Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Virtual writing

My favorite online forum, where I’ve been a member for over a year, yesterday offered me the chance to revise my username.  The original pick I made was not helpful in SEO terms, so I happily decided to take up their offer.  But what to change it to?  My actual business name, Virtual Writing & Communications, seemed too long and difficult for a username.

It was a useful exercise, one that reminded me how useful it is to bravely strip down to essentials.  Rather than padding, setting up fluffy barricades to protect your identity and meaning, the trick is to chisel down to the core and then surface with a simple, naked, unadorned truth.

(If you Twitter often and well, you can appreciate the power of brevity.  If you’re a poet, you know real poetry is stark, not ‘flowery’ at all.)

So my username has become plainly,  ‘virtual writing.’  And of course, I can’t just accept that, but have to consider the precise meaning of those words.  We have fiction and non-fiction writing, we have journalistic, poetic, and prose styles.  And now we have this new form of writing that’s called ‘virtual writing.’

What distinguishes this new form?  We can infer that the ‘virtual’ qualifier at least points to the internet, and probably involves product delivered digitally.  Further, I’d like to suggest that virtual writing is writing tailored to the speed and engagement level of the internet; to the ‘scanning’ behavior of most people when they browse;  to the necessity of SEO; and to a global audience of anyone (as opposed to a much smaller audience of those who choose to purchase your writing.)

So that takes care of the virtual part, but what about the writing part?  The internet is about writing in a very big way, resulting in huge numbers of bloggers and online writers who are trying to get their message out, but are seriously compromised by their sub-standard writing skills.  We plunge into the opportunities of the internet without solid practice in this skill, and many a post includes misspellings, poor grammar and rhetoric, obvious total lack of proofreading, and other written communication failures.

Does it matter?  If most can decipher your meaning even if the writing is terrible, who cares?  I think it really doesn’t matter much at first.  The reader is there for your message, after all, and if it can be gleaned from the morass, fine.  But in the long run, the quality of your writing is a major influence on your reputation.  A reader may get a kick out of your post, but will not remain devoted for long if your writing’s not accurate and rich.

I’m passionate about writing, it’s true.  Words are objects of great beauty to me.  The internet, also, has captured an enormous part of my attention.  So I’m happy with this new moniker: ‘virtual writing’ is me!

P.S.  This blog is moving to, and will no longer appear here after this week.  Please visit my website!

Social media and business evolution

Somehow this holiday season is dragging on interminably.  I’ve had a nasty cold, so it’s been an introspective time.  I’ve refrained from blogging, but did manage to renovate my website and also to make a Hub page about approaches to defining brand.  

Social media has me in its thrall, and I must admit that Twitter takes up a good deal of my time lately.  Not that I’m chattering much, but just going there and clicking on eight or ten links every visit, and spending an hour reading up on the suggestions from my follows.  It takes a good while to get a handle on how to use all the information.

I think social media is like a new, seriously tricked-out telephone.  People wonder if it’s a just a fad, but to me it’s clearly no more a passing fancy than the telephone or computer itself.  It’s here to stay, but how we use this amazing new tool will mature considerably.  Right now, we’re all just playing in the sandbox; at some point, you want to actually make something of all this shifting sand, all these glittery toys.

While learning about the technology and the huge range of tools available is currently making our heads spin, it’s so important to remain firmly glued to the truth that content is king.  It’s tempting to use the software and apps for their own sake.  But until you have something useful to say, all these delightful new megaphones will get you nowhere.  Nobody’s interested in amplified hot air.

My urge, when considering all this, is to use social media to help really small businesses.  The old marketing traditions had seriously eclipsed small enterprises, for whom print advertising was not only prohibitively expensive, but ineffectual as well.  With online social media, small businesses can finally gain the respect and following they deserve.

But the most awesome thing is that if a small business uses social media for marketing, that businessperson must be engaged in the meaning and impact of their work in a whole new way.   S/he must actively think, research, and respond regarding aspects of the business every day, and be able to enthusiastically live it online.  Parallels must be drawn between the business and larger life; compassionate understanding of clientele must guide every communique.  So these new tools democratize marketing, and simultaneously demand that we take our work with a deepened seriousness.  It’s simply not enough anymore to work at something you don’t care about.  This current technology forces us to find nurturing connections between our human-ness and our work.

The search for authenticity is just beginning.

Internet and unknowing

Exactly like a kid in a candy store, I’m dizzy with the possibilities of the internet.  I realize that getting beyond this psychedelic whirl is a requirement, before any of your internet activities start to make real sense.  But you can’t just bypass the requisite learning; you have to go straight into the morass of information and manage to come out on the other side with booty that’s actually useful.

I remember, as a kid, travelling with family and when we would come to a city, I would experience a huge thrill accompanied by anxiety.  I wanted to know it all immediately, all the streets and people and places.  I wasn’t comfortable with unknowing.

The same reaction kicks in with regards to the internet: I want to know it all.  Currently, a huge portion of my time is spent wading through all the info.  I expect to emerge soon with many creative possibilities for the raw material.

