Category: journalism

Finding Your Life’s Work, Your Legacy, To Echo Through the Ages

My wife and I watched the Oscars last weekend. I’m not real big on the pageantry of it all, or the trophies as a reward for art, and frankly the speeches can get rather inane. Even when the winners try to use their platform to say something of substance. Even so, someone said something that caught my attention.

I wish I’d written it down, but what it boiled down to was that everyone in that room were artists, and as such, they were a part of a lineage that went back to the dawn of civilization.

Inspiring.

Not only did the observation tie each of them to the history of Hollywood (and WELL beyond) and all of its luminaries of the past, but it linked them to each other. Technically what they were engaged in that evening was a competition, but they were one, when it came down to it.

As a writer, I know that I have a sort of “pantheon” of authors, poets, and journalists whose works I consider at least quasi-sacred. I’ll bet if you think about it, you do too. Maybe your luminaries aren’t writers. Maybe they make up the lineage of whatever your life’s work is. Whoever they are, it is nice to be able to see your own work as a part of that particular story.

Some people think it is a cliché and an exaggeration but I think we’re all artists. I don’t think that brushing your teeth or drinking a glass of water or shopping for groceries is art. But whatever your livelihood is…whatever enriches your life…whatever you do to tell the world who you are…whatever your legacy will be…that’s art.

Every one of us has a body of work that is weaved into that same tapestry, that lineage of artists which was mentioned on the Oscars. We’ve been building upon it, adding to it since time immemorial, and we’ll continue to do so.

I’d be deeply honored to use my art to tell the story of yours. If you’re ready to put the story of your business in the spotlight, see my blog’s contact page.

Then let’s do this!

Flag-Wavin’ Joe

If you live in Rochester, you’ve probably heard of “the flag-waving guy.” You’ve driven past him on your way to work, or you’ve seen him in the local news. The man’s gotten some press over the years.

Yeah. Years. He’s been at it as long as I can remember, and probably much longer. His name is Joe Johnson, and people call him the flag-waving guy because on almost any day of the year he can be found on the sidewalk outside his apartment on Second Street, usually waving a United States flag. He has others, like his Mexican flag for Cinco de Mayo, for example. But the red, white and blue is his trademark.

If not a flag, he might be spotted just waving Pepsi cans at passing traffic, with equal gusto, though the Stars and Stripes are clearly closer to his heart. He is a patriot in the most sincere, pure, and non-partisan kind of way. He is also almost always barefoot, and often shirtless even in the dead of winter. He appears to be totally immune to the cold. He claims he’s just warm-blooded.

People are either amused, puzzled, or inspired by Joe. Some people do not approach him. Some people are missing out. Because in stopping and talking with Joe on many occasions, my wife and I have found him to be a very talkative, fun-loving and sweet man. He’s retired, and he does what he does, seemingly for the absolute hell of it, but you get the sense that he takes it as his responsibility – his civic duty even, and that it means the world to him.

Apparently the feeling is mutual. His recent absence from his post on Second Street raised enough question that he’s made the news again. Turns out he had his gall bladder removed and has since been hospitalized with high blood pressure and non-stop headaches.

Maybe by the time this post is published he’ll be home recuperating. For all I know, by then he’ll already be back at it with the star-spangled banner waving. And I certainly hope so.

Every town should have a Joe. I mean only Rochester, Minnesota has our Flag-Wavin’ Joe, but my sincere wish is that every town has someone like him who you can scarcely imagine driving through the neighborhood without seeing, someone so dependable that if he’s not there, the alarm is raised and someone calls the radio station about it. I wish we could all look out for each other that way. But not every one stands out as much as Joe.

Every town should have a Joe, if only to provide a splash of color, whether it be the red, white, and blue, or any other colors Joe feels like throwing on, on any given morning. We need people like him for the same reason we need our music to have different notes. And really what’s the point of anything if you can’t, every now and then, see a guy waving a U.S. flag, wearing a giant sombrero, a tie-dyed sweatshirt, and Las Vegas-themed shorts, and only think “Oh good, Joe’s here”? Serious question.

Dear reader, if you are reading this and wondering who your town’s Joe is, maybe it is you. If so, please be that. Be the hell out of it. We need you.

If you see this, Joe, we hope you’re well. Thank you for making our city a little bit more fun. We look forward to stopping by for another chat the next time we get the chance.

Would You Rather…? A Business Owner’s Dilemma.

Remember when you were a kid and you played that game where you had to decide, hypothetically of course (hopefully) whether you’d rather wrestle a tiger or…I don’t know…like, eat a bike?

