Writing About Yourself

Talking about yourself is tough. Your insecurities can obscure your understanding of your talents–even what you want your talents to be can cloud your self-awareness. In her book The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin says,
One of my Secrets of Adulthood is “You can choose what you do; you can’t choose what you like to do.” I have a lot of notions about what I wish I liked to do, about the subjects and occupations that I wish interested me. But it doesn’t matter what I wish I were like. I am Gretchen.
Isn’t that the truth? Ugh, it makes writing resumes, bios, and brand guidelines so tough!

Late last year, I helped the John Budnik Band write member bios along with a history of the band. Yes! It is my brother’s band and yes! they are located in my home state, Alaska. I conducted quick interviews via email to accommodate the full-time work schedules of the members and the four-hour time difference.

Instead of asking the members only questions about themselves, I asked them to provide their basic info: what instrument they play; how/when they learned to play. I then asked each member questions about the OTHER bandmates. Each member provided personality and talent insights about everyone except themselves. This gave outside perspective, but also a genuine portrait of who these cool cats are.

I did something similar last year when my co-workers and I were told the website we were writing for was shutting down. While we were all looking for new employment, I organized and ran a workshop of sorts to help with resume writing. Together we unearthed and articulated everyone’s talents and skills. “Unearthed” is the key word. We focused on one person at a time and I asked each person to answer the question, “If on the first day of your new job, you walk in and see that so-in-so also works there, you would be excited because…”

The answers were amazing and filled with valuable resume fodder. I think that collectively the soon-to-be-former coworkers provided each other with skills to add to their resume. These skills were always there, but we don’t always know what talents are most valuable to our cohorts. Or, we quickly dismiss our own value because it’s not what we are striving for. This exercise provided a positive outside perspective on each of our talents.

The key to both of these examples is that an outside perspective can be clear and genuine. We often think about who we wish we were and how maybe we’re not quite there and let it cloud our self-perception—much like Gretchen Rubin discusses. When you ask for an outside opinion (and pose positive questions—very important!) you can clearly understand what talents are really important and impactful to your fellow band members, co-workers, clients and business partners.

If you’re stuck on your resume or perhaps you’re trying to define your business/brand/agency, consider getting an outside perspective. Being able to see yourself or your band or your business from a different position is invaluable as you put into words who you are.

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Announcing My Baby Naming Guide

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I wrote a baby naming guide! I titled it, “Choosing the Most Perfect Name for Your Baby: Demystifying the Naming Process and Honoring Your Heart.” I started out my copywriting career doing a bit of professional naming—creating monikers for brands, companies, products, technologies, etc.. I loved it. When I had my own kids, and had to name them, I realized that the professional naming process could be bent to help expecting parents.

I’ll be the first one to say it, parents don’t need my guide to name their baby. It’s not like there is a nameless baby problem. But, what my guide does is expose the process. Once parents are aware of that process, the discussions around names and the final decision can be made with a bit more ease and confidence.

The guide is not a huge list of names. It does 3 things: It lays out the groundwork you need to do in order to figure out what kind of name you want. Then, it goes on to describe those different types of names. Finally, there is a list of different evaluations you can do as you sift through your list of name ideas.

Friends, this is a passion project. I love baby names! So, I paired my copywriting experience with my intuition as a mom and wife and wrote the guide. I’ve made it available through Amazon’s Kindle program, because I want to share it with the whole world! Head on over to get your own e-copy of “Choosing the Most Perfect Name for Your Baby: Demystifying the Naming Process and Honoring Your Heart.”

The J. Peterman Catalog Makes Me Cringe

Did you know that The J. Peterman Company catalog still exists? Yes, it does! I signed up for the catalog not too long ago, because I am a copywriter, who loves catalogs, and The J. Peterman Company Owner’s Manual has long been held as an astonishing example of catalog copy, mostly because they spend an extravagant number of words on each product description. Extravagant for a medium and retail arena that focuses on shoving in as much information as possible.

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The J. Peterman Company Owner’s Manual No. 146 Early Spring 2017

When I received Owner’s Manual No. 146, Early Spring 2017, I had time to sit down and read a few of the product descriptions.

My jaw dropped.

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Honestly, what the hell is this? This: “If you are thin, this dress will positively make you look more thin, chic, feminine. …If you are not thin but more of the voluptuous persuasion… Decadent gifts of choux à la crème from the finest Parisian Patisseries….An over-abundance of social engagements.”

Let me translate that for you. If you’re thin, you’ll be even prettier. And, hey, even thinner, which is chic and feminine. If you’re fat (sorry, J., even your fancy wordsmithing isn’t clever enough here), people will shove Twinkies and Hohos in your direction, because they’ll think you’re too thin. Oh, and you’ll finally get asked out.

Surely this is just a fluke, right? I took a look at some of the other descriptions for the women’s clothing.

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Nope. Not a fluke. Just across the spread a pleated collar blouse promises to have people ask, “Dear God, who is that charming little darling…?” Because, “little” is what any woman should be and strive to be, right?

No, no, no, say it isn’t so! The J. Peterman Company surely is doing better, right?

Then, there’s this dress that “hide[s] what you want to hide and accentuate[s] what you want to accentuate.”

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“And of course there are the colors—slimming and eye-popping.”

Really, they should have started and ended the copy here: “The thing is, a simple yet alluring dress like this makes people feel good when they see it.”

Take that in.

Let’s just sit with that a moment.

Because, it’s all about WHO is looking at a woman, right, J.? Never about the actual woman. Never. Go figure.

But, across the spread, I found one amazing, inspiring description. I’m not being sarcastic either.

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In its entirety:

The merger hasn’t been announced but everyone’s in panic mode.

Brantley said you’d be okay but nothing’s concrete. The good thing is you’ve got a niche. They need you. Don’t they? Wait, do they expect you to move to Berlin? You’re asking the wrong questions.

How about, do you need this headache?

Do you even like Berlin?

What’s the weather like on the Spanish waters this time of year?

These questions are more befitting of someone ready to turn the page.

Tomorrow you’ll tell them how it’s going to be.

Hell yes! This is the woman I imagine wearing J. Peterman clothes and, really, any brand. The woman who doesn’t depend on anyone. Who isn’t told what to do. The woman who forges her own path. The woman who’s ready to turn the page.

C’mon, J. Peterman! How about some more copy like that last one? A little less focus on women’s bodies. No more feeding into the vicious cycle of body image. You’re better than that. Or, maybe you’re not. Doing a quick Internet search, I found that you’ve written eyebrow-raising copy before. Check out this piece on Jezebel about a “rapey” description. Good thing I’m ready to turn the page.

Word Power

I read this article from NPR yesterday and was excited. Not because of the content. I think the article makes a serious point, but the fact that the reporter pulled out the dictionary makes me giddy. That’s what us word nerds do!

Now many listeners want to know why Kelly didn’t just call the president a liar.

On Morning Edition, Kelly explains why. She says she went to the Oxford English Dictionary seeking the definition of “lie.”

“A false statement made with intent to deceive,” Kelly says. “Intent being the key word there. Without the ability to peer into Donald Trump’s head, I can’t tell you what his intent was. I can tell you what he said and how that squares, or doesn’t, with facts.”

This article highlights the importance of using just the right word–using the correct word to not only express exactly what you need to, but to maintain integrity.

It also highlights the need for everyone to read carefully. Very, very carefully. And, perhaps, pull out the dictionary every now and then. I recommend bookmarking Merriam-Webster. It’s an easy-to-use online dictionary, but also provides a lot of smart insights on word trends.