time and experience have shown me that self-immolation isn’t sustainable.  Self-neglect isn’t cool.

Or, as I like to say to people who aren’t me, you can’t fill others’ tea cups from an empty pot.  In actuality, you can’t do shit with an empty pot except smash it and if you break your teapot, well, you’re in a lot bigger trouble than you realize.  So, step one and step two and step three hundred and fifty six is self care.  Every single day.  I made a checklist.  It’s for me, but maybe it’s for you, too.

Self Care Checklist

Shower.  Take a real shower.  Shampoo your hair.  Then put on something nice that makes you feel like a person and not a slovenly zombie.  Shoes, too.  Be fancy.

Breakfast.  Protein shakes and meal replacement bars are ok for breakfast.  Just do it.  Swoosh.

Meds.  Eat them pills.  They make you strong.

Exercise.  Every day.  Monday, Wednesday and Friday, take the dog for a walk/jog around the neighborhood.  Tuesday and Thursday, go to the pool at the Y and thrash about like you’re drowning.  Eventually you’ll learn how to swim properly this way.  Saturday and Sunday are for adventure walks with the whole crew.

Don’t skip lunch.  You do this a lot.  Don’t do it.  When the bell sounds, you get up and go find food.  Even if it’s a cookie.  Cookies can be lunch if there’s other good stuff with them.  Take the time to find the good stuff.  It’s good and it’s stuff, what’s not to like?

Dinner promptly at six.  Don’t eat so close to bedtime.  It just makes it hard to sleep and you really need good sleep.  You can always go back to writing after.

Movie time.  From 8 pm to 10 pm, sit and watch TV with the fam.  You deserve a break, you’ve worked hard today.  You work hard every day.  You work yourself to death.  Learn to let yourself have some fun to death.

Weekends are for exploring.  Stop working on the weekend.  That’s exploring time.  You need to figure out where all the good stuff is, but you can’t if you’re always working on the weekends.  Just stahp.

Get enough sleep.  You’ve been neglecting this one big time.  That extra hour you’re getting to work in the morning is literally killing you.  Your brain can’t function on six hours of sleep, it’s pretty evident from your heart rate monitor and general mood.  Sleep until you’re done, or at least eight hours.  Eight hours.  Zzzzzzz….

Above all else, listen to your inner Homeland Security Advisory System.  If you’re on Red Alert, you need to stop right the fuck now.  If it’s a blue alert, keep on keepin’ on my friend.

The Secret to Keeping Your Writing Fresh

Come, Little Grasshopper, and sit at my feet.  I’ll give you one of the most important secrets of the writing trade.  Don’t be afraid, I don’t bite.  Well, not often and not unless you’ve really screwed the pooch, you know what I mean?  You know…

Anyway, in writing for a living, there are a few major struggles you’re going to encounter over the long run.  First and foremost is the all-consuming fear that you’re going to run out of work and never see another paycheck again.  Next is the realization that you’ve got too much work and you’ll never see daylight again.  But somewhere between the two of those is the worry that you’re starting to sound monotonous.  Blah blah blah keyword blah blah, ykwim?

High Quality Input = High Quality Output

I’m about to say something that you’re not going to like, so before I do, screw on your big girl panties and brace yourself.  Here goes.  You can’t just write forever and be lauded as a motherfucking genius.  Because you aren’t.  What comes out of you is directly influenced by what goes in, so if you’re not bothering to put anything INTO the data stream, you’re not going to get anything but garbage out once you run through your personal backlog of reading material, popular culture, current events and so forth.

You are not brilliant.  There’s nothing new inside your special little head.

What makes a writer is how they connect the dots between data points, not the fucking nouns or verbs or vocabulary.  I mean, that stuff is important.  If you don’t have it, no one will hire or respect you and I’ll probably laugh at you a lot, but if you can’t connect dots, you might as well just go work at a cardboard box factory.

