Until the last few days, our winter has begun so mildly that Saskatonians are delighted! As Advent continues and as we celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas, many of us flock to the mall and local businesses anticipate the best sales period of the year.
In last month’s issue, I offered some tips on how to turn a bad day around. I also featured the writing of Seth Godin and Elizabeth Gilbert on ways to reduce the sway that fear can hold over our creativity. Thanks to those of you who wrote in to say you found those articles helpful!
This month, I’m ecstatic to introduce my first eBook to readers–a collection of interviews with local creatives who have courageously faced and endured or overcome adversity.
The profiles include Bob Pitzel (watercolour artist), Lesley-Anne McLeod (novelist), Wilf Popoff (journalist and editor), Gin Fisher (“Webmom” and novelist) and Tracey Mitchell (social developer and thinker). All provided me with inspiring life stories and details that were a privilege to write up.
Getting Past It: Five Creatives Face Adversity makes a great virtual stocking stuffer or small gift for friends or family members. Those who enjoy, support and/or take interest in the Arts may especially enjoy it. It’s now available for sale on my website at www.elizabethshih.com
Extra special thanks to designers Kat Bens (Saskatoon) and Oliver Sutherns (Toronto) for lending their expertise to the design aspects of the eBook and to update my website. Kudos to those two!
In this issue, I visit Jane Porter’s interview with American novelist, Elizabeth Gilbert, on how to deal with boredom and anxiety, when one works creatively. Anglo-Canadian (Montreal-based) copywriter Nick Usborne shares some always timely insights on why conversational copywriting shouldn’t take a back seat to the blunt, sensational kind. And I chronicle the history of the colloquial expression, “No worries, mate!”
Finally, I offer my heartfelt wishes that you will have time this holiday season to gather with family, friends and/or colleagues. And may the new year bring you much happiness, good health and success.
Elizabeth Shih Communications
Make Room for Boredom, Anxiety (and Fear) in your Creative Work . . . .
Last month, I quoted marketing guru Seth Godin and novelist Elizabeth Gilbert on the necessity of living with fear, when one works creatively (and we all should work creatively, regardless of our respective fields of employment or interest).
But what do you do with boredom and anxiety? They’re less in vogue in recent discussions (in the business world) on the marketing of creativity.
In an article in “Fast Company,” Jane Porter quotes Elizabeth Gilbert as saying that “ ‘I don’t kid myself into thinking that [creativity] is supposed to feel good all the time . . . One of the delusions people have is that creativity is supposed to be a fun life. A lot of the work is tedious.’ ”
When Gilbert gets bored with something she’s writing, she forces herself to resist the urge to get up and wander off. Instead, she sets a kitchen timer for “20 minutes,” and remains sitting at her desk. She reports that “ ‘Sometimes around minute 17 or 18, you get a little thread of something, and then 40 minutes have gone by . . . You have to get through the boredom to get to the exciting part.’ ”
Boredom is blasé but hardly threatening. Yet Gilbert says that boredom can nonetheless get in the way of her creativity, because, as a friend once told her, “ ‘Unused creativity is not benign.’ ” Gilbert says that “If you don’t give [creativity] an outlet, it doesn’t just sit there and idle in neutral. It turns on you and makes you feel small and depressed and useless.”
She tells Porter that fear cannot be fought or conquered, but has to be tolerated as a necessary part of creative activity. Gilbert contains her fear (“dials it down”) by reminding herself that (1) nobody’s life is in mortal danger and (2) that there’s little alternative to doing what she (you’re) doing.
Not only boredom and fear but also anxiety intrudes on one’s work and life, and similarly won’t be subdued by wrestling with it. (Fighting fear and anxiety only make them loom larger, as psychologists have observed for decades.)
Creativity requires both some magic (of inspiration) and a good deal of hard work, Gilbert says. And I’d add that the “hard work” isn’t merely staying seated and thinking, but also bearing the emotional baggage of the day that can also intrude on your work.
Seth Godin (an admirer of Gilbert’s work and one of her interlocutors) has further described (in his blog) that productivity depends upon us “slowing down to feel the fear [and I’d add the anxiety and boredom]. [These emotions ]we might only [perceive] in the quiet moments, in the gaps between crises.” Such emotions are “a necessary part of actually being productive in doing creative work.”
What emotional weightlifting do you do, when/while you create something? Do Gilbert’s insights assist you with it, in any way? Please share your ideas or experiences—I’d be delighted to hear back from you.
Please share your comments on the “contact” page of my website (www.elizabethshih.com). I’d be delighted to hear from you.
“Word Nerd’s Corner”: The Case of “No Worries [Mate]!”
The phrase “no worries” is an Australianism, meaning “no problem” or “don’t worry.” Etymologist Bryan Garner writes that it first appeared in the mid-1960s. The Oxford English Dictionary records a singular use from Sydney, Australia, in 1965: “No worry . . . it’s amazing what a few schooners of jolly does for a bloke.”
The Australian National Dictionary records the plural no worries in a 1967 book by J. Hibberd entitled White with Wire Wheels: “‘Well. How was she?’ . . . ‘Who, Sue? No worries.'” From the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, other uses have been cited.
The actor and writer Paul Hogan popularized the phrase outside Australia in his “Crocodile Dundee” movies. Hogan’s catchphrase was “No worries, mate.” The wide appeal of those movies made the phrase catch on.
Beginning about 2000, the expression spread into mainstream American English without any hint of its Australian roots. The phrase now appears without refering to Australia at all.
