The Bachelor Episode 1: I’m a Dolphin

It’s time for The Bachelor! Every season I think I should write a Bachelor blog to justify my unhealthy obsession with the show, but I never do it. Until now.

So here we go, kicking off Nick Viall’s season 21 of The Bachelor! I mean it’s Nick’s season and it’s season 21. Not that it’s Nick’s 21st season. I don’t think.

Yes…that Nick Viall. Yes, he’s been here before. A few times. Full disclosure: I don’t watch Bachelor in Paradise, so I’m not fully educated in the canon of Nick. I’ve only seen him with Andi and Kaitlyn, who both left him standing there with rings and chose the other guy.

Nick ViallSo what has Nick learned in all of this Bachelor experience? He’s learned that he’s “definitely not perfect.” Most of us don’t have to go on TV 3 different times to learn that, but good for you, Nick. Maybe next he’ll learn how to pronounce “bachelor.”

Right off the bat, as we gaze nostalgically at all of Nick’s previous appearances, I’d like to state that I think this is Nick’s best look yet. I dig the beard. And thank goodness this weird hair is a thing of the past:

 

Nick gets some sage advice from “wise beyond her years” little sister Bella, who is adorable. Bella please do not ever be a Bachelorette. Promise me! I’m so terrified for Bella’s future right now, you guys.

Former Bachelors Ben, Sean, and Chris drop by for the ceremonial induction into the brotherhood.  First they talk smack for a little bit, calling Nick “the choo choo train that just keeps chugging” and noting that most of America thinks of him as “this tool bag that nobody likes.” It took me a minute to figure out who Sean was. Does he look different or have I just erased him from my memory?

Oh hi, Chris, you still annoy me like a LOT. Apparently Bachelor in Paradise was Nick’s “redemption tour,” and Ben honestly likes him as a person. “You’re a great dude,” Ben tells him. “Be yourself.” And so with that life-changing advice, Nick ventures forth to begin his Journey.

But not before Ben gets this last zinger in: “When he gets down on one knee and asks somebody to marry him he’s also asking them to forgive him for all those mistakes he’s made in his life.” Ouch.

So in case you missed the messaging, Nick’s role is the oft-jilted, sometimes-bad-boy hero who is still OPEN TO LOVE. I mean that’s really all that matters, right? He’s never going to give up, so seriously America, you’d better hope he finds a bride here or he’s just going to keep coming back for eternity.

Hey, this Bachelor intro suffers a notable shortage of shirtless/shower footage. Just one paltry shot of our Bachelor putting a shirt on? WHAT IS NICK HIDING? DISCUSS.

So let’s meet the victims hopeful ladies!

Rachel. You’re an attorney? Like a real one? You’re 31? Like an adult? Why are you here? Oh, ok, you love to vacuum. In case you were worried that she was too Cold and Unapproachable in her Business Suit and Real Job, rest assured: this little lady is at her happiest when performing simple domestic chores in her sweatpants!

Danielle L opened her first nail salon at 23. She likes a challenge. Now she’s 27, has 3 nail salons, and she’s ready to settle down! Finding a man is her next challenge or something, and Nick is a pleasant surprise. He’s shown through, like, being on these shows so many times, that he’s interested. Interested in what, we’re not sure.

Vanessa speaks French and Italian. She’s a special ed teacher. This is “one of the most rewarding jobs,” and her students teach her a lot, natch. “I was put here to be a teacher and to be a mom.” A guy is more or less necessary for one of those things, so bring on Nick! He seems “genuine” which is always important. Look, Vanessa hasn’t said anything awful but something about her rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s all the French. And she looks kinda like Celine Dion.

Josephine, 24, nursing student from Santa Cruz. When I initially filled out my Bachelor Fantasy Final 4, Josephine was my pick to win it all, based entirely on the given job title of “Unemployed Nurse.” But now she’s speaking cat and asking sea lions if Nick will like her. “It does take a certain kind of guy to kind of handle my energy….but I think Nick is that guy.” I’m so regretting my pick.

Raven is from Hoxie, Arkansas, pop 2,780, and I’m pretty sure she dyes her hair specifically to match her name. Hoxie, Arkansas soundbites include “For fun you go mudding, you shoot guns, you read your bible,” and “Family, faith, and football.” Further, “I’m a smalltown girl but I have an amazing career.” Raven owns a boutique. “I became a Business Owner..I’m really happy bein’ a Business Owner.” I hope her job title is “Business Owner.” Nope, it’s “Fashion Boutique Owner.” Bad call, Bachelor team.

Corinne wears a white bikini and lives in Miami and refers to herself in the third person and HER job title is Business Owner! Holy crap, her nanny Raquel? Wait this is all moving too fast for me. “Corinne’s world is glamorous,” says Corinne. Let’s break it down: Corinne is 24. She lives with her NANNY and her parents, who are very accommodating for the cameras and go out of their way to appear to be her lowly employees in support of her “Business Owner” status (she runs her business from a laptop on her parents’ patio, of course). And her snack is a cucumber. She “runs” a multi-million dollar company that her dad started and she’s “taking over” which I assume means she gets her own laptop now with a company email and everything. “I would describe myself as a very serious businesswoman but true love has been just so difficult.” I am so excited about Corinne.

Alexis is “weird” and does “really embarrassing things.” (If you’re not at all embarrassed, are they still embarrassing things?) “Life’s too short, just have fun with it.” There’s always one of those, and Alexis is ours. Alexis is obsessed with dolphins. “Nick would love dolphins….he NEEDS to love dolphins or else this isn’t gonna work out.”

Danielle M, 30, is a neonatal intensive care nurse in Nashville. Again…why are you here. You seem to have your life together. Wait, she said 30 but the caption says 31. Suspicious. “I’m looking for love,” but she can’t say it with a straight face.

