The “Shoulds” and “Shouldn’ts” of COVID-19

Right now I’m hearing a lot of shoulds and shouldn’ts circulating about how to act, respond, or work during this pandemic. “Now is the time to do all the things you didn’t have the time to do!” “Move your business online!” “Use Zoom for all the things you need!” “Contact every client you’ve ever worked with and pitch to them!”

I get it. I want someone to tell me all of those things too. I want a leader to help me navigate this crisis. Some suggestions have wisdom to them and some do not, but the important piece I think is determining which is which. Glennon Doyle says, “As Kathleen Norris reminds us, the Greek root of the word crisis is ‘to sift,’ as in, to shake out the excesses and leave only what’s important. That’s what crises do. They shake things up until we are forced to hold on to only what matters most.”

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That certainly rings true for me right now. I’m learning what’s important to me and what’s not. But more than that, I’m learning about my inner compass. I’m easily swayed by other people and also susceptible to suggestions. If someone tells me the best way to grow my business is to beat down 10 doors, I’ll beat down 10 doors. If someone else tells me the best way to grow my business is to let the doors open for me, to offer everything up to the universe, I’ll offer everything up to the universe.

I’m like a ping pong ball batted around a table. Every few minutes I’m changing my mind about what to do, about what makes sense. I’m letting other people lead and become the authority for, well, everything. The reality is almost none of us were alive the last time this sort of thing happened with the Spanish flu. And furthermore, technology back in 1918 was vastly different than it is now so we’re truly navigating something brand new. No one knows what they’re doing. Not really. The best any of us can say is, “This worked for me and it might work for you.” But who wants to say that? Don’t we all want to seem put together or authoritative? That people should come to us for the answer?

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Through this crisis I am indeed learning to sift, but I’m not sifting what I anticipated. Instead I’m filtering through the noise. I’m wading through the 10 million advice columns people are churning out. Don’t get me wrong, I think advice columns are useful and I’ve written a few myself, but often what’s missing is choice. You get to choose what’s best for you and nobody else knows what that is. Sometimes even I don’t know what’s best for me, but that’s what I’m figuring out.

What’s best for me one minute might be resting. The next it could be answering all of my emails. Or going for a walk. Or writing an article about the shoulds and shouldn’ts of COVID-19. In this time of uncertainty and chaos, perhaps the best thing we can do is become our own authority. To ask ourselves what’s best for us and remember we don’t have to do everything other people tell us we “should.” I’m not a fan of the word “should” and I try my best not to use it. Instead I say “could.” I could reach out to all my old clients. I could wash all my dishes right now. There are many things I could do but what do I want to do? What feels best to my soul? And that I think is the best possible use of my time. And maybe yours too. I’m not sure – I’ll let you decide.

Do you need writing help? Are you underwater with transitioning to a virtual presence? I’m available for quick-turnaround assignments. Reach out to me. I’m here.

Working During COVID-19

I don’t have to tell you life is different now. None of us will come out of this experience the same. We can’t predict what life will look like days, weeks, or months from now, but in this moment as we’re trying to establish some semblance of normalcy, what does work look like? Below are some tips I have about working during COVID-19.

Have Patience

For one, work won’t be business as usual and I think it’s important we all keep that in mind. It’s unrealistic to believe or try to operate in such a way that promotes that idea. Parents now have to contend with children underfoot, or sharing working space with their partners. Everyone is undergoing some sort of upheaval so the best thing any of us can do is be patient with one another. Everything will likely take longer than it normally does so patience is key here.

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Practice Flexibility

It’s also important to practice flexibility. Ideally managers established work goals based on output – meaning the projects themselves and not whether the person spent four hours working uninterrupted. Or whether they worked specifically from 9 to 5. Parents especially might find themselves working in the later evenings and early mornings when their children are asleep because childcare is unavailable. The more employers understand that, the better for all of us. Also, the reality is parents likely won’t get as much work done as their childless colleagues. It doesn’t feel fair, but when is life ever fair? We work with what we’ve got and do the best we can.

