Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

Tying together poetry, parenting, and advertising in a neat little package

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”

Getting the maximum out of minimalism

As I mentioned last week. I continue to be too busy writing…to write! My children’s writing is keeping me busier than I’ve ever been, which is good, although it’s preventing me from being as consistent with my blog as I should be. With that in mind, I thought I’d share with you this post from Oct. 2012 which, although it’s two years old, still makes for some interesting reading, I think. (Then again, I’m the one who wrote it, so what do I know??)

===================================================================

         

Sometimes, it pays to keep things simple.

I was reminded of this maxim over the weekend, when I recently came across this blog post from artist and designer Christian Jackson at Square Inch Design.  Jackson took classic children’s tales and rendered them as minimalist posters – basically reducing the stories, characters, and plots into very simple designs that are at once striking, yet instantly familiar.

With all the extraneous stuff out of the way, the viewer is left with just the germ of the story, a simple visual cue that – to anyone who knows the particular story – conjures up images and memories of our favourite parts of each story.

This got me thinking about how we, as creatives, often get carried away in our work and sometimes lose sight of our objectives.  Sometimes, being detail-oriented can be a very good thing.

But sometimes…things don’t need to be as complicated as we try to make them.

“Is the guy running away, or coming down the stairs?”

Details can do wonders.  If you’re writing a book, you may need to expound on the layout of a castle or the idiosyncracies of an antagonist.  If you’re producing a radio commercial, simply having two people talking to each other may not be enough; adding footstep sound effects or outdoor ambience can really flesh out a scene.

(And for those unfamiliar with radio production, ‘footstep’ sound effects are not as cut-and-dry as you might suspect; there are ‘footsteps on gravel,’ ‘footsteps on pavement,’ ‘footsteps going upstairs – cement,’ ‘footsteps going downstairs – wood,’ ‘footsteps running away,’ ‘footsteps coming closer,’ and tons of other variations I won’t bore you with right now.  Talk about details.)

However, there are times when the details just get in the way.

“Spare me the details”

A friend of mine has been working for months on a middle-grade chapter book.  An artist by training, when she first began writing her story, she would spend an entire page just describing a room:  how the tables were set, what the chinaware looked like, what the curtains were made of, what flowers were used for the centerpieces.  It was beautiful writing, flourishing imagery, vivid detail…unfortunately, much of it was irrelevant to the actual storyline.

So she ended up cutting some of her story, revising some of it, and also leaving some of it – and her manuscript is much stronger now because the reader doesn’t lose sight of the plot.

Unless you’re Tom Clancy, there’s no need to spend an entire chapter describing a boat.

Personally, I’ve produced hundreds of radio commercials that required significant details vis-a-vis sound effects or multiple voices, but I have also produced many spots that feature nothing but a voice.  It all depends on the message, and whether or not music or sound effects will add to the listener’s experience or detract from it.

Background music in commercials:  Yes or No?

Maybe.

Clients ask me this question all the time.  I explain to them that music should only be used if it helps propel their message.

Music can create drama, evoke a mood, or act as a transition from one scene to another – but it will not, contrary to what some of my fellow radio programmers say, ‘keep things interesting.’  In a commercial, if the script is not written well enough to create a compelling message, no amount of music will keep a listener from turning the channel.  Likewise, if a message is compelling, why muddle it with an electric piano?

Think about your own life and consider how ridiculous it is to think that music will make a message ‘interesting.’  An excited friend comes up to you to tell you some fantastic news – but you say, “Hold on, there, pal.  Let me find something on my iPod to make our conversation interesting.”

The devil’s in the details

This past July, I decided to leave my position as production director for a 5-station radio group and work from home.  It was a scary decision because of all the unknowns ahead of me – will I make enough money, will I find new clients, etc. – but the clincher was an examination of the details of my life.  My wife and I were amazed when we actually broke things down:

I was spending $400+/month just commuting (not total driving, just commuting).  We were also spending $650/month for daycare for my 2-year-old.  When I added just those two expenses, I realized I was spending nearly an entire paycheck for the privelege of working!  After crunching the numbers, it became apparent that my goal of running my own voiceover business and pursuing my children’s writing was never going to have a chance as long as I kept spending almost $1100 and 245 hours each month just driving and working.

The details of my life were killing my dream!

So I quit the job on good terms, finished building my home studio, and now can work on my voiceover and writing careers while being a stay-at-home dad to my 2-year-old son.  By the way, I highly recommend number-crunching.  It may not sound like fun, but it’s worth it:  I discovered that because of the money I could save, I only needed to make a minimum of $150/week to break even.  (Granted, I plan on making more than $150/week – but that’s my minimum)  With numbers like that, why would I NOT want to move forward??

Just like my friend’s book, editing out some of the details of my life has made my life better.

“Keep it simple, stupid”

The Pizza Margherita is a prime example of the beauty of simplicity.  Just three ingredients – crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella cheese – on a pizza crust.  Yes, you can throw in a little extra virgin olive oil, if you want – but you’d better stop there.  No amount of ‘details’ like garlic, onion, peppers, or anything else are going to make this classic pizza taste any better.  It is a perfect blend of minimal ingredients creating maximum flavour.

