3 Principles for Reclaiming Work – A Labor Day Manifesto

WORDS YOUR WAY BLOG

3 Principles for Reclaiming Work – A Labor Day Manifesto

3 Principles for Reclaiming Work “Work more and better,” Woody Guthrie allegedly commanded himself on the eve of 1942. More compelling than pursuing balance, simpler than following a passion, more self-determined than any quest for a satisfying “career.” Here are three principles for making your work your own: Your work is your work — whether or not you ever commercialize, monetize, or professionalize it. Paradox: take your work seriously enough and it will eventually pay. Doing something for money doesn’t make it your work. Don’t exchange the right to define your work for a paycheck. Be ruthless and clear about how you need to be compensated. What do you need from your job? Money? Structure to hang your day on? Social contact to balance solitary work? Beware of arrangements that hijack your reward system by promising you an identity, a social position, or a mission.
Barbara Ruth Saunders is a writer, editor, and writing coach.

Stephen King’s On Writing — Oh, the Horror!

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Stephen King’s On Writing — Oh, the Horror!

Reading Stephen King’s On Writing leaves me at turns inspired and depressed. And no, it’s not the money or the fame! I am deep in the section where he talks about writing and language. His primary metaphor, a workman’s tool box. The earlier sections of the book describe King’s working class childhood, various dead end jobs, and his stint as a (low-paid) schoolteacher. To my friends’ annoyance I often fantasize about being a plumber or janitor. I usually compare such a path favorably to certain prestige jobs I’ve held and hated (and that will remain nameless here!) Truth is: I am a klutz with my hands and would probably suck at a skilled trade. I probably would also be bored. The source of the fantasy is that writing as an activity (including business writing) feels to me more like a construction job than like anything people do in cubicles and suits and matrixed teams. In certain past career experiences, I’ve felt as if I walked in the door to fix the sink only to be escorted to a dressing room, asked to change into uncomfortable clothes, and then expected to adopt demeanor entirely foreign to me and irrelevant to my work.
Barbara Ruth Saunders is a writer, editor, and writing coach.

Read the Fine Print

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Read the Fine Print

Sometimes being my own IT person kinda sucks.

A big-box office retailer that shall remain nameless has a big sign: $50 dollars off on select [weasel word!] printers costing $199 or more when you recycle your old printer. On the bottom of the sign are logos for Brother, HP, Canon, Epson, and Lexmark.

I ask the tech guy for a recommendation, and he suggests I go with a $199 HP LaserJet. It prints only in black & white, but he says part of the reason color printers break so often is that when you don’t use the color much, the ink dries out and damages the print head.

We go to ring it up, and the discount SKU doesn’t work. He calls the manager over, and he tries several different codes. He walks out and looks at the sign, confirms that I should get $50 off, and tries again.

You know what’s coming.

In fine print, the discount flyer the sales clerks use at the register say that Brother, Canon, Epson, and Lexmark printers are $50 off for a $199 printer. HP printers: $299! Not even $249, which would at least let you get the presumably better HP printer for the price of the lesser, cheaper brands.

The original clerk, who is also the install guy, takes me back to look at the $199 printers but says people have much more trouble with the software, use, install, etc. on the other brands because HP’s software is much better. (He seemed honest, and they’d have to have serious con man training to have developed a fake discount-upsell routine so elaborate.)

So, I spent more than I intended to. I hope this damned printer will last!

Barbara Ruth Saunders is a writer, editor, and writing coach.

3 Holiday Web Tips for Brick-and-Mortar Businesses

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3 Holiday Web Tips for Brick-and-Mortar Businesses

I did not travel to see family this holiday week, so I’m hanging around in my usual neighborhoods, looking for things to do and places to dine with my friends. With so many shops and restaurants closed at unusual times, businesses with long holiday hours had a great opportunity to make money picking up the slack, and even to gain new regulars or fans. Unfortunately many businesses lost this opportunity. Some simple tips: 1. Put your phone number on a prominent place on your home page. This is a good idea year round: many prospective customers can call you with a tap to a mobile phone screen. During the holidays, there are probably people roaming around near your storefront whose original destination was unexpectedly closed. 2. Make a special Web banner or post about your holiday hours. On Christmas Eve, I wanted to eat at my favorite local restaurant. The phone message had not changed; it gave only their regular hours. Nothing on the Web site about holiday hours either. If they were open, they lost me. If not, they annoyed me. 3. The holidays are a great time to offer promotions. Publicize these on your Web site. These don’t have to be expensive. Develop co-branded offerings with other businesses that are close or simply post reciprocal banners like, “Shopping all day? Tired feet? Get 10% off of a reflexology massage at MyHappyBody between December 23 and January 1st with $100 purchase from ShoesShoesShoes.” and “$10 off your purchase at ShoesShoesShoes with a receipt from any spa service at MyHappyBody the same day.” Just a little forethought can make for a more prosperous year’s end.
Barbara Ruth Saunders is a writer, editor, and writing coach.

How To Kill Creativity

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How To Kill Creativity

Is everyone creative? The debate rages. Let’s stipulate that everyone is … or can be.

So, why do companies have trouble getting employees to be “creative,” and why do so many people feel stifled at work?

One model of the creative process suggests that there are 4 stages:
1. Preparation
2. Incubation
3. Illumination
4. Implementation

To my observation, most companies (and many creativity consultants) attempt to push people from stage #1 right to stage #3. The popular technique of brainstorming is a prime example. When a group brainstorms, people throw out ideas without censoring them, and capture them in the hopes that the process will produce rough gems that can be mined for value forthwith.

Contrast that to the idiosyncratic processes employed by productive creative people from artists to entrepreneurs to programmers. After deciding to tackle the project or possibility and before spitting out ideas and proposals, they let things percolate. They get up from the desk and go for a run. They bake. They take naps. They temporarily detach themselves from the problem at hand. Typically they spend some time in solitude. They relax their time frame for coming up with that Great Idea.

Want to help your people be more creative? Shred those copies of Never Eat Alone.

Barbara Ruth Saunders is a writer, editor, and writing coach.