Tuesday, January 7, 2020

#79 How to Avoid Writer's Block

Issue #79 – Tuesday, January 6, 2020
Posted by Denny Hatch

How to Avoid Writer’s Block
Getting Started Is Often the Hardest Part








The New Yorker's 
Dorothy Parker.
Above is a wire to her editor, Pat Covici, at Viking Press. 
June 28, 1945




It’s a bitch when you’re staring at a computer screen and the words won’t come to you.
     I’ll say this at the outset. If I find myself struggling for thoughts and words, it takes me a few minutes to remember I am tired—probably from a lousy night’s sleep or not leaving a cork too long in the bottle lest the contents spoil.
     I don’t fight it. I quit and start again when rested.  —Denny Hatch 









Robert Benchley (1889-1945), 
Grandfather of 
Peter (JAWS) Benchley.
Benchley was a polymath—humorist, drama critic, film actor and newspaper columnist. 
     One day—under tight deadline and with a severe hangover—Benchley was sitting at the little desk in his room at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City. He stared and stared at a blank piece of paper in his typewriter. To get started he typed the word "The."
     Benchley arose from his chair, walked to the window overlooking West 44th Street and then glanced at his watch.
     His gang of regulars was assembling for the splendid daily lunch of booze and bon mots at the legendary Round Table downstairs. Among them: Dorothy Parker, Groucho and Harpo Marx, George S. Kaufman, Alexander Woollcott, New Yorker editor Harold Ross, Algonquin owner Frank Case and others.
     Benchley returned to the typewriter and stared at "The" for a long time. In a burst of inspiration he completed the sentence.
     It read, "The hell with it."
     Whereupon he took the elevator down to join the party.












From John McPhee’s
Letter To a Distraught Former Student 




Dear Joel [Achenbach of The Washington Post]:
     You are writing, say, about a grizzly bear. No words are forthcoming. For six, seven, ten hours no words have been forthcoming. You are blocked, frustrated, in despair. You are nowhere, and that's where you've been getting. What do you do?
     You write, 'Dear Mother.' And then you tell your mother about the block, the frustration, the ineptitude, the despair. You insist that you are not cut out to do this kind of work. You whine. You whimper. You outline your problem, and you mention that the bear has a fifty-five-inch waist and a neck more than thirty inches around but could run nose-to-nose with Secretariat.
     You say the bear prefers to lie down and rest. The bear rests fourteen hours a day. And you go on like that as long as you can.
     And then you go back and delete the 'Dear Mother' and all the whimpering and whining, and just keep the bear.
John McPhee (b. 1934), Draft No. 4, The Writing Life (The New Yorker)
















Ted Nicholas on Getting Started



Ted Nicholas is one of the great entrepreneurs, publishers, teachers and writers in the world of direct marketing. Here's his advice to copywriters and, by extension, to all writers:
     Clear your mind. 
     For some persons, this might mean lying down for a few minutes before going to work.
     For others, it could mean jumping in the pool or jogging around a track.
     Frolic, spend time with someone you love or go dancing. Do whatever comes naturally to you in order to have a clear mind for creative purposes.
     Never write when you're tired. You're not going to try to drive or operate machinery when you're tired. Don't try to write if you're fatigued.
     Never write when you're busy. If there are other demands pressing on you, tend to them first. I don't think anyone can write well when watching the clock. Don't try to write if you have appointments later in the day or errands to run.
    Don't write in bits and pieces. Once you've turned on your creative energy, you need to keep it flowing. I don't stop until I complete a draft. I try not to stop even for meals.
Ted Nicholas, (né Nick Peterson, b. 1934),  The Golden Mailbox










 Gene Schwartz and His Kitchen Timer Secret


 
Gene Schwartz's powerful direct mail copy sold millions of dollars-worth of books (many published by himself). His Breakthrough Advertising is must-read for direct response copywriters.
     Gene once told me to get a kitchen timer and set it on the desk next to me.
     Then hit 4-4-4-4. That's forty-four minutes, forty-four seconds. During that period, all you do is work—write, do research, deal with correspondence, design, whatever.
     When the timer goes off, get up and shut the alarm sound off. Take a break. Walk around, stretch, get a cup of coffee, clear your head.
     When you're ready to go back to work, hit the 4-4-4-4 button again and dive in.
—Eugene Schwartz (1927-1995)
    













