My 2016 working year was punctuated by an event, and there was a before, during and after. Before the event, my work was tracking more slowly than it should. I could see things had to change, and I had to change.
One day in May I mentioned to the designer of my architecture writing website that I did not have enough work and yet I am an expert at my work. He sent me a single line reply, a link to an event. He followed it up with the sentence in the headline. ‘You’ll be locked away with experts with direct access to coaching advice worth thousands of dollars’ Powerful eh? It was a nudge to get out of my studio and see people. Cabin fever is hard to self-diagnose.
After five minutes, the light got in. “That’s not so silly.”
My financial advisor saw it differently. “You could network closer to home?”
“Or do both,” I said.
I saw an answer in Sweden, even if I didn’t yet know the question.
But I didn’t jump immediately.
I emailed Brennan Dunn and Kai Davis to ask if the conference would be too techy and Euro-US-centric for me? Although an internationally-experienced writer with years in Europe behind me, I am based in far away Australia.
Not. At. All. “The focus will be on positioning and niching,” came the replies.
OK, that makes sense to me. Does it make sense to you? When I speak of positioning or niching to people in my life but not in my business, they often say: Have you ever thought about dropping your prices? As if riches are found in a huge unspecified pond.
Sometimes you need to go to Sweden or someplace to find the people who get you. Even if the people who get you turn out to have acronyms for job titles and inhabit hitherto unknown to me software niches.
So, in Yasuragi, Nacka, I entered a room (well, first of all, a bar) full of creative and digital consultants all wearing yukatas. And in spite of some people wearing the same robe through to the fourth day (hello, hotel laundry) they turned out to be among the best people I’ve ever met.
Solving expensive problems with experts, hot pools, and warm sake.
We talked about how we as consultants can help to identify and solve client’s expensive problems. In hot pools, and over eggs, fruit, sushi, and fragrantly complex sake served by Marcelo (probably the world’s best and most friendly bartender), we talked ideas and how to overcome realities.
From NickD I learned about enforcing boundaries with clients and myself. Although, if I followed NickD’s strict business hours it would mean never talking to clients in the UK. From Kai Davis (NickD’s partner in the Make Money Online podcast), I found out my email outreach doesn’t register on any scale for persistence. Tip: Stop only when you receive a contract or NO.
From Nathan Barry and Reuven Lerner I was reminded to teach everything and always, and create. And from Mojca Mars I found out that an animal onesie is hot, oven-hot if worn on stage (so I will abandon my plans to do that!). Vitally, I learned that Facebook could be your friend if you use adverts well.
Eric White took us through consumer insights into the purchasing decisions with an elaborate reconstruction of a suitcase purchase by Gavin Ricketts. A week later in a London Muji store, I gazed at the elegant shiny blue case just like Gavin’s. That was until my Italian host shook his head and said, “No, no, Marian, you can’t spend that on a suitcase.” A few days later as I rushed from the Rolling Luggage store at St Pancras to catch the Eurostar train, I wondered what Eric would have made of my blue Americano Tourister, stuffed with the contents of two Longchamp bags.
There’s much more to say… For a comprehensive summary, read Blair Wadman, strategist and master trainer of Drupal. Blair is also in the mastermind (MM) group four of us formed after the event. The MM group is emerging as one of biggest benefits of all providing wisdom, empathy and support, a rock in the bustling world.
The midsummer days at the archipelago will stay with us. We will never forget where we were the morning after Brexit, a result incongruous to our unity in Europe (then and future.)
There has not been a week since June without interacting with people met at the event. I recently edited a speech by #dyfconfeu attendee Daniel Siegel that beautifully drew together the stalling pace of aviation innovation and the limitations of computers and devices linking a single fingertip to a small glass surface. We are far short of the forefront.
I am putting the finishing touches on the copy for a European scientific website that I worked on for Laura Yeffeth. Our working together would never have occurred without the Swedish connection.
What did I learn for myself?And what happened next?
Coming back from the highs of DYFCONFEU in Sweden, the highly useful Life Time Value Conference in Brighton, UK, and the Venice Architecture Biennale, I was bursting with ideas. But the old times were not done with me. There were an awful couple of months where I had not yet implemented the new, and the old patterns were hanging about.
I was afraid yet kept going. I repackaged my proposal service for architects and started work with some new architecture clients. That’s a niche on its own and feels better in its own compartment.