It was called “Would you rather…?” and it was supposed to present you with two equally unpleasant experiences but you had to decide which one you’d rather do. You know, for fun.

Now that we’re grown, we are presented with real world dilemmas like that sometimes. If you own a business and are under a time crunch, while I certainly hope that none of your responsibilities are comparable to fighting a tiger or eating a bike, you may have to decide whether you want to prioritize writing your promotional and marketing materials, OR:

  • Customer service – Often you’re the face of the company. You’re at the front desk. You’re greeting customers at the door. You’re answering the phone. It’s the most constant of all of these things. While you may be able to get in some writing between calls or customers, you won’t be able to give it the focus it requires.
  • Training – I’ve been a supervisor for a small company and spent hours periodically training small groups of new hires. You want to take the time to do it well so you don’t have to do it again. Probably sooner than later. You balance the desire to train them well with the desire to be fully staffed.
  • Maintenance -Little things will come up that you’ll have to take on whether it be changing a light bulb, fixing the office toilet or unclogging a sink. All of these things need to be attended to in the moment, and take up a part of your day.
  • Human resources and “the books” – If you own a small business you may be the person who does payroll, and pays the bills. You probably do the math to figure out how much you need to bring in just to “keep the lights on” and what steps you need to take to make it happen.
  • Legalese – There is a lot that a business owner has to know in order to cover their own backs. Any legal issue that comes up will fall squarely in your lap.
  • Scheduling and taking appointments – Whether it be clients coming in to do business, interviewing potential new employees, or maybe even local media interviews, a small business owner often has a lot of slots filled on their daily calendar.

And then:

  • Social media – Keeping your company’s social media up to date can be just as time-consuming as marketing/blogging. But it is also something that business owners tend to take overly seriously. Social media should be regular but it doesn’t always have to be directly about what your company makes or sells or the service it provides. It can be fun, off the cuff, and doesn’t have to take up too much time.

This is a service that Dailey Freelance does offer, though most business owners prefer to do this themselves.

  • Advertising – if you’re a small business this may involve nothing more than calling the local newspaper and telling them what you want your ad to look like. Maybe they handle the rest. But putting out the right message is a consideration that takes time.

This is very similar to the blogging service provided by Dailey Freelance, except that with your blog, you publish the content yourself. You have control over it. You own it. It’s just a matter of whether you want to take the time to write it yourself or hire a freelancer.

As the owner of the business, each of these things are of more immediate concern to you than blogging. But that doesn’t mean that blogging is of less importance. The more and more digital the market place becomes, the more essential this type of marketing will be. Why not hire someone who has the time to craft great, effective messaging for you?

Foresight 2020

Hey, Happy 2020, alright?

When the new year comes, I don’t make a point of big personal statements, soaring platitudes about what I’ve learned in the past 365 or 366 days or where I see life taking me in the year to come. I try to trust that the past has been instilled in me and installed in my consciousness well enough that its lessons will serve me well, and I usually just like to see for myself what the next year will bring as it happens.

It’s not that January 1st is just another day for me. But I am not the type of person who thinks that somewhere between December 31st and January 1st we discover a “New You” for the New Year.

If you are that kind of person, that is great. No sincere effort toward personal betterment is ever wasted.

But for me, like many people, at the end of most years, I am simply ready for it to be over. Take 2019 for example. In just these few days since Christmas I have

  • been sick
  • had a minor skin wound
  • had part of my wheelchair break off, and
  • someone sat on the laptop on which I do my freelance blogging work screwing it up irrevocably, I fear. I’m working on seeing what I can do about that. Meantime, I’m writing this on an older laptop. I’m soldiering on the best I know how.

Yet guess what. After all of the frustrations numerated above, tonight I discovered that I’ve got a new gig writing about one of the things that I’ve always told myself I am meant to be writing about. The Beatles. I can’t wait to jump into 2020 with this project immediately in front of me.

The traditional concept of hindsight will nag at me saying that I should have been doing these types of projects for years now. But I know there is no point in thinking that way. It is here now. Hindsight is 2020 because you have the benefit of…well, hindsight. You’ve been there and done that already, so you have an informed perspective on events.

I want to approach the year 2020 like that, except going forward instead of looking back. I want to approach the future of Dailey Freelance with the confidence of someone who sets goals with an informed certainty.

I want you, the client to set expectations on my work for you with a certainty as though when I discuss what I’m going to do for you, you can consider it already done.

I want to cover every freelance subject I write on with the certainty of an expert, to make myself so well-informed on the subject that it will be the most natural thing in the world for me to write your content.

