Category Archives: writing

Be Awesome At You

I’m a bit of an e-book addict. If you’ve got an e-book on social media, marketing, public relations, SEO, communications, infographics, using Pinterest for business, etcetera, I’m downloading it.

This week, I read more than a few e-books, blog posts, news articles and tweets. But almost every single time, something happened that made me want to dispel all the knowledge I’d just gathered.

This happened:

hubspot-error

I’m not above making mistakes. We all do it. And coming from a background where we pushed print content to a publisher twice a week, reviewed and edited by a bunch of college students who were in and out of the editorial office all day, I know that more content can mean more mistakes.

But gosh, if you’re a self-proclaimed, and widely-backed, inbound marketing company, shouldn’t you be above making giant mistakes?

Plenty of the website copy and blog posts I read this week had misplaced (or nonexistent) commas, extra letters and completely wrong pronouns. Each time, I winced and said, “Maybe they’re just not copywriters. Maybe they’re really really good at maximizing Twitter engagement and coding PHP and Javascript but just don’t rock at communicating precisely and accurately.”

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t upset. If I’m paying you thousands of dollars a year to design my website and optimize it for search engine crawlers, and I have to worry about whether you spelled my company’s name wrong or coded the entirely wrong word several hundred times into a title tag, we have a problem.

But I thought I’d set it aside in favor of learning from their expertise.

When I signed up for an email notification of Hubspot’s posts and the email came through as “blog” in the “from” field, I almost fell over. That’s no way to increase click-through rates. And then, this forehead-hitting 4-3-6 counting error?

I’m a bit of a grammar nerd, but I think it extends beyond that.

We’ve got to be freaking awesome at what we do. There’s no reason not to be.

I’ve subscribed, in the past, to the idea that we can’t all be awesome at everything. And that’s still true. But if we want people to 1) take us seriously and 2) pay us to do what we do best, we’ve got to rock it out.

Luckily, I’m also of the mindset that if we absolutely want to dive headfirst into our work, we spend hours checking and rechecking and improving upon the original.

Because if that college newsroom taught me anything else, it’s that the first draft won’t look anything like the copy that goes to print. Managing the in-between, well, that’s what happens when we care about what we put out there.

I’ve got a pretty rock solid feeling you all care deeply and dearly about your work.

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This hole you’re in? It’s not so mighty.

Please Note: As today’s featured blogger for More Love Letters, I wrote this for Madeline, a high school student who started homeschooling herself last winter after falling behind in her studies because of her depression and anxiety. Winter is particularly tough for her and she’s really in need of some inspiration that things will get better. More Love Letters is running the 2nd Annual 12 Days of Love Letter Writing through tomorrow (Dec. 14). Join me?

Dear Madeline,

I’m going to tell you a story in the hopes that, despite the fact that I have only half a decade or so on ya, it sparks some hope inside you.

Three years ago, I came close to dropping out of college. Not forever and not for lack of motivation—I had spent most of that semester cramming my small self into a study corral for five six seven hours at a time.

chalkboard-black-mightyhole

I was depressed. Deep down inside my bones. In the hole in my gut. In my tired fingers as I read and reread the same statistics problems. While every other twenty-year-old was out on the Quad throwing Frisbees in the April sun. I was sinking into myself and focusing on my grades rather than admit that I couldn’t eat anything without straight up feeling bad about it.

So I know what that feels like, when your health comes trampling all over your ache to just be fine just fine. Just be happy. Just be calm.

Anxiety has held me hostage for my entire life and depression almost lost me a semester. I don’t want that for you. I don’t want you to lose your spark and your spunk and your hope that this hole you’re in? It’s not so big. It’s not so mighty. It’s not doing anything but keeping you from ever seeing the sun.

We worriers and anxious ones like to pick ourselves apart like character traits in dating ads. We think that there is black and there is white and there isn’t any room for grays. We can’t be happy if we’re sad. We can’t be strong if we’ve broken. We can’t be proud if we’ve had to yank ourselves out of school and put our health first.

But that’s what you did, lady. You said, “I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to stick around. I’ve got to start demanding some sunlight when I throw open my curtains every morning.”

And I would hate for you to focus on the rain. I’d hate for you to worry about the snow.

I’m going to say this because I know it well: when we worry, when we’re anxious, when we’re depressed, it’s like we’d rather sit up and see the darkness than wish for light. It’s like we’re afraid to want something better because if we don’t get it, if better doesn’t shine so brightly, we’ll feel worse.