Taylor, 23, is a mental health counselor in Seattle. She just earned her master’s from John’s Hopkins. Oh man. The Bachelor house SO needs a mental health counselor. All of her statements sound like questions, which I feel is an insecure young woman thing, but maybe it’s just a counselor thing. “The work that I do with clients comes down to vulnerability.”  She’s “observed” Nick (which I’m sure is much more intense and professional than how the rest of us have just watched him on TV a lot), and thinks connection is important to him. Oh btw, connections are difficult for her! #complicated

Elizabeth, 29, Las Vegas. Doula. She met Nick at Jade and Tanner’s wedding. She was Jade’s maid of honor. Danced and drank a lot with Nick. Oh, this crazy incestuous Bachelor world. Amazing exchange with an off-camera producer: “We drank a LOT that night.” “So you spent the night together?” “It…depends how you define that term. I plead the 5th.” So OK they bumped uglies in a coat closet, got it. He asked for her number and she said no. “I thought he was just being nice.” Ok then. She’s really just hoping he remembers her. This won’t be awkward!

LIMO TIME!

Nick knows he has to keep putting himself out there, and be willing to have his heart broken again. We’re really playing up the “learned from each moment” thing. The buzz words are flying now: Vulnerable. Put myself out there. Hopeful. Put myself out there. THE ONE. Man, Nick’s Journey has already been epic! In some ways he’s THE MOST QUALIFIED BACHELOR OF ALL TIME, you guys.

A limo full of screaming girls. Can he hear them??

Let’s just walk through these entrances:

Daaang Danielle L look at that dress. Cut down to the navel, lace to the toes. “You look…wow.” Indeed. What a way to start the circus.

Elizabeth, 24, is a marketing manager from Dallas. She’s kind of wearing a wedding dress.

Rachel the vacuuming attorney, in the first red dress of the night. “Before I got here I finished setting up my fantasy teams but the only play I want to make this season is for your heart.” Oh Rachel.

Christen, a wedding photographer from Tulsa, sashays out in bright yellow with a fan and asks, “How crazy do you think I am right now?” Oh Christen.

Taylor looks cute and giggly. Nick: “You got this?” This is like, very nearly a legit Meet Cute. Oooh but then all her girlfriends told her “he’s a complete piece of ****.” And she really has no follow up for that statement. Plan better, Taylor. Nick: “I cannot wait to meet her friends.” hahahaha

Kristina, dental hygienist! Thank goodness there’s a dental hygienist.

Angela, model, “would not be here if it wasn’t you,” red dress.

Lauren, sparkly gold dress. She’s a Law School Graduate, 30. Her last name is Hussy. Viall, Hussy…”together you and I are a disgusting slut.” I don’t think that worked quite like you thought it would, Lauren. But you’re very sparkly!

Michelle is food truck owner! I wish we knew more about Michelle. Like what kind of food truck, exactly? These are the important questions.

Dominique, restaurant server (we used to call that a waitress)

Ida Marie in a two-piece blue lace getup. Nick thinks she’s killing it. “For me, trust is very important.” Oh a trust fall right off the bat. At least he caught her!

Olivia from Alaska looks like Emily from Pretty Little Liars (aka Shay Mitchell from Instagram). Giant fur coat, hope that’s faux. Eskimo kiss. I mean she’s stunning, but other than that, not much of an impression.

Sneakers! Rocky music! It’s an athlete! No, it’s Sarah, grade school teacher who likes a good pun. “I thought you would appreciate another runner up.” Ba dum dum. “As far as runner-up jokes that was pretty good.” Sure, Nick, if you say so.

Jasmine G is a pro basketball dancer (we used to call that a cheerleader). She…brought Neil the ring guy? And her favorite ring. I kind of love Jasmine G right now.

Hailey, 23, is a Canadian photographer. “Do you know what a girl wearing underwear says?” “No…I don’t.” “Neither do I.”  Oh Hailey. On the other hand I had the same reaction to Kaitlyn’s “You can plow my field any day” and look where it got her. “Nick is a very sexual man.” I mean…he’s a man. So…good call?

Astrid is a plastic surgery office manager or something and all I think when I see her is Michael Scott calling Jan’s baby “Asturd.” She speaks German and apparently “sex” sounds the same in German, so Nick digs it. “I don’t know any German but I coulda swore she said sex.” SHE DID, NICK! He’s so smart.

Ooooh here’s Elizabeth the doula, whom we are apparently now referring to as Liz. No longer “pleading the 5th”, she says it straight up: “We had sex.” In case we weren’t sure before. Got it! Liz tells Nick, “I’m really excited to see you.” Does he recognize her at all? I don’t think so. Hahaha zero recognition. Snap. “I kinda like that.” REALLY? Really Elizabeth? You like that the guy you had sex with doesn’t remember or recognize you? Really.

Oh now he looks confused like he’s figuring something out. And here’s Chris to jog his memory and accuse him of giving her a “weird look” that totally didn’t happen. “I think I met her before at Jade and Tanner’s wedding.” You did more than meet her, sport.

Oh man this is just the halfway point. Next limo.

Corinne is here! With a hug token. And then she gives him a free hug anyway without making him redeem the token. Come on, Corinne. Commit.

Vanessa is the Italian French Canadian special ed teacher. She’s less annoying here, maybe. She draws him in with the sexy French. He even calls her “a keeper.”

Danielle M, neonatal nurse, brought him…maple syrup. And feeds him some on her finger. “I trust that your fingers are clean.” LOL. Nick’s kinda good at this.

Raven. “Pig sooie.” Spirit fingers down! Nick “nailed it,” according to Nick. Well, Raven is very glittery and Nick digs the accent.

Jaimi: “You have some balls and so do I.” “Figuratively?” Um, did Jaimi think intimating that she has male genitalia and then pulling jewelry out of her nose would be cute?

Briana listens to his heart, literally, because Briana is a nurse and has a stethoscope. Corinne thinks people are doing weird things and her mind is blown at the decisions being made here.

Susannah gives a good beard massage, though to be fair, Nick has no point of comparison, never having had a beard massage before.