Drawing on my businessjournalism background, I started looking at how to help fintech companies who often let themselves down with their copy. I am still editing/redrafting novels for clients booked in this year. I am reviewing this work in 2017 as it is hard to find a viable timeline for all parties. I may do more editorial consulting than editing.
I started to help consultants who must write for business but doubt their technique and skill. The most important element is editing. The greatest challenge is in reaching people who can’t yet see how well their copy can connect clients.
In Sweden, Brennan Dunn conceived and put together an event in a complete reinforcement of its positioning and niche. The people might have come from India, Russia, Belgium, Finland, Slovenia, the UK, Italy, Germany, the US and Australia (hope I did not miss anyone?) but values, goals, and joking were as one. All we had to do was to get out of our cabins and meet.
So what are my goals for 2017? I like my recent work as a kind of ‘editor-at-large’ for a customer software group in London. I work with their content manager to improve their story gathering and quality and am pleased they are punching above their weight and outclassing bigger teams. I like the role of providing ongoing mentoring and support to help build something great.
A great archive of content is important to any service or product provider.
I will be rebuilding my content up too. I wrote daily content for newspapers but lately have spent much of my time behind the scenes helping others. I look forward to building and presenting a resource here throughout 2017. After a year focused on business reinvention, I want to build in time for memoir and creative writing. After all, fiction is where you can often find the truth.
I will be launching an app in 2017 to help web designers and developers ask for and receive great copy from their clients. It will help business people and consultants create web copy that serves their clients. Before June, I knew there were ideas I could develop to help people, and that I needed to scale up. I did not know where to start. I am fearful and excited.
It is only the beginning. Again.
Thanks for reading. All the best for a peaceful transition from 2016. See you in 2017. Get in touch to learn more about any of these items. Or sign up for my newsletter where you will be the first to hear everything!
Hemingway screen of this post in progress. Pic: Marian Edmunds
Is your copy ‘very’ hard to read? Get your text edited on the Hemingway App by an experienced editor.
An friend told me they use the Hemingway App but still end up with a lot of red highlighted text. Red highlights mean the sentence is ‘very hard to read’. The purple highlighting of ‘very’ means that Hemingway App recommends a simpler word alternative.
I have a simpler alternative which is not to use the word ‘very’. I stopped using it ‘very’ soon into my training as a journalist. In print journalism every word counts and ‘very’ has no value. Here is an example.
You could say, “It is very cold.” Or you could say:
It is: chilly, cool, freezing, icy, snowy, glacial, wintry, crisp, frosty, frigid, bitter, cold, biting, piercing, numbing, sharp, raw, polar, arctic, or Siberian (but only in Siberia).
The exception to the ‘very’ rule is if quoting direct speech. I won’t choose a quote containing ‘very’ unless it is otherwise compelling. I would look for a direct quote that gives the reader a sense of the speaker and what they are describing. ‘Very’ pales beside a strong descriptive word.
“Very. Use this word sparingly. Where emphasis is necessary use words strong in themselves.”
William Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of Style.
My friend said he couldn’t see how to cut more red highlighting from his text. I could see it. Streamlining his text and removing adverbs (another post) made his writing voice distinctive.
It’s not compulsory to remove all red highlights. You are within your rights to include sentences that are ‘very’ hard to read if they express what you would like to say and are of use, or enjoyment, to your reader. Enjoyment doesn’t alway mean simple. Think of the best plays or Shakespeare.
You are the authority but do you need help?
Can you rely on the Hemingway App? It depends on how you use it. The Hemingway App is a tool, not an authority. Improving your readability helps your readers. They are your business. You are the master of your readability. I want to help you with editing to make your copy, bold, clear and fun to read.
I PROVIDE EDITS INCLUDING HEMINGWAY VERSIONS OF YOUR COPY.BOOK YOURS HERE .
I will send your copy as text and the Hemingway App version. Receive great copy that contains few, if any adverbs, and no jargon or excess words.
I write with you or for you.
The first designer I worked with downloaded the design from his mind to mine. We sat in the studio at desks littered with sandwich packets, with a balsa model of a past project on a tilt atop the paperwork. I translated his vision into words. Together we refined the narrative and next morning it was ready for the presentation boards. It had to be — it was the deadline. A couple of weeks later we heard ours was the winner.
We’ve worked on many projects since, mostly via phone or by email, with one of us, mostly me, working into the night.
Your story draws people to your vision.