But life is all risk and reward. It’s leaping into the light expecting your shadow not to cover it. It’s thinking about how much lay ahead, how much you have yet to just relish for a couple decades. How many memories you’ve yet to dwell on.

I hope you find the good. I hope you remember the bad and let it make you stronger and I hope you never ever let anyone make you feel bad for putting your health first.

Stay tough. Stay caring. High school is just the beginning. There will be great and mighty big days ahead. And you will smile again. Oh, how you’ll smile.

With Hope & Love,
Kaleigh

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Growing Up + Writing It Down (+15 Journal Picks)

If there’s one sentiment I whisper over and over again on this blog, lately and forever, it’s to write it all down. Your heart. Your fears. Your progress.

Remember where you’ve been and watch yourself grow and shift and change because it would be easy, how easy, to forget.

Two weeks ago, after being kicked in the knees by an unexpected twist, I sat down to devote myself wholly to sending out Christmas cards. The problem, it seemed, was in deciding what to write on them. What I didn’t want was a big obnoxious photo of myself sitting smack in the middle—I wanted them to be thank-you notes.

I wanted them to nudge my favorite souls, most of them knee deep in transitions, into a beautiful new year: 2013.

So I dubbed 2013 the year of opportunities, because I figure we create our own opportunities, and what better way than to say it before the countdown even begins, before the ball even drops, before the crowd even forms inside the nooks and crannies of Times Square?

Then, my buddy Sara Brink shared this photo of a 2013 journal on the Close Reads Café twitter feed. And Google corralled me into another and pretty soon I was dedicating this post to showing you how to write down your hopes and dreams and fears and appreciations because guess what ladies and gentlemen? December has taught me—for years now—that goodbyes are utterly unprecedented.

Here are my journal picks:

journal-gratitude

1) The Gratitude Journal
Whether or not your journal actually says, “Write down all the things you’re grateful for” (left), part of reflecting is learning to document those people, places, memories, etc. that are sweeter than sugar cookies on a rainy day. | Buy It: Etsy

 

journal-theyear2) The “Everything I Want To Accomplish” Journal
Literature on tackling dreams suggests that accountability is a major factor. If you write it down, you’re more likely to follow through with it. Likewise, if you tell someone, and they check in periodically, you’re also more likely to cross the metaphorical finish line. | Buy It: Etsy

 

journal-resolutions3) The Resolution Journal
In my head, this isn’t the same as a dream journal. Resolutions are more like improvements or habit-crushers. Especially for anyone who has hardcore resolutions, like major weight loss or quitting smoking or drinking, documentation plays two roles: planning the process and monitoring progress. | Buy It: Etsy

journal-journey

 

4) The Journey Journal
This has been described more as a travel journal, and that’s certainly fair, but I’m of the mindset that this stretch of my twenties is a journey within a much larger journey (my whole life) and documenting something your college experience or study abroad trip or alternative spring break may seem tedious when all you want to do is BE, but it’ll be those small moments, the feelings really, that you won’t remember easily in ten years. | Buy It: Etsy

 

journal-createwrite5) The Creative’s Journal
Part of the creative process is about freedom. You could have a journal dedicated to anything and everything, but do you really want your novel ideas or logo mockups sitting next to your rants and raves? The creative mind is already messy; the least you can do is separate it from your personal thoughts. | Buy It: Etsy

Some Other Fun & Specialized Journals:
The Happiness Project Journal | Quotable Create Yourself Journal | Albert Einstein Quote Journal | Write What Should Not Be Forgotten Journal | The Idea Notebook | Y’all Gonna Make Me Write Some Words Journal | The Q&A 5-Year Journal | Looking Back, Looking Forward Planner | Write Everyday Agenda* | Wish Jar Journals

*The nerd in me cringes when I read this because it should be the Write Every Day Journal (not everyday), but that’s the official name. **Credit for many of these picks goes to Sara Brink and her love of all things awesome.

What are some of your favorite journals? Do you keep a journal/wish you did and where do you buy them? I could use some recommendations.

Make Eye Contact With Your Goals

“What does your system look like?”

3, 2, 1… crickets.

The truth is something I have separated into categories. Like grocery lists that label the must-haves and deeply-desires and only make room for the latter when the budget says it’s a-okay.

Truth #1: My work is dedicated to reminding people that truth is strong and binding and hope-inspiring. That truth brings us together as human beings.

Truth #2: My personal life is dedicated to ditching the truth like I’m taking the last exit before the tollbooth charges me for trying to push forward into my honesty.

