The Perfection Paradox

The Perfection Paradox

I recently listened to a motivating, inspiring podcast where the guest shared this advice: Be OK with B- work.

B MINUS.

That stopped me in my tracks.

I’m not a B- person. I suspect you’re not either. We strive for that A every time, right?

After my initial shock wore off, I thought it through.

What does B- work look like?

Well, it’s a passing grade. It’s not perfect, but it’s not a failure either. And, I think more importantly to her point, it’s done. Taking that a step further, it’s done in a reasonable amount of time.

That’s the thing with striving for that A every single time: Sometimes the work doesn’t get done because, well, it’s not perfect and if it’s not perfect, what’s the point? Why put it out there? Or, it takes so long to make it perfect that the amount of time isn’t commensurate with the income generated.

I get it. I fall victim to this in a number of ways. For me, it’s not usually about completing the work but rather putting the work out there.

I think, “Well, I can keep tinkering. It’s not exactly how I want it, so I won’t send this pitch yet. I’ll keep working on it.” Then time passes and the pitch never goes out.

We want to produce great work.

No, we want to produce perfect work.

The problem, though, is that in that striving toward perfection, do you miss opportunities to complete good work?

But you can choose between the two disparate sides (hence the paradox): Either nothing you ever produce is perfect or everything you produce is perfect (just as it is).

It’s a mindset shift that can take you from paralysis to publication.

There’s a related quote that comes to mind:

“Each of you is perfect the way you are … and you can use a little improvement.” — Shunryu Suzuki

Maybe that’s the way to approach our work, as long as that “little improvement” doesn’t become an attempt at striding toward perfection but rather getting good work to completion.

I’m not sure I’d ever be OK with B- work, to be honest. Maybe A- or B+ work?

But, at the end of the day, B- work helps more people than incomplete, never-published-because-it’s-not-perfect work. 

What I’m working on…

What I'm Working on via MaggieMarton.com

Somehow we’re well into 2018 Q2. I know I say this every year–every month, really–but the time is just slipping past.

In part, it’s because things have been so busy!

I say “busy,” by the way, as a positive thing. Productive. Full. Purposeful. I’m never anyone who would subscribe to the “busyness as a badge” mentality, so when I say it’s been busy, I mean full. Happy!

So, here’s what’s kept me full and happy:

West Paw: Oh, man. I love this brand. I’m so stoked to contribute to their blog, The Scoop. Watch Twitter where I’ll share my posts as they publish!

Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food: Healthy pet food at an affordable prince? Yes, please! I’m pumped to blog for their brand’s site. The blog just launched, so my work isn’t up yet, but I’ll share it on Twitter as soon as it’s live!

BlogPaws: Oh, how I’ve adored writing posts about writing, blogging, and storytelling! I’m off to the conference next week. Will I see you there?

The Zero-Waste Pet: This is a passion project, truly born of the heart. I seriously can’t wait to launch (it’s so soon!!!) and share this joy with you guys. If you haven’t yet signed up, better get on it! The free 7-day challenge launches April 16!

What’s kept you busy lately? I’d love to connect and share our projects on Twitter! You can find me @maggiemarton.

5 Steps to More Authentic Writing

How often have you, as a blogger, been told to write authentically?

How frequently have you read the advice to be authentic and your audience will find you?

Sure, you should absolutely write authentically. Yes, if you are authentic, the right people will find you.

But…

How do you do that?

How do you write authentically? How do you balance all the social media dos and don’ts with being your true self?

5 Steps to More Authentic Writing

Here are my 5 steps to authenticity that apply to anyone creating content:

  1. Write like you speak. Nothing makes your work sound weirder faster than trying to write in a way that you think sounds “smart” or, really, anything other than your natural voice. Focus on being conversational.
  2. Cut the jargon. Related to the point above, jargon alienates most readers. Unless you’re writing for a technical audience who you’re sure knows what you’re saying, cut the jargon. If someone has to look something up, you’ve probably lost that reader.
  3. Edit for concision. Aim for clarity, not length. Check out these 5 editing tips to learn more.
  4. Write in active voice. Whenever possible, write in an active voice rather than a passive one. Check out this blog post for the hows and whys.
  5. Read your work out loud. Always. You could probably do away with tips one through four if you simply read everything out loud. Trust me on this one. Here’s more.

Not one of those tips will take you much longer to complete your piece, but every single one will improve your work.

If you want to dig into this topic more and really examine your blog for authenticity, check out my eBook, Authentic Blogging. With tons of worksheets to go along with the content, you’ll come out the other side feeling confident and self-assured in your writing! 

