All posts by msuzuno

Planning Your Visit to Tokyo by Season

One big factor to consider when planning a trip to Tokyo is the time of year when you’ll be visiting.

It’s not just the weather that changes—there are specific activities and even particular types of food that you can only find in different seasons.

Here is just a very brief overview of Tokyo by season.

Tokyo is at its best in spring (March–May) and autumn (late September–early November).

Summer can be oppressively hot and humid, and winter can be bitterly cold and unpleasant to spend much time outside.

Rainy season (known as tsuyu in Japanese) falls between June and July, and is wet and humid. I would recommend avoiding a visit during this time if you can help it. Why do I say this? Well, there are times where the humidity hangs in the air and you think you can’t bear it anymore, and then, finally, it rains, which is a momentary relief. Unfortunately, it’s a hot rain, which means that it’s very difficult to wear a raincoat without sweating profusely underneath it. And it’s not the hot, tropical rain of a place like Hawaii. This rain leaves everything damp and primed to grow mold—in other words, not too pleasant.

I’m staying true to the Japanese calendar and starting  my little tour with the spring. (Quick cultural note: Even though the Japanese follow the Western calendar and celebrate the New Year on December 31st/January 1st, springtime is often considered the true beginning of the year. The new school year begins in spring and office employees start their new jobs at this time of year as well.) If you’re visiting during the spring (March to April), you’ll definitely want to check out cherry blossoms.

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A few of my favorite cherry blossom spots in Tokyo include:

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  • Shinjuku-gyoen (this is especially good for the double cherry blossoms that bloom a little later)
  • Aoyama-bochi (it feels a little strange to get all tipsy and merry in a graveyard, but because cherry blossoms have such a short lifespan, there’s already something very bittersweet about them anyway)

If your visit is during the summer (July–September), you may be able to catch one of the incredible hanabi taikai (fireworks displays). I have wonderful memories of both the Sumidagawa festival and the Edogawa festival.

Going to see fireworks in Japan is a whole event—women dress up in yukata (light summer kimono), often in vibrant colors and summery patterns. Men often wear hakama, or “man kimono” as I like to call them. There’s a Japanese word, shibui, which can be translated as “sober” or “refined,” and I think this perfectly encapsulates the essence of a man wearing a hakama. 

Vendors set up stalls selling yakitori, corn on the cob, cold beer and chu-hi, and other street fare.

If you’re going to one of the big fireworks displays, prepare to get swept up into a crowd of thousands of people. It can be seriously insane and impossible to find your friends since phone networks are often spotty with so many people concentrated in one area. But it’s all worth it once you find a place to perch and watch the elaborate production.

I’ve never done this, but I remember reading that you could see fireflies in the garden at Chinzanso Hotel.

If you’re visiting Tokyo in the autumn, you may need to head a little out of town in order to enjoy koyo or autumn foliage. You can take a day trip to Kamakura, Hakone, or Nikko to visit the temples and shrines and get a little closer to nature.

Within the city, you can visit Ueno Park, Meiji Jingu and Senso-ji in Asakusa.

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I also love visiting Hamarikyu Detached Gardens in late summer/early autumn when the field of cosmos flowers is in bloom.

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Although I don’t care for the bitter cold of the winter, I LOVE the nighttime “light-ups,” where different parts of town like Omotesando, Roppongi Hills, and Tokyo Midtown are adorned with sparkly lights to help beat the winter blahs. These usually run from November to February-ish.

And there you have it—a quick guide to Tokyo by season. What time of year would you most like to visit?

One of My Favorite Tokyo Neighborhoods: Nakameguro

When you think of Tokyo, it’s easy to imagine the neon lights, the skyscrapers, and the insanely busy intersections of areas like Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Akihabara.

But like any massive metropolis, Tokyo is much more than its busy downtown-like districts. One of my favorite Tokyo neighborhoods is Nakameguro. It’s a hub of hip aesthetics with many architecture and design studios as well as boutiques and cafés that exude an aura of understated chic.