Josephine is here! She calls him dashing which is a bit generous, I think. She’s in a red dress too. “You’re a weiner in my book. Do you want to lady and the tramp it?” WHAT? She literally opens a book that contains an uncooked hot dog and forces Nick to bite one end while she bites the other. “That’s super not delicious but it’s the thought that counts.” Nick is weirded out by this one. “I haven’t had an uncooked hot dog since I was six. That was something.” Hang on, I have to go edit my Final Four.

Brittany is a travel nurse with a latex glove. Turn around and bend over. “I know you’re dating a lot of other women, so I just want to make sure that you’re clean.” Just ew.

Jasmine B has a red dress. Ha Ha, we’re all wearing red, this is so amusing and/or awful!

Whitney the pilates instructor also wears red.

Camel. CAMEL. Another girl in red. Nick has never seen a camel before. “I hear you like a good hump and so do I.” Corinne, you know what, I’m giving you this one. Mind blown at some of these decisions. I totally did not catch the camel girl’s name.

Raven: “Super jealous of that, why didn’t I think of the camel.” Indeed.

Here comes a girl in a shark suit! Oh good it’s weird Alexis, the “aspiring dolphin trainer.” Aspiring? So she’s a weird, unemployed girl who’s obsessed with dolphins. “This is so embarrassing.” But Alexis loves to be embarrassed. Also she thinks her shark costume is a dolphin. There is literally 0% chance that is a dolphin.

And that’s the ladies! All 30 of them! Which brings us to the…

Cocktail Party

The girls are all going to chat about Nick’s growth and level of readiness. Liz thinks she has an advantage because they slept together once and he doesn’t remember. Liz has some strange ideas about life.

Rachel gets the first one-on-one chat of the night and tells him she’s in civil defense litigation. More importantly, she’s Dallas cowboys fan. Nick’s a Packers fan but that’s ok because she went to law school in Milwaukee. She “stands out” to Nick, which sounds awfully First Impression Rosy to me. She is gorgeous and smart and completely unfit for this show. There must be something dreadfully wrong with her that we can’t see yet.

Christen in yellow teaches him to ballroom dance and he requests a twirl and a dip, because Nick is an overachiever. Christen is very appreciative.

Nick spends some time complimenting Danielle L’s “killer dress.” He’s going to thank her sister for picking it out. Danielle L is probably dreaming of hometown dates but he’s pretty much just drooling over her cleavage and doesn’t know what he’s saying.

At this point Chris Harrison appears to drop the First Impression Rose like a grenade in the middle of the room. “Glistening in this, like, bowl of like, sparkles.”

Corinne wants to just like, take it. Kind of how she wants to just like, take Nick, or just take that big bowl of cucumbers from her nanny. She has a bag of money for him. Oh, not money, tokens. And this charming exchange follows: “A bag of tokens for you.” “Are they hug tokens?” “You can pick.” Ummmm ok. So they’re just blank check tokens? Can I use one to have you like, make me a sandwich? Or move out of your parents’ house and not take your nanny along? Also there are a TON of them and Nick is really tempted to say something dirty but controls himself. “Be careful what you…well…I’m gonna hold you to it.” Those are not hug tokens.

Corinne disappears briefly while Vanessa talks but not for long. She’s back in a flash, dismissing Vanessa like the Serious Businesswoman she is. She’s coming in for the kill. Nick, with fear in his eyes: “I don’t have my tokens on me.” You’re not getting away that easy, Nick! Corinne: “It’s fine,” and then they’re sucking face. Like honestly those tokens are freaking worthless, Corinne.

Ooooh Nick is uncomfortable with that bold, bold move. I mean, he didn’t fight her off or anything, but now he’s worried it was inappropriate. And the girls are, too: “What a ho.” Nick hopes none of the other women saw but come on.

It’s Corinne’s world, girls, you’re all just living in it.

Liz: “I kissed him 9 months ago.” Meow. Too bad he doesn’t remember.

Some other notes from the cocktail party:

  • None of these girls have EVER had to fight for a guy’s attention and this is wild, you guys. Who saw this coming?
  • Nick is trying to be respectful. Hahahahahahahaha best of luck my friend.
  • Jasmine is probably being too nice.
  • Corinne assumes this shark thing is all about Alexis hiding her body.

And now Alexis is in the pool, still in the shark costume, calling him with a dolphin call. Nick: “You’re just milking it. I love it.” He doesn’t love it.

For an aspiring dolphin trainer, Alexis really doesn’t know what a dolphin looks like. Nick is going to educate her, or at least he’s going to try. “She’s a shark. She thinks she’s a dolphin. That’s a concern.”

Now she wants to take the costume off, but Nick’s not having it. “If you take it off, the only thing I can assure you is you’re going home. I’m kidding.” Is he? Alexis isn’t taking the chance.

And now, finally, Liz gets her moment. “We’ve met before,” Nick accuses. “I didn’t want you to think that I was here because you’re the bachelor.” Ummmm then why ARE you here?

Nick says they had a wild and crazy night. And he’s a little irritated that she never called. “My number is very easy to get for you.” Oh SNAP. Nick breaks Bachelor code by smirking at little at the idea of being there for “the right reasons,” but still, Liz is suspect. Nick is offended that even after they, ahem, “met” she still didn’t see the real him. She didn’t see the REAL him until BIP. He’s a little hurt that she slept with him, thought he was a jerk, and never called, but now that he’s the bachelor she’s interested. A valid point.

So I’m not entirely convinced Liz is here for the Wrong Reasons, but I’m not convinced otherwise, either. Time will tell, Bachelor Nation!

Other stuff:

  • Freaking Taylor is still talking about her friends and how much they HATE him. “She specifically was like, he’s a piece of ****.” Nick: “Well, I’m sure she’s lovely.”
  • Danielle M, the neonatal nurse from Wisconsin, manages a pretty decent conversation. Nick asks good questions. Except “Do you work in a hospital?” That, he concedes, was a stupid question.