Ernest Hemingway on the Mechanics of Writing




When Ernest Hemingway finished writing a novel, he would stick the manuscript in a drawer and go deep-sea fishing, hunting in Africa or attend bullfights in Spain with Ava Gardner. On his return several weeks (or months) later, he would read the book with fresh eyes and immediately see where he went off the rails and what needed work.
     Most of us under deadline do not have this kind of time. However, if you can lay aside a piece of writing for 12 or 24 hours or longer and then go back to it for edits and rewrites, it can be beneficial. Hemingway wrote:
     I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day...
     I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day.
     That way my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything, I hoped; learning, I hoped; and I would read so that I would not think about my work and make myself impotent to do it.
—Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), A Movable Feast



  







Tom Wolfe on an Early Effort



The piece about car customizers in Los Angeles was the first magazine piece I ever wrote. I was totally blocked. I now know what writer’s block is. It’s the fear you cannot do what you’ve announced to someone else you can do, or else the fear that it isn’t worth doing. That’s a rarer form. In this case I suddenly realized I’d never written a magazine article before and I just felt I couldn’t do it. Well, [Byron] Dobell somehow shamed me into writing down the notes that I had taken in my reporting on the car customizers so that some competent writer could convert them into a magazine piece. I sat down one night and started writing a memorandum to him as fast as I could, just to get the ordeal over with. It became very much like a letter that you would write to a friend in which you’re not thinking about style, you’re just pouring it all out, and I churned it out all night long, forty typewritten, triple-spaced pages. I turned it in in the morning to Byron at Esquire, and then I went home to sleep. About four that afternoon I got a call from him telling me, Well, we’re knocking the “Dear Byron” off the top of your memo, and we’re running the piece.
—Tom Wolfe (1930-2018) From an interview with The Paris Review
 








 Ray Bradbury, Master of Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy et al.



Now, what I’m thinking of is, people always saying “Well, what do we do about a sudden blockage in your writing? What if you have a blockage and you don’t know what to do about it?” Well, it’s obvious you’re doing the wrong thing, don’t you? In the middle of writing something you go blank and your mind says: “No, that’s it.” Ok. You’re being warned, aren’t you? Your subconscious is saying “I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for. ”You’re being political, or you’re being socially aware. You’re writing things that will benefit the world. To hell with that! I don’t write things to benefit the world. If it happens that they do, swell. I didn’t set out to do that. I set out to have a hell of a lot of fun.
     I’ve never worked a day in my life. I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me, my joy. Get out of here tonight and say: ‘Am I being joyful?’ And if you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject.  
—Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), from the keynote address at the Writer’s Symposium by the Sea.
 Short Takeaways
A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper.
E.B. White (1899-1985)

What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks, “the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.” And it might be just the most boring awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, “Okay. Okay. I’ll come.”
—Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

• Over the years, I’ve found one rule. It is the only one I give on those occasions when I talk about writing. A simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below; I will be there to write.
Norman Mailer (1923-2007), the Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on writing.

Don’t get it right, just get it written.
     James Thurber (1894-1961)

The one ironclad rule is that I have to try. I have to walk into my writing room and pick up my pen every weekday morning.
     —Anne Tyler (b. 1941)

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.
     —William Faulkner (1897-1962)

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
     —Samuel Beckett (2906-1989)


###
Word count:1738


At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.

CONTACT

Denny Hatch
The St. James
200 West Washington Square, #3007
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-644-9526 (Rings on my desk)
dennyhatch@yahoo.com

Note to Readers:  
May I send you an alert when each new blog is posted? If so, kindly give me the okay by sending your First Name, Last Name and e-mail to dennyhatch@yahoo.com. I guarantee your personal information will not be shared with anyone at any time for any reason. The blog is a free service. No cost. No risk. No obligation. Cancel any time. I look forward to being in touch!


IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE POSTING A COMMENT… Write Me!
Google owns Blogspot.com and this Comment Section. If you do not have a Google account, contact me directly and I will happily post your comment with a note that this is per your request. Thank you and do keep in touch.  dennyhatch@yahoo.com

Invitation to Marketers and Direct Marketers: 
Guest Blog Posts Are Welcome. 
If you have a marketing story to tell, case history, concept to propose or a memoir, give a shout. I’ll get right back to you. I am: dennyhatch@yahoo.com
215-644-9526 (rings on my desk).

You Are Invited to Join the Discussion!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

#80 Drayton Bird Video Invitation and Autobiography

ISSUE #80 — Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Posted by Denny Hatch

The Most Brilliant and Arresting
Personal Invitation Ever Received!

Click on the Blue Words Below.
When Drayon Appears, Click on little  arrrow.
H-E-E-E-E-E-E-R'S DRAYTON!

I’ve known Drayton Bird—the U.K.'s most distinguished and successful living direct marketer—for a lotta years. He is outrageous. Funny as hell. (E.g. His blog is titled "Bird Droppings.")
     As a long-time associate of the greatest genius in Advertising history—David Ogilvy—Drayton has been in the epicenter of the marketing and advertising business for more years—and knows more about them—than most anyone on the planet.
     When Drayton sends me email, I sit up and take notice.
     I clicked on Drayton's most recent email and by golly there was Drayton talking directly to me onscreen in that growling, guttural Brit accent.
    He greeted me—by name!
     "Hello, Denny. I still follow your stuff every time you put something out."
     His pitch: Puh-leez promote my new book to your readers.
     His personalized video invitation stopped me cold.
     It blew me away!!!!

Drayton’s Invention: The Most Powerful New Direct Marketing Tool in 800 Years—The BPDL
 (Bird Personalized Digital Letter!)
Here's the drill.
     Sign up a well-known singer, actor or TV celeb to make a 3-to-5-to-10-minute video for your product, service or charity. Let’s say you hire Lady Gaga.
    Lady Gaga pops up on your computer screen and greets you by name. 
     "Hi, Denny. I'm Lady Gaga and I'm delighted to meet you. Will you spend a few minutes with me?"
     When she gets to the heart of her message, she moves around the set demonstrating what she wants to sell.
     Throughout her pitch she talks to you by mentioning your first name multiple times, so that by the end of the pitch, you feel like you and Lady Gaga are on a first name basis and, yes, buddies. 
     How can you not buy!

Enter the Techies.
Have Lady Gaga read 200 common men’s names—and 200 common women’s names—into a recording microphone. Your hired gun techie wiz then creates a program whereby the recipient’s first name (in Lady Gaga's voice) is matched to the first name in the email list.
     Picture this pitch for the ASPCA. Lady Gaga is talking to you—using your first name multiple times.
     She is taking you on tour of an animal shelter where hundreds of darling doggies and cunning kitties are about to be euthanized UNLESS YOU ACT NOW!
     Or maybe she’s selling Amazon’s Alexa with both Lady Gaga and Alexa talking to you by name.
     You test it. If the test works, you can roll out to 100 million Facebook names! The ASPCA takes in bundle of cash and finds a legion of new pet owners and, OMG, gives happy homes to these loving animals!

Now, About Drayton's New Book

From Drayton to DH:
A monstrous, vast, heartfelt thank you. I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am that you've agreed to help promote my autobiography. It's probably the last important piece of writing I will ever complete. At least, I think so after the nightmare involved in actually producing it. 
     And more to the point after my last divorce and disastrous investment I describe in the book I need the money!
     (Pause to weep into large glass of sauvignon blanc)

How much does the damn book cost?
It's $29.99 (£27.77) and the Kindle version is $9.99 (£9.99)
     There will be an extended audiobook released early next year. 
     Thank you again, a thousand times!
                                                —Drayton

From Denny Hatch to Drayton Bird:
Drayton, 
     I blew a full day and read the book in one sitting.
     In my 70 years of reading adult books, I have never, ever been taken on such a wild and crazy, raunchy (yet informative and provocative) literary ride. It's a hoot.
     I loved it! 
                                —Denny

P.S. Thanks for the offer to pay me a commission, but no thanks. I'm not into commissions.