But I also suspect that the real challenge for me is to accept the ambiguity, because the net changes constantly and no one individual can possibly grasp all its particulars.  This isn’t easy: I’m not a control freak, but I do like to feel that I know what I’m doing at any given moment.  Alas, I must lose this old-fashioned propensity. 

The internet is changing us at core levels.  It involves risk-taking and requires that you be self-assured enough to roll with the unexpected punches, to leap at vague opportunities, and to freely offer up your deepest convictions for the world’s consumption.  On the web, you give first, and let the getting happen when it will.

Your brand can bite you

Sheesh.  A couple things happened yesterday to give me pause.  One:  I responded to a Request for Proposals and was rejected from the job with the single comment to my proposal – “odd?”  Including the question mark.  Meaning my internet presences they checked out implied a strangeness, an abnormalcy.  Sigh.

And two:  I succumbed to curiosity and entered this blog URL at  There, my writing was characterized as INTP – Idealist, Intuitive, Thinking, and Practical.  Well, that’s all very nice, but what’s lacking are the Feeling and Sensing sprectra, implying that I am insensitive to others.

Ouch.  It’s true that I tend to the analytical, and choose to write succinctly about issues, offering my viewpoint on life today.  But I’ve always considered myself to be extremely sensitive, and concerned with the welfare of those around me.  Apparently, my writing here fails to reflect that side of my personality.

All this, then, points to the reality that a brand can easily take on a life of its own, and can even become the master when you’d expected it to be your servant.  Brand monitoring must be constant, and lively creativity is required to shape it authentically.  You have to live symbiotically with your brand, giving and taking with careful generosity.

I’ll have to let you know how I intend to modify the gloomy tangent my brand seems to have taken.  It’s going to require some intimate conversations with myself.  It’s an exciting challenge, though also a humbling one.  Discovering and sharing the fullness of self is a process that’s never completed!

Writing practice

Writing, of course, is a creative activity that’s easily accessible for daily practice.  Blogging, for instance.  Rather marvelous that in our fast-moving, materialistic times the technology has also brought us this method for slowing down and exploring the mysteries of life.  To take on the challenge of blogging is to commit to sustained dialogue with experience.  Being constantly on the alert for realities to share with readers is only the beginning; you are also constantly involved with your own reactions, your ability to express, and your willingness to plumb the depths of your subject beyond the obvious.

The benefits of keeping a journal are well known.  Such everyday reflection on experience provides a healthy distancing from the subject, which helps to put things in appropriate perspective. 

There are many ways to carry on a writing practice, from scribbled notes of thoughts and impressions as you go through your day, to the more formal disciplines of journaling and blogging.  Whatever form it takes, your writing must be a very regular practice to be useful as a creativity tool.  The ‘other’ represented by your notebook or text editor demands your deep devotion.  You have to practice enough to go beyond superficialities.  You must proceed to the very edge of your capacities and be willing to jump off the cliff.  Only then will your creativity come alive.

So it’s through the commitment to your creative practice that you reap benefits.  It’s no good to practice just on Thursdays, just when it’s convenient, just when you feel like it.  Sporadic creativity can be fun, but it’s a mere hors d’oeuvre, and will not energize.  You have to eat the whole meal to be truly nourished and satisfied. 

As usual, these thoughts are addressed to your personal self, but they are also addressed to your business.  The occasional show of creative endeavor is better than nothing.  But if your organization commits to creativity as a daily discipline, exponential progress is not only possible, but likely.

Consumer responsibility

The answer to Seth Godin’s query yesterday – “Are consumers responsible for the behavior of marketers?” – is obviously yes. Consumers are responsible for the behavior of marketers, big business, celebrities, and governments too. Godin claims that the internet facilitates the broadcasting of opinion, and thus allows the consumer to fight offensive marketing or, even more importantly, to support those companies and practices that serve well and admirably. But really, it has always been our right and capability as individual consumers to make choices and perform actions to support our decisions. We don’t have to answer the telephone, make the purchase, vote for the candidate. Obnoxious marketing, cheap goods and services, and ineffective governments directly result from our individual willingness to support them.

We forget that there is always an alternative, and that we are not slaves to anything. It’s laziness, certainly, and a leftover from the oppression of industrialism; it’s a feeling of helplessness that provides a handy way of avoiding responsibility.

But indeed, we consumers now possess a megaphone loud enough to make an impression. The internet gives each of us equally a podium for our opinions. The liberation isn’t happening only in cyberspace, though. I saw a summer camp school bus yesterday with the command spread across its broad side: Be the change you want to see in the world. A familiar phrase; indeed, our motto as we forge a global society.

Speak out!

