S is for School Supplies

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What is a post about school supplies doing in a series about a home office? Perhaps the better question is what are all these school supplies doing in my office?

Because there are a lot of school supplies – two bins and a miscellaneous stack of junk. These are the items I purchase using the helpful list the school provides at the end of each year to help us prepare for the fall. When fall rolls around, the list has inevitably changed and half the stuff trickles back home and curls up to die in my office.

It’s usually too late to donate or return these items so I stash them. Then, before we purchase school supplies for the following year, we paw through this pile looking for things like:

  • One steno notebook in red
  • Five pocket folders, one of which must be puce
  • Fifty-six glue sticks we will not use before they fossilize
  • One round-nose scissors to replace the one last year’s teacher threw out when your child left his bag in the classroom for five minutes after the final bell rang
  • The largest three-ring binder known to man

It’s a great system.

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R is for Rodents

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We live in a lovely wooded area. My “office” has beautiful views and shade that keeps the house cool most of the summer.

And I’m surrounded by wildlife. I bet you’re picturing the deer, coyotes, and foxes that occasionally wander through the yard. Or the majestic birds that soar by - eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, turkeys. (OK, turkeys aren’t exactly majestic, nor do they soar, but you get my drift.)

Oh, yes, I’m surrounded by wildlife…but the ones who frequent my space are mice, voles and squirrels. (In case you’re thinking to yourself right now, “Squirrels are not rodents,” rest assured. I looked it up.)

These unwholesome critters are drawn to the bird feeder that drops seed right outside my garden-level office window. There they scratch, dig and make a general nuisance of themselves all day and night.

The squirrels are a real pleasure. They don’t just graze. They rumble. As in fight. Each other. And when they do, they slam into the window with an alarming racket, thumping and scratching against the glass, sending me flying out of my chair, and the cats running to the window sill. (We call it cat TV.)

So when I say my co-workers are pests, I really mean pests. As in vermin.

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Q is for Quagmire

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Which is what I’m in, because I couldn’t think of anything that starts with Q – and me a copywriter! Or should I say qopywriter?

I tried, but everything I came up with seemed too boring. Questions? Quality time? Questionable qualifications?

No, no, and no.

What a quandary. I was disquieted. My writer’s block left me quaking (not really) and a little queasy (closer). But after churning out a large quantity of posts on my quest to blog A to Z, I thought I could give myself a break. It is Saturday after all.

Now I’ve quelled my qualms.

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P is for Proofreading

work-at-homeAs I promised yesterday, a post about proofreading. It took me a while to land on a post for P. Products? Passwords? Pesky pets? It seems I could write about P all day (a joke my 10- and 11-year-old boys would appreciate).

I finally settled on Proofreading because of something I felt compelled to do the other day – send the head of a company a note advising that he have someone review his copy. Preferably someone who can spell.

I know how hard it can be to produce error-free copy (especially in the era of autocorrect) so I’ll typically give an organization one typo. But the communication this company sent was embarrassing – a notification for a conference that contained (with my limited perusal) three obvious typos, including one so heinous it moved me to action. When I sent myself an email link to the conference site, the auto-generated subject line contained a typo, a word any 2nd grader can spell.

Think about it – if I had sent this email to someone else suggesting they attend the conference it would have looked like my error. Horrors! I can’t think of a single one of my charming marketing friends who would have let that go by (I love you guys!) and then I would have felt compelled to explain that it wasn’t my error, leading to a long, annoying email chain.

I don’t really expect a response from this individual. He’s probably more annoyed than he is grateful. But I did him a favor by pointing out these errors. *Waits nervously for someone to point out the obvious typo in this post*

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O is for Obvious Opportunity

work-at-homeOne of the side effects of being a copywriter is you see bad copy everywhere you look. Everywhere. It’s darn near epidemic.

A copywriter zeroing in on bad copy  must be a little like a dermatologist spotting moles on random strangers, or an auto body repair specialist eyeing other peoples’ dents. But I digress.

As a service to the reading public, I thought I’d offer a few, brief copy suggestions. I’m sorry to tell you that they’re all drawn from real-life examples:

  • Don’t make up words. Like stratecution which, if you haven’t already figured it out is the combination of strategy and execution. Yuck. Who could possibly think that’s a good idea? Another beauty, courtesy of Diane at Thinkspring Marketing: updation. Because update is so passé. These sound like words my kids say when they get confused. And they make me a little nauseated.
  • Don’t use acronyms! Please, I beg you! No one outside your company knows what they mean! Really!
  • Don’t overuse exclamation points. Sorry, couldn’t resist throwing that one in.
  • Watch your headlines. My favorite examples are both from schools. The first, from a school called Crucifixion, advertised that great event, the Crucifixion Summer Fun Fest. Sign me up! Another, from a school whose mascot is a wolverine, showcased their annual fundraiser, the Wolverine Lasagna Dinner. Yum.
  • Don’t beg the question. For example, don’t start a sales letter for life insurance with the sentence “This isn’t just another life insurance solicitation.” Because of course it is. And don’t start an email communication with “Exciting account changes are coming soon,” because they aren’t exciting. As much as you might hope they are.
  • Proofread. More about that one tomorrow.

