Day 8: What is copywriting?

My 500 Words, Professional

Copywriting is the creation of text surrounding the publicity, sales, or marketing of a product or service. It is the words or text that strive to promote and persuade the target audience to engage, decide, or act in a certain manner. It is…everywhere. I found myself asking what exactly copywriting was after a conversation that started with me very sure that I knew what it was and ended with me googling it to be sure. I had always thought about copywriting and “copy” in terms of advertising campaigns, and it is. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn more about this nebulous term and to learn of its broad scope. I decided to sign up for some online courses and to download a copywriting podcast to listen to while I work.

I am learning a few interesting things, but I am struck by one general nagging thought. Copywriting as a profession seems to be devoted to knowing your customer or target audience and telling them in the most efficient and effective way possible how your product or service solves their problem. This spoke to me, as it is about communicating in the most effective way to a certain target audience. And, it sounded fun. So, I was implored to keep learning.

I learned some terms that seemed important as well: value proposition, direct-response copywriting, conversion copywriting, and the 100 audience formula. Why don’t we talk about the importane of copywriting and persuasive messaging more? This seems so critical to the sales and marketing success of an enterprise, but I have only heard it as a freshman year journalism student when kids talked about what kind of jobs they would be OK taking. I was confused then and now, even after many years attempting to understand the professional and regular world in all its weird splendor, it seems like we never talk about the things that matter. If this is a skill, it seems like it is an underdeveloped or at least acknowledged one. Sales is often seen as an ability, a calling, or a product of persistence or beauty. And, yes, perhaps it is all of these things. But, really, it is a skill. And copywriting, the messaging, and the mindset that goes into the creation of impactful words in strategic times and places can teach us a lot about how to sell.

I have been told at various points of my young professional life that I was great at sales, terrible at sales, should definitely make that my career, and should look elsewhere for opportunity. The room has been split. I have found ways to connect and do well and have found plenty ways to fall flat on my face. Luckily, my ego is bothered by the thought that I can’t do something well and especially that I just can’t do it. I like to try to overcome it. Maybe studying copywriting, which combines the need to sell, which exists in every business, and my interest and passion for writing. It would be great if this new avenue to explore might be a fruitful, or at least interesting, one.

Day 7: Hypnotic Happiness

My 500 Words

Here I am on day 7 of the My500Word challenge! It has only been 7 days and approximately 4,000 words, but I have found this to be equal parts fun and challenging. Do you ever feel like you are just desperate to stay busy, to quiet your chaotic mind? Sometimes I feel like this is the source of much of my so-called ambition. I appear to the world as a calm, collected person, and for the most part, this is true. Inside my mind though, ideas are churning constantly and if I don’t have an outlet for this, I can grow very restless. This tends to manifest as either a compulsive outward need for activity or an inward drive for stimulation, which often means alone time. However, I am not really an introvert. I do need a certain amount of social interaction in order to feel like my best self, but balancing my need for internal stimulation and my need for company and socializing has proven to be difficult for me.

I write this in my last year of my 20s with no current solution, except to maybe try to avoid my need to compulsively seek outward stimulation to quiet my mind…at least to avoid it in any damaging manner. I feel more satisfied and alive when I have that balance between interaction with the world and interaction with my soul. Maybe in the end this is how we all feel. Maybe I am not so unique in this. And, if that is the case, what ideas do you have? Have you managed this yourself? I would love some advice as I feel this is a weak area of my life, knowing which part of myself to prioritize and when.

I admit that I did not want to write this post, tonight. I actually debated and decided (🙀) to skip tonight, as I reasoned my soul needed a rest. Simultaneously, I wondered where my life was going and why I was spending time sitting on the couch watching the tele… THEN, my sweet, bedtime-loving boyfriend went to sleep well before 8:30 PM. All of the sudden, I knew I would have some totally alone time to write this post, and I knew I would post it. Why am I so stuck when it comes to alone vs social time? How can I better manage this internal struggle? My relationship with my fella and all of my personal relationships are VERY important to me, in fact the most important to me. Maybe this is why I struggle. I prioritize family, friends, and personal relationship development over everything, including me and my alone time. I am certainly a priority, but it seems like I am #2 (at least). I see this in many areas of my life. I stop what I am doing to fit others’ schedules and fill in the gaps with things for me. I am not sure how I feel about this. Is this a healthy and normal reality of life, albeit difficult? This is something I will have to mull over for a few days.

