Forget about writing that 1,000 word essay, the overdue blog post loaded with SEO, the catchy email, that letter ... or book.
It's too much.
Focus on one sentence at a time. It's how all writing is done: word by word, sentence by sentence.
To help you get started, I've put together a new ebook, One Sentence at a Time, with some of the tips and tricks that have helped me with my writing.
And it's yours. Download the ebook and change the way you approach writing.
You've got something to say, and people are waiting for you to share your stories, your expertise, and insights.
If you have a minute, let me know what you think of the book. And if you do some writing, I'd love to read what you have to say.
New work brings new perspective
I was struggling with how to write and present an article about maps. But nothing was working.
I was beginning to feel lost and frustrated, so I decided to go in a different direction. To combine my collage work and hand lettering. To present it as an online article in a long scroll.
When I finished, it occurred to me that in these days of the coronavirus we're all navigating new territory.
There's no map to tell us which way is the shortest, best solution to get us from here to there. But maps can still guide us:
Cartography and the days of the coronavirus
Map terminology as it applies to the challenges of staying home:
It's your internal guidance. If you pay attention to how you feel, you'll find your way. Getting tired? Maybe it's time to take a break. Frustrated? Take a left. Or right. Abandon course and do something different.
This is where you map your survival strategy. Maybe it's creating a routine: getting up at a reasonable hour, getting dressed, and saving your comfy clothes for later in the day.
Exercise. Because it helps. But does it fit better in the morning or afternoon?
Work. Begin and end when you normally would, if you can.
Meals. Keep it simple most days. But once in a while, make something different or special. Plan a three-course meal. Or a special dessert.
You've got a lifetime of experience, knowledge, and know-how. Make a list and run through things you've done, things you want to try, and things you miss.
You may not be able to go hiking, but you could plan hikes for the future. Explore documentaries about hiking. Journal or tell stories about the hikes you've completed. What do you remember? Waterfalls, wild animals, blisters ... the heat?
Not a hiker? Replace the word hiker with whatever suits you.
I resisted the urge to try something different. It took three attempts at failed experiments before I convinced myself to go with hand lettering for the illustrated article. It took more effort than I initially wanted to commit to, and I stumbled more than once along the way. But I'm glad I did it.
The project kept me occupied for quite some time and while I was doing it, that's all I thought about. (What a relief.) It's done, I've accomplished something, and that feels good.
I hope you're able to find things that bring a sense of calm and comfort. To stretch yourself when you don't want to. And I hope this helps.
p.s. The map article is part of the April Playbook: This State of Mine posted on my hobby site, Waystation Whistle. It's an experiment. I'm not sure how well it's working, but I figure the only way I'll know is to try.
Take a break ... and be better for it
I've been wondering what I might do to help in these difficult times.
To begin, I want to share an article I wrote about being bored and frustrated and what I did to change the situation.
It was a game changer. You can read the article here.
The article is posted on my new site, Waystation Whistle.
At Waystation Whistle my mission is to help you see the world in a new way. To take a break. To explore hobbies, passions, and pastimes that lift your spirits.
Why this, why now?
We're curious beings. We need challenges and activity.
Binge watching your favorite show is a fun (and often necessary) way to unwind. But being actively engaged in a project that you find interesting brings a different sort of distraction and calm. Especially in difficult times.
These are difficult times.
Taking a break can help you perform better in life and business. I know recipes and baking may not be your thing.
There are other things.
Click on the map below for the April playbook ... and other things.
I know this is a tough time for business, let me know how you're doing.
p.s. I'm also here if you need help with your business. With writing and design, with your website, email marketing, and ebooks. If there's something you need help with, send me an email.
I was in a lather ...
Sometimes it's easier to learn or remember something when there's an example to follow.
We're all watching the news about the spread of the coronavirus, and one piece of advice we're all hearing is, "Wash your hands."
It's good advice, but it got me in a lather. Why? I thought a few prompts might be helpful.
So what's a writer/graphic designer to do?
Make a poster. A public service announcement. This poster reminds us all to wash up ... with some key markers to make it routine throughout the day.
A Free Download!
Click on the poster to download and print the PDF.
Go big with an 11" x 17", or print it on a standard 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper. Post it at home ... in the kitchen and bathroom. And in the office ... on doors, in the stairwell, the elevator, and in the loo.
Share this email with friends and family and soon enough, we'll all be in a lather.