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The lazy stream of the Meguro canal sets the perfect pace for a stroll and provides an excellent landmark since it runs parallel to the main street.

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And you wouldn’t know it unless you timed your visit perfectly to coincide with the two weeks a year when sakura or cherry blossoms are in bloom, but the trees that line both sides of the canal transform the entire neighborhood into a party and bring droves of visitors from all over the city.

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I was lucky to work in this neighborhood for nearly two years, so I had time to observe it quietly, to stroll along the canal and briefly peek into the shops on my lunch break, as well as to visit when the cherry blossoms unfurled and spring fever hit in a big way.

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The streets on both sides of the canal transform into a carnival as businesses set up stalls selling cold beer, hot amazake, delightfully chewy sakura mochi, and other festival favorites. And it’s nearly impossible to walk since the streets and sidewalks are packed with thousands of revelers who have come to eat, drink, and admire the cherry blossoms.

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At nighttime, lanterns and lights illuminate the area, which means the revelry doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down.

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I love this contrast of regular, everyday life, and the excitement and frenzy that come with the springtime and the cherry blossoms.

Getting to Nakameguro is easy! You can take the Hibiya line on the subway or the Tokyu line from Shibuya. You can also take the JR Yamanote line to Ebisu station and walk to Nakameguro in about 15 minutes.

A few cool places to check out: 

Have any stories you’d like to share or favorite spots in Nakameguro? Feel free to drop me a line in the comments section and let me know!

How Easy Is It to Get Around Tokyo If You Don’t Speak Japanese?

Planning a visit to Tokyo? Lucky you! It’s one of the most exciting, bustling, non-stop cities I’ve had the pleasure of living in. It’s also astounding that for such a large city (about 12 million people in Tokyo proper), it’s so easy to navigate, clean, and super safe.

People often wonder about what it will be like to get around Tokyo if you don’t speak Japanese. In some ways, it can be a challenge. I mean, have you SEEN the Tokyo subway map?

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But seriously, the public transportation system is great (once you get used to it).

I highly recommend using a site like Jorudan to help you plan your routes. There are often multiple ways to get from point A to point B, but not all routes are created equal. Some stations are HUGE and you’d be much better off taking the train another stop or two and transferring at a smaller station instead.

Most stations have signs in English, and many of the major lines also provide verbal and visual announcements in English, too.

The only slight problem you might encounter is that sometimes the station maps are only in Japanese. (Especially at smaller stations on non-major lines.) This can make it a challenge if you don’t know the kanji (Chinese characters) for the station you’re trying to get to. Luckily you can usually find small paper maps that have the station names in English. Once you find one of those, I highly recommend treating it like a prized possession and guarding it with your life!

Another issue that I encountered in my early days in Tokyo was wrapping my head around all the different transportation lines. In addition to the Tokyo Metro (subway) and the JR lines, there are private lines like the Tokyu line, Odakyu line, and the Keio line (to name just a few!).

The good news is that if you’re staying in a central neighborhood and visiting well-known tourist destinations, you probably won’t need to worry about this too much. And if you get a Suica or Pasmo card, you can just load it with money and go between most of the lines without buying a separate ticket.

I’ve talked a lot about transportation so far, but what if you’re walking around and trying to find a particular restaurant, shop, or museum?

In my experience, this is one of the most challenging aspects of finding your way around Tokyo. Written addresses are really not that helpful, mainly because most streets don’t have names and the numbers don’t follow a sequential pattern. So you might see building 2 next to building 101 next to building 58—all on a street with no name!

Why is everything so confusing? My favorite theory is that this is done intentionally.

Japan is a notoriously crowded country, and people’s personal space is constantly invaded on the train, in elevators, and in public. So people find whatever ways they can to create solace and privacy.

This is why, for example, many people conceal whatever book they’re reading with a paper cover, place reflective stickers over their cell phone screens, and use the “otohime” (sound princess) feature in public toilets (I’ll definitely need to come back to that in a future post!).

