Creating a Personal Brand: Easily Pivot in your Career Down the Road

Just because you love your job doesn’t mean you won’t have to change it someday. Maybe you like your current position, but the company is going through some restructuring and layoffs are on the horizon. Or maybe you’re ready for a career change entirely—a new industry or position that better aligns with your long-term goals or interests.

If this sounds familiar, don’t worry! You can create a personal brand that will attract the RIGHT employers and clients, and help you pivot if you ever want to.

What is your personal brand?

Personal branding is the act of presenting yourself as a brand. It’s about creating a unique identity that reflects your true self, so people can identify and connect with you.

Why is personal branding important? Because it helps you stand out from the crowd and makes it easier for others to recognize what you do or offer, which in turn makes it easier for them to hire or buy from you.

What is your personal brand? Think about these questions:

  • What makes you different from others?
  • What kind of things do you like doing?
  • How would you describe yourself in three words or less?
  • What do you believe in?
  • What matters most in life?
  • What do you want out of life?

Now, create content around those topics. This could include blog posts, videos, podcasts, TikToks, LinkedIn posts—depending on what type of career paths interest you. Also, take into consideration where your ideal clients would consume information. For example, I mainly create content on LinkedIn, because that’s where I want to create my client’s content, and that’s where my ideal clients will be.

Creating a personal brand statement

A personal brand statement is a clear, concise statement that defines your values, interests and goals. It may seem similar to your elevator pitch or resume summary, but it’s actually more than that. A personal brand statement should be something you can easily repeat in person or on paper at any time.

The best way to create a personal brand statement is by thinking about what aspects of yourself would be valuable in the workplace. These could include:

  • Your personality traits
  • Your skills and ability
  • Your ideal clients/company

Your statement should capture the essence of your unique skills, values, and personality.

Your personal brand statement can help people see you as an authority in a specific area, so they’ll be more likely to seek out your advice or hire you for projects. You can also use it to refer back to when creating other marketing materials like social media bios and websites.

Ideas to get you started

Here are some prompts:

  • Why did you pick the career you picked? Why are you passionate about it?
  • If you’re an entrepreneur, share your journey about how and why you become one.
  • Share a story about a time you failed. How did you react? How did you use it to better yourself?
  • What type of employers/clients are you looking to work with? Share what values you want them to align with.
  • What gets you out of bed in the morning? What are you most passionate about?
  • What makes your days better? What makes you smile brighter?

As always, when creating your content, focus on storytelling.

You can build a personal brand that can help you pivot into another career if you need to.

Personal branding is a way you can distinguish yourself from other people in your field or industry who may have similar job titles and skill sets. It’s not just about how you describe your role, but also what kind of lifestyle you aspire to have and the projects that matter most to you professionally. Personal branding is more than just a resume—it’s about how you present yourself both online and off.

So if your personal brand aligns with the position for which you’d like to apply, it will help make sure that potential employers notice what sets you apart from other candidates. Personal branding is also invaluable in this regard because it gives potential employers or clients another dimension of who they might hire (and why), beyond their resumes—which often get quickly scanned before an interview takes place.

You are not just your “professional self.” In fact, creating a personal brand that encompasses who YOU are—beyond your work experience—can help you easily attract the right employers and clients, and it can help you pivot when you want to do something new.

Don’t create content only about what you do. Create content about WHO YOU ARE.

And don’t be afraid to be unapologetically yourself.

My Top Tips for Freelance Writers

It’s been officially one year since I’ve began freelancing. So here are the things I’ve learned from this past year. Hopefully this blog post acts as the helpful friend I wish I had when I began freelancing.

Enjoy while you sip on your morning iced coffee!

Expand your entrepreneurial sights beyond “just writing.”

The more you know about content marketing, full-funnel strategies, call-to-actions (CTAs), and marketing best practices, the more you can charge for your time. Plus, if you expand your skills and learn beyond “just writing,” you can provide:

  • Content audits
  • Ad strategies
  • Email campaigns
  • Social media management
  • Graphic design
  • Content calendars

You can expand beyond just writing. It all depends on how you market yourself. If you want to expand what you offer, tell your existing clients. Update your website. Post on LinkedIn. Scream it from the rooftops. Just tell people. Just start doing.

Get away from time-based billing.

As you get more and more efficient at your job, the less time-based billing makes sense. I’m not going to sit here and say that some of my clients aren’t paying me by the hour. But for example, I recently created a LinkedIn ad strategy. Next time I do another one, a lot of it will be repeat information. Yet I can leverage the time I already spent by charing more for the project, rather than by how long I think it’ll take.

You want to get towards value-based billing. That means retainer billing or project-based billing.

Don’t be afraid to charge a pretty penny. Your work is more valuable than you believe.

The best writers keep it simple.

Keep your content as simple and straightforward as possible. Write in a clear, concise, and easy-to-understand style. Break down complicated topics into shorter paragraphs, using bullet points. Bold key terms and phrases if they are important.

Overall, you want to make it as easy as possible to read your article. Like you’re sharing information with a friend.

Create an online portfolio.

It might seem like a lot of work and a potential waste of money. But I swear, starting a blog was the smartest thing I ever did. I bought a domain and blog through WordPress. Soon after I uploaded all my published content, I landed my first job as a Content Writer. Having a website makes you appear credible and legit.

Investing in a website and domain will allow you to showcase your writing examples and detail your services, so that you can easily show clients what you’re capable of.

When potential clients come across your portfolio, they can see what you’ve done in the past and get an idea of what kind of writing style you have. This will help them decide whether or not they want to hire you for their project. You’ll find that a lot of content managers will hire you with little to no questions asked if you have a great website.

Plus, if you work on search engine optimizing your site, you can draw in potential clients with your website.

Don’t forget the human aspect of freelancing.

When working with a client, be sure you are clear from the start on their end goal. The best way to do help your client meet their goal is to ask them key questions at the start of working with them. Find out what makes them tick, what kind of content marketing the like, and what a successful project looks like to them.

I suggest creating a document with a list of questions you have about your prospective client. You can reuse this for every client. But don’t forget to truly enjoy conversations with your clients. It can make all the difference if you’re pleasant and polite to work with.

Give yourself realistic deadlines.

It’s great to be ambitious, but when you’re working alone, it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work you have on your plate. I’ve been there! It’s important to keep in mind that you’re not just a writer—you’re also a business owner, so make sure you set realistic deadlines for yourself. Be honest with your clients about how much time you need…and add a few days onto the deadline for extra caution.

Not everything needs to be finished in a rush. Sometimes a slower pace leads to a better result.

Keep learning and stay inspired.

You are never too good to learn more about your craft. You can always find new ways to improve your writing, whatever level you’re at. And even once you’ve reached a certain level of expertise, there will always be opportunities for growth—you’ll just have to look harder for them.

Also, you should put yourself out of your comfort zone. If you’re not feeling like writing today, maybe it’s time to try something different. The point is: don’t get stuck in a rut. Keep pushing yourself to do new things, so that every day feels like an adventure!

Always be marketing, even when you’re busy.

When you’re a freelancer, it’s easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day tasks of writing and editing that you forget to actually make yourself visible to potential clients. The solution? Set aside a few minutes every day—even if it’s just five—to send out a quick email or post on social media about what you’re working on or what new projects are coming up.

Letting people know where they can find your work will help build trust with them and make them more likely to hire you down the road!

Give yourself breaks.

You’re a freelancer writer, and you know that means you’ve got to be on top of your game all the time. But have you ever thought about how much more productive you’d be if you gave yourself some breaks?

I know it sounds counterintuitive—rest is great for making us better when we come back. But when you’re constantly pushing your brain to its limits, it’s easy to burn out. So try to take at least one day off every week so that when you come back, you can be even more productive than before.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stuck on a project, take a little break. You’ll be glad you did!

Get yourself an animal.

Just do it! Who doesn’t love an office buddy?

Recently, I listened to Kaleigh Moore and Emma Siemasko’s podcast, “Freelance Writing Coach.” They we’re talking about their desk setups, and what helps them most. 

By far, my best work from home “accessory” is both my cats. They always seem to know when I’m most stressed—that’s right when they walk across my keyboard, delete everything I was working on (thank you to the “undo” button), and demand attention and treats. 

They remind me to laugh at myself throughout my busiest days. They get me out of high-stress moods, where my work goes before anything else. They remind me to play, have fun, and enjoy my time on this Earth. And I swear you sleep best when a cat is purring on your chest. 🐈

Be yourself.

There are so many other freelancers out there, but no one else is YOU. You are your superpower.

You got this!

Why is Thought Leadership Content Important?

Thought leadership content is one of the greatest things your business can generate in terms of value. Done correctly, you could drastically increase your brand’s reputation as a thought leader in your industry. But why is this content so important for your business?

Thought leadership content is a crucial part of your marketing funnel because it helps you to attract and retain the right customers. When I was creating my client’s LinkedIn ad strategy, thought leadership was the first step in the marketing funnel.

Your thought leadership content should be based around topics that are relevant for your target audience and should provide them with information that they can’t find anywhere else. Thought leadership:

  • Helps build trust with your audience
  • Improves your brand’s reputation
  • Allows you to reach new audiences
  • Helps you stand out from the crowd

How to create thought leadership

Here are three steps to create thought leadership in your niche:

  • Create a persona for your ideal customer
  • Create a list of questions they might have about you or your product/service
  • Answer those questions using your expertise

Then, create the content by writing it down and publishing it, or recording a podcast. When you create thought leadership content, you’re essentially making yourself a resource. You have great ideas that no one has ever shared before. By sharing, you’ll be helping your ideal customers…which will make them more likely to buy from you.

You can use this content to demonstrate that you’re an authority on your topic, and it will also help you connect with potential customers by showing them that you understand their problems and can offer solutions.

Thought leadership content is one of the most important types of content you can create, because it helps you to stand out from your competitors and position yourself as the expert in your field.

Key characteristics of thought leadership

What makes content thought leadership, and not just generic content? Here’s differentiates thought leadership:

  • It isn’t generic
  • It has original insights and ideas
  • It answers the audience’s needs
  • It’s genuine
  • It’s created with purpose (besides selling)

Here’s a checklist to follow to ensure you’re creating thought leadership:

  • Is this content the first of it’s kind (not just repeated from hundreds of other blogs)?
  • Is your viewpoint unique, and possibly even unexpected?
  • Are you providing insights that others don’t have?
  • Are you providing direct recommendations?

If you answered you’ve checked every question off as “yes,” then you’ve got yourself a great topic to create thought leadership.

Does thought leadership lead to conversions?

Is thought leadership really that important? I’m telling you, yes—but I get it. You want to see the statistics.

For business-to-business (B2B) marketing, thought leadership led 57% of decision makers to purchase. Especially for B2B businesses, thought leadership content is king. However, it can (and should) still be used by business-to-consumer (B2C) content marketers.

Thought leadership needs to be written well

38% of senior executives were turned off by thought leadership content because it was difficult or boring to read. Since thought leadership content is so essential to developing your brand, you need to invest in a great writer.

I love creating thought leadership pieces—in fact, it’s my favorite way to spend the day. If you have ideas you want me to turn into great content, I’d be ecstatic to learn your unique viewpoints and create the content.

Service pages

I once found myself writing a service page about a company who writes service pages. Ironic, right? I’ve written many other service pages since then, and I can help you write yours.

A service page is a place where you can explain what your services are and how they work in plain language. It’s a place where people can get all their questions answered, and find the information they need to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to work with you. It also gives them an idea of who you are and what makes you different.

Service pages are written in a way that is easy to understand and intuitive. It doesn’t matter how complicated your service is, I’ll break it down so your audience can understand. I’ll decrease your audience’s headaches—not add to them.

Service pages are a great way to shine a light on your business’ best qualities—I’ll take the flashlight and let everyone know how great you are.

Monthly messaging plans

Knowing what you’re going to publish is key to making sure our content gets noticed by the right people at the right time. A good marketing plan will help you:

  • Know what to say, when, and where—and why it matters
  • Create more meaningful connections with customers, prospects, and partners through the right tone of voice and language
  • Avoid being spammy or annoying (and instead build trust)

After learning about your marketing goals, I’ll come up with an editorial calendar—a list of the emails, blog posts, and social media posts that we’ll publish throughout the entire month. I’ll help you decide what content you need to publish—and when—so that your business hits its goals and makes an impact on your customers.

My services include:

  • Monthly messaging plan: This is where we come up with the topics, timing, and tone for each piece of content.
  • Content research and creation: This is where I find all of the facts and figures needed to craft your message.
  • Social media and email management: This is where I create graphics, write content, and publish it using programs Hootsuite and Mailchimp.

Your marketing messaging plan is your roadmap to success. Let me lead the way.

Thought leadership

I know you have amazing ideas that would benefit others—you just don’t have the time to write them. Let’s work together so you can share your ideas through thought leadership.

Thought leadership is the ability to lead others through your ideas, opinions, and vision. It’s about being able to take a stand on something—whether it’s a new product idea or a different way of doing things—and having people listen to what you say because they trust you.

Thought leadership accelerates your marketing strategy by increasing brand awareness and your credibility with customers. It also improves your sales by helping customers understand why they should buy from you, instead of someone else.

Especially in B2B marketing, thought leadership is essential. 57% of B2B decision makers say thought leadership directly led them to convert.

Here’s the process: I’ll interview you and discover your point of view. Then I’ll deep dive into research, gather statistics, and create content based on your viewpoints. Here’s some examples of the thought leadership content I’ve created:

Let’s make your brand a voice that consumes want to listen to.

Email content creation

I’m on a mission to empower business owners like you to get more customers, leads, and clients—without you having to work longer hours. I do this by planning and creating your email campaigns, uploading them into the software, and automating the schedule.

Did you know email marketing delivers the highest ROI of all marketing channels? By investing in email marketing, you can expect $42 back for every $1 you spend. Even though it seems “old school” with social media gaining prevalence in recent years, email marketing is still by far the most effective.

You can use email marketing to:

  • Build customer relationships
  • Convert more traffic into leads
  • Nurture relationships with prospects
  • Give product or service updates
  • Increase revenue

Business owners have so much on their plate these days. The list of things you need to do each day is endless! The last thing you want to do is deal with creating email content. Lucky for you, I love creating content for emails.

Entrepreneurship & Spirituality: Using Manifestation to Level up your Business

Now that I’ve been an entrepreneur with my own content marketing business for about a year now, I get a lot of questions about how I did it. And while I could dive into the actual practicalities of how I started my own business, the truth is: A lot of it has been “luck.” A lot of it has just worked out.

Of course, your game plan is essential. Knowing how to get started is essential. But so is a mindset shift.

A few years ago, I would have been embarrassed to admit my beliefs online, especially in connection to my business. But I think a lot more people nowadays are curious about spirituality and manifestation. If you’re at all curious about it, and how it can excel your entrepreneurial journey, then keep reading.

First, you have to be in a good place

If you’re in a really awful place, me telling you to “shift your mindset” and “just manifest” is probably garbage advice. Of course, there are some situations where you can’t just manifest your way out of it. This advice is much more useful for someone who has their basic needs met. They’re in a decent place looking to find a happier place, where they feel at ease.

My experience manifesting a career

First, before I talk about manifestation, I want to talk about my experience manifesting a career. As Gretchen Rubin writes in The Happiness Project, “I often learn more from one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences than I do from sources that detail universal principles.” So here is my highly idiosyncratic experience—I hope it helps you on your own path.

In June of 2020, I felt heartbroken about my career. At this point, it had been over a year since I had graduated college. There was still no sign of a good job in sight. I was working minimum wage jobs that I knew I couldn’t go back to when the COVID-19 lockdown ended.

On lockdown, I was a heavy TikTok user. I lived alone, and it helped me pass the time. I had stumbled on a lot about manifestation, and while I didn’t necessarily believe it, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. I mean, it couldn’t hurt, right?

There was one company I was interviewing for, and I really wanted the job. I had learned from TikTok that one method of manifestation is scripting. With this technique, you write what you want to happen as if it has already happened. I wrote in my journal, “I’m so grateful I am a Content Writer at Smart Training.”

A few days later, I got the offer letter. A few weeks after that, it was my first day on the job.

For me, that pretty much solidified that manifestation is real. At the time, I didn’t quite understand the complexities of it. But my experience was proof enough that it works, and that I should keep doing it.

At Smart Training, I would take a few minutes every day to write some of the things I wanted to manifest. I’d write:

  • I’m so grateful my career is successful.
  • I’m so happy I got a raise.
  • I’m happy to be thriving in my career.

Because even while I was happy with my job, I still wanted to keep doing better. I kept scripting almost every day. Then one day out of the blue, someone I had worked with at my previous job at CycleBar called me up. She said she had a position open for a Marketing & Communications Coordinator. I ended up getting the job.

Once I was in that role, I realized how much I had left out when I was trying to manifest a new career. I had been so focused on “moving up the corporate ladder” that I hadn’t thought about my own happiness, or work-life balance. I hadn’t thought about the fact that I want to be able to enjoy some days working from home. I hadn’t considered that flexibility and getting along well with the people I work with is so important.

Get specific in your manifestations

I had gotten what I manifested. But I hadn’t been smart about manifesting the right thing for me.

While at that job, I started manifesting differently. Yes, I still wanted to do well in my career and get a raise. But I also wanted to enjoy my life and not be constantly overworked. I wanted to move back across the country so I could enjoy dinners with my parents. I just started getting real with what I actually wanted out of life, not just my career. Because what good is a great career, if all you feel is burnt out and overwhelmed at the end of every day?

At the time, I had thought I wanted a full-time marketing role at the university I graduated from. However, I got rejected from that job, which made me question manifestation. Why wasn’t I getting what I wanted?

I ended up quitting my job as a Marketing & Communications Coordinator. It just wasn’t worth the toll it was taking on my mental health. I started freelance writing, thinking I’d only do it while I looked for another full-time role. But then it all just keep working out.

And then I realized: I hadn’t been manifesting the full-time marketing role. I had been manifesting my freelance career. I had the money I wanted, with the freedom and remote work I wanted. It had all worked out perfectly.

If you’re thinking about trying manifestation, what have you got to lose?

Persistence is key

I think the key was persistence. Even when I was happy with my job, I kept reaching for me. And on the opposite end of the spectrum—even when I was crying after work every single day because I hated my job, I kept believing that better things were coming to me.

It’s all about persistence. Through the good and the bad times. While you don’t have to script every single day, you do have to continuously believe with conviction that what you are calling in what is meant for you.

Monitor and shift your mindset

Anyone who has shifted their mindset knows it’s a continuous process. I definitely notice a difference in my luck if I have a negative mindset. If I’m thinking, “No clients would hire me,” guess what? No clients hire me. That’s because in manifestation, what you think is what becomes true. This is called the “law of assumption.” What you assume to be true is true.

But when I think, “My dream clients have found me,” guess what? My dream clients end up finding me. And I really don’t have to put that much work towards trying to land them.

If you start practicing manifestation, just know that you are in control of your mindset. It might take some time and practice. It’s by no means easy. But you can shift your mindset from negativity and limiting beliefs to positivity by practicing a “mental diet.” To put this into practice: Every time you have a negative thought, follow it up with a positive affirmation.

What’s a positive affirmation?

Positive affirmations are phrases you tell yourself that help you shift your mindset and beliefs. Here are some positive affirmations I use:

  • I don’t have to work hard to earn money.
  • Every time I enjoy myself, I earn money.
  • Money loves spending time with me.
  • Money is attracted to me.
  • I deserve to be financially abundant.
  • Positive freelance opportunities flow to me endlessly.
  • My dream clients have found me.
  • I am great at my job and I love what I do.
  • My clients value me for what I bring to the table.

Affirmations are part of my everyday, but I especially love them at night right before I fall asleep. I find that when I focus heavily on my affirmations before sleeping, I have a great quality of sleep that I don’t experience otherwise. For example, I’ll wake up earlier and feel more well-rested.

Expanding beyond affirmations

You can choose to stop at affirmations, but if you want to get even more spiritual, I highly recommend getting some crystals for your desk. For example, Tiger’s Eye helps you excel in your career and give you the determination you need to power through your work. Citrine can help you improve your wealth. Carnelian and Moonstone can make you more creative.

Taking inspired action

Of course, a mindset is nothing without action. In manifestation, it’s called the inspired action. Mia Fox writes, “An inspired action is when you do something because you feel the strong inner urge to do it, like having a gut feeling.” She continues, “You could also call it intuition. Or to have a creative idea or epiphany. And you are then taking action on it.”

Of course, inspired action includes working hard. But it also includes taking breaks. Or enjoying a simple conversation, which could lead to a prosperous business connection.

Feeling gratitude

One of the most important aspect of manifestation is to come from a place of gratitude. Even if you hate your job (like I did), strive to find things to be grateful for. Do you love your morning coffee? How cute your cat is when she sleeps? Nature walks with your mother? The ease of your own breath? Your health?

Whatever you can find that you love—cling to it. And emphasize it on a daily basis.

If you can’t find much to you’re grateful for, work to infuse your days with joy and happiness. Because once you start feeling grateful, there’s no limit on what you can manifest.

For example, even when I hated my job, I was still grateful to be learning so much. I knew it would be valuable in my career. So I clung to that.

In summary, gratitude is key for manifesting.

Entrepreneurship & spirituality

Think about it like this. If you don’t see your own value, how can anyone else?

When you have negative beliefs about yourself, they affect how you show up in the world. And unfortunately, they affect how other people see you. They might not want to hire you, or they might not want to pay you what you deserve. But when you have positive beliefs about yourself, the opposite is true. Your path to success becomes clear, simple, and dare I say it: Easy.

When it comes to entrepreneurship, I truly believe I wouldn’t be half as successful as I am if I never got into spirituality. Who knows if I would have even gotten that first career job at Smart Training?

Blog Authors & SEO: How to Navigate Ghostwriting

Business owners are busy people. They typically know they need to consistently blog, but they don’t have the time, energy, or the specialized skills to do that. On top of writing alone, you also have to worry about optimizing the content for search engines to prioritize.

At this point, you’re ready to hire writers (or you already have). But how should you navigate choosing to taking advantage of ghostwriting, versus keeping the writer’s name as the author? This blog will help you decide when to use your name or the author’s name to improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO).