Whether it’s a pizza or a poem or an aeronautical system, the more complicated it is, the more trouble you’re asking for.  As Lockheed’s famous engineer, Kelly Johnson, once said, “Keep it simple, stupid.”

Remember this the next time you get stuck writing, producing, or creating.  Take a look at your project and ask yourself if the details are needed, if they drive the plot, if they’re important for the goal…or if they are a detraction.  Even if it’s life in general, like mine – examine the details.  You might realize there are some that need to be edited out.

And, like mine, you may be surprised at the details you didn’t even know where there.

===================================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

What I learned at the fair, III

As I’ve mentioned on Facebook and Twitter, I’m the live announcer for the Hopkinton (New Hampshire) State Fair. For the past four days, I have wandered from end to end and corner to corner, chatting with folks about everything from giant pumpkins and cattle pulls to fried dough and magic shows.

Over our public address system, I let the attendees know where the bathrooms are, when the next goat show is going to be, and how to get their tickets to the demolition derbies.

And I learn a lot!

That said, I’ve developed a tradition of sharing some of the wisdom I’ve gleaned from the fair here in my blog. Last year I wrote of giant robot dinosaurs and the most despised candies in the universe. The year before that, I mourned the loss of patriotism.

This year, I’ve learned all sorts of new things…

  1. The best time to smell the fair is the first few hours of the very first day. Having been the announcer for about 5 or 6 years now, I’m not sure why I hadn’t noticed this before. During those first hours of the fair, each aroma is its own: the donuts, with their yeasty, sugary delicateness; the charbroil grills firing up; the fresh hay and manure. (Yes, fresh manure counts as a ‘good’ smell for me. For those of us who grew up in the country, it’s a very earthy, honest smell). Once the fair gets going all those aromas blend into one – and although you might be able to pick out individual smells, they are much more delightful and independent when you first arrive.
    .
  2. If your job can be done by someone else, make sure it can’t. Friday morning we had our stock farm tractor pull, where big, powerful machines attempt to pull heavy weights along a dirt path. The one that eventually goes the farthest, wins. Well, our usual announcer was unable to do it this year, so we had someone else fill in (you can see her hard at work in the photo).
    Fair - truck pullShe did a surprisingly good job; however, I’m pretty sure we’ll see Andy Mack, the regular announcer, back next year.
    .
    Consider this, though…if you’re doing a task that someone else can do, too, you’d better provide some added value to that task and show why you are capable of doing it better. Do you go above and beyond? Are you friendlier, smarter, more positive? Whatever the superlative, make it your own! Once they discover you’re not special, you’re toast.
    .
  3. There’s a new maple syrup grading system being put into place. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s a huge deal for maple syrup-producing states like New Hampshire and Vermont. For years, customers have been confused by the names of the types of maple syrup, which have varied state to state. What might be called “Grade A Fancy” in one state (such as Vermont), is referred to as “Grade A Light Amber” in another – and what Vermont calls “Light Amber” is different somewhere else. (And don’t even get me started on “Grade B” syrup, which is darker and more robust in flavor, but is just as high a quality as “Grade A”)
    .
    It’s taken about 10 years of wrangling, but it appears that a new grading system has been agreed upon between the states, and we’ll start seeing the new names in the upcoming spring 2015 sugaring season.
    .
  4. The less clothing you wear, the more trouble it is. This is one of those issues women seem to have to deal with more so than men. As I spent my four fair days walking from dairy barn to music tent, from horse show ring to funnel cake booth, I noticed something. Those who wore t-shirts, button-down shirts, or dresses appeared completely unconcerned with their wardrobe. On the other hand, those who wore tight-fitting, spaghetti-strapped, midriff-baring, cleavage-inducing tank tops were constantly pulling at themselves, pinching, pulling, adjusting.
    .
    I just don’t get it. If being sexy is that uncomfortable, suggest to your boyfriend that he try wearing that sort of thing sometime and see how he likes it.
    .
  5. Loaded baked stuffed potatoes are still the best thing about the fair. I wrote about this last year and it remains the truth. Pure heaven.Fair - potato
    .
  6. Patriotism still isn’t what it used to be. I’ve also written about this before. When the national anthem plays each day at noon, many folks stop and face the flag(s) on the fairgrounds; others will stand around, wondering what’s going on while others simply pay no heed and continue about their day. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but things like this really annoy me.
    .
  7. Souped-up pickup trucks with tractor tires are deafeningly loud. OK, so I already knew that. This was just a reason to post a picture of the mud race:

Fair - mud race

Do any of these things come as a surprise to you? Am I alone in my enlightenment here? Anything you’ve ever learned while enjoying the local fair that you’d  care to share?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

===================================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

In copy writing, it’s all about the details

Last week, I wrote and produced a short video commercial for my wife’s business.