I will find a YouTube video with constant affirmations for 20+ minutes and ponder this, while I attempt to hypnotize myself with positivity. I have a good feeling about, but it could be the positive affirmation juice I have been drinking. I can do anything. Great things keep happening to me. It’s crazy and awesome how many great things keep happening to me.

 

Day 6: Shutter Speed and Time Management

My 500 Words

Today for my 500 word post, I wanted to delve into shutter speed, something I have been ignoring in my photography research while I focus on the aperture. I am lost in a swirl of photography concepts…except it is 3 and it hasn’t been hard yet. Also, I am so very new and really want to understand this on an instinctual level, and that takes time. Shutter speed allows you to adjust the image based on both your intended outcome and the circumstances surrounding the image capture. A fast shutter speed allows you to capture a moving subject and freeze it in the image. To create movement in an image, you can slow down the shutter speed to capture the subject in its movement during a longer period of time.

This video was awesome for shutter speed, and I learned a lot!

As I learned in the video, aperture is like a guard, allowing only certain light into the sensor, and the shutter is like a door, allowing light for a certain amount of time. You can freeze a moving subject in an image or capture the movement of a subject in an image, both using shutter speed. Changing the shutter speed and playing around with shutter speed might bring about the a need for a tripod. Because your hands move and shake a little bit (especially when holding these heavy machines all day), a slower shutter speed might lead to a blurry photo, in an unintended way. To combat this, you need a shutter speed AT LEAST as fast as your focal length is long (if you are not using a tripod). This means that if a lens is 50 mm long, you need a shutter speed of at least 1/50. My lovely teacher of the day (video included!) recommends doubling the shutter speed. He says that if you have a 200 millimeter lens, you can use a shutter speed of 1/400. Doing this will definitely allow you to take the photo with your god given arms and hands, without the risk of shakiness.

My goal for this week, if not for tomorrow’s post, will be to take the camera out and about to practice in the wild! Tomorrow, my goal is to post some portrait attempts, without edits of course. This should be a fun challenge and inspire me to put into practice the concepts I am learning. I wonder who will be my portrait model 🤔.

My struggle this week has been keeping up with my reading and reading review goals. I have been blogging during my reading time, which is not ideal. I am serious about my reading goals as well as my writing goals. I want to have and do both, so my time management could be improved. I am doing okay, but my reading habits are not as regular as they could be. They are very sporadic and extreme, and I think this is part of the problem. If I could read for 1 hour before bed each night, I think I could manage all of my goals and still have plenty of time for other pursuits.

Day 5- First photos as a DSLR user 😅

My 500 Words, photography

I mentioned in my “Day 3 Post” that I was learning photography using the internet and whatever other tutorials I could get my hands on. Today, I had some free time to delve into it and had some fun! Aaaand, I am terrible, but the beginning is a good place to start.

I found some great YouTube videos again and was surprised at the level of detail some of the tutorials provided. I will post some of these in my next photography post. Most of the videos I found were so helpful and helped to make the topics I explored 2 days ago much easier to digest. I still kept my focus on the 3 basics: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

After watching a video or two, I felt confident enough to give it a try with the DSLR, taking pictures within the apartment. This was much harder than I expected or hoped! Immediately upon turning on the camera, I forgot everything I had just learned. F-stop appeared as a foreign concept taunting me and ISO? What’s ISO? My mind went blank. Then, I reminded myself that this is normal. Application and conceptual learning are often very different processes. They are friends and, with hope, chat every now and agin about the topic at hand, but they are not the same. They shouldn’t be treated as such. Coming to terms with this reality, at least in regards to my own learning patterns, will make learning photography much less tumultuous.