I lost the bid on a job recently. A website redesign. I lost the job because I’m not familiar with the platform the site was built on.
Unfortunately, it didn't work out for either of us.
Not just beause I didn’t get the job, but because the people who did get the job, while familiar with the platform, are not as familiar with best practices for web design or copywriting as they should be.
After looking at the new site, my disappointment at losing the job morphed into disappointment for my would-be client.
The copywriting on the new site is ineffective and the user experience is one of confusion and missed opportunity.
Here are two reminders and one takeaway from the experience.
Remember, it’s not all about you. At least not right away.
When a visitor comes to your website, they want to know if they are in the right place and they want to know if you can help them. As quickly as possible.
They're looking for the solution to a problem. They’re not interested in knowing how long you’ve been in business or how many awards you’ve won. That’s important information, but information you can share later on.
It’s like when you cut your finger. You’ll grab anything to stop the bleeding: a napkin, a paper towel, or a clean hanky if someone hands one to you. Only later will you think about a proper bandage or the best antiseptic cream.
You need to tell visitors how you can help them. And you need to tell them right away.
2) User Experience
Is your site easy to navigate, is it interesting?
When people search for what you offer and find you, tell them what they want to know.
Do you sell products? Services?
Is it easy to figure out what you offer? Is it easy to place an order? To get in touch with you? Want people to join your mailing list? Make sure there's an incentive for them to sign up.
Remember, people have lots of options. Do you have resources on your site that add to the user experience? That make you stand out?
Consider blog posts, articles, and white papers where you can share your expertise and bolster your credibility—without sounding like you're bragging.
Having a site that's easy to navigate and chock-full of helpful information is the best way to convince someone you know what you're doing.
Team up with someone who knows what you don’t.
I was disappointed when I lost the account. Partnering with someone familiar with the preferred platform would have been the thing to do.
Do you need more tips to build a better website? Read this:
Five lessons in project management.
Last Sunday I bundled up and went outside to clear the six inches of snow that fell overnight. Six inches is not a lot of snow, and with a temperature of only 12°F, it was light and fluffy. The problem was, and usually is, the end of the driveway. The snowplow snow.
It’s a messy mix of snow and ice at the end of the driveway after the city plow comes through. It's heavy and chunky and challenging to move.
Because it was only six inches, and it was early (just seven o’clock in the morning), I decided to forgo the snowblower and shovel my way out.
Like most projects, there are things to consider when starting out, and I realized my plan for clearing the snow was really an exercise in project management.
Lesson #1: Assess the situation
Shoveling a path out was the first step. After the porch and stairs were clear, I needed to tackle the driveway surface, remove the snowplow snow from the end of the driveway, and clean off the car.
Lesson #2: Make sure you have the right tools for the job
Snow shovels come in as many varieties and flavors as ice cream. There’s the big scoop and the small scoop. Metal and plastic varieties. And varying weights. Some shovels are light and easy to handle, others are heavy.
After years of testing, my preference is a light-weight, flat scoop.
Why? There’s a lot of lifting involved and I don’t like adding extra weight from the shovel itself. And the bigger the scoop, the more snow it holds, and the harder it is to lift.
Lesson #3: Make a plan
Once the porch and stairs were clear, I decided to use an alternating pattern of removal. Because snowplow snow is so heavy, devised a plan: shovel, brush, dig.
I shoveled 1/3 of the driveway, moved on and brushed off half of the car, then dug a two-foot wide section of the snowplow snow. And switched again. More shoveling, brushing, and digging.
The plan allowed me minimize exertion (recommended), make slow and steady progress, and vary the tasks at hand to avoid frustration.
Lesson #4: Check your progress
When I started, it seemed it would take forever to get through the end of the driveway. But when I stopped to take a breath, I could see I was making progress. My plan was working.
Lesson #5: Find pleasure in the doing
When I stopped to check my progress, I took a deep breath and looked up. I saw that the sky was robin’s egg blue and I noticed the light. The sun was still rising and it put a glow on the horizon, the tree tops ... and the underbelly of a seagull that flew overhead.
It was a beautiful winter day and it felt like the reward for a job well done.
Do you have a project you need help with? Click on the button below and we can talk about how I can help with you writing, editing, design ... and project management.
The winner is .... Cover #1
Most of you thought it best reflected the subject of the book, cursive writing.
Thank you for voting and sharing your thoughts.
I need your help.
I'm in the final stages of designing my book, Cursive Writing Practice by the Letter and I need your help.
