Thursday, August 27, 2015

This Uncompelling Headline will Have You Clicking Away in 3...2...1...

I get that it's ironic that I am a copywriter, and yet my personal blog basically breaks every rule of writing scannable, interesting content that keeps readers reading and not bouncing away.

I write long blocks of text.

I often do not have a compelling headline.

I almost never have a compelling subheader.

You'd have to know me very well and be interested enough in my life to want to read through those long paragraphs. Even if you know me and like me, I bet you skim most of the long entries without reading each carefully crafted word.

And that's okay. I pretty much do it on purpose. I don't pick keywords, I don't spend long minutes coming up with a compelling subhead, I don't make sure I include bulleted lists and the right amount of white space or work to elicit the right emotion. If I'm feeling particularly gregarious, I might work harder on it, but most of the time, I have this stuff bumbling around in my head and I have to get it out in order to get my paid work done. So I write it out, do a little editing, consider adding an image and how long that will take, and then publish. Done.

Or, frequently, I don't publish. I have a LOT of unfinished drafts that I haven't deemed worthy of being published for various reasons--mostly because I'm not sure if I'll be regretting having published it in the future.

I'm not advertising anything here. I'm not trying to build a brand. I honestly don't care if I have many readers--not because I don't appreciate the people who read my blog, but because I'm not trying to be popular. I never advertise a new blog post on social media simply because I'm contradictorily outgoing enough to write publicly but still shy enough not to want too many of my personal friends to know everything that's going on in my head. If you want to read this, you'll have to find it, and while I welcome you back with open arms, I also understand that this isn't the kind of copy that sells itself.

When I write professionally, I spend time doing all the right things. Writing here lets me relax.


Monday, August 24, 2015

A Little News

Elannah has been stressing out about starting school. She's going into high school, so it's a new school and new classes and new adventures, but she doesn't feel ready. I told her she'll be okay, and that after tomorrow, she'll know exactly how prepared she actually is. Somehow, she doesn't believe me at the moment.

Sophia quit drill team earlier this summer. They did so well last year--after years of lackluster showings in competitions--and most of that is due to a new coach and assistant coaches. They worked hard last year, and they succeeded in winning Region and barely missed placing at State in their division. They also had fun as a team. They bonded, they became best friends, they supported each other.

This year, the coach has caught the winning bug, so she quit her day job as a teacher at a dance studio to focus solely on the drill team. Along with early-morning practices, she has instituted after-school practices and Saturday practices. Drill team practices all year long, not just for a season. Basically, being on drill team has now become a full time job, but if they work hard enough, chances are they can give the big southern schools a real run for their money this time--maybe come in first or second or third at State! All these practices are in addition to the endless fundraisers, because funding a competition-level drill team costs $30,000 a year and up, depending on your division. For the moms of drill team girls, there's never a dull moment: if you aren't driving your daughter to practices, you're heading up a fundraiser or cooking lunch for long practices or driving your daughter to extra dance technique classes or whatever else is needed at the moment.

As happens with everything of a competitive nature, adult egos got involved. I'm not dissing the coach because she's nothing if not absolutely dedicated to taking her team to victory, but there's a fine line between the benefits of being on a team and learning responsibility, how to support each other, and enjoying the bonding and just working to win it all, as if winning is the ultimate portrayer of worth.

Frankly, I was tired of it. I am not a Type A person, and all this school spirit and the need to win at all  costs and the general hullaballoo leaves me pretty cold. I don't usually admit this out loud to a crowd of die-hard [school team] fans, but it's probably pretty obvious to everyone else even if I try to be as pleasant and social and supportive as possible. Go team!

So when Sophia casually mentioned she was thinking of quitting because it wasn't fun anymore and because she wanted to be in school plays and get a job (both of which being impossible with her practice schedule and drill team commitments), I did a happy dance in my mind. Outwardly, I remained neutral and left it up to her. I didn't want her to feel pressured to continue or quit based on my wishes and desires. Eventually, the coach told the girls that if they were thinking of quitting, now was the time, before they got seriously into competition routines. Sophia thought about it long and hard, and then informed her coach she was out. The coach was sad to see her go and was very kind and gracious (she really is a lovely woman), but now Sophia is done with it all and I'm not at all disappointed.

There are areas where I won't let my children quit. If they've made a commitment to be there for a specific performance or date and the team or group would be in a lurch without them, they have to stay in, even if it gets a little boring or inconvenient. Once their commitment is fulfilled, I'm more lenient. In Sophia's case, the whole thing was taking over her entire life, which is not what either of us signed up for. Given that the coach was telling the girls that now was a good time to leave without putting their teammates in a bad place later on, I was fine with Sophia quitting. Learning when to stick with it and when to let go are valuable life lessons.

Elannah will be fine, too. She's still learning what stuff is worth stressing out over and what stuff isn't, although it's easy for me to tell her--with the benefit of 25 years of experience past the ups and downs of high school--that most of what she's stressing about isn't important.

What's really fun is that Elannah and Sophia have a TV Broadcasting class together this year. They sometimes collaborate to make short films, so learning more about the equipment (and being able to check out stuff like boom mikes and whatnot to use at home) will help them increase production quality of their personal films. The following film they made makes me laugh every time. They have these dry senses of humor that show up in so many little ways: the count-off after Sophia says, "This is dangerous, so let's get things started," the seriousness with which they take their crappy stunts, the way Elannah does a little in-and-out breath before hanging on the tree...They laugh at me for how many times I've watched this thing.

It won't let me embed the video, so click the link here.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Flowers on My Desk

I have two vases sitting on my work desk. One is a red glass vase, and it is full of a large bunch of beautifully made red silk amaryllis blooms from Pottery Barn (which I found at the thrift store for a price that made me quite giddy). They stand tall on thick green stems, a cloud of one of the happiest colors I can imagine. I smile every time I see them. I know amaryllises are usually displayed singly in decorative pots at Christmas, but I don't feel that is a rule I need to stick with.

The other vase is a narrow bud vase filled with tiny green rocks and a spray of yellow silk flowers with deep green leaves. The vase and flowers are obviously from the dollar store, but they were a gift, and because of the reason and meaning behind the gift, I keep this vase on my desk, as well.

I got the yellow flowers in little green rocks from a group of young women in my ward (church congregation). They had an activity one night where they identified women they knew who had qualities that matched their Personal Progress values of faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, integrity, and virtue. They decided I exemplified the value of knowledge (which is paired with the color green), and so they came to my house one Wednesday evening and presented me with the vase and a framed certificate that quotes the scripture and theme for Knowledge: "'Seek learning, even by study and also by faith. (Doctrine & Covenants 88:118); I will continually seek opportunities for learning and growth."

It was so sweet. I shed a tear after I closed the door. Of course, I also immediately thought of at least a dozen other amazing women I know who exemplify knowledge, but the vase and certificate remind me that I need to be striving to strengthen all of the Personal Progress values in myself, even though I've long since graduated from being a young woman. Knowledge is important, and I have a passion for learning new things and for stretching my mind in new ways. But seeking knowledge without also working to strengthen faith reflects 2 Timothy 3:7, "Ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

Likewise, faith means nothing without action, including good works. You also need integrity and the ability to understand your responsibility for the choices you make in order to increase your own virtue. Understanding your divine nature (as a child of God) and your worth as an individual--unique and precious, who has a mission only you can fulfill--makes you anxious to develop faith, be charitable, and to strive toward being more like Jesus Christ.

Sigh. It's a big job. Fortunately, as I remind myself frequently, I have a lifetime to work on it.