In the videos, I learned again to keep the ISO as low as possible and that AV was the automated setting for a focus on the f-stop. Along with some painful time on “M” mode, I practiced today mostly using AV and adjusting the aperture to get a better feel for it and for how to adjust the depth of field. It was a challenge, but a fun one! I felt excited when I finally focused on a coffee mug while leaving the background blurry. It took me about 20 attempts, but I did it, damn it! There will be a lot of practice in my future, in AV mode and beyond. As a positive note, it was helpful for me to isolate the concepts and focus on f-stop while the shutter speed and ISO levels were automatic. I felt overwhelmed at the poor quality of my photos using the manual setting and trying to figure out what was making a photo blurry, or too dark, or too light. Perhaps the AV and TV modes (using a Canon) might get me through the awkward initial phase of knowing absolutely nothing!

Learning how to properly use a DSLR camera is proving to be a worthy challenge. I am excited for the challenge and for the opportunity to grow in knowledge, skill, and confidence. I think that many of us, speaking for myself, have a tendency to dream of doing without planning to do, and especially without the doing part. There is no time like the present, and I already wish I would have sat down to learn sooner.

Which brings me to my preacher/teacher moment of the evening. FRIENDS- no one is going to come into your life and care or know more about your happiness than you do. You need to prioritize your goals, personal accomplishments, and dreams before anyone else can. You need to believe in yourself, even if you are convinced no one else does. I am writing this to myself more than anyone else, but if it resonates, awesome. One foot in front of the other. Go on now, go!

Day 4: No Time to Write

My 500 Words

It is day 4/31 of the #My500Words challenge. I am loving the challenge, but I am also tired! Today was a big day that challenged me in some ways regarding this goal. I was very sleepy this morning, very active this afternoon, and very preoccupied with lounging around and eating with my man-friend. This left very little time to care about goals like #My500Words. I kept thinking I would have time and would be wide awake later, once my boyfriend went to sleep and I had burnt out on socializing. Well, now it is 9:00 PM…and I am not excited. Luckily, I have learned something important in this experience.

Do “it” when I can, not when I think I might want to in the future. Plan for my worst self, and get it done as early as possible. Later, I can edit my words before posting, but I don’t have to start from scratch.

In any case, my plans to learn something new about photography and write about it have been completely shattered. I am very excited to lay in bed, read Alexander Hamilton for my Reading Challenge  and drift off to sleep. Nothing else is really acceptable in this moment, BUT I have made a goal and am keeping it. Day 4 requires 500 words on this here page. I promised myself, and, as I learned from Mr. Rogers, the promises you make to yourself are the most important promises to keep. So, I shall continue to plug away my 500 terribly written words.

“What makes the difference between wishing and realizing our wishes? Lots of things, of course, but the main one, I think, is whether we link our wishes to our active work. It may take months or years, but it’s far more likely to happen when we care so much that we’ll work as hard as we can to make it happen. And when we’re working toward the realization of our wishes, some of our greatest strengths come from the encouragement of people who care about us.” –Mr. Rogers

Aside from my poor prioritization, there were some great triumphs of the day. I was greeted upon joining the waking world by hot coffee, poured and ready for me. This was followed shortly by a really excellent breakfast mashup of kale, eggs, and mushrooms. Then, I walked out my front door, like the luckiest gal in the world, and walked 2 minutes to nearest trail head, where I started a 5 or so mile hike in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. It was an invigorating morning walk, with a touch of ice and wind to make it interesting. The rest of the day felt like an easy win. I relaxed around the house, ate some Tofu Chili from yesterday, and watched far too many episodes of The Great British Baking Show. After watching too many amazing, glutinous creations come to life, my boyfriend and I made our way to a local Mediterranean restaurant for a few adult beverages and an assortment of vegetables, dips, and breads. Such excellent breads. Have you ever had olive bread before? Like bread with actual olives baked in 😍? I love olives more than I should, but this bread changed my life and also called for this local restaurant to be banned from regular visits. I cannot be trusted there.

