Why every soloist should journal

Dear Diary, I feel a bit nervous telling everyone about writing in you. What if they laugh at me? What if they think I’m being precious? Worst of all, what if they ignore me?!

Well, at least I got it out there. I tried my best. That’s all that matters.

Journalling is a time-honoured tradition. So many people that shaped the world jotted down their thoughts for the day, every day (or close enough to it.): Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Alexis de Toqueville, George S. Patton, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, George Lucas, Alfred Deakin, Teddy Roosevelt. That’s some great company, there. Research even tells us that outstanding leadership requires insight, and writing a journal can help achieve that.

That’s not to say journalling will spur you to instant success, of course. But it does give you pause to reflect, analyse, and process where you are and where you’d like to go.

Read the entire post on Flying Solo.

How To Make Your Writing Out Of This World

 The iconic space station, Deep Space Nine.

The iconic space station, Deep Space Nine.

One of my favourite TV shows is Star Trek. My favourite spin-off is Deep Space Nine. My least favourite is Voyager. Let me tell you a story about both of these shows. (Be prepared for a journey through time and space until we land back on Planet Earth!)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a bold effort in television at the time. (Not as bold as its rival Babylon 5, but that’s another story.) This was a science fiction show using their abundant technology to stay still. Star Trek was, and is, about exploring strange new worlds. Deep Space Nine was set on a space station. Things interacted with it, not the other way around.

Star Trek: Voyager put a twist on what had come before, however. The premise of “exploring strange new worlds” was still the pillar of the show. However, this time the crew of the titular USS Voyager finds themselves stranded in the Delta Quadrant, 70.000 light years from Earth. Even with the futuristic faster-than-light tech that Star Trek relies on for storytelling, this means a 75-year journey back.

During season two of their epic seven-season run, Deep Space Nine began serialising their stories. They introduced a chilling antagonist in the Dominion, bent on destroying the peaceful Federation and her allies. For a show that was set on a space station, their adventures and conflicts took place between people and tough moral situations. This was an age where binge watching and catch-ups weren’t an option (1993-1999). If you missed a week, you missed a vital part. The final season wrapped up narrative threads artfully set up in the preceding five seasons.

Voyager was the opposite. In comparison, Voyager was a cartoon. Anything that blew up the ship, imperilled the crew, or caused mischief in the Holodeck reset the next week. Voyager was indestructible, from a narrative point of view.

Deep Space Nine was created with no endgame in mind. Voyager had an endgame – get back to Earth. In fact, production staff titled the last episode Endgame. As predicted, they returned to Earth. They had to, right?

So what does this have to do with writing and communication?

Back To Earth - Communication with Purpose

Screenwriting is a form of communication – to directors, actors, prop masters, designers, costumers and so on. So is your writing – to managers, customers, distributors, suppliers, and so on.

Every piece of writing you set to create must have an endgame. There has to be a reason for it, and a set of outcomes you want to achieve. If you lose sight of that endgame, people will tell. It’s why fans pilloried Voyager at the time (and still do to this day.)

Some pieces of writing such as an annual report or a request for comment have an endgame baked into it. A request for comment is defined by its title - it’s asking for requests for comment! But the endgame is not enough. It has to reach out and touch someone. This is the basis for all types of writing. Sharing our wants, needs, and experience using the medium of words.

Connecting With Humanity - Communication with Passion

Once you’ve established an endgame, Deep Space Nine, unlike Voyager, had vulnerability. This vulnerability served a purpose. If your message has no heart, it is pushing uphill to connect with people. If you write without exposing yourself as a vulnerable individual with conflicts and feelings of your own, it falls flat.