Firstly, what is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) helps search engines, like Google, deliver the highest-quality content to the users. Google is looking for certain aspects of your website and content that makes it more valuable to users. A simple example is: If your website isn’t speedy, your SEO score will suffer.

SEO is a competition. Plenty of other businesses are writing similar content to yours. For example, think of a blog article topic. Next, look it up into Google. See how many results there are? The blogs that are showing up at the top are strategically optimized for SEO.

The competition for those first spots are fierce, but when you land them, you’ll get the most traffic. For example, that first five organic results (not an ad) get 67.60% of all clicks. That number steadily drops as you keep going through the results. Shockingly, 91% of all pages never get any organic traffic from Google.

When you’re creating content, you want people to find it (without you continuously promoting it on your channels). When people are clicking on and reading your blog posts, you build trust with your audience, credibility, and brand awareness.

Why the author’s name matters in SEO

Google uses over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm to determine whether posts will be seen by searchers, or not. One of the most important ranking factors is author reputation. It’s what’s known as E-A-T:

  • E: Expertise
  • A: Authoritativeness
  • T: Trustworthiness

EAT ensures Google is providing accurate, truthful, and useful information. Author credibility is especially important for pages that fall under the YMYL category. YMYL stands for “your money or your life.” This includes topics that impact the finances, health, safety, and happiness of readers. When you have content that falls under YMYL, having an expert author is especially important.

Even if your topics don’t fall under YMYL, it’s still important to have credible authors.

Here’s the key: Include an author that is credible, knowledgeable, and has experience writing about the topic of the blog post. Google should have evidence that the author has previously written about the topic. Does it matter if they really wrote it? No.

What is ghostwriting?

Ghostwriting helps when you don’t have time to write, but still want your blog to be active with posts under your name. With ghostwriting, you’ll pay a writer to complete the process for you, and you’ll put your own name on the article.

Ghostwriting isn’t a new phenomenon. Many writers create high-quality blog posts for other people who can’t or won’t write blog post themselves. In summary, ghostwriting is a piece of writing created by someone else. Many companies pay writers to produce content for their blogs, yet they still put their CEO’s name in the byline.

Keep in mind: Your writers may have a preference

Some writers require that their name is on the byline of the posts they write. Can you blame them? It’s the key to establishing their brand and credibility as a writer. Plus, they can use those articles easily in their portfolio. Also, it just gives them credit for their work, which is important to a lot of writers.

In contrast, other writers don’t care at all. In my case, many of my clients have me produce ghostwritten content. And that’s fine by me. (Then again, I’m producing my own blogs on my own website to establish credibility in Google. So more bylines aren’t a priority for me.)

I’ve also seen other cases where writers didn’t want to put their name in the byline. They wanted to take on the project, but not get the credit.

The bottom line is: Every writer is different. Make sure you’re clear about whether the content will be ghostwritten, and include a clear clause in your contracts. By communicating, you can find writers that are perfectly fine with your decision—whatever it is.

When to choose ghostwriting

Choose ghostwriting if you’re not prepared to find writers that already have bylines in the topics of your blog posts. If you’re going to hire a team of writers that aren’t subject matter experts (SEMs), then it’s better to put ALL the posts under one or a few main names on your blog. For example, the CEO or the content marketing manager. That will build your credibility within Google, and you can continue hiring out ghostwriters.

Ultimately, your SEO will benefit. Growing your credibility will take time, but it’s worth it.

Also, if you or your content marketing leads already have credibility within Google, then choose to publish content under your names.

When to choose keeping the real writer’s name

It’s simple: Choose the writer’s name if they are an expert in that topic (and Google knows it).

How to establish Google credibility

1. Continue to build content in relevant topics

Build high-quality content in the topics you want to be deemed as credible in. Make sure your name is on all the pieces you’re writing.

2. Have an author bio and page

Every author needs an bio. You can even create a more detailed page that the bio links out to. Make sure that your author bio details all your education, credentials, job history, and relevant links.

SEO matters, and so does who wrote the article—especially if you’re writing about topics that impact the reader’s money or life.

5 Tools to Streamline Marketing Efforts

Marketing is a key part of any business, but it’s easy to get bogged down in everything you have to do. Streamlining your marketing efforts is the best way to get more done in less time. There are many tools out there for digital marketers to streamline their efforts. So which ones should you use?

To help you avoid feeling overwhelmed, we’ve created this blog to share 5 tools to help you improve your ability to manage your workload. Marketing is hard, so let’s make it easier.

5 tools to streamline your marketing efforts

Here are 5 tools to decrease the amount of time you spend on marketing.

1. Project management tools

A project management tool can keep the whole team on track! It lets you create projects, assign tasks, and keep track of progress all in one place. The beauty is that you can customize this tool as little or as much as you want. You can choose from a bunch of different templates that might fit with your workflows, or you can build projects from scratch if you’d prefer.

Either way, a project management tool makes it easy to see what everyone’s working on at any given moment so they don’t have to spend time filling each other in on where they left off. It helps marketers easily manage their tasks, and alerts managers when they complete tasks.

Some common examples include Asana (my personal favorite), Monday.com, Trello, and Microsoft Teams (which also allows for video chatting). No matter which one you pick, it’s guaranteed to help teams collaborate. Plus, it helps individual marketing creators manage their own projects.

2. Google analytics

This tool allows marketers to track website traffic and analyze data which can be used for future marketing campaigns. It’s great for seeing how much traffic is coming from social media sites like Twitter or Facebook. It’s also great for finding out where people spend most of their time on your site, so that you can optimize it accordingly.

You can also use Google analytics to create ads. Using the tool, you will be able to optimize your ads for maximum ROI. Google analytics gives you advanced statistics on what your viewers are doing and how they are reacting to your ads. This is important because it helps you understand if your ad is working or not, so you can make adjustments to it that will make it more effective.

You can also use google analytics to target specific demographics. There are many different ways that you can use this feature, such as by age group or location. For example, if your ad is targeting people between the ages of 18-35 then you should focus on that age group because they are more likely to buy from you than someone who is older than 35 years old.

Aside from ads, you can use Google’s keyword ad planner tool to improve your ad strategy. This helps you determine whether or not you want to add certain keywords into your strategy. If the keyword has very little competition and a high search volume (meaning lots of people are searching for it), then it may be worth adding it to your strategy. If there are too many searches and not enough results, though, then it might not be worth paying for advertising on those terms.

Overall, Google’s tools will make your life much easier.

3. Social media management tools

When you’re creating social media content, the inspiration often comes in waves. You don’t want to be dragged down by the tedious process of constantly posting on social media manually.

Social media management tools allows you to access multiple social media accounts from one interface. It allows you to schedule posts in advance or even schedule them based on when your followers are online most often. The tool will automatically post your posts whenever you schedule them to go live.

Many social media scheduling tools also provide analytics related to your posts so that you can see what’s working (and what’s not). Good social media scheduling tools include Hootsuite and Buffer. Buffer has a great free option if you’re a small business owner on a tight budget.

4. Email platforms

Email tools are another great way to save time and automate the marketing process. Email platforms can help you save time by using pre-made templates that you can customize to fit your brand, so you don’t have to waste precious hours designing from scratch. These platforms allow you to create and send emails from one central dashboard.

Email platforms can also help marketers save time by making it easy to segment customers based on data such as purchase history and demographics, allowing marketers to send customized messages that will resonate with specific groups of customers. This makes marketing more effective because recipients are more likely to be interested in the offers being sent—and less likely to unsubscribe or delete them before even opening.

Marketers often have a huge to-do list, which means they need help getting things done efficiently and in an orderly manner. Email automation tools provide marketers with the ability to set up workflows that assign tasks to the proper team members, send out timely get their tasks done faster. These systems can save marketers hours every week!

Some great examples of email platforms include Mailchimp and Emma.

5. Design tools

Design tools cut down the time it takes to create eye-catching visuals.

There are lots of different options available, but my favorite is Canva. It’s a user-friendly platform with a drag-and-drop interface that makes designing everything from social media graphics to book covers insanely simple—even if you don’t have any design experience. You can choose from professionally designed templates and just swap out the text or upload your own images, all within minutes.

Plus, you can use the same template over and over again, so you’ll never have to worry about spending hours designing graphics from scratch each time you want to promote a new blog post or product launch. You can also use the templates that Canva provides. It’s very specific: You can design anything from LinkedIn posts to marketing postcards on the tool.

Using these tools will cut down on the time it takes for you to design your ads, blog posts, and other content.

Embrace digitization

Sometimes it seems like the marketing team is one of the hardest working groups in any business. From tracking down leads to staying on top of social media trends and monitoring analytics, it can feel like there are a lot of obstacles to overcome when you work in marketing. But hopefully, this blog post helped you understand how to streamline your efforts to decrease time wasted on tedious tasks!

How the Best Marketing Designs are Made

Creating and designing marketing designs is difficult. It takes a lot of effort and patience in order to create professional and stunning designs, especially if you want to break out of the norm. This can be made even more challenging by a lack of resources or knowledge.

What’s the difference between an average marketing design, and a brilliant one? A good designer will tell you: It’s their ability to think like the audience. And I know you’re thinking that’s impossible—but guess what? It isn’t. Join me as I show you what makes a marketing design excellent.

The importance of great design

Everyone wants an original, inspiring, and compelling design for their marketing collateral. But it’s very difficult to achieve this. It may appear simple, but the process is challenging. There are many things to take into account when designing marketing collateral—a clever process behind it all.

Companies now need higher-quality design than ever before. It makes your brand appear more professional and trustworthy. After all, if you can’t design appealing marketing collateral, most consumers won’t take you too seriously. 60% of consumers avoid companies with unattractive logos.

Marketers know how important designs is as well. 64% of marketers claim that visual content is an essential aspect of their marketing strategy.

Design plays a role in both printed and digital marketing collateral, including:

  • Social media posts
  • Blogs
  • Emails
  • Websites
  • Ebooks
  • Informational postcards
  • Videos
  • Apps
  • Sell sheets
  • Promotional sheets
  • Pamphlets
  • Marketing mail

A clean, professional design is essential if you want to elevate your marketing strategies.

Consistency is key, but know when to break the “rules”

Consistency across fonts, colors, and other themes in your marketing designs makes your brand look more professional. It also makes it easier for people to remember you. If you’re constantly pushing out marketing designs that aren’t consistent, it can be disorienting.

Make decisions about your brand. What fonts, colors, and types of pictures do you want to use consistently? Are there any go-to designs or patterns your marketers should choose? On the opposite end, are there any choices designers should never make when it comes to your brand? Document your decisions so you can easily share it as new marketers join your team.

Don’t worry about being boring: For specific campaigns, it can be interesting to be bold and stray from your normal designs. For example, use a separate font or color for that campaign. It can create an exciting contrast that draws attention to the campaign. Keep in mind, this should only be done occasionally. But here are some tips:

  1. When planning your marketing design, the first thing you need to do is set clear goals for it. You should think about the following when setting your goals: who is this marketing campaign directed at? What action do I want my audience to take when they see this campaign?
  2. Next, you should do research on what other companies have done in the past with similar campaigns. This will help give you insight into how other companies have approached their marketing designs so that you can improve upon them for your own company’s designs.
  3. Pick a new font, color, and image-type for the campaign, all of which will be different than what your designers would usually do.

You may find that being bold for campaigns helps you reach new audiences and draw in more customers. But overall, being consistent is the way to go.

There’s no room for mistakes

Designing marketing materials that are going to make your business stand out requires extreme attention to detail. Avoid making any mistakes that could potentially hurt your brand and cause people to be turned off by what you have to offer.

Understand this: Mistakes are going to happen. But they need to get corrected before they get published. Even worse, before they get printed. Because once your marketing collateral is printed and handed out, there’s no going back. You want to avoid that forehead-slapping moment where you notice a mistake long after the content has been published or printed.

It’s important to not only have detail-oriented designers, but also have multiple pairs of eyes on the design before it gets finalized. Upper-level marketing management should be ensuring that every single detail is accurate. In marketing, every single detail is essential to nail. No mistakes make you look better and helps you gain trust with your audience, but it also helps you avoid missing any leads. For example, if you put the wrong email address, then that marketing content failed to bring you leads.

Common mistakes to avoid

When making marketing materials, we often miss the little things that can make all the difference in our final product. Here are some details to keep an eye out for:

Keep an eye on these small details and you’ll be well on your way to great marketing design!

Think of your audience first

Remember: The design is not for you. When you’re making a decision about what to do with your marketing campaign, don’t consider yourself first: Instead, think about whether what you’re doing will benefit the people who will be engaging with it.

If you keep your audience in mind when you’re designing, you’ll end up with a better design every time. So before you start designing anything, ask yourself: Who am I trying to reach with this? What are they interested in? How can I connect with them in a meaningful way? How can I make this experience easier for my consumers? This will help you make sure that your design speaks directly to your audience.

The more you put your audience first, the more likely they are to enjoy what they see and engage with it in a meaningful way. After all, at its heart, marketing is just a conversation between you and your audience. Be sure that conversation is friendly—and that it’s always focused on them!

A Marketing Guide to Hiring Freelance Writers

Writing. Editing. Proofreading. Blogging. Social media management.

Obviously, content creation and marketing is a must for any online business today. Unfortunately, the cost of hiring these services can get expensive. For example, you might accidentally hire too many writers that aren’t effective enough. Ineffective writers can’t get you the return on investment (ROI) you need.

That’s why it’s smart to consider freelance writers to not only handle the writing, editing, and proofreading, but also to get content creation off your plate entirely—so you have time to focus on the other aspects of your business.

Hiring freelance writers is a great way to help you create quality content for your marketing efforts.

Why hire a freelance writer?

If you’re running a marketing team, you know that high-quality content is essential. But with the enormous demand for fresh, original, high-quality content, it can be overwhelming to keep up with. That’s why great marketers everywhere are turning to freelance writers—to help them stay on top of the content game and ensure their company’s success.

But how do you find the right writer? How do you make sure they deliver what you need in a timely fashion? And how do you build a relationship that lasts? In this blog post, I’ll explain through all the basics of hiring freelance writers—from getting started to building long-term relationships.

The importance of finding the right freelancer

While some businesses have full-time marketers who specialize in content marketing, many small businesses do not. Freelancers are especially needed if you don’t have a marketing team.

When you decide to invest in quality content marketing and hire a freelance writer, you need to make sure you get a return on your investment (ROI).

Choosing the right writer is essential to ensuring your marketing goals are met.

You have a lot of options: Choose wisely

The freelance content marketing industry has been growing rapidly. 90% of marketers using content marketing plan to continue investing the same amount in the channel in 2022. With this type of growth, the market has become saturated with hundreds of new writers and marketers. It’s difficult to find the right candidate with so many options.

Tips for finding the best freelancers

Hiring a content marketer should be easy—but it’s not.

Knowing what you want and knowing how to find it are two different things, and if you’ve ever been burned by a freelance writer who didn’t write “in your voice,” or just didn’t have the experience you needed, you know that finding the right person can be a real challenge.

So how do you know if a freelance content marketer is right for you? Start with these 4 questions:

  1. Have they ever written about your industry before?
  2. Do they understand your company’s mission, vision, and values?
  3. Will they take the time to learn about your target demographic?
  4. Are they willing to put in the work to make sure their writing is perfect for you?

If the answer is yes to all four of these questions, then you’ve probably got a winner on your hands! That doesn’t mean every freelancer will be a great fit—but these questions can help you weed through the writers.

Key qualities to look for

The best freelance writers are reliable, communicative, and innovative. They can adapt their tone as needed and work with minimal supervision. Lastly, they should be able to consistently deliver high-quality work on time, even in the face of tight deadlines.

Where to look

Ultimately, scrolling on Fiverr or Upwork for hours can waste your time. But there are a lot of freelancers hanging around online in these places:

  • Facebook freelance writing groups
  • In certain hashtags on LinkedIn, such as #freelancewriter (or YOU could post with those hashtags)
  • Specialized slack channels

No matter what avenues you find your freelancers, make sure you have a streamlined process to manage them.

Develop a strategy before hiring freelance writers

Freelance content marketing is a great way to bring in fresh ideas and help you get your brand name out there. But before you hire someone, it’s important to have a strategy.

First, make sure your company has a clear mission and vision. Know what you want to accomplish. Once you know that, form a strategy around how to accomplish it. Are you looking for long-term followers? Do you want to build up an email list? Or do you just want people to go to your website?

Now that you’ve established those two things, it’s time to find a freelance writer who can deliver the content necessary for your strategy. It’s important that the writer knows what your goals are.

Plus, you’ll want to develop a strategy to quickly create and sign contracts, pay writers, and manage freelancers (for example, using a Project Management System).

How can you manage freelance writers?

The best way to manage a team of freelancers is by creating a consistent communication flow. You should also make sure that your writers have all the information they need for their assignments before assigning the work to them.

For example, use Asana or Monday.com to manage your freelance projects. Both of these platforms are intuitive and easy to use. Your freelance writers will have their own accounts, and they’ll be notified when you assign projects. You’ll be notified when they complete their projects. It’s a win-win!

To keep your team manageable, don’t hire more freelancers than you need. At the same time, you should have more than one. That way, you have a safety net if one of your writers has an emergency and suddenly can’t make a deadline.

Building long-term relationships with freelancers

The longer freelance writers stay with your organization, the better. For one, you don’t have to waste money looking for candidates, and you don’t miss deadlines in the interim. You’ll also avoid repetitive onboarding processes. Plus, the longer a freelance writer stays with you, the better they will know how to effectively market your business.

Here’s how to build healthy long-term relationships with freelancers:

  1. Communicate: Freelancers have a lot of clients to complete projects for, so the earlier you can get their assignments to them, the better. Many freelancers implement rush fees for last-minute assignments.
  2. Pay them in a timely manner: The less often you’re late with paying your freelancers, the more likely they will be to truly value you as a client. Oftentimes, they’ll even prioritize you over clients who often pay late.
  3. Pay them well: If you start your freelancers out at super low rates, don’t be surprised if they’re all dropping your projects very quickly. To build long-term relationships, offer a valuable rate.
  4. Reward loyal freelancers: If your freelancers aren’t asking already, they probably prefer to see increases in their rates. Especially after a year, it’s smart to compensate them more. Otherwise, your writers will likely start looking for clients elsewhere.
  5. Express your gratitude: As a freelancer, sometimes we don’t know if our clients are happy with our work. Especially in an environment where sometimes, very little communication takes place, it can be hard to know if our clients are truly happy with us. Take a minute to validate your freelancers every now and then if you’re grateful for their work.

Building healthy, long-term relationships with freelancers will increase their loyalty to you, and make them more effective at marketing your business.

Looking for a trustworthy freelancer?

If you can’t deliver content fast enough on your own or don’t have the resources in-house, hiring freelance writers is a great way to make sure your company can keep up with demand for new content.

If you’re looking for a freelance content writer, feel free to reach out to me! I’ll reach out to you as soon as possible.

8 Traits to Look for When Hiring a Content Marketer

The field of content marketing is growing at a rapid pace. It is becoming essential to the success of most companies. It’s no surprise that professional content marketing jobs are now growing steadily in number.

That being said, hiring a content marketer should not be taken lightly. A bad hire can cost a large amount of money, and set the company back by quite a bit. Plus, it can make your business look unprofessional.

With this guide, you will know what to look for when hiring someone to be your content marketer.

Why hire a content marketer?

A good content marketer will make all the difference to your business, and will likely do so over time. They’ll help you build a solid community that is engaged with your business. Plus, they’ll help you save time and avoid dealing with marketing tasks. Marketers will also help you establish yourself as a thought leader. And, perhaps most importantly for businesses, they’ll help you increase your revenue.

8 traits to look for when hiring a content marketer

Whether you’re hiring a freelance or full-time content marketer, here are the traits to look in candidates:

1. Honest

Honesty is, of course, an essential trait in any potential workplace partner. If you want to know that someone has your best interests at heart, you need to be able to trust them.

With marketers, this characteristic takes on added importance because the work they do holds such great sway over the success of your business. When it comes right down to it, honesty and integrity are what will drive a writer or marketer toward finding the best solution for your business’s unique situation—not just trying to make themself look good.

On top of all this, an honest person is just easier to work with. They won’t leave you hanging when something goes wrong. Instead, they will take full responsibility for their part and learn from their mistakes, so those same problems don’t happen again in the future.

2. Trustworthiness

A content marketer has to be someone you can trust. You need to feel confident that they’ll deliver the work in a timely and professional manner, and that they will respect copyright laws. You should also feel secure knowing that your content marketer won’t do anything with your company name or product names without going through you first.

When hiring a marketer, take note of whether or not they have strong communication skills (whether it be through email, phone calls, or face-to-face meetings), and make sure they respond promptly to emails, texts, and phone calls. They’ll make sure all your deliverables are on time, and if they can’t make the deadline, they’ll communicate with you, so you’re not left surprised.

3. Clear communicator

The ideal content marketer is both persuasive and clear. In other words, someone who knows how to say just enough to get the job done, but not so much that it feels awkward or robotic.

The most successful content marketers are those who know how to express themselves in such a way that their ideas stick with the reader long after they’ve read them. They have a natural rhythm, pace, and ease when communicating. Not only does this make their messages easier to absorb and understand, it also makes them more memorable for future readers.

Content marketers should be:

  1. A strong writer and editor: Content marketers need to have solid writing skills, and they should also be able to edit their own work and the work of others.
  2. A good listener: Content marketers need to be able to listen carefully in order to fully understand a brief or project so they can make high-quality content that meets your needs.

Communication is a huge part of marketing. If a content marketer is an engaging person, they’ll be able to successfully communicate their ideas effectively in written or spoken form without sounding contrived or robotic—which will benefit your company in the long run!

4. Excellent project management skills

If you want to hire a content marketer, it’s important they know how to manage projects. Someone skilled at this will be able to help determine what a project needs, and work with you to create an action plan. They’ll also be able to follow through on the plan, and make sure that everyone is aligned with the right expectations.

One of the most important skills you should be looking for in a candidate is project management. An excellent content marketer must be able to effectively plan, coordinate, and execute projects. They’ll need to know how to allocate resources and budget efficiently, but also effectively communicate their operational needs with stakeholders and team members, so that everyone is on the same page.

