Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Banished words

The educators and PR folks at Lake Superior State University have released their 34th annual List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

Being from Ohio, I don't pay much attention to the happenings up there in that crazy mitten-shaped state (GO BUCKEYES!), but I like lists, and I like words, so I decided to have a peek at it. Of course, it took me the better part of ten minutes to get their web page to load, which did nothing to reverse my innate bias against all things Michigan. Then after perusing the list, I discovered that it is more a list of phrases (and one emoticon) than a simple list of words. Another point deducted.

Further deductions were given because of the list itself. While many of the entries are indeed annoying, I don't think these really merit banishment:
  • Icon/Iconic--what would we call those little pictures all over our computers?
  • Game Changer--I'd never heard this phrase until I read the list (maybe I don't watch enough CNN)
  • Staycation--it's not even a real word, so how can you ban it?
  • Desperate Search--I blame Nancy Grace for this one
  • Not So Much--I like this phrase. Period.
  • Winner of Five Nominations--how is this more annoying than winner of less than or more than five?
  • It's That Time of Year Again--there are plenty of things that only happen once a year!
It also struck me that several of the entries are only part of the lexicon thanks to one of the many gaffes committed by our current Commander in Chief:
  • Green--we had to have something to focus on other than the war in Iraq . . .
  • Carbon Footprint/Carbon Offsetting--see above
  • Maverick--without this phrase, how would we have been able to distinguish that McCain/Palin were any different from Bush/Cheney? (that's a joke, please no angry tirades)
  • Bailout--'nuff said
  • Wall Street/Main Street--see above
Some entries were just not worth getting worked up about:
  • First Dude--Was there ever any chance that anybody other than Sarah Palin would ever call her husband that (and somebody should explain to the Palins that the spouse of the VP is not the "first" anything)?
  • <3--Until technology advances to the point where emotion can be conveyed via email, I say leave the poor emoticons alone. ;)
This leaves one final entry on the LSSU list: Monkey. I refuse to live in a world without the word "monkey." I love monkeys. Without the word "monkey," my Christmas list would have taken much longer to write, as I would have had to enumerate the various types of monkey that I wanted: pygmy marmoset, capuchin, chimp, macaque . . . in fact, I wouldn't even be able to make my list, because many of my favorite monkeys have the word "monkey" in their name: squirrel monkey, howler monkey, spider monkey, helper monkey, flying monkey . . .

So now you know my opinion of LSSU's little list--what are your thoughts?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Weirdness

Just for the heck of it, I parted my hair on the opposite side today. Not only does it feel weird, but looking at myself in the mirror is like looking at a complete stranger who bears a striking resemblance to me.

The change has had another, less predictable result, which I just discovered when I sat down to type this post. Typing feels less natural, as though parting my hair on the wrong side has affected my left brain-right brain balance. My fingers are struggling to find the right keys. It is truly an odd sensation.

I'm wondering if it's safe for me to drive my car in this altered state, but I've got places to go and there's not enough time to redo my hair--be on the lookout for a news story about a woman in Central Ohio driving on the wrong side of the street!

This isn't what I intended to write about today . . . oh well. It's probably more interesting.

Monday, December 29, 2008

End of year thoughts

This is a reflective time of year for many, myself included. In the week since last I wrote, I've been thinking a bit about what I did right this year business-wise, what I could have done better, and what I hope the next year will bring. Being the list-making sort, I decided to type up my thoughts and post them here for all to see . . .

What I did right
  • Landed two really wonderful, fairly steady clients
  • Kept thorough books
  • Dumped one creative staffing firm for another, better one
  • Read a lot--books, magazines, other people's blogs
  • Took some good advice, and ignored some bad advice
  • Became much less negative
  • Stuck with freelancing even though it freaked my husband out
  • Started this blog
What I could have done better
  • Took advantage of more networking opportunities
  • Budgeted for the lean times
  • Put more thought into how much time and effort it takes to complete a project
  • Established ground rules for procrastinating clients about when I work and when I don't
  • Less sweating the small stuff
  • Gotten up earlier in the morning
What I hope 2009 will bring
  • Continued success
  • Steady work, and a contingency plan in case that doesn't happen
  • Happiness
  • Learning from my mistakes
  • Learning in general
  • Work-life balance
Happy New Year! Best of luck in 2009!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I have decided to take the rest of the week off from blog-writing to focus on finishing up some projects and preparing for the holidays. See you next week!

Sorry if the video takes a while to load . . .
Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas shopping

I have work I should probably be doing, but I think I'm going to take the morning off and try to finish--or at least put a considerable dent in--my Christmas shopping. My list is color-coded for maximum efficiency, and the crowds shouldn't be too bad on a Thursday morning.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The search is on

At the suggestion of Jeremy at Mimeo.com (the company I work with to print proposals for the procrastinating client), I have been researching free PDF tools. When I was talking to him yesterday, I mentioned that I had downloaded a free trial of Adobe Acrobat, but that it expired last week. I really liked having the ability to add and delete pages from existing PDFs, and the edit and comment tools were handy too--but buying the Adobe software is not in my budget. He suggested I search PCWorld.com for a freeware version.

I found an online PDF editing tool called PDFVue. It's free for six months, beyond which I would need to begin my search anew. I've not attempted to use it yet.

Do any of you use this or other free PDF tools? Do you have any suggestions, recommendations, warnings, etc. for me?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Down to the wire

I am in the midst of putting to bed another proposal for the client who procrastinates (in all fairness and accuracy, it's not everybody I work with there who procrastinates, it's just one person). The proposal needs to be printed and shipped tomorrow, but I gave the client a deadline of 10:00 this morning (15 minutes after the writing of this post) to give me ample time to format, proofread and upload it to the printing company.

I am still waiting on two questions and the review of a third, but I am in a far better position than I was the last time I did a proposal for this client. I'm happy to report I am free of facial twitches and hypertensive episodes, and have not yet begun screaming obscenities at my monitor.

Monday, December 15, 2008

No good deed . . .

I gave blood yesterday. As good as it feels to help people in need, I think I may need to consider finding another way to help. Consider my track record:
  • I gave a pint on my last day at the cubefarm. Unfortunately, I neglected to eat enough beforehand so I almost fainted afterward (feel free to insert a joke about them bleeding me dry).
  • I often see signs for blood drives when I'm driving about, but conditions are never right for me to stop in (I'm on my way somewhere, I haven't eaten, etc.).
  • In May, my high school had an alumni blood drive. The phlebotomist forgot to attach what turned out to be a very crucial clamp, and I ended up bleeding all over my alma mater's gymnasium floor. So I got all the pain of donation (finger prick, needle stick and subsequent bruising) with none of the pleasure of knowing I helped somebody with my donation.
  • Yesterday's donation didn't go much better, but at least it counted. As I was being prepped to donate, the man on the bed next to me passed out mid-donation. When he came to, he freaked out a bit and ripped the needle out of his arm. Needless to say, this rattled my nerves a bit--so of course halfway through my donation, I got lightheaded. Fortunately, I was able to tell the phlebotomist in time and he leaned me back and let me finish in a reclined position. Then I was escorted to the snack area, where I was entertained by three Boy Scouts while I ate my Oreos and drank my water.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A little closer

Today's earworm courtesy of the movie Elf, of which I watched two minutes last night: "Baby It's Cold Outside"

In less annoying news, I got a step or two closer to the Christmas spirit last night, at my client's Christmas party. Sixteen of us had dinner together in a private room at a nearby country club, which could have been stuffy and snooty if not for the fact that these people are in no way, shape or form "country club" people. In fact, the dinner was held at the club for one reason: the club is one of their clients, and offered to host the dinner in trade for some ad work.

I really love working with this client. They are the nicest, most down-to-earth people you'd ever want to meet. And they genuinely like each other, and like working together. Such a change from the back-stabbing corporate world I grew to hate at the cubefarm job.

I brought my husband, and in the car on the way home he said "that's a good bunch of people." I couldn't agree more!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ho ho hum

I need to get in the Christmas spirit. I started my shopping this past weekend, but that certainly didn't help (crowds of cranky people with no respect for the concept of personal space--joy to the world!). I've heard enough Christmas carols to last a lifetime, and all that did was give me a new and more annoying bunch of earworms (and right on queue, my brain strikes up a chorus of "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"). I tried to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" last night but it seemed there were more commercial breaks than television program.

