blogging · My Life in General · Work Life · Writing

Writing About Myself Is Hard (So I Write About My Passion Project Instead)

veronica-jarski-is-writing

Give me a few minutes in any store, and inevitably, I’ll get into a conversation with a stranger. My friends and family tease me for it, but it’s one of the reasons I majored in journalism. People love to tell stories, and I love to hear them.

So, when we meet out in the suburban wilderness that is my local mini mall, we talk.

For example, as I walked through the supermarket parking lot last week, the security guard shouted a Doctor Who reference in my direction then approached me. That’s what happens when you wear a fandom shirt. Instead of being freaked out, you end up asking a complete stranger, “Who is your favorite doctor?” (pun completely intended) and you get to hear a 10-minute analysis of the character and how he’s similar yet different to his regenerations.

The week before that, I asked the clerk at an art supply store whether he had some extra Hello Kitty erasers available (they’re perfect for my hand-drawn coloring books), and he launched into a very long story about why he loves cute and tiny things, especially Japanese products, and how he has “little boy feet” and owns pink shoes with Hello Kitty designs and socks that match them.

Those types of interactions happen regularly to me. A few words exchanged, I ask something, and the person starts sharing something about himself or herself that’s strange, silly, or delightful. Sometimes, all three.

This curiosity about others is why I majored in journalism and why, of the two websites I have, this one hasn’t been updated for a long time and why my other site has steady traffic and comments from readers.

See, I could tell you about myself—random facts pouring out of me like candy from a piñata—but a narrative is better. Readers want to hear a story, something that gets inside them, whether their funny bone, heart, or brain. The story changes something in them, so that, after hearing, reading, or seeing it, they leave you better-informed, better-loved, or just… better.

WIITTR? (What’s in It for the Reader?)

At MarketingProfs, where I was a senior content writer and editor for nearly eight years, I always had the question before me (literally, taped to my computer screen): What’s in it for the reader? As I continue to write and manage content for The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors, I have that in mind as well as Why would a reader care about this? Who wants to read this? Why? What feeling do you want them to have when they leave your website?

One reason this blog was on pause for a while was because I was crafting stories for MarketingProfs full-time and spending my weekend free time on writing for my passion project. Research must be done, outlines must be scrawled, stories must be told. But not about me. About the topic, about its nuances, about what gets to heart of the reader.

Having a personal blog about me isn’t as exciting to me as telling other people’s stories. And that’s what content writers do. We find good stories and share them.

The security guard who approached me in the parking lot did speak to me about Doctor Who. In detail. A lot of detail. But I didn’t share the entirety of the conversation in this blog post because good writers also know they need editing.

If you’re looking for someone passionate about writing and telling your story (or your customers’), check out my resume either on LinkedIn or download it here.

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Art · Creativity · Drawings · Graphic Recording · Illustration · Illustrator · Marketing · My Life in General · Visual Note-taking · Visual Sketch Notes · Work Life

Artistic Advice From the Marketoonist, Tom Fishburne

In the BBC program “Dr. Who,” the time-traveling hero often discusses “fixed points” in time, moments or events that deeply affect people’s lives.

Meeting Tom Fishburne recently felt like a fixed point in time to me. The moment was quiet and soft, less obvious than some momentous occasions. A subtle watercolor amid the blurred bold strokes of the event, the memory of the meeting has remained with me.

Getting to Meet Tom Fishburne

Tom Fishburne, the cartoonist and marketer (aka the Marketoonist) was the speaker for a session at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Boston. Before Tom was a full-time cartoonist, he worked as a product marketer. Now, his cartoons brilliantly combine humor, marketing smarts, and artistic appeal.

I’ve been following his work for a while now. I’ve also listened to his interview at MarketingProfs and other places, and read his blog.

As Tom gave his talk, I sat in the back of the room, sketching visual notes in my art pad. While making sure the event rolled smoothly, Kathy Bushman whispered to me, “You have to meet Tom. You have to show him your drawings.”

The idea of doing so scared me. A lot. Because it’s one thing to really like someone’s work and something else to meet them. Because maybe he’d end up being a big fat jerk. Maybe he’d fall over laughing at my work. And also, it feels safer to hide behind a notebook than to trot up to the person whose work you admire.

But the little kid in me—the bashful girl who hid her desire to draw for so very long—wanted to talk to Tom. Not as a fan girl (even though I could have easily been one of those other people asking for his autograph). Not even as a marketer (even though his marketing-related advice in the presentation was spot on).

I just wanted to talk to him about drawing, for he wonderfully infuses smarts and play in his pieces.

After the crowd left, I approached him. “Hello, I’m Veronica Maria Jarski. I work for MarketingProfs. I’m a writer and, ah, I draw, too…”

And he interrupted me, saying, “Did you draw that work outside? The big poster outside by the door? That’s awesome. I took a picture of it.”