Wikimedia CEO Katherine Maher put it best in a Medium piece: “It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect someone to be fully present, eight hours a day, when they have a three-year-old with crayons drawing on the wall, or an elderly parent who needs help navigating the stairs. We all have loved ones who need care, groceries that need purchasing, doctor’s appointments to keep, neighbors who need a phone call. And you know what? We trust our colleagues. People will work when they can, and when they can’t, we trust they’ll be right.”

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Push it Back

If you can push a project back, push it back! Whittle priorities and projects down to the most crucial, the most pressing. Now is not the time to be ambitious and pretend the only difference with work is the location. Use this time to slow down, not speed up.

Americans especially are on the goal-oriented and workaholic side. I’ve seen several memes about how Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity during a quarantine, as if the same could be or should be true for all us. There’s an expectation during this period we’ll be our most productive, our most creative, indulging all our hobbies. “After this quarantine I’ll be in the best shape of my life because I’ll have so much time to work out!” Or “I’ll write the next great American novel in my free time!” I applaud the sentiment, and yes, it might be true for some people, but for many of us, we’re just trying to get by. During stressful times, it’s important to lower the bar, not raise it.

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Be Gentle

The last thing I’ll say about this topic is to be gentle with yourself and others right now. We’re all feeling lots of feeling and in a period of high stress. This is one of the few times when everyone across the globe is in a similar situation. That calls for understanding and kindness because we’re all navigating something new. We’re not alone here and gentleness will go a long way.

What are your tips for working during COVID-19? Tell me in the comments below.

How to Conduct Business During a Pandemic

First off, I want to say I’m writing this article for me. Primarily I want to know how to conduct business during a pandemic. I also want to acknowledge here for some people they won’t be able to conduct business. If someone makes a living that requires in-person contact, a cuddle therapist for instance, they won’t be able to go about business as usual. There are many people who are or will be impacted by a pandemic either through a slowdown in their business or a temporary halt altogether.

A question on my mind is what can be done for people who don’t have the luxury to work from home? If anyone has ideas, I’d love to hear them. My university set up an emergency fund for students who now find themselves forced to return home.

But let’s say you can work from home. How do you ensure you’re as productive as if you worked in an office? In my more than a decade of experience of working from home first as a journalist and now a freelance content writer, I have some tips to share.

1.) Feel Your Feelings

First and foremost, feel your feelings. These are not normal times. Things are scary. Even if you’re not worried about the coronavirus yourself, you likely know others who are worried about it. Fear is contagious. So is panic. Let yourself cry and shake and scream or whatever it is you need to do to move the fear. Otherwise, the fear stays stuck in your body like a whirlpool sucking much of your energy.

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After your freak out, take a deep breath and remember your resilience. Remind yourself of all the hard times you’ve already gone through and how you’re still here. You made it! You wouldn’t be reading this if you hadn’t. Also remember human history is filled with episodes of pandemics. This happens. I’m not saying pandemics come without costs because they do. Millions of people die, which is tragic, AND millions of people also live to tell the tale. It’s likely your parents or grandparents or great-grandparents lived through the Spanish Flu of 1918. Some of them died, but more of them lived. That’s worth remembering.

2.) Maintain Set Hours

Working from home it may feel like you have all the time in the world, that you can work whenever, and that’s true. But that mentality is also how you can idle the day away and not accomplish anything. You don’t have to keep the same hours you had while in the office – for instance you could work 9 to 5 instead of 10 to 6 – but set aside certain hours for work. I’m more of a 10 to 6 gal myself and that means from 10 to 6 I’m working. I’ll take a break in the middle of the day for lunch, but if I have work to do, those are the hours I’m working.

Having the mental boundaries around when it’s work time and when it’s playtime will help you stay productive. Otherwise it’s all too easy to say, “I’ll do it later.” As my parents often said, “Later never comes.”

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3.) Keep Your Rituals

If you have certain rituals around going to work, keep them. Maybe not the ones that involve going to a coffee shop, but the ones like taking a dog for a walk or going for a run. The normalcy of your routine will help you feel like it’s any other workday, because it is, minus the location.