Something I can be trusted to do? Write #My500Words when I say I will, at least within the day that I say I will 😳 . I am happy to participate in such an awesome challenge to help me cultivate a daily writing habit, and I think it is safe to say it is starting to work on me!

 

 

Day 3: Learning Photography 🦹‍♀️

My 500 Words, photography, Travel

This past month has led to the setting of some goals and planning for greater personal and professional growth. I had been focused for a long time on fitting myself into a mold, trying to find validation in my job or in the cocktail party summary of my life.  I probably still am, but I think I might be working my way through it. I am finally aware of it and taking steps to find things that make me happy, not just things that make me seem “together”.

Some of these goals have already been featured on my page, things like reading and writing more intentionally. I have also been thinking more about my health, fitness, and beauty routine. In addition to these pursuits, I have been craving another creative outlet, one I can combine with my other interests- writing, traveling, adventure, outdoor pursuits, and more. I want to learn and develop as a photographer, albeit a novice one. Photography and the ability to create meaningful, beautiful images with a portable device really appeals to me.

My boyfriend has a DSLR Camera laying around that I have started to fiddle with and hope to continue learning with. Does anyone else ever feel the compulsion to buy something new every time you want to start a new hobby? It is like you think that having a new thing will magically make you better. I spent an hour this morning looking up new cameras and pricing, trying to see which option would suddenly make me amazing and motivated. Luckily, before dropping thousands of dollars, I realized the folly in that line of thinking. I have a camera that I can use sitting right next to me. It is complicated and scary, and I have no idea where to start. And, that is okay!

What does DSLR stand for anyway? I realize that I should probably get some very basic concepts down before even discussing this hobby any further! DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. Luckily, that is out of the way!

Next, I need to understand aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, as directed by my boyfriend and camera owner. Youtube is guiding my steps in answering these questions in a fun way. I have always heard that with a google search bar, you can learn enough to get started in almost any skill. Now, I guess we will put that theory to the test.

Aperture, also called F-stop, refers to the size of the opening where light enters to interact with the sensor. The smaller the F-stop, or aperture, the greater the opening will be for light. And, as a fun fact, the numbers that make up the range is a fraction, which explains why a smaller number translates to a greater opening. From what I understand, changing the aperture allows you to adjust the depth of field or the focal length. The depth of field refers to how much of the depth of your image will be in focus, in front of and behind the focal point. Shallow depth of field refers to an image in which the focal point is in focus (obviously) with the foreground and background blurry. A large depth of field refers to an image in which most of the image is in focus, both in front of and behind the focal point. The video recommends that if aperture is the priority, to set the DSLR camera to AV, which is aperture priority, and allows the camera to automatically adjust the other settings to match the aperture of your choice.

Shutter speed refers to the amount of time a sensor is exposed to light. Certain situations can influence whether you would want a long exposure versus a short exposure. You might want a long exposure, as the video explains, if the light is limited, such as at night or if you want a motion blur effect. Short exposures are for fast moving things, like wildlife. Short exposures need more light! Aperture and shutter speed are related, of course. And, there has to be a balance found between the two to avoid over or under exposure. If shutter speed is the priority, the TV mode is the go-to mode. You select the shutter speed and the camera chooses the best aperture! Super cool.

The ISO number refers to the sensitivity of the sensor. If it is getting dark, you might want to make the ISO number more sensitive to the available light, and vice versa. You can risk graininess if you made the ISO number too high. The goal is to set the ISO as low as possible given the other settings. The M mode setting refers to manual, and you can play around with the images using this mode!

This video was so informative and so awesome! It really helped to make these concepts digestible.

I am excited to let this information marinate and look forward to learning more as I put new information to practice!

