Tag Archives: writing

Mr. Fix-It

Wednesday, 12:53pm
Reno, NV
I’m busy 24 hours a day, I fix broken hearts, I know that I truly can…” (Del Shannon, “Handyman”)

Howdy.

Today, I want to share with y’all a simple pro-level tactic that just might change your career path forever… if, like most entrepreneurs out there, you’re laboring under a huge and common misunderstanding of how things work in the real world.

Here’s the problem: Most folks only see the surface of the culture, and seldom get to peek behind the curtain to see the infrastructure that supports everything.

Now, if you’re stumbling through life as a slacker or a follower… just bobbing to and fro like flotsam… then learning how stuff gets created isn’t important.

But entrepreneurs do not have that luxury. Once you take responsibility for the survival of a business, you better get hip to the Big Picture.

This means understanding the process of arriving at a finished product. Which requires rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty (or virtually dirty, in the digital world).

Here’s the quick tale of how I was introduced to this realization: Back in school, I was that doodling kid who just kept getting better at it… until one day the journalism teacher found one of the endless homemade comic books I was pumping out, and insisted I create a weekly cartoon for the high school newspaper.

Now, I loved the comics page in the local rag (the LA Times). The idea of drawing a comic strip of my own, however, was terrifying. I didn’t have a clue how they were actually made. Up to that point, I drew only in pencil, on big sheets of scrap paper, with no limits to sizing or length. Now, suddenly, I had to work in ink, inside a 3-inch by 4-column format.

And meet a deadline.

In retrospect, I should have just hit up the art teacher for tips on producing a cartoon in a publication. Or called up the local “real” newspaper and ask a production artist how it’s done.

But I had never had to research anything before. Like most American kids, I had spent my youth tearing things apart, not building them. I’d never asked anyone how something was done, ever. I just figured it all out for myself, in my own idiosyncratic way, thinking that’s how it had to happen. You “should” be able to figure everything out.

It’s a flaw in our brains.

Back then, the hard part of doing a weekly cartoon was coming up with jokes that fit into a four-panel format. But what consumed the most time was producing the final strip. I bought a double-aught nib in a wooden holder at the crafts store, plus a big bottle of India ink. And I drew veeeeeeery carefully…

… because I believed that published cartoons were drawn that way. You know, that Charles Schultz just sat down and inked out a Peanuts strip from left to right.

And if I made a mistake…Continue Reading

The Reality Check Mom Never Gave You

Monday, 3:32pm
Visalia, CA
“Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty.” (Sicilian proverb)

Howdy…

I’m handing the blog over to our good buddy Jimbo Curley again this week.  He’s done several guest posts, all hilarious, all excellent insight and info for marketers, writers and anyone in biz.

Jim and I go back a looooooooong time.  And my favorite story of how we became brawling colleagues is included here — this tale sends grown men into gasping fits of laughter whenever Jimbo re-tells it in the bar (where, during seminars, all the REAL networking and professional bonding takes place).  Last week, it was the Phoenix Hilton, for Joe Polish’s and Dean Jackson’s shockingly-good “I Love Marketing” event.

So this is fresh stuff.

Jim’s the real thing.  A top, consistently smokin’ hot copywriter and a keen observer of human behavior (and buying psychology).  He’s an original teacher in the Simple Writing System, and one of the very few writers I’ve personally asked to write FOR me.

This post is must-reading for anyone wondering how their latest and greatest ad is gonna do in the real world.

Warning: Do NOT drink coffee while reading this.  Or you’ll snort it through your nose during the funny parts.  Which is funny in itself, the image of hundreds of readers all over the globe spitting up coffee at their desks at the same time, courtesy of a master storyteller.

Okay, you’ve been warned.

Here’s Jimbo:

Thanks for the intro John.

I’ll dive right in.

Today I want to talk about a Street-Marketing lesson I call “How to take it in the shorts… and love it”.

It’s about how to get qualified critiques for your writing.

First, I’ll hit you with the big setup statement.

Here it is: Continue Reading

How To Murder Stress, Part 1

Tuesday, 3:29pm
Reno, NV
I can’t seem to face up to the facts, I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax…” (Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer”)

Howdy…

What’s the matter, Bunky?

The news got you down?  The economy keeping you up at night?  Are sales in the toilet, creditors stalking you, clients not returning calls, the sheer angst of living in a modern tech-drenched world chewing holes in your gut?

Would you like to hear how grizzled veterans handle the evils of stress?