Truth #3: These two truths are in direct conflict with one another.

I sat down with Hannah lovely-girl Brencher on Monday night to sort out my life. She does these things called Brew Sessions for big, mind-spinning ideas. And originally, I asked her to help me move forward on something huge and, frankly, scary that had been sitting in my head for months. But a week before our session, I started to see how anxiety-inducing that big ole project was.

So we brewed a better way to put my life into those grocery list categories.

The scariest part of beginning something is setting goals for it. I used to be this champion of goals, always pushing pushing pushing toward something bigger. I used to write my goal times for the 800-meter dash, 5k mile splits, my place on the cross country team. I used to own a planner dedicated to how many medals I’d take home each May and whether I’d learn how to do ten back handsprings on the high beam without falling or whether I’d stick a layout full on the TumblTrak.

I stopped consciously acknowledging those goals when they didn’t come true. When time and my mind got me in a chokehold and I had to go home a failure.

I ran dozens of races in the three years I was on the high school team. Only two ever felt like flying. Only two ever let me take control and forget about my thumping heart or my numb legs or the ache in my thighs when the hill with a name was just too high to tackle.

Hannah’s session scared me into remembering that goals need to be set if ever we want to see progress. I had stopped writing them because then I could never say I failed. But in doing so, I also couldn’t say whether I succeeded.

I am not the world’s greatest storyteller. But I went to school one morning in April 2007, and before the first bell rang, I leaned over to my best friend.

“Last night,” I said, “I decided to write a novel.”

Six months later, I had finished it. Two years after that, I shipped pieces of it to agents who requested hardcopy samples. I do not have a book deal. My writing was far from ready. But I learned a lesson that I keep avoiding eye contact with: that we can commit to something massive and see it through. That those weeks I spent writing until two a.m., sending chapters off to a friend, kept me accountable.

There is nothing good in not setting goals. There is no self-satisfaction in how far you’ve come. We are measurable creatures with measurable dreams. We must, must, must see them through.

My Catalog Of Painful Conversations

This blog of mine, this “here’s how I think life should look,” is a little less likely to get a welcome mat for Christmas. More often than not, I am 93% sure my friends and family are unnerved by my Taylor Swift approach to understanding the world and I have spent two and a half years paying for it.

A few weeks after Rewriting Life became a regular part of my routine, I made the sort of decision that draws a big red line down my life: I chose to excuse myself from someone’s life. It wasn’t taken well offline, but even worse so when I blogged about it.

After all, at the time, Rewriting Life was named for my writing addiction, my “suck it up and edit that novel” mindset. It was for the second draft, only a little messier than the first but maybe better. Maybe better somehow.

It was for fearless cutting and shaping and carving out conversations that belonged in my stories whether they were easy or not.

Any writer will tell you that – there is pain in the hard conversations, the ones so true they choke your memories and wring them out over the blank page.

Somewhere in this jumbled collection of raw and honest diary-like entries, this blog turned into a different, more intentional kind of rewriting life: the kind that demands you see the world however you must.

Maybe, like me, you have punished yourself too long for happiness. Maybe, like me, you have misunderstood others who had found happiness when you couldn’t.

I was done with that. I was happy for the first time in twelve months and, if I were to ever climb out of the depths of depression, the world would have to see my glass as half full.

A big part of that came in acknowledging that there are few big moments in our lives. More often, there are small ones that whisper their intentions when we’re waiting at crosswalks and checking our iPhones, when we should be recognizing hope in the way humans embrace each other and wave from opposite sides of the street.

Those small moments house joy and comfort.

Like a game of Apples to Apples at a kitchen table. Standing around a bowl of your dad’s homemade salsa and a big bag of Lime Tostitos. The tap dancing in the children’s ward of the emergency room on a Friday night. The moments in which disaster waits for us to crumble and cave but we don’t.

We don’t.

We don’t see those moments differently. Or write them down. Or remark on them in text messages and Twitter feeds.

This blog has been my way of seeing and remarking and cataloging those moments. So I will not be quiet. I have spent my whole life pretending not to care about what I want for dinner or what movie I’d like to see or which candidate I’d endorse for public office because peace sometimes comes with a side of silence.

This has, and always will be, my voice. For better or worse. For honesty and growth.

I have said for years if you wonder why you should be blogging, I have an answer that sparkles much less than those who rake in cash and build million-dollar businesses by writing what they know. And my answer is this: You will learn how to learn. You will learn how to see through your own eyes. You will make progress by sorting through the small moments that come much closer together than the big ones.