This also means changing out of your pajamas, for some of you. Some people revel in being able to stay in their pjs all day, but I find getting dressed helps me step into work mode. There’s a clear delineation between sleep and relaxation time versus work time. Similarly, I find getting out of bed to work makes me more productive. There’s a space in my house that’s my work space. All my serious writing takes place at my desk, which means I associate my desk with work and the rest of my house with relaxing. You may not have a desk, but do you have a table or a counter top? Sequester a section of your place specifically for work and that will help with productivity.

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4.) Minimize Distractions

Working from home it’s easier to get distracted – your phone doesn’t have to be on silent and there’s that Netflix special you wanted to watch. And it’s such a beautiful day. Wouldn’t it be better to go for a hike? If you’re someone who can work in that way, more power to you. But I think that’s the trouble of working at home for many people – it’s too easy to get distracted.

Minimize distractions by silencing your phone because hey, you’re at work remember? However, if you normally keep your phone on at work, then do that. Whatever method works for you to minimize distractions when you’re at the office, employ the same strategies when you’re at home. You can give in to all the tantalizing distractions after you’ve accomplished your work for the day. Luckily for you, there’s no commute to take into account.

What are some tips you have for working at home? Let me know in the comments. As always, if you need any writing help, reach out. I’m here.

How to Keep Content Coming

As an Oakland, CA freelance content writer, I do a LOT of writing. A LOT. I write for myself, I write for clients, and I write for fun! How do I consistently come up with things to write about, which as I mentioned in a previous post, is crucial for success? Magic! Just kidding.

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The reality is there are days when everyone, myself included, feel uninspired. A day when we’ve encountered the dreaded writer’s block. Nobody can be switched “on” all the time because we’re not robots. Heck, there are also days when robots aren’t working properly! My phone is like a robot and sometimes it acts glitchy. So. Cut yourself some slack if you’re in that writer’s block space. AND there are still ways to maintain consistency regarding your creative content. Read on for my tips on how to keep content coming.

Recycle Content

That’s right – recycle your content! Some things you’ve written are timeless and can be used over and over again. In journalism, we call stories like those evergreens because like evergreen trees, they are constantly fresh. There’s no worry the story will become stale because it’s not breaking news. In your business, certain articles will always be relevant. For instance, if you’re a doctor, there will never be a time a blog about cures for the common cold will be passé. People always want to know how to treat their cold from the comfort of their home. Maybe you tweak a few things to make the blog more relevant, but for the most part, the content can stay the same.

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I remember the first time I started recycling old blogs and wondered if people would judge me or think I was trying to pull a fast one. The reality is, most people don’t pay much attention to anyone other than themselves. They likely won’t notice if you recycle content because they don’t remember your content as well as you do. And if they do, so what? People like to get reminders about things they learned before.

Also, if your content is from more than a year ago, you’ll have signed new customers or clients in that time period and that means for some people, your content really will be fresh. It may seem like it’s cheating to reuse something you’ve written before, but take it from me, it’s not cheating, it’s smart.

Get Silly

You know how you get creative juices flowing? By being silly. Ever notice how silliness and creativity go hand in hand? That’s because they’re both synonyms for playful. Play requires trying new things without judgment, like dancing around in your apartment or drawing a terrible picture. The act of doing something silly will get your juices flowing. Once you laugh, it releases tension, and doing something silly is a great icebreaker.

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As for me, when I really don’t want to write something but I have to (hi deadlines!), I start typing over and over on the page: “I don’t want to write this. This is stupid and terrible and I hate it” and then I just keep going. There’s something magical about putting your fingers to the keyboard. The very act of typing can put me in the mood and then suddenly the act of writing isn’t so hard anymore.

Also, closely related to the topic of silliness, is movement. Research from Stanford demonstrates movement is crucial for creativity. So the next time you’re stuck, dance around, go for a walk, or do something physical (maybe even silly!) to get your brain grooving again.