Oh! Nick’s made a decision and the First Impression Rose is on the move!

First of all, he’s super proud of Alexis for not ditching the shark costume. (She’s a dolphin!) (But not really.)

I feel like Corinne is going to lose it if she doesn’t get the first impression rose. And Vanessa hates flowers. This is not the show for you, Vanessa.

And the First Impression Rose goes to…Rachel! Because Nick knows she’s too good for this show and he needs to lock that down before she realizes it.

The red dress didn’t drag Rachel down, girls. If she can pull this off as “one of 15” red dressed-ladies, you should all be afraid.

NOBODY realized how emotional and intense this whole experience would be. It’s intense! But it’s only going to get more intense because it’s time for the…

Rose Ceremony

“There’s not a single girl here who isn’t deserving of love.” Wow Nick. Coming out the gate with that. “Unfortunately, some of you ain’t gonna get it from me,” he means but doesn’t really say.

And the roses go to:

  • Vanessa
  • Danielle L (like he was gonna let that dress go home)
    [Corinne is “out of control shaking,” “can’t breathe,” she’s “losing eyesight,” dang girl]
  • Christen
  • Astrid
    [now Corinne is angry]
  • Corinne (oh ok cool)
  • Elizabeth W
  • Jasmine G
  • Raven
  • Kristina (she was crying and freaking out but look girl you got a rose chill)
    [Josephine: there’s a lot of potential for us!]
  • Danielle M
  • Sarah
  • Josephine
  • Lacey (who?? OH the camel girl. Now I know her name.)
  • Taylor (seriously? I think he just wants to meet that friend.)
  • Alexis! “You brought a smile to my face all night,” says Nick. “But you’re absolutely a shark.” “I’m a dolphin.” “Agree to disagree, but will you accept this rose?” “Of course.” “Thank you.” “I’m a dolphin.”
  • Whitney
  • Dominique
  • Jaimi
  • Brittany

I love how the phrase “we had sex” is continually edited into Liz’s comments. She clearly said it once but they’re gonna put it in her mouth 300 times.

FINAL ROSE:

  • Liz! Nick almost seems reluctant, but he’s like “what the heck, man, let’s do this thing.”

No roses:

  • Olivia. Aw! The beautiful Eskimo!
  • Girl in red dress whose name Nick doesn’t say (edit: It was Angela)
  • Lauren Hussy
  • Briana

We’ll miss you, ladies! Have fun explaining to your friends that the dolphin-shark lasted longer than you!

Coming up this season!

  • Corinne feels really confident.
  • Liz thinks it’s fun knowing they have a little secret. I’m not sure Nick agrees.
  • Snow.
  • Never gonna give up on love.
  • Nick’s heart is bringing him to the right place.
  • The girls are bursting with excitement.
  • Nick is super genuine.
  • Connections and chemistry.
  • Nick is rare and refreshing.
  • The Backstreet Boys.
  • Corinne will take her top off in the pool.
  • Liz will tell somebody “we had sex.” (Or will she? Who knows. Editing, amirite?)
  • Girls will cry.
  • Corinne wants Nick NOW and she’ll do whatever it takes. Her “sex abilities are definitely top notch.” “My heart is gold but my vagine [sp?] is platinum,” she says in the soundbite of the season that we’re going to hear over and over again. She’s gonna ambush him and he doesn’t think it’s a good idea.
  • Nick will cry and hit a new low. He has fears, you guys.
  • “I want it to be real and I want it to be right and right now I’m just terrified that that’s not gonna happen.”
  • Don’t worry, it will.
  • But not before Nick cries again. He’s VULNERABLE and OPEN, ok?
  • The magic 8 ball is very doubtful about Nick’s happy ending.

So that’s my very first Bachelor recap! I’ll see you next week for the next leg of our Journey!

in search of content

Filling the Containers

 

I hate the word “content.” I mean, I use it, because I have to. But I hate the implied emphasis on a “container.” We have a container and we must fill it. With what? Whatever, some content. Just fill it up so it’s not empty!

That’s what the web is full of. “I have a blog, I have a Twitter account, I have a Facebook page, I have a website. I need to fill them up.” They’re all just empty containers in need of content.

But what if we looked at it like this? “I have a story to tell. I have thoughts to share. I have something to say. Now give me a container to hold all of this so it doesn’t spill all over and go to waste.”

The container is secondary. It’s the vehicle for the story. Because I’m not writing anything if I don’t have anything to say, and I’m not filling any containers just to watch them fill up with content. The containers serve me, not the other way around.

So what shall we call it? This work that we do? I’m not sure there’s any good word for it. Some have tried to call themselves “storytellers” but let’s be honest, it just sounds pretentious. I’m a writer. The things I write go into my clients’ various containers to be displayed and distributed. Much of it is optimized with a particular container in mind. So maybe we have to keep calling it content.

But let’s not lose the story in all this. Let’s remember that content is more than just content, and the container should serve the ideas.

Photo credit: B.C. Angell via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA
become an author

If You’re an Expert, You Should Be an Author

 

85% of Americans in business say they want to write a book.

5% actually do it.

Are you one of the 5%? You should be.

In the words of James Altucher:

If you, the entrepreneur, self-publish a book you will stand out, you will make more money, you will kick your competitors right in the XX, and you will look amazingly cool at cocktail parties.

This is a brave new world, friends, and publishing isn’t what it used to be. Today everybody has the potential to be a successful author; self-publishing gives us freedoms and opportunities never dreamt of before.

Who should write a book?

Entrepreneurs who want to spread brand awareness and increase visibility. Look, anybody can publish a blog post. And a successful blog is a wonderful thing! But a book. A book says “This guy knows his stuff.” A book is authority. Credibility. A book is worth a thousand well-written, authoritative blog posts.

Consultants and coaches. The book is the new business card. Consultants who have literally written the book in their area of expertise command higher fees, close more deals, and get to put eager potential clients on wait lists because they’re that in-demand.

