Don’t call it a comeback

It’s been so long, I don’t even know where to start.

Part of me is even timid about typing these first few words, because I imagine you all out there with pitchforks and torches – ready to take to the streets and call for my head. Because how dare I just disappear for months on end and then pick right back up where I left off like not a day has passed? The gall – the wretched, appalling nerve of it!

Or worse: There’s no one out there. Not a soul noticed my absence, the internet has carried on unfettered, another blog bites the dust, and the wheels on the bus go round and round.

Whatever the case, I am sorry. My last blog post was – GASP – over seven months ago. The things this world has seen since I last wrote! How far we’ve come, how much has transpired!

Some brief highlights, since the last time my fingers graced this keyboard: Caitlyn was still Bruce, and Ben & Jen were still together. The world had not yet been struck dumb by the maddening viral sensation known as the dress (#whiteandgoldforever), and the possibility of parallel universes as proven by the Berenst#in Bears. Donald Trump had not yet given every comedian in the world liquid gold joke fodder for months to come… which is a shame, because both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were still on Comedy Central. Portland was a comfortable, breezy 70 degrees (not this current mid-autumn sauna absurdity), and my tummy was a little bit smaller ’round the middle (miss you, Pure Barre!).

It’s been so long, in fact, that I can scarcely remember how to do it. Did I usually ramble like this? (Yes.) Did it always take this long to piece together sentences? (Most likely.) Was I always draped in a blanket like a five-year-old playing superhero? (Yes, but now with wine.) How did I ever decide what to write about? In looking at my blog for inspiration, I’m pathetically unable to identify any kind of theme or pattern. Why was I sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes instructive, poetic, or ridiculous? What was that thing where I did a Throwback Thursday feature for a hot second… and then just let it taper off like a Raiders fan’s dignity?

My fingers feel like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz when he rusts up – I need to take an oil can to my wrists to even remember what my muscles are supposed to do.

But a lot has gone down since I last said hello to the world, and I feel an obligation to my followers to keep you in-the-know. (I’ll also take this moment to give a shoutout to those followers – hello Mom, Dad, and kidnap victim I keep chained in the basement!)

As such, with any luck you can expect the following posts in coming days:

  • The Bearded Ryan sequel (the saga continues!)
  • My inevitable quarterlife crisis when I turn 26 in two days (I thought I was freaking out last year. Now I’m very definitely in my late 20s and I’m already hyperventilating about it.)
  • I got promoted! So you get to hear me drone on more about how much I love my job and my coworkers are so great and I’m so happy and blah blah blah Susie we get it.
  • I am also no longer alone (hubba, hubba), have spent my life’s savings on vacations this year (Denver and Dallas and Seattle, oh my!), and went WHITE WATER RIVER RAFTING IN CLASS 5 RAPIDS NBD EVERYBODY.

So here’s hoping my blog continues to be interesting (actually let’s manage our expectations – here’s hoping I can just keep it current).

Thanks for reading, y’all, and hope to see you again soon!

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Throwback Thursday: The Nutshell Version Turns 1!

GUESS. WHAT.

After the next Hunger Games movie comes out, they’re going to start releasing prequels so the ADVENTURE ISN’T OVER YET. (In unrelated news: I have the literary and cinematic maturity of a 13-year-old girl.)

That’s not actually what I was gonna say, though. Guess what else!

That’s right – this week marks my one-year anniversary of starting this blog!!!

This fact was brought to my attention by Timehop, perhaps the greatest social invention of our generation.

timehop

“You LIAR, I’m looking at your archived posts right now and they go all the way back to December 2013!” – Nobody

Well, Nobody, technically you’re right. I had a full two months of blogging under my belt before I worked up the courage to tell anyone. But I’m still counting this as my anniversary because uh… well, because this is my blog and I don’t have to answer to Nobody. (baddum, tsssss)

To celebrate this momentous occasion, I thought I’d pull a 90s-sitcom-series-finale and do a flashback montage of all its greatest hits.

The thing is, guys, this blog changed my life.

This blog post got me a job (a job I absolutely love). This one was featured on Freshly Pressed, which catapulted my love of blogging to a new dimension. This one helped me cope with my tumultuous year of three-moves-in-10-months, and this one and this one acted as writing therapy as I went through my recent break-up.