Garner reports that sometimes the phrase is “part of the syntax” (e.g. “They had “no worries” about the weather that afternoon”). But often it’s a catchphrase used as an incomplete sentence (and this is the quintessential Australianism–e.g.: “Have you missed the application deadline and yet wish to compete in the competition? No worries!”)
Does the case of “no worries” make you worry about the future of conversational English? Do you find the phrase common where you work, and what is its effect on listeners?
Please send me your usage issues and bugbears on my “contact” page and I’ll use them in a future blog or issue!
“Ask an Expert”: Nick Usborne on Good Copywriting
I can recall a couple of times as a freelance copywriter in which I have not “won” a contract because my style was refused in favour of what Montreal copywriter Nick Usborne calls “blunt force trauma” (i.e. very short, punchy writing).
Two months ago, Nick blogged on the importance of recognizing that “really good copywriting is also really good writing.” He cited the example of Susie Henry, a copywriter in the UK during the 1970s whose style was conversational and as attentive to “flow and pace and rhythm” as “a good sonnet . . . [or] a great novel.”
Nick observes that the finely crafted copywriting of a genuine writer “sadly . . . seems to be falling out of fashion.” He describes the “blunt force trauma” approach and style that seems to have replaced it as “attractive, because it tends to deliver results faster,” with its messages of “BUY NOW!” and “FREE!!” and “Don’t miss this opportunity!”
Marketers who claim that the conversational approach doesn’t work forget that writers like Susie Henry have written copy that has succeeded for the companies she wrote for–to the tune of millions of dollars in sales. (And these writers have done so since Henry’s day, in the ’70s!)
“If you are at a party or in a bar with a group of people, who do you REALLY pay attention to . . . the loudmouth or the really interesting person who speaks so softly you have to lean in to hear what she is saying?” He asks: which “brand” (either conversational or blunt) would you trust and follow? And, “who would you invite back to dinner at your home?”
If, like Nick and me,
you’re a conversational copywriter, or someone who hires conversational copywriters, never fear! The blunt-force approach doesn’t work in all contexts or at all times. There are many contexts in which less garish, quietly persuasive marketing wins the day.
Marketing legend Seth Godin implicitly agrees. In his November 8th (2015) blog posting, he writes that “the simple way to get better at business writing” is to “write like you talk.” He says that “effective business writing” won’t sound like this: “ ‘ Effective January 1, 2015, we have ceased operations. For further information, correspondence should be addressed . . . .’ ”
Instead, it will sound more like this: “We closed this store last year. Sorry for the hassle. Please call us if you have questions.”
Similarly, the effective business writing Godin refers to won’t sound like this: “ATTENTION SHOPPERS! We’re now CLOSED! VISIT OUR WEBSITE TO ORDER . . . . DON’T MISS OUT!”
Advertising legend Bill Bernbach’s philosophy was, as Nick Usborne says, that “good taste, good art, and good writing can be good selling.”
As you decide how to market your next service or product, which approach will you use?
Please share with me, on the “contact” page of my website: www.elizabethshih.com
I’d be delighted to continue this conversation.
Shop News . . .
I continue to appreciate the seminars of the Raj Manek Business Mentorship Program and especially the mentoring I receive through it, from Monica Kreuger, Founder/Chief Visionary Officer of Global Infobrokers,. Inc. (Home of the Praxis Group of Schools). The curriculum project I have been editing and formatting for her has progressed far and will continue into 2016.
I renewed some ties with contributors to the Northern Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre’s (NSILC’s) morning of “Self-Employment Resources for People with Disabilities” (the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program, December 3rd). It was wonderful to hear fellow entrepreneur and mental health advocate, Brett Francis, and Emmy Barr (Moose Jaw’s own “Queen of Caramel”) speak about their successes! And it’s wonderful to find that supporting organizations (NSILC, Praxis School of Entrepreneurship and Women Entrepreneurs of SK, to name three) provide entrepreneurial training and support to people with disabilities.
Secial thanks go out this month to the stylists and associates of the Hair Hut, Saskatoon, for hosting a wonderful customer appreciation event that also marked the relocation of the salon (to beautiful new quarters, at Cumberland Ave. and 8th Street). The gratitude of many clients was evident toward co-owners Raquel Payne, Carly George and to my own stylist, Holly Dishko. These women work both artistry and science over long hours and tiring days.
Thanks also this month to Lesley-Anne McLeod and Kat Marie Bens, for offering their experience and insight, with proofing and promoting my new eBook. (More on the eBook and how to order it, in the “Welcome” message, above. If you’re shopping at the last minute, my eBook makes a great virtual stocking stuffer for friends and family who are facing challenges and adversity in their lives. )
Are you planning your communications and marketing for 2016? It’s never too early (and certainly not too late) to do so! Please contact me with your ideas and projects–whether you could benefit from having an article, an e-newsletter, case study, or other copy to promote your services or products.
About Us . . .
Since 2011, Elizabeth Shih Communications has provided B2B marketing and communications services on the Prairies and across Canada.
Do you need help writing your “marcom” materials? Please contact me through my website, via the CASL-compliant email form, on the right-hand side of each page (www.elizabethshih.com).
After I have received your permission, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!
I help small- and medium-sized businesses create e-newsletters, blog postings, promotional emails, press releases, case studies and related documents that secure good clients. Please visit my website for more information (www.elizabethshih.com).