Be the Conduit

Sometimes I get twisted up with, well, everything, thinking I’m in charge, that creativity comes from me alone, that I have to do everything, etc. The reality is we’re all conduits or channels for creativity. Creativity moves through us like a river. It’s up to us to be open to the flow and get out of the way. There’s always more creativity when we open up to something greater than ourselves. I’m sure you’ve seen that uber-popular Ted talk from Elizabeth Gilbert on the subject.

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At the same time, creativity can strike anywhere: like the shower. But that’s not the best place to write, on account of being wet and all. In that situation, keeping a list is helpful. You jot down the idea you had in the shower, and then it acts as a bookmark that you can pick up later.

Open Your Ears

What are the people around you talking about? What questions are they asking? Those questions reveal pain points that perhaps you know the answer to and can write about. This goes for you as well – what do you want to know? If you’re curious about what makes an SEO-worthy blogpost, google it! And then write about it. If you need help with something, chances are someone else does too. I’m running into exactly this issue as an Oakland, CA freelance content writer. A client of mine wanted to know the difference between Wix and Squarespace so I researched it and then wrote a blog for him about it. His curiosity lead to a blog topic and to another because now I’m writing a blog about the difference between Wix and WordPress! One idea can launch another if you’re paying attention and following your curiosity.

What are your favorite ways to keep your content flowing? Tell me in the comments below. And if you need help maintaining content on your blog, get in touch. I’m happy to help. Lastly, did you like this post? If so, share it with your friends and family.

5 Tips to Create Consistency

5 Tips to Create Consistency

In my post from last week, I wrote about why consistency is crucial. Consistency breeds success for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned. So how do you do it? How do you become more consistent? What follows are five tips culled from business maven Marie Forleo.

1.) Keep the why in your eye

If you don’t know why you’re doing something, you’ll likely stop doing it. If there’s not a compelling goal, if there’s not juice behind your actions, they’ll fizzle out. For instance, if you’re hoping to achieve peace by using meditation, you’ll keep meditating because peace is appealing. If it’s something to do because everyone else is doing it, well, it’s likely meditation will fall off your radar. It’s the same thing in business. Why are you doing what you’re doing? The “why” will act like a propeller and help you to fly.

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2.) Pick your poison

Oftentimes when a person gets excited, they want to do too many things at once. Upon learning about a new diet, they’ll read all the books, make all the recipes, and then get overwhelmed and stop. If you truly want results and are thinking long term, go slow. Don’t change your whole life all at once. Perhaps add in a new recipe a week and then once you’ve mastered it, try a new one. And then another one. And then … For your business, if you know you want to incorporate more social media, pick one platform like Instagram or Facebook, and devote your attention to it instead of trying them all at once.

3.) Schedule it

Plan around your priorities. Build your life around your priorities instead of trying to squeeze them in. If you know every Thursday at 6 p.m. you go to the gym for a Zumba class, you’re more likely to stick with it instead of saying, “One day this week I’ll go to Zumba.” It’s easy for “one day” to become “no day.” As a freelance content writer, I have specific days that I write my blogs. I build my day and my life around it. If I’m going out of town, I’ll write a blog in advance because it’s just that important to me and has become a part of my routine.

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4.) Hop over the feeling hurdle

After you’ve done something long enough, there will come a time when a part of you says, “I don’t feeeeeeel like it.” Sometimes it’s important to honor that voice and say, “OK. We won’t do X.” But sometimes, like parents say to children, “I know sweetie, but do it anyway.” Discipline requires doing things even when we don’t feel like it, because we know it’s good for us. And also if you keep your eye on the why (tip one), it will be easier to hop over the hurdle of “I don’t wanna.”

5.) Try again

It’s easy to get discouraged when we don’t honor our commitments. When we say, “I’m going to blog every Sunday” and then don’t. Or try to stop smoking and find ourselves with a cigarette in hand. This is usually when people fall into a shame spiral (“I’m not good enough.” “What’s wrong with me?” “I can’t do it”) and then quit.