In order to connect those dots, you have to have those dots to connect in the first place.  Which means that at least half your job is non-writing stuff like watching television, playing video games, reading books, dicking around on social media, interacting with fleshy humans and so forth.  Data collection is so vital to your world, you can’t even imagine.

Ways to Make More Time for Input

We live in a world of data, which is pretty awesome if you’re a writer with not a lot of extra time to cram information into your own head.  You have to make some time for new data input, you absolutely do, but there are more efficient ways to go about it if you’re in a time crunch.  There are plenty of writers these days who don’t read a lot of books because they simply lack the time, but they’ve consumed every single article that their favorite social media feed has shared in the last two years.  Reading is reading, don’t get pretentious about it.

Anyway, here are a few things to try in order to increase your data input volume:

Crack Open Some Audiobooks.  A friend of mine swears by these.  He’s listened to some that sound to me to be pretty damn cool, but I’ve barely cracked the cover on them.  I can’t vouch for audiobooks one way or the other, but I’d say that if you got a lot from your college lectures, audiobooks will be a world full of learnin’ for you.  You can listen and do stuff like email prospects or clean your house to make the most efficient use of time.

Thrash to New Music.  Hey, you may not think of music as a form of writing, but as long as you’re listening to the kind with words, booyah!  There are words here.  Music to me is more like poetry, but poetry is a great tool for developing a voice that glides easily across the page.  Spotify has several different features that suggest new music to users based on music they’ve already heard and I use them often.  New music gives me new ways to connect words and, sometimes, even new metre to measure sentences by.

Call Your Mom.  I’m not saying you’re not doing your best, but your mom wants to hear from you, and she’s probably been doing some interesting reading or television watching, eh?  Depending on who your mom is, you might get the latest headlines from Fox News or the greatest hits from the Discovery Channel.  It’s a gamble.  But your mom wants you to call.  You could call once in a while.

Binge Some Fucking Netflix.  Whoever first said that television was an idiot box was clearly a hater of fun and destroyer of joy.  There’s lots of really smart programming out there these days, both fiction and non.  Right now I’m watching some shit about volcanoes and stuff.  I’ve been streaming Netflix for weeks and weeks while I work, it drowns out the sound of construction in my neighborhood, skanks can’t be bothered to keep it down.  Oh, and now I know things about lava.

Ok, turd mongers, that’s it for today.  Go away and fill your brain with useful data and make your writing better.  Look at different writing styles.  Explore other genres.  Try out new stuff!

Above all else, STAY INTERESTING!

Campsite Rule Applies to Writing Clients, Too

Look, there’s something we need to seriously talk about, Copywriters.  I’m finding myself picking up the pieces you left in your wake, and frankly, I’m tired of it.  So, from now on out, the Campsite Rule is in place for client contacts.  Just like Dan Savage (a talented writer and seemingly decent human) long ago declared for human relationships, I declare that you shall no longer leave your clients a wreck.

If you’ve not heard of the Campsite Rule, let me introduce you.  Savage, a sex columnist, coined the phrase in the mid 2000s for relationships where one person is considerably older than the other — but let’s face it, this shit applies to all sorts of situations.  The gist of it is that you’re to leave the other person in at least as good of a condition as you found them, just like at a campsite.  Don’t break them and leave a mess for the next guy.  And, boy, do you Copywriters love to leave a string of bodies in your wake.

You’re Fucking Up Big Time, Writers

If there’s one thing — one thing — that I always advise when it comes to clients, it’s to never, ever fuck them or burn your bridges.  You never know when you’re going to need a reference, a recommendation or simply want to reconnect with them.

This life is too unpredictable to destroy carefully cultivated relationships.  Period.  Your clients are putting their trust in you and their business’s marketing in your hands.  If you can’t commit to that fully, you need to bow out gracefully — not leave them in the lurch.  Let me give you an example.

