“See My New Doll House!”


©2015 Mark Henderson

Prologue:  This position paper is the result of a wager between the lovely and talented Wendy—and the smarter half of the Henderson Enterprises writing and editing team—and I. She bet that I couldn’t write a cogent persuasion based on this line from a 1970s-vintage made-for-TV-movie.

So, back when I was a boy, we used to gather the entire family ‘round the console TV set and howl laughing whenever a rerun of the western comedy aired called Evil Roy Slade, starring the late John Aston and about a dozen other well knowns.

There’s a scene in the movie where the main character, Roy (a.k.a. Evil Roy) wades out into a maelstrom of bullets being fired by the “good guys”(who were really not that good) to kill the “bad guy” (who was really not that bad). As Roy runs into the open, he’s clutching a book yelling, “Pow! Pow! Pow!”

Then he looks at the book—bullet storm still in full force—and asks, “Why am I pointin’ this book at them yelling, “Pow, pow, pow?”

His love interest (who was supposed to be handing him a loaded gun to aid his escape) replies, “Turn to page 9!”

“There better be a stick of dynamite in page 9,” Roy mutters, thumbing through the book amidst a hail of bullets.

“Read it. It’s a prayer book!” she yells.

“I can’t read it. All I can read is ‘See my new doll house’, and it don’t say, ‘See my new doll house,” Roy replies, the welling angst obvious in his voice.

“It says, ‘Thou shalt not kill’,” she yells back.

Roy, out of options at this point, takes the only action he can think of:  He tries to “Exit stage left, even” holding the Bible up yelling, “See this boys? It says, ‘Thou shalt not kill!’”

Of course, Evil Roy Slade gets captured to end the scene. It is a hilarious scene in a hilarious movie chock-full of hilarious scenes.

Yes, it was a 1970s vintage comedic classic, but I think Roy’s words of exasperation have become a sort of a mantra of Everyman/Everywoman today. No, not the “There better be a stick of dynamite…” line (although some have thought something similar, I am sure). No, the “All I can read is ‘See my new doll house’…” line. I am convinced that for many of us, if something doesn’t read like our version of “See my new doll house,”—whatever our version looks like—we can’t (a.k.a. don’t) take the time to read it.

Whether it’s filtering through scads of emails, scanning through documents to get to “the bottom line”, or hurriedly reading user assembly and installation guides, if we’re honest, most of us can admit to missing the “See my new doll house” for which we were looking. I, myself, am guilty and I am a seasoned (a.k.a. “old school” or old) editor! Just recently, I initially rejected a draft contract when I read their “nuclear option” clause, because I skipped over the caveat clause that made the termination clause “fair and reasonable”.

My point is this:  We—as receivers of information—need to be cognizant of the fact that we live in the Age of Information Overload, with a constant barrage of information pumped at us through all manner of media. And, as a survival or coping mechanism, our brains have learned to filter out information not germane to our mission-of-that-second. I previously wrote a corollary blog aimed at communicators called Information Overload; it highlights how communicators need to be aware of the phenomena, taking special care to present information so that their target audience will receive that information and will receive it correctly.

For us, as information receivers, we need to be aware of our filter defense systems; we need to try to be more intentional in our information filtration when appropriate; and, we need to be able to learn when it’s important to stop, drop, and roll. In other words, we need to be ready and willing to hit our internal “SLOW SPEED” button, and intentionally receive (i.e. read, study methodically, etc.) information presented to us.

Maybe then, we’ll be able to read more than “See my new doll house.” Or better, maybe we’ll be able to successfully receive our “See my new doll house” for which we were searching on the first pass.

Epilogue:  I believe I won the wager. What do you think?


©2015 Wendy Scheuring

Writing is the most complex type of communication we have ever known. If it wasn’t for written communication—in any form—we wouldn’t be able to pen our thoughts, walk away, and let someone else to read them the next day, or even weeks, months, or years later. Being able to communicate in this way has changed the way we will think, forever.

Now, for some reason, we, as a people, like to assign labels to different types of writing, like technical, creative, etc. as if they are, in fact, completely different types of writing, not just secluded, but vastly located parsecs from one another. Granted, these “types” of writing show up in different venues: industries need technical writers to write procedures, manuals, and users’ guides. Creative writers write books, blogs, and stories. But, what about marketing materials that sell an industrial service? Creative or technical? Blogs that discuss changes in the financial industry? Technical or creative? An historical novel that takes place during the first manned flight to the moon? Creative or technical? As you can see, it becomes more difficult to choose one or the other.

Someone somewhere sometime came up with the terms, “technical writing” and “creative writing.” Why? We don’t know. But, we suspect it might be the same person who decided to delineate knowledge into school subjects like “History,” “Science,” “Math,” etc. as if life can be neatly tucked into tidy little categories. If history is a subject and science is subject, then what about the history of science? What about the early 1900s when Marie Curie performed her radioactivity experiments? In which class should she be studied? History, Science, or Women’s Studies?