Although, as copywriters, we may find it painful to read these examples it does have one upside - we don’t feel obsolete. Which is a good thing, because at this stage of my career,  I really don’t want to have to take my skills through an updation process.

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N is for Noise

work-at-homeBelieve it or not, I’m referring to desirable noise.

From time to time, I like to have some background noise while I work. For years, my background noise of choice was public radio. But in the last few months, I’ve found I just can’t listen to it anymore.

The news is too grim, and the programming is dominated by health reporting - if they aren’t talking about disease, they’re talking about treating disease, diagnosing disease, or preventing disease (can you say aging demographic, anyone?)

I’ve fallen out of love, but some days I still need the noise. So I found myself resorting to something I never thought I’d do – turning on the TV.

Wow, is daytime TV awful. 800 channels and I can’t find anything that’s even tolerable as background noise. I can’t begin to think what weird picture of us a being from another planet would have if all they knew about us was what they picked up from a satellite feed. We’re nuts. If you can believe the TV. Which you can’t.

The only programming I’ve been able to stomach is the steady stream of home improvement shows dominated by young, first-time home buyers with seemingly bottomless budgets, and desperate-to-renovate couples with tiny, boisterous children and unrealistic expectations. I’ve done enough home renovation that I like seeing the walls come down, and seeing what a finished project actually looks like since most of our household projects hit about 85% done and stay there until we need to renovate again.

It’s sad, I know. But I’m just not used to the quiet.

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M is for Monday

work-at-homeI know, it’s Tuesday, and I’ve written about Monday before – but really, can you say too much about Monday? And since this is also Tax Day, doesn’t it feel a bit like a Monday?

We all know what Monday feels like. And worse, that feeling creeps into Sunday. I don’t think there is an employee out there who hasn’t experienced the onset of the Sunday blues, that sinking realization that within hours, you will be at your desk steeped in the horrors you abandoned on your desk on Friday.

I don’t feel that way anymore. Haven’t felt that way since I quit my corporate job. Even though I have to prep the rest of the family for Monday, it often comes as a relief to me. Yes, our weekends are busy, and yes my crew often leaves a disaster in their wake, but at least I get the house to myself for a few hours.

As I say to my family most Mondays, with the highest level of affection, “I can’t wait to see the backs of you people today.”

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L is for Leftovers at Lunch

work-at-homeWhen I left my office job one of the key reasons was this: I wanted to put a decent dinner on the table every night. No more running to the grocery store on my lunch hour in a frantic effort to head off a dinner disaster. No more greasy carry-out. No more staring into the refrigerator in desperation at 6:30 with three hungry, whiny kids in the background.

I am happy to say that of all the goals I had for working at home, this is one I’ve achieved. We eat healthy, home-cooked food, and there’s a side to this I didn’t anticipate – we have great leftovers.

Most evenings, I squirrel away a nice, lunch-sized portion of whatever we had for dinner. The next day when I want lunch, I meander up to the kitchen and dine on homemade soup, or stew, or the last of the big kale salad – and the last cup of coffee. Not bad.

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K is for Karate

work-at-homeAnd dance. And baseball. And all the other activities that make it seem impossible for me to hold a “regular” job. Since my husband travels for work, most of the transport for activities falls to me.

It started with one preschool dance class. I would dress my daughter in a tiny leotard and take her down the street to the studio where I would pretend to watch her from the parents’ waiting room while instead chasing two toddler boys up and down the hallway for 45 minutes. Aggravating, but manageable.

But karate started the scales tipping. Karate meant two (and for a brief while, three) kids in activities. It required a drive in rush hour traffic, and it took place during the dinner hour, which made is seem overwhelming at the time. Little did I know I would pine for the days when we had just dance and karate.

Now, my schedule requires the precision of launching the space shuttle – one blip and you have to scrub the whole mission. Here’s what the kids’ activities looked like this week:

  • Monday – two dances classes, and an orthodontist appointment
  • Tuesday – dance team practice, two lacrosse practices, and a dance class
  • Wednesday – two lacrosse games (away), and a dance class
  • Thursday – dance team practice, and one baseball practice
  • Friday – nothing, wow!
  • Saturday – baseball field clean-up, one baseball practice, dance team practice, two lacrosse practices, and an outing to a professional lacrosse game – makes up for Friday
  • Sunday – one lacrosse game, and a dance competition

And then it starts all over again. Once baseball season is in full swing, there are several nights we have a total of four activities on the calendar, all during the same timeframe. Obviously, we won’t make them all. I’ll be throwing a few darts.

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J is for Jammies

work-at-homeYou know, pajamas – the uniform of the self-employed. That’s what everyone thinks, right? That we all sit around in our pjs all day.

Well, I guess I’ve done that a few times. It usually happens when I get an early start on my day and then find hours later that I haven’t left the desk long enough to get dressed. Now that’s devotion to the work!

But most days you’ll find me in yoga pants and a ratty sweatshirt, thank you very much. I’m much too respectable to wear my pajamas all day long.

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