The book is now live on Amazon—in print and on Kindle.
Here is the US version:


Word count:659



At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.

CONTACT

Denny Hatch
The St. James
200 West Washington Square, #3007
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-644-9526 (Rings on my desk)
dennyhatch@yahoo.com

Note to Readers:  
May I send you an alert when each new blog is posted? If so, kindly give me the okay by sending your First Name, Last Name and e-mail to dennyhatch@yahoo.com. I guarantee your personal information will not be shared with anyone at any time for any reason. The blog is a free service. No cost. No risk. No obligation. Cancel any time. I look forward to being in touch!


IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE POSTING A COMMENT… Write Me!
Google owns Blogspot.com and this Comment Section. If you do not have a Google account, contact me directly and I will happily post your comment with a note that this is per your request. Thank you and do keep in touch.  dennyhatch@yahoo.com

Invitation to Marketers and Direct Marketers: 
Guest Blog Posts Are Welcome. 
If you have a marketing story to tell, case history, concept to propose or a memoir, give a shout. I’ll get right back to you. I am: dennyhatch@yahoo.com
215-644-9526 (rings on my desk).

You Are Invited to Join the Discussion!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

#78 Uline: A Family-owned Direct Marketing Business Doing Everything Right!

Issue #78 – Tuesday, December 17, 2019

http://dennyhatch.blogspot.com/2019/12/78-uline-family-owned-direct-marketing.html

Posted by Denny Hatch

A Family-owned Direct Marketing Business Doing Everything Right!

780-plus Pages. 36,000 Products. 
$3.6 Billion a Year Revenue. Wow!

Whenever I get into conversation with a stranger, the subject of what I do for a living frequently comes up.
     “I write a weekly blog on direct marketing,” I say. “For about 20 years I published a newsletter called WHO’S MAILING WHAT! and was the world’s foremost expert on junk mail.”
     Invariably the person’s nose wrinkles in disgust. “I hate junk mail,” is the typical response.
     “Do you hate catalogs?”
     “Oh, no! I love catalogs!”
     'nuff said.

Confessions of a Catalog Nut
I adore catalogs!
     These are the equivalent of wonderful retail stores coming directly to me—FREE—filled with fascinating merchandise from all over the world at great prices (and often FREE DELIVERY!).
     This is not the electronic trickery clogging my Yahoo in-box that (mercifully) is one-click away from oblivion.
     Catalogs are full-color tactile experiences filled with beautiful photographs and imaginative copy that caring marketers, writers and designers spent a lot of cash—possibly up to $5 a pop in the case of Uline and Restoration Hardware—in order to get my attention.
     In short, catalogs are a lot of fun. The bigger they are, the more fun they are!
     And one of the biggest—and best in its class—is Uline!
     In my opinion, every marketer of products and/or services—consumer and business—should study the Uline business model and strive to do likewise.

Below Is the Uline Manifesto.



Over 36,000 Products Always in Stock




• Huge selection. No need to look elsewhere.
• Fast delivery.
• No matter how crazy your hours, we’re here for you 24/7.
• “A knowledgeable customer service rep is always available to assist you.”
• Guarantee of excellence.
• Low delivery costs.
• 30-day no-hassle return guarantee for refund or credit.

A Typical Information-packed Catalog Spread­—
 Easy and Quick to Navigate and Order Any Time.
     
• Good illustrations.
• Complete descriptions, dimensions, prices.
• At the bottom of every spread:
  —Order by 6 p.m. for Same Day Shipping
  —PHONE 1-800-295-5510

Uline’s Fascinating Backstory
Dick and Liz Uihlein

In 1980, (à la the Donald Trump family business model) Dick Uihlein borrowed money from his father—the grandson of a Schlitz Brewing founder—and launched Uline from the basement of his home in Illinois.
     Today Uline has a headquarters campus in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin with 579,000 square feet of warehousing space plus 11 distribution centers scattered around the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
    What’s more, Uline’s 6,000 employees are well-paid:
“Average Uline hourly pay ranges from approximately $17.00 per hour for Data Coordinator to $30.00 per hour for Lead Mechanic. The average Uline salary ranges from approximately $45,260 per year for Warehouse Worker to $122,573 per year for Distribution Manager.” —indeed.com
     A low-key, hands-on manager, Dick Uihlein—now in his mid-70s—was described by long-time friend Chris McDaniel as “the kind of individual who will leave his office and walk down to meet somebody.”