Basically, the only way you can find a Japanese residence is if someone escorts you there. Many businesses have detailed maps which they’ll send to customers once they make an appointment.

One of my first memories of Tokyo was when I was attempting to find the Cyberdog store in Harajuku (which has since closed). I wandered around those back streets in Harajuku for hours trying to find the store. I had the address, which I’d show to anyone I could find, and none of the other shoppers had any idea where it was. Finally, one of the shop assistants at another store called them for me and was able to point me most of the way there. When I finally found the store, it was SUCH an accomplishment!

I learned that the best way to find things in Tokyo is to just wander around and make spontaneous discoveries (rather than to try to find specific places).

When I left Japan in 2011, Google Maps was not really prevalent (or comprehensive) but in the years since then, it’s become much more common. This means that the days of wandering around forever and relying on detailed maps from your host may be coming to a close.

I hope that you won’t rely exclusively on Google maps, though. Let yourself wander around a bit and get lost. You never know what you’ll discover.

So will you be able to get around Tokyo if you don’t speak Japanese? Yes. And you will most likely find much more than you ever imagined.

Nitobe Memorial Japanese Garden in Vancouver, BC

I LOVE Japanese gardens. Even before the time that I spent living in Kyoto and Tokyo, I admired the beauty and serenity of the Japanese gardens I visited in San Francisco, Portland, and wherever else I happened to find one.

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The last time I visited Nitobe Memorial Garden   in Vancouver was many moons ago, before I had lived in Japan. I remember thinking it was beautiful, but not really knowing much about what made a Japanese garden authentic or significant.

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On this visit, one thing that really stood out to me was that at eye level, everything looked very Japanese. The plants, flowers, and moss all seemed like things I had seen in Japan.

However, if I happened to look up, I realized that I was definitely not in Japan, since the large pine trees that were towering above us were unlike anything I’d seen in Japan. You can get a sense of that in the photo below.IMAG5966

As my friend and I wandered around, we encountered a Canadian woman, who we asked to take a photo of us. She mentioned that she had lived in Kyoto and always visited this garden when she wanted to be transported back.

I told her I completely understood how she felt because I had ALSO lived in Kyoto and ALSO love to visit the Japanese garden in San Francisco whenever I’m feeling homesick for Japan.

There’s a Japanese word, natsukashii, which basically translates to “nostalgia,” but it also evokes this feeling of intense longing, of wanting to revel in the bittersweet memories of the past. Walking around a Japanese garden with an old friend from Japan in Canada definitely made me feel natsukashii.

Next time I visit a Japanese garden, I wonder how many other visitors will be experiencing that longing along with me.

A Few Thoughts on Amy Poehler’s Yes Please

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I’m not a die-hard Parks & Rec fan (though that may be changing now). I didn’t really know anything about her performances on SNL or with Upright Citizens Brigade. I’ve never seen Baby Mama or watched the Golden Globes award ceremony. But despite my general lack of exposure to Amy Poehler, I’m so glad that I read her book, Yes Please (2014, HarperCollins).

Some sections didn’t make a ton of sense to me because I have only seen a handful of episodes of Parks & Rec, but overall she has some important, funny, and well-written things to say about motherhood, marriage and divorce, Hollywood, relationships, and life in general.

I love how Yes Please alternates between hilarious and heartfelt—maybe that’s due to Poehler’s own belief that going from laughing to crying to laughing helps extend your life. There were so many parts where I found myself smiling, nodding along in agreement, or swelling with admiration for Poehler and her relationship with both her work and her colleagues.

One of my favorite chapters, entitled “Plain Girl vs. The Demon,” covers the thorny issue of self-confidence, especially how it relates to appearance. She starts by introducing this concept of the voice you hear that tells you negative things about yourself: “This voice that talks badly to you is a demon voice. This very patient and determined demon shows up in your bedroom one day and refuses to leave.”