 

Day 2: Stan & Ollie, A Bromance

Movies, My 500 Words

Last night, my boyfriend and I went to see the film Stan & Ollie. This recently released bromance chronicles the famous slapstick comedy duo Laurel and Hardy as they grapple with the changing face of entertainment in the 1950s. The movie was a heartwarming and sweet tribute to this friendship. Urban dictionary‘s top definition of  “bromance” is “the complicated love and affection shared by two straight males.” It is a great word that has really filled the void in modern discourse. While I can’t say for certain whether the real men Stan and Ollie were in a bromance, the movie certainly depicts a loving relationship that seems to align well with the modern ideas surrounding the blended terms “bro” and “romance”. Theirs is not a pretentious friendship between males, but rather a platonic love brimming with honesty and strain.

The film tugged at the heartstrings as it chronicled the complicated friendship of two entertainers as their life work became less relevant to the world of entertainment and increasingly difficult to continue as they aged. In a culture that obsesses over romantic love, the intimacy and important of platonic friendship or even just relationship is often undervalued. The two men experience the highs and lows of the entertainment industry from the 1920s to the 1950s, the start and end of multiple relationships and marriages, and the passing of many years working on the same team. They experience professional and personal conflict, under-value one another, and find ways to come back together for their characters and the friendship that grew from those characters. A melancholy tone to the film, I was reminded that nothing lasts forever, and certainly not without transformation.

My boyfriend and I spent the evening discussing the movie and our surprise at the poignancy of the film and the feelings that followed. I did feel at times that the movie fell flat, with periods of slowness that might not be ideal for the average viewer. However, as a love note to Hollywood and its golden era, I can see why critics are quick to show the love.

Stan & Ollie serves as a heartfelt ode to the relationship and life cycle of this famous duo, full of all of the human failings, complications and hurt feelings that any love story worth a whistle contains. Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly were great in their respective roles, paying homage to the characters as they were understood- Laurel as a serious writer and Hardy as his pleasure-seeking associate.

This morning I read quickly over some reviews to find similar opinions to mine. They movie was not great, but it was poignant and somehow meaningful. There is something to be gained in watching and in absorbing the story. And, even more so perhaps, there is something to be gained in reconnecting with deeper roots of entertainment and asking ourselves how our entertainment has changed, how it hasn’t, and why. The slapstick comedy of Laurel and Hardy may not be the norms of 2019, but it is still funny. I surprised myself throughout the movie, finding myself giggling along with a silly skit or a ridiculous bit. It was fun, and that is why we go to the movies, the theater, etc. We go to have fun and to lose ourselves for a bit. And, despite any complaints about the film I may have, I did have the chance to lose myself for just a little bit.

Becoming by Michelle Obama- A Commentary

Books, reading challenge 2019

I finished Michelle Obama’s recently released memoir Becoming yesterday. It was a great read and held my attention from beginning to end. If you are a fan of Mother Obama, I would highly recommend the read! I was consistently struck by her transparency and honesty. With a characteristically disarming approach, she discusses the pain of losing her father, the missteps of a young professional, her relationship with Barack Obama, and her continued dislike of politics. Obama approaches each difficulty and triumph with a her humanness on display, a steady and purposeful reminder that politicians (and those that love them) are indeed just people.

Mrs. Obama’s prose was easier to pore over than her husband’s early memoir (the subject of my first review 😅). The book did at times feel political, but that might be the cynic in me. After living in the public eye and under great scrutiny for more than 8 years while your husband was indeed THE politician, I imagine it would be difficult to omit politics or political opinions. In any case, she dispels any rumor or hope that she will EVER run for political office. And, she addresses big, bad Donald Trump’s unscrupulous presidential candidacy and the 2016 election that many of us are still reeling from.

The Obama family felt a great responsibility towards perfection during their time in office…sacrificing personal and family freedoms as a result. This is not the suggest they are the first or the only political family to sacrifice and to suffer. Many in public life sacrifice a great deal. However, I was confronted by the great responsibility they felt as the first African-American family in America’s highest office, in a country where race relations are still far from resolved. Michelle Obama never wanted this for her life or her family. She grappled with guilt, exhaustion, and confusion as a mother, while at the same time acknowledging the privileges such a life had provided. Reading her account illuminated that this was not the path of happiest or simplest life, but rather the path of the most meaning, the most impact.