Thought leaders and influencers. You can’t really be a thought leader if you haven’t written a book. A book is a declaration: you’re here to stay. You’re the real deal, and your thoughts matter.

Why should I write a book?

There’s no better way to launch your personal brand to the top of the authority pile than publishing a well-written, relevant book.

Increased earning power. Honestly, a book with your name on it gives you a new level of negotiating power. You’re not just you anymore. You’re You: Author. The entrepreneur who has published a book may have better luck raising funding for his startup. The consultant or coach will find more people willing to pay them more money for the benefit of their wisdom.

Lead generation. Will you make a profit on your book? Maybe. That would be great, but it’s not the point. The point is the doors authorship will open for you. If a blog attracts potential clients to you, how much stronger a magnet will a book be? A book can lead to speaking engagements, online courses, and of course, more books—all of which can be very lucrative endeavors. The more you publish, the more people know your name, and the more people know your name, the more deals you will close.

Publicity. A book gives you an anchor to drop in places you maybe haven’t even considered publicizing your business before. When you’re a published authority on a topic, you have access to blogs, speaking engagements, podcasts, and other media you never had access to before. People want to hear what you have to say. A book establishes credibility and makes you that much more marketable. Rather than constantly pitching influencers and the media, you may find the media coming to you.

A book can launch a new career.

Paul Graham, the creator of Y-combinator, started out writing essays. He eventually compiled them into a book, Hackers & Painters. That led to a speaking engagement at Stanford, which led to a mentoring program, which became Y-combinator. It all started with writing.

Who else can you think of who has been defined by the book they published? Think of Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People. What is that book? Just a humble little business book about the things Dale Carnegie had found to be true in his life. It’s been selling like hotcakes for 80 years now. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a similar story.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hans wrote REWORK and changed the world. Tim Ferriss wrote The 4-Hour Workweek and became a Silicon Valley legend. Eric Ries wrote The Lean Startup, based on his own experiences, and created a movement. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In became a buzzword known by working women everywhere.

None of these people spent their childhoods dreaming of writing a book one day. These are executives, businessmen (and women). They had success in other arenas of life already, but writing and publishing a book brought them to a whole new level.

But I’m not a writer. And I don’t have time.

That’s the rub. Do you think all these successful business authors just happened to be talented writers, as well? With months to spare, working away on their books every night? Some of them, maybe. But not all. Not by a long shot.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, John F. Kennedy, and Sheryl Sandberg all worked with cowriters and ghostwriters. Kennedy even won a Pullitzer for his ghostwritten book Profiles in Courage!

The truth is, if you have a story in you, you can be an author. That doesn’t mean you have to be a writer. Ghostwriting has a long and respected history, and some of the most powerful people in the world have utilized the talents of writers to tell their stories. You can do the same. It’s still your story, and you are still its author.

I have years of experience ghostwriting for people in a variety of industries. And while there really isn’t any stigma associated with hiring a writer in today’s business landscape (if it’s good enough for John F. Kennedy…), I’m discrete and don’t require any authorship credit; nobody ever has to know we worked together if you don’t want them to.

So what are you waiting for? Leave the 85% who want to write a book and join the 5% taking steps to change their lives. Contact me today to get started on your book.

 

Photo credit: Jeff (Matt) Zhang Photography (MZP) via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

The Work That Only You Can Make

Finding your unique style as a designer

As a writer, I’ve spent most of my career honing my voice. That is, while I may admire Stephen King, and acknowledge that he’s a millionaire and infinitely more successful than I’ll probably ever be–I know the key to my success is not to write exactly like Stephen King.

The greatest and most successful writers have always had their own distinct voice or style. Those of us who follow in their footsteps often find it tempting to imitate the greats, and while that’s not a bad way to learn an art, it can only take you so far. In order to grow and become the writer I want to be, eventually, I had to step out on my own and shed the security of imitation.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about design, and what it is to be a designer. As a writer, design matters to me. I’m a strong believer that design and content have a marriage that should be held in high esteem and treated with great respect.

As a writer, I sometimes have to moonlight as a designer, but truthfully there’s no greater joy than working one-on-one with a Real Designer. One who identifies as a Designer as strongly as I identify as a Writer.

I think that just as I’ve developed my voice as a writer, a true designer must have gone through a similar process.

But what is the designer’s equivalent of “voice”? I think it’s more often referred to as a designer’s unique “style.” And style is a tricky subject. Some will tell you that it’s vital to have a strong, distinctive style, to make yourself stand out. Others will argue that you need to fight the urge to put any kind of unique style on anything, to make yourself more flexible, adaptable, and attractive to a variety of clients.

I fall somewhere in between those extremes. While I believe it’s very important to adapt and be responsive to client needs, I also think that the product of any artistic endeavor will always have the indelible mark of its artist about it, somewhere.

Designer and author Frank Chimero had this to say about style:

I think it’s okay to have a style, as long as it represents what you believe…If you’re comfortable in your own shoes and making work that reflects what you believe in the best possible way, it’s not a style any more. It’s just you, making the work that only you can make.

So how do you get to that point? As a writer, here’s how I’ve found my voice, my style. I think the process is the same whether you’re a writer, a musician, a painter, or a graphic designer.

Educate

First, know the rules. In writing this means understanding the mechanics of language and storytelling. In music, it’s understanding time signatures and pitch. As a designer you have certain standards and principles that constitute “good design practices.” Whether or not you have a design degree, you must educate yourself on best practices and design standards. This isn’t to say you’ll never break any rules or branch out of what is considered “correct.” But you should always know what the rules are and, if you choose to break them, have a reason.

Imitate

As a teenager, I read lots of poetry. I had a thing for Jewel. It was the ‘90s, ok? Then I wrote a lot of things that sounded like…well, like lyrics to Jewel songs. Musicians do the same thing: they learn how to play their favorite songs before they begin to write their own. What budding guitarist hasn’t tried to learn “Stairway to Heaven”?