Vulnerability is how we connect with readers - the Ancient Greeks called it “pathos”, a critical part of rhetoric, or the art of persuasion. You can connect with readers in a book, an essay, or even a simple email. Vulnerability expert, author, and TED sensation Dr. Brene Brown says vulnerability is the beginning of courage, and courage helps us belong in the world. She says:

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Perennial business cliche (and he’s a cliche for 74.8 billion reasons) and Berkshire Hathaway founder Warren Buffett always has an endgame and a vulnerability. As he says himself:

“Whenever I sit down to write the annual report, I pretend I am writing it to one of my sisters. Though highly intelligent, they are not experts on accounting or finance. They will understand plain English, but jargon may puzzle them. My goal is simply to give the information I would wish them to supply me if our positions are reversed. To succeed, I don’t need to be Shakespeare; I must have a sincere desire to inform.”

When you reveal yourself as a real person through your writing, you make every instalment an unmissable piece of your story. It must have passion, and it must have purpose.

So in your writing, what will you be? Deep Space Nine, or Voyager?


Want copywriting that's out this world for your business?

Do you have once-a-year books?

 Philip K. Dick.

Philip K. Dick.

In the writing game, I feel that you need to consume more than you produce. That is, writers should really read more than they write. Busy lifestyles command more of our time in ever thinning slices, but reading should be a top priority for anyone who communicates in a professional setting. How you divide that time is up to you: some prefer magazines, others prefer non-fiction. I maintain that a variety of styles and sources is best for a well-rounded “education” on writing. I think reading deeply is as important as reading widely. The path to mastery is not one, but many. I try to read the most pertinent in my collection at least once a year, to remind myself of certain facts and certain perspectives.

Non-fiction

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

I’ve mentioned this book on the blog before, but it’s more relevant than ever. Those scratching their heads at how the US populace could elect a Reality TV president, this book written 30 years prior gives insight other commentators merely skirt around. I mean, we already had the Reality TV war (Iraq) and the Reality TV terror attack (September 11), was a Reality TV leader of the free world that far-fetched? Postman shows us a media culture obsessed with “feel-good” over “facts,” and the biases of our mediums that conspire to keep it that way.

Language in Thought and Action by Samuel I. Hayakawa

The “popular” text on General Semantics and language studies, a must for those who want to discover their own semantic biases and the biases of others. It too delves into logic games, multi-valued orientations vs. two-valued “absolutisms”, poetry and the advertiser, what words really “mean”, and much more. An essential book for those working in communications.

Fiction

Nineteen-Eighty Four by George Orwell

This book was one of the first I’d read in high school and has stuck with me ever since. I think I’m attracted to the linguistic element of the book, Newspeak, and the narrowing of our experience as Big Brother eliminates complex ideas. “You don't grasp the beauty of the destruction of words,” says Parsons, our protagonist Winston Smith’s co-worker in the Ministry of Truth. Reading it sends a chill down my spine each time. Compare “Ministry of Truth” to “Social Justice” or “Fake news.”

Ubik by Philip K. Dick

One of the first ever books I’d read of Philip K. Dick, and one that demonstrates the power of words to craft an alternate reality. The mention or non-mention of certain phrases and passages turns a world on our head, as does the revelation and suppression of certain bits of information. It’s a philosophical tome, a book about running out of time, and much more.

Do you have once-a-year-books?

 

A Word Sparking Star Wars and Real Wars

Star Wars: The Force Awakens drowned us this summer, with merchandising ranging from mascara to oranges on store shelves. Once I saw the new film, I wanted to see the original theatrical versions, undiluted by George Lucas’ meddling. Lucasfilm insists they no longer exist. Of course, legions of fans took it upon themselves to reconstruct the films using a variety of sources. The most controversial change in the first film takes place in the Mos Eisley cantina scene. (spoiler alert – but really, you should’ve seen Star Wars by now!) Green gilled and bug-eyed Greedo corners smuggler Han Solo. Han’s a marked man and Greedo’s itching to collect. In the original version, (after stalling and Han drawing his blaster) Han shoots Greedo “in cold blood.” Here’s what the shooting script says:

Suddenly the slimy alien disappears in a blinding flash of light. 
Han pulls his smoking gun from beneath the table as the other patrons look on in bemused amazement.”

