About those changes…

… they definitely happened, just not on the blog.

In the last couple of months, I’ve continued to expand my contract content strategy/web writing work, changed my professional work, and continued to figure out how to be a dad. But you know, other than that… not too much going on.

The biggest change is that I joined Volusion as a Sr. Content Strategist! I’ve been there for 2 weeks, and I’ve already started to feel more comfortable wearing the official “Content Strategy” hat. I’ve been doing most of these things for years, but never with the gravitas of having the actual CS title attached to my name. That and the fact that my team actually believes in it, understands it (as much as any of us do) and is as excited about having a content strategist on their team as I am to be there.

So with that, my contract work will likely take a backseat for a while (and this blog will likely remain in the trunk). But as I get more settled in, I think it’ll actually give me more time to write here, and certainly a lot more fodder for the blog mill.

In other news, I’m currently writing this post at #BlogathonATX. This is why I love Austin.

The Cartoons People Make by Being Alive – Hugh’s 100ppl

This post is in response to Tyler Hurst’s #100ppl post: a call for fans of Hugh MacLeod to share their favorite piece and discuss what art means to them. If you head over there soon, you may still be able to join Hugh’s 100ppl. But please finish reading this first.

Some people might say this is a cop-out, but I have to say my favorite gapingvoid piece is the hughtrain. Sure, it’s one of the most popular, but it’s the first work of his I ever saw. And the first one I ever bought. Here is mine… #43/200.

My hughtrain print

Mine. That’s the strange thing about buying art. Yes, it’s his. He signed it. But this one is mine. My hughtrain. I worry about that. The the acquisitive nature of mine. On a certain level, I get just as much joy and motivation from the ones I download for my desktop or tape up in my cube.

But I also get a kind of inspiration from knowing I’m a part of helping Hugh keep making more, and that’s good for us all.

So a couple of months ago, I got another one. “intoxicated by possibility.”

not framed yet, but it's going next to my hughtrain.

It was a toss-up between that one and “liberation from oneself is the hardest kind.” (I actually let my wife decide between those two… which is how I was allowed to buy another.)

For me, all three of these–and most all of Hugh’s works–are about getting past yourself. Doing. Being. About the things you find if you can shut up for a minute and think. I mean really think.

It’s why one of my favorite works of writing is a play called “A Thousand Clowns,” by Herb Gardner. Murray Burns is an eccentric, out of work television writer who takes in his orphaned nephew. The nephew is too grown up  for his age, and Murray spends most of the play trying to get him (and his NYC neighbors, his former boss, and the inevitable love interest) to get past themselves and look around. Murray explains why he doesn’t want the kid to go:

I want to be sure he knows when he’s chickening out on himself.
I want him to get to know exactly the special thing he is or else he won’t notice it when it starts to go…
I want to be sure he sees all the wild possibilities…
And I want him to know the subtle, sneaky, important reason why he was born a human being and not a chair.

I am not a chair. This is not a pipe. The market for something to believe in is infinite.

Art can make us to take a sidelong look at ourselves and our world, and that’s what draws me to Hugh’s work. He’s just doodling on the back of business cards and arranging words in clever, sad, funny, defiant or demanding messages. Seems meaningless at first. But he’s part of a long line of flower arrangers, and those of us who stop and  look are better for it.

Let me take another line from Murray:

He sees street jokes, he has a good eye, he sees subway farce and crosstown-bus humor and all the cartoons that people make by being alive.

Thankfully, Hugh isn’t afraid to point and laugh and put those cartoons to paper for us all to enjoy.

So that’s my favorite Gaping Void piece, or pieces, or thing about them, or about art in general. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get out of this chair.

Are you interrupting your way out of new business?

Awesome photo from erin666 via Flickr

My name is Clay, and I’m an interrupter.
Actually, I’m a *recovering* interrupter.
Acknowledgment is the first step toward recovery.
But it’s far from the end.

I grew up in a house of interrupters. Conversations at dinner were often reduced to half-sentences and heavy sighs as one person after another jumped on top of the conversation.

Yet, I was oblivious to my own problem until college, when a coworker (on whom I had a serious crush) pointed out how much she hated my interrupting.

Sure, I still do it occasionally, but I’m also now painfully aware when others interrupt. Especially when they do it to clients.

In the last few months, I’ve been in too many meetings and conference calls where someone consistently and repeatedly cut off the person who was paying for us to be there. Like interrupting my crush, talking over your current or potential clients is one of the best ways to destroy your chances of a successful relationship.

Account services, creative directors and, yes, copywriters. We all do it. And it can be hard to recognize when you’re the interrupter.

It’s the kickoff meeting and you have an important question. Even more important because you already know the right answer. So you pose the question to your client, and she starts explaining her thoughts. But they don’t match yours, so you jump in to explain your question better before she goes too far down the wrong path.

A little rough, but no real harm right? You’re just guiding the conversation back in the right direction. That’s your duty as project lead. But who says your answer is correct? And who’s project is this, really?

Now, you have confidently guided the conversation back into safe territory, and you pause to let your incredible insight hang in the air for all to appreciate. But the client was just cut off as she answered a very important question about her project. She doesn’t care about your explanation or insight. She was waiting for her turn to speak!

So now she jumps into your weighty pause to continue explaining the answer to your important question. But you cut her off again because she’s completely missed your point about this project!

See where this is heading?

Absolutely nowhere. Some Eastern religions call this samsara.

Now your chances at finding the one true right answer have dropped dramatically. So have your chances at getting the client to really share her thoughts on this project. It’s hard to open up when you’re in constant fear of being cut off.

Just like college-Clay and his co-worker crush, you have now seriously damaged your chances at making a meaningful connection. Unfortunately, it’s not over. You still have to see each other and talk to each other on a regular basis. You still have to work together. And most likely, your client didn’t make the effort that my crush did. She didn’t tell you that she hates how you interrupt her in meetings.

But she does.

So you spend the rest of the project wondering why she doesn’t seem to respect your advice or listen to your explanations.

But as I saw in a great tweet from Will Sansbury (@willsansbury) yesterday, “Respect isn’t given to you. It’s returned.” Well said.

Now, you were saying…?

There are no such thing as “mediums.”

I’ve seen this pop up at least a dozen times in the last few months. The word “mediums” is everywhere! I’ve heard it in meetings, seen it on professionally-written websites and read it countless times in articles about the internet, magazines, social media and other hot topics.

To be fair, there is a correct usage for “mediums”–such as referring to a group of palm readers or a stack of moderately sized tshirts.

But in regards to news or marketing or delivery of content in any form, “media” is the plural form of “medium.” (And for the record, there are no “medias” either… that’s like saying womens or geeses).

I’m no grammarian. While I was an English major and I do write professionally for a living… I’m actually pretty bad at grammar. And I wouldn’t have a degree or a job if it wasn’t for “Check Spelling as You Type.” But that’s the point, if I’m correcting your grammar or spelling on something, it’s bad.

That’s my lesson for the day. Sorry to rant.

PS. Speaking of grammar, should it be “There are no such thing” or “There is no such thing”? “There are no such things”? Oh well…