This is how artists learn technique: by doing. By imitating. And that’s ok. As a young designer you should be exposing yourself to lots of great design, and challenging yourself to use the elements and techniques you admire in your own work.

Experiment

Part of imitation is feeling safe to find inspiration in anything and everything around you. Branch out beyond your favorite designers and try to imitate styles outside of your comfort zone. Take elements from different styles and see if you can meld them into something new. Don’t be afraid to fail.

The more you experiment, the more fearless you are in approaching your work, the more you’ll begin to find your own groove. Take risks and make mistakes; then try again, and do better. And again. And again.

Evolve

Remember that your style is always changing. Ideally you should be able to look at your work over a period of months or years and see definite growth and change. You’ll see trends, like that period when you were really into retro, or when you were obsessed with Jony Ive (or in my case, Jewel). And as your portfolio grows and your body of work accumulates, you may also see some common threads, some unmistakable evidence, that this is your work, “the work that only you can make.”

My Resume, This Time With Feeling

In which I unabashedly toot my own horn.

hire me

I’ve been called an overachiever my entire life. Sometimes it’s a compliment, often it’s not. Sometimes I’ve wished I could be satisfied with underachieving, for once.

But I’m not, and I never will be. That’s just not how I’m wired.

For over 10 years I worked at a California State University. It’s a gorgeous campus, all green grass and waterfalls and cobblestone paths. There are worse places to spend eight hours a day.

But for all its aesthetic beauty, it also had its difficulties, if you’re an overachiever. It’s a state school. It’s all the bureaucracy of government layered into all the politics of academia. Red tape is the name of the game. Things move slowly. Or sometimes not at all.

I like to move.

I stuck with it, for a few reasons. One, because where else am I going to be paid to write in this town? Short of relocating to the Bay Area, this has been my best option.

But I also stuck it out because I’d built something there. I started at the age of 22 as a receptionist. But I was one overachieving receptionist. After answering phones and opening mail in the Office of the University President for a week or two, I saw a need: her writer was busy writing speeches, and her correspondence was falling behind. I offered to write a letter or two, flashing my hot-off-the-presses B.A. in English. Very quickly, I was ghostwriting all of the President’s letters, as well as editing some of her high-level publications.

I spent the next several years working as a secretary in several different offices, but I maintained the connections I’d made with C-level executives, and I built a solid reputation as a flawless writer, editor, and communicator. I did side work for everybody from the President to individual faculty members to the University PR office.

When I was hired as Assistant to the Dean in the Graduate School in 2005, I performed all my Executive Assistant functions beautifully. But I also combed through the School’s publications and web site, offering suggestions, until finally the Dean asked me to rewrite and redesign them all. Within a few months of hire as an Executive Assistant, I was promoted to a position created especially for me: The Graduate School Communications Coordinator.

I held this position for 5 years, and I built an entire marketing, recruitment, and communications plan from literally nothing. I hired an assistant. I attended conferences and made connections. And I wrote. I wrote everything.

At the same time, I took a side job as a Thesis Reader, responsible for proofreading master’s level theses just prior to their publication. I made myself the best Thesis Reader on staff, and eventually another position was created just for me. I became the Thesis Reader Coordinator, and my job was to hire, train, and supervise the staff of readers. I instituted staff-wide workshops, training, style guides, and an email list, bringing 8 Readers who had previously been fully independent (and wholly disconnected) together to form a cohesive team. And I personally read every thesis written on campus that first year, to be sure my staff (and the training I’d provided them) were up to par. The crop of master’s theses that year was widely recognized across campus as the best-written and cleanest copies in recent memory, and I learned so much about the writing and reading process that I was able to further improve the work of the Readers the following semester.

Eventually, a victim of budget cuts, the Graduate School was reorganized and disbanded, and I was reassigned to the Admissions and Outreach office. This was 2010, and I walked into an office whose social media efforts were stuck somewhere around 2006. The Admissions office had a dusty, silent Facebook page boasting 30 fans. So I took over. I opened Twitter and Instagram accounts. I created an editorial calendar, a social media marketing plan. I grew the Facebook page from 30 to nearly 500 fans. I took countless online courses and attended every webinar I could cram into my schedule, to teach myself the art of Social Media and Content Marketing. I hired another assistant. I incorporated social media into every aspect of our recruitment and publication efforts. Every event had a hashtag. Every web page had social media links. Most of my superiors were not on Facebook or Twitter. For the most part, I don’t think they had a clue what it is I did. But it brought in traffic, and it attracted students, and it increased engagement, and so they let me do it.

In 2012 I took it upon myself to start a Student Blogging project. This was an ambitious undertaking for a little rural state school whose administrators barely accepted Facebook and pretended Twitter didn’t exist. Nobody wanted to let me do it. Student bloggers? Uncensored? Unmoderated? Right on our website? Was I insane?

Probably. But I was determined to drag this school into the 21st century, so I did it anyway. I did it responsibly, but I did it, without the support or even the knowledge of many of my higher-ups. I hired 4 bloggers, students I knew and trusted. I trained them, and I set them free. Then I marketed the crap out of them, and I tracked their analytics, and I submitted a report to my manager. Here, look what I have done. It’s already in motion. Try to stop it now.

They didn’t. Because it was awesome. Because it was innovative and unlike anything any other campus in the 23-campus CSU system was doing. Because other, larger campuses took notice. And because it worked. It brought in the kind of students we’d
always had trouble attracting: high-achieving, highly engaged students who had choices, who were looking for something special. We showed them the only story that matters, the student story. We let our current students do the talking and the recruiting, and it worked.

Two years later the blogs were the cornerstone of our social media and content marketing efforts. Incoming students loved reading them, and current students loved writing them. I had dozens of applications each semester; they were only paid $18 a week to blog for us, and I was only allowed the budget for 7 of them at a time, but those 7 spots were coveted.