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Quitting is totally allowed. Sometimes it’s the best decision a person can make for themselves. But you know what else is allowed? Trying again. Trying as many times as you need until you get your desired outcome. I’m sure there is a rare gymnast who sticks the landing after learning a new routine, but more often than not, the person falls and tries again. Falls and tries again. Until one day, the landing sticks. And all that falling, or some might even say failing, is worth it.

How do you stay consistent? Let me know in the comments below. And if you liked this post, share it with your friends. As always, if you need help maintaining a consistent blog presence, give me a shout. As a freelance content writer, this is my area of expertise.

Why Consistency is Crucial

The way people often work is they get super excited about a new idea and then spring into action. They churn out podcasts or blogposts. They start doing a million things because they’re fired up. And then they burn out. They get tired. Writing a blogpost sounds boring. Mustering up motivation is hard. Maybe they could let it slide just this once … ?

“Just this once” becomes twice and then thrice. Before they know it, it’s been months since they produced any new content and then perhaps the weight of inertia is, well, weighing them down. I get it! Consistency is hard. As a freelance content writer in Oakland, CA, I’m here to help with that because consistency is a key factor to a successful business. Why is that?

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Consistency builds momentum

Let’s face it, nothing happens overnight. Even those “overnight” success stories we hear about don’t account for the many years of hard work and effort an individual or group of individuals put in. We like to think success, wealth, and acclaim drop out of the sky, that they’re a matter of luck, but more often than not, success is a continuous process. It’s compounded growth. Consistency is what gets you were you want to go. Entrepreneur and author Jim Rohn said: “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.”

Consistency makes you relevant

As I wrote about before, having a blog helps with search engine optimization (SEO) because it keeps your site dynamic. It shows you’re alive and kicking and search engines like that. Not only search engines, but people too. If you post every week, readers/customers/clients start to trust you. They know you’ll have a predictable flow of information and come to rely on it. They start to believe you’re someone they can count on and trust in the world of business. (By the way, if you need help writing your blog, contact me. I’m a freelance writer in Oakland, CA, but I can write for anyone, anywhere.)

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Consistency creates perspective

When I say consistency creates perspective, I don’t mean in the usual sense that you can see things from another angle. What I mean is consistency allows you to look back and measure your success. If you’ve tried something new for a period of time in a steady way, then you’re able to measure your performance. If you do something haphazardly, then how can you possibly know if it’s working? That’s like exercising once every eight weeks and deeming it’s not helping you lose weight. It’s repetition that allows a person to track their success and repetition helps you understand what works and what doesn’t work.

Consistency focuses on the long term

In the U.S. at least, predominantly the culture focuses on the short term. We want instant gratification. We want immediate results. How many people are playing the long game and thinking years into the future? Consistency isn’t sexy because it’s about incremental progress and improvements over an extended period of time. Most people want the improvements without the incremental progress. Me too. I want to play like Mozart without practicing the piano. I want to have a killer body without working out regularly. However, real life isn’t like that. Consistency, especially if you’ve taken the time to evaluate what you’re doing, is what works. Consistency asks that you focus down the road where you’re going, about where you’d like to be. Consistency also recognizes it’s the baby steps along the way that matter.

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It can be hard to focus on the long term, but the way to do that is to hold your vision. What is important to you? Why does it matter? That clarity acts as a touchstone for why you’re doing what you’re doing. When consistent actions become boring, go back to the touchstone. Also consider what’s one thing you can do to move closer to your dream? Not 10, just one. Instead of striving to write an entire book in an afternoon, shoot for a page, or maybe a chapter. If you write a page a day, in a year or less, you’ll have a book. And a finished book is better than an unfinished one.

Why is consistency crucial for you? What are some examples of consistency working in your life? Lastly, did you like this post? If so, share it! And as always, reach out to me for help with writing content because it’s my jam.

Everything Has Its Own Timing

One of the most frustrating parts for me about running my own business, and really if I’m honest, life in general, is how long things take. I’m the type of person who zooms off like a rocket after the word “go.” Coming from my journalism background, I’m used to ceaseless deadlines and a swift pace. When I contact someone for an interview, we speak soon and the story moves ahead. Or if the person doesn’t respond to my interview request, I write the article anyway without comments from them. Regardless, the story is going live at a certain day and time.