“Yes, that’s my work.”

tom-fishburne-marketoonist

Then, I showed him the drawing I made of his talk, and he said, “Let me get my camera! I want to take a picture of it. Can I? Do you mind?” And he did.

toms-talk
my visual sketch notes (in progress) of Tom’s talk

Tom Fishburne taking a picture of my quick sketch was surreal.

Just like that, I suddenly felt like we had hit it off in our school yard, finding something in common to chat about while hanging upside down from the monkey bars.

Why Meeting Tom Fishburne Mattered So Much to Me

In meeting with my writing group regularly, I’ve grown to deeply value the friendship, insight, and support of other friends on the writing journey. However, until I met Tom, I didn’t realize how I needed to meet another artist.

For the 15-minute meeting, I completely forgot my self-consciousness; Tom didn’t treat me like the barely known artist that I am. Instead, he warmly spoke to me like another artist on the same art-supplies-strewn road. We talked about the unfurling of one’s artistic side, about the self-doubt and insecurities that come at first until one find’s one style, about how people treat cartoons or drawings as opposed to what it considered “real art.”

He shared his own artistic journey and what he has learned along the way. The lessons are applicable to writers, artists, illustrators, anyone creative…

  • Set personal goals. Tom mentioned making goals for himself. “Set goals for yourself, not for work, not for a client, but for YOU.” Plan to draw something outside of work once a week. Or commit yourself to finishing a certain drawing project by a certain date.
  • Stick to that goal. Make it happen.
  • Share your work. Tom put his work on Flickr, on a blog, etc. Art is meant to be seen, to be shared.
  • Practice regularly. Drawing is a craft, and that means continually working to improve in it, to grow.
  • Be confident in your style. Don’t compare your work to other people or hope to draw like someone else. Be the artist that you are.

Finding One’s Artistic Voice

The advice that lingered most in my mind was the one about being the artist that you are. (Perhaps because we talked about this point the most.)

When I first began drawing, I longed to be an artist along the lines of someone like Holly Hobbie. Later, I was obsessed with the fantastic Arthur Rackham. Then, I wanted to be like Marc Chagall, with his brilliant colors, floating people, and deep imagery. Then I hoped to create work like Lane Smith.

But as much as I studied and enjoyed and fell in love with those artists’ work, when I draw, my people come out like this (if I have time):

drawingpeople

Or like this (if I’m sketching a live talk):

customer-acquisition

I’ve learned that, yes, you can learn from your favorite artists (just like you can learn from your favorite writers), but you should not spend your artistic life longing to be like another artist…  My own artistic journey means becoming truer to the artistic spirit within me, cultivating a spirit of peace and truth, mindfully sharing the gifts God gave me…

And unfurling one’s style and talents means continually learning and practicing. It’s the only way to let your style emerge.

Being true to yourself means being true to who you are in the creative world.

***

Have you been shy about calling yourself an artist or a writer? How have you changed since you first began drawing or writing?

My Life in General · Work Life

Slowing It Down

Recently, I heard an interview of Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slowwhich led to my reading more about him and his ideas. What I read and heard made me reflect on how I handle the tasks of the day—not just for work but the time before my work day begins and the time after I step away from my desk.

How am I moving through my day? How am I approaching all the tasks that need to get done? What is my approach to the myriad obligations as a mother? Wife? Friend? Am I hurrying through days, through life?

In a TED talk (video at the end of this post), Carl mentions how “slow” has become something detrimental to say of someone. Slow is seen as being lazy. But how many mistakes are made in a rush? How much do we miss seeing or deeply experiencing in our lives because we are rushed? What questions do we avoid asking ourselves when we buy into the culture of fast?

The culture of fast isn’t limited then, to just highly (financially) successful people. The concept of fast being a good trait, one that cuts quickly to the heart of the matter, has infiltrated our education, our relationships, our families, etc.

I know intensely busy people with packed schedules and also folks who have very little to do—at least in the eyes of more “successful” people. But people in both camps can choose whether to accept the culture of fast or culture of slow.

For example, an acquaintance is chronically complaining of always being stressed and anxious about her hectic schedule, but she does not have a job or a child or a pet or even serious hobbies. And yet she seems more hectic and anxious than people with filled calendars. Someone else I know who has enough children for a basketball team, a part-time job, and a busy social life seems calmer, less rushed, despite having far more demands on her time. What makes one feel rushed and hurried, and the other more relaxed?

Perhaps slow is also an attitude—not so much an avoidance or laziness of doing activities, but instead the participation in activities more thoughtfully, with one’s brain on the task at hand.

As Carl mentions, there’s bad slow just like there’s bad fast. The trick is to know what moments in our lives are worth slowing down. Rather than quote Carl to you, I thought I’d share his talk, courtesy of TED.