I wrote not one open letter but two – and I went through this weird phase where I really wanted to share my thoughts on random things like happiness and motivation and decision-making. I’m honored and humbled to report that my schoolteacher aunt used this post to demonstrate the literary term “hyperbole” to her students.

I also got the opportunity to publicly reminisce about my childhood via journal entries dating back to 1997, tell a heartbreaking story of 5th grade love and loss, and unearth an old Girl Scout project that hadn’t seen the light of day in 10 years.

And finally, I talked about being awkward an awful lot… because I am. I am really awkward.

It’s been a pretty sweet year, y’all – thanks for humoring me. Here’s to many more random posts to come.

What a Lovely Blog.

Something you should know about me: I am the worst person, ever, when it comes to following up with stuff. This is partially because I really want to devote time and thought to my responses to things… which gets me in trouble, because I don’t exactly have a ton of time or thought to spare.

[tweet https://twitter.com/nutshellversion/status/507156581859860480]

This is also true of submissions through my Contact Form.

It’s just that… I really love you guys. I love you guys SO much that I read your messages on the couch in my underwear, and I think, “This deserves a response that doesn’t come from me on the couch in my underwear. I’m going to wait until I’m at my desk, fully clothed, and provide a thoughtful, wonderful answer to this. Because I am a dignified adult.”

But then, days pass… and I’ve have spent time at a desk OR fully clothed – but never at the same time. And every time I walk by my office, my arm extends longingly to all the things I’m supposed to do and people I’m supposed to respond to…. And before you know it, I’ve become one of those awful people who makes you wait a month for me to email you back.

(Happy to report that as of RIGHT THIS MINUTE, I am fully caught up on all contact form submissions – and I would like to thank everyone who accepted my invitation to “geek out over Beatles trivia with me” quite literally. That was absolutely the most fun reading (and responding) I’ve had in a long time. Keep ’em coming, y’all. I’ll be better. I promise.)

All this to say, when the fabulous Sally over at Bungling Housewife nominated me for a Lovely Blog Award, I fell into my usual habits.

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But NO MORE! Here I am, ready to accept my award, and become an active participant in the world around me.

…Fully clothed.

The rules of The Lovely Blog Award:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post
  • Share 7 things about yourself
  • Nominate bloggers you admire
  • Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know

Step One: Thank you to the lovely and wonderful Sally. Your blog is delightful, and I sleep with the lights on after horror movies, too.

Step Two: Okay, sure. Seven things about myself.

Thing About Myself # 1
When I was little (and watching a lot of I Love Lucy), I actually thought there was a time in history when the world was black and white. I wondered why we never learned about the transition to color in school.

Thing About Myself # 2
I can’t whistle or juggle. I’ve tried to learn so many times that I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe it’s actually physically impossible, and that every time I’ve seen someone do it it’s really just an illusion of some sort. If I were to ever see someone whistling and juggling at the same time… well that’d be just straight witchcraft.

Thing About Myself # 3
I gained the last name “Wittbrodt” at age 6, right when I was learning cursive… and never did get the hang of the lowercase B-R next to each other.

I got the B down…

animationl_b

And the R was straightforward enough…

animationl_rBut put them together – and then what? The B lands IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LINE. Your pencil is ALREADY UP THERE. Where do you start the R?!

As a result, from a young age I just adopted a capital-W-then-scribble-the-rest strategy for my signature… which still I use to this day.

Thing About Myself # 4
I am intolerant of intolerance, and sometimes I fear it might make me a hypocrite.

Thing About Myself # 5
Fun Fact: The movie “The Break-Up” ended my relationship with my high school boyfriend. We apparently identified too closely with the characters depicted, and argued all night defending them.

Granted, we were 17… and probably circling the drain anyway. But I still think it’s a funny story.

(RELATIONSHIP PRO TIP: If you and your significant other are on the rocks, play it safe – rent something else.)

Thing About Myself # 6
Yesterday someone said, “You couldn’t get all that done in one day, even if you had Hermione Granger’s time travel spell.”

And, to shatter any lingering hopes about my normalcy, I responded: “There’s no spell. It’s a time-turner necklace.”

Thing About Myself # 7
This blog post is what landed me my current writing job. Funny how life works out.

Step Three: All right y’all, here are the bloggers I nominate:

on the road to inkrichment

Just something I was thinking about

pussy has furballs

Blondewritemore

Jennigreenmiller’s Blog

anolivedaily

My Life, But Funny

Thank you again to Sally, and happy Lovely Blogging everyone!

