Tag Archives: writing

The Blank Page

I’m sure that there are situations in your life, the mere thought of which are terrifying.  For some folks it’s public speaking.  For others it’s hosting a dinner party.  For many business people I know it’s facing a blank page.

Many authors have delivered quotes about that challenge.  Most of the good ones welcome the empty expanse of the blank canvas as an opportunity for personal growth.  Not so much business people.  They are making commerce, not art, and so there really are wrong answers.  A faulty business plan.  An unclear presentation that won’t deliver a sale.  Maybe even a blog post that means to be thoughtful but never quite hits the mark.  I face that vast wasteland every work day morning and here is what I’ve found with respect to navigating it.

First, try to get yourself into the recipient’s head.  If it’s a presentation, your focus is on the reason they’re seeing you, whether it’s at a conference or a one on one meeting.  If it’s a piece of writing such as this, what question are you answering or what enlightenment are you bringing?  Next, don’t get too caught up in the words as you write them.  You can’t edit what’s not on the page.  I know you all believe these screeds come out of my head fully-formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus but there is a fair amount of editing involved.  Embrace the help others can bring.  Let them read drafts and ask them if anything is unclear.  Be sure you don’t ask the person who would totally understand it even if it was all over the place.  Maybe the receptionist?

Every blank page is a challenge, but the hard part isn’t in the creation.  It’s in having something to say that others will find worth their time.  Hopefully, this was worth yours!

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How I Write

I was speaking with someone last week about this blog. They were kind enough to ask about using some of the content and in the course of the conversation they said something to the effect of “I don’t know how you are able to write five days a week” so I thought that maybe I’d attempt to answer that question. As I do so I’m hoping it provide a little insight into some business thinking you can use.

The hardest part for me is finding a topic each day. I mean it’s not just what pops into my head but also is what pops in aomething that might be of interest to anyone other than me and, more importantly, does it have a broad enough business application to be relevant to you, the reader, no matter what your business might be. As I’ve written many times, it’s about your customer, not you.

As part of my daily routine I scan over 1,000 articles each day. I do this to stay on top of tech, marketing, social media, and other business and media trends because these are the topics with which my clients need help. That content ranges from the sort of stuff you might also pick up in “mainstream” media down to granular topics such as web analytic and SEM. These articles will generally provide a starting point.  You’ve read screeds on research, on things happening in social media, and marketing trends.  Most of those posts came from reading something that sparked a thought.

Sometimes (yesterday for example) something going on in my own life prompts a post.  We forget sometimes that our own narrow perspective may have application to other folks’ lives and as we were taught in education class you work from the known (what happened to me might have happened to you) to the unknown (what happened related to a broader business theme).  There are also posts that are just fun for me – Foodie Friday tends to be that way as was the TunesDay stuff I wrote about music each Tuesday.  Which brings up another point.

I stopped writing those posts because they were the least read.  I also have cut back on some of the research-related posts since they too tend to drive less readership.  Again, it’s about what interests you, not just me.  I don’t write about politics other than when something in the political sphere has non-political takeaways for us.  Why not?  Because inevitably one side or the other gets angry, justifiably or not, and might stop reading.

Finally, I keep an ongoing list of topics.  Links to articles, random thoughts, and even photos which prompt a thought are posted in a drafts folder as I go throughout my day.  When I’m ready to write that folder is my first stop. The hard part is making the point that came to me while telling a compelling story of some sort.  Then it becomes a matter of presenting it to you in a concise, clear manner.  Mechanically, I write in WordPress, I add an image, I proof twice, I check spelling, and I edit.

Since this is now about 100 words longer than my usual rant, I’ll stop here.  Hopefully you can apply that methodology to your business.  Look for things that might prompt a thought – new products, new platforms, new practices.  Consider them for a moment, hold them if they resonate, act on them when you can.  Any questions?

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Word Count Zero

Some days it’s a pretty easy thing to crank out three or four hundred words here in the screed.  Other days it’s a struggle and today is one of those days.  Oh sure, there is plenty of research to write about and a few stupid business tricks about which I’m aware, but I’ve noticed you guys tend not to read the research-oriented posts (there will be fewer) and the stupid stuff the businesses are doing isn’t really taking the idiocy to a new level.  So I’m kind of stuck here at word count zero.

600x750mm sign intended to match the specifica...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it’s a good day to write about inspiration vs. preparation.  I try to be prepared by clipping articles I think might provide good fodder for the screed on those days when the inspirational spirit is weak.  The process is one that many businesses use in product development   Find something that’s interesting, add your own twist (hopefully making it better in the process) and market the heck out of it.  The articles I’ve got clipped are fine but my own twisted thoughts seem to be lacking.