There are two problems with that statement.

ID-10021920 (Times Square)

Advertising: These folks know how to do it right.

First, I’ve never produced a video commercial before, ever. I’ve written hundreds of commercials – and produced thousands of radio commercials – but never produced a video commercial. Second, if you have no experience doing something like that and it’s going to have a big impact on the impression people get about your business, I always say it’s best to have a professional do it.

If you’ve never patched a roof before, you’re going to call a roofer. If you need your car repaired and you don’t know the difference between a carburetor and carbon dating, you’re going to bring it to a mechanic. So if you need a commercial or corporate video produced, seek out someone who has more experience than you do. It’s your livelihood, and it should be important enough for you to have it professionally handled.

As I said above, I didn’t do that. I did have some good reasons, though…

Understanding what I wanted to accomplish

Unlike many folks who have never written commercials before, yet decide they need to be the ones to write, produce and/or voice the things themselves, I knew before I even began how the commercial was going to be used and what I wanted to accomplish. This was not going to run on television – it was to be used via the internet (social media, etc.) only, and it was to garner the attention of a specific group of people who were unfamiliar with the specific benefits of the products my wife sells.

I also had 25 years of copy writing and multi-track audio production knowledge behind me (along with some basic video editing experience), so even though it probably wouldn’t be perfect, I suspected it would be suitable for her purposes. And trust me, I’m my own worst critic, so if it was even slightly subpar, I would’ve scrapped it and gone a different route.

Oh, and due to my ACL reconstruction surgery back in March, a major car accident in late winter, and a leaking roof (see above!), I had a zero budget.  So a one-man DIY project was born.

It all starts with the script

Like a novel or short story, there are several things a good commercial script needs to do. In chronological order, they are:

  1. Attract the listener’s or viewer’s attention
  2. Connect on some emotional level
  3. Develop interest
  4. Create desire
  5. Compel action

A commercial should also showcase the product’s or service’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP) – the feature or benefit that makes the product or service stand out from all the others. And in the case of a television commercial, it should be able to get its point across even if there’s no audio. Doctor’s offices might have the sound turned down and sports bars are often so noisy one can’t even hear the person they’re with, much less the TV – so visuals are extremely important.

Knowing the benefits and USP of my wife’s products, I put the script together and realized I wasn’t going to need to provide a voiceover. (Ironic, isn’t it, that a voice guy produces a video commercial he doesn’t even get to voice?) But it didn’t need it, so I didn’t do it.

The commercial and the breakdown

First, let me show you the commercial and then I’ll break down some of the details I was particular about…

As I mentioned before, I knew the specific audience I was after: health-conscious folks who are not opposed to the vegan lifestyle. Of course, one does not need to be a vegan to appreciate botanically-based products that don’t test on animals, but the word “vegan” is so well-known these days that if you hear or see the word, you immediately understand its connotations.

So after attracting the attention of people who can appreciate veganism, I list other facets of Arbonne’s product’s USP: they are gluten-free, kosher, botanically-based. Then, rather than telling the viewer they need to buy something or they need to improve their lives or they need to do something else, I ask a simple question. Having just seen the benefits of the products – without me telling the viewer these are the benefits – the viewer can now make that connection on their own.

And when you can encourage a viewer or listener to draw their own conclusion and subconsciously take part in your commercial…it’s much more powerful than you telling them this and telling them that and hoping they believe you.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

No need for a voiceover; the sounds of nature worked quite well on their own.

Just like most commercials, I show a problem (your health & wellness products are not vegan/gluten-free/etc. even though you are) and I offer a solution (try Arbonne) – but I do it subtly. The call to action is subtle, as well – I don’t command the viewer to buy now, save now, limited time, blah blah…I simply suggest they learn more.

I wanted this video to be almost like a conversation, and being too heavy-handed with my approach would have been counterproductive. That’s why I opted to use some light sound effects of a natural setting rather than a voiceover; I didn’t want the commercial to feel like a commercial.

Three more details you didn’t even notice

One comes immediately after the words “botanically-based.” From the moment the commercial begins, there is a rhythm to each of the words that flashes on the screen…but then there’s a pause before I ask my question. I deliberately did this to allow the viewer to consider what these words have to do with each other and where I’m leading them. If I posed the question too quickly, the USP – those benefits I listed – would not have had a chance to sink in quite enough.

Remember, it’s a conversation – and I didn’t want it to appear the commercial was doing all the talking. As I said previously, I wanted to allow the viewer some time to process the information and become a “part” of the commercial, and “part” of this conversation.

Another detail is that I did not mention the product name until slightly more than halfway through the spot. Some folks will tell you the name has to be front-and-center right from the get-go – but those are the folks who feel advertising is done best when it’s a one-way conversation. The way I look at it, if I’ve been able to keep you compelled long enough to view the commercial, you’ll stick around for the payoff.

