How to create “flow” in your writing process
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How to create “flow” in your writing process

The brilliant psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the experience of “flow” — of being productive, in the moment, and making rapid progress on work that matches well to your skills. Flow creates great writing, but it happens only if you prepare properly. If you’re writing something longer than 1000 words, it matters how you write it. You’re…

Why is Twitter’s CEO leaving? Because “Everything is Awesome”
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Why is Twitter’s CEO leaving? Because “Everything is Awesome”

Twitter’s got problems. Its active users grew only 18% year-over-year. Profits are a mirage in the distance. While Twitter’s users are reading tweets, they’re not clicking on them very much. And the CEO just announced he’s leaving. But if you read what they publish, you’d say “Everything is awesome!” Here are some excerpts from the…

Applying “Games People Play” to writers and editors
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Applying “Games People Play” to writers and editors

In the 1964 bestseller “Games People Play,” Eric Berne showed how transactional analysis (TA) explains emotional conflict. In TA, people interact in one of three roles: parent, adult, or child; when roles get confused, people get upset. These same kinds of conflicts occur, for similar reasons, when writers and editors aren’t clear about the roles they’re playing. Here’s the briefest possible explanation…

To write well and efficiently, choose the right level of editing
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To write well and efficiently, choose the right level of editing

Editing is like going to the dentist — nobody likes it, but you’ll avoid a lot of pain and ugliness if you get the right help at the right time. And you need to pick the right intensity of editing to match what your writing needs; you can’t fix a toothache with just a cleaning. Good…

Effective titles and summaries: You had me at ‘Hello.’
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Effective titles and summaries: You had me at ‘Hello.’

Every email, document, or post you write now competes with hundreds of other items for your reader’s attention. Two strategies will get them to read it: fascinate and summarize. In this post I explain how to balance these two concepts to create titles, subject lines, openers, and tweets that win over readers quickly. (A complete guide organized by…

All customer service failures have one cause: broken promises
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All customer service failures have one cause: broken promises

All brands and businesses make promises. They promise low prices, fast service, or no hassles. Sometimes they fail to deliver on those promises. Customer service failure is about broken promises. When people get upset, it’s not because products or services are objectively bad. They get upset because of broken promises. Parents who buy their kids a $3.99…

11 key planning tips for writers and the psychology behind them
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11 key planning tips for writers and the psychology behind them

Crappy writing springs from crappy planning. Like an architect, plan before you build. On a project that takes weeks or months to write, spend at least one day on planning. Follow these planning tips to maximize your chance to create something great. In this post, I show you how to lay the groundwork for a writing project like…

Word pollution
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Word pollution

Lack of discipline pollutes your writing. Multiply by the whole world of “content creators” and we’re all consuming brown, dirty prose. I’ve spent time in Beijing and São Paulo. While the people were wonderful, the air was awful. A light brown miasma cast a pall on everything, making our eyes itch and making every incredible cityscape appear…

Why can’t an insurance company talk like a person?
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Why can’t an insurance company talk like a person?

My insurance company Vermont Mutual was kind enough to pay my claim for house damage after this awful winter. But before I repair my house, I’d like remodel their customer communication. Vermont Mutual deserves a lot of credit. They were speedy to send an assessor to check the damage, and paid a fair amount. In…