Monday, September 8, 2008

Cutting the Clutter

I have a list of article submissions and queries I try to accomplish on a regular basis. These are jobs that get pushed to the back burner for when I have a moment of time to work on them. As a general rule of thumb, I try to work on one a week. Last week I had a submission I wanted to get in on an article I'd had sitting around for a long time; however, I'd need to cut over 200 words to get it to fit the submission requirements. I thought the topic would be a great fit for this particular publication, so I began cutting.

Every article has a little bit of cutting room, and the article is always better for it in the long run. All writers know this. In fact, Anne, over at The Golden Pencil, talks about this in her recent post "Just Eliminate Some of Your Deathless Prose." 200 words felt to me like an enormous amount of cutting, though. I wasn't sure I could actually do it and end up with anything substantial, but I wanted to try, so I began cutting. At first it was relatively painless. In fact, it felt good--in that way that getting rid of clutter always does. Then it began to hurt a little--then a lot! There were several sentences I contemplated cutting and then decided to leave for last. I had to come back to them, though, in order to make those final steps toward reaching my word-count goal.

I was certain when I did my final read-through this chopped-up article would be lacking something, wouldn't make sense, wouldn't resemble my original intent. Was it different for the cutting? Absolutely. It didn't follow the exact direction intended in the original article. I was amazed to discover, though, that what I was left with was still a good article. There are a couple of sentences I'd put back in today, if I could. I'm missing them that much. In spite of that, though, there sure was a lot of stuff in there I could do without. The problem is, we are attached to our words. They're like little pieces of us embedded into our work. We find it difficult to believe that an article can exist without them, but it really can.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Newsletters-The News in Marketing

In her article titled "Find a Job you Love, and You'll Never Work Another Day in Your Life" on the Writers in the Sky blog, Taryn Simpson writes about the growing popularity of Newsletters. I couldn't agree more. It seems everyone is into newsletters these days, including Susan Johnston over at The Urban Muse.

I'm on the Marketing Committee at my children's school with several people who happen to have areas of expertise in marketing and technology, and our efforts this new school year have been nearly entirely technology focused. We have several tech gurus on the committee who understand how to make things happen. Then there are people like me who know the value of the internet as a marketing tool for small businesses and big businesses alike. It is turning out to be an amazing combination.

Madison Campus Elementary is a small private school struggling to improve its enrollment and share with its community its standards for academic excellence. Our efforts this year are leading us places MCE has never been, such as blogging and newsletters. Once we build our subscriber base and have a database for contacting alumni and interested parties, we'll then be able to use that same core of contacts for areas like endowment. This is one committee I'm actually thrilled to be a part of!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Are you a Perfectionist or an Idealist?

I recently received an advertisement in my email inbox from a famous makeup company with a very French name. The header said:

Are you a Perfectionist or an Idealist?

This particluar company has a line of facial products that fall under each title. Now, I'm sure this was not the intent of the marketing gurus at French Cosmetic Company, but I immediately thought about how this applies to writing (that sort of thing happens to writers a lot--to the dismay of cosmetics marketing gurus).


According to, a perfectionist is a person who adheres to or believes in perfectionism, which is a propensity for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet extremely high standards.

That sounds good. Right? Only if its helpful. A perfectionist is someone who demands perfection, both of himself and of others. This can be one of those stumbling blocks that keeps us from actually accomplishing anything. As a teacher, I always tell my students that writing isn't finished until it's finished. It goes both ways, though. When writing is finished, it's finished. I'll chant the praises of revision as long as anyone, but at some point revision has to end, or it is simply procrastination.


An idealist is one who cherishes or pursues high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc.

Now that sounds really good--heroic even! Not necessarily. The other side of the idealist coin is impracticality. Being a visionary is great, especially for copywriters, and idealism deals with imagination, which can bring all types of writing to life. If we want to pay the bills, though, we have to be at least partly realistic. Being a visionary isn't always practical. Sometimes we have to save the idealism for the part of our writing that is still a hobby, or use it as a seasoning, to spice up the realism that clients actually need to sell their product.