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Now that I’m mostly out of the journalism world and writing for small businesses, everything moves much slower. If someone indicates interest in working together, we could spend weeks going back and forth about the details. When I turn in a blog to a client, unlike with a news article, there’s no rush. The blog may not go live for weeks or perhaps months. People take their time because they can. This is a complete reversal from how I used to operate and it’s a huge adjustment. That’s a polite way of saying it bugs the heck out of me. I’m probably not supposed to admit that, but it’s the truth. I realize I can’t control or change other people, I can only manage myself. I’m the one who’s impatient and has certain expectations. And that means I’m the one who has to adjust.

Thus far, I think about advice I heard ages ago: However long you think something will take, double it. For me, I think I need to triple it. That way when a project takes significantly longer than it “should,” I won’t get as bent out of shape because I modulated my expectations. Problem solved! Sort of.

The reality behind impatience for me is I’m a compulsive doer. It feels better/safer/more gratifying to act all the time. It’s hard to slow down. And where I live, hustling is prized. We admire people who work hard, who do a lot. I haven’t seen an award for sitting around all day listening to the birds. I haven’t read any newspaper articles about a person who went for a walk and made a cup of tea later. No. We want achievement. We want people who are doing extraordinary things. Given that atmosphere, it can be hard to sit back and twiddle your thumbs, but inevitably there comes a time when everyone just has to wait. A time when things are not moving. Even in the news room there were days we really didn’t have anything to write about. Or at the very least, we couldn’t write an article because we were waiting on more information.

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What’s helping me adjust to a new sort of timing is thinking about surrender. Surrender means to stop fighting. How can I stop fighting the reality of slow business sometimes? How can I work with it? How can I embrace that there will be days I won’t have anything to do? That sometimes my hands are tied? Instead of rushing into action, or creating work for myself, I can relax, let go, and trust that everything has its own timing. Everything has its own flow. Including business. And while I’m waiting, I can listen to the birds chirp, go for a walk, and make myself a cup of tea.

What about you? How do you cope with waiting? Let me know in the comments below.

The Secret to a Successful Business

The reality is I haven’t been in business long enough to have any clout to reveal the secret to a successful business, BUT there are some things I’m noticing right out of the gate. AND I’ve been talking to other people who have been in business way longer than me. The following is what I/we found.

The secret is. . .

I thought people would want to use my freelance content marketing services because I convinced them of its value. After all, research shows the importance of having a blog so surely everyone wants what I’m offering, right? Because they understand it will help their business thrive and boost visibility on search engines? Well, no. It surprised me to learn my rational explanations mean diddly if there’s not an emotional component as well.

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We like to think of ourselves as logical, reasonable creatures, but actually the majority of our decisions are made by the subconscious part of our brains, sometimes referred to as our reptilian brain. That includes purchasing decisions as well and why storytelling in business is so important. Research on advertising shows the emotional response to an ad influences a person’s intention to buy much greater than the ad’s content itself. Why is that? Because emotionally charged storytelling creates a rush of dopamine in the brain, particularly in the amygdala, which is responsible for memory, according to the Ted talk “Storytelling, Psychology, and Neuroscience” by Amanda D’Annucci.

For instance, if you think about the toxic masculinity ad from Gillette, it got people talking and also created brand loyalty because people vibed with the ad. We want to support businesses that are in alignment with our values and one of the best ways to show a value is through storytelling and emotion. However, I’m not selling razors, so how does this apply to me? The emotional component comes down to this: People are more likely to hire their friends.

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“[E]mployers really want people who they will bond with, who they will feel good around, who will be their friend,” according to Dr. Lauren Rivera at Northwestern University who examined 120 interviews and published her results in the American Sociological Review. We all want to work with people we like, and yes, I’m an Oakland freelance writer and not an employee, but the premise still applies. “Employers” in my case are clients and clients want to work with friends. Thus far that’s proving to be true. My current clients and potential clients are friends or we have a friend in common. This makes sense, right? It’s essentially a form of word-of-mouth advertising, which is the most trusted form with 86% of consumers trusting word-of-mouth.