If you’re hiring someone who has worked at an agency or freelance before, this will likely be one of the first things they mention in their resume or portfolio. They’ll be able to walk you through projects they’ve managed from start-to-finish, so pay close attention to what they say about how they organized a successful project.

5. Takes initiative

You want content marketing candidates who are comfortable taking initiative. This means they’re able to get things done without being told, they’re willing to take on new projects, and they seek out new opportunities. A candidate who is always waiting for someone else to do something isn’t going to be able to make much progress as a content marketer.

Can this person meet deadlines? Can he or she stay motivated and produce high-quality work even when the assignment is a short, unglamorous one? The ability to do this kind of work day in and day out will be fundamental for the person you ultimately hire.

Having someone who can think critically and act decisively is key to ensuring that projects get done efficiently and effectively.

6. Collaborative, yet independent

Everyone likes working with self-motivated people who don’t need constant handholding. If content marketers are going to succeed at their jobs and become valuable contributors, they have to have an innate drive that propels them forward without any prompting from above.

However, although your content marketers need to be independent, they also need to be able to collaborate. Content marketing is a group effort—it doesn’t usually happen in a vacuum, and there’s a lot of cross-departmental collaboration that needs to happen throughout the process.

7. Creativity

Content marketing is all about telling interesting stories, and you need people who can really think outside of the box to do that. Look for candidates who have branched out from typical content marketing formats and tried something different.

Content marketers need to be able to produce fresh content that is engaging and inspiring. People who are in these roles need to be extremely creative!

8. Curiosity and authenticity

It’s essential for content marketers to be curious about the world around them—they should be able to take random interests and connect them back to brand messaging or core values in ways that are natural yet still feel authentic. Readers can sniff out a brand that’s not being real a mile away.

Content marketers need to be curious people who are eager to find new ways to express your brand authentically. They should be willing and excited to sit down with your brand to understand your values, goals, and visions. They should be understanding of the fact that oftentimes, the best stories come from asking questions.

Most importantly: Choose someone you trust

Be sure to consider these traits from the outset to help you find the content marketer who is right for your brand. Make sure that the person you hire is talented and dependable. The right person will also be someone who understands your business and prospects, someone who’s detail-oriented, and organized. It’s also helpful to find an expert who can work quickly while maintaining high-quality standards.

Good luck finding the best content marketer for your brand! If you would like to work with me, please leave your information below. 👇🏼

5 Habits of Highly Effective Writers

How do you become a better writer? How can you write more, or even better? Well, most people think it’s all about talent. You either have it or you don’t. But that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.

Stephen King once said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt.” What he means by that is that if you are disciplined enough, then you can become a great writer. However, it’s not a light task. Anyone who knows anything about writing, knows that sitting down and putting your ideas into words isn’t an easy task. In fact, it can be so difficult that there is a name for the condition of being unable to write: “Writer’s block.”

If you want to become a better writer, then you need to develop habits that will help you achieve your goals. Thankfully, these habits aren’t difficult to learn or difficult to implement. This list of habits will help you create a writing routine that ensures you’re taking your writing career to the next level.

5 habits of highly effective writers

1. Give yourself permission to be a beginner

As a beginning writer—and as a beginning anything else, for that matter—there’s a possibility you will struggle with writing. You might get discouraged and think about quitting. But it’s important to give yourself permission to be bad at something in order to learn how to be good at it.

This was the habit I struggled with most when I first started writing, and it’s still the habit I struggle with most now that I’m an experienced writer: Giving yourself permission to suck at something is hard! As a beginner, you can forget about trying to be perfect or even great right away. It’s not possible, no matter what anyone tells you.

The freedom you have as a beginner can also help free your mind when it comes time to write each day. If you’re trying too hard to write professionally right off the bat, or if you’re stressing out over producing perfect, publishable prose already, then it will put pressure on your ability to create valuable writing. Remember, you can always edit later.

2. Create blocks of time in your schedule for writing

There’s a lot of ground to cover when it comes to writing well, but what’s most important is that you take the time to practice. Chances are, you have so many other things competing for your attention, that there will be times when you won’t be able to find time in your day for writing. That being said, we can still use our schedules as an anchor point, and use it as a way to help us make sure we’re doing everything we need.

For example, if I want to write, I make sure to only start whenever I’m motivated. If I am unmotivated in the morning, I’ll wait until the afternoon to start writing. The morning may be dedicated to an early walk to clear my head.

Aldjusting my schedule to working when I’m motivated is a perk of being self-employed, but even when I had a full-time job in marketing, my manager agreed with this philosophy. She said if I ever couldn’t find inspiration, that I should just go work out or take a walk (we worked at a fitness facility).

Plus, when I do start working, I make sure I don’t keep my phone on me when I know I’m about to dive into heavy creation work. When I’m done (or get far enough), I’ll go scroll on TikTok and Instagram as much as I want.

You need time to JUST write. If you need a few breaks, allow them, but plan them strategically. Avoid hopping on your phone during your creative block of time.

3. Streamline your processes

Another habit of effective writers is that they streamline their processes. The best way to do this is with a checklist of sorts that includes all the steps you need to complete in order to finish the piece of writing. Make sure it’s realistic, but thorough—there’s no point in making it if it doesn’t actually help you get it done. Some steps to consider including are: research, drafting, editing, proofreading, and publishing (if applicable).

Don’t be afraid to lean into tools and automation. For example, you can buy high-quality editing tools that will also check your work for plagerism.

4. Embrace feedback

Nobody likes getting criticism. If you can’t take feedback from others, then it’s going to be tough for you as a writer—you’ll always get notes from clients or editors, and if you can’t deal with that, then your writing career is going to have a very short life span.

Getting feedback from someone else can help you see what needs changing and what needs fleshing out in your work. It can also help you see which parts are working well! Just remember that it’s important to take the feedback seriously, and not just ignore it because you don’t agree with it. The whole point is for someone else to be able to see what needs changing or improving upon.

Instead of taking feedback as a personal attack on your skills as a writer, think about it as an opportunity to learn something new! That will make the process much more enjoyable and less of a chore.

5. Stay organized

Organized writers are able to stay on top of their workloads and keep track of their assignments and deadlines. Don’t be afraid to keep detailed records. Learn how to make good use of a calendar, reminder app, or other organizational tool that works best for you!

Take five minutes in the morning (or evening) to go over your schedule, and make sure you know what you need to be doing, where you need to be, and when. This will help you be on time for all the important events that matter to your writing career. Plus, it’ll help you finish projects on time.

Takeaway: If you keep committed and focused, you can make writing into an effective habit

Now that we’ve covered the habits of effective writers, let’s examine how you can develop these traits and make writing a part of your life.

  • Know what you want to write about: Reflect on the things that interest you, and think about what kind of content would fit with those interests.
  • Be prepared to write: Create a writing schedule or at least know when you will write, making sure it is realistic. Set up a time and place that works for you and stick with it!
  • Get focused: When it comes time to actually write, focus only on writing—don’t get distracted by other things like emails or social media notifications popping up in your periphery (either turn them off or close all tabs except the one where you’re typing).
  • Keep going: Don’t give up after the first few weeks; if being an effective writer is something you really want to be, persevere! Don’t worry if your posts aren’t perfect right away; just keep going until it becomes second nature!

Anyone can be a writer. You just have to start writing.

Incorporate better habits

Writing is hard, and getting better at it is even harder. That said, we’re willing to bet that you can improve your writing by incorporating these habits into your workflow. Each one of these habits has helped countless writers reach new levels of success. By getting into the habit of doing them, you’ll be able to produce better content across the board.

You might not be able to make real progress over night, but if you give yourself the chance to improve as a writer gradually over time, you’ll get there. And hopefully, this list will inspire some of you to start writing more often and with more success. Writing is a skill that needs to be practiced and honed over time.

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Social Media: How to Implement Creative B2B Marketing Ideas

If you run a small business, it’s important to find creative ways to attract new customers. But coming up with new ideas can be challenging. A lot of the time, marketing and advertising ideas come in waves. You’ll get a good idea and then nothing much else for a little while—and then another one hits you out of the blue.

Creative marketing is the most effective way to reach your audience and enhance your results. Creative ideas are also a great way to provide a fresh approach for your existing marketing campaigns. But what about when those creative juices stop flowing?

Everyone (who is involved in social media anyway) gets stuck with a creative block now and then. This blog post is designed to give you great ideas for marketing on social media.

Get inspired to get creative on social media

Social media is an incredible and effective tool for building your business. It can be used to market anything with the right techniques and strategies involved. 89% of business-to-business (B2B) companies view social media as a top content distribution channel. 96% of B2B content marketers use LinkedIn, and 82% use Twitter.

Being creative on social media can be tricky. You need a unique way of approaching content, an engaging manner with potential customers and hosts, inventive design, and positive interactions with followers. Through this blog post, we’ll take a look at different ways to be innovative with this type of marketing. We’ll cover the fundamentals of creative marketing and provide you with many ideas for increasing traffic and brand awareness.

Content should be about customers, not your business

Before we dive in, I just want to be clear: Content, especially on social media, should be centered on your customers, not your business. It should be created to improve the lives of your consumers.

Ask yourself: What kind of content will provide value to your customers? What kind of content will help them feel an emotional connection with your brand?

Identify your audience

First things first: what are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to reach out to potential customers? Do they already know about your product/service? It’s essential that you know who your target market is before creating content for them–otherwise there’s no point in creating social media posts at all.

Make sure your posts speak directly towards your audience (and not just general people who might be interested).

Start building your plan

You want to use social media creatively. You want to build a story that your audience wants to follow, and you want to build a brand that will make them fall in love with you.

But where do you start?

First, consider how much time you have. If you’re trying to do this all by yourself, it’s going to be tough to become the next Twitter sensation. So think about how much time you can realistically dedicate to this. If you’re aiming for something big, like a huge campaign across multiple platforms or a web series, consider hiring some help.

When you know how often you can consistently post, build a content calendar you can use to plan and organize your posts. Content calendars are great tools for managing your social media content. Although they are most commonly associated with blog posts and articles, you can use them to plan out any type of content.

Focus on the types of content you want to create, but also make sure to include holidays and events that may be important for your brand. You don’t want to overwhelm your audience with too many messages at once, so be realistic about how much information they can process in one post or one day.

A simple Google Spreadsheet is an effective way to plan out your marketing content. Include the following columns:

  • What type of content you’ll publish (video, infographic, etc.)
  • The topic or theme of the piece
  • Which social media channel it will be posted to
  • Who will write it/create designs (if you’re outsourcing)
  • When it’s due
  • Publication date and time

A calendar doesn’t have to be a spreadsheet or a wall calendar—you can just make a note in your phone or sticky notes on your computer. The point is to keep yourself accountable to your goals.

Content calendars can help you and your team stay organized, always know what to publish next, and create posts in advance when you have extra time. Plus, they let you see your editorial schedule at a glance, so you can keep track of the frequency with which you are publishing content on each channel.

B2B social media content ideas

Prioritize the most important messages you want to send. By identifying these messages, you can make sure they are included in your posts and that they are consistent and cohesive.

To implement creative marketing ideas, you need to plan and execute with your team. Here are some helpful tips on how to make the most of your strategies:

1. Get inspired by other B2B brands

If you want to cultivate a creative environment in your office, you need to set aside time each day for brainstorming sessions. A great way to get started is by asking your team members to share their favorite posts from other B2B brands on social media. Then, take some time to discuss the elements that made them creative and interesting.

2. Tell stories

Storytelling is a great way to use social media creatively. People love stories, and they can help create engaging content online while also building your brand identity and personality. For example, if you’re a pet food company, consider telling the story of how you got started or why it’s important for your business to be cruelty-free. These kinds of stories will engage people on an emotional level and attract new customers who are interested in what you have to say.

3. Share updates

Another way that companies use social media creatively is by sharing updates from their business. Update people on what’s new with your business. Whether it’s a product launch, an upcoming event, or something else entirely, keep people up-to-date so they know why they should care about you!

4. Create multiple pieces of content from one event or piece of research.

One way to get more mileage out of your content is by repurposing it into other formats. For example, if you publish a blog post about an industry study you’ve done, turn it into an infographic, a SlideShare presentation, and a video as well.

5. Make use of humor

Make use of humor and storytelling.

Humor is critical for effective content marketing—especially when it comes to making your brand seem human. Humor can help make the topic more interesting or entertaining for the reader (and therefore more memorable). Humor can also help keep your audience engaged while they read through long-form blog posts or other material that requires their undivided attention.

Places to find inspiration

If you don’t have any ideas for content yet, don’t worry! There are lots of places you can look for inspiration: Pinterest boards and Instagram accounts dedicated to specific topics like food, fashion, or art; DIY blogs; magazines. Just spend some time browsing around and jotting down ideas as they come to you—don’t worry about whether they seem like good ones right away.

The goal at this stage should just be getting all those random thoughts out on paper so you have a place where they’re not cluttering up your brain anymore!

Use tools like Google Trends or Google Keyword Planner to see what people are searching for online. Search for keywords related to your product or service and take note of the topics that come up in the search results. Then, create content around those popular keywords and topics.

Make it a conversation

Use social media to create a dialogue between you and your customers. Post engaging questions on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other platforms and ask for feedback from customers and fans. You can also use social media as a way to gauge customer sentiment about certain products or services by posting polls and surveys on these platforms.

Plan an effective way to measure success

Make sure you establish clear goals and track the performance of each individual marketing social media campaign. The more clear you are on your goals, the easier it will be for you to evaluate how effective the campaign is.

Have an overarching goal in mind and keep track of the metrics that help you achieve it. Then apply the lessons learned to new creative marketing ideas and goals you have in the future.

Ultimately, the best way to improve your marketing strategy is by testing and experimenting. Try different things and measure their effectiveness. And remember, experimentation means making mistakes—take note of your mistakes and you’ll be on your way to finding out what works best for you.

Struggling to Develop Your Marketing Personality? Here’s What To Do

Voice and tone are fundamental parts of your brand identity, but they often get left out of the branding process. When you create a logo, color palette, or style guide, those are tangible assets that you can share with others. But how do you explain in words what your brand’s voice is?

For marketers, having a company voice and tone is critical. Prospective customers online don’t want to read a long list of benefits or features. They want to see what type of people you are as an organization. That’s where your tone and voice comes into play.

Having a clear, consistent tone will enhance and enrich the customer experience. Having a consistent personality can help build trust with your customers and improve your brand. It allows your customers to build a rapport with your business, which then leads to more conversions and sales.

Stand out with a strong brand personality

In the Sprout Social Index™, consumers were asked why some brands stand out. 33% said a distinct personality is what makes brands stand out. Also, 40% said memorable content, and 32% said compelling storytelling, both of which rely on a strong brand voice.

More and more companies are recognizing the importance of establishing and maintaining their brand voice—which is essentially the personality and tone of your business. Brands should have a unique, recognizable voice that is communicated through marketing initiatives, as well as through social media and various business interactions.

The most successful brands are ones that communicate with their customers in a way that resonates clearly and distinctly with their target audience. These are often perceived as being genuine businesses that are trustworthy, tangible, relatable, friendly, agile, accessible, inclusive, and adaptive.

Your company’s voice is the personality behind your communications, like a friend you can always rely on. It’s the voice that shows up in your blog posts and newsletters, in your tweets and Facebook posts, in your customer service emails and live chat scripts. It’s what makes you sound like you—whatever that happens to be.

Differentiate yourself from the digital chatter

Your company needs a voice—a personality—to be memorable. Brand voice and tone are an extension of your brand personality and key to developing a clear marketing message. They are the words you use to convey your message and how you say them.

But how do you create these basic elements? How do you describe the voice that represents your business? Building a brand personality is no easy feat. In this article, I will reveal some tips to help you to create a personalized approach that reflects your business as a whole.

Separate yourself from your brand

With blog writing you will have a personal voice and tone, but with an official company blog you have to blend your own personality in with the business or organization’s personality. You have to be informative and entertaining, while still being aligned with the goals of the business. There shouldn’t be any confusion about who is talking: You or your company.

Creating a brand personality

Creating a brand voice is about deciding what your company sounds like and being consistent with it. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Every word, sentence, and paragraph has to be written “in the voice of” your brand.

During the development process, you should consider questions such as:

  • The first step in creating your brand voice is to define your audience. Who are you talking to? What do they care about? How do I want them to feel when they interact with me?
  • What words do I want my brand associated with? When someone hears my brand name, what adjectives should come to mind?

Answering these questions will help you determine what language to use, whether that means using slang or industry jargon or staying totally professional.

Once you have defined your audience, take some time to get inspired. Think about other brands you admire and whose voices you enjoy reading or listening to. How do they communicate? What sets their communications apart from the rest?

Write down some adjectives that describe your brand’s personality. Are you fun and quirky, formal and serious, warm and welcoming? Or are you somewhere else entirely? To get you started with brainstorming, here’s a list of common voice and tone traits that you can use:

  • Friendly
  • Professional
  • Formal
  • Informal
  • Cheeky
  • Sarcastic
  • Authoritative
  • Approachable
  • Direct
  • Empathetic
  • Energetic
  • Casual
  • Witty
  • Conversational

There are no wrong answers here! These adjectives will become the basis for your new brand personality. Once you have the main traits in mind, you can begin the process of implementing them across all communications.

Audit your current messaging

If you need some inspiration on what your brand personality should be, take a look at your current communications. Examine your newsletters, blog posts, social media posts, and even internal messaging. What personality traits do your top-performing pieces of content have in common?

In contrast, what posts did people react negatively to, or not engage with? Try to note what personality your marketing content had in these instances, so you know what to avoid doing.

Make sure to grab examples from all communications to get a great overview of your current voice. Use past examples of successful brand personalities to inform your future content marketing.

Also, remember: Content isn’t dead. Once you’ve settled in on your new brand voice, you can audit all your content. Go through older pieces of content to make sure they fit within this new set of guidelines, and change them if they don’t.

Keep a consistent personality, even with multiple marketers

Brands want to create a unique voice to better connect with customers and potential clients. But the process of creating a new voice can be complicated, especially when you’re working within an organization that has a marketing team or multiple teams responsible for marketing content, websites, and social media.

A consistently recognizable voice is important to building your brand. It’s the way your customers, clients, or reviewers talk about you (or don’t). Every single marketer on your team needs to be on board with your brand personality.

Drive consistency with documentation

The more people who join your marketing team, the less consistent your voice can become. To avoid this, it’s important to have a voice and tone guide to help marketers understand the brand voice and tone by just reading the document.

If you haven’t already created a document that defines your brand voice, t’s time to get started. The standard structure of such a document includes:

  • An introduction to the brand, what it stands for, its mission, and its values.
  • A definition of voice, tone, and personality.
  • An explanation of how to use these elements in marketing materials.
  • A list of words that are “on brand”—those that should be used when writing copy or other materials.
  • A list of go-to phrases.
  • A section on what not to do—examples of language that should never be used because it doesn’t align with the brand identity.
  • Punctuation and grammar: List the rules for punctuation and grammar for your company.
  • Capitalization: List capitalization standards for your company.

While creating this document, keep in mind that marketers need to skim it easily. Avoid making content marketers sit through a lengthy training session or read a novel-length document. Narrow it down the specifics and most important aspects of your brand to make your marketers more productive and efficient.

Brand personality traits may vary depending on your audience

If you have a few different audiences, keep in mind that you may need to change your brand personality when you’re talking to each different audience. For example, your company may be have a blend of business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) content. If that’s the case, you can change your brand voice, tone, and personality. Then, segment each piece of marketing content for your specific audiences.

Review and change as needed

Once you have the main traits in mind, you can begin the process of implementing them across all communications. However, adaptation is key in marketing. Just because you decided on a brand personality, doesn’t mean it’s automatically effective.

A truly effective brand personality is based on real-world audience research—and it evolves along with your business. The research and the fine-tuning is continuous. Analyze your metrics, see what’s resonating with your audience, and change as needed!

Why Empathy is the Backbone of Marketing

If you’re marketing a product or service, it’s essential to understand your audience before you start. This is an often overlooked area by businesses, who tend to focus on their own wants and needs. Empathy is the most crucial element to successful marketing. Even when you’re not interacting face-to-face, empathy is vital if you want your marketing efforts to pay off.

If you have no empathy for your prospective customers, it won’t matter how great your product or service is. You won’t see the potential in how they could benefit from your services. Sure, you can make big gains and profit with a strict focus on what you want and need, but if your business is to continue thriving into the future, then empathy is key. Developing empathy for your customers is a vital part of creating marketing that speaks to your unique audience.

Marketing isn’t easy. It’s a balance of speaking to the right people at the right time, and doing so in a way that captivates and connects. The emotional connection that leads to a sale should never be neglected.

What is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s one of those basic human qualities that all humans possess, at least to some degree. Empathy is defined as the ability to know or imagine what another person is thinking or feeling. To be empathetic, you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel that person’s pain and happiness. At the same time, these feelings have nothing to do with your own individual emotions.

How to have empathy: Know your audience

One of the most important parts of empathy as a marketer is knowing your customers. How do they spend their day? What are their lives like? Where are they looking for information?

If you don’t know, ask them. Run surveys, create polls, and use social media to start a dialogue. If you have the resources, commission some market research, or set up focus groups. The more you know about your audience, the better equipped you will be to understand them and create content that resonates with them—not just on an emotional level, but also a practical one.

If, for example, you know your customers live in an area with poor mobile internet service, it’s probably not a great idea to push lots of video on social media. And if they have a long and painful commute every day, it’s probably best to avoid posting marketing content at inappropriate times—like during rush hour.

Create a detailed buyer persona to kickstart your marketing journey. If you’re unsure what they want, then you should do some research to figure that out. If they are hurting in a particular area, then help them address it with the solution that you offer.

Empathy is more than just person-to-person

At its core, empathy is about understanding someone else’s experience. Empathy is the ultimate building block of marketing. As marketers, we use empathy to understand the customer experience and identify opportunities for improvement.

A lot of people think of empathy as just being between two people, but it can be built into your entire user experience. It can be the foundation of your organization. For example, making your website and content easier to access for people with visual disabilities.