It’s fairly common for me to make promises and then find myself shocked that I so boldly put myself out there. Committing, yesterday, to being more entertaining in this blog was a rash move. I’m a normal person, with my share of friends. They see me as a thoughtful and educated individual, but hardly an entertaining one. Back in another life, I was a member of an improvisational theater company, and they put me on the dark side of the footlights because that’s where those who lack the funny gene belong.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to laugh. Humor is a saving grace of awesome magnitude. It’s just that fabricating the amusing story or telling the well-balanced joke is not my forte. It seems to me (from my admittedly biased outlook) that the reason I have any friends, the reason I can attract and keep the loyalty of good people is that I love to ask questions. And people love to answer them.

We get so little opportunity to tell our stories. Oh yes, there are millions of blogs manifesting the daily quirks of individual lives; but how often does anyone look us in the eye and ask about our experiences, or our opinions, beliefs, fears, loves? 99.9% of the time, though we may ache to speak, society prefers that we cork it. We have little interest in the lives of others, unless we can profit from such knowledge. A person who unceasingly talks about himself is universally disliked. And people who are genuinely interested in your individual viewpoint, for its own sake, are just about non-existent.

But the reward in asking questions, for me, is allowing that experience of speaking their lives to the people with whom I come in contact. The relief they feel is palpable, and I assure you it is an immeasurable joy to provide the opportunity. Human nature very badly needs to express, and this – I believe – is THE major challenge of our time. After the de-humanization of industrialism, healing lies in finding ways to know and express our individual truth; and figuring out how to live peaceably on a globe heavily populated with others who have as much right as we to this healing.

Oh brother, here I go getting all deep and serious again. Let it rest. Only let me ask you a question, dear Reader (I think there’s one or two of you out there). This blog generally addresses small business concerns, leadership issues, and how to use creativity in practical ways to bring you better success in life. I would like to know: In what ways are you creative on a daily basis? (This means things you practice all the time, not your Sunday painting or the ad you designed last week.) It’s my interest to give real solutions to real problems, so I can definitely use your help here. Subsequent posts will report your responses, and celebrate and enlarge them.

Connecting, or not

There’s another side to the argument I presented yesterday, where I claimed that the lack of buzz around one’s blog is not a reason to quit it. A few days after Godin asked if anyone’s listening, David Armano returned this question: “Have we thought about talking back to people or are we really just interested in telling our stories?”

Not much is so laughable as a harangue carried on in a vacuum. We’re here on this plane together, and we are responsible for one another, and success lies in serving others. We all know people who can’t talk of anything but themselves, who have no skill at listening, and who are so self-absorbed as to be useless to anyone else.

Perhaps there’s a difference between telling your stories and making suggestions about lifestyle, but no need to split hairs here. Lack of conversation means lack of engagement. And failing to engage your listeners is failing at the root of the matter.

As Seth suggested, maybe they’re just not ready to listen. This is the thought that comforts every obscure thinker. While this may be a fact, it’s actually no excuse. If your message is as compelling as you believe it to be, it must be your mission to meet the minds of your audience, and make a connection where none was possible heretofore.

In short, no message is more important than compassion. I will take this as my mantra in the days ahead, and seek to be more fun and rather less intense as I continue these writings. Perhaps someone out there will be so kind as to let me know how I’m doing.

Whistling in the wind

“The tragic mistake of demographics and media planning is that they overlook the single most important issue: is the person you’re talking to ready to listen?”  – Seth Godin, about a week ago.  As usual, he has a knack for getting straight to the crux of the biscuit.

All my talk about personal branding and knowing your own special gifts is actually for personal benefit and will impact others only if they’re ready to listen.  The teacher arrives only when the student is ready.  You make thrilling discoveries and want to share your good news with others, but you experience only glazed over eyes and polite, dismissive smiles.

Or maybe you blog with passion and dedication but you’re simultaneously aware that no one is listening.  The true power of blogs lies in the comments, and you know this, but no one’s talking.

I believe there are two benefits to this reality.  One, knowing that your discoveries may well not translate to anyone else keeps you humble.  Your discoveries add to your personal riches, but do not automatically add to your power in the world.  You may, for instance, broadcast the benefits of using drawing in business communications, but you must not expect that anyone will be able to hear you.  The lack of popular understanding should in no way diminish your momentum; you must still speak your truth.  Just don’t do so in the hope of instant admiration.

The other benefit to whistling in the wind, speaking to deaf ears, or blogging for no one is that the lack of a dependent audience relieves you of social responsibility.  You are not speaking or blogging for anyone’s benefit but your own.  This doesn’t make it easier, because you’re even more challenged to discover truth as opposed to artificiality.  If you can’t count on your fellow humans for feedback and understanding, you’ll be looking to the spirit for guidance, which is what we should all be doing anyway.  You’re alone with the Divine, not a bad place to be.

…and counting

One hundred posts to this blog as of today.  Sheesh.  All lined up like a collection of shells gathering moss.  Collections are endearing, and a helpful way to focus thinking.  They are also useless, in a sense, and just sit around taking up space.  But a creative viewpoint will explore their quirks and wring them for their hidden sparkle.  Collections remember the past with fondness, while holding infinite hope for the future.