The third detail is the little child and mother at the end, which I didn’t include just because it’s my son and wife. The Arbonne company sells its products via independent consultants who are often moms and daughters – and even dads. I wanted to evoke a familial feeling to the spot to underscore not only the Pure-Safe-Beneficial tagline, but the fact that families are buying, selling, and using these products to make their lives better…and a little child with a mom is about the best representation there is of that!

Pay attention to the details

So when you’re writing – whether it’s a commercial, short story, whatever – don’t lose sight of the details. Some might be superfluous (I could have included another word at the beginning and crammed too much info), some might not be on target (I could have listed products, but that wasn’t the point of the spot), and some might just be too wordy.

Know when to leave those out.

But other details – like knowing who you’re writing to, understanding what you want to say, and spending some time determining the best way to connect with the viewer/listener/reader – are imperatives.

If you write a picture book, short story, or commercial in less than one day, you’re either really lucky or you’re doing it wrong.Please don’t do it wrong.

If you don’t know how to do it, hire a professional. Your commercial and your roof will be better for it.

===================================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

“I can see clearly now, membrane is gone…”

By the time you’re probably reading this, I’ll be able to read it, too.

Since sometime in early spring, I’ve noticed my ability to focus my left eye has been increasingly difficult. It got to the point while we were on our vacation trip to Maine that I couldn’t even focus on road signs, sailboats, or women in bikinis.

It was very confusing to me why this would be happening, because I had undergone cataract surgery about 4 years ago and had a brand-new lens stuck inside my eyeball. This had given me perfect distance-vision (I still needed reading glasses, though). Because I was still near-sighted (naturally) in my right eye, I lived with monovision: I’d use m y left eye for distance, right eye for reading. For some people, this drives them nuts; for me, I was already nuts, so it worked out fine.

Fast forward to this  past June, after we got back from vacation…

As you can imagine, I couldn’t stand not being able to see properly. Which made it doubly worse is that I have now developed a cataract in my right eye, too – which limits my ability to see anything in focus farther than 4 inches away. I kid you not.

So I made an emergency appointment with the eye doctor, who told me I had a cloudy membrane. It seems there’s this thin, clear little sheet that separates the front and back of your eyeball. Surgeons leave it there to help hold the new lens in place during cataract surgery, and 50% of all patients never have any problems. for the other 50% – of which I’m part – our membranes start to become cloudy, much like our lenses did when we developed the cataracts.

In the words of the doctor, “This membrane should look like Saran Wrap; yours is more like wax paper.”

Great.

Fortunately, I’m told it’s a simple procedure to fix it. They’re going to give me a couple of eye drops, hold my eyelids open, focus a laser beam at that pesky sheet of wax paper, and blast it to smithereens.

And thanks to modern medicine, it’s a 30-second procedure.  Seriously. 30 seconds to blow the membrane apart – after which I’ll probably see some ‘floaters,’ as they call them, which the body will simply absorb over the following week. There’s no recuperation period, I’m told; no restrictions, no side effects, other than a possibility that my eye pressure might increase, although the doctor says that has never happened.

Of course, now that he made that bold claim, I’ll probably be the shlub who breaks the record.

“But wait!” you ask. “If you can’t see out of either eye, how have you been writing and doing voiceover work?”

The simple answer is: I haven’t. Or, if I have, it’s been taking me forever.  I can’t read or write unless I’m 4 inches away from the computer screen – which, I don’t have to tell you, is as challenging as it is unhealthy. Reading glasses and magnifying lenses are useless because they help a person’s eyes to focus – yet in my case, there is no way for me to focus.

So unless I blow up the font size of a script to 24-point, recording audio has been a real trick. And writing just gives me headaches after awhile…which is why I’ll wrap this up now. My appointment for membrane-destruction is Tuesday morning, which is why I hope that by the time you read this, I’ll be reading it, as well.

I’m looking forward to seeing what I wrote.

I’m also eager to go back to the beach.

===================================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

FaffCamp is back!

If you are a voice talent, voice actor, voice artist, voiceover professional – heck, whatever you call yourself – you should know about FaffCamp! It’s a professional development conference organized by the same folks who orchestrate the hugely popular “un-conference,” FaffCon – and it’s a tremendous opportunity to network, learn, and be inspired in a fun, relaxed setting.

There are two ‘tracks,’ so to speak – one for seasoned pros and one for those who are just starting to get into the voiceover industry – so there really is something for everyone. Even if you work with, hire, or produce voiceover pros, you’ll probably find something of interest at this conference: ad agencies, eLearning providers, and even copywriters are encouraged to come check it out!

faffcamp-patch-logo-faffcon_225x200

 March 19-22, 2015 – San Antonio, TX

If you’re interested, don’t delay! Registration closes July 11 – and since it’s being done Kickstarter-style, if they don’t get enough registrants to break even by that date, they’ll have to cancel the event. So click the image above for all the details, and don’t miss Faff Camp II!

- Matt

Someone spent a lot of money promoting their competition

I think I’m a fairly low-key, easy-going guy. I tend to take things in stride, but every now and then something will get me all worked up to the point where I’m jumping around, hollering like an idiot.