She explains how this demon voice has crept into and out of her life at various stages, and how one of her best methods for dealing with it is through improv and acting, and another technique she recommends is standing up for yourself and talking back to the demon: “Other times, I take a more direct approach. When the demon starts to slither my way and say bad shit about me I turn around and say, ‘Hey. Cool it. Amy is my friend. Don’t talk about her like that.’ Sticking up for ourselves is a hard but satisfying thing to do. Sometimes it works. Even demons gotta sleep.”

I love this chapter because it feels so authentic to me. Us regular people spend a lot of time scrutinizing ourselves for our various “flaws,” but it made me realize how that pressure is so much greater on the women who are in the public eye.  It’s so helpful to reframe that self-criticism as an evil force to be ignored and try to build up the part of you that is a friend.

Another chapter that really stood out to me was “Time Travel,” where Poehler shares her thoughts on this concept (which is not so much about time travel as it is about being present in every moment): “You can control time. You can stop it or stretch it or loop it around. You can travel back and forth by living in the moment and paying attention. Time can be your bitch if you just let go of the ‘next’ and the before.’

And I especially appreciated this part because it certainly resonates with some of my own experience: “People help you time-travel. People work around you and next to you and the universe waits for the perfect time to whisper in your ear, ‘Look this way.’ There is someone in your life right now who may end up being your enemy, your wife, or your boss. Lift up your head and you may notice.”

You might think that a book by a famous comedienne would be full of jokes and witty one-liners, and Yes Please certainly is, but these brief poignant moments throughout the book are like little buried treasures.

And I barely held it together on the train when I read through the list of rejected names for Leslie Knope’s character on Parks & Rec. So if you’re looking for comedy, don’t worry—you won’t have to search too hard.

To Amy Poehler and Yes Please, I say Thank You Very Much.

Copy Crush: Cards Against Humanity

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Let’s get something out of the way: when something bills itself as “a party game for horrible people,” you know it’s going to appeal to the wicked part of you. There will also be some NSFW language contained within this post, FYI.

If you’re not familiar with Cards Against Humanity, here’s a quick summary: You have a pile of black cards that work as prompts (e.g. “War. What is it good for?” or “What did Vin Diesel eat for dinner?”) and a pile of white cards that are responses to those prompts (e.g. “Passive-aggressive Post-it notes” or “Vigorous jazz hands”).

One player draws a prompt card and reads it out loud, while the rest of the players choose response cards and submit them anonymously. The player who drew the prompt reads off all the responses and chooses a favorite. Hilarity ensues.

If you’ve ever played the game, you know that the prompts and responses on the cards themselves range from benign to awkward to downright despicable. But I recently purchased the game for myself and the entire experience was so enjoyable (and the copy so consistently irreverent and hilarious) that I wanted to take a moment to celebrate Cards Against Humanity as my latest copy crush.

When you first click on the “Buy now for $25” button, you get taken to the store, where a little pop-up window at the top says “Our drones tell us that you live in the United States. Are we wrong?” Suddenly geographic targeting seems slightly more entertaining than ever before!

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The bullet points for each of the items on offer combine factual, useful information with random humorous tidbits, like “0% of proceeds go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation” (a great way to ensure people keep scrolling to find out what silly thing they’ll find next).

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But for a company that seems to appeal to the deepest, darkest parts of us, Cards Against Humanity also appears to have a conscience (or at least believe the people buying it will), because the proceeds from holiday expansion packs really do go to a good cause (The Wikimedia Foundation and DonorsChoose.org). A few days after I made my purchase, I received a nice email from a teacher at a nearby elementary school (see, those drones who identified my exact geographic location are good for something!).

When I finished my purchase, a button appeared at the bottom of the screen that read “Go outside.” Of course I had to click on it to see what happened. It brought up Google Maps and showed me all the parks in the area. (Again with those drones!)

The fun and games don’t end as soon as you pay, either. My confirmation email began: “Dearest customer, Thank you for spending your money all over our website.” It hits all the high notes—poking fun at the bland, automated emails we’re inundated with; describing the nature of our transaction with deadpan delivery; conveying sincerity AND somehow mocking it at the same time.