Just Spit It Out, Would You?

As promised in my last post, today I’d like to write about writing.

Since landing my first writing job a few months ago, I’ve been learning an awful lot about writing lately. So much learning, in fact, that it honestly feels like I’m a new writer every single day. As each day passes, I look at things I wrote yesterday – and already think, “Oh god, this is awful. This is so bad, why didn’t somebody slap me?” This is a blessing, because I’m ecstatic to be growing so much so fast – but a curse, because with each new development I become more and more critical of my previous work. This journey has been one of continual self-discovery and evolution.

One thing in particular that I’ve become hyper-sensitive to in my own reading/writing is “fluff” …or writing more without necessarily writing better.

…Fluff, in other words, is other words.

One of my favorite copywriting articles to date has been ‘How Twitter Makes You a Better Writer‘ by Copyblogger. The gist? 140 characters forces you to (1) prioritize what you want to communicate, (2) maximize on the vocabulary words you include, and (3) become a dynamite editor.

Because on Twitter (as in writing in general), you just simply can’t afford any unnecessary verbiage.

Mark Twain knew this, when he expressed his opinion on the word “very”:

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

‘Very,’ like many other superfluous words, contribute to fluff in your writing.

For those of you unfamiliar with why my blog is called The Nutshell Version, I’m definitely guilty of fluff. I’m usually of the age-old storytelling philosophy: ‘When in doubt, write more.’ (This is a bad philosophy, guys. Don’t do this.)

But as I grow in my writing (and, hopefully, begin to tone down the fluffiness), I read over old blog posts and am tempted to delete whole paragraphs. (“What was I thinking? This doesn’t contribute to the story at all.”) Being paid to write (and, specifically, having to work within ironclad word counts) has given me a new perspective on the importance of written real-estate.

It has made me similarly critical of fluff in other’s writing. Which is why, when I read a lot of marketing content, I’m tempted to shake the writer by the shoulders and say “JUST SPIT IT OUT!” Because it almost seems like they’re deliberately tiptoeing around what they want to say.

For instance, I came across this on a company’s ‘About’ page recently:

XX provides clear answers for real people. We will conduct a comprehensive analysis, communicate our findings, and develop customized solutions based on your unique needs. Upon completion, we’ll evaluate our work, reconcile our progress, and provide our expert recommendations. Because at XX, we believe in solving the tough problems in a way that makes sense for our clients.

…Yeah okay. But what do you actually do

This is an example specific to my industry (marketing), but I think the same can be said for any writing. As writers, we get so caught up in wanting to sound conceptual and sophisticated that we almost forget that we have a message to communicate and a reader to satisfy.

In conclusion, whether you’re writing for a company ‘About’ page or a comprehensive history of the world… be deliberate when fashioning your prose, and consider forgoing eloquence for concision.

Or, to give you the Nutshell Version:

Cut the fluff.

Writing About Writing About Writing

When I first started blogging, and specifically when I began reading others’ blogs, I remember being surprised how much writing there was out there… about writing.

It seemed like for every blog post I came across about someone’s childhood, there was another guiding writers how to write a blog post about their childhood.

I didn’t realize writing about writing was even a thing, and it struck me as a little odd. Like taking a picture of a camera…

camera

Or painting yourself painting…

norman

But now that writing is such an enormous part of my life, I have a deep appreciation and understanding for all this writing about writing. Mommy blogs exist because the joy of motherhood is so fulfilling that people are eager to chronicle it. Travel blogs exist because it’s impossible not to want to document every adventure.

So as writers open the door of discovery, navigate the labyrinthine maze of new tactics and strategies, and explore unchartered corners of their own voice and story… why shouldn’t they get to catalog that experience, too?

I could geek out with my boss on compelling headlines or parallel sentence structure for hours… the same way I could theme an entire night with my best friend based on our favorite authors and poems. (Oh wait, that’s what I am doing tonight.)

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(Pardon her French, Mom and Dad)

So I can relate to obsessing over one concept so much that all you want to do is talk (write) about it. And if writing just happens to be the subject in question, so be it.

All this to say, I’ve been spending a lot of time writing lately. And I hope you’ll forgive me for wanting to write about it. I promise it won’t all be as annoying as this post, writing about writing about writing.

