Sunday, December 30, 2012

Even more truth in advertising


In my last post, I wrote about a terribly misleading postcard. While doing some research about truth in advertising, I came across some interesting examples.
They needed to clarify this because people were walking into this Iowa store hoping to catch a train to Grand Central Station.

At last, no more embarrassing questions to the store workers asking if they carry the XXXL Depends adult diapers.

I called this number and told them they had won a million dollars from the king of some nation they’d never heard of. All I needed was their credit card number for a “transaction fee.”

Yes, that’s the reason a lot of men go to the gym—to see ugly women.

Do the watches tell time, or do you have to look at them?
I was once told the same thing by two muggers.

Figures, I had them come to my house at 11:00 last Monday.
Little known fact: "Dutch's" was the original name of Walmart.
This is what I’m looking for in a lawyer.
Strangely enough, this was posted outside a hardware store.

Part of a less-than-successful chain owned by the brothers “Yu,” “Soon” and “Your Mom is.”

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Truth in advertising?

Times are tough.

Everyone is looking for a bargain, while at the same time, companies are fighting over consumer’s limited funds.

I’m constantly receiving letters and emails trying to convince to me buy something I didn’t know I needed.

And then there are companies who go the extra mile—they offer contests, give-a-ways and promotions. Heck, I’m all for that. In fact I’ve done a number of promotions with my books to help spread the word. As long as it is a legitimate deal, I’m all for it.

Sadly, often that isn’t the case. A while ago, I received the following postcard in the mail:

I knew I was going to be flying out to Utah in 2013 for the LDStorymakers conference, so I was curious. So, I flipped over the postcard to look at the “fine print.” A few things caught my attention right away.

First, was the word “most” and “Major” in front of the word “Airports.” Even though I live fairly close to the capital of North Carolina, the airport wasn’t considered “Major” enough. Where were the closest airports to me? Washington D. C. or Atlanta—each roughly 6 hours away.

Oh, and the hotel? They were roughly an hour away from the airports—and you had to pay for your own transportation to the hotel.

But goofiest of all, and the biggest warning sign was the small print in the corner:
It kind of bends the rules of “truth in advertising”, doesn’t it?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Whistle while you work

“Of course it’s no fun, that’s why is it called work!” These are words I’ve been told, and I have to admit that I’ve told employees and my children, on various occasions.

Somehow, somewhere, someone decided that doing something important is called “work.” This imaginary someone also decided that if you enjoy doing something, it isn’t really work. And if an action isn’t work, then it’s “play.” Therefore “play” isn’t important.

Logically, that makes sense, if you believe in the first assumption.

Which I don’t.

Who is to say that you can’t enjoy doing something important? To me, there are two over-generalized categories of an important action: doing something for yourself and doing something for others.

Granted, the lines between the two are blurry, but hang with me for a moment. I consider doing something important for yourself is an action that will bring you income or the means to support your ability to live. Whether you grow and harvest your own food, or buy it from someone else, you still need to eat. That’s important.

Doing something important for others includes providing the means to live either through your actions of doing something important for yourself (like earning more money than you need and giving it to others) or performing actions to help others for what is important in their lives—also known as service.

I, personally, have found immense enjoyment from doing service. I think if you ask most people who volunteer their time to help others, you’ll hear them say the same thing: “It’s not easy, but it’s very rewarding.” I dare say that those who truly enjoy it, don’t get that enjoyment only after the service is done—they experience it while serving.

Which brings me back to my main point. I believe there are those who feel like their employment has to be a miserable experience because after all, it’s work. Yet once in a while, you find someone who truly loves what they do for a living.
People call them “lucky.” I call them people who weren’t willing to accept that work couldn’t be enjoyable and therefore found something that they enjoyed doing which also allowed them to make a living—even if that job wasn’t understood by others or frowned upon the “responsible” people in the world who have bought into the lie that work can’t be fun.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Claiming victory

I believe every author has that moment of “What am I doing? Is what I’m writing any good?” And then if you can get beyond the quality of the work, there is the question of “Does anyone even read this?” I’ve heard it described as playing a solo in front of an empty music hall.

After all, where do authors get feedback? Looking at review sites like Goodreads and Amazon have a catch 22 built in to them. For me, an excellent review can make me feel like I’m on the top of the world. A bad review (and I’ve gotten a few) can make me go into one of those funks as noted in the first paragraph.

Another great analogy I heard from another author is that reviews are like a drug. Once you start seeking them out for the “high” they give, you need to keep getting those great reviews to feel good about being a writer.

Some authors refuse to look at their reviews for those very reasons. I’ve heard of authors that have other people (a spouse, a friend, a family member) look at the reviews and then share only the good ones.

And then there is the financial aspect of being an author. I read somewhere that 99% of the books published sell less than 100 copies. Fact is, a very small percentage of authors make any sort of tangible money from their work.

So, why, oh why, should an author continue to write?

I can only speak for myself, but this is what I’ve come up with: Writing is something I love. It’s a magical experience to discover ideas as I write. It’s a way I can express the creative nature burning inside of me.

There’s more. I have gotten quite a number of reviews, personal emails and even face-to-face comments stating how I was able to connect with the reader—how my work touched them on an emotional level.

As I get older, I realize I most likely have few years ahead of me on the earth than behind me. The books and short stories I’ve written will live on long after I pass away—in a sense, it’s part of my mark I left on this earth.

So, when someone says to me, “You’ve been doing this writing thing for a while now and you’re not rich or a New York Times bestseller—sorry it didn’t work out for you.” Who says it hasn’t?

I believe authors can’t truly know the range or scope of how their books have made an impression on people. It can’t be tracked by sales—I’ve read a number of books several times I’ve bought only once. My wife lends out books to friends that they have enjoyed.

At what point should an author give up? One of my favorite authors, Greg Keyes, had written seven books before I’d discovered him. I hadn’t heard of the Harry Potter books until the fourth one was released. Stephanie Meyer had written five books before I’d heard of the Twilight series. I could go on and on. I fear too many authors give up because their first book (or first few books) weren’t smashing successes in the public’s opinion.

If you love something, truly love it, don’t give up on it. Don’t let others determine if you can claim victory or not.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

BZZZZ! Wrong answer!

“But that’s hard!” the student told me. He looked like I’d just asked him to write a four hundred page essay on the social-political ramifications of introducing the sandwich meat “Spam” to third world countries.

But that wasn’t the assignment.
What was it?

I assigned the students to read another student’s short story and find three things they liked about it—and why. The one thing they could not do is to point out anything they didn’t like, thought could be better, or was “wrong.”

Why would I give such an assignment? Simple. I discovered that when asking students to critique their peers’ work that these critiques were filled primarily with pointing out errors like spelling, grammar, and plot issues. What were sorely missing were positive comments.

To the student that complained the assignment was “hard”, I responded, “Why do you think it’s hard?”

He thought about it a moment and responded, “Maybe because the majority of the feedback we get from teachers is what we got wrong on a test, and not what we got right.”

This leads me to wonder, just what are we teaching our students and our children when the main focus of our feedback is what they are doing wrong?