A ship’s wake on the ocean
A ship’s wake on the ocean

An artist on my email list shared her frustration with the social universe and its effect on her motivation to share her work. She put things out in the world, and didn’t get many likes or comments. She became disenchanted with Instagram (although it’s a great medium for her visual pieces.)

This affects writers as well. We labor, we publish, … we wait.

It’s hard putting your work out in the world. But it’s even harder when you hear nothing back in response.

When All You Can See is the Wake

We cannot see the people who encounter our work, or watch its effect on them. All we…

Ideas are like sunflowers — they may arrive unannounced, and not all will reach full height.

a field of sunflowers under a cloudy sky
a field of sunflowers under a cloudy sky

Our first crop of sunflowers was a gift from unseen forces-a bird, perhaps, or a squirrel? The seedlings poked their heads up in the two raised beds in our garden-in and amongst the poppies, alongside the cosmos plants we had raised from seeds and planted in the bed.

My husband Steve (the one who does the gardening), contemplated the upstarts.

“I’m going to let these grow and see what they are.”

He had an inkling they were something special-volunteers worth giving a chance. I suspected they were broad-leafed weeds, but agreed.

A few weeks later, he was certain. “They’re sunflowers.”

Defend Your Creative Life from Unnecessary Obligations

Wooden recreation of the Trojan horse
Wooden recreation of the Trojan horse

We live our lives surrounded by a chorus of shoulds.

They accumulate gradually, as we try to improve. We read the best practices, success stories and guides. We listen to industry experts and accept friendly tips-and most of them come loaded with new things we should be doing.

For example, if you’re trying to be a writer, you’ll find plenty of advice about what other authors have done, how to write, how to publish, how to be successful.

If you want to be a writer, you should…

Here’s how I wrote my book or experienced success, you should do the…

How to Prime Your Writing Pump

blank journal page with pen and cup of coffee
blank journal page with pen and cup of coffee

You sit down to write, but can’t come up with anything good enough to besmirch the pristine whiteness of the blank page.

Perhaps you know what you want to write about. Even so, your inner critic bashes everything you propose. For every keystroke you make, there’s a backspace.

Once this encounter with the empty page happens a few times, limiting thoughts barge in. You’ve got writer’s block. Maybe you’re not cut out to do this. You’ve got nothing to write, so why torture yourself?

This may have nothing to do with your being a writer, and everything to do with…

A Cautionary Tale for Writers and Speakers

An old-fashioned watch buried in the sand
An old-fashioned watch buried in the sand

Are you inadvertently wasting other people’s time when you speak or write? Here’s a cautionary tale for anyone who works in a field that uses acronyms, abbreviations, and other jargon.

“We had an NPS of 80.”

That comment came from a marketer on a panel discussion in a video. She was referring to Net Promoter Score -a metric of how willing customers are to recommend a business to others.

A few people commented on that score, and then the conversation moved on. I thought nothing of it, alas.

But here’s the thing-not everyone on the panel came from the world…

Lessons from Whale Watching

Sighting a whale is always a thrill, even from a great distance.

The first thing you usually see is the whale’s exhalation-the spout. A white, misty column appears suddenly on the horizon, then slowly dissipates as you focus in on it.

Is it a whale? You watch and wait.

Somewhere, underneath the distant surface, a large, magnificent creature is breathing, surfacing, rolling.

Then another spout appears nearby. Yes! …

Readers Have Other Things On Their Minds

Open books with pages riffling on a white background. Question: How many books have you abandoned?
Open books with pages riffling on a white background. Question: How many books have you abandoned?

I have a quirky book problem. Once I get through the first few chapters of a book, I feel obligated to keep going, even if I’ve entirely lost interest.

I start skimming, flipping through pages-doing anything so that I feel like I reached the end legitimately. It seems absurd even as I do it, but if I page through to the last page, then I’ve met some kind of obligation and given the author the benefit of the doubt.

Sometimes I can’t even do that. My Kindle is cluttered with the relics of books that I cannot quite delete. …

You may not be sending the signal you intend

Conspicuous consumption has a bad reputation, for good reason. It’s about relying on flash rather than substance, status symbols rather than earned admiration.

We can often tell when someone is trying to impress us with flash. Most of the time, we lose respect for that person.

According to a study into the use of jargon titled “ Compensatory Conspicuous Communication,” the same thing may happen when people use jargon in their speech or writing. The research suggests that people sometimes use jargon as “a communicative form of conspicuous consumption.”

The authors of the study start by offering one of the…

What I realized about writing while watching the inauguration

Watching the presidential inauguration, I was struck by the comfort I found in the ceremony itself.

The event moved forward through a predictable process rooted in the past. People sang, gave speeches, and administered oaths in a predetermined order. Then the work of the new administration started with process as well, as Vice President Harris swore in senators and President Biden signed executive orders.

While many people, myself among them, greet the new administration with a sense of hope, the hard days ahead will define this term.

Hope and process are necessary companions.

Whenever we start anything major, we’re always…

Bringing Clarity to the Confusion of Alzheimer’s Research

I lost my maternal grandmother to Alzheimers when I was young. (You might say she lost us first.)

In the decades since, I’ve tried to keep track developments in Alzheimer’s research. But that’s been kind of tough.

Aluminum is the cause? No, wait, that was an artifact of testing. A new drug? Years later, we’ve heard nothing more of it. There have been real breakthroughs in understanding the disease, but few substantive changes in its outlook.

So I was happy to find the book Mind Thief: The Story of Alzheimer’s by Han Yu.

This book explains where we are now…

Anne Janzer

Author, Writing Coach: Writing about Marketing, Technology, and Writing Itself (very meta). AnneJanzer.com

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