Some Damn Good Weekend Reading – from George Lois

Words of Wisdom From the Original AdMan

If you’re a creative communicator and you haven’t read Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!) by George Lois, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy.

Lois was one of the original AdMen of the 60s. Considered a prodigy in the industry, It’s been said that he inspired the character of Don Draper on MadMen. You may remember him for the “I Want My MTV” campaign and the iconic Tommy Hilfiger branding. He’s been in the advertising business since 1959 and has seen it all. He offers up 120 of his best pieces of advice and he presents it in the most reader-friendly way possible.

A few of the things I liked about this book in particular:

  1. He uses ‘real’ language. He writes the way he speaks: directly and with humour. He mixes slang with a bit of cursing, which give a refreshing air of authenticity (which this “geriatric millennial” loves!).
  2. It hits you with the realities of agency life and does not sugarcoat the ad industry. Lois gives superb advice about how to survive and thrive and how to keep your ego in check.
  3. Almost every other page contains a super concise case study. You get the chance to quickly learn about what clients want and what made his campaigns successful.
  4. You’ll be able to finish this book in one day or less.
  5. PICTURES. Written for creative marketers, Lois provides oodles of images from all kinds of campaigns over the last 45 years.

If you pick it up, let me know what you think!


Quote of the Week: William Zinnser

“Never say anything in writing that you wouldn’t comfortably say in conversation. If you’re not a person who says ‘indeed,’ or ‘moreover,’ or who calls someone an ‘individual’, please don’t write it.”

-William Zinnser, Writer, editor, literary critic, and teacher.

Running on Fumes

I don’t know about you but now that the days are longer and the weather is warmer, sitting on the patio with a glass of wine seems more appealing than… pretty much anything.


With everything that’s been going on in Alberta and all of the stress I’ve been experiencing in my daily job, I’ve really started to slack with my blog posts. I put on a brave face all day but when I get home at the end of the day, I feel drained. The last thing I feel like doing at 7pm is coming up with 500 words. Even though I’m a trained writer and used to pumping out stellar work for my clients under super tight deadlines, when it comes to writing for me, I’ve been running seriously low on fuel. Like, I’m on fumes.


So I’ve been asking myself (and others) what to do when the patio/wine combo starts trumping my creativity. Here’s a few ideas that I hope will help us both!

  • Write about what’s on your mind

It’s easier to write when the subject isn’t something you need to research. Take a thought that’s been circling around in your mind and explore it on paper.

When you’re writing for yourself – whether it’s as an outlet or just a way to keep your skills sharp, just remember you’re doing it to fulfill your own creative needs, no one else’s. If you want to write about the funny thing your cat did, who am I to judge? Don’t apologize for your muse.

  • Read

Reading gets your engines fired up. It builds vocabulary and it opens your mind to new perspectives. Read a few great blog posts, crack open a new book. Not only will reading help to inspire you to write, it also allows you some quiet time, which we all need to centre ourselves and tap into our creative side.

“Somehow the reading gear in your head turns the writing gear.” 
-Steven Wright
  • Seek out creative activities

Go paint some pottery, attend a poetry reading. Visit a museum. Listen to new music. Absorbing the artistic works of others  will help you to re(discover) your passion for your own craft.

  • Write about your own human experience

What did you do today? Did you learn something new? If so, let’s hear it! I’m not saying to go full-on ‘Dear Diary’ but I love to read about what’s happening in my friends’ lives. Perhaps you dined at a fantastic restaurant, why not give it a little review? Or maybe you had an interesting customer service experience. Tell us about it. This kind of subject matter will just get you writing.

  • Collaborate with another writer

Get the jump-start you need by making a commitment to co-write an article with one of your connections. It’s sort of like going to work out – it’s more fun with a friend! Committing to a project will also put a fire under your bum to get it done.

  • Give yourself a deadline

I think half of my problem is straight-up procrastination. I have a lot of things I want to write about but without a deadline, many of those ideas lay dormant in a note on my iPhone. Sometimes we honestly just need to give ourselves a deadline. 

A few other suggestions from my network:

I take a blank piece of paper (no lines) and I just write random nonsense that comes into my head. It gets all the junk out and I sometimes get really cool ideas from my uncensored mind!” – Julia

Good ideas seem to come when you’re doing something else, so I keep a running Note in my phone and right down anything and everything whenever it comes to me. Then when you need help, you go back to it.” – Ashley

“Read an inspiring book or work out.” -@wolfeve

“I like to journal about my feelings – a lot of times I’m mentally exhausted from being distracted or upset over something in my life, and don’t realize it. Journaling helps clear that and can be a catalyst for creative inspiration.” – Jasmine

Now I’m really going to have to take my own advice and GET WRITING. No more running on fumes.

If the struggle is also real for any of you, I’d be happy to talk about how we can help each other along. Writers stick together!



A Little Goes a Long Way: Calgarians Helping Calgarians

There’s no two ways about it – Calgary is in trouble. With nearly 70,000 layoffs in Alberta throughout 2015 (and more to come), the drop in the price of oil, the weakening of the Loonie and recent changes in government, emotions are running very high in our city.

Whether you work in the Oil and Gas sector or not, it seems that everyone is feeling the trickle-down effect during these exceptionally challenging times. It’s tough in retail, food and beverage, the automotive industry and basically any luxury service. Everywhere you look, businesses are suffering and families are struggling to make ends meet. This downturn truly affects our spirit as Calgarians. When others are down, it’s easy for us to jump on the sad train. With the negative projections and all the doom and gloom, how do we get through this?

I’ve posed this question to Calgarians on social media. Here are a few of our combined suggestions:

  • Be more patient and understanding (not everything is going to go the way we want it to. People are doing their best)
  • Be kind! Remember that everyone is fighting this battle. Many are watching their business unravel or awaiting news about job cuts at their company. Kindness will be the biggest gift we can give one another.
  • Volunteer. Lend your talents to others.
  • Write to your MLA or MP and share your story with them. They take these letters seriously.
  • Compliment others. Remind them about what they’re doing right!
  • De-clutter your home and donate items you no longer use.
  • Turn your basement or spare bedroom into affordable accommodation (win/win!)
  • Support small, local businesses. Avoid the big conglomerates who will survive despite this downturn.
  • Provide referrals and word of mouth for businesses who have provided you with great service!
  • Donate to the food bank. Every little bit helps.
  • Remember that our furry friends also need help. Donate blankets, pet food and old crates to local animal rescue organizations.
  • Carpool.
  • Smile and say “hello” to those you pass on the street (that one’s from my Mom!)
  • Offer words of encouragement to business owners. Tell them what you like about their business.
  • Spread positivity!
  • Remember what “first world problems” are!
  • Remind ourselves daily of what we’re grateful for.

Something that we all have in common is concern for our loved ones and our beautiful city. Calgarians are resilient and we will get through this. Please take what you can from this list and show the world what Calgarians are made of! And, if nothing else, please just be kind.


If you have any other ideas please share them in the comments below.  


Writing Tip: Omit superfluous words

Writing tip for the day:

When I am editing, one of the first things I do is omit the words ‘very,’ ‘a lot,’ ‘many,’ and ‘really,’ from the piece.


Today’s event featured many brilliant thinkers from around the globe. They really impressed us with their unique ideas! We were presented with a lot of very thought-provoking and inspiring material.

See how much cleaner it looks and sounds after those words were removed?

These small omissions do not change the meaning of your message. Rather, the idea becomes clearer and your writing becomes more powerful.