It’s easy to get lost in the technical aspects of digital marketing—the where, how, and when— and lose sight of why we do what we do: Helping our customers make informed decisions about how to solve problems. To do that, we need to think of how we can make their lives easier, every single step of the way.

Empathy leads to better marketing

Marketing strategies need to have empathy at its core in order for it to succeed. In the field of marketing, empathy is a powerful tool. It helps you understand your customers, their pain points, and what motivates them to make a purchase.

At its core, marketing is about communicating with people. Even in cases where it’s not a “people-to-person” interaction—for example, if you’re posting a message to a corporate Twitter account or Facebook page—you have to understand that you’re communicating with other people. And if you don’t have an empathetic view of your audience, you don’t really have any idea what impact your message might have on them.

The goal is to create marketing that speaks to your audience in a way that matters and makes tangible improvements to the lives of your customers.

A lack of empathy can destroy your brand

A lack of empathy can be damaging to your brand, especially in the age of social media where people aren’t afraid to share their experiences—good or bad—with others. If your customer care team is rude to a customer, don’t be surprised if they share it in the reviews or on social media. Since 93% of customers read online reviews before buying a product, this can make or break a purchase.

Plus, as marketers, be careful you’re not lacking empathy on social media. For example, on International Women’s Day in 2021, Burger King tweeted: “Women belong in the kitchen.”

USA Today wrote, “Burger King’s attempt to highlight gender disparity in the restaurant industry with a provocative tweet appears to have backfired.” Burger King approached the issue in a way that perpetuates harmful stereotypes against women.

They tried to convey their point in the following tweets in the thread, but on Twitter, the first tweet will be seen the most. People were easily able to take this tweet, and forgo the rest of the thread. Perhaps a more effective approach would have been combining the tweets into one, but I don’t even know if that would have saved Burger King.

Empathy on social media: Nail your responses

Social media has created a new conversation dynamic. No longer do brands communicate only to their customers; they communicate with them. This means that how you listen and how you respond directly affects your brand and how it’s perceived.

Empathy takes many forms, from listening to responding to being proactive in sensitive situations. Here are some best practices for showing empathy with your social media marketing:

1. Listening

Responding to customer comments with thoughtful answers or retweets shows that you’re an active part of the conversation. It also helps inform your content strategy, because when you know what people are talking about, you can join their conversations and build stronger relationships with them.

2. Responding

When someone mentions your brand on social media, they expect a response—especially if they’re contacting you with a question or complaint. Not responding makes it seem like you don’t care about your customers, which could diminish customer loyalty and damage your business.

How you respond and interact on social media is just as important as what you post.

Another example: Don’t market during devastating world events

As marketers, we must see the big picture and empathize with our customers’ situations beyond the product itself. We need to look at the world through their eyes and perspectives. What happens if an unexpected event disrupts their normal lives? Our products can become insignificant at these times, but our brand’s response can be remembered forever.

Empathy isn’t always so obvious. It’s not just listening to what customers want or what they say they want. It’s also thinking about what they need and the times when they need it most.

One way to use empathy in marketing is by keeping up with current events. If something major and unfortunate happens in the world, it’s important to acknowledge this event even if it means putting aside your normal marketing plan for a few days. This ensures that people don’t feel like they’re being marketed to during a sensitive time. It helps build trust between your brand and its customers.

Use empathy for successful marketing

You want your customers to trust you, and the best way to build that trust is by showing them you understand how they feel. Empathy helps you see the potential customer, and how to provide a valuable service to them.

As much as you believe in your own product, it’s going to take more than that. Convincing someone else to purchase something is going to take a journey into their mind and seeing what they need, before you can provide it to them.

Empathy is the backbone of marketing. And it all starts with deep observation, thinking about every part of your business from the perspective of your consumer and ensuring that you never lose sight of why your customers are buying from you in the first place.

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How to Market your Freelance Writing or Content Marketing Business

The reason most freelancers struggle to market themselves is because they aren’t thinking about themselves as a brand.

“But I’m not an LLC,” you might be saying. “I’m a one-man team.” I don’t really care about the specifics and logistics. I don’t care if you’re doing all your work in your underwear. You have to start thinking about yourself as a business. An entrepreneur. Because you really are.

Take a well-deserved moment to pat yourself on the back.

You’re a business. What’s something that every business has to do to generate more leads? Market. And if your ideal clients are other businesses, you have to shift into a business-to-business (B2B) marketing mindset.

Let’s be honest: Most people who are going to pay you are business owners. Or at least, these are typically the highest-paying clients. If you’re just starting out, this is what I recommend. I don’t recommend targeting other content creators who need proofreaders, students who need help with applications, freelancers, or anything like that. Narrow in on content marketing for businesses if you want to earn higher-paying clients faster.

Know your audience

Of course, if you’re a freelancer selling a course, then target other freelancers. But otherwise, you want to focus on your audience when it comes to marketing your service. And who is your audience? Other brands.

Focus on creating content for your ideal audience. You’ll see other freelancers writing posts for other freelancers… Don’t do that. Focus on your audience. Those other freelancers might get more engagement, you’ll get more conversions.

The fundamentals of B2B marketing

If you specialize in marketing to consumers (for example, if you’re a fitness writer, this is you), stepping into the B2B space to market your freelance brand may seem overwhelming…but it doesn’t have to be. I’m a B2B nerd, so let me walk you through the fundamentals of B2B marketing.

B2B is about building trust

Individual consumers are more likely to buy quickly. You see a pair of shoes? You buy them. But in B2B, purchasing decisions are more thought-out, and they take longer. On average, 41% of B2B buyers consume 3 – 5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.

My point is: Don’t jump into sales talk and copywriting to convert clients quickly.

When you’re marketing to brands, just focus on creating valuable content that addresses their problems or provides insights. Focus on establishing yourself as a thought leader…not selling. (That will come later).

Here’s the type of content B2B consumers prefer:

Professionalism is key

When marketing to consumers, you don’t have to be so on-point with your delivery of content. But with B2B marketing, you need to make sure your content looks great and is free of any errors. I know this is a basic tip, but seriously make sure to polish and edit your work before posting it on LinkedIn or your blog.

Also, you want to make yourself “look” and feel like a brand. This involves:

  • Your logo, colors, appearance, and font
  • What platforms you’ll consistently show up to
  • Your brand tone and voice

You need to appear like a business to attract other businesses. It’ll show them you really know what you’re doing.

Top tips for B2B marketing

Meet clients where they’re at. Not to call out LinkedIn but… LinkedIn. First, focus on creating content for business owners on LinkedIn regularly. For example, if you’re an email marketer, you could share top tips for creating an email funnel.

Don’t constantly create content about yourself. A post about how to come up with email topics is way more effective than posting, “Hey, I’m an email marketer. I can create content for you.” Generally, you should be posting 3 pieces of helpful content with no sales call-to-action for every 1 “sales-y” piece you create.

Get specific. Sharing super specific tips is helpful. For example, I recently shared SEO tips, which landed me an interview (for a full-time position, but that’s beside the point). The point is: A business owner saw my content, found it helpful, and wanted to work with me because of it (there was no call-to-action to hire me).

Not every piece of content needs a call-to-action. I’ve been saying this in my last few points, but I’m serious. Not every post needs an “Email me to work with me!” Just post the content to be genuinely helpful. Your clients will come to you.

Put your audience first. What questions do they need answering? How can you make their life easier with a quick piece of content? How can you bring value to their lives?

Content ideas for your first post

Tackle what you can. LinkedIn, blog post, whatever. Just focus on consistency. If you know you won’t consistently write blogs, focus on what you WILL do (perhaps posts on LinkedIn).

Here are content ideas:

  • How a newsletter can help you generate more leads
  • The importance of nurturing your leads
  • Content ideas for your social media marketing
  • What social media is best for your business?
  • How to grow your email list
  • Importance of blogging for businesses
  • Ideas for blog content
  • Difference between copywriter and content writer
  • Ideas for blog calls-to-action
  • Essentials of newsletter marketing
  • Easy SEO tips
  • How to market webinars
  • Tips for writing effective calls-to-action

The key is to be specific. If you’re a healthcare writer, hone in on that.

A lot of likes doesn’t equal conversions

Freelancers targeting businesses, but posting for other freelancers may get a lot of likes… but that doesn’t mean they’re pulling in any clients. If you truly want to land clients from your marketing, how many likes you get isn’t the focus.

So don’t worry if no one is liking your posts. If you’re creating content for your ideal clients, it’s going to pay off in the end…whether or not you’re getting a lot of likes.

Ignore the need for clout!

Any questions?

If you have any questions, leave a comment below! My cat just might take a moment out of her very busy day to walk across the keyboard and answer you.

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Your Ultimate Guide: B2B Marketing on LinkedIn

In my personal opinion, LinkedIn is an extremely underrated platform for content marketing.

LinkedIn is all about building professional connections. It’s a great place to catch people where they’re already planning on doing business. The popular social media platform’s new slogan is: “Do business where business is done.” And it’s honestly the truth.

Many consumers browse Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest with no intent to talk about business or work. They just want to enjoy and be entertained. Business owners that do extremely well on those platforms are often business-to-consumer (B2C) or direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketers.

That’s not to say that these platforms can’t be used for B2B marketing as well, but LinkedIn definitely takes first-place in the realm of B2B.

LinkedIn for B2B Marketing

LinkedIn is a great place to meet professionals where they are. Plus, they already expect to talk about business on the platform. If you specialize in B2B marketing, you will find this post helpful.

Plus, if you’re a freelance business owner providing content marketing, you need to market to businesses. When we market our services, we are performing B2B marketing. Personally, I leverage LinkedIn for my own content marketing services. The truth is: Most of my clients have come from LinkedIn.

I apply to freelance writing and marketing positions, and they call me. But I hope to elevate my LinkedIn personal brand and content marketing to the point that it’s a lead generation strategy for me. Obviously it takes time, effort, and consistency, so it may be some time before I see a return on my time investment. In my opinion, it’s so worth it.

Whether you’re working a 9-5 as a B2B social media marketer, or you’re marketing your own freelance business on LinkedIn, keep reading to learn my top tips, how to gain traction on the platform, and content ideas to start off with.

Why LinkedIn matters for B2B marketing

You might be thinking, is LinkedIn that important for B2B marketing? And if it is important, how influential is it really?

Here are some quick stats:

Clearly, LinkedIn is a viable channel to grow your audience on if you’re marketing to people who make business purchasing decisions.

Now that you know just how effective LinkedIn is, let’s dive into my tips on how to leverage the platform to its fullest extent.

To start out: conversions are more important than engagement

I heard this recently, and it really stuck with me. Conversions are more important than engagement.

Of course engagement is important. Of course it is! It boosts your content so more people see it. Plus, there’s an element of social proof when it comes to getting likes, comments, and shares on your post.

But what’s more important is that you’re engaging the right audience, and you’re converting them into sales. Conversions are the most important part of the LinkedIn game.

If you’re speaking to the wrong group, you could get 20,000 likes, but no one will buy. It’s essential to hone in on who exactly you’re talking to.

For example, in my freelance business, I aim to get hired by clients who need B2B content marketing services. That being said, I share relevant content to help them on their journey (as it relates to my services). The goal is: If I keep engaging and helping them, I’m building up trust. And one day, when they need a content marketer, they might think, “Oh, Katie’s been sharing a lot about this topic. Let me see if I can hire her.”

You might see other freelance marketers who are writing content for other freelancers. And that’s completely appropriate in some cases, for example:

  • You’re selling products to other freelancers
  • You’re trying to build your email list, and targeting freelancers
  • You’re aiming to connect with a community of freelancers

These are some cases where it does make sense to create content for other freelancers. But if you want businesses to buy your services, don’t create any content for other freelancers. It dilutes your message and makes it seem like you’re not sure who you’re talking to. These types of content definitely get a lot of traction and engagement, but at the end of the day, you want conversions.

But remember, while conversions ARE important: Posting on LinkedIn is not meant to be a quick sale. It’s about nurturing your audience and building that relationship and trust.

With B2B marketing, that can take a lot longer. These are more expensive decisions that could have business repercussions if they make they make a mistake. That’s why continually posting helpful, relevant content for your ideal audience is key. Over time, it builds trust, and when they need you, they’ll seek you out.

So don’t get discouraged if you aren’t seeing many likes or interactions on your LinkedIn account. Especially if you’re working on your client’s account, you may feel pressure to get likes and comments. But discuss with your client that while engagement is certainly amazing, conversions are the primary goal.

Give it a few months of consistent posting, and if you’re still not seeing increasing engagement, be honest with how you can create more helpful, specialized content for your audience.

The main goals of LinkedIn B2B marketing are:

  • Build trust
  • Nurture relationships with your audience
  • Provide value

Thinking about LinkedIn marketing with this framework, let’s move forward.

Quick case study

I just said not to get discouraged if you don’t see engagement at first, and that’s still true. Yet at the end of the day, of course engagement is amazing. Mainly because the more engagement you have, the more you will grow your audience. When people interact with your post (whether that be liking it, commenting, or clicking “read more”), LinkedIn shows more people your content. When you get your content in front of more relevant prospective clients, it increases the amount of chances you have to make a conversion.

I recently took over posting on LinkedIn for one of my clients, and we’ve seen amazing success in the first month. The increase in engagement we’ve seen so quickly has been insane. Check out an inside peek:

Plus, we’re seeing very high-quality new followers. Our most recent followers have job titles that showcase authority, and they’re very specific to my client’s niche.

Now, let’s look at how I grew our engagement.

Tips to create effective B2B LinkedIn posts

1. Create high-quality images

LinkedIn posts with images get 2x higher engagement than other posts.

Of course, what is marketing without A/B testing? It’s definitely worth it to test your own audience. See if posts without pictures do better than posts with pictures. But for the most part, I recommend creating quality images that are engaging, interesting, unique, and branded. You can do this on Canva. They have LinkedIn templates that will create the perfect size photo for the platform. The templates are great places to generate ideas, and you can change the colors to match your brand’s colors.

2. Be consistent

Companies that post weekly on LinkedIn see a 2 times higher engagement rate. Plus, companies with pages that are complete and active benefit from 5 times more page views. The more consistent you are with your marketing on LinkedIn, the better. Plus, take time to fill out the profile sections.

By filling out all these sections and being consistent in posting, you can increase your engagement and follower rates. People don’t want to follow silent pages, so continuously show up (even if you’re not seeing increasing engagement yet).

3. Provide value

One of my clients recently shared a post that made me question myself. She asked, “Are you adding to the noise, or are you adding value?” The truth is: There’s so much noise in marketing. Everyone wants to jump in on content marketing (and clearly, it works, so that’s understandable). But to differentiate your brand, truly provide value that is relevant to YOUR audience. If it’s not relevant to your audience, don’t post it.

All the content you post needs to be driven by the purpose of providing value to your prospective clients.

4. Be as specific as possible

I was writing social media posts for one of my clients, and she pointed out that I wrote “environmental constraints.” She told me to be more specific. What constraints? I worded it way too vaguely. As a person with an environmental studies degree, I didn’t realize how general I was being.

Another recent example: I was writing posts for a client about an event they had coming up. I was tasked to write 3 posts about the event. At first, I was trying to squeeze way too much information into each post: Their booth number, the fact that my client was speaking at the event, a chance to win a gift card… it was just too much.

I sat back for a few days and thought about it. I realized it would be so much more effective if I used each post to dive into one specific aspect of the event. Here’s how I structured it:

  • Post #1: Introduction to the event
  • Post #2: Highlighting client and the fact that he is speaking at the event
  • Post #3: Describing that attendees can win a gift card if they do an online demo (and providing that link)

Poetry isn’t the same as social media (obviously). However, it can provide some excellent lessons when applied to social media marketing. Poems are similar to posts: You get way less time to pack a punch. Here are some quotes about poetry you can apply to social media posts (from Stephen Guppy’s Writing and Workshopping Poetry: A Constructive Introduction):

  • “Scrape away any verbiage that isn’t absolutely necessary and sculpt what you have left.”
  • “Poets try to go ‘down’ the abstraction ladder by choosing the most concrete and specific words. Never say ‘tree’ when you mean ‘elm.'”

Always be specific. Challenge yourself to really hone in on one particular aspect of your brand.

5. Don’t share links often

LinkedIn doesn’t highlight posts that have links in them, because they don’t want you taking their consumers off their platform. Essentially, when you’re sharing links, you’re driving consumers off their platform and to your site. LinkedIn doesn’t want that, plain and simple.

Of course, share links once in a while. But the key here is that it should be once in a while. Definitely avoid sharing a link in every single post. If you absolutely need to share an abundance of blog content, consider creating the content on LinkedIn’s blogging platform. Keep in mind: this feature is only available to PEOPLE, not brands. From a brand perspective, you could have the CEO share the blog on their profile, and share it to the business profile.

Sharing blog posts won’t bring your website traction, but LinkedIn will be more likely to show it to your audience.

Just based on my own personal research, when we shared a LinkedIn post that had a blog linked to it, we saw a 66% reduction in impressions. Email is truly the best platform to share blogs, not LinkedIn (or any social media, for that matter).

Again, of course share your blogs, and include links that drive your audience to do what you want them to do (for example, a demo). But this should be rare. For example, have 3 pieces of content that are meant purely for brand building (with no links). Then, have 1 piece of content that leads your audience to a blog post or links to a demo.

When you do share links, expect engagement and impressions to decrease dramatically in comparison to other posts.

6. Don’t forget to include relevant hashtags

I always forget hashtags when I’m writing LinkedIn posts, but they’re definitely helpful! Try a mix of niche and non-specific hashtags to see what performs best. Hashtags are amazing to help new people find your account. They attract people who are interested in the topics you’re sharing about.

7. Not every post needs a call-to-action (CTA)

If your client or boss tells you every post needs a CTA, then include it. But in my personal opinion, and if you have the freedom to do so, don’t include a CTA every time. And when you do, don’t be afraid to mix it up. For example, you can say, “Did we miss anything? Comment below.” Or you could write, “Any thoughts? Please comment!”

Just driving engagement is a great CTA. But another way to have a useful CTA (without a link) is to offer something valuable (perhaps an eBook or discount code), and ask your audience to email you to receive it.

Again, you don’t always need a CTA. In my opinion, not having one is great. A mix of posts that have one and posts that don’t is my favorite way to approach it.

8. Schedule your posts

Scheduling your posts is just easier, plain and simple. It allows you to plan weeks worth of content in a day. A great paid option for this is Hootsuite. But if you’re a freelancer looking for a free option, turn to Buffer.

Now that you know my tops B2B marketing tips for LinkedIn, here are some hacks to make the process easier. ⬇️

LinkedIn B2B marketing hacks

1. To save time, recycle blog content (without linking to the blog)

Content marketing takes so much time, right? We all would like to cut back on how much time we’re spending on marketing. But chances are, you or your client has an excellent archive of blogs. Even if you have already shared all your blogs on your LinkedIn, not many people have seen the post or clicked on it.

Pick one great statistic or one great section that you can highlight. The key here: Do not link the blog.

This is such an easy way to recycle great content that not enough people have seen anyways. Plus, it’s easy and saves time.

2. Plan content by picking weekly themes

One of the best ways to have a cohesive identity on LinkedIn is by picking weekly themes. For example, this week I’ve been posting all about social media marketing (that’s what inspired this blog post, actually). In the past, I’ve focused on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tips and blogging.

Just pick a theme, and focus on it for the week. This makes the process so much easier, from coming up with topic ideas, to executing them.

Quick LinkedIn content ideas

Here are some quick LinkedIn content ideas to help you to hit the ground running, whether that be for your freelance business or your company. Try sharing:

  • An interesting statistic
  • Industry news or trends
  • An answer to a common question
  • Provide a helpful tip
  • Share about an employee or CEO
  • Reveal behind-the-scenes: for example, your desk set up, what you’re working on, how you’re working on it
  • Post about top tools that would help your audience
  • Share a client testimonial

The most important aspect: Focus on your audience

Too many brands focus on themselves. The truth is: Consumers don’t care about your brand. They care about their problems, and finding solutions to their problems. Focus on your audience and providing value to them, and they are more likely to buy.

Of course, a personable CEO highlight or client testimonial is great to throw in once in a while. But the main purpose of marketing on LinkedIn is to build trust and provide value. Contribute something!

While looking at competitors is important, they might not be following the best practices. Focus on your own strategy, and if you follow the tips in this blog post, it will pay off in the end. You may need to be patient to see growth, but you will if you’re consistent.

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Freelance Writing: How it Expanded my Entrepreneurial Mindset

As an employee, you’ve probably experienced this: a breaking point, where you suddenly realize that working 9 AM – 5 PM, staying late consistently, working overtime, and getting more work piled on with no raise is EXHAUSTING.

I was there about a month ago. It got to the point that my mental health was suffering. Plus, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, I didn’t enjoy going into the office.

I ended up quitting my full-time job, like many others have recently. We’re currently experiencing the Great Resignation, where millions of workers in the U.S. have quit their jobs. Suddenly, employees and workers have the power.

During COVID-19, the cooperations had the power. Now, they’re kind of lucky to find anyone willing to work a full-time traditional role (especially in-office).

After freelance writing for a few weeks, I understand why so many others have quit their jobs. The freelance and contract work life offers more money, more flexibility, and more happiness.

What is Freelancing?

When I tell people I’m doing freelance work, sometimes they’re confused. What I mean is that I’m not anyone’s employee.

Basically, the companies and people I work for are my clients. I am my own business (and maybe one day, I’ll outsource my work). I send an invoice, I’ll have a different tax form (in contrast to the employee W-4).

This type of work could be anything (but here are some great ideas if you need them). For me, it started with writing blogs, and quickly evolved into content marketing.

But I also realized: I don’t have to just do freelance content marketing. I can also use other skills. I have a lot of experience babysitting and nannying, so I can use those skills to land an easier babysitting role. By easier, I mean less scholarly thinking. More work that uses a different part of my brain.

That will give me time to make some money while I look for more quality content marketing clients. I can focus on lead generation of meaningful and valuable work, rather than accepting lower-paying writing jobs (which I’m currently doing).

If I have the income to be pickier about the clients I accept (by charging more), I will be able to work less hours and make more money. Which is what we all want to do, right?