So let’s put 2019 behind us and move into 2020 with certainty.



Let Yourself Be Edited

As a freelancer, the clients I’ve worked for have given me fairly free rein to write as I like, after agreeing on a topic, that is. Even so, there have been times when I’ve asked the client their thoughts on a line or word I was thinking of using. I’ve always been glad I did, but it has usually been up to me to use my discretion and they’ve posted my work as I submitted it.

I’ve always felt that showed that the client trusted me, but it was also a great feeling knowing I gave them what they were looking for.

Recently I’ve written a freelance piece for a local magazine. That is a different animal altogether. I used to write for a newspaper but that was long ago. In the newspaper/magazine biz, depending on the deadline, you may submit your work and the editor will tell you they made a few changes, but you might not know what those changes are until the piece has been published.

And that’s fine. That’s why they are called editors. They are the gatekeepers. They have the final say.

There is an old writer’s adage, “Kill your darlings.” Editing yourself is a tough exercise. Ego comes into play. Delusions of grandeur even. Sometimes that bit you think is absolutely brilliant is just fluff and you may have to kill it.

Having been truly edited, the value of editing myself becomes all the more pronounced. Because though I will continue to freelance for magazines, I also love to write for business owners who hire me so they don’t have to make those decisions.

It’s kind of an important role they’ve entrusted me with. I respect that greatly.

“Lenny”: A Film Review and Social Commentary

I do have a bedtime. Normally. Normally I’ll watch a late night talk show monologue and call it a night by 11 pm. Last night being Sunday, I was flipping through the channels looking for something else to cap off my weekend.

I happened upon “Lenny”, the Dustin Hoffman biopic of controversial 1950’s-60’s comic Lenny Bruce. For one reason or another his name had just come up the day before in conversation with my wife. I put the clicker down and was glued to the TV until the film ended at exactly midnight.

I am a proponent of free speech in all media. Granted, there are things that, just like anyone, I wish certain folks wouldn’t say. But they’ve got a right to say it. So free speech pioneers like Lenny Bruce are important to me.

You could say Bruce was a beat journalist of sorts. He was also a bit of a sociologist. To my knowledge Lenny Bruce did not tell “dirty jokes” for the sake of being “dirty.” If what he said bothered his audience he wanted them to think about why that was. Part of Bruce’s thing was that what makes dirty words dirty words was in the eye of the beholder.

In one scene in the movie, Hoffman as Bruce was on stage the night after being arrested for saying a certain word. He began this post-bail performance by greeting the many police officers in attendance, then conducted a focus group with audience members wherein he repeatedly used the word “blah” in place of what he was obviously talking about. And the police could not do a thing about it. At one point he remarked that this was “the filthiest show [he’d] ever done” demonstrating that it was not the word, but what was in the minds of the audience that was filthy.

And how do you censor that?

But it went deeper than that.

A second prominent theme in Bruce’s most controversial bits pointed out that we censor words, meanwhile our kids are watching people kill each other on TV and nobody says anything. This sentiment was echoed years later by John Lennon, another great pop-sociologist who noted “we live in a world where we have to hide to make love, while violence is practiced in broad daylight.”

Lenny Bruce went so far as to say that if it came down to a choice between a stag film and a dramatization of The Old Testament, he’d rather allow his kids to watch the stag film. The reason being that the first portrayed consenting adults, and the latter involved so much violence and bloodshed.

As I watched the film last night, the anniversary of Lennon’s death passed. I made a mental note that both of these men died at age forty, and that both were provocateurs in their own way to make people think about what was offensive. In 1967, a year after the comic died, Lennon chose Bruce as a member of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” collage, linking the two forever.

What I Learned From The Worst Editorial Blunder I’ve Ever Made.

Some twenty years ago I was on the staff of my community college student newspaper. It was there that I made the biggest editorial blunder I’ve ever made.

I was working with a small team of great minds on an ad promoting the school’s tutoring department. We bounced around a few ideas, but what we landed on was something like “Is Homework Getting to Be a Real Pain in the Ass? Come to the Tutoring Center for Help.”

I remember having strong reservations about publishing it, but I was a rookie and the person leading the charge on the project was a senior member of the newspaper staff. So I, and the others involved, agreed, and we put our names on it and submitted it.

There were admonishing emails from the college administration.

There were retractions and apology ads run.

There were lessons learned.

Yes I was young but I should have just said I didn’t want to have my name on such an ad, and that I didn’t think it was the best we could do. Sure it was eye-catching, but not in the best way. I should have suggested we talk to the people above us, or who worked in the tutoring center. At that point I think it would have been clear what we should do.

