Early writing: workshops

If one of your goals is to write daily - early - but the snooze button is holding its ground, these Write and Shine workshops in central London might give you the boost you need.

Don’t tie them to an event or time of year because the continuing act of writing almost certainly won’t meet external expectations. Just go when you’re ready, even if that’s tomorrow.

Laura DavisComment
Leave on a high

We bumped into a young puppy on our walk this morning. Mahler is still young enough himself that an overexcited invitation to play is palatable to him.

When another young puppy came along I could see an emerging jostle for dominance. That was our cue to carry on walking.

I’m a big proponent for leaving on a high. It takes experience to anticipate that moment and courage to act on it but it prevents the downward spiral into conflict, stress and/or apathy. I’ve done it with jobs, parties, work projects and relationships. The momentum it gives you is a strong dose of self-confidence.

Laura DavisComment
Pass it on

I don’t tend to keep hold of books. The stories and the lessons, yes; but the physical objects, no. I have one bookcase in my house that holds the books I revisit or intend to revisit, the books I intend to read, and the books I’m waiting to pass on. I am an avid reader.

I give my books away when I’ve read them - usually to friends and acquaintances, but sometimes to strangers and charities. I’d much rather have the opportunity to share with someone else what I have discovered, even if that’s in understanding only.

What are you holding onto that would reap exponential rewards if you shared it?

Laura DavisComment
Active listening

My dog is a master of the art of active listening, from the head tilt when he’s engaged to the wilful ignorance when he’d rather be doing something else.

I don’t think I would make a very good agony aunt because of my reluctance to give advice. Unless the recipient is committed to acting upon it, it rarely has any effect.

Instead, I prefer to keep a door open to a listening ear should people need it. Once they have talked through problems and come to their own conclusions, they’re more likely to want to bring them to fruition.

Don’t fall into the trap of failing to listen because you’re too busy formulating a response.

Laura DavisComment
As little as possible

In a radio interview on a Sunday interview, Mary Portas, the hugely successful shopping brand consultant, was asked what she would be doing afterwards. She listed something involving her family, but said that she tends to do as little as possible on a Sunday because that’s where her best ideas come from - from creating space.

I was driving back from a trip that involved a lot, but as little work as possible. It’s a gratifying reminder that going at full pelt all the time can be blinkering.

Laura DavisComment
Rejecting your choices

I once received some help from a therapist because I'd backed myself into a corner. From there, my attempts to make positive decisions were impossible.

Instead, she encouraged me to imagine what it would feel like, in turn, not to pursue each route. It was obvious which it were untenable to ignore.

The myriad choices and options we have today are a privilege and a curse. If you're staring them down - for your next career, life or business move - try imagining, one year from now, how it would feel to have rejected or ignored each one.

Laura DavisComment
Unintentional user testing

I was asked to trial a digital product for its real-world use. It’s so buggy that it feels like a beta version, not the finished one it claims to be.

Now I have a dilemma about the true grounds on which I should judge it.

If you skip the stages of development - user testing, dress rehearsals, soft launches - you’ll be caught out by people who didn’t expect to have to do this work for you.

Laura DavisComment
Beyond presents

There is a place for a beautiful thing of a Christmas present but, if you’re keen to forego the Christmas tat that can come at the margins of spending and want to support the arts and culture, here are just three of the organisations who would be grateful for your support.

Streetwise Opera

An opera company that works with people who are homeless or have been homeless, they nurture incredible talent from pockets of society that would otherwise be neglected.

Arts Emergency

Through mentoring and access to industry opportunities, Arts Emergency is trying to ‘create privilege for people without privilege’ in the arts and humanities.

Book Trust

The festive Letterbox Club sends a book to a child who is vulnerable or in care, often the first one they will have received.

At the least, take a look at your local listings to see what cultural activities are happening in your community and buy a ticket. They will operate on a shoestring. They will be run almost entirely by volunteers. And they will have wonderful glitches that make them uniquely of people.

Laura DavisComment
Getting rid of digital

If you keep an eye on marketing trends you’ll know that digital ad spend is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be, that it is not a blanket replacement for TV and print ad spend. Hold onto your cup of tea: both of those still perform incredibly well.

As with anything in your marketing strategy, your tactic and medium depend upon your audience and what you’re aiming to achieve. Anyone who knows me will be familiar with my repeating this over and over.

It’s why I’d love to see the word ‘digital’ removed from marketing job titles. ‘Digital marketing manager’ means what exactly? That you expect this person to plough all of their time and resources into Instagram and Facebook, regardless of the campaign? That you do not consider TV, newspaper, outdoor to be blended media?

Better to assume that the people you’re hiring know how to do the job better than you do, and know how to choose and use the right tools to achieve your aims.

Laura DavisComment
Pressing pause

A year ago I pressed pause on my career. It was accelerating in a direction that I should have been grateful for, working on the kinds of projects and the types of people that are often held up as The Future. But as someone who’d grown up with and always worked in the arts, I felt like a fish out of water and that my values were becoming skewed.

Pressing pause has taken on a number of guises: freelance projects to test my motivations in different directions, career coaching, long walks with the dog, time with my family, learning how to network. It’s been a stepping away rather than a stepping off, and has solidified my ambitions for the next stage.