There are three cover designs to choose from, and I'd like to know which one you like best.
(voting has ended)
Cursive Writing Practice by the Letter is a workbook. It includes instruction for writing each letter of the alphabet and introduces a more creative, engaging way to practice and improve your writing skill: writing and mailing letters to your friends and family.
Inside there are tips for who to write to and what to write about along with detailed instructions for how to address an envelope ... and where to put the stamp(!).
It also includes writing samples from over 20 people (so students can learn to read, as well as write, cursive), and a selection of writing prompts from the popular "I Write Letters to Say" series.
(voting has ended)
So which cover do you like best?
To make your selection, just click on the cover you like, and it will generate an email that will come directly to me ... just type Cover #1, Cover #2, or Cover # 3 in the subject line and your vote will be counted. You can also add any comments or suggestions.
Next week I'll reveal which cover got the most votes and share more details about how you can order your copy of Cursive Writing Practice by the Letter.
(voting has ended)
Thanks for reading along (and choosing the cover you like), I really appreciate it.
P.S. If you know someone who would enjoy this email, you can forward it to them.
P.P.S. If you're writing a book, get in touch if you need help with developmental editing, design, or project management.
I put it off as long as I could.
It was a side project I was working on and I was having trouble settling on a theme. A theme and an illustration. I'd done a lot of thinking, but had done nothing concrete to move things forward.
So I sat at my desk and started mapping out ideas. A list of words. A list of images. And (no surprise, really), it worked. Ideas started to materialize.
I settled on a theme.
A snowy night. A night when snowbanks shimmer like sparkle snow in a storefront window.
And with a theme, things shifted.
The ideas started to flow.
The snowy night led to the idea of adding animals. But what kind?
Animals that turn white in winter (there are fewer than I expected). The Peary caribou is one and it would be the first of four I would include in the drawing.
Things were finally coming together. I had the shape of the caribou defined and most of the night sky around it was filled in.
But something was wrong.
The nose. With a pointed eraser, I rubbed it out. And something happened. The area I erased looked like the breath of the caribou. I was so surprised at the sight of it. Serendipity had stepped in and transformed the drawing.
The relief I felt was audible. This was going to work.
The drawing came together, I met my deadline, and felt good about what I had created.
And (fingers crossed), I learned something.
Start before you're ready.
Procrastination is hard to eliminate entirely, but sometimes a deep breath, a pencil (and an eraser), and a list will get things going.
On the final panel, I added a line from a cut-up poetry exercise. The original pencil drawing along with the hand lettering was scanned. Color was applied in InDesign.
Click on the drawing to enlarge.
If I can help you move forward with your project, let's do it.
Call 207-252-9757 or email me to get started.
At Composition 1206 we make you look good. Online and in print.
websites • books
I'm writing a book.
Here's the working title:
The Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing Practice
I'm fairly sure the title isn't catchy enough, but it tells it like it is. Maybe that's good? I'm working on it.
It's an instruction book for writing in cursive and using letter writing as a way to practice.
But why write a book about two outmoded topics?
I believe they still matter.
My deadline for the first draft is the end of this month.
After that? I've got a few letters to write.
P.S. Are you writing a book? Or thinking about writing a book?
I can help you with organization, structure and flow, copy editing, and design. Call (207) 252-9757 or email me today to talk about your book project.
P.P.S. Need some letter writing ideas or encouragement? Take a peek at my letter writing site: Postmark1206.
* Take Notes by Hand for Better Long-term Comprehension
**Why Don't the Common-Core Standards Include Cursive Writing?
What would it be like if we couldn't vote?
That's what I think about on election day. I think about it because voter turnout can be dismal.
I think about it because there are four amendments to the Constitution related to voting rights. Amendments that give people who were denied the right to vote their voting rights. People like Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
In 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton had had enough.
It was unacceptable that as a woman, she was not allowed to vote. For more than 50 years, she fought for the right to cast a ballot. And she died nearly two decades before the 19th Amendment would pass. That's 70 years.
It took far too long.
Today I will vote. I will vote for Elizabeth Cady Stanton and all the women who fought alongside her. And I will vote for those who fought for the 15th Amendment, the 24th Amendment, and the Voting Rights Act.
I will vote because I can.
One person, one vote. It matters, and it counts.
I created this infographic to inspire more people to vote on election day.
If you have information you'd like to share in an infographic, write today to talk about how we can work together.