I know of a guy who isn’t the best client in the world — he’s not going to get any sort of award for being an amazing client, but he’s still an ok guy.  He’s gun shy about working with copywriters because some, a few, have taken his money and never delivered.  Because it’s been small potatoes, he didn’t have much in the way of recourse, other than to become even more defensive and paranoid about the next writer.  I’ve worked with this particular fellow on and off for the better part of three years because he keeps trying to find a cheaper copywriter and keeps running into this problem.

Well, I can hear you say, he deserves it for being such a cheap bastard.  Normally, I’d agree with you, but no… no, you’re wrong.  Super fucking wrong.  No one deserves to be treated like this.  If you feel like you deserve more money, it’s on you for not asking for it or for not finding a client who can or will pay the toll.  It’s NOT on you to rip off a client because you can.

I have another client who is entirely too nice and lets a lot of things slide.  One of her former writers was consistently late, putting her into a bad position with the companies she was cultivating.  She either had to pick up the slack, or more often, deliver late and further damage her reputation.  This is also not cool, people.  Campsite Rule.  You don’t burn down the fucking campground where you’re staying!

Being a Better Human and Copywriter

I work with writers at all levels of this profession, both as Project Manager at Top Shelf Copy and as an independent freelancer who frequently collaborates with others.  When I say all levels, I mean from green behind the ears junior copywriters to 20 year veterans in the field.  These guys earn a huge range of pay, but the ones at the top have a few things in common.  Mostly, they observe the Campsite Rule.

But, since some of you can’t fathom what that even means, I’m going to give you some tips for being a better human, earning more as a copywriter and building a solid reputation that will be worth more in referrals than you can possibly realize right now.

1. Always deliver on time.  Sure, things happen — we all get sick, we all have accidents and whatnot.  You can’t be expected to be invincible.  However, you have to make every effort to deliver on time, every time.  Otherwise, you not only put your job at stake, but the reputation for that person who is taking your delivery.  If you know you can’t deliver, tell your client as soon as you realize it.  Then work out a plan to make sure you hit the deadline.  Collaborating with other writers of a similar skill level is a great solution, as long as the client approves this strategy.

2. Your copy better shine.  That copy you deliver can’t be shit.  I don’t care if you spent all night writing and rewriting and you’re strung up on coffee, you dig down deep, channel your inner beast and you do your fucking job.  Follow the guidelines for the project and then polish that product until it shines as much as it can.  Some are better than others, some days we’re better than other days, but if you give your all, you’ll always be enough.  I can tell when writers phone it in, I guarantee your clients can, too.

3. Do everything you’ve agreed to do.  This is especially important if you’ve taken a deposit or are working on a prepaid project.  You do everything you agreed to do, get it?  Just man up and fucking do it.  I don’t care if the client stopped responding to your questions, you track that motherfucker down and get some answers.  It’s up to you to be the kind of writer who makes a client a better client, for the sake of the entire industry.  Sometimes clients need to be taught how to work with a writer — that’s an implied part of the contract, too.

4. Inspire confidence in clients.  Above all else, give off an air of confidence that is genuinely hard-earned.  Don’t be iffy, be confident.  Even if that means you’re confident you can’t get to those web pages for a month — always be honest, always have integrity and never, ever promise things you can’t deliver.  Inspire confidence that the product will be given the time it deserves, even if that means you need a month.  Be honest and then write like the wind.

5.  When you fuck up, come back swinging.  Everybody fails sometimes.  Don’t make it the story of your life.  When you screw up big time, take a breath to figure out what went wrong.  Are you overworked, do you take on too much, are you poorly organized?  Sort out your shit and then come back swinging.  I promise the time you invest in yourself will pay out in the end.

I know that most of you don’t mean to fuck up.  I really do.  You either want to please everybody, or you underestimate how much time a project will take — or both.  But part of doing this job is learning, every day.  You learn your clients, you learn your projects and you learn about your abilities as a writer.

Learn, motherfuckers, and clean up your fucking campsites.  I’m really tired of finding such big messes.