Writing trite

portrait of the blogger as a young adhole

This post is #14 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

I was a fairly highly-paid copywriter for some some big brand names, but it wasn’t until I started horsing around on the Internet that I actually got good at writing the evanescent stuff.

Blurbs. Bios. Short “about” squibs. And above all, comments and tweets and emails.

When people throw out that rhetorical question of how I manage to get so much done, they usually do it on the heels of some stupid little throwaway bit of nothing that quietly appeared somewhere. I get that, when I’ve been moved to make a remark like that, it’s usually been in the context of something small built upon a whole lot of other somethings small. Many, many pieces of small that together have made up a mountain I can not only see but that I can trust. Seth Godin reputedly responds to every single email he receives. I was startled (not to mention delighted) by the first reply I got, but it was the steady-and-sureness of the replies that led me to know, like, and truly trust him.

Yes, big things are dazzling. But so are many, many small things: the thank-yous and comments and @-replies; the thoughtfully-written FAQs; descriptions, captions, and something beyond a snap of the “like” button. The mundane touches that no one else sees, that arrive sans fanfare, assure us that someone is there, that someone sees us, that we’re not out there alone, whistling Dixie.

Bonus-extra? The more you do them, the better you get at doing all of it.


Portrait of the blogger as a young adhole by her brilliant and very patient first art director, Kate O’Hair.


  1. Little things matter, yes they do!

    I have been losing myself in the urgency of needing to do something huge to the point I can do next to nothing. Thanks for reminding me.

    BTW I too was startled and delighted when I got a personal reply from Seth Godin! Thinking back on it I am startled that I wrote to him :)

    PS “like”

  2. Had to look that one up:

    evanescent |ˌevəˈnesənt|
    adjective chiefly poetic/literary
    soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence; quickly fading or disappearing : a shimmering evanescent bubble.
    • Physics denoting a field or wave that extends into a region where it cannot propagate and whose amplitude therefore decreases with distance.
    Okay – Got it! Thanks Colleen!

  3. Loved this. Bang on. Especially regarding horsing around. And the best of the Internet is a bunch of people goofing off until something was born from something that, from a distance, looks like nothing. Goofing around is at the centre of the act of creation. Always.

    I also get ranty on the subject of comments (usually in comments). Because comments *matter*. They’re part of your online You, a tiny tiny showcase of your humanbeingness. People who leave the likes of “LOL!” and “I like fun as well!”? But…why?

    It’s worth being yourself when you comment.

    Unless you’re actually a jerk. In which case, faking it is probably best.

  4. Colleen, this is what I want to say to you right now in this moment, sans editing.
    I read every piece you put out – including your newsletter to actors *though I am phasing away from my acting life that never really got to where I had thought it would* but still, I will keep reading.
    I am not so much a new writer for I’ve been writing (hidden away in my childhood/teen/adult bedrooms and my unlined sketchbook/journal) for years, but I am a new writer out there in the big BIG world. There are times I think, “You don’t know what you’re doing Jenn. Why are you bothering, no one really gives a shit what you have to say….” blah blah blah. I know, it’s just that starving little dark beast inside me who hasn’t quite grasped that self-defeat isn’t going to fill her voracious appetite. She hasn’t quite figured out how self-love and kindness will fill her belly, perhaps help her put on a few pounds and ultimately move her from that dark little corner to a lighter, brighter, more creative, more freeing place. But I’m working with her on the shifting, I’m helping her unclench her fists and unshield her heart, to let me feed her meals of gentle urging, encouraging nudges to try a few bites of softness, love and care and I’m hoping she develops an appetite for all of this and lets go of her fears and doubting and darkness so she knows that she has something to offer. This is my dance with myself and I want to say that your writing inspires me. Encourages me to be kind when the hungry little beast is in my face (or tugging at my pant leg demanding far too much of my attention)
    In the face of fear and doubt and uncertainty in my own creative path (and everyone’s, I suppose) I want to say THANK YOU for keeping on and encouraging us to do the same. Thank you for being a light when I forget to hold it for myself. ox

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