From an outside perspective, from the real world, our blogs and our social media profiles were not much to look at. I know that. I’m proud of what I accomplished there with very few resources and with roadblocks at every turn, but I’m not deluded. I may live in this small town, but I live on the Internet, wherever I’m learning and growing and readying myself for something bigger.

The world has changed in 10 years. A lot. And the Silicon Valley is calling my name. I love tech, I love communication, I love social media and content marketing. Above all, I love writing. But I also love living where I live. I want to work where I live, so I made the most of it for 10 years.

I was bored.

I was hungry.

And it was time to break out, because the remote work movement is real, and it’s happening, whatever Marissa Mayer might tell you. And for the first time in history a talented person can live where she wants to live and still work on the cutting edge. Tech like HipChat and Dropbox and Trello make it possible. Teams like Buffer, Automattic, and Zapier are leading the way. Remote work has the Richard Branson Stamp of Approval. It’s the future. I wanted in.

So at the beginning of 2014, I took a risk. I made a leap. I quit my steady, stable job and took a position with a very small software company located in Poughkeepsie, NY. UserScape was a team of only 6 people, and I was their first hire outside of development and support. I was tasked with building a content and marketing plan.

In my time there I established and managed the company blog, wrote long-form content like email courses and ebooks, and grew the company’s social media accounts. I built and furnished a home office that I love and proved to myself that I can not only survive in a remote environment, I can thrive. I grew tremendously in my time with UserScape, and while we’ve parted ways now, I am forever grateful for the opportunity they gave me.

But it’s time for a new chapter. I’m not afraid of risk; I know how high the payoff can be. I’m ready to jump again.

If you’re a forward-thinking company looking for an overachiever, hit me up:

 

Image credit: Buzznet

NaNoWriMo

Participant-2014-Twitter-Profile

The rules say that you should start from scratch. A brand new novel in 30 days. I did that once. Kind of. The year I “won.” November 2009. 50,000 words in 30 days.

No, even then it wasn’t from scratch. I took plans in with me, intent, characters, drafts and chapters, years worth of story. I wrote the bulk of the prose in those 30 days, 50K words as promised, but the story was always there, long before 2009. The truth is I have been writing the same novel since I was 16 years old. Literally over half my lifetime.

Obviously there were breaks. There were vast, years-long breaks. Lifetimes passed between “working on my novel” and “what novel?” and then rolling around to “working” again. And again. I’ve been 17 different people since I wrote that first chapter, as a school project in the 11th grade. That chapter has been rewritten and rewritten and rendered more or less unrecognizable from the piece I wrote at 16, but it’s the same story. It’s always been the same story.

A truth, undeniable: I love it. This story, these characters. I put it away and forget it but I always come back to it, I never start anything of significance that’s NEW or DIFFERENT because I have to finish this story first.

And I can’t finish it. I don’t know how it ends, what the point is. Here it is, here’s the problem: I don’t really know Shelby, who is ostensibly the protagonist of this story. I don’t KNOW her. I know her mother (another truth: as I’ve aged, I’ve drifted away from young Shelby and allowed her mother Julia to grow into the true center of my story, the soul, and I know that’s happening but I’m not sure what to do with it). I know Shelby’s uncle and her father and her friends. But Shelby is an enigma after all these years, and in spite of everything I still think she’s the key, she’s the one who determines the ENDING. But I can’t find her.

So take a hint, right? If I’m a writer I should just put it on a shelf already, after wasting SEVENTEEN YEARS on it, and write something else. Something new and fresh and exciting.

And there it is. THE FEAR that owns me: I honestly don’t know if I have another story in me. It terrifies me. What if this is it? What if this is the only story I have to offer? What if there’s nothing else in me? And I can’t even get it right, can’t even finish it.

I always figured that when I finished THIS story, I would be free, and new stories would float into being. And I’ve always felt that if I CAN’T finish this story…am I really even a writer? How can I say I want to write stories if I can’t finish even one in seventeen years?

(Yes, of course, I’ve finished a thousand other “stories,” little things, silly things, nonfiction and fiction and little useless things. I’m talking about the NOVEL. What if this is my only novel? Because I have always, always, seen myself as a novelist. Let’s call a spade a spade: I’m not a novelist. Not today. Not after seventeen years.)

Here’s another twist: sometime between last year and now, all of my work, SEVENTEEN YEARS, disappeared from my computer, from the cloud, from everywhere. It’s gone. Of course I know the story. The writing may be lost but the story isn’t. I’ve lived it and exhaled it for all these lifetimes. I am that story.

So what’s the message I should take from losing it? Is this my chance to start it over from the beginning, grab hold and do it right, start and finish it once and for all, in one last 30-day frenzy? Or is this me being released, a chance to accept it as it a lost cause, a chance to let it go and find a new story?

NaNoWriMo starts in 25 days.

My #Inbound14 Goals

inbound header

I’m attending Inbound this month for the first time. Recently HubSpot blogged The 12 Types of People You’ll Meet at a Conference, and I’m definitely headed to Inbound as a Type 2: The Sponge.

Goal = Learning
This is the person who’s just at the conference to soak up as much information as possible. You’ll probably see this person juggling a laptop, smartphone, and notebook with a pen, and diligently taking notes (or live-tweeting) from each. The biggest struggle this person faces is deciding on which sessions to attend (they’re all so great!!).

That’s me! I’ve got my external battery pack, my brand new notebook, an assortment of pens and highlighters. I’ve already planned out my entire 3-day schedule based on the agenda they’ve published. OK, I might have myself penciled in for 2 or 3 or 8 competing talks in the same hour.

What?

I’ll definitely be front and center at every keynote. With star power like Martha Stewart, Malcolm Gladwell, and Simon Sinek, I wouldn’t want to miss any of those. I’m filling in the rest of my time based on what I want to learn.

Specifically:

SEO: I want to brush up on my SEO best practices. This is one of those things that you can be an expert in a week ago and totally lost today. I wouldn’t say I’m “totally lost” but I’m definitely looking forward to hearing from some of the leaders  in the field (including the great Rand Fishkin) about what’s happening right now.