What I’m working on…

What I'm Working on via MaggieMarton.com

Balancing a new baby–our daughter is now 16 whole weeks old!!–with work has been a juggling act! Some days, it’s super easy to keep those balls in the air. Other days, they clatter to the ground.

#dirtyhairdontcare

Honestly, though, I’m someone who has always preferred to be busy, so I don’t really mind the juggling act. That said, I have cut down on some projects.

Here are three recent articles I’ve gotten to write:

  • BlogPaws, of course: This active voice vs. passive voice post was my favorite one to write all July!
  • PAW5: I love writing blog posts about enriching your dogs’ lives. It’s a true passion for me!
  • Pet Age: I recently wrote this story about anxiety products for dogs, which was eye-opening for me and my training with Cooper. We started him on one of the products I learned about for the story, CBD treats from Austin and Kat.

Unfortunately, my own pet blog has been one of the biggest cuts. But, this is just a season. And, it’s funny, but it sort of has helped to write far less on my blog. For a while, I felt burnout setting in, and now I’m giving myself time to think and brainstorm. Big ideas are percolating! I’m sure they’ll all bubble to the surface when the time is right.

I’d love to see what you’re working on! Fellow writers, tweet me @maggiemarton with your current projects so that I can read and share!

What I’m Working On…

What I'm Working on via MaggieMarton.com

It’s been a bonkers 2016 so far! (I feel like I say that about every year…)

I took on the role of Senior Editor at BlogPaws at the end of 2015, and it’s been a whirlwind of activity since. I’m proud of all that’s been accomplished on the BlogPaws blog and would love for you to go check it out.

I’ve also contributed two columns each month to Pet Age Magazine. It’s such a pleasure to work with leading pet industry manufacturers and media pros on a monthly basis. I learn so much with every story I write. Check out some of my recent work.

It’s been a travel-heavy year, too. It started with the BlogPaws team summit in Phoenix earlier this year, followed by Global Pet Expo in Orlando, and my trip to Best Friends in May. BlogPaws is around the corner, in Phoenix at the end of June. That’s followed by SuperZoo in Last Vegas and a girlfriends’ trip to Vancouver at the end of August. Whew!

I took on a bunch of other little side projects, too, like contributing blog posts to PAW5 each month. I love that gig because they’re an eco-friendly brand that’s all about enriching our pets’ lives. How great is that?

Lastly, I’ve been chipping away at OMD. To be honest, I’ve struggled to keep up with it, not just because of all the work stuff, but because it’s hard to find our herd’s new voice after we lost Lucas. Everything changed, and it’s just taken me time to wrap my head around it and find this new voice. But, it’s coming.

So, that’s where I’ve been! How about you? Connect with me on Twitter so we can compare project notes!

Why BlogPaws?

On a sunny May morning in 2010, I pulled into a gas station somewhere between Bloomington, IN, and Columbus, OH. I pulled out my phone while the tank filled. I spotted a ton of tweets from other folks who were on their way to the first ever BlogPaws conference.

I actually considered NOT tweeting that I was on my way, too, because I felt like such a fraud. Who was I to be going to a social media conference? Who was I–a blogger with less than a year under her belt–to think I could hold my own in a professional crowd?

Of course, it all turned out fine, despite myriad doubts and fears and insecurities. In fact, it turned out great. Some of the dearest friends and most important people in my life today were friendships formed at that first BlogPaws. I learned a ton, though I was incredibly intimidated. I vividly remember hearing a speaker say that you can’t really make any money at the blogging game until you have at least 5,000 followers. I balked. At the time, I don’t think I had more than 50 or 100 readers at that time. Not per day. Not per week. Per month!

Since then, since BlogPaws 2010, I’ve topped 20,000. I credit my herd with that growth because they’re the ones who give me the stories to tell. But, I also credit BlogPaws–not just the speakers and sessions and keynotes, but the relationships formed. If I have a WordPress question or need a contact at a PR agency, or if I just need someone to cry on the phone with (which I did when Lucas was diagnosed with cancer), that community is there.

Sure, BlogPaws isn’t perfect. But there’s truly no other organization like it, and we can all improve if we work together in constructive, positive ways.

We’re lucky: We’re in two growth industries. The pet industry has become a massive, innovative behemoth, and the blogosphere continues to expand and develop. Both industries are primed for development. We, as pet bloggers and social media influencers, are in position to lead, to direct the future of both capacities.

We have that power.