The answer is that all writing is technical and all writing is creative. You simply cannot have one without the other. Whether it’s technical documentation or a business plan, a novel, or a blog, all forms of writing need to be conveyed to the reader in an expected format; they need to follow the rules of grammar and punctuation—for the most part—and create a vision in the reader’s mind. Vision, without conventions—e.g. grammar, spelling, and format—cannot be understood. Nor can conventions without vision make a piece of writing meaningful.

Is Your Website Unseen?

©2015 Wendy Scheuring

If you’ve got the type of business where you’re trying to reach the folks at home, or you’re seeking a broader client base than just the neighbors in your backyard, your website is where you want to roll out the red carpet. Think of your website as being the place where you’ll make your first impression. How do you want to come across?

Establish your personality.  Sure, someone is always going to have a bigger and better website with all the fancy graphics, videos, and cool music, but so what? Define who you are and what your business does. What is it about you that makes others want to visit your business or hire you?  Do you have that small, neighborhood appeal, or do you reach out to the big guys?

Always stay positive. Yep, maybe the other “guys” don’t do a good job, but leave that up to the customer to decide. Never put someone down on the web. Instead, be positive about what you do. How can someone benefit from hiring you?

Don’t try to sound too important. When people do that, they tend to inflate their verbiage into extraneous interlocutions and seamless strategies.  See what I mean? If you don’t understand what you’ve written, don’t expect someone else to. Write like you talk and then take it up a notch.

Offer friendly advice. Think of your blogs as free advice you’d give a relative or friend on how they can get rid of that possum in their yard, or entertain at a dinner party.

Produce sound, quality content. Don’t even think about keywords, although they are important in your metadata, permalinks, and keyword density on your SEO. Produce content that rocks, without repeating the word “exterminator” every 5 seconds.

Post something new to your site every week. If you can’t think of anything new to post, then try revisiting some of the old topics and giving them a new spin. Plus, if you take the time to listen to your customers, you’ll have plenty of topics to write about. What do they need help with? What are their concerns?

Make sure you don’t have any speling or grammatikel errors or completely confusing and totally run on sentences that don’t make any sense or drive people crazy or try to fit everything you do on your home page?

And lastly, brand your site. Make sure the pages on your site use graphics that say what you do without words. Create a logo, color scheme, or quote that defines your business, and use it!

Best of success!

Writer Experienced with Forklifts Wanted

©2014 Wendy Scheuring


A while ago, I came upon this online ad for a writer:

Writer Experienced with Forklifts Wanted

 I am looking to hire the services of a freelance writer who has some form of experience with forklifts.  The writer will showcase his or her knowledge of operating a forklift by providing unique and informative articles. Please reply with details about your experience.

Compensation:  Negotiable

At first, I let out a laugh because the ad was so limiting.  Immediately a couple of funny scenarios came to mind, such as bakers needing nuclear engineering experience, or scuba divers needed with cosmetology experience.  I surmised that it would be quite difficult to find someone with expertise in two unrelated fields.

But then I came back to the premise of the original ad:  that writers with specific experience in a subject area are more qualified than those who don’t.

But, is this necessarily true?

Having experience in a given area could be a double-edged sword. Those with knowledge in a certain field may already have formed their own opinions about the subject matter and be less open to what the client actually wants to say.

And, the underlying assumption that writers who know their subject matter ignores one simple thing:  That the act of writing is not actually the first thing that a writer does!

A writer listens before he or she begins writing to “get the story.”

Then, as the process continues, the writer begins to shape ideas into words as he or she confers with the client. It is an ongoing process where writers must constantly adapt as they sift through conversations and interviews and written documents and research to mine the most important facts and details.  That’s when the client’s ideas begin to blend with the writer’s gift of verbiage, creating a truly collaborative work.

So rather than looking for a writer with forklift experience, or a horseback rider with tree cutting experience, or a sea cucumber gatherer with skiing experience, look for a writer who knows how to ask questions, a writer who knows how to connect the dots, a writer with discernment, and most of all, a writer who understands who you are and what your message is, and will not be afraid to write it!


What My Cats Taught Me About Business

©2013 Wendy Scheuring

I was working the other day, trying to finish a project for a client when my long-haired Tuxedo cat Blackie plopped down on my feet. I was focusing intently on the words on my screen and not on the 20-some pounds of quite possibly the most affectionate cat in all of kitty-dom. The ability to take rejection is not one of Blackie’s strong suits, so he responded by stepping up his game.

He kneaded my toes. He stretched out. He communicated his desire to close the deal with a gentle, concise meow that expressed his sincere need to connect with me.

I didn’t give in and stayed work-focused. But, finally, he did his signature roll-over backwards, all the while keeping a keen eye on me. So, I did what any cat lover would do, I caved. I picked him up—no small feat, I might add—and put him in my lap.

PURRR. Kitty Nirvana. He’d achieved his goal. My cat has entertained me and my family with his cool cat skills and in return, we give him, well, cat love and affection. With Blackie in my lap, I started typing away again; then, I made an interesting connection between my cats and my business. My cats were actually geniuses when it came to relationships:

Ten NOs get you to the YES you are seeking: As described earlier, did Blackie quit at the first NO? Nope. He rubbed against my leg, he meowed, he purred. Persistence pays off.

