“What do you do?” should not be a hard question, but I always find it difficult to describe what I do for work. I write business book abstracts. I know… it’s a bit off the beaten path. I’ve been doing it for four years and at this point, I’ve read enough books to qualify for several MBAs! I love that I can work from home and I’m always learning. I read books on a variety of subjects such as marketing, sales, self-improvement, leadership, innovation, and lately, social media marketing. Then, I write a five-page summary of the book, including ten “take-aways,” a review, quotes and an email line. After they are edited, getAbstract posts the summaries on its website, a resource people use to read summaries to stay current in their field or satisfy their curiousity. Some of my recent favorites are “Delivering Happiness” by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, “Beauty Imagined” by Geoffrey Jones and “Luxury Online” by Uche Okonkwo. Check it out at http://www.getAbstract.com.
I have a deep, dark, ugly secret. I can’t spell. Okay, this might not seem that bad, and it wouldn’t be if I were a chef or an artist. But, I’m a writer and not being able to spell is a bit embarrassing. Moreover, my grasp of grammar is, at best, tenuous. Yes, I’ve learned the difference between “its” and “it’s” and I don’t confuse “weather” with “whether.” I even know when to use “their,” “there,” and “they’re.” Yet, I’m always confused about the difference between “then” and “than” and I still have to stop and think about “effect” and “affect.” And for some reason, I’m never sure how to spell “exercise,” adding an extra “s” or “c.”
I can misspell the same word over and over for years! Does “dessert” have one “s” or “two”? Does “breast” have an “a” in it and if so, why? I’ll even misspell the same word two different ways on the same page! And don’t get me started about knowing when to add a hyphen, and colons and semicolons will forever remain a mystery to me.
Why does this chasm exist in my brain? I’ve always been a voracious reader. I scored high on the vocabulary section of the SATs. I enjoy translating events and emotions into words. I just can’t spell them correctly! My theory is that you’re born with a brain that either knows how to spell or doesn’t know how to spell. What else would explain the fact that some people understand instinctively that “aisle” begins with an “a” and not an “i” and get “phosphorus” correct on the first try without inserting an “f.”
I don’t think you can surmise my ugly secret by looking at me, or even by looking at my writing. I spell check everything – and I mean everything – including emails and blog posts. But sometimes, it just slipps out !
As a copywriter, whenever I hear or see the phrase, “For all of your fill in the blank needs” in an ad, I cringe. It’s such a contrived, awkward statement yet it seems to find new life in every type of ad for a huge range of products regardless of the medium. It brings me back to one of my rules-of-thumb for writing – never use a phrase that you wouldn’t hear in normal conversation. And I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m looking for a store for all of my widget needs.” Using this tag line is lazy and it’s a cop out.
I understand. It’s hard to be creative and brilliant, especially when writing an ad for something as pedestrian as say, automobile parts or sewing supplies. But don’t fall back on this ungainly summation. Take it from me, the person you can go to for all of your copywriting needs…
The blank page. It stares at me and I stare back, my mind blank as well, wondering how I will ever fill it. This is my greatest challenge as a writer – getting started. Sometimes a great lead comes to me and I’m off and running, words tumbling onto the page one after another. I love those times, but unfortunately they are rare. More often than not, the blank page brings out all of my insecurities. Why did I ever think of myself as a writer? Why would anyone pay me to write? I can’t do this! I’m stuck! I’ll never get this job done!
I go to my stand bys, my favorite procrastination techniques. First, I check my email. That’s kind of like work, isn’t it? Then, I check my Facebook page. Oh wonderful social media. It provides such lovely distraction. If I’m really stuck, I fold a load of laundry. At least I’m getting something done. When all else fails, I walk the dogs or make a personal phone call. These are the joys of working at home, or not working at home as the case may be.
What I really love to do is rewrite. I enjoy going over my work, inserting a word here, changing a line there. I can tweak this or that endlessly. I’ve thought of getting business cards printed with the job title of “Rewriter” rather than “Writer” or “Copywriter.” Unfortunately, I have to get something on the page before I can rework it. So, once again, I force myself to get started. If I can’t start at the beginning, I start in the middle, setting words to the page just to encourage the flow. Most often, it begins and with a sigh of relief I lose myself in my work. Other times, every word is a chore, painfully wrung from my sluggish brain.
What’s the cure for the blank page syndrome? Face my fear head on by starting a Blog!