Dick and Liz—An Extraordinary Partnership 
Liz is president of Uline; Dick is vice president.
     In the pantheon of Conservative politics, the Uihleins are at the top, up there with Sheldon Adelson, Robert Mercer and the Koch family.  
    Both The New York Times and Politico describe them as the Republican megadonors “you’ve never heard of.” They give tens of millions of dollars to dozens of candidates plus the Great American PAC and Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The Side Businesses

The Uihleins bought a vacation home in Manitowish Waters, a rustic Wisconsin lakeside community. Over the years Liz bought up a number of down-at-the-heels business, renovated them and gentrified the town. The feathers of some old-time residents were ruffled. But as she once emailed to her critics:
“You all should be happy there are folks like my husband and myself who can afford to buy old, dilapidated buildings, rehab them and put businesses in them without worrying about a profit.”

A Personal Note
I flat-out disagree with the Uihleins’ politics.
     That said, I have great admiration for all people who spend their money and/or time on causes they deeply believe in—whether it be politics, religion, the environment and gun violence (à la Mike Bloomberg) or building affordable homes (à la Jimmy Carter working for Habitat for Humanity).
     The country and the world are better off with the likes of the Uihleins than with, say, Judge Judy and her fatuous existence.

Takeaways to Consider
• Have you created a Manifesto for your business—a complete description of the features, benefits, and personal philosophy that is front and center in your professional life and in the lives of every member of your staff? If not, why not?

• Have you condensed your Manifesto down to a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?

• Over the past 45 years, I have studied and written about myriad catalogs—Lilian Vernon, J. Peterman and Sharper Image to name three. All started with a single item that was tested in small ads and grew turned them into multi-million dollar enterprises. They offered “items”—gifts, electronic goodies, outerwear, kitchen stuff. Every catalog was a new shopping experience. All three ran into trouble and wound up in the hands of venture capitalists and became shadows of their former selves.

• One reason for Uline’s great success: it is a catalog of consumables. These are the items continually reordered that enable companies to remain viable.

• By the turn of the 20th century, the Sears Roebuck catalog put a giant department store on the bookshelves of millions of hinterland homes.

• Fast forward to the 21st century and the mantra is, “Why print a catalog when everything is available online?”

The Wall Street Journal’s Elizabeth Holmes wrote in 2014 that catalog mailings were increasing. The reason: “Shoppers spend more online after browsing through lavish print spreads.”

• Do Dick and Liz Uihlein make mistakes? Astonishingly, I don’t remember having ordered from ULINE in the last 35 years—if ever. Yet I continue to receive this humongous catalog that must be folded in order to fit in our teeny post box in the mailroom of our Philly apartment building. My bet is each catalog costs $5 to print and mail. Two issues a year for 35 years is 70 catalogs or $350 wasted on me. Ouch!

###

Word count: 1016



At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.

CONTACT

Denny Hatch
The St. James
200 West Washington Square, #3007
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-644-9526 (Rings on my desk)
dennyhatch@yahoo.com

Note to Readers:  
May I send you an alert when each new blog is posted? If so, kindly give me the okay by sending your First Name, Last Name and e-mail to dennyhatch@yahoo.com. I guarantee your personal information will not be shared with anyone at any time for any reason. The blog is a free service. No cost. No risk. No obligation. Cancel any time. I look forward to being in touch!


IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE POSTING A COMMENT… Write Me!
Google owns Blogspot.com and this Comment Section. If you do not have a Google account, contact me directly and I will happily post your comment with a note that this is per your request. Thank you and do keep in touch.  dennyhatch@yahoo.com

Invitation to Marketers and Direct Marketers: 
Guest Blog Posts Are Welcome. 
If you have a marketing story to tell, case history, concept to propose or a memoir, give a shout. I’ll get right back to you. I am: dennyhatch@yahoo.com
215-644-9526 (rings on my desk).

You Are Invited to Join the Discussion!