I learned that being the president is lonely and difficult, and being the first family is a sacrificial act. I closed the book feeling immensely grateful for the devotion of all those in public service, from the secret service agents that swear to put another life before their own, to members of the military, and to the journalists seeking truth and accountability.

Michelle Obama’s Becoming– 4.5/5 stars!

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My next book is Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. It is a long book (and I am 1 book behind schedule) so I may have to get creative with how I tackle this goal and my free time. But, I want to read what I want to read. Page numbers be damned.

Onward!

Day 1: A Dream Deferred

My 500 Words

Well, today is the first day of the My500Words challenge. That means I have to write 500 words today. Yesterday, I was full of writing inspiration, my imagination going wild. Today, the day I need to write something, my mind is blank.

I was an avid writer as a child. I loved poetry and silly books, re-reading Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky in the corners of my bedroom or libraries. Language was fun with these writers, and it really appealed to me. Words and phrases could mean more than one thing. They could describe one thing but make you think of another. This playfulness excited me and set my imagination on fire.

As I grew older, I still loved to write, and I was fairly good at it. When I practiced sufficiently and put care into my writing, I sometimes would win little awards or competitions. I thought I would study English in college, given my interest and knack for the subject in high school. I told my parents this, and it was met with stares of confusion, stares that I still remember to this day. Whenever, I think back on college and my decisions thereafter, I remember that feeling of shame at having wanted to study literature or writing. I remember feeling stupid for even thinking it, and I remember pushing it to the back of my mind and trying to ignore it.

“I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which, was that you can fail at what you don’t want so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love”

– Jim Carrey

My memories of that feeling and the ensuing decisions to please others rather than myself are enduring. I continue to feel an internal conflict to ignore myself and listen to others, others I assume to know me better than I know myself. Have you felt this struggle? Have you ever made a personal decision to please someone else and pushed your own interests aside? I see this side of myself even today. I often ask loved ones what they think about an idea, and I am immediately gripped with fear, fear that I am not good enough to have this thought, to do this thing.

I have dealt with this self-doubt in small ways over the years, primarily by not sharing my thoughts and dreams, wounding myself to save face. I have tried blogging in an effort to get back into “it”. Blogging efforts, over the past 10 years, have unearthed a gigantic fear of failure and judgement. A fear that I have not been willing to acknowledge, a fear that I am decidedly inadequate. As I write this, I am struck by the sadness of such thoughts and, mostly, by the wasted time, potential, and creativity.

Whether it has been writing and my love of language or another dream deferred, I have allowed the fear of failure to determine so many choices. I have let others’ dreams become my goals, for fear of not being able to reach my own. And furthermore, I have had the audacity to wonder why I was not happier, more fulfilled, more successful. Maybe today will be the day I stop deferring my dreams and pursue something wildly my own.

My 500 Words: A 31 Day Challenge

My 500 Words

I am embarking on a 31 day challenge, because who doesn’t love multiple challenges going on at one time! The truth is that I cannot just read constantly all day, and I would like to challenge myself to write one post a day, every day. I will still be posting about my reading challenge, separately. So some days, there will be more than one post going up. My goal here is simply to write more, and I heard about this on a podcast and decided to give it a go!

Here are the rules as defined by http://my500words.com/:

  1. Write 500 words per day, every day for 31 days.
  2. You can write more if you want, but 500 words is the minimum.
  3. Don’t edit. Just write.
  4. If you miss a day, pick up where you left off. Don’t make up for lost days.
  5. Encourage, don’t criticize (unless explicitly invited to do so).
  6. Blogging counts, but email does not.
  7. All of this is completely free.

Today won’t count, but I will be posting everyday for 31 days (500 word minimum posts) starting tomorrow! Just me vs. the blank page! The posts will likely be irrelevant and embarrassing, but it will be good to start a daily habit!