It’s usually due to moron drivers and bad commercials.

In this case, I felt compelled to share my discontent because we’re dealing with a bad commercial featuring people driving! And really, it’s not that bad a commercial…it’s just advertising the wrong business. (Which I guess makes it a pretty bad commercial, after all.)

Check out this commercial for Fiat:
.

Oh, wait – that wasn’t a commercial for Fiat. That was for Lexus! Oh, stupid me…my bad. You see, I just spent 60 seconds looking at fine sports cars and seeing the sleek “F” logo popping up in my face. Can you blame for mistaking this for a Fiat commercial?

Seriously, Lexus: the viewer only gets a few quick glances at the Lexus “L” logo on the cars…and unless the viewer’s attention is completely focused on the commercial, he/she will never realize those are all Lexuses (Lexi? What, exactly, is the plural?).

Here’s how I presume it all went down:

- Someone at the Lexus corporation said, “Let’s call our new model the same letter that our competition’s name starts with.”
– Someone at the ad agency said, “Let’s flash the first letter of the competition’s name throughout the entire commercial – and be sure not to show anyone the Lexus name or logo until after they have determined it’s an ad for the competition.”
– A whole bunch of executives said, “We agree! That’s a great idea!”

I’ve written before about what happens when a good story goes bad, and this is one of those times. And as always, I critique these spots not out of displeasure with or dislike of ad agencies – heck, I’m a voiceover guy, I LOVE ad agencies! – but out of love. Tough love,

So now that I’ve had my rant, I’m going to go take a rest. But be forewarned – if Ford Trucks comes out with a TV commercial featuring a male sheep, I might need to write another blog post.

===================================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

You Can Learn a Lot From a Boysenberry

This post was originally published nearly two years ago, on Sept. 18, 2012. With summer here and berry-picking in full-swing (well, blueberries and strawberries, anyway), I thought it would be a good time to dust this off and share again, especially for those of you who have recently started following my blog and may not have had a chance to read it the first time.

Hope you’re enjoying your summer!

===================================================================

Several weeks ago, I was picking berries around my property when it occurred to me that what I was doing could actually be applied to writing and producing – as well as to life in general.  (What can I say – as a writer of poetry, I’ve developed a sort of radar for metaphor!)

Seriously, though, I started thinking about it and came up with five life lessons I’ve learned from berry picking. Consider these:

Patience

Just because a boysenberry looks ripe, doesn’t mean it is.  The pericarp, or outer wall of the seed, may be nice and indigo-black, but leave it on the branch for another couple of days, and it’ll be practically bursting – plus, there will almost no seed left.  If you can’t wait, go ahead and pick ‘em when they’re ready…you’ll definitely enjoy them.  However, in berry-picking, as in life, those of us with a little patience will be rewarded greatly!

Group Effort

Speaking of seeds, have you ever tasted one boysenberry or raspberry seed by itself?  Even if you did, you’d barely be able to tell, because they’re so tiny.  Individually, the flavour is difficult to discern – but when you have en entire berry of bulbous seeds, that’s when you can really taste their true deliciousness.  Although each one might be ripe, full, and perfectly developed, by themselves they would barely be noticed.  But put them all together, and you’re talkin’ some good eating!  A boysenberry truly is greater than the sum of its parts.

Tenacity

Don’t judge a bush by its branches.  The berries you see hanging are likely not the only berries on the bush.  Lift a few leaves, and SURPRISE!  There may very well be a plethora of sweetness waiting for you underneath.

Then again, you might have to just keep looking.  I love the bushes that have big, juicy berries dangling from every branch, but sometimes there just aren’t any.  Sometimes you need to not only lift the leaves and poke around, but go in search of other bushes you may not even know exist.  I’ve discovered plenty of good, healthy boysenberry bushes because I had to.  When what you want can’t be found, it doesn’t mean it’s not there…it just means it hasn’t been found.  Keep looking.

Diversity

When you think of ‘berries,’ what comes to mind?  Raspberries? Blueberries?  Strawberries?  Even if you’re into the more exotic varieties like wolfberries (also known as goji berries) or acai berries, we all tend to think of berries as having a particular ‘look.’  Most people don’t realize how diverse the berry family actually is.

Case in point:  which of the following is, botanically speaking, a berry?

- grape
– persimmon
– tomato
– banana
– pumpkin
– pineapple
– avocado
– watermelon

If you guessed “all of them,” well, congratulations – you obviously studied hard on your Botany 301 exam while your drunk college roomates were having that wet t-shirt contest the night before finals.  Yes, every single one of these is, indeed, a true berry.  I’ll save you the details on why; suffice it to say that it has to do with how they grow and develop.  And you know what?  Boysenberries, raspberries, and strawberries aren’t true berries.

Ain’t that a kick in the head?