We trust our friends and we care about what they think. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg said: “People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.”

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I am asking my friends and family to refer me out of course (hey, can you refer me out?), but I’m also approaching potential clients as if they were friends. I’m doing my best to establish a friendly rapport because the reality is business comes down to relationships. We are in relationship with one another trading a good or service. In my case, I’m trading blogposts for money but it could also be trading water bottles or razors or widgets. We want to do business with people we like and what I’m finding is that starts from the very first point of contact.

Do you want to connect with me and be my new business friend? Get in touch.

An Example of Ghostwriting for Therapists

One of my specialties is ghostwriting for therapists, whether that’s blogs or books. Today I wanted to showcase an example of that work. As a disclaimer, I am NOT a licensed therapist so please don’t hold me liable for your mental health care. My work as a ghostwriter is to serve busy professionals who don’t have time to write for themselves, not to be a stand-in for a therapist.

Why Therapy Works

If you’re not currently in therapy, you may be wondering if therapy actually works or if it’s a bunch of baloney. Is therapy just for people who don’t have enough friends to talk to? (The short answer is “no.”)

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There are many different kinds of therapy – EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, used to treat trauma), cognitive behavioral therapy (used to disrupt negative thinking patterns), somatic therapy (used to put a person in touch with their body), expressive arts therapy (using art to promote emotional growth), and about a billion more. Each modality has its own unique characteristics with research backing why it’s effective. This is not a post going into the science behind every sort of therapy, but instead perhaps a controversial statement about why therapy works in general. Therapy works because at its heart it’s a healing relationship.

What I mean is regardless of the modality, the therapist and the patient inevitably enter into a relationship where the therapist is viewed as an authority figure, perhaps even a parental stand-in, which is often called an attachment figure. When the therapist meets with the client consistently, that creates a secure base and allows the client to feel safe, if the therapist isn’t abusive or critical that is. The therapist becomes a person the client can rely on, a person they can trust consistently for perhaps the first time in their life. Don’t underestimate the power of that.

There are several therapies focused on repairing the ruptured attachment bond people experienced in their childhoods from parents who couldn’t give them what they needed. One such therapy, person-centered therapy, stems from influential humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers. He proposed healing occurs in a climate of safety and trust. In person-centered therapy, the therapist becomes a secure attachment figure and part of that means empathic understanding, or mirroring a client’s emotions without judgment.

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Often the therapist will help the client regulate their emotions through empathy and a change in perspective, which helps the client learn to do the same thing for themselves. The client internalizes the warmth and understanding of their therapist, often hearing their voice internally. That voice becomes the new tape playing in the client’s mind instead of a highly critical or shame-based one. The therapist assumes the functions of a nurturing parent to repair lost trust, restore security, and help a person regulate their emotions as well as experience healthy intimacy, which many people did not receive during their childhoods.

What’s interesting is in the book Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: An Integrative Approach, Elsie Jones-Smith states in the 2013 Delphi poll of expert therapists, only a relatively small percentage said their primary theoretical affiliation is person-centered, even though most subscribe to the importance of therapist empathy. What I take that to mean is whether a therapist is conscious of it or not, empathy plays a huge role in a client’s healing process, and inevitably so does the relational aspect.

In fact, research from Ohio shows that empathy, warmth, hopefulness, and emotional expressiveness led to improved client outcomes more so than adherence to a specific approach.

What’s also fascinating is the research coming from psychologist Allan Schore of the University of California, Los Angeles, who has studied attachment from the viewpoint of neurobiology over the past 20 years. He said change as a result of therapy occurs not so much in the intellectual communication between client and therapist, but in a more imperceptible way – through a conversation between two brains and two bodies.