Maybe it’s a good day to write about that there’s not a lot to write about.  Businesses seem to be in a rut – there’s a lot of more of the same but not a lot of innovation.  Perhaps that’s because we’re finally on a more sound economic footing and business is getting a chance to see what works in a more normal economic environment.

Maybe it’s a good day to wish one of my dearest friends a happy birthday and write about how the lessons I’ve learned from our relationship over the last 20 or so years have helped me be better at business.  Too many of us tend to think that personal and business behavior should be different.  Not me.   In part that’s because he’s helped me to understand that people who are nice to you in a restaurant (business) and nasty to the servers (personal) are going to turn on you as soon as they no longer think you can help them.  All too true.

Then again, maybe I’ll expand each of those thoughts later on.  In the meantime, we’re done here today unless you have something to add.  Do you?

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Straight Talk

There generally aren’t a lot of laughs available while reading the Sports Business Journal. On occasion there’s head-shaking; other times there’s amazement. Laughter? Not so much. Yesterday, however, I got a great laugh out of Terry Lefton’s column. Terry writes about sports marketing and is always a good read. His column entitled Time for some straight talk on marketing jargon – isn’t it? struck a topic that’s near and dear to me and makes a great point whether you’re in the sports business or not.

Every business has a vocabulary.  Doctors ask for forceps, not the “scissor-thingee”.  A short-order cook would respond to “two ruined with breath” and deliver 2 scrambled eggs with onions.  Obviously the language of the web – servers, routers, HTML, CSS, etc. is not widely understood outside of the digital world but makes communication possible within it.

That said, Terry does a great job of pointing out often the language that is used to provide clarity can also be used to obfuscate.  Whether it’s listening to a vendor pitch a product or to someone explaining why their strategy is a great idea, I’m always concerned when a lot of the language is the inbred vernacular that has neither real meaning nor for which there is a need.  I guess they’re just trying to establish their bona fides by using it, although I can rattle off legal language but it doesn’t make me a lawyer.

You must learn the language of business – that of your specific field as well as business in general.  However, learning how and when to use it is just as important as the vocabulary itself.  Otherwise, we end up with a situation like the one below, that Terry lays out far better than I can:

Even though the thicket of vernacular has become a pandemic problem, that doesn’t mean we’re ready to punt. After all, this could be a new benchmark. Still, optimization could be mission critical, since we’re a bit above our pay grade here.  Holistically speaking, if we can monetize this, it could be the best cross-platform paradigm since disintermediation.  Actually, it’s unclear that we have a clear line of sight on this, but ping me; we’ll calendar some time, ideate some scenarios, and hopefully move the needle. And we’ve gotten this far without even mentioning the obvious need for consumer-facing synergies.  So let’s add some bandwidth and let time be the variable; that’s the only way to ensure that this goes three-deep. At the end of the day, it is what it is.

So now that I’ve run that up the flagpole, are you saluting?

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Give Me Back My Space

You might have noticed that I have a “thing” about grammar. That extends to the use of punctuation. Imagine my surprise when I was pulled over by the linguistic police last evening for using a double space after a period. Now for those of you who learned, as I did, to type on a typewriter, that’s not an error. In fact, it’s a mistake if you don’t use two spaces between a period and the start of the next sentence.

Typebars in a 1920s typewriter

Image via Wikipedia

Not according to the current AP Style Guide as well as a few others. That second space just wandered off and I didn’t notice. Damn shame, but you know there’s a business point lurking. Continue reading

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Creative Thinkering

One of the nice things about writing the daily screed is that sometimes I get asked to read new books and offer my thoughts about them. I received a copy of a book called “Creative Thinkering” by Michael Michalko, who has written another book – Thinkertoys – which has been listed as one of the “100 Best Business Books” of all times and which I enjoyed.
Since looking at business from a different perspective is one of the things we often discuss here, I thought you might find what he has to say of interest.  Here are a few points he makes in the book for your consideration: Continue reading

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10 Reasons Why I Blog

I get asked sometimes why I write this stuff 5 days a week.  It’s probably a couple of thousand words and several hours’ time each week and I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy because sometimes it’s painfully hard.  I do have my reasons, however, and I thought I’d share 10 of them with you today.  These are in no particular order and some overlap (being concise is not one of my strengths) but they came surprisingly easily when I made the list.  Here we go. Continue reading

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