With freelance work, you can continually increase your income.

Since you are making enough to survive, you can start saying no to people. You can start asking for more money. For example, I recently upped my babysitting fees to an absurd amount. Why?

For two reasons:

  1. I don’t really need the work. I have other babysitting offers that I’m going to turn down. I’m not desperate to accept lower-paying work, and honestly, there are plenty of babysitters in the area who are.
  2. I would rather take lower-paying work that has to do with my career to build my portfolio. While I probably will continue to accept lower-paying jobs in marketing, it’s to expand and sharpen my professional skills and build references/connections.

When you work a 9 AM – 5 PM, you cannot continually raise your own hourly rate. You also can’t really deny work. You need 40+ hours per week.

Whereas if you work as a freelancer, you can increase your hourly wages and work fewer hours per week. If you have one week where you don’t want to do much work, you can turn down projects.

Plus, you have multiple sources of income. So if one of your clients is giving you a super challenging time, you can cut the professional relationship off and know you’ll be okay because you have other sources of income.

What skills can you do freelance work with?

Honestly, you can do anything. I mentioned writing, content marketing, and babysitting, because those are my skills and those are what I like to do. But if you love pets, you could do pet sitting. If you’re an amazing plumber or technician, sell those skills. My sister sells cookies.

Whatever your skills are, take a moment to think, how can I use these to make money? And it doesn’t all have to be the same thing. Maybe you sell homemade candles and soaps, but you also transcribe audio for people.

It just takes time. Ask yourself: What am I good at? What would I not mind spending my time doing? Start jotting down your ideas.

How to Find Freelance Clients

Facebook Groups

Honestly, I’ve found a lot of freelance writing and babysitting clients on Facebook. I just joined Facebook Groups and posted or interacted with people looking for the services I am providing.

These groups have landed me some long-term clients for written blogs as well as a long-term babysitting gig. I got many other offers as well.

There are also multiple Facebook Groups for each “category” of services you’re providing. For example, I joined one group for babysitters needed in one town, and then a second group for babysitters in the town next to it. Both are in driving distance to me.

For one group, I had a lower hourly rate. When I got multiple inquiries from that one, I posted in the other increasing my rate. I just posted a resume geared towards babysitting and said I’m looking for some gigs. I got a comment, “Your rate seems high.”

I responded, “Yeah, I don’t need this work. I believe parents are willing to pay for quality. If you want to pay lower rates, there are plenty of babysitters in the area that would love to have the work.”

Because while I did take a lower-paying long-term babysitting job, it provides stability. Along with my content marketing role, any extra hours besides both of these gigs would just be overtime. So since I don’t need the work, and I have to make it worth it, I raise my rate. Simple, right?

Plus, it really only takes one person to say yes. And then you’ll be doing more work, but it’ll pay off.

Also, a lot of these groups are just valuable to be a part of. People share valuable information, and you can post within the groups. One of my posts got 230+ likes in that group. I could screenshot high-performing posts in those groups and use them to show my content creation abilities and engagement potential.

It’s easy to find these groups. Just search “Freelance Writing” or “Babysitting + your town name.”

LINKEDIN

Especially when you’re looking for work that’s more “scholarly,” such as content writing or graphic designing, LinkedIn can be an amazing tool. I’ve found long-term writing clients on there, and it’s also how I found the content marketing position.

There are a lot of freelance job opportunities on LinkedIn. Just set your search to “remote” and type “freelance” along with whatever position you’re looking for. For example: freelance graphic designer. Plus with LinkedIn Easy Apply, you can apply on your phone while you pet your cats (or dogs, whatever).

Don’t ignore LinkedIn! It’s actually amazing. I will never stop using LinkedIn for jobs. I’ve had so much success already that I don’t even think about going on Indeed.

Other ways to generate clients

First of all, build your personal brand. Create beautiful, engaging resumes targeted for the role you want, work samples, and more. I haven’t really started social media marketing enough yet, but I probably should. Work on getting a website or improving the one that you already have.

Another way to generate clients is through word of mouth. Do you know anyone that needs the services you’re offering? Or does anyone you know have a friend who needs your services?

Tell others what you’re doing. You never know what might come your way.

Think of one of your “jobs” as marketing yourself.

As an entrepreneur, you need to “sell” or market yourself. You don’t have a 9 AM – 5 PM job, so you need to find work for yourself.

As you build your own brand, start asking yourself how you can improve your personal marketing tactics. Maybe if your website has built up subscribers, you can start to send them engaging newsletters to continue growing your business.

It’s easy for me to think about marketing yourself, because I work in content marketing. But basically, all you need to do is provide content that is personable, entertaining, and informative. This content could be writing blogs, email marketing, social media, a podcast, whatever.

Wherever your ideal clients are, market yourself there.

While I said it’s easy for me to think about marketing yourself, it’s hard for me to imagine consistently doing so. On top of all your other work, content marketing for your own business is A LOT of work.

But maybe one day, when you’re generating enough income to do so, you can hire another freelancer who specializes in the marketing work you don’t want to do.

But until you get there, try to get your name out there and stick to a consistent brand and style while creating your graphics. For example, pick 2-3 fonts to stick to, a few colors, and maybe a certain type of aesthetic. Create business graphics on Canva!

You’re not stuck in your 9 – 5.

I know it seems like you are. I know it’s scary to leave the stability. But once you grow confident in your skills, freelancing can lead to a higher hourly income and less need to cling on to one employer when you have a variety of income sources.

All it takes is a little thinking outside the box.

Maybe you love your 9 – 5. That’s totally fine! But it’s not the only way.

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What’s the Difference Between Content Writing and Copywriting?

What’s the difference between content writing and copywriting? It’s a good question. In many cases, the two go hand-in-hand. Because they do have some similarities, they are often confused.

When you’re hiring for a writer, it’s important to know what type of writer you’re looking for. There are writers who excel at creating content, while others focus on creating copy that converts.

Let’s take a look at some of the differences between content writing and copywriting.

The difference between content writing and copywriting is in the intent.

Content writing and copywriting both have purpose and place in the world, but they serve different needs for businesses. They both are are written to get someone to take action, and both have their place in marketing. but think of content writing as long-term relationships that lead to sales.

Content writing builds brands

Content writing creates long-term relationships that lead to sales. Content is written with the intent of entertaining or educating, not necessarily sell. It’s more about creating content that helps your audience trust you.

Content writing is written to build your brand. It’s written to help people find your business and get to know your company. The content is written to entertain or educate. For example, think about the American Council on Exercise (ACE). They write blog posts to inform anyone about exercise science and personal training. This content is written to establish their credibility and help answer their audience’s questions.

Copywriting sells

Content writing often does not come without copywriting. At the end of the ACE blog posts, they have a CTA to buy a course of theirs. That’s called a “hard sell.” They’re explicitly telling us to buy their products. This is copywriting, because the purpose is to be persuasive, convince you to take action, and buy.

Copywriting is written to sell. It’s called a “hard sell” in the marketing industry. It’s written explicitly persuade someone to buy a product or service from you.

Content writing can come without copywriting

However, not all content writing has to come with a CTA or selling moment. A lot of content is written purely to inform, inspire, and build a brand. These blogs that are purely for building a brand don’t come with a “hard sell,” or any CTA.

Content writing and copywriting are often interconnected

Some of these blogs do come with a “soft sell.” For example, a company blog might say, “Interested in our content? Sign up to receive our newsletter.” That’s a soft sell because they’re not asking you to buy anything, but they are asking you to allow them to build a relationship with you via e-mail. This is still considered copywriting, but it can come off as a similar tone to content writing because you’re still just trying to be a good resource for them (and get them thinking of your brand).

If you’re hiring a content writer, always make sure they know what type of CTA you want. Chances are, they can easily write copy, if they know what action you want your readers to take.

Incorporating copywriting in soft ways

Companies have to make these decisions by identifying their top priorities. Do you want to grow your email list, or get demo sign-ups? Let your content creators know what your goal is with each piece of content.

Personally, I believe that copywriting has to make sense in context with where you put it. It has to make perfect sense. When a piece of content doesn’t relate to its CTA, it feels off to consumers. Plus, copywriting should come off gently (in my opinion). For example, “Try our free demo,” rather than “Buy our product.”

People are so used to getting sold to all the time. I think the beauty is when marketers are able to market in such a subtle way that people don’t even know they’re being marketed to.

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Bare Necessities

Published in Tiny Spoon Issue 5: Ecology in 2020.

If you act like that bee acts, uh uh. You’re working too hard. – “Bare Necessities,” The Jungle Book

I. BIRD

Birds screamed like they knew something we didn’t—maybe some of us knew, and liked to pretend we didn’t. 

I would be annoyed with us humans too; I would shit on someone every time I flew. 

No wonder the cassowaries want to claw us alive. A bird clawing a human alive? you ask incredulously. Cassowaries are five feet tall—that’s how tall I am. Be careful you don’t run into a protective mother somewhere out in the jungle. 

They must be related to Australia’s other huge bird: the emu, the world’s second-tallest bird, after the ostrich. Emus grow to be six feet tall. In 1932, the government of Australia declared war on the emus, The Great Emu War. 

The emus won.

II. MONKEY

We went to Bali for spring break. It was a short 4-hour plane trip away. We were excited, especially because the country is really cheap to visit. 

One day we included the Monkey Forest in our schedule. Our other friends wouldn’t go because monkeys are creepy.

In the Monkey Forest, you have to put all your belongings away. They steal sunglasses, glasses, hats—really anything they can grab and run with. 

I saw a few playing with a water bottle, as if it were the world’s greatest treasure.

*

Monkeys in Costa Rica howl, staying true to their name: howler monkey. These ones didn’t steal from us. They posed for pictures in tree branches. 

My brother caught a photo through a telescope of this one tiny monkey.

I swear in those eyes, I saw the knowledge of deforestation. That monkey was thinking of homes stolen, turned into power lines.

III. TURTLE

Maybe the sea doesn’t count as the jungle. But whenever I’ve been in a rainforest, a beach has always been close by. 

In Bali, we visited a sea turtle sanctuary and held a hatchling in our hands. I posted a photo of a hatchling in my hand with the caption: Welcome to this terrible, beautiful world. 

I thought my words were poetic.

We bought hatchlings to release into the ocean. On the way from the sanctuary to the sea, I rode on the back of my cute friend’s moped, no helmet on. We passed cows, gazing at them as we zoomed by. 

One of our tiny turtles wouldn’t stop turning around and swimming back to shore. As if the turtle was thinking, I’m not ready. 

Did that baby sea turtle know that swimming away from the shore would be swimming into a terrifying future? Only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings survive to adulthood. 

Sea turtles are endangered. Maybe because of all the plastic they’re choking on. Or all the boats that cut their bodies in half. Or the fact that they all have herpes and don’t want to reproduce because of the pain. 

I can’t stop wondering if that baby sea turtle instinctively knew that it would be better to stay on shore than to swim out to sea.

IV. CROCODILE

Once we rode on a boat in a crocodile farm to see the salties up close. 

Salties are the last animal I would ever want to run into in my entire life. They immediately send your body into their signature move: the death roll. It should be called the spin of death. The worst part is, they only eat your arm, leaving the rest of your body to rot. 

One day my friends went to a beach, and the next day we saw on the news that a huge saltie was spotted swimming at the same beach they were swimming at. 

One time on the news we saw the title: Tourist Killed By Crocodile. They only found her clothes torn up at the shore, the rest of her body was gone entirely.

Up close, we could see how huge they were. How hard their jaws snapped when they were hungry. 

Seeing them so close validated my intense fear of them. But it also made me see them as beautiful. They are dinosaurs that can survive anything this Earth goes through. 

I hope at least the crocodiles make it, when if anything really bad ever happens to the rest of us.

V. REEF

How many miles does the Great Barrier Reef stretch across? I guess that’s a complicated question. Do we include only the part that’s alive now, or the parts that were alive in the past? 

Two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef is dead. And that fraction grows by the day. 

I know the Reef is large enough to be seen from outer space. It’s the largest living organism on the planet. 

Google says the Reef is 1,600 miles long. I’m bad at math or else I would write how many miles two-thirds of that number is. Knowing the exact number would up the drama factor and the shock level. 

But all you need to know is that our seas are too acidic, too warm, too salty, and they don’t have enough oxygen. The ocean soaks up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and it’s killing the life that lives below the waves. 

I went snorkeling; I was so excited swimming out, but when I looked in my goggles, all I saw was white. The Reef was colorless. 

Six months later, my mom and I went to a healthy part of the Reef. We had to travel on a huge boat to get there, ironically.

I put on sunscreen even though I knew it kills the Reef—the ozone hole above Australia made me burn easily, and I burn bad, and I’m afraid of skin cancer—I felt guilty the entire time.

VI. ELEPHANT

Elephants aren’t in all jungles. They’re not in Australia because of the megafaunal extinction that killed or dwarfed all large mammals on the entire continent.

Luckily, there are elephants in Bali. While we were there, we went to an elephant sanctuary. I think they call them sanctuaries just to attract tourists by fooling us into thinking the facility is beneficial to the animals. 

We researched the sanctuary and it seemed pretty reputable. Hell, even The Crocodile Hunter recommended tourists go there because it is ethical. 

At the sanctuary, the elephants danced like they were happy. They hugged the workers with their trunks, balanced on beams, painted, did math, shot basketballs into hoops, and even more that I can’t remember—or maybe I just don’t want to remember. 

I thought it was cool at the time; I even took videos and posted them on social media. 

Later that night, my friend told me, You know they abuse the elephants to get them to perform those humiliating tasks, right?

I didn’t know. I didn’t read about it. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t consider why that one elephant was chained to the ground by the foot. 

VII. SNAKE

I don’t mind snakes that much. Australia has 8 of the top 10 most poisonous snakes in the world, yet I still chose to study there. I never really saw snakes when I was in the jungle, but I was often tricked by twisted branches. 

I’m not that scared of snakes. I know they don’t want to hurt people unless people want to hurt them. They mostly leave us alone entirely, only looking for small prey they can eat—I learned that in class. I also learned that the most dangerous snakes in Australia are the ones that are an unsuspecting color, like brown or black. The bright, neon-colored snakes are the ones that are harmless.

When my friend brought a python into our apartment, I found that in real life, I am very much afraid of snakes. My roommates and I yelled at Wyatt to get the python out of our apartment.

Holding the snake around his neck, Wyatt insisted, But look, it’s so cool! 

When I slowed down, I realized it did look peaceful. Instead of squeezing desperately to suffocate Wyatt like I once watched on Animal Planet, the snake looked relaxed. Comfortable. Happy. 

VIII. BEE

I never saw many bees in the jungle—except in Costa Rica, where they hovered over our beers and piña colidas—but that’s precisely the problem: they aren’t around much anymore. 

That Black Mirror episode where the government creates electronic bees to pollinate the plants because all the bees went extinct is looking closer to reality as the days fly by. 

African honey bees adapt and evolve very quickly, and they’re essentially taking over many other continents. In ecology, invasive species are seen as a huge negative, but in this case, it’s a positive. 

African honey bees are surviving even in the face of pesticides, climate change, loss of habitat, habitat fragmentation, parasites, and pathogens. The bees really have a lot going against them. 

I took a pollination class in college, and we learned 90% of bees worldwide are dead. The African honey bees, in my mind, are a sign God might exist. 

When we sing “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book into microphones at karaoke—which happens often—I always think of the accuracy of that lyric Baloo sings: If you act like that bee acts, uh uh. You’re working too hard. Bees really do work hard. 

They bring us the bare necessities. The bare necessities of life will come to you. Only if the bees exist. 

They bring us all our fruits and vegetables, adding flavor and nutrition into our lives. They make all the other animals and plants on Earth function; they are the soul of the ecosystem. 

We all rest on the shoulders of tiny, hardworking bees. 

Next time you see a bee, think of all the times they filled your belly with food. Think of what life would be like without them—think of how lifeless this place would be.

5 Reasons to Major in Environmental Studies

Hi. If you don’t know me, I have an undergraduate degree in environmental studies. So why am I writing this post? One time in college, my friend said to me, “What do you do at the Environmental Sustainability Lab? Stare at trees for three hours?”

Honestly, he wasn’t being that dramatic. A lot of people simply have no idea what the environmental studies major is all about.

So I’m here to tell you. Throughout this post, I will be explaining an environmental major to you, while at the same telling you why you should major in it.

Why major in environmental studies?

  1. You will truly get a well-rounded education.
  2. Your brain will become more analytical.
  3. You will learn to research complex topics
  4. You will become more compassionate.
  5. You’ll save the world.

1. You will truly get a well-rounded education.

Environmental studies is by nature is interdisciplinary. Here is a look at the variety of types of classes I took:

  • Environmental sociology (my favorite)
  • Environmental literature
  • Environmental history
  • Environmental geology
  • Environmental philosophy
  • Recreation policy
  • Soil science
  • Climate science
  • Pollinators
  • Climate change policy & advocacy

Even just completing this major was interdisciplinary. The environmental studies major teaches you to think in so many different ways. It forms so many connections in your mind.

Most environmental majors have another subject they’re majoring in too. For example, I was also an English major. Others were also biology, ecology, government, policy, sociology, or artistic majors.

In every environmental class I took, almost every single student was majoring or minoring in other interesting subjects as well—much more so than in my English classes. Environmental majors are just wired to think with a variety of perspectives in mind, and that skill is valuable.

2. Your brain will become more analytical.

You’ll have to wade through a lot of misinformation. Especially because environmental studies (climate change in particular) has become so political. But your professors will teach you to cut through the political lies and analyze the data.

You will also become more analytical because we’re talking about huge, complicated problems that no one really knows the solution to. The problems are so complex, but you will find joy in picking your brain for ideas and listening to the perspectives of your classmates. They will always say something you would have never thought of yourself.

You will become a pro at analyzing data and information. You will never be fooled by environmental conspiracy theories again. And then you’ll be able to transfer this skill to your job when you attempt to help your company solve its problems.

3. You will learn to research complex topics.

Again, you’re going to be learning about topics that have a lot of factors to them. It isn’t black and white. It very much is always in the gray area. You’re going to learn to research, read data, and form your own analysis.

Your teacher is there to help you one day not need them to help you understand. After you learn the skills, you will always be able to research environmental topics on your own. You will know the science, not opinions.

You will learn to think of all sides of the topic as you research. You will dig deeper and deeper, because you know a lot of people have reasons to try to misinform the public (we’re looking at you, big oil companies).

4. You will become more compassionate.

Towards other people, but also towards animals. It was through my environmental classes that I really started to pay attention to human treatment towards animals. I started double-thinking my habits. What choices could I make that would help lower humanity’s negative impacts on animals?

It was through my environmental major that I started to see the value of every living creature. I started to believe they have souls. I started to recognize that humans have decided we’re smarter and better, but it’s not a fact of life.

I truly believe my environmental studies degree helped me grow and made me a better person.

5. You will save the world.

The world needs more people like you that cares about the environment. That sees the sadness in environmental destruction. That wants to fight for the future of humankind. I appreciate you, and so does every other environmentalist and conservationist out there. Please keep fighting the good fight!

What can I do with an Environmental Degree?

Here’s a look at what some of my environmental classmates are doing now:

  • Studying environmental policy and law
  • Sustainability Programs Coordinator
  • Environmental educator

As for me, I write creative nonfiction about environmental studies outside of my day job. And one day, I’ll be writing and taking pictures for National Geographic.

If you’re an environmental major, share what your job is. If you’re an aspiring environmental major, share what you want to do after graduating.

Cheers to you for making a difference.

Is Anthropocentrism or Ecocentrism Better for the Environment?

My senior year of college, in my environmental class about pollinators, our class was having a discussion about whether anthropocentrism or ecocentrism is philosophically better. Of course, most of us thought ecocentrism was a more acceptable form of environmental activism.

I do too, but I raised my hand. I had to interject. My professor called on me, and I shared with my class that I too aligned more with ecocentrism, but we shouldn’t discount the role anthropocentrism plays in motivating people to protect our environment just because we disagree.

Social Indicators Research published “Facilitating Pro-Environmental Behavior: The Role of Pessimism and Anthropocentric Environmental Values.” This research proved that anthropocentrism promotes pro-environmental behaviors just as effectively as ecocentrism.

What’s the Difference?

Ecocentric:

  • Sees human life as a part of nature.
  • Values all life on Earth equally, including plants.
  • Believes every species plays an important role in the ecosystem.
  • Believes all species have the inherent right to live.
  • Nature is important in itself, not just for humans.
  • Believes it is wrong to anthropomorphize—or ascribe human qualities to—animals, because they are living their own unique experience that we cannot comprehend.

Antropocentric:

  • Encourages environmentalism for the sake of sustaining human life.
  • Believes humans are superior to and in charge of the natural world.
  • Especially appreciates the aesthetic value and natural resources nature provides.
  • Anthropomorphizes animals in order to get the general public to care about nature–usually a large mammal. for example, Ernest Thompson Seton’s Wild Animals I Have Known and The Biography of a Grizzly Bear.

Which Type of Environmentalist Should I be?

I don’t think it has to be clear cut and dry in your mind. You can draw from both philosophical thoughts. The division can be harmful. All environmentalists should be on the same team.

Even if you’re an ecocentric, you could benefit from using anthropocentric environmentalist values in order to get other people to care.

Anthropocentrism Made Trump Care

For example, the National Park Foundation posted an article on LinkedIn: “Pretty Pictures Sold Trump on Outdoors Bill, Backers Say.”

The bill would provide funding for national parks. The article quotes Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, the bill’s sponsor: “This is a historic win for the United States.”

Gardner convinced Trump to support the bill by showing him a photo of the Colorado national park.

The bill would fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund $900 million a year. It would provide $9.5 billion to the Department of the Interior for maintenance of national parks.

The article quotes Will Shafroth, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation: “The Great American Outdoors Act provides much needed funding to repair and enhance national park facilities, roads, water systems, trails, and other resources that are essential to the visitor experience.”

Trump said to Gardner, “If you can get this passed, I look forward to signing it.”

Trump. The president that proposed to cut $587 million from the National Park Service and $2.4 billion from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He also proposed to nearly completely deplete all funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This was in February of 2020.