My complete focus is on ensuring a proposal, narrative or content is clear and interesting, and reflects your personality and purpose. I bring to this work principles and standards instilled in me as a journalist and editor at the world’s best quality papers including the Financial Times.
Success in storytelling about design (or any topic) falls to the designer and relies on openness. What is the expected profit for the investor? How will it affect the user?
In managing messages we can easily forget to tell the story.
A story puts people in the picture. Jargon alienates. Show someone a rendering of a large building and they are likely to pull a face and liken it to a part of the anatomy. But sketch a possible life and they will imagine awakening there.
There’s an appetite for stories of design yet many designers receive little or no press. You rush on to the next project rarely pausing to bring people with you. Yet people are fascinated about how you think and want to see how cities and places could be. We want live to be smoother.
What stops a designer from sharing a story? Is it nerves that your vision is too out there, or not out there enough? Are you unsure of how to reach people? Or, is your relationship with the semantics of design uneasy?
Many designers aren’t completely fluent in writing the language of design. Some would rather walk across hot stones.
The KISS rule of design writing
There is an old rule of writing called KISS, no not a smooch, it’s keep it simple stupid. There is another device, an editor. The guiding principle is to tell a simple story.
Step away from the jargon
Architectural terminology is OK. Yes! As long as it serves the story. Every word must take the narrative forward.
Are you being self-indulgent or striving to impress?
Don’t! Just choose the right word.
The best architectural writing uses words as building materials. It ensures two things: that the house stands up and shows its character.
You can remain true to your technical ambitions but remember while engineering ingenuity impresses, other forces move people. Will this project be profitable? Does this house feel like home? Could I work here?
The best stories come from the source.
Narratives adapted for the press.
Working with architects and designers, I make texts and narratives ready for clients and that can be carried over to PR & marketing.
Recently, I collaborated with a designer on a project that had already sparked big excitement. It unites sensory and spatial experiences of an emerging urban lifestyle, and all from a small green footprint. In the process, we encountered a new name for the project and an image in people’s minds of a possible life. We had fun taking it as far as we could. What’s the point to do otherwise? We don’t want to make the same thing that has been made before. Not unless it’s a fine dinner.
On the way, we encountered a new name for the project and a possible life. We had fun taking it as far as we could. What’s the point to do anything less? We want to make a place like none before.
Marian Edmunds, writer, writer for architects, journalist, writing coach @ The Writing Business. Telling your story online, in feature article, a narrative, a white paper, books or through winning proposals.
One of my jobs is ghostwriting and luckily I seem able to leave my ego at the door. But my ego jumped up recently when over cranberry juice, breakfast trout and bustling cafe noise, my client shared the ‘amazing’ reaction to our recent writing project. I was thrilled and proud, and then, for a nanosecond, I felt flat. As it did not carry my name, no one would know I’d worked on the ‘amazing’ project. But the writer and the writing should be invisible, so that the reader thinks only of the story.
I chose to keep my name out of it so the client’s prospects and clients would see only their expertise in their field.
I’ve had many journalism bylines, and that feels good when you’ve completed good work but quiet satisfaction from a report that exceeds expectations is also good. Nevertheless, I expect my ego will spring up at times and cry, “Hey what about me? It isn’t fair.”
I don’t know the background to this signage. Share the knowledge if you do.
But for some of my jobs, it just doesn’t work to add my name. This is usually the case when working with architects — a room containing the egos of designers and writer’s ego can be a crowded space — but more to the point, it’s about the client’s design and what my client’s client needs.
To reach this requires collaboration. They can be dynamic, creative, and all-consuming with normal life falling away until the deadline is met. It happened with an architecture proposal last Christmas. The team worked day and night, with many changes made on the drawing board. From this a strong sense of a team emerged, a group of people that shared something unique. It is one of those benchmark experiences, the stuff of legends for the group that can never be erased. In several drafts, amid much fine tuning, and working remotely, I drove the development of the narrative. Presented in an exquisite book with gorgeous images, it ultimately reachs a niche audience of the 20 or so people in the world who needed to see that book. And for a nanosecond, I wished that book had my name on it. Then I remembered, it’s not my book. It’s a team book. And there will be books that are known, and books that are unknown. Not all of our work can, will, or even needs to be known. It is enough to do that work.
This work gives me the privilege of seeing the life and work of other people from the perspective of themselves and their clients. I am often invisible. And it’s OK, it’s better I am not in the way. My voice has its own place in my own writing.