Bend over backwards for your clients: While few of us can compete with Blackie’s ability to elevate bending over backwards to an art form, any good business person will work hard to delight his or her clients. However, there is a subtlety that Blackie seems to have that makes his act of bending over even more delightful. He keeps his eye on the client. It’s as if he were saying, “Look at how I am striving to delight you even more.” When we communicate the message, quietly, that we are striving to delight, we show our clients that we genuinely care about them.

Purr a little:  We humans are needy. My cats have taught me that. It’s a cold world out there, and all of us need a little loving, a little affirmation, a little caring. Sales people know this all too well, and they jump on this universal need sometimes like a dog—they jump on you, lick your face, wag their tails (dogs, not sales people). But, cats purr. I’ve seen a little 2-oz. kitten purr a man’s heart to its melting point as he was petting it with his index finger. That’s some serious business power packed in a little 2-oz. ball of fur. Our challenge is to purr a little for our clients, to show them affirmation and caring.

Remember, people dig cool cats, man:  Each of my three cats (Make sure to stay tuned for my upcoming blog on what defines a “Cat Lady”) have very different personalities and ways of getting things done. But there’s one trait they share:  Individually, they each possess a very high cool factor. I don’t know how to describe this; I just know that it works. People just dig cool cats. I suspect that if you read this, and get it, you already have a high degree of cool—and the lesson is to just remember the lesson. Cool is a business attribute, a trait to which people (a.k.a. clients) are attracted to like bugs to a light.

Think outside the box:  Have I ever mentioned that I absolutely loathe meaningless clichés? I absolutely do, and that “think outside the box” has got to be one I hate the most. But, I will say that my cats taught me a genuine, meaningful business application of truly thinking outside the box.

I have a screened-in pool enclosure for my pool. And, because of the Florida weather being what it is, I get to spend a lot of time out there on the patio. My cats also share my penchant for being outside on the patio, protected from bad critters and the occasional flying vermin.

I “rescued” these cats from a swampy area in a land called East Texas. Mark claims I cat-napped them. Whatever. My point is that I rescued three lovely cats from packs of yapping dogs and owls looking for dinner.  But, as the saying goes, “You can take the cats out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the cats!”

When poolside chillin’ no longer suits them, it’s time for them to break out! They mosey around the edge until they find a spot and–voila!—they make a door (a.k.a. hole) where there was none. I am constantly sewing shut and blocking off previous “doors” in my screens—we do have rules here, you know!—but to little or no avail. The take away is that when they want out, and there is no apparent way out, then they break out. We need to look at our businesses that way:  Sometimes we like our little boxes of protection, our rules, our comfort, and we often justify our reluctance to break out because there’s no door. My cats have taught me there’s always “a door.”

Lock onto your goal and run after it and do not be deterred:  Remember that country cats in the city theme? Well, my suburban kitties go to great lengths to shake the civilized moniker and prove that a country-cat can survive… They hunt, and too often bring me trophies as proof that they still have mad cat skills, despite my efforts to civilize them. How and where they catch everything from lizards to mice to bunnies, I don’t really know. But, I did witness it once—at first to my alarm, but then with great interest.

I was out searching for Tiger kitty and found her, but stopped as I saw her stalking something. I froze as I watched, peering, but seeing nothing. Then almost simultaneously, a rabbit leaped up and Tiger kitty sprang like a heat-seeking missile. It was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom in real time. The rabbit darted and sprinted, but Tiger was right there. I didn’t know who to cheer for, but it was amazing—and Tiger was FAST!  I ran over and Tiger kitty let me have the bunny. It seemed relatively unscathed and I released it. Tiger seemed cool with it, as she was pretty nonplussed about the whole ordeal. She’d won; game over. But during the hunt, she was a different animal—more like her namesake than a domesticated house cat. The lesson she taught me was to be patient in the hunt, relentless in pursuit, and keep a laser-like focus on a fast-moving target.

Chill a little:  After a day of pursuits, break-outs, bending over to delight clients, we all have to just be chill. My cats have this down to a science. Even in our everyday workings and growing our business, we still need to enjoy our work, our clients, our mates, and our lives every day, throughout the day.

Give back to the community:  Now if I know anything about our readership, we have some smart folks wondering how cats can teach us about giving back to the community. I mean really, we all pretty much know that cats could really give a rat’s (intentional pun) patoodie about giving back to their communities.

Well, it’s in their frequent returns where they unwittingly give back. Whenever I have visitors, whether it’s a plumber repairing a toilet, or my friend’s kids coming over for a writing lesson, my cats are right there in the action.  They’re very curious about who is popping over and they make sure that they are part of the social group.

My point is that my cats never wrote a check or picked up trash on the beach, or built a suspension bridge in a third world country; but, in their way, with their own cool cat gifts, in their home playground, they make people smile. No headlines. No accolades. No treats. Our kitty takeaway should be obvious—in our business and in our lives–we should all be doing little things that put a little pep in someone else’s step, a little warmth in someone else’s heart, and a smile on someone else’s face, wherever, and whenever we can.

©Wendy Scheuring, 2013