In July of 2020, Trump has completely changed his mind. Why? Because Gardner showed him a pretty picture.

Gardner analyzed his audience and used anthropocentric environmentalism (aesthetics) to make Trump care about nature.

Pretty genius if you ask me. What do you think?

Public Speaking & Presentations: A Quick Crash Course

I truly cannot imagine being a student giving presentations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Giving presentations in front of a classroom of students is already stress-inducing, but with the anxiety of our current situation and the struggle to find motivation because school is virtual? No way.

But what if I told you: there’s a really easy formula to giving presentations. You can use the same formula for any presentation you give. Knowing how to give presentations will save you so much time and effort. You will never struggle to give a presentation again, and you will sound confident and secure every time you present in front of anyone about anything.

I know I sound overly confident, right? You’re probably wondering how you could ever feel confident giving a presentation, but I promise you, I’m going to be letting you in on all the insider secrets about public speaking.

How do I know this information? While I took a public speaking class in high school, I don’t remember much from it. Where I really learned this information was when I took a class in which I was being trained in how to tutor students at the WORD Studio. The WORD Studio is the communications center at St. Lawrence University. WORD stands for writing, oral, research, and design.

Most of us in the class were already confident in writing, but we weren’t so sure about public speaking. I really didn’t know how to do it well, and I voiced my concerns to my professor when she told us we would be helping tutees with presentations.

“Wait,” I interjected, not even bothering to raise my hand. “I can’t help people with that.”

But she promised we would learn. Not only would we learn, but we would be sick of it by the time we were second-year tutors. I didn’t believe her, but I should have.

We were given a presentation by the professor in charge of the public speaking department at our school. It really helped, but I still couldn’t memorize the information. The material was nothing I had seen before. When we started out as tutors, we had a piece of paper with a long checklist that helped guide us in tutoring for presentations. Eventually, it got to the point where I never had to look at the paper. At this point, I could recite this information in my sleep.

Now that we’ve established my credentials in why you should follow my public speaking advice, let’s get on with it.

Before we get started, I want to tell you: No one is listening besides your teacher. It takes a lot of brain power to analyze the words you are saying. Listening to presentations and providing feedback was always a lot harder for me than reading papers. Thats because the paragraphs on the page provide a visual guide for the reader. Listening to speeches is a lot more challenging (I’ll teach you how to make it easier), but most students will zone out entirely.

Let’s start with introductions.

Introductions are easier than you think. They need to have these 5 components in order: each a sentence (or two if you have to). Keep it pretty short!

  1. Hook. Find the most interesting fact you can possibly find about your topic. Be honest with yourself. Is it actually interesting? It’s called a “hook” because you want to hook the attention of your listeners. Do some digging before you settle on your hook, because if you don’t nail your hook, your audience will stop listening quickly. Feel free to add some personality into your hook.
  2. Introduce the topic. The hook will relate to your topic, but this is where you more explicitly say, “I’m talking about X today.”
  3. Relate the topic to the audience. Again, it takes a lot of energy and commitment to listen to someone speak intellectually. It’s hard! This is where you explain why your listeners should care about your topic. Relating the information to your audience makes them much more likely to actively listen to your presentation. Another way to achieve this part is to ask the audience a question or get them engaged in some way (a quiz or some type of activity), but if you go this route, make sure it’s not cheesy and shallow. Make the effort to truly connect to your audience.
  4. Relate the topic to yourself. After you’ve related the topic to your audience, go personal. No, this isn’t like an essay where you can’t talk about yourself. The more personal you get, the better. Be honest and vulnerable, but keep it short!
  5. Give your listeners a roadmap. Often this means explicitly saying, “I will be talking about X, Y, and Z today.” Give a brief description of your body “paragraphs” (even though you’re not writing, let’s think of each section as a paragraph like an essay). You always want to write and say your roadmap in the order that you will be speaking them in. Sometimes students make a PowerPoint slide solely dedicated to the roadmap; I never usually did this or suggested it, but it can be a nice touch.

Let’s dig into the body paragraphs.

Just like the introduction, there are definitely tricks to formatting your body paragraphs and guiding the listener. Thinking of the sections of your speech as body paragraphs can make it easier for you to understand as well. First tip: make each body paragraph of your speech roughly the same in duration.

You can practice by actually speaking out loud and timing yourself. It’s too confusing to have one body paragraph that is super short, and then the next point you make takes up the majority of your speech. If one is way too short, do more research. If one is way too long, figure out how to condense your information.

Another super important tip: signal to your readers when you switch body paragraphs. Signal phrases include:

  • “Next, I will discuss X.”
  • “Secondly…”
  • For the last body paragraph: “Finally…”

You can even just take a longer pause and switch the slide. Perhaps the titles of your slide are labeled clearly and even numbered.

Why do you have to be so overt about switching body paragraphs? Put simply: when you start a new paragraph on the page, it’s like you’re directly telling the reader, “Hey, I’m moving on to a different topic now.” Seeing the information split up into paragraphs helps the reader follow along.

We don’t get the luxury of visual organization when we listen to speeches. That’s why you need to be extremely clear along the way for your listeners to stay on track with you. Your words (and also your PowerPoint, if you have one) act as your guidelines.

The length of your body paragraphs as well as the amount of paragraphs you include depends on the length of your speech. Giving a 20-minute speech is a lot different than a 5-minute speech. That’s why you need to practice out loud to see how long your speech will be.

Always remember: never go over the amount of minutes you have. It makes you seem unprepared and unable to concisely communicate your information.

The number one rule: practice out loud multiple times.

We’re already at the conclusion!

  1. Reiterate roadmap. “Today, I told you about X, Y, and Z.”
  2. The meat of your conclusion: the importance. Treat your conclusion similarly to an essay conclusion (detailed in Introductions and Conclusions). Put briefly: state the importance of your conclusion. What should your listeners take away from your speech? Prove why you didn’t waste precious minutes of their lives. No matter how boring the information seems to you, find the importance in your topic somewhere.
  3. This is the hardest part, but find a smooth way to wrap it up. A relevant quote is often perfect right here. Or leave the listener with your final, most important thought. To signal that you are close to finishing, you can start to talk more slowly and let your voice gradually fade out.

Extra Tips

  • Introduce yourself. The only exception to this is if there are very few people in your class and you know you all know each other. Make it less awkward and just say, “In case you forgot, I’m Katie.”
  • Your PowerPoint slides need to be clean and elegant. Never put too many words on the screen (write on notecards if you need them, but try to go off memory with a few notes). Make sure your slides are easily readable. Include pictures. Make it aesthetically pleasing. Be consistent (same font, around the same font size, color theme).
  • Include your personality in your presentations. My one professor always commented how he enjoyed my light-hearted presence (my fear makes me funny, I guess). Plan out some jokes or try to think of places where you can insert your personality and make your speech more memorable. Being funny also helps you give the illusion that you are confident. If no one laughs, don’t worry, they probably weren’t listening, which should comfort you.
  • Don’t forget to cite your sources. Cite verbally, in-text on your slides, and at the end of your PowerPoint. If you don’t have slides, you might want to print off a Works Cited or email it to your teacher. Speeches still have the same rules as essays when it comes to plagiarism. Plus, you want to establish credibility and make it clear you know what you’re talking about.
  • Practice, practice, practice. By yourself. Maybe to your dog. Repeatedly. In front of a mirror. Do what you have to. Try to memorize it loosely: not the individual words and sentences, but the bigger picture and the more important facts. Write short notes to yourself that will trigger your memory of more in-depth information.
  • Especially with presenting on Zoom, write yourself an outline filled with short notes. Never try to write a full script and read it off because we want you sounding confident and conversational, not like a robot.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence. Plan a few pauses. Let yourself breathe.
  • Pace yourself. Don’t rush. If you go slower, you don’t have to plan as much to present. Plus, you sound so much better to your audience.

So now you know all the public speaking secrets. You don’t have to ramble on forever making a fool out of yourself. You can have a clear plan and tips to follow, making you much more confident and secure in giving presentations.

Good luck, and happy public speaking!

Taking Care of Succulents

Let’s get one thing straight first: you do need to take care of your succulents. If you follow my instructions, your succulents will not only live, but they will constantly thrive with new growth.

Sunlight

The photo above was taken on a warm, sunny day on my porch in Dallas, TX. I mention my location because it definitely gives me an advantage in caring for my succulents; they love the sun. If you live in a cold, cloudy climate, make sure your succulents are still getting indirect sunlight all day year-round.

If isn’t nice and warm, your succulents should not be outside. When in doubt, keep them inside. Leave them in a windowsill or very close to an open window. Try to put them near windows that get sunlight for a good amount of time all day.

Rotate

Every few hours, if you are home, you could rotate which windows your plants are in so they get sunlight for the entire day. This is great to do on weekends when you’re at home relaxing. You can also take this time to observe which window gets the longest and best sunlight, and then leave your succulent in that window for most days. You can also rotate your succulent to different windows on different days.

Another way to help your succulent is to rotate which side of the plant is facing the window. If one side of your succulent faces the window too long, the other side might suffer a bit with the lack of sunlight. Your succulent will also grow toward the window, so rotating your succulent will help it grow straight up, rather than curved toward the sun.

Water

I really don’t know why everyone thinks you don’t need to water succulents. Let’s clear this up. Do succulents need water? Absolutely. You want to not water your succulent? Then prepare to throw it out in a couple months.

How much do you water your succulent? It depends on the time of year, how much sunlight your plant is getting, how hot it is, how fast your plant is growing, and a whole bunch of other factors. I water one of my succulents right now 3 times a week, one twice a week, another once a week, and so on.

You have to learn the watering technique, and then you have to learn to read the response you get from your succulents. Be prepared to change how you water your plant whenever it starts responding differently.

Watering Technique

The basics: make sure your plant has a good drainage system. When buying pots, make sure you get ones with a hole on the bottom of it and a little plate for the water to leak on. If you accidentally buy a pot that doesn’t have a hole at the bottom, put a good layer of rocks underneath the soil so that the plant can let the water leak out. The water needs to have somewhere to go, because succulents like to drain their water out.

Don’t water your succulents with spray bottles. I don’t know why everyone thinks this is how you should be watering your succulents. Water them with a cup of water and make the soil wet. Don’t drown your plant, but you should definitely soak the soil. The soil should be visibly wet.

When your plant’s soil is completely dry, you need to water it again. This is really just about checking up on your plant. It might take one day for your plant to suck up all the water. It might take three weeks. Either way, water your plant if the soil is dry.

If your plant’s soil is dry quickly though, it means it is going through a growth spurt. It’s a great sign.

Dead Leaves

You might think dead leaves are a bad sign. I won’t deny: dead leaves could potentially mean your plant is about to die. On the other hand, it could mean your succulent is about to change and flourish.

Check out my succulent in the yellow pot. It’s probably my favorite one, because it’s grown so much since I first bought it about 6 months ago. It’s a skyscraper now—it’s taller than my sister’s dog, Theo, who is 80 pounds.

It continually grows inches by the day (at least that’s how it seems), so when all the succulent’s leaves fell off, I was nervous. I facetimed my mom, a plant whisperer. I asked, “Is it about to die?”

She told me, “Just keep taking care of it. We’ll see what happens.”

Before these pictures, this succulent had big, soft, pink leaves. After the leaves fell off, the plant became very prickly, almost like a cactus. I’m not sure exactly what type of plant it is; I can’t even tell you the difference between a succulent and a cactus. Whether a succulent or cactus, the plant is thriving.

As you can see, after all its leaves fell off, it actually started growing little arms.

I love how the arms are pink, just like the leaves were. I’m excited to see what this plant will look like as it continues to grow and develop. Will more arms grow on different parts of it? Also, can anyone tell me if it’s a succulent or a cactus?

Soil

There is particular soil that is specifically for succulents. Make sure you look for it when you go to the store. It will say succulents on the bag. Leave your succulent in it’s original, plastic pot for a week or so before you move it into the nicer pot you bought. When you move the plant over to its new home, add more soil and pack it down. Be extremely gentle with your plant while you move it.

Yesterday I facetimed my mom. My huge cactus (or succulent?) in the yellow pot was falling over. She explained to me how plants seem to “eat” or absorb some of the soil, so I have to add more soil to stabilize the plant.

Then, I showed her the plant pictured above. She told me the same thing: that plant needs more soil to straighten it up. Side note: I absolutely adore the pink on this plant, too. Always be gentle when adding more soil.

Plant Food

So you bought a succulent at the store and it’s soil is as dry as the Sahara Desert. You know you obviously have to water it, but while you’re at it, you should put a couple drops of plant food in the water. After that initial feeding, I usually feed my succulents once a month.

We all need food to thrive, right?

Switching Pots

This won’t have to be done too often, usually, but if your succulent is looking a bit too big for its current pot, you probably should buy it a new home. Only switch pots if your succulent starts to look like it’s struggling a bit, and you’re certain it’s too big for it’s pot.

Again, be gentle while switching the succulent from one pot to another. If the roots look all tangled up, break them up a bit so that the plant isn’t strangling itself. That way the roots will grow in new directions.

Don’t worry, you can buy a new baby succulent for the pot that your plant outgrew!

Progress Pictures

You won’t really notice how much your plants have grown if you don’t take progress pictures every few months. You would be surprised at how big and healthy your plant will start to look! Remember, this plant is your new baby. Treat it as such!

Essay Outlines Made Easy: How to Write Them

If you’re anything like me, your body shudders when a teacher tells you to write an outline. It feels even worse than writing the essay itself. Why are outlines even necessary?

If your teacher is asking for a outline, it means she or he wants to save you from major future headaches. If they see any organizational or logistical issues within your outline, or if they are not satisfied with your thesis statement, they can tell you early on before you put all the effort into writing the paragraphs.

Plus, if you spend a lot of time on your outlines, you don’t have to spend as much time on your essays later. When I was pretty confident that my essay was going well, I would write full sentences on my outline; that way I was basically writing a first draft, too. Writing my final draft, it was easy to copy and paste from my outline. I barely had to try at all by the end of my writing process.

Outlines are hard. But if you put all the work in upfront, the final draft is so easy. Let’s make the outline process easier, shall we?

My English professor, Mark Sturges, gave us the perfect format to create an outline for a literary analysis essay. His outline is driven by the functionality of each sentence. What purpose does it serve in your argument? In Mark’s outline, for the introduction, you identify the function, hook, importance, and transition.

For the body paragraphs, you fill your outline with content (especially relevant quotes) and always identify the importance of the paragraph. Also, clearly illustrate your paragraph’s connection to your thesis statement. You can also focus on topic sentences (the first sentence of your paragraph: how do you show your reader what your paragraph is about?) and transition sentences (to smoothen the flow from one paragraph to another).

For the conclusion, focus mainly on reiterating your thesis statement in a new way, and illustrating the importance of your essay. Why should anyone care? What do you contribute to the conversation?

Examples

Outline: Introduction

Final: Introduction

“You’re not married to your outline,” Mark would always say. In my final draft, my introduction looked a little different, but it still makes the same argument that my outline made.

Hook: In “The Philosophy of Composition,” Edgar Allan Poe writes, “That pleasure which is at once most intense, the most elevating, and the most pure, is, I believe, found in the contemplation of the beautiful” (704). 

Transition: Many critics read “The Philosophy of Composition” as satirical, however, in context with the rest of the Romantic aesthetic movement, Poe’s philosophic theories reflect his consideration of and respect for the ideas of many other famous thinkers of his time, such as Shelley, Coleridge, Hölderlin, Mallarmé, and Kant.

Increasing specificity relating to thesis: Poe was in conversation with these Romantic philosophers from a variety of countries, all of which theorized about art, poetry, the beautiful, and aesthetic theory. In his introduction of Poe in The Norton Anthology, Levine writes, “the pursuit of the beautiful in works of art motivated Poe’s writing until the very end” (608). 

Thesis: Therefore, Poe’s poetry and tales are much more than creepy stories, but rather embodiments of Poe’s ideal of the beautiful. Poe’s creative attempts at pursuing beauty and his philosophical aesthetic essays reveal that Poe was educated about and in conversation with the aesthetic philosophers of the Romantic Movement. Poe’s ideal of the beautiful aligns with Romantic aesthetic philosophy in that it idealizes unified juxtapositions.

Reminder: your thesis statement can be more than one sentence. In this particular essay of mine, my thesis statement ran more sentences than usual, but that’s completely fine.

Outline: Conclusion

Final: Conclusion

Thesis reiterated: While many critics believe that Poe was uninvolved in the Romantic Movement, Poe was clearly directly involved with Romantic aesthetic theories. 

Transition away from thesis, into broader terms: Poe, in context with the broader scope of Romanticism, clearly exemplified the Romantic ideals of unifying contrast throughout his creative works and philosophical essays.

Importance of essay (understanding Poe differently): Many critics interpret Poe’s “The Philosophy of Composition” as satirical—how could a poet be advocating for the use of mathematics in poetry?—but Poe’s obsession with unifying juxtapositions reveals that Poe’s pursuit of the beautiful was most successful when he combined the contrasting fields of rational science and mathematics with artistic creativity. Similarly, Poe’s scientific, observational tales combine the rationality of science with irrational violence and out-worldly events. Poe clearly practices what he preaches in his pursuit of the beautiful in his use of mathematics, science, and rationality in combination with his creative expression.

Conclusion sentence (leaving readers with something to think about): It is time critics start recognizing Poe’s involvement in the Romantic aesthetic movement, which reveals the genuine nature of his philosophical aesthetic essays, as well as the calculation and philosophical theories he illustrated throughout his creative works.

Next Time You Write

I encourage you to consider how helpful and relevant outlines are when writing essays. Even if your teacher doesn’t ask you to write one, outlines help you clearly stay on track while writing, so that you never venture too far off course. Write an outline using Mark’s template, watch your grades skyrocket, and notice how much time and how many headaches you save.

Remember: an outline provides a roadmap for you while you write, but it’s always okay to take a slightly different route.

Happy writing!

Climate Anxiety to Climate Denial

Published in Honey & Lime Issue 6: where do we go from here? in 2020.
You can view this publication online here.

I try hard not to imagine too far into the future. At this point it feels inevitable, and I try to push away the worry and hold onto the parts of the world that bring me joy, the ones that are still here, for the moment at least. 

Katie Palmer’s essay explicitly speaks of the acute anxiety that comes with learning about climate change, the difficulty of writing about a subject that clearly spells out our doom.

 The future of our planet is terrifying to think about. I do not yet know what our lives will look like twenty years into the future, especially for those who are already disenfranchised today: what resources we may have to give up, what creatures may one day go extinct. But as I put together this issue, the beautiful and evocative work of our contributors reminded me of something important. Perhaps the actions of one person may be ineffective on a global scale, but if all of us join our efforts together, and continue to act, speak up, and demand change, then maybe it will be enough to make a difference. This is all I can hope for.

– Excerpts from “Letter from the Editor” by Wanda Deglane in honey & lime

I can’t write poems about climate change. I tried once, in advanced poetry. During workshop, my professor asked one of my classmates what she thought of my poem, since she had been silent during the entire discussion.

“Honestly, I’m just not interested in this topic,” my classmate answered, her voice flat. 

What luxury—to not be interested, to not care, to not know. I wish I had looked at the environmental studies major at my school and thought, “That’s not for me. Next.” 

In reality, I picked my university specifically for the combined environmental studies and English major. When I was a freshman, my English professor tried to convince me to switch to being solely an English major, dropping the environmental half. 

“That’s not an option,” I told him. “I’m going to be an environmental lawyer.” 

But sometimes, I wish I had listened to him. 

In college, I loved taking environmental classes, but as I kept studying, I wasn’t so sure about environmental law anymore. I was still thinking I would move to Washington, D.C. and work on environmental policy. Or become an environmental journalist. Or an environmental textbook writer. 

I didn’t start to regret the environmental half of my major until my senior year. My first semester, I finally got into a class I had been dying to get into: climate change policy and advocacy. 

On the first day, my professor asked, “What do you think is the scariest news in climate change today?”

My classmates looked puzzled, but I raised my hand confidently. “The permafrost melting,” I said, as if the answer were obvious, like the know-it-all I was. “My climate science professor told us last year that it wouldn’t start melting for 50 years. There’s methane in it, which is way more potent than carbon dioxide. The melting permafrost will accelerate climate change, and it will be irreversible.” 

“I agree. Nice job.” My professor looked impressed. In Australia, I had taken a class explaining all the intricate details of the Earth’s climate, so I knew I would ace this class.

Except I didn’t. Not even close. 

I was only a few points away from failing my midterm, and only because my professor went back and added 0.5 points on a few answers. I saw my original failing score crossed out, replaced by another score. I passed only because my professor took pity on me.

I felt like a failure, but every time I tried to study for that test, I would spiral into a panic attack. Tears would fall uncontrollably down my face. I couldn’t catch my breath. My heart would race and my skin would sweat as if I had just finished a marathon. I felt like my chest was going to explode. I couldn’t swallow; my throat felt like it was sealed shut. I would vomit, which made me never want to eat. Sometimes, all my limbs would even go completely numb. Most terrifying of all, I felt like I was going to die right then. 

I was in a really dark place. That semester, I cried to the same professor that tried to tell me to switch to being an English major. 

“You can’t control climate change,” he told me. “You can’t stress what you can’t control.” He mirrored almost the exact same words my therapist had told me. 

As the year went on, I felt like I was getting so much better. I passed the class, barely, but I was still on track to graduate on time. I took less stressful, more enjoyable classes second semester. 

Best of all, therapy was working. I went from having multiple panic attacks daily first semester, to having almost none for the entirety of my second semester. 

But I guess climate change will always be a trigger for me. 

After graduation, I was at my Papa’s camp, nestled deep in the woods. This is the place that fostered my connection to the environment as a child, inspiring me to study it when I grew up. We all sat around the campfire, sipping plastic cups filled with mixed drinks.

Somehow, I found myself discussing climate change with three people, all biased in their own ways: someone who works in the fossil fuel industry, a dairy farmer, and a Trump supporter. 

I knew they were biased, but they thought I was too. How could I be biased, when I had nothing to sell or gain from my perspective? Didn’t they know how much I wished climate change weren’t true? 

No matter my degree, no matter what I learned, or what I said, they would have never listened to me. Ever. 