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But my favorite line of all: “You can reply to this email if you have any questions.” Say what??? I can actually respond to this email and a human will answer it.  Somehow this just seems pretty darn humane, doesn’t it?

And keeping in line with that same irreverent yet genuine voice, the letter that came in my package read: “Dear consumer, Thank you for buying Cards Against Humanity bullshit from our store. We’ve worked hard to keep Cards Against Humanity independent so that no publishers, distributors, or viceroys of the British empire can tell us what we can or can’t do with our game. We really like having a one-on-one relationship with our customers, and we hope we didn’t fuck it up. If we did fuck it up, please let us know.” And a bit further down the page: “The Cards Against Humanity store is new, and we’re still working out the bugs. Some customers report having received a burlap sack of broken Soviet appliances instead of their order. If this happens to you, please let us know.”

What a perfect way to complete the transaction and make me feel good about my purchase. Not only do I feel relieved that my money is in no way supporting viceroys of the British empire, but I know that if there had been a problem with my order, someone would be around to help me sort it out (and they would probably have a pretty good sense of humor about it as well).

So to my latest copy crush, Cards Against Humanity, I say: Well played, my friends. Well played.

Review of Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder

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Let me just come clean and put it out there: I have developed a serious writer crush on Christian Rudder after reading Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking).

Christian Rudder is the cofounder of OkCupid (and on-again off-again author of the popular OkTrends blog) so it’s not too surprising that his writing has the power to evoke some pretty serious swooning.

Here are the reasons why I loved Dataclysm:

  • Powerful storytelling and hooks. Every chapter opens with some sort of story or anecdote that draws you in, whether it’s about the power of nostalgia or the internet’s ability to build up heroes and tear them down instantly. Pretty impressive for a book that’s centered around data, numbers, and charts.
  • Strategic usage of witty one-liners. One of my favorite parts of the book is the rubric that Rudder creates to categorize the most commonly used phrases in people’s OkCupid profiles. These are broken down by race and gender, so you can see what the most common phrases are among white males, Asian males, Latino males, etc. Rudder’s overall assessment of the white male demographic? A lumberjack music festival. (Of course this makes much more sense when you can see all the phrases, but some of the highlights in the white male section include “Phish,” “redneck,” and “Flogging Molly.”)
  • The subject matter/cocktail conversation fodder. I find dating and relationships fascinating, and it’s super interesting to learn about common misconceptions, like the idea that you and your partner have to have matching political views. Rudder argues that it’s actually the strength of your convictions (in other words, whether you care about politics or not) that’s more predictive of a relationship’s success than whether both people are Democrats or Republicans. Also, the two questions that tend to predict compatibility the most accurately are: “Have you ever traveled alone?” and “Do you like horror movies?” (If both people answer yes to each of those questions, they have a higher rate of compatibility than other couples.)
  • Rudder’s sensitivity to limitations and privacy concerns. In a brief interview on Amazon.com, when asked about whether he’s worried about any of his research and its implications, Rudder says, “I have mixed feelings about the implications. I myself almost never tweet, post, or share anything about my personal life. At the same time, I’ve just spent three years writing about how interesting all this data is, and I cofounded OkCupid. My hope is that this ambivalence makes me a trustworthy guide through the thicket of technology and data. I admire the knowledge that social data can bring us; I also fear the consequences.” I also appreciated how in several instances, he explains why he’s only looking at a certain segment of the population and what impact that can have on his overall assessments.

Dataclysm is definitely one of the most well-written and thought-provoking books I’ve read in a while, and I hope that taking the time to make these observations will help me to become a more sensitive and skillful writer myself.

Have you developed any writer crushes lately? What attracted you to a certain writer’s voice, content, or style? Let me know in the comments!

Editorial Calendar Basics for Lazy People, Part 2

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In my last post, I talked about the first step of starting your Editorial Calendar/Plan of Awesomeness/Anti-Procrastination Toolkit. Did you miss that post? No prob. You can find it here.