Rebirth/Renewal

This final point is not as metaphysical as it sounds; it’s actually a fact of nature.  Boysenberry bushes grow on a two-year cycle – one year, they will produce tons of berries, the next year, hardly anything.  Then the following year, the berries are back!  So in order to try to guarantee berries every year, the bushes need to get cut down to only about a foot high at the end of the season.  Pruning puts the bushes in ‘regrowth’ mode, so to speak, so that the following year will be berry-ful.

Likewise, in writing, audio production, or even life, sometimes it helps to just stop what we’re doing and start over from where we started having problems, if not from the beginning.  Is there a friend or family member who is constantly causing you grief?  If they are a drain on your emotions, perhaps it’s time to simpy end the relationship and move on.  Are you having trouble reconciling a plot point or fleshing out a character?  Perhaps you need to consider revising your plot – or eliminating or significantly changing the character.  Can’t get the right sound you’re looking for in your audio production?  Yes, you might just need to keep working on it…or it could be that you need to rethink your entire approach.  Quitting and starting over can often be a wonderful thing, if you’re willing to try it.

Love and other metaphors…

Did you know that boysenberries, rasperries, and strawberries are part of the rose family?  For someone like me, who loves berries (even if they’re not true berries!), it makes perfect sense.  Roses have, for centuries, symbolized love or friendship, and being a guy, I’m not much into receiving flowers as a gift; but give me a slice of warm blueberry pie, a chocolate-covered strawberry, or even quart of fresh black raspberries, and I’m in Heaven.

Ah, yes…love is, indeed, a many-splendoured thing, and comes in a variety of shapes, colours, and flavours. And usually pint- and quart-sized containers.

Think I’ll go out to the garden and see how the tomatoes are doing.

===================================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

My Life as a Lazy Bum (or, How I Went a Week Without Working and Still Survived)

Tork beach 1

York Beach, Maine…our cottage was a 30-second walk from here.

As you may know, I went on vacation with my wife and two youngest kids last week. I was looking forward to it, as I’d never gone anywhere for an entire week of vacation before, and I knew I’d be leaving work behind. I knew I would not even LOOK at a computer, much less perform work-related duties o one. I brought my cellphone, but with limited internet access, that was only good for keeping in touch with family if necessary.

We weren’t going to be online, I wouldn’t be submitting any auditions for voiceover gigs, I wouldn’t be keeping up with my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts…everything was on auto-pilot.

Surprisingly, I didn’t even get around to doing the kind of “work” I thought I would be doing…writing!

York

Low tide at Longsands…so called because all the sand is wet and hard-packed – and easy to walk on!

Everything took a back seat to FAMILY

We drove about an hour and a half over to York, Maine to stay in a cute little summer cottage owned by some friends of ours. With a 30-second walk to the beach, you can imagine where we spent much of our time.

I love the ocean, so the fact that we were on the shore and in the water each day was a joy unto itself. That my 4-year-old son was thrilled to be there made it that much more enjoyable. Whether he was digging in the sand, splashing in the water, searching the shoreline for seashells after high tide, or simply running around like a lunatic, he was having the time of his life.

His 10-month-old sister, meanwhile, was content eating the sand, which we were constantly having to shovel out of her mouth. It may have been disgusting, but she seemed to enjoy it.

Then there were the walks downtown. It only took about 20 minutes to get to the center of town, so we walked there nearly every day, as well. One day we stopped by the playground area then had some ice cream. Another day we walked over to York’s Wild Animal Kingdom. Next day we went shopping and I tried a dark-chocolate-covered frozen key lime pie slice on a stick (That was almost the highlight of the week).

York - house 1

Our little home-away-from-home.

We ate breakfast on the deck each morning and I cooked dinner on the grill almost every night.

And between the walking and the swimming and the playing and the grilling and the eating…I never had time to write.

But I didn’t mind. I was too happy!

Plenty of inspiration

I had brought my moleskin notebook – the one my wife gave me several years ago – to jot down notes and lines and other ideas…but it didn’t even make it into my hand.

We were having so much fun, I realized that any effort to break away from what the family was doing was a detriment. Now, some writer friends may say that spending a week along the ocean without putting pen to paper just once is a sacrilege…but I think differently.

Although I had planned on writing, had wanted to write, and even could have found the time if I really tried…the experience allowed me to soak up more than enough inspiration – possibly inspiration I might have missed if I had been writing.

Ideas, ideas, ideas

York - Nubble lighthouse 1

The Nubble Lighthouse (aka, the Cape Neddick Lightstation)

At some point, I’ll get writing about the trip. Perhaps I’ll craft a poem about my little dude’s kite that he loved watching soar high, high in the air. I might also write about his experience watching a butterfly hatch from a cocoon at York’s Wild Kingdom.

Maybe I’ll write about seashells we found, or the dogs we saw running along the shoreline early in the morning and late in the evening.

I already have some ideas I’ve been fleshing out in my head about lighthouses, crashing waves, and s’mores.

So just because I didn’t submit any auditions doesn’t mean I’ll never get another voiceover gig again. And just because I didn’t do any writing doesn’t mean I don’t have plenty to write about. I’m looking forward to seeing what I come up with in the weeks ahead!

