Your Two Lists

Everyone (you and I definitely included) has at least two very specific, very opposite lists—you likely haven’t written the lists down, but they’re probably in your head.

The first list, the list we grumble about and try to avoid, is a list of activities that take our energy. Often and unfortunately, the items on this list are non-negotiable. They take time and effort, and though maybe they’re not essential, doing them certainly improves quality of life (think cleaning the bathroom and taking out the trash).

The second list, the list we spend time dreaming about and rushing to do, is a list of activities that give us energy. Most of the time, the things on this list aren’t exactly crucial (crucial = eating, sleeping) to everyday existence. But time breezes by when you’re doing them, and they always result in increased . . .

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I Sell Tickets

I'm a writer—it's what I want to do, it's what I love to do. I'm also young, which means I'm inexperienced, learning how to market, and essentially invisible in the world of professional writers. I'm doing my best and growing my market, but it's slow going. I'm not complaining about my life, I'm just explaining my need for a day job.

I work in the customer service center of a fairly large non-profit organization, which means all day every day, I answer phones. People call about everything. That's not an exaggeration. Politics, world events, city events, sickness, death, babies, tears, happiness, vacation, the radio... The list is long and still growing. There is nothing people won't talk about to someone who is listening and who doesn't have a face. As an introvert, it's not my dream job, but I get a lot of good stories, and two paychecks a month, so I can appreciate it. We also sell tickets for large musical events, and yesterday I worked the will call table for one of the productions. 

A lot of people come to the will call table to request replacement tickets for tickets that didn't arrive, or tickets that they misplaced, or forgot when they left northern Michigan this morning to drive down for the show. Some people come asking for information about the event: where's the auditorium, when's the intermission, how long is it? But a few hopefuls come asking if there are leftover tickets that they can purchase. 

Our event yesterday was sold out, but due to the nature of the organization, and people who care, over the two hours that I spent at the table, about 35 tickets got returned to us, so we could "maybe give them to someone else." At the beginning of the two hours, people would come to our booth with a look of hope and desperation, wanting anything. We first had to turn them away, advising them to check back closer to the beginning of the performance.

People had two main reactions: Some took it to mean yes, and wandered away smugly, like they'd just bet on the winning horse. Others took it to mean no, and shoulders slumped, motioned to their small waiting group to follow them as they beat a dejected retreat. The people who were happy came back in an hour and as many of them as came back got tickets. The people who looked defeated never came back—never got tickets, and didn't go to the show. The ones who waited patiently got what they were coming for; the ones who left abruptly didn't get anything but disappointment.

If your readers like you, they will wait patiently while you build the suspense or drama or thrill of your story. 

Don't disappoint them.


psa-photo Married this gentleman. Rented a cute corner apartment, got a new car (to me, at least), and adopted a different last name.

For parallelism, also changed my blog domain to

Four Tricks for Better Script Writing

Script writing focuses on both hearing and seeing. While writing the script, you need to be hearing what it will sound like as the spoken word, and seeing how the script will interact with the actors for final production. To write a good script, your mind must to become a video reel with a quick pause and rewind button; playing the scenes as they come, stopping often to fix or replay. Four tips to writing a good script:

  • Know exactly what you're trying to say. If you're writing a script for a promotional video, know the content you're trying to advertise before you begin. If you're writing script for a fictional film, know where you want to end up—then you'll be able to get there.
  • Look at what other people are doing. If you're trying to sell a certain flavor of juice box, look at other juice box ads; not to copy them, but to understand the lingo that works (or doesn't work).
  • Edit relentlessly. Read it out loud with your voice. Read it out loud in your head. Read it out loud with your best friend, or your spouse, or the old lady sitting next to you on the bus. The more you hear it, the more you'll hear what needs to go.
  • Learn to write dialogue well. Script writing is dialogue heavy—knowing how to write dialogue well makes the flow of the script much smoother.

It's a thrill to watch people saying words you put in their mouths; not deviously, of course.


Giving Your Paragraph a Break

Reading a paragraph that is 45 sentences long is tedious, dull, and often feels like a marathon without the promise of an ice bath at the end. That's why there are paragraph breaks; they are rests to the weary vast expanse of the written word in which authors delight. Giving your readers a paragraph break not only breaks up the visual aesthetics of the page, it also lets them have a moment to digest, to consider, and then to reengage at the beginning of a new paragraph. It's also nice for you, the writer, to take a moment to observe your last paragraph, and think if you're going to continue down the current path.

Giving rests in writing is good. It is kind to the reader. Be a good, kind writer.

Predicting a Bestseller

This weekend, we went to a conference done by New York Times bestselling author of The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman. Since his first book was first published more than 20 years ago, he has written more than two dozen books. Some have done well, but none have done as well as his first book. Why? Certainly everyone has a different theory, and maybe there are as many reasons as there are theories. But, after all the guesses and conclusions, it boils down to one thing: Gary Chapman figured out what people cared about (i.e., marriage), and he did studies to figure out how to help them. Then he wrote a book that condensed everything he'd learned into simple language that was easy to understand and apply.

On Digital Book World today, Daniel Berkowitz wrote an intriguing article about predicting a bestseller. He analyzes data and gives examples, drawing from his review on the upcoming book, The Bestseller Code, which seems to claim that an algorithm may be able to predict if a book will be a bestseller. Berkowitz marks that this process may be perfected someday, but will never be %100 accurate, simply because of the unpredictably of human taste and fashion.

This is true—what people want to buy and read will always be changing, based on fad, trend, even season of the year. It's impossible to predict what people will buy, but based on past and present best-sellers, people usually want one of two things. Come back tomorrow to see what they are.


I called someone today who still has dial-up. As soon as I dialed the number, I heard a shrill beeping that eventually cut to the dial tone. I had no idea what it meant, but someone a bit older than me dialed the number, and immediately told me it was dial-up. Age adds context to things that youth doesn't understand. There are people around you who know more than you, and people who know less. Everyone brings their own grid of understanding to the situation; based on age, location, personality, number of years they've been married. The list goes on and on. Often, it's easy to forget that others know more than we think.

Remembering and learning from someone else's experiences will save hours of time and endless trouble.


It's been a while, but I'm back. At a local company today, an email went out advertising benefits to all the part-time employees who worked there, linked to a phone number for the HR department. Upon further examination, no one knew who sent the email. HR hadn't approved it. If a prank, it was deliberate and malicious. If an accident, it was truly unfortunate. The poor receptionist at the front desk was swamped with dozens of curious employees all asking the same question, and she didn't have any more information than the rest of them.

Ideas spread like wildfire—all it takes is a one sentence email to get people acting. It just takes the right sentence. People who take action about something they care about.

So figure out what people care about. And write the sentence.