Quick recap in case you don’t feel like clicking on that link: start by thinking of general templates or themes that can be used over and over again with different topics or subject matter.

Let me just add a word or two about that initial step. When you’re first going through your ideas, it’s helpful if you can be as unfiltered as possible. Don’t get too caught up in the idea of what may or may not actually be feasible with your time and resources. Think of all the possibilities and try to withhold judgment.

Then, once you have your list of ideas, you can begin to give them weight. Which ones are the easiest for you to write or create most easily? Which ones will have the most immediate benefit to your audience? Put those at the top of your list.

When I first started the AfterCollege Blog, I was lucky that I had a little bit of time to come up with a backlog of content before I actually started publishing. If you have the opportunity to do this, I’d highly recommend it. There are a few reasons for this approach:

1. You’ll feel less pressure once you start publishing if you already know what your next few posts are going to be (and already have that content ready).

2. It takes a while to find your stride with writing/editing/planning. How much time does it take you to bang out a first draft? Do you like to edit right away or leave some time between writing and editing? Will you ask someone else to look over your post before it’s published? You can use this initial content-creation period as the time to figure out how this all works for you.

3. Once you start writing, you’ll discover that certain posts are easier for you than others. In my case, I was doing a lot of interviews and posts that required another person to contribute in some way.

This was important because it lent my blog authority, but it was also really frustrating, because it meant that I couldn’t complete certain posts until I heard back from the other contributor.

Once I realized this was the case, I figured out that there were two basic types of posts: those I could write myself, and those that relied on someone else.

This helped me to create another list of “independent” content so that I could always create this type of post when I was waiting on someone else. It took some of the pressure off of the waiting period and helped me plan my strategy for the following months.

Keep in mind that your month or so (or whichever length of buffer feels comfortable to you) of content is not set in stone. You can always make last-minute additions and switcheroos if a timely topic comes up that you’d like to write about.

One final thought about editorial calendar planning. When I was first coming up with the ideas for the AfterCollege Blog, I assumed that people would be reading the content in a linear fashion, since that’s how I was writing it. But unless you already have a sizable mailing list (which is unlikely if you are just getting started), people are going to be coming to your posts in all sorts of random ways.

Sometimes people will find your blog through a Google search, sometimes it’ll be through a social media link, and sometimes it’ll be from a link in someone else’s blog or website. In the majority of those cases, they won’t end up on your top page—they’ll be arriving at a specific post.

This means two things—one is that you don’t need to agonize over publishing your posts in a certain order and the other is that each blog post really should stand alone.  Sure, you can link to previous posts, but don’t assume that your readers will have read them. Think about what would happen if someone ended up on a specific post through a Google search or social media link, and throw them a frickin’ bone when it comes to making your content clear and easy to follow.

Do you feel better equipped to go through the initial content planning stages of your blog now? Have any remaining questions? Let me know in the comments!

Editorial Calendar Basics for Lazy People, Part 1

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We’ve all been there: Staring in front of an empty screen, trying to figure out what we want to say. Some may call it “writer’s block,” some may call it “Writer’s Evasion,” like Ann Handley who explains in this hilarious interview on Copyblogger, “I believe in Writer’s Difficulty and Writer’s Procrastination and Writer’s I Wonder If There’s Any Donuts Left I Should Go Check.”

I currently oversee two blogs at work, where we publish seven posts a week. If left to my own devices, I would probably spend at least 70% of my time freaking out about not having enough content.

But there’s a funny thing about that. If you spend approximately 42 minutes out of every hour fretting about how much content you have, that leaves you with very little time to actually create the content.

I’ve found that one of the best ways to get over this conundrum is to have a plan. In my case, I refer to it as the “Editorial Calendar,” though I suppose you could refer to it as “The Plan of Awesomeness” or the “Anti-Procrastination Toolkit” or whatever else gets you fired up.

This is how it works: I started by coming up with a list of all the possible ways I could write about my topic. (This was not an exhaustive list, since I would still be in the list-making stage if that were the case!) Rather than come up with specific topics, I thought more about broader categories.