So replete from breakfast and compliments for my work, my momentary craving for fame having passed, I set off with a silly smile, like the one spotted in the city that very day.
Acclaim is never assured, and is outside of our control, but the mastering the task and putting the words or pictures in a very particular order is in your control. It is what we are here to do.
Marian Edmunds is a writer working with architects and designers, a journalist (ex-Financial Times) and a writing coach working with businesses and individuals.
I write or polish narratives for architects and designers from behind the scenes but when artist friend, Dave Hickson sent a link to MPavilion/Art Monthly Australia Writing Award, I couldn’t resist. It offered a nice change of pace and appealing rewards. The task was to explore one or more aspects of the relationship between art and design today in a proposal of no more than 200 words. Here is my (edited) entry.
As technology empowered architects to create buildings as sculptures — think Gehry, Hadid — the artist within design appeared set for extinction. There seemed no role for the artist beyond adorning public squares or forecourts with gleaming silver things — the same as extinction.
But a smattering of architects has long believed in working with artists. They welcome the artist into their space. They see the artist’s ability to impart rich cultural meaning to projects, and how their skills and knowledge can broaden design using digital media, 3D printing, parametric modelling. Yet no matter how sophisticated the technology, for designers, this interdisciplinary engagement is not about technology but handcraft.
Many of artworks featured in contemporary design are not add-ons and are integral to the structure. There’s a lot happening internationally with kinetic movement in facades. In Australia, some designer-commissioned artworks are not finite expressions. They take the form of plantings or LED and LCD displays. Many of are not add-ons but are integral to the structure.
Some artists ‘riff’ off the design brief receiving little instruction from the designers, and a few collaborate, deeply. Art in design has a heartbeat.
The Writing Business delivered copy for the new website of WATG
We recently completed web copy for WATG, one of the leading and most distinctive designers of destinations globally for leisure, hotel and mixed use properties.
Services pages are one of the most important sections of website, for a design group or any business. Potential clients will check service pages to see that you can provide them with what they need, even if the client does not yet know precisely what they need! It is also where you let clients know how you work.
We wrote seven services pages for WATG. The process involved a questionnaire and interviews with strategy and design chiefs (all over the world and all of whom were travelling) and several drafts where feedback was given and tweaks were made. We worked on the Basecamp project management app so that everyone involved could see and contribute to the project when needed.
We wrote copy for Strategy, Planning, Urban, Landscapes, Architecture, Interiors and Integrated Design. Here follows a few lines from the pages:
‘We are the storytellers of place, fitting together all the pieces of the land puzzle’
‘The strength of this model has always been and will always be in the personal connections made between people who unite in a place, and together create its story.’
‘Some of our most innovative spaces are created between buildings, in spaces where people gather and connect. Here is where they work, laugh, and play and where memories are made.’
‘Landscape is the physical expression of broad master planning vision at its most tangible.’
‘Working in an integrated practice, our dedicated design leaders, supported by discipline specialists and studio teams in WATG’s global network, free our clients from the pressures of sourcing, retaining and managing multiple consultants.’
“Our dynamic design process takes account of consumer and market trends and begins by articulating the guest journey.”
The WATG website is here. Probably best to grab a cuppa as the images are stunning. We have received great feedback on our work on the site. If you would like to discuss your project please get in touch.
When Gloria E. Swan found her father’s World War Two letters, she knew there was a story to tell. The result is Henry’s Battle and it is now launched in print and ebook versions.
We have worked with Gloria for more than two years, working through structural and line redrafts and edits and proofreading. Gloria had already put in several years of work. Her dedication to producing a book of the highest quality is a stand out and made it a pleasure to work with her to see the project through. Now, early readers are messaging to say “great read” and they “couldn’t stop reading’. Why not try it for yourself?
LAUNCHED APRIL 2014:HENRY’S BATTLE,Love and lives in conflict in World War Two By Gloria E. Swan
Henry has big plans, to play test cricket, and to do his bit in putting an end to World War Two. Leaving his matchmaking mother, and his home town of Murwillumbah, Henry sets off with on his mission to Cowra for basic training. There he meets Connie, the girl of his dreams. But Henry’s path to true love and world salvation is turbulent as he is posted to undertake dangerous intelligence duties in the Middle East and New Guinea. Again and again, Henry must choose between his career and his family. Inspired by the discovery by the author, Gloria E. Swan, of her father’s wartime letters, Henry’s Battle gives us a glimpse into the challenges faced by thousands of Australian families.