After they kept arguing with me for way too long, I started crying frustrated tears. “You’re old,” I said. “You got to get old, but you stole that from my generation. We will never get old.” 

Truth is, I don’t know what will happen to us. A huge part of me hopes the climate change deniers win. I imagine myself, 90-years-old, laughing, “You guys were right all along. I was so worried for nothing!” 

The other part of me, the one who knows all the science, can’t handle the depression and anxiety that comes with the knowledge. That’s why I have become a sort of climate change denier myself. I avoid the news. I focus on the pretty scenery nature provides. I fill my car with gas and drive to work. I forget to unplug my chargers. I don’t apply to any environmental jobs. 

Maybe one day I will be mentally strong enough to go for that law degree, or to make a difference in some other way. Maybe one day I’ll be able to at least write one decent poem about it.

Sources to look at if you suffer from climate anxiety:

Climate Anxiety Doesn’t Have to Ruin Your Life

‘Eco-Anxiety’: How to Spot it and What to do About it

With Climate Change Comes Loss and “Ecological Grief”

How to Construct the Perfect Thesis Statement

Every student is a little fearful of thesis statements. They seem really daunting, don’t they? Thesis statements are the foundation upon which your entire essay rests. Mess your thesis statement up, and there isn’t much hope for the rest of your essay. Get your thesis on the right track early, and you have a great chance of earning a high grade on your essay.

Thesis statements might seem scary, but let’s think about them in terms of a simple check list. Your thesis statement must have these 3 attributes:

  1. Arguable
  2. Researchable
  3. Specific

Arguable

Researchable

Specific

Example

My final essay for African Literature was entitled: “Expanding Feminism: Avoid Being the Western Feminist.” My title clearly summarizes my thesis statement: “By reading and analyzing Ferdinand Oyono’s Houseboy, Mariama Bâ’s So Long a Letter, and Sinidiwe Magona’s Mother to Mother, feminists from Western countries can work to expand their horizons by analyzing the ways in which gender roles and feminism are expressed in African societies.”

#1 Rule: Always examine your teacher’s essay guidelines first. In this thesis, I used three novels because that I was following exactly the prompt that my professor had given us for the essay. I would highlight and annotate the essay guidelines. Usually the professor will specify how many works you are analyzing (at most, usually 1 or 2 texts or films).

What Makes a Good Thesis Statement?

Let’s analyze my thesis from my final essay in African Literature. Remember, we’re analyzing the thesis in my final draft. Your first drafts of your thesis won’t always be great; that’s why you have to keep trying. Your thesis can tweak and change throughout the drafting processes, but you should try to get your thesis as complete as possible before writing anything further. Writing the thesis well before your first outline and rough draft saves you so much time and energy later on in the writing process. If you spend a lot of time on your thesis statement, you most likely won’t have to delete much of your first draft.

Say it again with me: arguable, researchable, and specific.

This thesis statement is arguable: other critics could interpret how gender and feminism are represented within the novels differently than I did. Plus, my focus on Western feminism and intersectionality is liberal by nature. I am sure many people could argue with me on these topics. Gender analysis in combination with race and ethnicity analysis is often where I find my strongest arguments. Know your own favorite lenses.

This thesis is researchable: I included 4 secondary sources and a lot of quotes from each novel to support my thesis statement. I did relevant, helpful research on these topics, and I used the secondary sources to make my argument stronger. My thesis wasn’t just opinion.

This thesis is also specific: it clearly outlines the novels and authors within my essay in the order in which they appear in my essay (acting as my roadmap). It also specifies which lenses my paper analyzes the novels through (gender along with race and ethnicity analysis).

Most importantly, my thesis leaves the reader with a clear idea of what my body paragraphs will argue. In these types of essays, you never want to surprise your reader. Show them the map, and hold their hand along the way. It’s all about making all the information in your essay easier for your reader to digest.

My professor always told us that if you can’t tell where your essay is going after reading the introduction, rewrite your introduction.

Extra Thesis Statement Tips

  • Write a draft of your thesis statement after completing research, but before writing anything else.
  • If you spend a long time on your thesis before you write your essay, you save a lot more time later on.
  • Your thesis statement can always be two sentences. Better two sentences, rather than one that is too long and confusing.
  • Every sentence within your essay should serve to prove your thesis statement. Never stray too far from your thesis statement, and always try to weave it into the conclusion sentences in your body paragraphs.
  • You’ll be repeating your thesis statement a good amount of times throughout your essay. Better write a variety of versions of your thesis to reiterate it in different words.

Next Time You Write

Make sure you write your thesis statement before you start typing any words in your outline or essay. Critically look at your thesis, and be honest with yourself: is your sentence arguable, researchable, and specific? Making sure it is will save you time and effort later in the writing process, and it will earn you a high grade.

Introductions and Conclusions: They’re just Triangles

Note: this how-to guide only applies to essays that are scholarly and formal. For example, think English, sociology, environmental, humanities, history, gender studies…the list goes on. But there will be essays that require you take a different approach to introductions and conclusions.

Tips from and English major and writing tutor.

I know not everyone loves English and writing. That’s why I’m here to help. I will be writing a series short blog posts to simplify essays so that you know exactly how to ace your next paper. Today, we’re talking about my favorite paragraphs—the most important, the ones that will make or break your paper—the introduction and conclusion.

Yeah. Probably your least favorite to write. I will admit, they are the hardest to nail, but it’s imperative that your introduction and conclusion are strong, or else it won’t matter how good your body paragraphs are. Once you perfect your introduction and conclusions, you will leave your teachers remembering your essay long after they finish grading it.

Remember the triangles.

A “formula” for thinking about essays has been helpful for myself and my tutees.

I think the easiest way to think about introductions and conclusions is to look at them as triangles. Triangles visually represent how general or specific the information should be within each section of the paragraphs. Let me show you what I mean:

The triangles represent specificity. The introduction is a triangle flipped upside-down because it starts of more generally, and then the paragraph gets much more specific by the last sentence in the intro: the thesis. The specificity is illustrated by the point in the triangle.

I have a blog post on how to construct your thesis if you need it.

The conclusion starts with the most specific sentence to clearly reiterate the thesis. The paragraph then transitions seamlessly into the argument you’ve been making the whole time. Finally, you express the text or film’s importance in the world today.

Let’s look at my essay as an example: “Thoreau’s Political Activism: The Construction of Unconventional Masculinity.” I want to use this essay of mine as an example because it illustrates that your introduction can be two paragraphs. Especially in upper-level college English classes, your introduction probably should be two paragraphs. However, never add a third introductory paragraph. And you’re safe with one if it does the job.

Introduction

1st Intro Paragraph

Hook: In “Civil Disobedience,” Henry David Thoreau asks his audience: “How many men are there to a square thousand miles in this country? Hardly one” (70).

Slow, smooth transition to topic (reveal gender focus): This question forces us to ask in turn, what type of masculinity does Thoreau consider to be ideal? Since gender is a societal construct, people have equated different traits with “femininity” and “masculinity” depending on the time and place in which they lived.

Conclusion sentence: Since no characteristics are inherently feminine or masculine, Thoreau was able to construct his own unique unconventional ideal of masculinity throughout Walden and his political essays.

2nd intro pargraph

Continue transition to thesis, and provide roadmap: Thoreau’s constructed masculine ideal favors the politically active, independent, and virtuous man, which can be seen by analyzing Thoreau’s critique of conventionally masculine men and his idealization of John Brown.

Thesis (reveal race analysis focus): However, although Thoreau constructs this new ideal of masculinity in order to aid society in abolishing slavery, his texts reflect and perpetuate the racial biases that were held by society during his time.

Conclusion

Conclusions, unlike introduction paragraphs, should always be limited to one paragraph.

Another hook (optional) and restate thesis in a new, interesting way: In “Slavery in Massachusetts,” Thoreau wrote, “They persist in being the servants to the worst of men, and not the servants of humanity” (103). But couldn’t we argue that Thoreau himself was a servant to the worst of men through his perpetuation of the oppression of people based on race and gender?

Transition to less specific to paper to more general terms, and relate to present-day issue: Ironically, although he was attempting to aid in abolishing slavery, his political essays perpetuate racism by excluding non-white men. Similarly, although he was glamorizing the politically active John Brown, he never once mentions his mother or his sisters, who founded the Concord Antislavery Society (Petrulionis 19). How could he overlook the participation of his own mother and sister in the abolitionist movement, yet never fight for their rights at all?

Conclusion sentence describing the importance of essay in the real world: So, rather than glamorizing the politically progressive Thoreau, we should instead analyze the ways in which his texts both reflect and perpetuate the oppression of people based on race and gender.

Extra Intro & Conclusion Tips:

  • If you have more than one text or film to analyze, include all the titles in your thesis. Introduce each author or director in the introduction.
  • Always know what present-day issue you will be relating your text or film to before you write anything. Great lenses to analyze your text or film include gender, race and ethnicity, ecocriticism, Marxist, religious, or historical. Know the importance of your paper.
  • Always make a new, interesting argument. Read what literary critics have written about your text or film through the same lens you want to focus on, and find a way to make your argument better. Whether you agree or disagree with the articles, include some in your essay to show you did background research, and to make your argument stronger. Express your opinions on their opinions.
  • Write your introduction and conclusion after you write every other paragraph.
  • Make your introduction and conclusion as concise as possible. Present your argument thoroughly, but don’t explain or dive too deeply into your topic yet. Your body paragraphs will do the work for you. This balance of being thorough, yet concise, can be the hardest to strike. Definitely write multiple drafts of your thesis statement.
  • Write a draft on a loose-leaf piece of paper. Draw the triangles and brainstorm sentences next to them. How can you get your words to flow in a way that represents your introductory and conclusion paragraphs as triangles?

Now you should know how to write your own perfect introduction and conclusion paragraphs! Aim to leave your teachers stunned at how much effort you put into analyzing the text or film.

Black Mirror and Posthumanism: What is Humanity?

Published as the leading piece in Underground Journal in 2019.

The journal opens with Katherine Palmer’s work “Black Mirror and Posthumanism: What is Humanity?”, which explores the question of what is truly human in an era filled with technology by analyzing how a popular television show portrays humanity.

– “Letter from the Editor” by Josephine Brown ’19 in Underground Journal

Netflix’s original Black Mirror is a British show directed by John Hillcoat in which each episode is a standalone, but each episode is linked to a common thread: the fear of the negative consequences on humanity due to technological advancement. But what is humanity? The show Black Mirror blends aspects of the genres of horror, cyberpunk, science fiction, and dystopia to make the viewer wonder what it means to be human, offering us viewers a posthumanist perspective. Through its portrayal of posthumanism, Black Mirror encourages viewers to rethink the way we perceive humanity and the world around us. 

Posthumanism

Posthumanism is a direct and contradictory response to the philosophical school of thought stemming from the Enlightenment: humanism. Humanism and posthumanism are Western thoughts, so these ideas might not apply to other societies around the world. According to Schmeink in “Dystopia, Science Fiction, Posthumanism, and Liquid Modernity,” humanism is the belief that “there is a unique and absolute difference that sets humans apart” from the rest of the natural world (30). The Enlightenment and the spark of humanism is when John Locke’s ideas of natural, inalienable human rights started to become accepted. 

This conversation about human rights led to the consideration of what defines humanity. In “Posthumanism: A Critical History,” Miah explains, “an initial attempt to define what is uniquely valuable about being human is found in discussions about dignity and rights, which in turn gives rise to discussions about humanness and personhood” (14). Miah explains that posthumanism involves “coming to terms with how the Enlightenment centering of humanity has been revealed as inadequate” (2). Posthumanists realize that the concept of humanity has been constructed by humanity itself, which has led to extreme environmental degradation.

Environmental Degradation

Rethinking this centering of humanity and considering the interconnectedness of the nature and humanity could be the answer to our environmental issues, as Hamilton points out in writing about climate change. In “Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change,” Hamilton writes, “We came to believe we could keep Nature at arms-length, but have now discovered, through the exertions of climate science, that Nature is always too close for comfort” (15). Hamilton explains how climate denial is a “last-ditch attempt to re-impose the Enlightenment’s allocation of humans and Nature to two distinct realms” (15). Therefore, Black Mirror’s posthumanist perspective may be just what the world needs to face the reality of environmental degradation.

A central aspect to posthumanism is questioning what will be to come of the world after humans; hence the name, “post” humanity. Schmeink writes that since human history can be erased, there will be a time after humans (29). Themes of overpowering or intrusive technology often coincide with questions concerning environmental degradation, which could cause the end of humanity. 

An example of this is Season 3, Episode 6: “Hated in the Nation.” In this episode, the extinction of bees—a real and urgent threat today—leads to society replacing the bees with electronic bees that pollinate the plants. This episode is dystopian: with no bees to pollinate the plants, humans would die. In the episode, a hacker gets control of the electronic bees, so the bees start targeting humans. The hacker encourages people on social media to vote on whom the bees should target and kill that day. This episode is posthumanist in several ways: it portrays a degraded environment which technology has failed to save, suggesting a time after humans, and it challenges our perception of nature and what is real. 

Genre Analysis

The episode “Hated in the Nation” illustrates many examples of how Black Mirror threads aspects of horror, cyberpunk, science fiction, and dystopia. For example, in “Hated in the Nation,” the society portrayed is very similar to our own, all except for the electronic bees. Similarly, the bees look and sound almost exactly like normal bees. By portraying society and the bees in “Hated in the Nation” as different, but horrifyingly recognizable, Black Mirror is employing the device of the uncanny, a central aspect in the genre of horror. 

Picture source.

According to Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, “what is ‘uncanny’ is frightening precisely because it is not known and familiar” (76). Freud continues, “the ‘uncanny’ is that class of the terrifying which leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar” (76). According to Creed in The Monstrous Feminine, cyborg bodies fall into the category of the uncanny (59). In “Hated in the Nation,” the cyborg bodies are the bees. In Culture & Technology, Murphie and Potts explain that the cyborg represents the boundary between nature and culture breaking down (116).  This is another way in which Black Mirror practices aspects of traditional horror: by constantly blurring or crossing boundaries. 

This is related to the Kristeva’s theory of abjecton; Creed explains, “that which crosses or threatens to cross the ‘border’ is abject” (11). Cyborg bodies are therefore abject, but Black Mirror also portrays abjection in “Hated in the Nation” because the bees dive into their victims’ ears, crossing the ultimate boundary between self and other, the skin. 

What is Human?

Schmeink explains the historical context behind society’s fascination with cyborgs: “Robotics and computer science had progressed immensely and the cyborg became the central metaphor to understand social and cultural reality as a construction of multiple identities, a metaphor truly made for the late twentieth century imagination” (21). Cyborgs represent an “other” from humanity, which in turn helps us define humanity. 

In Posthumanism: A Critical Analysis, Herbretcher explains, “Our understanding of technology forces us to ask the question ‘What is man?’ at a metaphysical-ontological level-a level that even the negation or the apparent surpassing of the question is unable to achieve” (15). Similarly, Miah explains, “These stories of automata, cyborgs, and robots all pose the same question: how do humans differ from non-humans, or more simply, what does it mean to be human?” (12). Black Mirror consistently uses technologies including cyborgs to make the audience question what a human is.

Ethics and Morals

Cyborgs are important in the realm of posthumanism. By questioning humanity through technology and by often portraying technology negatively, Black Mirror is reflecting the tendency in science fictions to assume “an increasingly influential cultural position, due to its long-standing ethical probing of the social consequences of new technologies” (Murphie 95). Furthermore, Murphie and Potts explain in Culture & Technology, “the cyborg operates as an ambiguous metaphor for our increasing dependence on technology” (110). Therefore, by portraying cyborg bodies in many episodes, Black Mirror is simultaneously making us rethink humanity and nature while also critiquing society’s reliance on technology. 

Cyborgs

There are many examples of Black Mirror questioning humanity through the use of cyborg bodies. An example of an episode that portrays cyborg bodies to question humanity is “The Entire History of You,” which threatens viewers’ senses of self. This relates to posthumanism, because by making viewers question what it means to be human, Black Mirror is essentially challenging our perception of reality: in this case, our perception of humanity. 

The rejection of the cultural construct of humanity is very posthumanist; Schmeink explains that posthumanists believe “the human as a category is a fleeting and historically specific concept” (29). Posthumanists recognize that humanity has defined itself, and posthumanists have learned to reject the notion that humans have created, which is that humans are unique and special just because they are human. In Culture and Technology, Murphie and Potts explain that similarly to humanity as a societal construct, the sense of self is a “cultural construct, historically determined and susceptible to changing social conditions” (160). By questioning our senses of self in “The Entire History of You” through the portrayal cyborg bodies, Black Mirror illustrates a posthumanist perspective.

“The Entire History of You” directly threatens the characters’ bodies, minds, and their senses of self. This episode exemplifies a dystopian society in which almost every character has a cyborg body, due to the “grains,” which are technological devices in their brains. The grains allow the characters to record everything they see and hear, and the characters can replay memories in their individual eye or they can play it on a projector for everyone to see. 

“The Entire History of You” directly threatens our sense of self; Colleen says, “Half the organic memories you have are junk. Just not trustworthy” (13:44). Memories are directly related to our senses of self, because we would not be who we are without our memories. This quote from Colleen suggests that our senses of self are not reliable and constructed from false memories.

Black Mirror criticizes our sense of self in today’s society that is greatly intertwined with technology: as Murphie and Potts explain, “artificial memories,” or memories of technology such as movies, saturate our memories (159). Possibly due to the number of selves presented on television, “individuals increasingly feel ‘lost’ in an advanced technological society” (160). Furthermore, in The Monstrous Feminine, Creed explains that identity is a constructed illusion, “always in danger of regression” (29). “The Entire History of You” is posthumanist because it questions and threatens the viewer’s constructed identity. 

“The Entire History of You” crosses boundaries because a piece of technology lives in the characters’ brains, making them cyborgs, crossing the machine and human boundary. This is similar to Season 2, Episode 1: “Be Right Back.” In this episode, Martha’s husband, Ash, dies in a car crash. As Martha grieves, her friend suggests to her a service that would use all of Ash’s social media accounts to formulate his personality. The episode begins with Martha simply messaging the fake Ash, but then she sends the service videos of him to formulate his voice, and they start talking on the phone. The fake Ash then suggests taking it all a step further by ordering him a technological body that will feel real and look just like the real Ash. 

However, while it does look exactly like Ash, Martha is repeatedly uneasy by how obvious it is that Ash is not a human: he does not breathe, eat, use the bathroom, and he can turn his penis on and off with just a thought. In Ash’s body we see the lack of boundaries that usually excrete the abject as well as the lack of boundary between human and machine. The fake Ash is nothing like the real Ash: he is much better at having sex, he can look up anything on the web at any moment in his mind, and he does not know anything that Ash did not put on social media. 

Eventually, Martha does not even enjoy having sex with him, and she encourages Ash to not look up anything in his brain ever. She does not enjoy these differences from the real Ash, but most of all, Martha is frustrated when the fake Ash’s personality is not enough like the real Ash’s. She exclaims, “You’re just a performance of stuff that he performed without thinking” (45:20). Clearly, this episode portrays Black Mirror’s longing for the body and the critique on the thought that a soul could exist without a body. The cyborg Ash ends up being locked up in Martha’s attic, since he is not a suitable replacement for the real Ash.

Picture source.

Other Black Mirror episodes that portray cyborg bodies to question humanity are Season 3, Episode 2: “Playtest” and Season 4, Episode 2: “Arkangel.” In these episodes, technology is inserted into every character’s brain, and it turns out the technology can never be removed, making them cyborg bodies forever.

In “Playtest,” a game is created that takes the player’s biggest fears and causes hallucinations that they are facing those fears, but the characters in the game cannot tell what is a hallucination and what is real. This episode represents the idea of the “hyperreal,” which is a postmodernist thought theorized by Baudrillard.

The hyperreal is “more real than real: something fake and artificial comes to be more definitive of the real than reality itself” (University of Houston). The hyperreal can be as simple as what is viewed on television. By simulating the hyperreal, Black Mirror is portraying posthumanism by questioning our sense of reality and our perspective of the world through the portrayal of a cyborg body. 

“Arkangel” also portrays a cyborg body. In this episode, Marie has the Arkangel implanted in her daughter Sara’s brain. The Arkangel allows Marie to sensor over every aspect of Sara’s life, giving her the ability to see and hear what Sara sees and hears, and it also blurs out anything that causes Sara stress, making her unable to see or hear certain things, such as the dog that scares her when she walks to school. This episode represents the boundary being broken between human and machine, but also mother and daughter. 

Psychoanalysis 

“Arkangel” is very Freudian, because Freud theorized that central to a male’s maturation, he must distance himself from his mother. Contrastingly, in “The Mother-Daughter Relationship and its Devastation Effects,” Sauza explains that Freud theorized that women cannot distance themselves completely from their mother (2041). Sauza writes, “Freud states that the result of the relationship between mother and daughter is catastrophic, which Lacan later called devastation” (2041). This episode shows the result of the daughter being unable to separate herself from her monstrous mother, and the devastating consequences of the inseparable two. By illustrating the Freudian theory of daughter and mother as lacking boundaries, Black Mirror perpetuates problematic patriarchal narratives.

Boundaries & Genres

In all of these episodes, many boundaries are being crossed, but the common border repeatedly crossed is between human and machine. In The Monstrous Feminine, Creed writes, “the concept of the border is central to the construction of the monstrous in the horror film” (11). This can be said of cyberpunk, science fiction, and dystopia, all genres in which Black Mirror embodies. In “The Persistence of Hope in Science Fiction,” Baccolini explains that the genres of science fiction, dystopia, and cyberpunk make people uncomfortable because they are deviant in blurring the borders and binaries between culturally constructed genres (519).

Baccolini explains, “Genres are then culturally constructed and rest on the binary between what is normal and what is deviant” (519). Similarly, the genres themselves are obsessed with borders and boundaries. Schmeink considers the heart of cyberpunk “the radical breaking up of dichotomies and the destabilizing of boundaries: machine/human, nature/culture, male/female, high culture/low culture, body/mind” (21). Works in these genres defy societal constructions in both the genre they embody as well as in the content they hold.

