Category Archives: Writing

Your job is to break the schema

Do you have a favorite movie involving an unexpected plot twist? Maybe it’s just a scene. Something that made you explode with laughter, made you jump, thrilled you — made you think, I never saw that coming.

It broke your schema.

A schema, in psychological terms, is a structured cluster of pre-conceived ideas. From the depths of Wikipedia:

Schemata are an effective tool for understanding the world. Through the use of schemata, most everyday situations do not require effortful processing — automatic processing is all that is required. People can quickly organize new perceptions into schemata and act effectively without effort. For example, most people have a stairway schema and can apply it to climb staircases they’ve never seen before.

Great storytellers are fantastic at breaking your schemata. They lure you in, making you feel nice and comfortable. You’ve seen this before.

…and then something amazing happens. A twist. A surprise. A shock.

I hope your marketing, your resume, and your next book has a few of these sprinkled in. Otherwise, spend your time doing something else. Because, quite literally, we’ve already seen it before.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

There is no such thing as a successful book

Just like there is no such thing as a successful magazine, or a successful blog.

There are only successful stories, shared by talented storytellers, written by talented writers, designed by talented designers, filled with photos from talented photographers….

Sometimes a successful story is 140 characters long, like a text message or a tweet.

Sometimes a successful story fills anthologies of bound pages in book form.

And sometimes, a successful story is shared over beers with your friends.

But when was the last time a story was successful because it was in a book?

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Filed under Life, Writing

Become a _______ consultant (and help the world, too)

Want to diversify your portfolio of experience?

Want to try out some new marketing ideas on a real organization?

Are you a writer, but would like to try designing? Or vice-versa?

Are you having trouble getting valuable project experience?

Maybe you just want to use your established talent and knowledge to make a real difference?

The simplest and most obvious way to use your skills to make an immediate and measurable impact (and to bulk up your resume) is to go where it’s needed the most: Non-profits.

Your average non-profit is typically a poster child for strained resources – and they offer some great opportunities to volunteer beyond the actual grunt work.

Here’s how I’d do it:

1) Pick a favorite or two.

2) If you don’t have a relationship with them yet, don’t go knock on the door and ask to write their next newsletter. Instead, start with grunt work. Help them build a home or serve soup or foster a dialogue – whatever it is that they do.

3) Leverage your new or existing relationships and offer to help with not only your labor, but brain power as well. If it’s design you want to do, ask if they need help or if you could take a stab at designing a project they’re working on.

If you’re a social media geek – get them blogging, linking, twittering. All that good stuff.

If you’re a numbers fella, maybe you could help balance a budget and set some fiscal goals.

If you’re an event coordinator – jackpot!

4) Remind yourself that the real goal here is to help the non-profit achieve whatever it may be striving for. You’re here to help, help, help. Not boss. Not be arrogant. You’re blossoming resume and on-task knowledge is a neat bonus.

Besides, this is what you love to do, right?

5) Give it your all. Duh.

Did I leave anything out?

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Filed under Branding, Marketing, Writing

Show, don’t tell

I’m sure most of my English teachers said it, but I only actually remember it from one. She said it constantly.

And it’s true – when conveying something in the form of a message, or a movie, or a feature story – the real beauty comes from letting the audience experience it for themselves.

If I tell you that someone is an arrogant asshole, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Or I could show you, as in this excerpt from a fiction story I wrote:

Alan’s kidneys were screaming. He slid around the side of the garage and relieved himself on the bushes, aiming for the sleeping butterflies.

This alone may not say much. I’m sure you can be a butterfly sniper with your pork sword (thanks Juno) without being a full-fledged a-hole.

But it’s showing stuff like this that adds up to telling good stories.

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Filed under Writing