It’s good stuff… because, as everyone should realize, you don’t get to BE a grizzled veteran if you can’t handle stress.  Cuz that shit will eat your ass alive and send you to an early grave.

In fact, this is easily one of the fundamental tools for surviving the Bidness Never-Ending Cage Fight.  I noticed, in the first years of my freelance career (when I was searching semi-desperately for clues on how to become successful), that there were biz owners who were having fun… and there were other owners not having any fun at all.

Age had nothing to do with it.  Nor health (though the fun-havers consistently were in better shape).  Nor gender, nor — and this is important — how successful they were.

The difference was simply how they handled stress.Continue Reading

You Did What? Where? How Many Times? Whoa…

Saturday, 1:29pm
Austin, Republic of Texas
We’re the Free Texican Airforce, and we’re flying tonight…” (Peter Rowan)

Howdy…

Okay, first off, I’m not in Austin yet.

I’m in Reno… but I’m preparing for flying into Austin Monday by keeping the oven on in the kitchen, while boiling four pans of water on the stove.  Cuz it’s hotttttttt down there.

I’m a dry-heat kinda desert rat.  We’re a mile up here in the biggest little city, and the idea of walking out onto the broiling tarmac of Bergstrom International — where it’s rumored to be topping 107 this time o’ year — is not fitting easily into my brain.

Now, I’ve spent months in the Florida Keys, on full-tilt boil, back when Gary Halbert insisted on moving down there (first to Marathon — or “Cleveland in the Keys” — and then to Key West — or “Key West”, which is another concept hard to fathom for anyone who’s never experienced it first-hand).  (Trust me on that.)

But, like childbirth, you forget the details once the ordeal is behind you.  (Or so I hear. Never been pregnant myself.)

So, the closest I’ve been to that kind of super-heat in the past few years… has been during a long, soothing shower.  While it’s snowing outside here in the bosom of the Sierra Nevadas.

Whatever.  I’m going, because I’m speaking at an event alongside the likes of Joe Sugarman, Joe Polish, Bill Phillips, Chris Guerrero and other notables at a very nice event hosted by our pal Josh Bezoni.

And it’s gonna be fun hanging out with those nutballs.

I’ll also collapse and die at some point in the heat, of course, but I’ll have a smile on my mug.

I recall a joke a guy once told me, while we were both sipping Lone Stars:Continue Reading

And a fine happy birthday to ya…

Saturday, 8:44pm
Reno, NV
They’ve all gone to look for America…” (Simon & Garfunkel)

Howdy.

I want to wish the country a happy birthday on this fine July 4th.

She’s looking not too shabby for 235 years old.  I’ve been here for a lot of those b-days, too… and here are a couple of random thoughts (before I get drowned out by fireworks):

Random Thought #1: I’m not gonna discuss politics, and I hope you have the presence of mind not to start in on it yourself in the comments.  However… as far apart as we seem today on the multitude of problems faced… I can tell you it has ever been thus.

At our very best, the country has always been like a dysfunctional family forced to co-exist at a perpetual holiday dinner.  My own family shows signs of it occasionally — somebody gets hot about some subject, voices rise, someone gets called an idiot, feelings are hurt…

… and then, minutes later, all is well and we’re laughing about some story from the family archives.  (I had uncles who couldn’t get through a game of gin rummy without throwing cards across the room and giving us kids an excellent lesson in swearing like a sailor before the aunts corralled them back into some semblance of civilized behavior again.  I miss those old farts, and a whiff of beer and cigars can take me back instantly…)Continue Reading

“Word Slut” Resources

Monday, 1:17am
Reno, NV
Tell me that you’ve got everything you want, and your bird can sing…” (Beatles)

Howdy…

Got another classic blog post here for you.

The topic is not only evergreen for writers and marketers… but, amazingly, the more arcane referenced website is still operational.

This second site, especially, is a SHOCKINGLY GOOD resource for finding both current buzz words and great slang…

… for when your message cries out for hipness, relevance, “slang nostalgia”, or just a sizzling word or phrase that knocks your reader back on his heels.

Just be careful, and remember Rule #1 for using slang: It’s got to be Continue Reading

Sex, Fun, Money… and More Sex

Monday, 9:27pm
Reno, NV
Oops, I did it again…”  (Britney, God love her…)

Howdy…

I’m on a roll here, grabbing criminally-ignored posts from the blog archives…

… and re-posting them prominently, so you criminally ignore them no longer.  With a few minor edits, of course, tailoring the prose to fit today’s quirky needs for advice.  (Hey, you don’t fit into your old high school jeans anymore, either, you know.)