And that’s why I go to BlogPaws.

Join me?

Here’s what I’ve been working on

What I'm Working on via MaggieMarton.com

Whew. Things have been busy, busy, busy. My goal for November was simply to keep my head above water!

We relocated, and the move took up far more time than I ever imagined. And we’ve moved a lot. This one was an extra-big-beast for some reason. Thankfully, though, we’re settled in and (mostly) unpacked. I’m grateful it was all completed before the bustle of the holiday season!

In the meantime, I’ve been working away. I’m finishing up the semester teaching writing skills to an eager bunch of adults who are all working like crazy to get to the final paper.

I’ve also been writing for one of my favorite sites, PetGuide.com!

Plus, I’ve had the unique opportunity to serve as a campaign manager for several blogger campaigns for BlogPaws. It’s been an incredible learning experience. Part of the job requires reading a handful of blogs every morning, and I’ve spotted so many “best practices” and clever ideas. Soaking it all up!

There is so much on the horizon, so many big, huge things about to happen. I can’t wait to share them all as the projects get finalized. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, have a wonderful week and a productive start to December!

BlogPaws 2015 and eBook News!

I’ve attended all but one of the annual BlogPaws conferences (darn chemo ruined my perfect record), and this year’s was a remarkable experience. They’re all wonderful, of course, but this was the first year I got to speak.

Maggie Marton speaking at BlogPaws

That’s me. Speaking.

I need a haircut.

Anyway, it was an absolute pleasure to chat about authenticity in blogging.

I truly believe that the key to long-term success is being completely, wholly true to YOU with your blog.

In a cluttered online environment, discerning readers can pick out who’s being honest and forthright versus those bloggers who are just shilling. That isn’t to say you can’t earn money on your blog; you can and absolutely should–as long as you’re doing it authentically. If fact, being authentic increases your earning potential.

On that note, I’m thrilled to announce my eBook on being an authentic blogger. If you’re looking to grow your blog, expand your reach, and do so while staying true to YOU, this one’s for you! 

How to Hone Your Writing Voice in 3 Simple Steps

 

The term “writing voice” is bandied about but rarely defined. Your voice, though, will make you stand out from the crowd of other writers and bloggers.How to Hone Your Writing Voice in 3 Simple Steps

So, how are you supposed to hone your writing voice if you’re not sure what–or where–it is?

For starters, I like to think of my writing voice as the sound of my work. If you were having a conversation about your article/book/post, think about what you would say and how you would say it. You want to capture the sound of that discussion in your written work.

I admit: It’s often easier said than done, especially while you’re still refining your craft. Why? We all want to sound funny, witty, intelligent, wry, whatever, and if you’re trying to force that to emerge in your work, you lose your natural voice. But you don’t have to! It took me a long time to get comfortable with my voice, and here’s what’s helped.

3 steps to hone your writing voice:

  1. Think out loud. It drives my husband crazy, but it works. When you are in the early stages of a project, you’re brainstorming an idea, or you’re stuck for the right phrase to round out a paragraph, start thinking out loud. Talk to yourself or to your dog or to your spirit guide or to whomever you want to imagine. When you think out loud, you will hear what sounds truly like you and what sounds forced. Delete the forced stuff.
  2. Knock out that shitty first draft. I’m sure you’re familiar with the “Shitty First Drafts” chapter in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. If not, or if it’s been a while, the concept is simple. Just get words down on paper (well, word processor), and deal with the mess later. If you second guess every word you type, not only will you slow yourself down, but you’ll also interrupt your natural thought process, your stream-of-consciousness. Sure, it won’t be polished, but it’ll be finished – and, most likely, it’ll be a pretty darn accurate representation of what you really wanted to say. It just needs to be gussied up a bit.
  3. Proofread out loud. Your neighbors might start to think you’re losing it if you’re talking through all your pre-writing (point #1) and then again in the editing phase, but trust me. This is the single most effective thing you can do to refine your voice. When you read your work out loud, not only will you catch all your little glitchy errors and grammar mistakes, but you will hear–actually hear–when your work doesn’t sound like you. Then, you can focus your editing efforts on those places to generate a far more solid second draft.

I recommend proofing everything out loud. It makes a huge difference in the quality of your writing, and it will help you refine your writing voice until it really, truly sounds like you.

If you want to dig into your authentic voice, check out my comprehensive, actionable ebook, Authentic Blogging. It’s full of step-by-step instructions, worksheets, and tricks to help you find and refine your genuine voice, grow your blog, and build a loyal audience!