I didn’t know how long I needed and life threw surplus hazards to negotiate, but a pause doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It can be a week of daily walks that you take without the purpose of arriving at a particular location and without your phone. It can be a volunteer role to see whether working with these people on these projects might be a career for you. It can be a weekly coffee with a friend who has a listening rather than an advising ear to sift through the thoughts.

Some people might form a judgement about what you’re doing and why; that’s their prerogative. But the act of pausing is just for you

Laura DavisComment
Is my early your early?

The dog and I set out on a road trip yesterday at 6am. What felt like my early was also the early of the thousands of other Londoners I saw travelling at that time. To a whole tribe of people, it’s normal to be up, out, on at that time.

It’s a reminder that what is hard, unusual, exceptional for you will be easy, normal, ordinary for someone else. You can use this to great effect when hiring for teams and curating panels for events.

I find it hugely comforting that, as a community, we fill in each other’s experience gaps.

Laura DavisComment
Your audience is lazy

In the latest celebrity Q&A I read, the interviewee said that the trait they most deplore in others is ‘laziness’. I don’t know whether they meant the laziness or spending a Sunday afternoon on the sofa watching Netflix or the laziness of not going for promotion this year.

As a marketer, I find laziness motivating. If I assume that my audience is looking for shortcuts then I try to remove all the barriers that might get in their way. I don’t assume that they love what I’m building as much as I do.

I regularly receive a coupon code from the online grocery retailer I use when my shopping has been found to be cheaper elsewhere. To use it, I must remember I have it when I place my order and then type in a seemingly endless series of numbers correctly to achieve a few pence off. A cynical marketer might suggest they know how to use laziness to protect their margins.

Laura DavisComment
Transactional spaces

I go to the theatre a lot so know how to navigate what are, particularly in London’s West End, often old, cramped buildings. The foyers are fit only for manoeuvring through (compare the foyer entertaining spaces at newer theatres such as the Bridge Theatre and Young Vic), the corridors spiral and undulate past mysterious doors, and you’re summarily dumped out of a fire exit once the performance is over.

Attending a West End show this week, I reflected on how this must feel as a first-time visitor. Is this the queue to pick up the tickets? Where are the toilets? If I go through this door, will I be able to come back? How can I meet my friend when we’re not encouraged - nay, allowed - to linger?

The staff can only default to herding visitors to the next location.

These buildings cannot keep up with our expectations of how we use arts spaces, as places to socialise and work as much as to watch a show. Their transactional nature makes them intimidating and unappealing to all but seasoned visitors. There is no opportunity to play.

Laura DavisComment
A month of daily blogging

For the past month I have been writing daily as an experiment. Here’s what I noticed:

  • It’s easier than I thought it would be.

  • I rarely looked at the analytics. When I did, I was surprised that people bothered to read the posts.

  • I rarely looked at the analytics because my career in marketing gives me plenty of time doing just that. This was about writing for the sake of it.

  • It made me more attuned to my thoughts and opinions, having to commit to just one each day. This commitment made the process more fulfilling than using social media.

  • I enjoyed it. I looked forward to it.

  • I don’t yet know whether I’ll continue.

  • I’d recommend you try it.

Laura DavisComment
Your value system

This article from The Cut is about, ostensibly, enjoying living in New York City without spending loads of money. I enjoyed it because the subtext is about the value system the author has chosen.

Owning a dog means choosing a value system that prioritises health and wellbeing through walking. It’s a recognition of simple pleasures - access to nature, touch and play. It’s a recognition of a community based on these things.

I wonder how many of us have actively chosen our value systems.

Wealth, status, health, family, friends, doing good, community, culture: what are your top three and how did you live your values today?

Laura DavisComment
Time is not a currency

Traditional job ads still define the number of hours per week you will be expected to work, along with a list of traits, skills and experience you are expected to have. Very rarely do they specify what the hiring manager would like you to achieve and allow you, as the candidate, to define the skills and experience needed for success, and the routes to get there.

As freelancers, we are in a position to embolden the movement in the latter direction. It’s why we work to how we provide value, not the number of hours we spend at a computer.

If you are using time as a currency, you are almost certainly losing out on the rate.

Laura DavisComment
Case studies

As a freelancer, I expect to prove my value through examples of previous work. It’s why I set out expectations and measures of success at the start of a project, to be able to show how I’ve added value and how I can do so again.

Working in-house can remove this impetus, so the work goes on in the way it always has until someone comes along - often newly invited - with the energy of a challenge.

We would do better to collect case studies as we go along, however we work. The forcing function to address why you’re doing something before you do it is how you effect change and remove ego from decision making.

Laura DavisComment
We don't go out in the rain

We don’t go out in the rain by choice. It sets the walk off on a bad footing for the dog and I to be miserable about it.

When we get caught in the rain, however, we adapt (seeking shelter or sheltered routes, sharing with other dog owners) and come home triumphant.

I used to work in customer service and avoided approaching angry customers because I didn’t want to go out in the rain. Most times, when I got caught, the resolution was relatively easy.

It’s far better to adapt, there and then, than to deal later with a situation that’s escalated.

Laura DavisComment
Getting it done

Not all of our dog walks are long and luxurious. Often the daily admin of life gets in the way and we’re on a tight schedule.

Those walks are just about getting it done - ensuring that the dog gets enough of what he needs without the added benefits of training or lots of ball play.

Sex, invoicing, musical instrument scales: getting it done can be plenty.

Laura DavisComment