Here, we have another dangerously-tasty post from not too long ago… which, I believe, requires no explanation other than to say it’s some serious insight into the writer’s brain.

You do NOT want to venture into this quagmire without a guide.  Which is what I’ve written here — a short “guide to the writer’s mind”.

Not exactly a hot Disneyland ride, but if you’re in business it’s some wicked-valuable info.

So, indulge, and enjoy (if you dare):

I’m gonna need your feedback on this.

See, I’ve always been a wave or two out of the mainstream… and that’s actually helped me be a better business dude, because this outsider status forces me to pay extra attention to what’s going on (so I can understand who I’m writing my ads to).

This extra focus means I’ve never taken anything for granted — especially not those weird emotional/rational triggers firing off in a prospect’s head while I’m wooing him on a sale.

And trust me on this: Most folks out there truly have some WEIRD shit going on in their heads, Continue Reading

Operation MoneySuck 2.0

Tuesday, 2:32pm
Reno, NV
And you may ask yourself, where does that highway go?” (Talking Heads)

Howdy.

Quickie post today…

… on a very important topic.

You hear me nattering about “Operation MoneySuck” all the time.  And some folks are confused about what it means.

So let’s do a refresher.

Here’s the story: Early in my career, I was hired by advertising legend Gary Halbert to help him write ads for clients.  The first day I arrived at his offices on Sunset Blvd (in West Hollywood), we were scheduled to slam out copy and plot “next moves” with some current clients.

However, just as my butt hit the chair across from his desk, two (count ‘em, two) secretaries AND his red-headed girlfriend (notorious for getting her way) burst in with bad news.

Lots of bad news, in fact.  The printer had just broken down, and shit needed to get copied NOW.  Some guy was ranting and raving on Line 2, threatening legal action over something.  The landlord was on the way up in the elevator, because there was a problem with the lease.  The bank was on Line 1, and so on.

These women were shaking with panic and consternation, freaked out by the urgent crisis-level emergencies that…

HAD

… to be dealt with…

NOW!

I sighed, and started to gather my stuff, ready to split until Gary had attended to all of this mayhem.

Instead, he held up his hand… shushed everyone… and gently ushered the secretaries AND his red-headed girlfriend (notorious for getting her way) out the door…Continue Reading

Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies, & Choosing The Right Weapon

Blog Jimbo

Monday, 11:34pm
Visalia, CA
I never drink… wine.”  (Bela Lugosi, “Dracula”)

Howdy.

Special treat today.  I’ve asked an old friend (and killer copywriter) to guest post on the blog here.

Jim Curley and I go way back (to, gasp, Before The Birth Of The Internets As A Marketing Force)…

… and he’s one of those Web-hip veteran copywriters who brings a healthy dose of old-school wisdom and experience to everything he does.  He’s well steeped in all the manly markets (golf, self-defense, hot rod body artwork, family life, vampires, stuff like that).  I’ve had him as a wingman at multiple seminars, and I’ve hired him as a writer for my own projects.

That’s how good he is.

I didn’t give Jimbo any directions on what he could write about, either.  I trust the guy completely…

… and just told him to dig into one of the subjects he and I enjoy talking and bitching about when we get together.

This is a good lesson Jim’s sharing with you.

Enjoy… Continue Reading

Confessions Of A Story Junkie, Part One

SF 7-10

Sunday, 10:19pm
Reno, NV
There are eight million stories in the naked city…” (Jules Dassin film noir classic)

Howdy.

Here’s a nice little piece of insight for writers.

And by “writers”, I’m referring to those ink-stained wretches (of whom I share a proud bond) who really care about the craft of writing.  For whom the act of stringing words together is — when done right — a sacred thing.

You can make a living as a hack writer (meaning: Someone who can communicate through writing, but who neither loves language nor attempts to create phrases with rhythm or dynamics or craft).

Most of the best-selling novelists these days are complete hacks, in fact.  (Talkin’ to you, Dan Brown.)

Metaphor Alert: If you need a comparison to understand what I’m talking about, let’s take the mastering of a musical instrument.  What’s the difference between the dude who noodles away at a guitar for decades but never plays for anyone… and the guy who steps on a bar stage to cover a Cream tune… and Eric Clapton?

Answer: The first dude can’t Continue Reading


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