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A good therapist subconsciously tunes in to the unexpressed emotions of a client and adjusts their body language in response to the client’s internal rhythms, engaging in a “kind of dance in which both partners mutually influence and synchronize themselves to each other,” according to an essay on Aeon.co regarding the subject. The essay also states that according to Schore’s research, over time the nonverbal attachment communications from the therapist can “become imprinted into the client’s right brain, revising stored coping patterns, and giving rise to more flexible and adaptive ones.”

That means during therapy, a client’s brain is getting rewired. They are learning a new way of being and thinking. That in turn allows the client to cope better with stress and difficult emotions so that eventually they no longer need therapy. And because the clients have learned to take better care of themselves, they can in turn take better care of others, which creates a ripple effect. That ripple fosters safer homes and communities, but it all starts with the one-on-one relationship.

When you’re working with a client, keep in mind that you may not say the “perfect” thing, or engage in the “perfect” way, but ultimately that’s OK because when it comes down to it, your relationship is more important than any of that.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, contact me about working together. I’d love to partner with you on your writing project.

An Example of Storytelling in Business

In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of storytelling in business. What follows is an example of the sort of piece I’d like to write for alternative health practitioners. If you like what you see, contact me about working together. 

Using Network Spinal Analysis to Heal Emotional Trauma

When Lana H. used to stroll down the street in her native Berkeley, CA, she startled when people revved their car engines. Cognitively she knew that happened, and that people slammed doors, but her nervous system jumped anyway. Part of that could be attributed to surprise, but it also happened for things she anticipated – for instance, her boyfriend entering her apartment.

“My boyfriend has a key to my apartment and I can hear when he approaches my door,” she said. “I know his step, I know the sounds he makes, but I would startle anyway when I saw him inside my place. My body behaved as if a complete, random stranger walked in and I hadn’t heard it at all.”

Photo by Maria Ziegler freelance writer Oakland, CA

That startle reflex has calmed down significantly as a result of seeing a network spinal analysis chiropractor where she lives. Lana started care in July 2019 not so much for a physical reason – although she no longer has a sore back – but more because she sought emotional support.

“I have a friend under network care and I saw something that changed in their lives that I wanted,” she said. “It’s hard to quantify, but I’ve been talking to that friend for a long time and something about the way they spoke about their life changed. Their perspective shifted and their sense of hope and clarity grew.”

Lana decided she wanted the same thing, and even though she’d been in somatic therapy since 2014, she found she couldn’t access the deep, nonverbal childhood trauma she sought to heal. She hoped network care would help with that. So far it has, and since seeing her chiropractor, her window of tolerance has widened. What that means is she can deal with stress better and cope more easily with difficult emotions. She’s not triggered as much, which means when something happens that’s similar enough to the original trauma that occurred in her childhood, she’s not thrust back into a place of helplessness and hopelessness.

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“Widening my window of tolerance means I’m less easily triggered, more able to recognize when I am triggered, and more able to care for myself,” Lana said. Caring for herself might mean meditating or calling a friend.

Network spinal analysis has granted her peace – she doesn’t feel as beholden to her emotional states anymore. Emotions are more complicated than simply feeling states – they are associated with biochemical and physical reactions. As most people know, fear spikes adrenaline and cortisol levels. By processing her emotions better and more quickly, Lana is able to cut the cycle short and keep adrenaline and cortisol from being dumped into her body as extensively. Instead of looking for things to fear when she’s afraid, she calms herself down.

Her healing process isn’t finished however, Lana said. Network spinal analysis isn’t a quick fix and she’s finding it’s worth it to see her chiropractor for a longer period – some people keep going for years.

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“It’s not just about reinserting a dislocated rib,” she said. “That’s not how this works. Instead it’s that my rib is more likely to stay put, and if it does go out of place, it will reposition itself without the help of my chiropractor.”

Even though it’s only been a short time, Lana has noticed subtle changes in her body and her mind.

“It’s a little hard to go, ‘Wow, everything is different’ and yet everything is different,” she said. So much so that for now she plans to keep seeing her chiropractor and she looks forward to more changes along the way.

Like what you read? I’d be happy to do this sort of blogging for you as well. Get in touch with me to discuss your business needs.