I just might even write a poem about the seagull that pooped on my wife’s head while we were walking downtown. Memories like that can last a lifetime.

===================================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

 

 

 

I’ve never really done this sort of thing before…

Lots of people I know have done it. Many do it all the time…while others only do it now and then.

Some have never done it at all.

I am one of the latter.

My admission:

Oh sure, I’ve taken days off from work. I’ve had a week or more vacation time and usually spent it hanging around the house, going on day trips,. and generally doing everything I can to not work. (And really, it’s not that hard.)

But the one thing I’ve never done is plan out my vacation time – schedule my days so I know what I’ll be doing and when. And although to some folks that may seem a bit too…oh, I don’t know – “Type-A”…it’s not really going to be that hard or cumbersome.

Because my daily plans are all part of one giant, week-long plan:

The beach!

Now, the family and I  live just a little over an hour from the coast, so I usually try to spend several days – scattered throughout the summer – at the beach. But this year, I’ll be ocean side every day of the week!  One day we’ll spend with the kids along the shore…one day we plan on taking the kids to see some of the local sights near the ocean…the next day we’ll be back in the water and then get dinner out.

It’ll be just like a trip to the Bahamas but without the airsickness.

My premonition:

Sea Glass coverI have a sneaking suspicion that just because I’m on vacation doesn’t mean my blog will be on hiatus. I have too much planned!

In keeping with the ocean theme of next week, I’m looking forward to sharing a review of Richard Michelson’s new children’s book, S is for Sea Glass: A Beach Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Press, 2014) on Tuesday as well as one of my own beach-themed children’s poems for Poetry Friday.

Since these posts are being written and scheduled this week, I probably won’t be able to respond to any comments next week (I’m on vacation, after all!), but please know I’ll be looking forward to reading any and all that might get posted.

Why can’t I be bothered to respond to comments, you ask? It’s certainly not because I don’t value feedback or the time folks take to share their thoughts. I do!

My reason is fairly simple…

My admonition:

Even if you don’t plan every detail of your week or so off…try to let work go.

Vacation isn’t really vacation if you still feel the need to audition for gigs, answer emails, and carry on business conversations on your cellphone while halfway up the stairwell to the “Eye of the Storm” waterslide. I realize big gigs come along and you’d hate to miss out – but you’re missing  out on your vacation time! And if yo don’t get the gig…what do you have to show?

They call it “R&R” because it stands for rest and relaxation – not ‘replies’ and ‘retweets.”

I prefer the “Triple-Ds.” We all need to de-stress, decompress, and give those old brains of ours a little diversion. I’ll be the first to admit my work is fun, but so is playing in waves and building sand castles with your son while you try to keep the 10-month-old from eating sand. There’s plenty of pleasure in life if you’re able and willing to stop for a minute and indulge in it.

Fortunately for me, my work includes creative writing – which is also an immensely pleasurable pursuit perfect for vacationing along beaches.

If you need me, I’ll be in my office…

York beach

photo courtesy of exploremainetoday.com

===================================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

How to disappoint customers in two easy steps

Have you ever had a problem with a product or service, brought it to someone’s attention, and had the issue resolved?

How did you feel afterward? Pleased, satisfied, impressed?

Or did you still feel pangs of disappointment?

If, after the problem had been resolved, you continued to be annoyed or irritated at everything that had transpired, well congratulations…you just learned how not to treat your own customers.

Disappointment: anyone can do it!

agreements,business concepts,collaborations,collages,commerce,communications,concepts,data,exchanges,Fotolia,ideas,information,internet,laptop computers,meetings,networking,technologiesLetting down a customer or client really is so easy, one can do it without even realizing it. After all, it’s simple to be presented with a problem, take the path of least resistance and correct it, and expect the customer to be happy. This is what young folks new to the workforce seem to get taught.

“If a customer is unhappy, say ‘Sorry about that.’ If they’re a pain about it, give them a refund and send them on their way.”

Seriously, that’s what it feels like teens are instructed to do these days, isn’t it?  But fixing problems (ie, keeping your customers happy) is not that simple. Sometimes, fixing a problem is not enough. Sometimes – in fact, oftentimes – you need to fix the problems created by the first problem.

And unless you actually have genuine concern for the person you’re dealing with, you won’t be able to properly deal with a problem and make amends the way they should be made.

What am I talking about?

Example #1:

Last month, I planned a surprise birthday dinner get-together for my wife at a local restaurant. Started decades ago by a few Greek business partners, this place has become a landmark in the area for good food and casual dining. Having been their innumerable times since I was a kid, I knew the menu would have something for everyone’s tastes. I also knew they didn’t take reservations.

If you get there on a Saturday night, chances are you’ll have an hour wait, minimum, so I called about a month beforehand and asked how they handled large dinner parties. “Oh, we can take reservations before 4pm,” the nice lady on the other end told me. I told her how many people there would be and that we’d like tom plan for 3pm, and she said they’d set aside an area large enough for the whole group.