It can be tempting to get caught up thinking about very specific posts you’d like to write, and there’s nothing wrong with making a list of those as well. But in the early stages, it helps to think in these broad categories.

To give you some concrete examples, when I was starting the AfterCollege Blog, I thought of all the types of posts that would be helpful to student and recent grad job-seekers, and came up with things like the “Résumé Teardown,” which is where a hiring manager critiques a real job-seeker’s résumé, or the “A Day on the Job,” where we interview someone about what they do on a daily basis at work.

These types of posts serve as templates that we can use again and and again but with different topics. So for example, we have résumé teardowns for sales, front-end development, PR positions, etc.  And we do the same with “A Day on the Job,” “The Hiring Manager’s Perspective,” and many of our other categories.

In my next post, I’ll talk about organizing and maintaining your Editorial Calendar/Plan of Awesomeness/Anti-Procrastination Toolkit.

Until then, happy writing!

Review of Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

Should you get your hands on a copy of Everybody Writes by Ann Handley?

Short answer? Yes.

For the slightly longer answer, read on.

Confession time: I’m not sure if I’m exactly the type of reader that Ann had in mind when she wrote this book. As best as I can tell, she wrote the book mainly for people who:

  • have a strong aversion to writing, but need to write in their professional lives
  • are what she affectionately terms “adult-onset” writers (in other words, people who were scarred by negative experiences and swore off writing for a decade or so)
  • lack confidence in their writing abilities and need a friendly guide to coach them through some of the basics

I, on the other hand:

  • have been obsessed with writing for as long as I can remember (My earliest masterpiece was some text I dictated to a preschool teacher to accompany one of my drawings. “This is a monster. He scared a ghost. The ghost scared the monster. Last night I saw a Dracula and three debils [sic].” Chilling commentary on the post-modern condition or a factual narrative of Halloween? You decide.)
  • have loved every English teacher I’ve ever had (perhaps with the exception of Mr. Page, a cranky old Englishman who wanted us to write down everything he said verbatim. “It took me years to compile all this information and you’re not writing it down! TAKE NOTES!” But even he had a certain charm…)
  • have devoted the majority of my career to writing and pretty much spend a good chunk of every workday writing and editing

And yet, I’m not too proud to say that I still have a lot to learn. Especially since I’m relatively new to this whole content marketing gig and at work I often get asked to write or edit things like marketing emails or landing pages (which were decidedly not on Mr. Page’s AP English syllabus).

Everybody Writes appeals to me because Ann strikes a perfect balance between informative, entertaining, and straight up hilarious.

In one of my favorite passages, she alters a quote from Mean Girls to make a point about high school-mandated writing styles:

“What you learned in high school might’ve once been a helpful guidepost. But it’s time to let go. As Janis says in the movie Mean Girls: ‘That’s the thing with five-paragraph essays. You think everybody is in love with them when actually everybody HATES them!’

Actually, Janis was talking about the school’s mean girls—The Plastics. Not essays. But same dif.”

Whether she’s offering tips on the difference between “bring” and “take,” a cool app that’ll prevent you from opening Facebook while you’re trying to draft your latest blog post, or just making a Tina Fey reference (because… why not?), Ann’s writing is clear and helpful. And friggin’ hilarious.

In Everybody Writes, Ann talks about having “pathological empathy” for your readers. Basically, you always want to think about what benefits they’ll get from reading whatever you’re writing. What’s in it for them? I love this concept. Because even though writing can feel like a very egotistical pursuit, if you leave it at that, most people won’t bother to read it.

So, in the interest of anyone who happens to be reading this, I’ll stop telling you why you should read Everybody Writes and just let you get on with it!

P.S. Do you have a long, boring commute? Do you get amped up about listening to audio books while going for a run? Or maybe you feel nostalgic for your childhood days when your parents would read to you? Whatever the case, there’s good news! Everybody Writes is now also available as an audio book on audible.com. Check out a little snippet of it here.