Data/Analytics: I’m looking forward to Hiten Shah’s talk “Marketing Like a Quant.” Numbers are not really my thing so I do feel like this is an area I can always use improvement in.

Content Promotion: I’m always on the lookout for new, better ways to get our content out there in front of people. There are a few talks that look good for this, and I’ll be there.

Growth: I guess this is everybody’s goal, really. A few talks on “growth hacking” caught my eye including one from Sean Ellis.

Then there are the talks that just sound super interesting. Most of these, of course, conflict with talks that I feel like I *should* attend, so we’ll see what wins out in the end.

The Pencil and the Keyboard: How The Way You Write Changes the Way You Think” looks insanely interesting to me as a writer. But it’s at the same time as “How to Map Content to the Buyer’s Journey & the Marketer’s Funnel” which looks quite useful. Likewise “Marketing Like a Quant,” which I definitely want to be at, conflicts with one I hate to miss, “The Perfect Post,” which is really only attractive to me because the speaker is Guy Kawasaki. It’s hard to compete with Guy Kawasaki.

So I’ve got some decisions to make but I’ll probably play them by ear when I get there. I’ll be going all on my own without any teammates so it’s all up to me, but I imagine many of the talks will be available online later. And maybe I’ll make a friend or two and we can compare notes!

Want to be my conference friend? 🙂 Find me on Twitter or comment here and let me know you’re going to Inbound, I’d love to meet you!

Sage Advice for the Very Slightly Younger Generation

Recently a younger (very slightly younger. I mean really we’re practically the same age. She’s in her twenties and I’m more or less barely not in my twenties*) friend of mine came to me for advice in pursuing writing as a career.

After I quit laughing at the thought that I’m somehow somebody worth asking for advice about anything, I told her she needed to start a blog.

Pretty rich, considering I have two blogs and update neither of them, like, ever.

But I still think it was good advice. My first “real” blog, Near Normalcy, did all the things for me that I told her a blog would do for her: it taught me to write regularly, and more than that, to seek an audience.

You can probably be a writer even if nobody ever reads your work, but if you want to make a living as a writer, you need an audience. That’s tougher, and it’s a skill you find yourself honing when you start to pour yourself into a blog.

Some of us are born writers. I was. I’m guessing Alexia was, too. And when you’re a born writer, you can journal away for years, scribbling in your notebooks, and never think even once that you wish somebody was reading this stuff. That’s not the point.

But face it. The second you hit “publish” and throw that stuff out onto the internet, all you want in the world is some pageviews. Maybe a comment or two? A few subscribers. Some freaking readers.

It’s a weird neurotic thing, unappealing, really, if you look too closely, but that’s kind of what it takes to be a writer. A paid writer.

Once you’ve built a blog and you’re writing there, you need to be on Twitter. That’s where the audience lives. And you need to really be there. Meeting people. Engaging. Not just pushing out your blog posts, but following the people you admire and reaching out to them, putting on your most attractive, entertaining face and doing that thing where you dance at the edge of their consciousness and hope they’ll finally notice you enough to #FollowBack.

The first thing to do if you want to make a living on the internet, I told her, is to exist on the internet. Cultivate a presence and a brand and nurture that. That’s a prerequisite for anybody who wants to be a paid writer in this world.

When I started blogging and got myself on Twitter I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I knew once I hit publish that I wanted to be read. The first person I followed on Twitter was Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess. At some point I said something that made her laugh and she became my 11th Twitter follower. A single retweet from the Bloggess is worth dozens more followers. She got that Midas touch. A little later Ilana Wiles of Mommy Shorts took notice of me, and I found my tribe, for a time.

So I hope Alexia follows my advice and I hope she finds her Bloggess and Mommy Shorts, her tribe. She’s a great writer with a strong voice and I’m sure she’ll do fine. She’ll probably do more than fine and I’ll be vaguely jealous of her in the way that only a very slightly older friend can be.

But what about me? (This is all about me.) Do I still need a blog?

I’m definitely a writer. My coworkers tease me sometimes about my dead blogs, and call me a “9 to 5 writer.” Because I do write, 9 to 5. And I write for myself, too, outside of work. Journal pages, notebooks. I’m trying to reassemble the mostly-written novel I lost to cyberspace awhile back. I write, but I don’t publish.

I’m a writer. No doubt.

And I make a living as a writer.

I don’t necessarily feel the need for an outlet in the way I did when I started my first blog.

So do I still need a blog?

I feel like I do, somehow. I also feel like I’m in that “finding my tribe” place again, because the mommy/humor/lifestyle blogger thing isn’t necessarily where I live anymore. I’ve drifted away from most of the friends and followers I connected with in those days. So I’m not sure I have an audience anymore.

So I guess I’ll just write, and hit publish, and start the process of looking for readers again.

 

*I kind of remember my twenties.

Just write.

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.

―Louis L’Amour

I’ve been building* this site for months now and I know what I want it to be. Brilliant. Incisive. Authoritative. Awesome. You know. How I do.

I keep stopping before I get started though.

Today I saw the above quote on Twitter. Get some words up there already. Get over yourself.

Hello, world.

I used to be the pink lady at Near Normalcy.

I still am, I guess, but I’ve been undergoing a makeover of sorts. Like, I use my real name now. And my real face:

alyssa

So these are my new digs, and where I’ll blog about my career as Content Engineer for UserScape. It’s pretty much my dream job. I work from home, doing what I love, with a bunch of super cool people.

It’s also my first venture outside of higher education, where I spent 11 years or so honing my skills. Now I’m an English major finding my way in the tech world.

Areas of interest and/or expertise (ha):

  • writing
  • content marketing
  • social media
  • refusing to learn how to code

If any of that sounds remotely interesting to you, stick around!

 

*Squatting on my own domain, rejecting all the themes, and procrastinating.