Things I’ve Learned About Writing (And Life)

Worst Blogger Award

I know, guys. I’m the worst. Admittedly, Spiderman is pretty entertaining… but likely not enough so to keep you occupied for my entire – GASP – two week absence.

This month has just been so unbelievably jam-packed busy with multiple weekend trips to Seattle, a houseguest, and my brand new job… that I don’t even know where to begin.

OH WAIT, yes I do. I’ll start with the brand new job thing.

For those who haven’t been around lately, I recently got a new job. A writing job. And 2.5 months in, I’m still in a state of disbelief. Every time I get a new assignment I’m still so honored – “You want ME to come up with your company’s new tagline? Really?! You want ME to write the story of your business? You want MY WORDS smeared all over your website?” And I have to constantly remind myself – oh RIGHT, that’s my job. I get paid to write words. And it’s just so crazy fantastic that I’m practically beside myself.

It hasn’t all been easy, though. Until recently, the only people reading my writing  were my friends and family… well, and anyone with access to an internet connection. But in any case, there wasn’t much reason for those readers to revise or critique, and a majority of the feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive. I happily labored under the delusion that everyone in the world was as enamored with my writing as my mother was.

But now, when people are actually paying for this service, there is (obviously) a much higher standard at play. Which means that the last 2.5 months have involved an awful lot of learning – both about writing and life in general. So much so, in fact, that I compiled a list of all the things I’ve learned. And so, without further ado…

The Things I’ve Learned About Writing (And Life)

Know the “why.” Everything you do – in writing and in life – should have a purpose. I learned this right away in this new job, when my boss would ask me, “Why did you choose to phrase it this way? Why did you put the paragraphs in this order? How did you decide on this flow of concepts?” And all I could do was stare at her, mouth agape, and say “Ummm… cuz that’s… how… I wrote it.” Never before had I been asked to explain my reasoning behind my writing, so logically, never before had I devoted much thought to the strategy behind it. Make every decision intentional.

Embrace rejection. This was the first – and hardest – lesson to learn. I’m still learning it. I might never stop learning it. Rejection is a huge part of human existence, both inside the writing world and out. You will get rejected. You will receive criticism. Learn how to cope with it, and then learn how to run with it. Rejection is your friend; perfection leaves no room for growth.

…But still be confident. Having understood the frequency and necessity of rejection, I started presenting my writing with a disclaimer: “Here’s this blog post. But you probably won’t like it. And if so I understand, and I can change it.” It was a weird protective mechanism that helped me preemptively cope with criticism. Maybe if I tell them I don’t like it, it’ll be easier to swallow when they agree with me? But it meant setting myself up for failure –  the person reading it might have loved it with no preface, but now they’ve been predisposed to think it’s crap. Ergo, self-fulfilling prophecy. Present yourself with confidence.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s tempting to get caught up in big words and compound sentences that make your writing sound robust and sophisticated. But as one of the co-founders of my company puts it, “forget most of English 101.” At the end of the day, you’re still writing to a person. Be human. Use contractions. Indulge in the occasional grammar mistake. End sentences with prepositions. (As Winston Churchill said, “that rule is something up with which I will not put.”) Writing – like life – is supposed to be fun.

Just do it. Nike had this one right on the money. If you’re staring at a blinking cursor, or aren’t sure what to say or how to write something, the quickest way to get started… is to get started. Even if you’re not 100% sure of your direction yet, start typing. A brain dump will at least get the ball rolling, and will eventually morph into something cohesive. Don’t let the blank page intimidate you.

Give the Nutshell Version. This is something my big brother used to say to me when I was younger and telling a long story (which, ahem, might have happened once or twice…). Upon the third or fourth “Which reminds me!” he would interrupt me with “Susie. Susie. Nutshell version.” In other words, get to the goddamn point. One of my favorite books, Eat Pray Love, puts it a little more nicely with ‘Say it like you eat it’: “Keep your language as simple and direct as Roman food. Don’t make a big production out of it. Just lay it on the table.”