Later revisions show Greedo shooting first, then Han and Greedo shooting at the same time. “So what?” you might think. This visually insignificant change is one that contains multitudes.

It’s supposed to inform viewers that Solo isn’t so trustworthy. Ben and Luke have put in their lot with this low-life braggart. We’re supposed to feel uneasy about this hasty alliance. It changes the tenor of the film. Han could have sold Ben and Luke if captured by the Imperials, left them for dead at any time, etc.

Another far more tragic example of subtle changes having long reaching effects was during the last gasp of World War II. Japan, threatened by invasion from the United States and fast running out of resources, was determined to fight until the last man. The “Big Three” (United Kingdom, Soviet Union and the US) issued an ultimatum for surrender to the Japanese. The Japanese responded in the negative, but suffered from mistranslation. A word – mokusatsuhas two meanings in Japanese. The first being “ignore” and the other, “refrain from comment.” It was the difference between “let us think about it” and “We refuse!” If the message was translated as “no comment,” the Japanese and US may have arrived at a surrender deal, preventing the twin atomic horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This misinterpretation struck consequences far beyond the imaginations of its writers and readers.

It’s a chilling lesson for clarity and precision in communication. We may think that subtle differences make no difference, although we're proven wrong time and time again. If you believe that words are your ally, do – keep in mind words might turn on you without provocation. Remember always: "Expect to misunderstand and expect to be misunderstood."

The Pointy End Podcast now up!

A month or so ago, I was humbled to be a guest on Active Elements Radio The Pointy End podcast, hosted by Dr. Leslie Fisher. Dr. Fisher is a good friend and colleague of mine, and we've had many long conversations about a variety of topics during our meetings at the NAB Village. The Pointy End is his podcast series looking at "the pointy end" of what people in small business do, in probing and insightful detail. It's a relaxed but no less informative talk...I hope!

It was a great privilege to guest "star" on the podcast, which you can hear above. We talked about the "pointy end" of copywriting, its relation to journalism and media culture as a whole. About 40 minutes - let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Thanks and Merry Christmas/New Year 2015

Hello, Tom from I Sell Words writing here.

Just a short blog post to thank you all my clients and friends for your support for I Sell Words in its first year of operation. It's been a steep but rewarding learning curve. Getting to know people from all walks of life such as creatives, business owners, entrepreneurs and people who've just need a bit of help with copywriting has been a real privilege.

The continued success of ISW throughout this year and beyond could not have been possible without people such as you. For that, I humbly offer you my gratitude.

As for myself, I will be catching up with friends and family over the break. I'll be taking a short holiday of my own over the Christmas and New Year period. I'll be winding back full-steam operations today. Everything will be back to normal on January 8, 2015.

Write you in the new year,

Tom

Welcome to I Sell Words

At the start of this year, I made a resolution. Many of us do. We have high minded hopes of losing a couple of kilos, hitting the gym more or taking more time out for ourselves. I got out of bed on January 1, brain still pickled from the night before. One thought cut through the murk - I want to sell my words. I already did, in the guise of journalism and the odd copywriting job.

But I wanted to sell them for myself. I wanted to sell them full time. I wanted to use my passion and my skill as a meal ticket and beyond.

So I committed myself to opening the door on this, I Sell Words. I sell words because my words sell. Simple.

So I had a mind to quit my day job at .au Domain Administration, where I was their Marketing and Communications Officer. As much as I'll miss the gang in Cardigan St, I needed to work with passion on my own business. I worked on this website in my downtime and now I can bring you the best words that'll move people, merchandise and services for competitive prices.

As an introductory offer, I can write four (4) 400w blog posts for your business for $99. You can use that for your blog, social media or EDM (electronic direct mail.) It's an offer that's available until May 31, 2014. As you gather more customers, I'm another word closer to living my dream.

If you want to benefit from words that sell, click here to contact me.