I have a feeling this ad never would have run had we done that. The opinion of those who we were doing the ad for would have edited us. And when you are doing advertising, or marketing, or doing freelance of any kind those opinions are the ones that matter.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes popular opinion is wrong and you shouldn’t make your decisions based on what others are going to like or what is going to be popular if you are writing something you deeply believe in. And I DID deeply believe that homework was a pain in the ass. But you pick your battles, right? This wasn’t worth all of the fallout. And it did not serve our client.

In any case, I should have edited myself.

Recently as a pro blogger, a similar situation came up when a staff member at the company I was writing for dropped a line that I really wanted to use because It was eye-catching and not just in the shock-value sort of way. But I had a feeling that the owner would prefer I leave it out. I was sure of it actually. I asked her anyway, I guess just to show her I was a conscientious of the image I was creating for her business. I was correct.

I could have gone with my gut and edited myself. I asked and let her edit me. But I was glad I at least asked.

You Want More Customers? First Step is Making Sure They Can Get In the Door.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I have spina bifida. I use a wheelchair.

So, since with Dailey Freelance I am in the business of bettering your interaction with your clientele, let me ask you: Is your location as wheelchair friendly as it could be?

Accessibility is something that should play a prominent role in my life. And I guess it does, but oddly enough I barely think about it. My wife seems to think about it more than I do. We were talking about it on a recent road trip and she was totally aghast at how I can come up with various topics to spout off about in a blog and yet accessibility isn’t a subject I have put many words to.

Then we reached our destination.

Having been on the road for 11 hours, we went straight to a restaurant. The place had a ramp out front, but it was one of those ramps that incline all the way to the door. No flat space at the top. If you are not in a wheelchair, you may not even realize that this is a problem.

It is. And, disturbingly, it isn’t all that uncommon.

No matter who you are, once you get to the door, you need to be able to stop and pivot, back up and open it. Though that must not be easy for a person who is walking, it is really not easy to do if at the same time you are trying to keep your wheelchair from rolling back down the ramp.

So, since with Dailey Freelance I am in the business of bettering your interaction with your clientele, I thought that this would be a good place to mention this. If you have a business, is your location as wheelchair friendly as it could be?

Consider this my first Public Service Announcement.

Letting Your Interview Subject Do Your Job For You, But Not Really

Most of the work I am doing lately involves interviewing a subject. I always want to ask questions that will take the eventual product (the blog post) in a different direction than the last.

I want to keep it fresh.

Often I go in worrying that with the questions I’ve written, I haven’t dug deep enough to get the gold. But it seems everyone I interview contributes so much more than expected.

“So they do your job for you?” you may ask.
Kind of.

I still have to ask the right questions on the spot to keep the momentum going, and I have to assemble the results into something extremely captivating in the end.

But that “more” that always gushes forth in the course of any of these interviews is what makes this such a great gig. If you are a freelancer, never underestimate the power of cultivating conversation to generate great material. Never limit yourself to one area, one path down which a conversation should go. There is more. Sometimes the conversation takes on a life of its own. It decides for itself where it is going.

Speaking of more: This blog is called the “Dailey Weekly”, and it will continue to be called that. Because I have always wanted to head a publication with that name. Corny or clever, I don’t know. It is what it is. BUT I may be posting more often than weekly going forward.

Hang in there with me.

I’ve Been Around For A Long, Long Year

I recently marked a whole calendar year since the day I publicly announced myself as a professional commercial blogger. I made that announcement last year by creating a Facebook page for Dailey Freelance.

A lot has happened. Doors have opened at unexpected times. It has reminded me that I have always been a writer at heart though. In fact in my younger days I casually blogged for about eight years.

Casually.

Not professionally.

Just for the pure hell of it.

But looking back, I can see some definite tendencies toward the kind of messaging that is employed in commercial blogging. Many times I felt inspired to promote a product or event or show.

Below are a few links to some of those oldies but goldies, with some descriptive commentary. Ignore the occasional typo in these examples, please. Remember, I was just goofing off at the time. I’m not screwing around anymore.

Having said that:

  • This is just a strong call to action post. I stated my agenda. I gave my reasons for doing so. I provided benefits of compliance.
  • This one was to report on a local event that had just taken place. It was designed to bring more attention to their agenda in case it had been missed by the general public. It was meant to go more in depth to explain it’s importance.

It is eye-opening to look back on where you’ve been and see for the first time that it pointed the way to where you were going.