I would be lying if I tried to say I’ve mastered this particular writing skill – and, moreover, I wouldn’t be fooling anyone. I just can’t help it, I want to get every last detail onto the page. Having to discriminate between words and paragraphs and decide what’s absolutely necessary and what’s not is like asking a mother to choose between her children. And I’m not the only writer in history to feel this way – Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

But it’s a skill that needs mastering, because I’ve likely lost half my readers already. So I’ll stop there, and I won’t make a big production out of the rest of this (ongoing) list. So there you have it – everything I’ve learned about writing and life.

…Or at least the nutshell version.

 

How to Write a Blog Post (in 26 easy steps!)

1. Talk about writing your blog post. Talk about it all day long. Tell yourself, your boyfriend, the pictures on the wall. You are going to write a blog post today, damnit. Make sure everybody knows.

2. Set aside time. Schedule a date with your blog, pencil it into your day calendar, and stick to it. At some point in your life, actually turn down another activity because “I’m sorry, I can’t. Today is a blog post day.”

3. Prepare your blogging area – whatever that means. Tidy, organize, plug in your laptop, make some chips and guacamole, play some Beatles, whatever. Make your space blogging-ready.

4. Also, prepare your blogging self. Make sure you are well-fed and comfortable. Get in your jammies, or wrap yourself in a blanket, or pull the cat up onto your lap. (truthfully not my pet-of-choice, but I’ve noticed an interesting trend in bloggers and cats. Someone should do a study on that.)

5. Rid yourself of any distractions. That means taking care of any unfinished business, if applicable. Call your mom back. Do the dishes. Pay the electric bill.

6. Sit down to start your blog post, totally pumped and ready to write.

7. …Stare at the blinking cursor.

8. Allow yourself a few minutes of browsing to get the creative juices flowing. Review the weekly writing challenge, or get desperate enough to do something hopelessly pathetic like a google search.

 Picture 2

9. Spend some time on other blogs. Spend a lot of time, actually. Be really impressed with other bloggers’ work. Hate yourself for not being as good as they are. Kick yourself for not thinking of [INSERT POST IDEA] first. Wallow in self pity for a few minutes.

10. Go back to your post. Stare at the blinking cursor for awhile longer.

11. Decide to start typing before you even really know what you’re going to say. Let a few disjointed words flow from your fingers. Something like “blahdee blahdee blah, I have no idea what to write about.”

12. Delete delete delete.

13. Actually come up with a semi-plausible idea, start typing. Three sentences in, realize you’ve already communicated the entire idea and three sentences does not a blog post make.

14. Delete delete delete.

15. Start physically looking around you in hopes that someone might have written a prompt on the wall or in the dusty corners of a shelf somewhere. Zero in on each object around you like you’re waiting for it to sprout legs, walk over to your keyboard and start typing for you.

16. Reminisce about the fact that today at work, post ideas were practically spilling out of your ears. And in fact, whenever you are NOT actively trying to blog, there seems to be so much to write about. But the moment you sit down to communicate them, the ideas all scurry like cockroaches when you flip on a light switch. Be annoyed about this, for a minute.

17. Suddenly, allow everything to become inspiration. As you look around, be murmuring ideas to yourself about every piece of your surroundings. It’s cloudy out, you could write about seasonal depression. You are surrounded by all of your favorite books, you could write a response to one of them or write a post in the style of a specific author. A bird just flew by, you could write about how your old boss was terrified of birds. You always thought that was illogical, but then she also thought it was illogical that you were afraid of sharks. You could write a post justifying your fear of sharks.

18. Start writing one of those posts. Quickly realize they weren’t very good ideas to begin with.

19. Delete delete delete.

20. Decide that maybe today isn’t a blogging day, after all. Give yourself a break. Everybody gets writer’s block. JK Rowling made people wait three years for the fifth Harry Potter book, you can certainly hold off on posting for one more day. Walk away from your blogging area and do something else.

21. Feel guilty. Feel like you betrayed yourself somehow. Feel like you made a commitment and flaked on it. Start shaming yourself with these thoughts. Convince yourself that if you can’t follow-through on this then you’re probably never ever going to be a writer, and you might as well just give up now.

22. Sit back down. Stare at the blinking cursor some more.

23. Start to formulate an idea for a post.

24. Realize you have more to say than you originally thought.

25. Write the post. Feel pretty good about it.

26. Hover over the word “Publish,” but before you click – issue a brief apology to your readers that the most authentic blog post you could conjure up today was about your writer’s block. (Sorry guys.) Promise that next time you’ll write about something better.

…Like maybe your fear of sharks.