Great!

Imagine my surprise, then, when we didn’t get seated until nearly an hour later.

Apparently, they don’t take reservations – they have something called ‘priority seating,’ so that once a table or area becomes available, it can be used by the party who “reserved” it. Consequently, some of our guests, who had travelled from out of state, had been standing around waiting in the foyer for nearly an hour and a half before we were seated.

When I called a couple of days later to express to the manager my absolute disbelief and disappointment, I was given a refresher course in priority seating and was told that he was very sorry for the confusion. He would definitely make sure the staff know not to refer to priority seating as reservations.

And then we hung up.

* First step: Do nothing!

It’s one thing for a regular employee with little to no training to basically say, “Sorry we ruined your wife’s birthday party – hope you come back again!” It’s another thing for a manager who’s supposed to understand customer service to say that.

I doubt we’ll ever be back, thanks.

Example #2:

tomato pasteA couple of weeks ago, I was making spaghetti sauce using a recipe. (I NEVER use a recipe, but in this case, I needed to – long story).  Anyway, I opened up a can of tomato paste and discovered that half of it was missing! The way it had been poured into the can had left the center completely hollow, so I ended up with only half the tomato paste I needed.

Being a fairly proficient cook, I made the sauce with no issues; however, I did make a point to call the customer service number on the can. You might think missing half of a 69-cent can of tomato paste is irrelevant and not worth your time, but the Yankee in me knew that I had not fully received that for which I had paid. Granted, it wasn’t anyone’s fault, I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t even annoyed…but I did feel I deserved a full can, since that’s what I had paid for.

The customer service rep was polite and friendly, apologized, took my information, and said he would make sure I received something for my trouble.

He was right, too. I received a coupon for a free 69-cent can.

Ironically, that made me more annoyed than I was to begin with! Why?

* Second step: Do something – but only the bare minimum!

Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m not the type who thinks he deserves the moon and stars just because of a tiny issue with a 69-cent can of tomato paste. But why only compensate a customer for the monetary value of the product, when the problem created more issues for the consumer? I had to use up another can of tomato paste, which I  had to find in the pantry, which made me take longer to cook the sauce, and then I had to take the time to call the company and explain the problem…all for them to compensate me 69 cents?

Again, I’m not saying this because I want all kinds of free stuff – but providing a bare minimum of compensation (especially when it’s a mere 69 cents) makes it seem like a company is placating a customer rather than helping them.

Satisfaction vs. Loyalty

Back in 1998, business trainer and author Jeffrey Gitomer wrote a book titled, Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless (1998, Bard Press).  The title is based on Gitomer’s belief that “satisfaction” is the lowest level of quality a business can provide before heading into negative territory.

And he’s right! If a customer is less-than-satisfied, you have a problem! So why aim for the low rung on the ladder of customer happiness? The thrust of the book is that one shouldn’t aim for mere ‘satisfaction’ – one should do anything and everything possible to ensure that customer remains loyal. Show genuine sincerity and concern…go above and beyond what the customer expects you to do…rectify the problem and make the customer want to tell people what happened!

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have a happy customer tell people how I fixed their problem, than have an unhappy customer tell people they’ll never patronize my business again.

Do you want someone providing you bare minimum assistance? Do you want to deal with a company that appears more interested in doing what is ‘expected’ rather than doing what’s right? Do you want to work with someone who expects the empty phrase, “Sorry about that,” to be their go-to response?

Then don’t be that company! If you have a customer who has a problem, look at it from their perspective and don’t just fix the problem. Make them happy.

Make them loyal!

===================================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

 

Post Navigation

Laura Purdie Salas

writing the world for kids

Tying together poetry, parenting, and advertising in a neat little package

The Drawer Of M. M. Socks

Stories - Tall and Short for the Tall and Short

Catherine M Johnson

Feed your imagination here

You've Got Your Hands Full

Just another WordPress.com site

Jama's Alphabet Soup

an eclectic feast of food, fiction and folderol

Creative Writing with the Crimson League

Creative Writing Tips and Authorial Support from Fantasy Writer Victoria Grefer

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

Blog & website of children's book author Tara Lazar

Julie True Kingsley's Blog

Musings on really nothing...

Dave Courvoisier's Blog

Tying together poetry, parenting, and advertising in a neat little package

Florian Cafe

Tying together poetry, parenting, and advertising in a neat little package

sharon abra hanen

children's literature, poetry, & other magical creative stuff

crackles of speech.............. poems for all ages................... by steven withrow

Tying together poetry, parenting, and advertising in a neat little package

Tying together poetry, parenting, and advertising in a neat little package

J.S. Gilbert

Copywriting, Advertising Creative, Voice Over Talent and a few surprises

The Poem Farm

Tying together poetry, parenting, and advertising in a neat little package

DAN O’DAY TALKS ABOUT RADIO

Tying together poetry, parenting, and advertising in a neat little package

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,345 other followers

%d bloggers like this: