Last year, one of my experiences as a mother was featured in a parenting magazine. The article was about my soon-to-be new boss, Emelye Lovell, then director of Bellman Agency in Melbourne, and how she wrote a gorgeous letter to my children after I was lucky enough to be offered the job.
The article was widely shared and commented upon. I was so pleased that not only was Emelye's empathy and understanding recognised, but that the balancing act that is motherhood was in strong focus.
You can read that story here. Meanwhile, I'm moved again to write as another friend, Kasey Edwards, recently launched her new book, Guilt Trip. The book is about Kasey's experience not only as a mother but as a female.
At the launch (which Emelye and I both attended, along with many fabulous women and men) host Clare Bowditch set the tone with her warm wit and impeccable humour, while Kasey had us transfixed and nodding in agreement as she described guilt over her career, parenting, weight and basically everything that seems to be part and parcel of being a woman.
While Emelye and I are vastly different in age (she's still in her 20s without kids, I have a a teen daughter and 10 year old son), the beauty of Kasey's talk was that it was so relatable to both of us. Laugh-out-loud relatable. Tear-jerkingly relatable.
That's what good writers like Kasey do. They can present a situation and make it distinctly real and applicable to us all, by writing and speaking about it in frank, unreserved terms. There's no room for frippery or euphemisms. And while Kasey writes beautifully, meaningfully and with conviction and candidness, in my view the real talent is being able to bring together people, particularly women of all backgrounds and ages, from all walks of life, who may feel guilty about their career progress, their parenting, their 'failings' and tell them, basically, we are all doing the best we can and it's time to shed that goddamn guilt.
So strike a sword - gilt-edged, not guilt-edged - through those feelings of failure. It's time for celebration and above all compassion. Can't do or be it all? Who cares. There's more to life than worrying about the size of our thighs or whether our kids should have had oats (good) or Froot Loops (bad) for breakfast! Thank you Kasey. x
PS the launch was in May, so yes, this is a very late post (life's busy). #guiltfree
Discover Kasey's book here: https://www.blackincbooks.com.au/books/guilt-trip
I was standing with my dad near the edge of a rocky cliff, somewhere near Port Fairy on Victoria’s rugged surf coast. The blustery wind whipped around us while he fidgeted with his camera, getting ready to take yet another photo of the ocean. As I looked down at the roaring waves crashing on the shore far below, I felt a sudden wave of panic and dizziness, and a feeling that I was going to plummet off the cliff. I backed away from the edge towards safety, sweaty with relief. I was ten years old.
While I was never officially diagnosed with acrophobia, or fear of falling, it’s common enough and afflicts many. That was the first time I’d felt its effects but after that it occurred regularly. As I got older, whenever I faced a similar situation, I would just say that I was ‘vertically challenged’. Obviously, I avoided cliffs and other high places.
Two decades later, I climbed to the summit of Sydney Harbour Bridge, to be rewarded not only by the stunning views all around me but with the knowledge that meeting one’s fears is a step towards defeating them, no matter how long you’ve harboured them (pun intended).
It’s an achievement I’m proud of, and while I still feel a little queasy if I’m looking down from a high place, my bridge climb demonstrated to me that joking around to avoid an issue doesn’t always help overcome it. Maybe you have some fear or issue that you don’t know how to deal with. For me, facing it – in fact doing something that was bound to confront it head on – was the best way to begin that process, and it can work for anyone. While I didn’t consciously set out to learn this life lesson when I booked my ticket to climb, I knew that the experience would certainly take me out of my comfort zone – in fact a lofty 141 metres high out of my comfort zone.
On a blissfully bright Sydney morning, I turned up to the climb company’s headquarters at base of the bridge, registered, met the rest of the fellow climbers in my group, did a short induction course with the friendly guide Nathan, and donned a grey onesie. Please note that during the 45 minutes that this was happening, I was in a state of mute freak-outery. I gave myself a quick pep talk in the changing cubicle.
“Relax! Remember, you’re going to be clipped onto a safety wire, wearing headphones!” Hmm, this thought didn’t really provide much comfort as I glanced at the bridge looming large above us, a colossus of steel arching across the twinkling harbour while trains – yes, trains – and cars zipped across its breadth. Too late! We were on our way. I was tied to this venture, both physically and spiritually.
We began by walking across narrow platforms, called catwalks, under the main road of the bridge. Next, we had to climb four (four!) ladders to the start of the upper arch.
This is where my nerve finally faltered. As I climbed the first of the ladders, trains rumbled by in both directions, causing the ladder – and me – to shake like a leaf. Or was my full-body shake caused purely by my unadulterated fear?
I’ll never know, but I do remember Nathan’s lighthearted encouragement from the front of the line coming through the headphones: “Oh – poor Jane! She copped two trains. Don’t worry Jane, just keep climbing!”
I thought, “There’s no way I can keep going.” Stuck on a ladder, far above the sea (again!) I felt like my whole body had turned to dull, heavy cement. Meanwhile, the breeze from the trains’ velocity made my absurdly baggy grey onesie flap like a parachute.
“Onwards and upwards,” I told myself, in a very feeble voice attempting to muster strength. Somehow, I swallowed down the rising nausea and started climbing again, one hand followed by one foot, rinse and repeat, until I reached the top of the fourth ladder where I was greeted with congratulations and backslaps from my fellow climbers.
My legs were a bit jelly-like after that experience, but after a while, at last, the summit was within reach. A steady climb without looking down too often – just looking straight ahead at the person in front of me, one step after the other... and all of a sudden, we were at the top!
We enjoyed a quick stop to take some photos of the breathtaking view of the city buildings, the Harbour, the Blue Mountains and of course the Opera House. We then continued along the spine of the bridge to the Darling Harbour side, and finally, it was time for our descent.
Looking at that amazing view, I felt both humbled and proud that I’d faced my fear. I still felt a little wobbly when looking down directly, but staring at the remarkable vista, I knew that even if I hadn’t conquered my fear, I’d at least given it a damn good thrashing in this sally. I felt happy in my quiet yet exhilarated state and soaked up the good vibes of the group.
I don’t remember much about the descent as I was so full of adrenalin and excitement, but I do recall feeling that this was an important moment in my life. Ever since, the dizziness, nausea and fear I’d experienced has subsided. I’ve even visited the top of Melbourne’s Eureka Tower more than once.
The essential life lesson I learned from my adventure is that it’s important to take the chance to face your fear or the obstacles that bother you. We all have them! Working towards building (or getting over) that bridge – yes, including those metaphorical ones – will be something you’ll never regret. And the view's pretty good too.
Shiver! Winter has certainly made its presence felt. At this time of year, in the Southern Hemisphere, thoughts turn to warmer climates and the smell and sounds of summer. Scrolling through friends' enviable holiday posts enjoying warm days in the US, Italy, France, Spain and South East Asia ... it's no wonder we all need a little time out from social media occasionally!
Yet, each season brings its own benefits and joys. Taking a rugged beach walk on a grey wintry day is both bracing and uplifting, it clears the cobwebs and refreshes the mind. Warm socks, hot cups of tea and wholesome hearty meals also make winter bearable. And if it's bitterly cold outside that means I'll just have to relax and read my book then!
Over the past few months we've been busy in the WordLaundry. We were given the responsibility of writing thousands of product descriptions for a large retailer's online catalogue, to a strict deadline. That's a lot of writing about anything and everything from Elsa the Snow Queen, to the absorbency of bath towels, to outdoor hose fittings! It was an enormous job and thankfully we got through it intact. Thanks Lisa and Ayesha for the hard work.
That kept us humming along busily for weeks (and humming along to Let it Go, unfortunately). Meanwhile I also completed a large assignment for the City of Melbourne, writing about long-standing small businesses in the city. This was a really interesting project and reinforced to me how fascinating Melbourne is - there are so many things going on at any time. It truly is a world city.
Other interesting work is hopefully in the pipeline so I'm certain this won't be a winter of discontent. Speaking of content, though, remember that if you need copywriting, proofreading or web content written, we can help you in the Laundry. Our copy is never dry (just like the washing, which never dries properly in winter!).
Four years ago I set up WordLaundry as an editing and proofreading business, armed with little more than a laptop and with a handful of clients on board.
The flexibility of working from home in South Melbourne while raising two young children has enabled steady growth of the 'Laundry. As I also write copy, on any given day I could find myself editing a manuscript, proofreading a business's corporate brochure, or writing creative SEO product descriptions for an online retailer.
I find doing the laundry in the traditional sense very monotonous, but it's one of those chores that has to be done. Some find it hard to write and edit what they're trying to say and are not sure how to put a jumble of words together to deliver their message. I can help you find the words you're looking for.
Read more about WordLaundry - and me - at www.wordlaundry.com.au. I've also pegged up a couple of testimonials for you to look at.
Give my services a spin and together we can clean up your copy, leaving it fresh, clean and crisp. Or we can write something from scratch. Email me and let's get started!
Today's Age newspaper has an interesting article by Andrew Heisel - reproduced from The Washingon Post - about the reasons we all make typos (editors and grammar enthusiasts included!) even though we are supposed to know the correct spelling or grammar usage. Unlike the picture above, it's not always smooth sailing out there!
A look at the psychology behind typos/errors is illuminating and as someone who's often had a private chuckle at a terrible typo online, I'm certainly prepared to learn more about this.
After all, to err is human; to wish to improve and learn is a goal for everyone... again, editors, writers and grammar enthusiasts included! It would be a foolhardy editor who claimed to know everything about anything to do with grammar. It's our job to encourage improvement and polish our clients' copy so they represent themselves at their best. Not to shame and embarrass them.
Blogs, online retailing, e-newsletters, digital advertisements and more have given writers many new ways to make a crust. Businesses seek writers with a range of skills, including writing for search engine optimisation (SEO) and the ability to blog about topics related to a particular product or service.
While SEO and blogging are relatively new, the tried-and-tested methods and processes for copywriting and editing largely stay the same. Here are some that have helped me over the years.
First, have a major brainstorming session. Just dump every thought or possibility about a product onto your page. Don't delete anything at this stage because you never know which idea will come in handy down the track.
Second, you turn those fragments into something that has meaning and purpose for your client’s aims. What is the client trying to achieve? This is part of the writing stage.
Then, you edit. This can be the hardest part as it’s when you roll up your sleeves and begin the hard slog. Attention to detail and ensuring the words are punchy and effective can be a long process, but it’s what turns good copy into amazing copy.
Some more tips:
Don’t waste words – write with brevity. Be lean and mean! Froth and bubble distracts the reader from the client’s main objective, which is to achieve sales/promote something. Sure, it may be the world’s most amazing set of salad servers/coasters, but don’t overdo the adjectives.
The length of a sentence is important. The longer the sentence, the more exhausted the reader becomes, and they’ll lose interest. Cut to the chase, with simple language and don’t overinflate your sentences. This includes using the active voice, rather than the passive.
Finally, don’t try to be too clever. I’m guilty as charged as a pun-lover with an addiction to getting the wittiest line in, but there are times when it becomes a bit too tortured! If it works, go for it. If it sounds too laboured when read aloud, it’s time to re-think what you’ve written.
Everyone works in different ways and the more experienced a writer is, the more they’ll stick to the methods that have brought them the most success. Do what brings the best results.
I love school holidays. The contrast from making school lunches, ensuring uniforms are washed and ready-to-wear, notices duly signed, the rush from one after school activity to the next and nightly homework patrol, to a change of scene, relaxed mornings and even a sleep in (I actually woke at 9 am this morning!) is a reminder of how much we actually manage to fit in, week after week during the term.
That includes work. Most of mine is done from home, and while my kids are not babies needing constant supervision, it’s not as though I can just slip into a work coma like I do when they’re at school. (Well, work coma is probably an embellishment, but you know what I mean.)
And of course lunches have to be made, dinners prepared, washing done. (I’m on day three of making pancakes for breakfast and the mess is piled up behind me, accusingly.)
Kids don’t take a break either from their tedious bickering or saying “I’m hungry”, but I can just gesture to the fully-stocked fruit bowl and banish them outside, to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine; climb a tree, go on the rope-swing. Their tiff quickly turns into giggling and I find myself smiling.
The weather has been warm and we've even had some days at the beach – and an emergency purchase of a pair of summery shorts for me – in September! I’m enjoying the adjustment, however short-lived, into relaxed mode. Still in pyjamas at 11 am? Who cares! Eating ice-creams before dinner goes against every fibre of my inner ‘Sensible Mum’ but ‘Holiday Mum’ says “Sure!”
By the time school goes back I’ll probably force my children out of my slow-moving car at the school drop-off zone and do a celebratory burnout. (Ah, probably not.)
It's not a tropical paradise, nor is it a mind-expanding European holiday. But right now, working late into the evening to meet deadlines, knowing there’s no morning rush and I can relax with the kids as they go about the business of being kids, this is exactly the sort of holiday that’s good enough for me.
Growing up, I couldn’t imagine being 42 (the age I’m fast approaching). I was 12 when my mum was 42 and while I didn’t think she was “old”, I certainly noticed things like her smile-wrinkles, slowly greying hair and skin that didn’t spring back like it used to.
Looking at old photos thirty years later, I can’t believe how youthful she looks at 42. Life can be cruel, not so much for what aging does to us, as that’s inevitable, but that our years of youthfulness are so relatively fleeting.
For me though, one aspect of the aging process had already begun when I was nine or 10. Sitting in class, someone behind me whispered that I had a grey hair. As a brunette, this unwelcome wisp of stark white must have been quite noticeable, to everyone except me.
I shrugged, ruffled my hair and concentrated on my school work, inwardly mortified. From that time on, my single grey hair multiplied, rabbit-like, into a few, then several.
By 15, I had noticeable strands of grey. At 18, a friend commented that she thought it was admirable that I refused to dye it (probably, I couldn’t afford it or couldn’t be bothered). I wore it defiantly at first, but after a while I relied on ponytails and strategic blow-drying and myriad other products to keep my “secret”.
I avoided going outside in strong wind. I hated sitting in audiences in case the person behind me noticed. The last straw – when I was 27 – was when someone accidentally bumped their foot into the back of mine on a busy street, and as I walked away, I heard them say, “Oops! I almost tripped that lady up!” Lady? I was a goddamn girl!
When I got home, I did the double mirror thing to check what I looked like from the back and resolved that I had to do something or the next time someone bumped into me, I wouldn't be “lady”, I’d be “elderly grandmother."
And so, it began. I shudder to think how much money I’ve spent over the past decade and a half. I’ve tried every brand of dye, all promising something different. I’ve watched the clock tick by for the required 40 minutes, a ruined towel draped over my shoulders, doing a messy DIY dye job at home. And more than once I’ve come home from the hairdresser disappointed with the result (too dark, not enough coverage, and so on)… I’ve even had drastically short haircuts in the misguided belief that the shorter it is, the easier it is to keep those resolute, indomitable greys in check.
I’d say I’m now 90 per cent grey underneath all those layers of chemical dyes and bleaches. And inevitably, despite my wild fantasy that by some miracle, my hair will stay shiny, glossy and dark forever, I fade to grey, back where I started.
Apparently early greying is a genetic thing and it’s quite common. And in recent times there has been a trend towards going naturally grey and I know of people who deliberately dye their hair grey, with often stunning results. I’m in two minds. When I broach the subject with friends their reaction is instant: “Don’t you dare." “You’re too young.” “Hang on for another decade or two.”
I can’t see me at the age of 52 – or 62 and beyond - dyeing my hair in the bathroom and continually ruining good towels in the process. I also can’t see myself completely grey… well, not yet.
On the one hand, it’s only hair and isn’t it more important to be a kind person and stop fretting about such a trivial, self-absorbed topic? People are starving! This is me, world – grey and proud. Take it or leave it.
Hmm…that’s all very well and in a way I’d love to be grey and proud, take it or leave it, but I know that confident, bolshie attitude would eventually slip down the drain like shampoo in an unskilled apprentice’s basin.
Perhaps my faulty hair is like the journey of life itself that we all face – the 50 (or 42) shades of uncertainty about getting old, and ways of dealing with it grey-cefully.
Now, about these wrinkles…
As the recent school holidays wound down, I found myself thinking about how this year I'll create amazing school lunches and how my children will make their beds every morning without having to be yelled at.
On that note, I also pledged to stop yelling and achieve a level of zen that will annoy even the zenniest of the zenny.
Ha. More realistically, I’m going to re-focus on my paid job, being an editor. For me, having kids and working from home means night-time is the only time - during the holidays - to do any work.
The rest of the time it’s either going to the beach, or… going to the beach. Or, the movies. (Frozen was great. We made a sand version of Olaf using little black pieces of seaweed for arms and a carrot-shaped shell for a nose. Inevitably, he was washed away.)
It was - and still is - a sweltering sort of summer where we holidayed and let's face it, over the break I didn’t feel like putting down my refreshing glass of Pimms/wine/g&t to crank up the laptop.
I’d tied up most loose ends by mid-December. Amid the Merry Christmas/Happy New Year wishes to clients, I’d mentioned that now that school holidays are on, we'll be going away, so see you in February, all the best till then. It was understood I would not be cutting short important family time (read: devouring my daughter’s entire collection of Diary of a Wimpy Kid while lounging under a gaily coloured beach umbrella) in order to focus on a particular project.
That’s all very well, I hear you say, but don’t you have an obligation to your clients? Yes, I agree. I believe I’m good at what I do, and that I attain a level of understanding and empathy with my clients which creates a good working relationship. Of course, any business experiences a few hiccups along the way but overall, it seems to be something that I'm kind of okay at (how's that for self-deprecating?). And I do have several repeat customers (maybe because my rates are so reasonable! Nice plug there...).
You’re thinking, what about those of us with real jobs? The wheels of industry stop for no-one, etc… Well, maybe you didn’t think that. Sorry. I know I'm lucky to be able to do a job I love from home. But I do think home-workers aren’t always taken seriously (and by home-workers I mean People Who Are Stay At Home Parents Who Work At Home And Do Some Housework If It Is Really Necessary - the acronym PWASAHPWWAHADSHIIIRN won’t fly, will it?)
Sadly, sometimes I find myself downplaying it too.
Pre-children, I worked in a demanding industry. I was looking forward to having my baby and – don’t laugh – having a rest. Since then, I’ve dabbled in a few things, (including having a second child), but my professional strengths and interest have always been the ‘humanities’ like literature, history, creative writing, and so on. At Uni I studied Arts (yes, I do want fries with that) - majoring in History. I've always been an avid reader (even - nay, especially - my kids' books). It seemed natural after years of having people asking me “Can you just have a look at this letter/proposal/complaint to local council” (that last one happened a lot) to advertise on Gumtree. Within a week I had my first client, and gleefully made my own business card.
Years later, while I am proud of the work I do, I find I often downplay it, especially to people I’ve just met or who work crazy macho hours. I find myself saying stuff like, "Oh, it’s just a little thing I do from home…can’t retire just yet ha ha”.
Why do I do this? I don’t know. Maybe because I'm not donning a corporate outfit every day and battling traffic to get to the office to a 'real' job? Believe me, there are times when that option seems infinitely more attractive than trying to do some work while ignoring the teetering pile of laundry or the breakfast dishes that still aren't done by 3pm.
Maybe my New Year’s resolution should have been to enjoy the fact of having had the choice to stay home for my children AND for being a PWASAHPWWAHADSHIIIRN.
Now that’s an idea that works for me.