Maybe this weekend will mark the tipping point. I plan to decorate the house and get a tree, and I'm getting together with some of my relatives for dinner and an ornament exchange. I'll also have an opportunity to help out a bit at our local food pantry. If all those holiday activities don't do it, I may need professional assistance!

How do you get into the spirit of the season?

Monday, December 8, 2008

The ghost of posts past

I received a notification late last week that I had a new comment on a blog post I wrote back in August . . . this particular blog post is one of my most-visited and prompted two follow-up posts--one later that month and one in October.

Allow me to summarize for you if you don't feel like following the links to the old posts: I responded to a Craigslist ad for some project work only to get a canned response (with a typo) telling me to upload my resume to postresumehere.com. I was suspicious, and said so. I received a handful of comments from people who received the same auto-response and were equally suspicious, and the post was viewed by dozens of others who didn't comment (all found my post after doing some type of search engine search for postresumehere.com). In the first follow-up post, I admitted to getting fooled a second time, and in the October post I wrote about my concerns about the value and/or validity of postresumehere.com.

When I first read the comment, I thought the anonymous author actually was the person responsible for the offending Craigslist ad, but after a few reads I wonder if they are just another recipient of the auto response who wanted to let me know that while the game is still afoot, at least the typo had been fixed:
The typo about they/their on the auto reply has been fixed.

I've set up a separate Gmail account for Craigslist and a couple of blogs. I give my qualifications in general terms and let them know that due to the fraud on Craigslist, I will respond with complete information after they provide information and I can research. Why would you forward a complete resume right away, knowing that scum are out there?

I found your blog while researching postresumehere.com tonight.
Why would I forward my resume when responding to an ad on Craigslist? Because I was looking for project work and assumed the ad was legit. Silly me. I'll not make that mistake again, I assure you.

Friday, December 5, 2008

My horse has a receding gum line

I know better than to look a gift horse in the mouth (does the title make sense now?), but I have to wonder if $240 for 2 hours and 20 minutes of work is really worth 5 hours and 40 minutes of thumb-twiddling for me or my client . . .

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bits and pieces

Nothing specific to write about today, so this will just be a ramblin' piece.
  • There's a Christmas card for sale that features two young women in conversation on the cover. The word bubble over one's head says "Where's the holiday party at?" The word bubble over the other's head says "You shouldn't end a sentence in a preposition." The inside of the card says "Where's the holiday party at, bitch?" Made me laugh.
  • I will be filling in for the copy editor tomorrow and Friday, so I may not get to post again until Monday.
  • I've been invited to the holiday party that one of my clients is having. I'm looking forward to it, because they're a fun bunch of people!
  • I have to do my bookkeeping for last month. Bleh.
  • Check out Restaurant.com's Feed It Forward site. From now until Christmas, they are offering free restaurant gift certificates. Once you register, you can send $10 gift certificates by email to friends, family, whomever. You're limited to three per day, but it's still a pretty cool idea.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Reflections

Lori's comment on yesterday's post got me thinking . . . why did I get so worked up about my client's procrastination? I was working for them, not vice-versa. I did everything I was supposed to do, when I was supposed to do it. The time crunch was their fault. If the proposal hadn't been completed on time it would have been their fault, not mine.

So I guess what really upsets me is the disregard for my time. The lack of understanding that their procrastination had a big impact on my weekend. I didn't want to spend my weekend checking my email and fretting when I didn't see the missing piece of the puzzle in my inbox. I didn't want to cut short my errands yesterday because I got a text message saying the information had finally been sent. But I did, because I was keeping up my end of the bargain. So maybe instead of feeling angry, I should feel proud that despite being treated like my time didn't matter, I still did what I had to do to help my client succeed.

And next time, I'll crack the whip a little harder and hold them to their end of the deal.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Aargh

I spent my entire weekend waiting for one of my clients to send me the last little bit of information I need to complete a project. I had hoped to receive it early Friday so that I didn't have to wait until the last minute to get everything together, but was told at 5:30 that I would get it over the weekend. I need to send it to the printer ASAP this morning.

Procrastination really sucks when you're the procrastinatee instead of the procrastinator.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A poem

After Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt's house, one of my young cousins brought out a copy of Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends. I waxed nostalgic re-reading some of the goofy poems that I loved as a child. Then I stumbled across this one. I don't remember it from my childhood, but it's my new favorite (I like the illustration--also from the book--almost as much as the poem itself).

My Beard

My beard grows down to my toes,
I never wears no clothes,
I wraps my hair
Around my bare,
And down the road I goes.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

This has been a very stressful week for me. I've not been under this much stress since I left the cubefarm job, and I must say I haven't missed it. But in spite of all the craziness, I am smiling. Why? Have I finally gone 'round the bend?

No.

I'm stressed because I'm BUSY. And being busy means I have work, and having work is something to be thankful for. So bring it on, clients of mine. I may be bald and twitchy by the end of the year, but I will not stop smiling.

Happy Thanksgiving. May your plates be as full as mine.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oops

Yesterday completely got away from me. Cat to the vet at 8:00 A.M., pancake breakfast with a client and on-site work from 9:00 to 2:30, pick up my new glasses from the optometrist at 3:00, RFP work until 5:30, birthday dinner for a cousin at 6, pick up the cat by 8:00 P.M.

Looks like today is heading in the same direction, but I wanted to squeeze in a post before I'm off and running.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rant

You know what really sets my teeth on edge?

The chronic misuse in TV and movies of "I," "me," "us," "we" and "them."

"John and me are going to play tennis."
"Do you want to go with David and I to the movies?"
"You think you're better than me?"
"I have more cookies than them."

Etc.

It's as grating as fingernails on a chalkboard . . . is there no equivalent to copy editor among the scriptwriting set?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Three is the magic number.

Third time's a charm. Three's company. Three strikes?

I'm working with my client on their winter mailer. Twice, we thought we had a great concept, only to have it blow up in our faces for one reason or another. Observe:


The idea for this one was sparked during a brainstorming session, when one of the team said "When everything's working against you, we're working for you." That got me thinking about tug-of-war, and we ran with it from there. I wrote the copy while the art director searched for an image. Then we set about trying to think of a giveaway item to package with the mailer. My idea was to attach Chinese finger traps to them, but that was dismissed because it doesn't require teamwork to get out of them. Somebody came up with the idea of a carabiner keychain, which was a bit of a stretch but did incorporate rope and the idea of teamwork. Then the art director realized the picture was not only rights managed (meaning we could use it once) but would also cost $400. They couldn't justify that cost for a mailer that would only be going out to about 140 people.

Back to the drawing board.


We came up with this one by looking at a list of historical events that happened in January, of which Henry Ford's concept of the assembly line is one. I voiced a concern that problems in the auto industry are headline news, but we rationalized that we weren't really talking about cars--we were talking about unconventional thinking, and ways to make your product attainable. I wrote the copy, we found several great (and affordable) images, and toy cars are easy to come by. We thought we had it. But my earlier misgiving was raised again by the CEO, and this one was scrapped due to bad timing.



So now we're setting to work on attempt #3. Will it prove to be our lucky number? My thanks to the art director for injecting some lightheartedness and positivity into the situation with these images.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Get to the 'Point

I didn't want to get out of bed this morning, but I didn't want to stay asleep either. All night long, I dreamed I was working on a PowerPoint presentation. All. Night. Long. I woke up several times and tried to shake it off, but when I fell back asleep, I fell right back into the dream. If this has ever happened to you, then you know that you wake up in the morning feeling like you got absolutely no sleep. I'm on my second big cup of coffee, and am just now starting to perk up a bit.*

And to make matters worse, the PowerPoint kept changing because other people kept giving me feedback about it.
"Change the font."
"Can you add animation to slide 10?"
"I don't like that background."
These "perpetual work dreams" happen to me every once in a while, and usually they are tied to whatever I'm working on at the moment. Last night was a new experience for me because I've never spent all night dreaming about PowerPoint (usually it's Word or Excel), and I'm not actually working on a PowerPoint for anybody.

I suppose it could have been worse--my least favorite dreams are the ones in which I'm in high school and can't remember my locker combination or class schedule (though I'm always fully clothed!), or I'm in college and can't find my best friend or call home. I awake from those dreams really anxious. I'll take being tired over being anxious any day.

* For the sake of full disclosure, I feel compelled to point out that while this post was published at 7 on Wednesday morning, it was written at 10 on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Too early?

The election is over. Campaign commercials have been replaced by Christmas ads. Apparently, though, my mind has not yet made the transition. While sweating it out on the recumbent bike at my gym this weekend, I was struck with what I think is a brilliant idea. An idea that would change the course of politics. An idea, I think, whose time has come. And you, lucky readers, are the first to hear about it.

What if each party had to run the campaign for the opposing candidate? Imagine what a different election season it would be if Candidate X was responsible for spending Candidate Y's campaign dollars. If Candidate Y had to write Candidate X's campaign commercials. There would be a rule against running a negative or slanderous campaign, so anything that was said about the candidates would be truthful and realistic. Campaign donations would be spent conservatively, if at all. Commercials would speak to the simplest positive aspects of each candidate:

"Candidate X had never had an overdue library book."

"Candidate Y never cheated on his spouse."

"Candidate Z's plan for balancing the budget might actually work, even if her ideas on health care are a little out there."

People could make real informed decisions about who to vote for, based on actual facts. Of course, we'd also have to get the media, political advocacy groups and the various political parties on board . . . but we've got four years to figure out the details.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Is it over yet?

Have you ever had a project that should have been simple, but just wasn't? I just finished two (frantically trying to find some wood to knock on).

My recent poster/postcard/web graphic project--and another project I was simultaneously working on for the same client--were both plagued by miscommunication and technical difficulties. For example:
  • The client provided the majority of the copy for the pieces--but changed it three times throughout the course of the project.
  • I wanted to create the files using Adobe PhotoShop and InDesign, which I don't have--meaning I had to rely on friends and other clients who do have the software, which was a logistical nightmare. Especially in light of the fact that I had to make multiple rounds of changes.
  • The client communicated to me, in writing, that several logos were supposed to be on one piece but not on the other--and when I delivered a proof according to those specs I was told the logos should be on both.
  • I delivered the final versions, in PDF (per specifications), on a CD--she wanted to email them to her printer, but couldn't open them so she had to take the CD to her printer (fortunately, her printer was able to open the files).
  • The other project required very minor pricing and text edits to an existing brochure (which, incidentally, I did for her last year). When she reviewed the file, she realized she'd forgotten to tell me to update one section, and she also saw that I had missed some subtle wording changes.
  • I revised the brochure and emailed her the file as a PDF, but when she tried to open it she got a message that said it was damaged. I opened it from two different computers, and it opened fine. I burned it to a CD for her, and when she opened it she noticed that the font of one text box had changed. I removed it and emailed it to her (it opened fine this time).
  • She asked me to email her the invoices for both projects--when I did (they're Word docs), she said my contact info was cut off and that she couldn't move the text herself. When I opened the docs, they looked fine to me. I PDF'd them and sent them to her that way--she couldn't open the PDFs. I ended up having to fax her the invoices.
It got to the point where I grimaced every time I saw there was an email from her in my inbox. I think the freelance gods had it out for me for some reason--hopefully they've been appeased and will leave me alone for awhile.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I guess I'm gonna stay "it"

I received this comment from Embee in yesterday's post:
You've been tagged! Check out this blog to find out what that means:
http://musingsofawould-bewriter.blogspot.com/

Have fun ... and don't forget to let me know when you've completed your 8!
Curious, I followed the link and read her explanation and the "rules" of the game. It seems to me to be the blog equivalent of chain letters and chain emails, but I decided to comply . . . to a certain extent. Because it saves me from having to come up with a topic for today's post (I promise, I'll think of something good for Monday), I'm going to list my eight "facts" . . . but I'm going to break the rules by not specifically tagging others. The instructions for participating can be found at the bottom of this post--if you want to participate, by all means consider yourself tagged!

Eight Facts About Me
  1. One of my hobbies is making jewelry.
  2. My ideal fast food meal would consist of a Wendy's cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and mustard, McDonald's fries and a Jamocha shake from Arby's.
  3. My best friends and I spoke a "secret" language all through junior high and high school.
  4. I have almost 50 pairs of shoes.
  5. My favorite movie of all time is Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
  6. My husband calls me "The Badger" because I'm small and cute, but can be mean as hell when provoked.
  7. I could spend hours in The Container Store.
  8. I don't forward chain emails, even when they promise special animations or money from Bill Gates, or threaten years of bad luck if I don't send them to a specific number of friends--which is why I'm breaking the rules in this game of tag, too (sorry Embee)!
The tag rules are as follows:
  • Each player starts with eight random fact/habits about themselves.
  • People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules. At the end of your blog post, you need to tag eight people and list their names.
  • Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’ve been tagged and to read your blog.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thursday funny

I'm a little too mentally exhausted to think of something to write about, so here's a cop-out cartoon:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Modest success

As you no doubt understand if you read my blog with any regularity, I'm not a math person. So it was with much grimacing and some under-the-breath cursing that I decided to put aside my fear and loathing of math and crunch me some numbers.

I started my freelance business in June of 2007. I knew there would be no way to immediately match what I had been earning at my cubefarm job, so I determined what I spend in a typical month (utilities, groceries, car payment, mortgage, etc.) and made it my goal to at least make that make that much every month. I was . . . intermittently successful at meeting that goal. Fortunately, my husband picked up most of the slack, so with a little curtailing of "unnecessary" spending we were able to keep our house and cars, eat on a regular basis, etc.

I retained last year's goal for this year, and added a goal of making more per month than I did last year. To determine if I am meeting that goal, I compared my earnings in two ways:
  1. In a straight comparison of the last six months of 2007 to the first six months of 2008, I made 8.4 percent more this year than last.
  2. For an "apples to apples" comparison, I looked at what I earned from June through October 2007 versus what I earned June through October 2008. For that period of time, I made 13.5 percent more this year than last.
Not drastic increases, but it makes me feel better to know that I'm doing better this year than last. And the last two months have been the best yet, so I am hopeful that my end-of-year calculations will show even better increases.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Check please!

First and foremost, I am happy to say that it appears I do not have a cold--I'm just extra-sensitive to climate changes, and we had a doozy of a change this weekend. So hooray and thanks for the well-wishes.

Now then.

When I started my 20-hour-a-week-not-a-part-time-job gig, I also started using their payroll system to track my hours and the amount of time spent of each of their clients' projects. Logically, I assumed that because I was using their payroll system, and submitting weekly time sheets to accounting, that meant I would be paid via their payroll system rather than invoicing them like I have in the past. Three weeks into the project, the accountant needed me to change "accounts" within the payroll system, and asked me to create an invoice for my first two weeks. I did, and I got a check.

Fast-forward to late last week, when I realized I haven't seen another check since that first one. So Monday I asked the CEO when I could expect to be paid for the rest of October and the first week of November--and boy am I glad I spoke up! Apparently, they were expecting me to invoice for all my hours. They use what I enter into the payroll system for billing their clients, but aren't paying me based on that.

As if I needed further proof what a great client this is, the CEO offered to cut me a check right then and there. I told him that wasn't necessary, and that I'd just go ahead and submit an invoice.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Achoo

One of the less talked-about benefits of working from home is that I have less contact with other people's germs. I used to get at least one cold a year--but I've been freelancing full-time for about a year and a half, and haven't had a cold (or flu, or any other communicable illness) in all that time.

And now, in my 2nd month of working on-site with one of my clients, I'm starting to feel the once-familiar signs of that sneaky little bug. I cling to the hope that I'm just having a wicked allergy attack, but that hope fades a bit with each sniffle, sneeze and cough that aren't assuaged by my daily dose of Zyrtec.

*sigh*

When I go in to my client's office today, I'm taking a bottle of hand sanitizer. They may have given me a cold, but I don't have to return the favor.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

All of the glory, none of the entry fees

There's a possibility that one of my clients may decide to enter some direct mail pieces (on which I did the copy) in a competition. I think they stand a good chance of winning, because the pieces are really good and they've gotten positive feedback from recipients.

I don't typically enter my work in competitions because I just can't bring myself to spend what is usually several hundred dollars on the entry fee. If I'm paying you $300 to critique my work, you darn well better give me an award!

But if somebody else is footing the bill, heck yeah--I'm all for it. You cut the check, client of mine, and I'll do everything else--read the fine print in booklet, write the 2-5 page "work plan," fill out the entry form, and make sure it's in the mail before the deadline.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rockin' the vote

During the primaries, I took pen in hand with the intention of gaining myself some YouTube stardom. Sadly, once the following spoof was written, I had trouble coercing my friends into helping me record it, so the project lost steam and eventually died out.

Now that election day is here, I thought it fitting to dig out the lyrics and let you see what could have been:

"I Choose Barack"
sung to the tune of Tim Curry's "I Do the Rock"*


Primary race heating up for Pennsylvania Ave
Three are frantic’ly campaigning for what one can have
Some will vote for McCain
Some for Hillary
Me, I do the only thing that still makes sense to me

I choose Barack
I choose Barack, ‘rack

John and Clinton raise a stink to defame Obama
Sometimes they start arguments on the Senate floor-a
Hillary’s a lady, McCain’s really frightfully old
But something else ‘bout both of them just leaves me feeling cold

I choose Barack
I choose Barack, ‘rack
I choose Barack, ‘rack, ‘rack
Hey, it’s time for change!

Clinton spoke out vocally against Gitmo’s prison
Saddam’s six feet under but Bin Laden still is missin’
McCain’s war could last for 10 decades, but I just think that Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan aren’t places we should be

I choose Barack
I choose Barack
Hey, it’s time for change!
Change we believe in!

George and Matt and Will and Oprah
Brad and Angelina
Stephen Colbert and Madonna
Gov’nor Schwarzennegah
FOX, CNN, MSNBC and People Magazine
Reporting who the celebs pick for the presidency

I choose Barack, myself

Hammas and the Taliban
Christians, Jews and Muslims
Can’t we all just get along?
Our differences are puzzlin’
Dogma, Fatwa, and Jihad make global warming not so sad
Screw the polar bears and just bring our troops home safely

I choose Barack
I choose Barack
I choose Barack
I choose Barack
Choose Barack
Choose Barack
I do I do I do I do choose Barack

*If you've never heard the original, I'm sure it's out there on YouTube or elsewhere on the Internet for your listening pleasure.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Quickie

Okay, quick post and then I have to get back to work (I just published that "business plan" and I'm already deviating from it!).

In hindsight, I really should have done some work over the weekend, but I did not and I haven't perfected my time machine yet.

My not-a-part-time-job-20-hours-a-week client asked me to continue on through November. Exciting, but also part of what has me thinking I should have worked a bit this weekend. I also have 3 Requests for Proposals for another client, and am hopefully finishing up the poster and postcard for the neighborhood business association. I say hopefully, because there is a charity involved and nonprofits make things a little more complicated than necessary.

Okay, enough . . . to work!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Warped sense of humor

My mother sent me a link to this video--the subject line of her email was "turn up the sound, you can hear her head hit the pole!"

If you share our warped sense of humor, crank up the volume before watching this!



Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

He just doesn't get it

Hubby: So you're working at [Client A] until when today?
Me: One o'clock.
Hubby: Oh, so you have the afternoon off!

Um, no . . .

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What do you do?

I hate being asked that question--or rather, I hate answering it. I always hesitate before answering, and I always trip on the answer. I LOVE LOVE LOVE what I do. I love being in business for myself. But I struggle every time somebody asks me what I do.

It should be a simple question to answer--I'm a freelance writer and editor. But that answer always spawns more questions, or a quizzical look on the face of the person I'm talking to. Inevitably, that nice little 6-word answer becomes a lot more complicated. Often, I have to explain what I don't do: I'm not a journalist, I don't write for magazines, and they've likely not seen anything I've written. Next, I have to explain who my clients are: I write for businesses, and for ad agencies. And what kinds of things do I write and edit? I write brochures, ad copy, PowerPoints, proposals, posters, flyers, web copy, and pretty much anything else people are willing to pay me to write. Same goes for editing. Do I have an office? I work from home or from my clients' offices, whichever is more suited to the project.

Usually their attention has waned by that point, and they leave me alone to contemplate how I can better answer the question next time I get asked.

What do you think--is there a better way?

Monday, October 27, 2008

WOCD

They say everybody has at least an occasional obsessive-compulsive tendency, but I think I'm a little more OCD than most. My tendencies manifest themselves in two ways:
  • I'm fairly anal-retentive
  • I'm prone to "earworms"
While being anal serves me well from time to time, having an almost constant medley of mental music is just plain annoying.

The DJ at WOCD (the call letters for the "radio" in my head) sometimes provides me with musical variations on a theme. Today's theme is songs featuring authors, writing or reading. For example:
  • "Every Day I Write the Book" by Elvis Costello
  • "Don't Stand So Close to Me" by The Police
  • "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield
  • "My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors" by Moxy Fruvous
Because I know you wouldn't want me to suffer alone, here's a video for that last one:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Coveting thy neighbor's stuff

The feast-or-famine nature of this week's copy editing gig forced me to find creative ways to kill time. When I ran out of lists to make, I decided to spend some time exploring my environment.

To ensure that I was available if and when any editorial work came my way, I limited my explorations to the copy editor's office which has been my home base all week. Even in this small space, I found many wonderful treasures to covet:
  • a license plate which reads "META4S"
  • a vast library of reference books, including 4 dictionaries, 2 thesauruses and a wide variety of style guides
  • all my favorite software, and a hard drive big enough to run it all without slowing to a crawl
  • Post-it notes galore, including multicolor flags, minis, traditional squares and 4x6 ruled
  • a "Word of the Day" calendar (Thursday's word: philippic, meaning a discourse or declamation full of bitter condemnation)
  • an entire wall of cork board
  • a giant ampersand paperweight
Hmm. I may have just written my Christmas list!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

There was an old woman . . .

When I was a young girl, I often wondered about the kind of old woman I would become. In these musings, Elderly Me usually had long, white hair that I would wear in a braid. She was the author of several best-selling novels, and lived comfortably off the royalties. Healthy well into her 90's, she would die peacefully in her bed, and her life would be celebrated by hundreds of people.

The Me of today has a more realistic view of the aging process. Currently in my 30's, I have back pain, poor eyesight and tinnitus, and I cut my hair short years ago because it was too much of a bother to wear it long. Now when I think about the Me of retirement age and beyond, I wonder if I'll even make it to old age. And if I do, I'll more than likely be the cranky old lady who gets arrested for stealing balls from the neighborhood kids.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Listing

I make lists. Shopping lists. Packing lists. To-do lists. Christmas lists. Random lists of random things. And there are few things more satisfying to me than crossing something off a list. It's concrete proof that I accomplished something, no matter how trivial it may be.

I found myself with a lot of free time on Monday, and rather than sit around doing nothing while I waited for somebody to bring me something to edit, I made the following lists:
  • ideas for blog posts (this post was #2)
  • outfits to wear for the rest of the week, including shoes and accessories
  • dinner ideas for the rest of the week
  • deliverables for my current projects
  • an outline for the database I'll be developing for my workers comp client (an outline counts as a list, right?)
As I typed the bullets above, it dawned on me that I was making a list of lists. Guess I just added a new variety of list to my repertoire!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Circus freak

Awhile back I posted an entry about a Halloween Party I would be attending. The theme was "Circus Freaks." Several of you provided good--and very elaborate--costume ideas, but I went with something fairly easy and cheap instead. I designed the following t-shirts for my husband and myself (the graphic with the starbursts was on the back of both shirts):


Sadly, I wasn't the only one with the "World's Tallest Midget" idea--and because the other partygoer was taller than I, my shirt got amended to read "World's 2nd Tallest Midget."

I think a more appropriate circus act to describe me this week would be "juggler." As regular readers know, I am taking the week off from my not-a-part-time-job agency gig to fill in full-time for the copy editor of another agency (and doing a little work for the former agency after I get home). I'm also working on 2 RFPs for my workers comp client and designing some promotional materials for my neighborhood business association's "shop locally" holiday open house. Whew!

Monday, October 20, 2008

DON'T postresumehere

According to my sitemeter.com statistics, nearly a quarter of my blog hits are to a post I wrote in August about my consternation with Craigslist ads that direct unsuspecting people to PostResumeHere.com. So I thought I might take a moment to delve a little deeper into the mystery of that website in order to enlighten the masses:
  • PostResumeHere.com is a site that proposes to aid you in finding a job by matching your resume to job openings. Unlike other job search sites, PostResumeHere uses nefarious tactics like posting misleading "job opportunities" to Craigslist.
  • PostResumeHere has no "about us" page like you find on other job search sites.
  • Also unlike other sites, you must register before you can even view any opportunities--and the registration links send you either to the registration page at monster.com or beyond.com (though nothing else on the home or security pages mentions any connection to these sites).
As if three strikes isn't enough . . .
  • In addition to an overabundance of ads by Yahoo, the site pimps a resume-writing book called Resume Magic.
  • Several other "links" on the site either aren't functional or are big blocks of text (instead of individual links) that don't link to anything but that monster.com registration page.
Bottom line: unless you're looking for advice on improving your resume, stay away from this site. Beyond any value it might offer in that capacity, it doesn't appear to be anything other than a back-door to other job search sites.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Compliment

I got a lovely complement from the Art Director of the agency where I'm doing the 4-hours-a-day-not-a-part-time-job-I-swear gig. I was writing a sentence he needed to incorporate into a web page, and he said "I love having you here--you can answer questions we'd ordinarily deliberate over for hours. It's great having an expert within shouting distance."

Awww, and I love being there.

Which reminds me, I will be taking next week off from that particular project to fill in for the copy editor over at another agency. I will try to post at least a few times throughout the week, but please don't think less of me if I don't!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Babies

As a writer, I sometimes get a little too attached to my copy. I start to think of the words as my babies, born from my brain and nurtured onto the page with loving fingers. It can be painful, then, to remember that they're . . . just . . . words.

I'm writing the copy for a direct mail piece that one of my clients will be sending this month. Because of the timing, the mailer has a Halloween theme. My client liked the first draft, but felt there was "too much punchline" and not enough of a selling message to the copy. Going back to my baby analogy, I was faced with the difficult task of deciding which babies to keep, and which had to left at the orphanage.

Two of the lines that didn't make the cut:
  • Self-sabotage is the monster in the closet.
  • The status quo is the creature under the bed.

*sigh*

I'll miss the little guys.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gracias!

I wanted to say thank you to Angie over at Gumbo Writer for spotlighting me in her blog over the weekend. She said some very nice things about me, and I will try to live up to them.

As a result of her post and the plea that inspired it, I now have a lovely handful of followers. So thank you to all of you who bothered to click that link, too.

An unintended (but nevertheless positive) consequence of all this has been that I now have a lot of new blogs and sites to visit! I added myself as a follower to those whose pages offered that option . . . several others I added to my bookmarks so I can find them when I do my daily surfing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Most likely to . . .

I spent a few hours this weekend catching up with a friend of mine from high school. When I got home, I continued to wax nostalgic by hauling out my yearbook and the "senior supplement" that went with it. The senior supplement is basically a book of lists reflecting the fads and favorites of our graduating class, and a "most/best/worst" list.

I wanted so badly to be voted most likely to write a book no one would understand, but my best friend won that honor. I, on the other hand, was voted:
  • most unique
  • most likely to change the world
  • most liberal
  • most likely to argue or question authority
  • most likely to overthrow a country
  • most likely to be a groupie
What image do these superlatives conjure in your head? Well, unless you knew me in high school, your mental picture is probably wrong.

I went to a parochial school. I was considered unique because I wore combat boots with my maroon polyester uniform. I was considered liberal, world-changing, anti-authority and revolutionary because I had opinions of my own, wasn't into sports and didn't generally cave in to peer pressure. I was considered potential groupie material because I quoted song lyrics on my notebook covers.

Now it's 15 years later, and neither I nor my friend have written a book (understandable or otherwise). I still haven't changed the world or run off with a band. My political and world views, while certainly liberal, are not by any means radical or revolutionary. I still voice my opinions, but I recognize that they are just that--my opinions. I guess some would call me unique, but aren't we all unique in some way or another? And is there such a thing as "most" unique?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Where's the fire?

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: I am, by nature, a procrastinator.

Usually I try to keep this part of my personality strictly within the realm of "personal life." But I'm beginning to see that when applied to business, procrastination can be parlayed into a useful skill.

No really, hear me out. By definition, a procrastinator puts things off until the last minute. A really skilled procrastinator will still deliver quality work on time. A really, really skilled procrastinator will let others do the procrastinating, and then when the project finally lands on his/her plate at the last minute, will save the day by delivering quality work on time.

I am a really, really skilled procrastinator. I put out other people's fires. It's not my preferred way of working, but when push comes to shove, and you absolutely, positively must have something done in an inconceivably short time frame, I'm your gal.

And there's another way being an executive-level procrastinator has helped me in my business. My current on-site gig has me working at the client's office from 1-5 every day (sounds suspiciously like a part-time job, but they assure me it isn't). I'm not an early riser. This means I have 3-3.5 hours each morning to work on my other projects before I have to leave for my afternoon gig. I apply my superior procrastination skills to make the most of that time--I give myself a 1:00 deadline every day, so from the minute I start working in the morning until that deadline, I am in quality, on-time fire extinguishing mode.

In the hands of a less-skilled procrastinator, this method would be a disaster. But I've never been more productive.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Don't make me beg


Okay, help a sister out. I recently added the "Follow This Blog" gadget to my page, and now it's taunting me with its lack of followers.

If you read my blog on a regular basis, please click the link to the left (right below my profile) and let the world know! Or if you're more the shy, silent type, choose to follow it privately. I'm just tired of seeing that big ol' zero.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Customer service

Did you know this is National Customer Service Week? Well, you do now--so start celebrating!

Give yourself a big ol' pat on the back for providing good customer service. If you have employees, thank them. If you get good customer service from your dry cleaner, fast food worker, store clerk, waiter, etc., acknowledge it!

You don't have to do anything extravagant. Smile. Say thank you. Tell someone they're doing a good job. Tell yourself you're doing a good job. It makes people happy to be appreciated, and that happiness shows in their work. Acknowledging good customer service is the gift that keeps on giving!

On the other side of the coin, this is a good opportunity to check in with your customers, too. Ask them how you're doing, and take to heart any feedback you get from them. And be sure to let them know how much you appreciate them trusting you with their business.

On that note, I'd like to say thank you to those of you who read my blog. I may never meet you, may never get to work with you, but I appreciate you. There are probably dozens of other things you could be doing, but you take a few moments out of your day to visit me here. That makes me smile, and hopefully I can return the favor.

:)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Resume rant

This weekend, I helped one of my aunts write her resume. I helped her because she is family, not because I enjoy writing resumes. In fact, I really despise writing resumes. I hate them so much that I have, in the past, turned down paid work that involved resume writing.

Why do I dislike them so? Let me count the ways . . .
  • The spin factor: Resumes are supposed to play up your strengths and downplay your weaknesses. But people often walk a fine line between truth and fiction in their resumes.
  • So much to say, so little space to say it: It can be a real challenge to distill years of work into a few bullet points.
  • So little to say . . .: Conversely, not everybody has a good or lengthy work history, and yet their resume is their first impression upon prospective employers. This brings us back to the spin factor.
  • One man's trash is another man's resume: This one really sticks in my craw, because it contradicts almost everything I've already written. The success of a resume is arbitrary. Even if you have a horrible resume, chock full of typos and half-truths, there's still a good chance you'll get hired. In my cubefarm days, I used to have to comb through my fellow employees' resumes to write their bios for the company website, proposals, etc. They were, generally speaking, atrocious. And the higher paid the employee, the worse their resume was likely to be. In what world is that fair?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

At least I don't pack heat



What I find funniest about this clip is that the punctuation police officer (how politically correct of me!) breaks his own rules. I guess that's like a real cop speeding without the lights and siren on.

Monday, October 6, 2008

CSI: Editorial Department

I recently wrote a letter to the Editor of one of our community newspapers. It was a response to another letter they had printed the week before.

The paper printed my letter in their last issue, which is exciting.

What was not exciting was that the letter was edited. Badly. The Editor well and truly butchered my pronouns. Take a look (the 2nd paragraph is the bloodiest):
To the Editor:

I'm writing in response to Sue Ulry's letter (The Booster, Sept. 24) regarding her frustration about the recent power outage that affected Central Ohio.

First, some practical advice for Sue: contact your insurance company. She may find that they are quite willing to cut her a check for the $200 in groceries you lost, with no impact on her deductible.

Second, if all she lost is some food, she should consider herself lucky. Unlike others in our area (not to mention the unfortunate individuals in places like Texas, Cuba, Turks and Caicos, and Haiti), she didn't lose her home, her livelihood or her life. She was merely inconvenienced.


I hope this gives her -- and other Central Ohioans who feel the need to complain -- some much-needed perspective. It could have been worse.
I hope none of my prospective clients read The Booster . . .

Friday, October 3, 2008

Support system

My spray tanning web copy went live last week. I emailed a link to my mother and husband so they could see it. My mom's reply arrived within an hour, and was full of motherly praise and pride. My husband's reply came yesterday, and said this:
"i know a guy who owns tanning beds around town.
shall i pass along your info?"
My husband, on occasion, puts his excellent schmoozing skills to work on my behalf. He has opened doors for me with a few prospective clients, and for that I am thankful. But he is not 100% supportive of my freelancing career.

Part of him is jealous that I love my job, while he does not love his. As a result, he feels the need to occasionally make snide remarks like "did you have a rough day today?" and "if you get a spare minute, can you do some laundry?" Because I work from home, he assumes I sleep late and then watch TV all day. Today, via email, he said "you're up early" when in reality I just happened to be checking personal email earlier than usual. And unless I have absolutely nothing else to do (or am avoiding doing the requested laundry or other household chores, heh heh), I don't generally turn on the TV until I take a break for lunch. Yes, I have been known to work in my pajamas . . . the point is, I am working.

Another part of him worries about stability. I can't fault him for this--I too worry about not having enough work, but my business is growing and I would rather focus my energy on being a success than on not being a success. A former coworker gave me a copy of The Secret when I left the cubefarm job. While I don't believe that the universe is just waiting for me to ask before fulfilling my wildest dreams, I do believe that you reap what you sow. And when it comes to my livelihood, I'm sure as heck going to sow the best seeds I can get my hands on.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Paperclips shaped like feet!

When I reported for duty with my agency client yesterday, they showed me to my desk and apologized for the bare-bones quality of the space. "We didn't know your tastes," they said. No worries, I'm sure I can find some stuff at home to bring in.

They did, however, provide me with an assortment of basic office supplies--pens, pencils, highlighters, Post-it notes, stapler, tape and a little variety pack of colorful paperclips. I exclaimed over the latter, and told them how much I love fun office supplies.

Over the course of the next few hours, additional supplies showed up: another pack of novelty paper clips, including ones shaped like feet (I took a picture, but again, technical difficulties prevent me from being able to upload it), some colorful notepads, a bulletin/dry erase board, and a pen that the Art Director swears is the best ever.

I already knew that I liked these people, but being showered with office supplies makes me like them even more. I'm really looking forward to working with them this month!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

For the love of bacon

I have a pretty short attention span when it comes to advertising. Most ads, commercials and radio spots are just white noise or white space to me. Even earworm-inducing jingles usually backfire--I find myself humming or singing the tune, with no idea what product it was intended to pimp.

But yesterday, as I was thumbing through the latest issue of one of my city's alternative papers (cleverly-titled The Other Paper), an ad gave me pause. Actually, that's an understatement. You know that old Hollywood convention of a needle being scratched across a record that signifies an action coming to an abrupt halt? If anybody else had been present in my home at the moment my eyes fell on that ad, they may have heard that sound.

The ad was for a product called Bacon Salt.



I'm not even sure what about the ad affected me so strongly. Maybe it was the amount of text (a prolific 100+ in a half-page ad). Maybe the phrase "free sample" jumped out at me as my eyes skimmed the page. Most likely, though, it was the irresistible lure of fatty meat. The siren song of fried pork. The stirring of a less-evolved part of my brain, crying out to the universe that yes--oh, yes indeed--everything should taste like bacon.

Due to some technical difficulties, I cannot upload a picture of the actual ad that so captivated me, and I can't find it online either. But the sheer number of Google hits for the product tell me that I'm not the only one who sat up and took notice.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to run to the store for some Bacon Salt.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Brother, can you spare some water wings?

The flood waters are rising!

Within hours of yesterday's post, I got an email from the creative staffing firm asking if I could reprise my role as fill-in copy editor for a week in October. I have a call out to my agency client to see if there's any way I can swing that while doing the 1-5 onsite gig I agreed to for him . . . I think it's feasible, because there isn't a specific project I'll be working on when I'm onsite for the agency, and the copy editor is flexible about his dates. I just need to make sure that the copy editing gig takes place after the RFP project!

Monday, September 29, 2008

When it rains, it pours . . .

. . . in a good way!

All too often, freelancing is a "feast or famine" occupation. One learns to appreciate the times when there's an abundance (or overabundance) of work, because inevitably there will come a day when there is nothing on the horizon.

Last Thursday, I was asked by one of my regular agency clients to work on-site 4 hours a day for at least the month of October, starting this Wednesday afternoon. That's exciting stuff! I love working with them, and this gives me an opportunity to get more involved in their processes and to get to know their clients a little better.

Today, I opened my email to find a message from the worker's comp client who asked me to be their RFP person. They want to meet with me Wednesday morning to discuss an RFP they just received. Again, this is exciting because I think I can help them refine and improve their RFP process, and at the same time help them land some new business.

Fortunately, I should have plenty of time to work on the RFP in the mornings before heading off to the agency. I am a little worried about juggling any future projects that may come in--but I will deal with them as (and if!) they come. In the meantime, I'm just going to be thankful that October is going to be another good month.

Friday, September 26, 2008

If I worked for the Ohio Board of Tourism

A few years ago, the Powers that Be here in Ohio decided to change the state slogan from "Ohio, The Heart of It All" (presumably because the state is vaguely heart-shaped) to "Ohio, So Much to Discover" (because the capital is Columbus--get it?). Neither, in my opinion, does much to foster excitement about living in or visiting Ohio. So I came up with a few of my own:
  1. Ohio--Less Neurotic Than West Virginia: This slogan lets people know what to expect when they visit. A group of psychologists recently conducted a study that maps various personality traits by state. Ohio is ranked as the 9th most neurotic, and is pretty much right in the middle of the pack in extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness.
  2. Ohio--Birthplace of Luke Perry and Charles Manson: This one plays up the celebrity angle, and could create new revenue streams for tour guides.
  3. Ohio--Where Presidents Come From: Ohio is the birthplace of 7 Presidents. Virginia is the birthplace of 8--including William Henry Harrison, who moved to Ohio before he became President. Here in Ohio, we play a little fast and loose with the rules, so we count WHH as one of our own, which brings our total to 8 and thus ties us with Virginia. Following that logic, I also count Ohio-born actor Martin Sheen--who played not one but two Presidents on TV (in The West Wing and in the miniseries Kennedy--The Presidential Years) as well as a presidential candidate in The Dead Zone--bringing Ohio's total to 9. Take that, Virginia.
  4. Ohio--No, The Capital Isn't Cleveland or Cincinnati: Maybe we don't have a team in the NFL, NBA or MLB, but we're the home of the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Columbus Blue Jackets! Maybe we're not Lake Erie- or Ohio River-adjacent, but we're less than 150 miles from either one! It's time Columbus got the recognition it deserves.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Popularity contest

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal posted a list of the 100 most commonly-used words in the English language. Of course the cool kids all made the list: pronouns, conjunctions, definite and indefinite articles, and helping verbs all have positions of honor near the top. The jocks are well represented too: uh, um, uh-huh and yeah. Even a few bullies muscled their way in: president, Iraq . . .

I thought maybe they'd allowed a foreign exchange student into the ranks of popularity, but then I realized MHM was really just text-speak for uh-huh.

The best thing about this list is it compares word usage in conversation, newspaper, and several American and British corpora. For example, "I" is the most-commonly spoken word, but ranks 30th in newspaper usage ("the" tops that particular list). It's commonality among corpora also varies, where it ranks as high as 10th and as low as 20th.

I am surprised to see that the list did not include any profanity. I have a friend who curses often enough to have made more than one 4-letter gem rise to the top of the list. Apparently she was not surveyed, or they purposefully omitted profanity from the results.

I am disappointed but not surprised that some of my favorites didn't make the list. It's a bit challenging to work "albeit" and "defenestration" into normal conversation. Oh well, there's always next year.

What words do you think need to be added to the list for next year? What words do you most want to see removed?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

It's fall--my favorite season, but also my least favorite.

I love the colors of autumn. I love the sound of fallen leaves crunching underfoot. I love the still-warm days followed by cool nights. I love Halloween.

I don't love the idea that winter is just around the corner. I don't love raking--more often than not, we have more of our neighbor's leaves in our yard than our own. I don't love the way darkness settles in earlier each night.

I get a strange sensation this time of year, a mixture of stir-craziness and artistic frustration, a need to just do something. Maybe it's best described as unchanneled, unfocused energy. As a result, fall can be a really productive time for me, or a really unproductive time, depending on what I do when the feeling comes upon me. The best case scenario: I'll network more, get really creative with my writing, and get a lot of yard work done. The worst case scenario: nothing will get done, professionally or personally, because I can't decide what to throw my energy into first.

One thing I won't be wasting my energy on: submitting to Helium. It was an interesting exercise, but I've resigned myself to the fact that their crazy rating system is too much for my OCD nature to handle. I'm tired of pulling my hair out in frustration, and I'm sure you're sick of reading about it. Below is a link to the 2nd and last article I submitted to them, which they titled "Please Don't Eat the Tomatoes":



A more accurate title, in my opinion, would have been "The Ohio Tomato Massacre."
(a note to my would-be editors: formatting is limited in Helium, and as a result em dashes get translated as hyphens, and italics don't translate at all. So pardon any apparent grammatical faux pas and imagine anything in caps to be italicized.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Odds and ends

There are several things I want to write about, and none of them are exciting enough to drag them out over several days of blog posts. So . . .
  • Electricity, eee-lec-tricity! We got our power fully restored around 8 last night, by a crew from North Carolina. Ohio AEP sent a lot of its crews to Texas to help with their power restoration, so we had to rely on crews from other states to help US out. They've been working 14-hour days, and yet they were still pleasant and helpful, unlike some residents of Central Ohio who apparently have been less than cordial (think throwing bottles and spitting at the crewmen).
  • 41 out of 324 ain't bad . . . My most recent article for the Helium Marketplace has transitioned to the main Helium site, which means it wasn't chosen for publication. But that's okay, because now you can read it for yourselves. Oh, wait a minute--now I'm 67 of 324. I forgot that articles can still be rated once it leaves the Marketplace. Oh, wait another minute--you can't see it yet because of some technical difficulties on the Helium site. I guess I'll post a link later.
  • Calling all costumers: It's officially Fall, which for me means it's time to start thinking of Halloween costumes. We generally attend 1 or 2 theme parties, and at this point I only know one of the themes: Circus Freaks. Any suggestions?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Out, but not down

After 5 long days without power, I am finally back online. But that's not to say I'm out of the woods yet--due to some electrical issue not yet known to me (bad breaker? bad CGFI outlet? bad karma?), the outlets that power my refrigerator, dishwasher, disposal and dryer, as well as several other outlets and light fixtures throughout my home, are still not working.

I have a healthy fear of electricity, so I've done no troubleshooting beyond resetting my circuit breaker and attempting to test the CGFI outlet in my bathroom, neither of which did anything.

BUT, on the bright side, I have my computer, my stove, microwave, toaster oven and coffee maker, my TV, stereo, alarm clock, and at least some lights. I am a happy camper.

Speaking of camping, that's a pretty good analogy for how I and my neighbors have spent the last several days. Making ice runs, heating water for tea over a Sterno container, making dinner on the grill, playing cards and other games by candlelight, listening to battery-powered radios, reading by lantern, going to bed early out of sheer boredom . . . the only thing missing was an excess of bugs and having to sleep on the ground.

Really, aside from the inconvenience of being without power and having to do some extra yardwork (some of us had more to do than others--our friends one street over lost all 3 of their trees, including a 60-foot pine that got uprooted), it hasn't been that bad. So what if I can't do my laundry yet and I still can't restock my fridge? My home is in one piece, my trees are still standing, and I'm back online!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Down and out

Like most of the rest of my city, I have been without power since the remnants of Hurricane Ike swept through on Sunday afternoon. I know that what we dealt with (40 MPH sustained winds, and 70 MPH gusts) was nothing compared to what hit Texas, Cuba, etc. so I will not complain . . . we will hopefully have our power restored within the next few days, and while we lost some tree branches, none of them did any damage to our house or our neighbors' houses.

I'm writing from the library, where I have 9 minutes left of my session before I must surrender the computer to another. I doubt I will do this again, because I had to wait for an hour to get on a computer at all. So until power is restored to Chez Amie, I bid you adieu.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ugh

They say everyone has a book inside them. Some people should leave it there.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens . . .

Rummaging through my pen cup last night, I found a fountain pen my best friend gave me when we were in high school. Man, I loved writing with that pen. It didn't matter what I was doing--journaling, doodling, taking notes in class--it always came out cool. Unfortunately, I didn't take very good care of it, and the nib is now a rusty, unusable mess.

I went online to see if this particular pen--a Pelikan Pelikano--is still being made. It isn't, but there is a new model, and it comes in really cool colors (as well as a left-handed model!!). Perhaps I'll take a field trip down to the fountain pen store in my neighborhood (I bet your neighborhood doesn't have a fountain pen store!) and see if they have or can order me one.

I love a good writing utensil. Not only is it an office supply, it's a communication device. It's like a double-whammy of my favorite things. So maybe after I hunt for a new fountain pen, I'll swing by Office Max and pick up a pack of Black Warrior pencils. Not only are they the best pencils on the block, but they also boast the sexiest catalog description: "Executive style round barrel with sophisticated black matte lacquer finish."

And I'm not the only Black Warrior fan out there:


To my fellow word nerds: what's your weapon of choice?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Turning them down

I got an email from my contact at the creative staffing firm last night. In it, she described the following copywriting project and asked if I'd be interested:
Project Title: Copywriter

Description: One of our retail clients is looking for a copywriter with excellent writing skills (of course), ideally with a fashion or retail background. This position also requires strong organizational skills and the ability to juggle multiple projects. If you’re interested, please share some details about writing projects you may have done for fashion/retail/personal care products or industries.

Location: onsite, at the client’s location

Hours: standard office hours

Estimated Length: 6 months

Rate: [about half what I usually charge]
My reply back to her went a little like this:
I've never been so torn about a potential project!
  • It sounds like a good opportunity . . . BUT . . . it is a pretty long-term project and at least 2 of my freelance clients have some work planned for me that will take me into next year.
  • I don't have any direct experience with fashion/retail/personal care . . . BUT . . . that's never really gotten in my way before.
  • The hourly rate is lower than I'd like to go . . . BUT . . . it IS a long-term project, which offsets the lower hourly rate a bit.
I think in all fairness to my other clients and to [this client], I have to say no to this. I can definitely handle shorter-term projects and still meet my obligations to my other clients, but this feels like more of a one-or-the-other kind of situation. I hate to say it . . . but please offer this opportunity to someone else.
Clicking "send" on that email literally made me nauseous. I don't like turning down projects--especially long-term ones--but I think I made the right decision. And hopefully, in saying no to this one, I'm making myself available for other opportunities down the line.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My brain hurts

I've spent my morning trying to come up with some creative, compelling copy to finish up a project that's been through several revisions. I think this is the hardest part--finding that last little "something" that is the glue, the thread, the binding element.

I thought it would be a good idea to step away for awhile, so I ate lunch (low blood sugar muddies the thinking, and I only had coffee for breakfast). One tuna salad sandwich and a bowl of soup later, I'm still not inspired. Perhaps my muse is at lunch as well. Or perhaps I should look elsewhere for inspiration. But where?

What inspires/motivates/drives you?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Volunteerism interrupted

A few of the agencies I work with donate some of their services or provide them at a fraction of regular cost to non-profit organizations and charities. I think that's a really great way to do business, but as a very small company (can one person be a company?) with very little revenue I can't afford to make a lot of grand charitable gestures like that.

But when I received an email saying a settlement house in my area was looking for somebody to help design a couple of flyers, I decided to volunteer. They already had the text, so it would just be a matter of laying it out and adding some design elements (of course, I was planning to offer my editorial services if need be, too!). I figured it would be a nice, easy little pro bono project. Good for me, good for my community. So I scheduled a meeting with the woman in charge of the project for this afternoon.

Sadly, my efforts were dashed when she called late this morning to cancel. Someone in another department gave her some autumn-themed paper, and she felt it would be a good idea to use it.

I told her to keep me in mind for future needs, so hopefully I'll get my opportunity to do a good deed sooner or later.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Seems like old times

Yesterday, I got a call from one of my clients (in the workers' compensation industry). Seems one of his staff members just got back from maternity leave and decided she'd rather be a mom than an employee (from what I understand, people sometimes get attached to their offspring--it's a weird phenomenon).

One of the roles she fulfilled was that of RFP (Request for Proposal) point person, meaning when they get an RFP, she gets information from the subject matter experts and compiles it into a response. This is one of the things I did at my cubefarm job, and I did it quite well. My client knows I have this experience, so he asked me if I would be willing to do their RFPs on a consulting basis.

They only get 20-30 a year (I used to complete upwards of 200 a year), so it shouldn't be too taxing. Plus part of the deal we worked out is that they will purchase RFP software, and will pay me to build their response database and train another employee to use it as backup.

To most, this will not sound like an exciting project . . . but RFPs appeal to me for a couple of reasons:
  • My anal side likes the strong organizational component--RFPs often have very specific instructions, or long lists of requested exhibits to organize, tab out, etc.
  • My creative side likes the "spin" component--making a dull topic into something that seems exciting and worth buying.
  • As an added bonus, RFP compilation generally requires the use of a variety of office supplies (binders, divider tabs, staples, paperclips, hole punch . . .).
Now, RFP work does have its downside:
  • RFPs often arrive with little notice and unrealistic deadlines.
  • The conversion rate isn't that good (many companies, as part of due diligence, are required to complete the RFP process even when they know what vendor they want), so it's a lot of work with little return.
  • Depending on the team you work with, getting information from subject matter experts is like herding cats.
I think the client has to run it by his boss for final approval, but as far as I'm concerned I'm back in the RFP business. Now where did I leave my cat-herding equipment?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Get yer spray tans!

Yesterday, I started a project for a client on the West Coast: writing web copy about spray tanning. It's nice to be able to write about something I've actually experienced, as opposed to the stuff I usually write or edit (I do a lot of healthcare- and chemistry-related work). The learning curve is much less intimidating, and the jargon is a heck of a lot easier to spell--imagine the crazy suggestions spell check has for correcting Sodium Dihydrobis(2-methoxyethoxy)aluminate!

That's not to say it's easier to write about spray tanning than specialty chemicals. In fact, the more I know about a topic, the more I find my knowledge gets in the way of my ability to distill the message.

Fortunately, two spray tans does not an expert make, so I'm not exactly tripping over my wealth of knowledge on this particular topic.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mentoring

On my last day filling in for the agency copy editor, one of the interns asked if she could talk to me about freelancing. During our discussion, I discovered that she's an English major (like me!) and will soon be graduating from my alma mater. She's not sure what to do with her degree, so she's exploring as many options as she can. Like me, she considered teaching, but doesn't think that's the career for her. She enjoys the editing work she's done at the agency, but dislikes the idea of sitting in one place and doing the same thing for 8+ hours a day. In addition to her internship, she works at a golf course, which allows her a certain amount of networking that could benefit her if she chooses to pursue freelancing.

I encouraged her to try freelancing, if not as a career at least to give her more opportunities to find a business environment that she does like. She had a lot of questions: how did I determine my rates (I used guidelines from Writer's Market plus a little trial and error), find clients (I explained how lucky I have been with clients coming to me instead of vice versa), etc.

I also suggested that she contact the creative staffing firm that I work with, and gave her the URLs for some of my favorite freelancing blogs (see my blog list). I gave her my business card, and said she could email me if she had more questions or needed any guidance.

As happy as I was to share my experience with her, it made me a little uncomfortable to present myself to her as an authority on freelancing, and I was hesitant to offer myself as a mentor. I think this feeling stems from the same place as my reluctance to network/promote myself and my inability to see what I do as a unique skill. I guess I'm just going to have to get over it--I'm good at what I do, I enjoy what I do, and people are willing to pay me to do it. If that doesn't make me an authority, I don't know what does! Seems to me that's also the definition of success.

So, fellow freelancers (or other entrepreneurs, or mentors), how do you define success? What tips do you have for individuals hoping to follow your career path? How do you overcome your self-deprecating moments--or do you even have them?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Yahoo(ps)!

How to Make Your Editor Mad in Eight Words or Less, from Yahoo.com this past Friday: "Hillary delivered mdash how will Bill Clinton fare?"

I wonder how one delivers an mdash (or, more accurately, an em dash)? If it takes more than 30 minutes, is it free?

Monday, September 1, 2008

It's my month!

Today marks the beginning of Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month. Paaaartayyyyyy! It is also the day I celebrate the removal of the monkey on my back that is my obsession with the Helium rating system. ***RANT ALERT*** As of 9:45 last night, my article was ranked 35th out of 206. As of this post, it is ranked 105th of 325. Now, 15 years after my last math class, I finally understand math teachers' obsession with showing your work. In what world does that math make sense? Whatever, I'm over it. Today is the deadline. It was a good article. It's out of my hands now. ***END OF RANT***

Later this month, I will celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day (the 19th) and National Punctuation Day (the 24th).

I will not be celebrating Line Dance Week (beginning on the 8th), as I am morally opposed to line dancing.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Chores

Because I have nothing to work on today, I will be taking some time to catch up on the chores I've been putting off:
  1. Fold laundry
  2. Remove cat hair from upholstery
  3. Paint the bathroom ceiling
Joy.

As much as I'm dreading these chores, I'm a little bit glad that I don't have any writing or editing to do because my mind is in a million different places. A random sampling of the things that have gone through my head today:
  • My article on Helium is currently ranked 66th of 301. There are 3 days left before the deadline.
  • David Duchovny has entered rehab for sex addiction. You'll understand the irony if you've ever seen his Showtime series "Californication."
  • The more I brush my cats, the more they seem to shed (hence, chore #2).
  • John McCain's choice of a female running mate = brilliant strategy.
  • Earworm du jour, courtesy of the commercial for the video game "Mercenaries 2" (this may become my theme song for non-paying clients, should I ever have any):

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I just read it for the articles . . .

The other day, as I was sorting through a batch of my creative writing from college, I came across a flyer for a reading by Bob Shacochis. I remembered going to it, and very much liking the story he read (called "I Ate Her Liver," from his collection of short stories titled The Next New World), but I've never read anything else by him.

Determined to remedy that, I paid a visit to my local library. A search for books by Mr. Shacochis resulted in several anthologies, as well as a few books whose subjects just didn't appeal to me. Among the anthologies was a book titled Playboy Stories: the best of forty years of short fiction. In addition to Shacochis' story, the book includes entries by several authors I like or have been wanting to read, so I checked it out.

I don't know that I'll read the book cover-to-cover, but I enjoyed Shacochis' story (titled "Easy in the Islands"--which is also the title story of his first short story collection), and am now reading one by John Updike.

As for reading more Shacochis, I may have to hit the bookstore. The library apparently doesn't stock either of his short story collections.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Monkey business

Today I learned that the Germans call the at symbol (@) "Klammeraffe," which according to the book Wired Style translates into English as "squirrel monkey."

According to various Internet sources, however, a more literal translation would be "clinging monkey," but still . . . how cute is that?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Disconnected

I'm working onsite for that awesome agency client again, and I will not have Internet access while I'm there *gasp!* So you may or may see a post from me Monday-Wednesday, depending on whether I have anything to say when I get home (or if I get sneaky and write up some posts in advance).