This idea of crossing boundaries is also posthumanist; Miah explains, posthumanism reflects a “transgression of boundaries and the position of humanity in relation to these concepts” (2). Therefore, Black Mirror’s constant crossing of boundaries is what makes it horror, cyberpunk, science fiction, dystopia, and posthumanist. Baccolini writes, “The notion of an impure genre, one with permeable borders that allow contamination from other genres, represents resistance to a hegemonic ideology and renovates the resisting nature of science fiction” (520). Therefore, Black Mirror pushes against what is normal and accepted in society by crossing boundaries, making viewers rethink their own perspectives of the world.

This crossing of boundaries is found often in posthumanist Black Mirror episodes through the portrayal of a blurred “machine/human” distinction. Black Mirror questions humanity: is a soul unique to humanity, or could a computer or technology encompass a soul? Black Mirror constantly blurs the line between humanity and technology, forcing us to question what it means to be human, and what impact technology will have on humanity.

Digital Clones

Aside from cyborg bodies, Black Mirror questions humanness by putting a soul into technology; for example, Season 2, Episode 4: “White Christmas.” In the episode, an affluent woman, Greta, has paid to undergo an operation to create a “cookie” of herself: a digital clone. Greta’s cookie cannot believe she is not the “real” Greta, and that she now lives in a piece of technology. With absolutely nothing to do in her little technological universe, even unable to sleep, Greta’s cookie is forced to be a slave to the Greta, making her toast, confirming her appointments, and ordering groceries; basically, just micromanaging Greta’s life.

Picture source.

Although Greta paid for this service, her cookie has been forced into living this life without her consent. Miah explains, “contemporary visions of posthumanism are informed by conversations on cyborgs or automata, which have often involved a reflective stance on humanity’s distinct and special place in the world” (2). Miah continues, “removing the body from subjectivity gives way to futuristic ideas about the legitimacy of such prospects of downloading brains and imagining a world where the moral concern of humanity extends to automata” (9). By the end of the episode, viewers sympathize more with Greta’s cookie than the actual human, a common theme in science fictions (Murphie 101). This episode is an example of how Black Mirror questions the premise of a soul: does it exist? Can it be placed into technology? Should technology have human rights? And finally, what does it mean to be human? Is the soul in the technology human, and if not, what is it?

This episode reflects the anti-body aspect of artificial intelligence that Ullman describes in “Programming the Posthuman,” which is a “suspicion of the flesh” and a “quest for a disembodied intelligence” (66). Black Mirror critiques this idea, arguing that our bodies are a critical aspect of our souls. For example, in “White Christmas,” Greta’s cookie is especially upset when she finds she no longer lives in a body. Matt, the person who has been paid to put her soul into a technology, explains that he will give her a body, because having a body makes the transition easier for the cookies.

Similarly, in Season 4, Episode 1, “USS Callister,” Robert designs an online game which he has turned into an alternate digital reality for his own personal recreation, in which he uses DNA to create digital clones of his coworkers. In this alternate reality, Robert is able to exert complete control over his coworkers. The digital clones especially describe how much they miss the simple pleasures of having a real body, such as pooping, which is societally seen as an act that is gross. Similarly, the digital clones miss their genitals, which have been replaced with just “mounds of flesh.” Sex is also societally perceived as dirty and wrong. These bodily functions that the digital clones wish to have back are the exact bodily functions that Ullman describes as “polluting the discussion of intelligence” (66). This illustrates the rejection of the natural, primal aspects of the human body that characterizes many portrayals of posthumanism.

By making us uncomfortable with the lack of bodily functions of the characters, Black Mirror’s commentary is that our bodies are an essential aspect of being human. No viewer is supposed to want to live in an alternate reality where they cannot even go to the bathroom or have sex. This episode also portrays the lack of boundaries: for example, the digital clones have no genitals and no anus, and at one point in the episode, Robert removes Nannette’s mouth, making her unable to breathe and forcing her into submission to him. The removal of her mouth exemplifies the removal of a boundary. 

Picture source.

Gender Analysis

This episode is also a critique on the patriarchy. Robert is portrayed as having complete control in the alternate reality, but in real life, he is not powerful, therefore illustrating the idea of insecure masculinity. According to an article by Porter in International Peacekeeping, not meeting local idealizations of masculinity can cause “feelings of shame, humiliation, frustration, inadequacy and loss of dignity” (488). Porter illustrates how men feeling of insecure their masculinity often leads to them perpetuating cycles of violence and aggression (488). Although aggression is often seen as a feature of masculinity, Porter makes it clear than men are not inherently violent (489). It is the patriarchy that makes men feel like they have to be aggressive to “prove” their masculinity. Porter describes that fragile masculinity can stem from the fact that manhood is not a “given,” but rather that “manhood must be achieved” (488). This is portrayed in the character of Robert: since he is not powerful in real life, he has to turn to technology in order to feel masculine. Similarly, he forces the digital clones to celebrate him, and forces the women to kiss him. This episode of Black Mirror forces us to ask, should the digital clones have the same rights and respect as real humans?

Another episode that critiques the idea of souls living in technology is Season 4, Episode 6: “Black Museum.” This episode plays repeatedly with the premise of putting a soul into technology, but the main attraction of the museum is a hologram of Clayton, a man of color who is a convicted murderer. Clayton was put on death row and was coaxed by Haynes, the owner of the museum, into signing over the rights to his post-death consciousness. Haynes set up Clayton on display and viewers could pull a lever to make Clayton experience the agony of the electric chair repeatedly. Visitors could leave with a souvenir containing a copy of Clayton eternally in agony.

Nish, the main character of the episode, reveals herself as Clayton’s daughter, and to get revenge on Haynes, she poisoned him and after he dies, she transfers Haynes’ consciousness into Clayton’s hologram, simultaneously torturing Haynes and putting Clayton to rest. In the end, Nish gets revenge for her innocent father, but that still does not justify or make up for the horrible treatment his consciousness suffered for years, as well as the fact that Nish’s mother committed suicide. Also, her small victory does not get to the core root of the issue: people of color are often blamed and punished for crimes they did not commit.

Race Analysis

The fact that Clayton was sentenced such a harsh punishment, the death sentence, reflects that fact that people of color suffer the most from the justice system. According to the Center for American Progress, people of color serve longer sentences for the same crimes, and they are put in prison far more often than their white counterparts, even though they are not committing more of the crimes (Kerby). This episode suggests that by putting souls into technology, humans could potentially be subject to being repeatedly tortured. That would disproportionally affect members of our society who are already treated unfairly by the justice system. Black Mirror asks viewers: should souls in technology have the same rights as real human beings do? Are those souls that are put into the technology truly human?

Hopeful Posthumanism

Black Mirror’s only hopeful portrayal of posthumanism is Season 3, Episode 4: “San Junipero.” This episode is essentially about the idea of heaven, enacted through technology. This episode follows two aging, dying women, but in San Junipero—a paradise within technology—Yorkie and Kelly are young, healthy, and carefree. Rather than being critical of posthumanism, this episode seems to possibly embrace the potentially positive outcomes of putting souls into technology. As Murphie and Potts explain, “Science fiction has often oscillated between hope and despair, between celebration and warning” (95). This episode is perhaps the only one in which Black Mirror portrays posthumanism through technology as potentially positive; Yorkie and Kelly end up happy together in San Junipero, living a life in technology in young, beautiful bodies, not plagued by the physical realities of aging. Black Mirror seems to ask, could posthumanism mean a technological heaven for souls who are sick or have passed away?

Then again, would you really want your soul to live for eternity? As Colatrella explains, “We treasure the celebratory and fearsome aspects of science and technology in acknowledging that even the most progressive innovations might have hidden psychological or moral costs uncomfortable to bear” (554). While this episode might seem to portray posthumanism in a positive light, viewers could still interpret “San Junipero” as a critique on putting souls into technology: shouldn’t people’s souls die when their bodies die?

Conclusion

Black Mirror promotes a posthumanist worldview by portraying multiple episodes with cyborg bodies, as well as episodes in which souls are put into technology. These questions make viewers wonder what is special about humanity, as well as our perception of reality. What is real? Through portraying a posthumanist society, Black Mirror can then expand its critique on humanity to critique social oppression. Herbretcher explains, “Posthuman and posthumanist therefore also means this: to acknowledge all those ghosts, all those human others that have been repressed during the process of humanization: animals, gods, demons, monsters of all kinds” (9). Therefore, in critiquing humanity, Black Mirror critiques the societal devaluation of other humans. 

Black Mirror’s posthuman perspective could be extremely valuable as we try to rethink our place in the world, in turn helping us to de-center humanity while also helping us remember that we are interconnected with nature. Black Mirror’s posthumanism, through cyborg bodies and putting souls into technology, reminds us that we are animals, we are natural, and it is better that way. It also reminds us that we are interconnected and reliant on nature, and to save the world and prevent the end of humanity, the post-human, we need to save the planet. 

How to Cite this Publication in MLA

  • Palmer, Katherine. “Black Mirror and Posthumanism: What is Humanity?” Underground Journal, 2019. pp. 1-7.

Works Cited

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Biofuels: The Myth of Carbon Neutrality

We deal with myths on a daily basis, but this myth has got to be the worst: that biofuels are carbon neutral.

It’s detrimental to the world if educated environmentalists believe this myth and argue in the favor of biofuels in debates of how we should transition to being a carbon neutral society.

I won’t lie. I believed biofuels were carbon neutral. I read it in my Introduction to Environmental Studies textbook freshman year.

On my final exam, I listed biofuels as carbon neutral next to solar, hydro, wind, and geothermal. I got the answer right.

Let’s back up: carbon neutrality means we do not emit carbon into the atmosphere. Based on our current lifestyles, carbon neutrality seems like an impossible task. We rely on burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) to live our daily lives, including: using plastics, driving our cars, heating our homes, watching TV, using electronics, and cooking dinner on the stove.

We emit carbon into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, the remains of living animals and plants long ago. Since it takes the Earth such a long time to produce more fossil fuels, we’re going to run out.

The carbon clock doesn’t predict when we will run out; it gives us a guideline of when we should act as though we did. The carbon clock shows how much CO2 can be released into the atmosphere to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C and 2°C. Right now, it reads we have 25 years to become a carbon neutral society.

Keep in mind how hard, challenging, and slow this shift will be. That’s why environmentalists are urging that every country take immediate action to lower their carbon emissions. Costa Rica has pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2021—a really quick shift. The Paris Agreement, which is an agreement between countries to set carbon budgets for themselves, focuses on achieving carbon neutrality goals in the long-term.

The Paris Agreement assigns budgets for every country based on the category they fall into. Put simply, less developed countries get higher carbon budgets to “catch up” with developed countries. Countries that are already developed have the societal and monetary ability to switch to carbon neutral energy sources, which is why they get a lower carbon budget. This is why the U.S. won’t sign it. Since the U.S. is a developed country, it would be included in the countries that would get a lower amount of carbon to emit.

Personally, I cannot imagine our society switching to carbon neutral energy sources, but if we don’t, our planet is in big trouble. I could write an entire book on all the terrible things that will happen if we don’t keep the heating at a maximum of 1.5°C and 2°C. If you want more details, read the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC)’s report on the details of a 1.5°C temperature increase here.

The moral of the story? We need to lower our carbon emissions, and in the future, become completely carbon neutral.

But lowering our carbon emissions is challenging. This is where this debate about biofuels enters the picture. I told you all those facts about why we need to stop emitting carbon, but the discussion of biofuels wades into the how territory of the carbon neutral discussion.

I believed biofuels were carbon neutral until my senior year. In Climate Change Policy & Advocacy, we were given an assignment to read St. Lawrence University’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), a plan our school created to help our campus transition to eventually being carbon neutral. We were told to write a research paper in the form of an email giving advice to those who are in charge of implementing the plan. Our professor planned to actually send our papers, which made the assignment more important and interactive. We also had to present our findings to the entire class.

One goal of the CAP included in St. Lawrence’s Energy Master Plan was to transition to biomass boilers, or to use geothermal energy in combination with solar energy. This plan was defined as a mid-term goal (7-15 years). The biomass boilers would specifically use wood pellets as fuel. At first, I thought: Cool, biomass boilers. Carbon neutral. I don’t know what to argue here.

Then I started wondering. How do biomass boilers work? They can’t really be as clean as geothermal and solar energy, can they? I learned biofuels were carbon neutral, but that’s all I learned. I never learned the details.

On Google Scholar, I searched biofuels. The sources that showed up supported biofuels, as expected. Then I searched: “Are Biofuels Carbon Neutral?”

I dug deep. I started to come across sources that critically examined biofuels through a scientific lens. From the Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, I found the source, “Indoor Air Pollution From Biomass Fuel Smoke is a Major Health Concern in the Developing World.” In Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society, I found: “Biomass Fuels and Respiratory Diseases.” In Progress in Energy and Combustion Science: “Pollutants From the Combustion of Solid Biomass Fuels.” In Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews: “Biomass Energy and the Environmental Impacts Associated with its Production and Utilization.”

I started to think I was on to something. Reading these sources, I found that biomass fuels are not carbon neutral.

I’ll hit you with some science now.

Biomass fuel contributes to greenhouse gas emissions in several ways: in order to heat the biomass to turn it into fuel, fossil fuels are used; due to the need for biomass to be mass-produced, the transportation of the fuel contributes to emissions; and the production of biomass fuel from wood causes deforestation. Deforestation contributes to 12-18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, which is equal to or more than the transportation sector, which attributes to 14% of the world’s emissions. These percentages are based off the EPA’s data in 2017.

Not only does deforestation contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, but reforestation is an important aspect of climate change mitigation. Forests absorb, or remove from the atmosphere, 30% of all CO2 emissions every year.

Using biomass fuel from wood would contribute to climate change not only emitting fossil fuels, but also by reducing the amount of COtaken up by forests. 

What’s even worse? Burning biomass fuel from wood releases many harmful pollutants into the air, such as carbon monoxide, free radicals, particulate matter, and carcinogens. Over 200 chemical and compound groups have been identified in wood smoke. Biomass fuel is considered a low efficiency fuel, meaning it does not heat well and produces a lot of pollutants. Let’s do some math here: add the pollutants released when burning biomass fuels to the pollutants that are caused by burning the greenhouse gases to create the fuel.

At this point, it’s better to just use the fossil fuels alone.

The day we had to present our arguments in front of the class, I was nervous. All my classmates were going to the front of the room and agreeing with the plan to use biomass boilers. My face grew redder with each person, and my hands got sweatier. Finally, it was my turn to present. I had my paper in front of me, but I didn’t read a single word from it. Without even trying, I had memorized my entire argument. I was so invested in this topic that this presentation was probably the best I ever gave throughout my 4 years at St. Lawrence.

“This is going to be awkward,” I said, shifting my weight to my other foot, “because I’m going to disagree with a lot of you. Biomass boilers are not carbon neutral, and we should not plan to use them.”

At the end of my presentation, a classmate of mine who had given his presentation before me endorsing biomass boilers raised his hand. He started arguing with me. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I know I stood my ground, unlike other times I had academic arguments in classes. I knew I was right. I had done the research, whereas he had accepted what he learned in Introduction to Environmental Studies.

Eventually, my classmates and I looked to my professor for his opinion. He said, “I agree with Katie.” I smiled with relief. “I have a huge problem with biomass boilers. They’re not carbon neutral.” He went on to explain how using the farm land to create the wood chips for the biomass boilers would also have a negative impact on the environment.

Why am I telling this story? So you don’t go around calling yourself an environmentalist while believing biomass boilers are carbon neutral. Also, so that you question everything, including the “facts” you read in textbooks. And finally, so that you’re never afraid to go against the crowd to state your unpopular opinion.

You might just be right.

Solar Envy

Published in Laurentian Magazine in 2019.

I took Introduction to Poetry when I was a junior at St. Lawrence. Poetry was the last class I ever would have picked, but it was the only credit I could find to work towards my creative writing requirements. I tried desperately to get into fiction, but the class was full. I was feeling stressed about graduating on time because I was a junior, so I settled for poetry.

Despite my preconceptions about poetry, I found I loved my teacher, Sarah. She made every class super fun and interesting. I ended up taking Advanced Poetry senior year with her, and it didn’t even count towards anything in my degree. I took it because I loved poetry by that point.

This poem, my only poem published (so far), was the very first poem I ever wrote. In Introduction to Poetry, Sarah gave us an “object prompt,” and every one of us had to pick an object from her box and write a poem about it. Whoever raised their hand first got the object. When she pulled out eclipse glasses, I tried to raise my hand first, but Liam raised his hand faster.

Luckily, later something else popped up that Liam wanted more. “You can have the eclipse glasses, Katie,” Liam offered. My eyes lit up, because I knew exactly what I was going to write about: I was mad because I was in Australia when a solar eclipse happened at home.

Personifying the eclipse glasses in the beginning of the poem was an idea of mine sparked by Sarah; she told us in class, “I love writing poems through the lens of an object. I imagine what the object is thinking.”

The entire poem is about how I wish I was across the world watching the solar eclipse. I’ve never seen one; when I came back to the U.S., an awesome eclipse happened in Australia. Go figure.

Much of the poem, including the last stanza, describes the physical appearance of the eclipse glasses.

Let’s raise an iced coffee to the best genre out there: poetry.

Ecocentric and Anthropocentric Environmentalism: Atwood’s Critique of Specialization

Published in St. Lawrence Review 2019. Pages 62-74.

Margaret Atwood’s novel, Oryx and Crake, has often been described as an eco-dystopian novel, meaning that the novel critiques the way in which society approaches environmental issues by portraying a dystopian vision of a deteriorated planet. However, while many critics realize that Atwood is advocating for a better approach to caring for the environment, it is often overlooked that Oryx and Crake also critiques both the branches of traditional environmentalist thought: ecocentrism and anthropocentrism. By critiquing both ecocentrism and anthropocentrism through the characters of Crake and Jimmy, Atwood is essentially critiquing specialization, even within the realm of environmental studies.

It has been proved that anthropocentrism promotes pro-environmental behaviors just as effectively as ecocentrism.

Ecocentrism and anthropocentrism are two conflicting and heavily debated theories within the field of environmental studies. While both ecocentric and anthropocentric theories have the goal of preserving the environment, the philosophies behind the two differ greatly. According to the Devall and Sessions’ Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered, ecocentrism is “in sharp contrast with the dominant world-view of the technocratic-industrial societies which regard humans as isolated and fundamentally different from the rest of nature” (65). In contrast, as Devall and Sessions explain, anthropocentrism is the belief that humans are superior to and in charge of the natural world (65). The definitions given here illustrate the common occurrence of ecocentrics depicting anthropocentrism in a negative light; however, it has been proved that anthropocentrism promotes pro-environmental behaviors just as effectively as ecocentrism, it just differs in that it encourages environmentalism for the sake of sustaining human life (Naoko and Kaida 1225). To summarize the difference between these two contrasting environmental thoughts, ecocentrics believe “nature has intrinsic value independent of its direct value to human beings” and an anthropocentric perspective believes that the nonhuman environment should be used as a commodity to sustain the wellbeing of humans (Cocks and Simpson 220). Although neither branch of environmentalism is necessarily better or right, these two contrasting ways of perceiving the natural world are the root of many philosophical debates in the field of environmental studies.

Most modern environmentalists ascribe to ecocentrism, because anthropocentrism is usually interpreted as selfish. However, Atwood’s Oryx and Crake gives us a very different perspective by portraying an eerily ecocentric world in which the boundaries between animals and humans blur. However, before the ecocentric, apocalyptic future, Atwood presents us with a dystopian capitalist society in which anthropocentrism reigns. Atwood critiques anthropocentrism by showing a society in which capitalism fails to recognize or respect the boundary between humans and nature. In an article published in the Journal of Ecocriticism, Dunlap describes Atwood’s method of blurring the human and nature divide through the portrayal of capitalism; Dunlap writes, “human and non-human animal lives are bundled into a single category—all lives are objects whose purpose is to entertain” (5). An example of this is when Crake describes the “Student Services,” where students can essentially order a prostitute; Crake explains, “You can get any color, any age—well, almost. Any body type. They provide everything” (208). This is a particularly good example of the commodification of humans because as Crake says, “female students have equal access, of course” (208). By erasing the often-sexist capitalist practices, Atwood is exemplifying the fact that all human bodies can be commodified for human use, similarly to the way that anthropocentrics believe animals and nature should be. However, through her portrayal of capitalism, Atwood shows readers that the boundary between humans and animals is arbitrary. 

Atwood levels the hierarchy of humans and animals in the novel, making a distinction between the two completely arbitrary.

Similarly, Atwood also critiques anthropocentrism by portraying the lack of distinction between humans and animals in science. According to Dunlap, the “leveling of hierarchical distinctions between animals and humans is even more evident within the scientific world, where all life forms are objects are study and experiment” (5). While an anthropocentric environmentalist might argue that it is ethical to use animals to experiment in order to improve human life, Atwood takes this idea further by portraying a society in which humans experiment on other humans. For example, Atwood describes the “NooSkins for Olds,” which is a scientific project attempting to create ageless skin (55). The experiments on these humans fail, showing the repercussions of perceiving human life, as well as animals and nature, as subjects to be tested on. Another example of Atwood’s depiction of diminished human-animal hierarchies is when Crake is describing his invention, the “BlyssPluss Pill,” and Jimmy asks, “Where do you get the subjects?” (296). Crake responds, “From the poorer countries. Pay them a few dollars, they don’t even know what they’re taking” (296). The society portrayed in Oryx and Crake uses humans as test subjects, similarly to the way in which our society today uses animals to experiment on. By commodifying and experimenting on humans as well as animals, Atwood levels the hierarchy of humans and animals in the novel, making a distinction between the two completely arbitrary.

By portraying a society in which humans and animals are equal in the hierarchy of life in both commodification as well as science experiments, Atwood is critiquing anthropocentric environmental thought. Atwood’s critique of anthropocentrism forces the reader to ask: if we use animals and the natural world to improve human lives, what is to stop us from using human lives in the same way? Also, what qualifies as improvement in human life? Where do we draw the line in our use of the natural environment to improve human life quality? Clearly, in Atwood’s perspective, an anthropocentric environmental perspective is not sustainable.

While Atwood critiques anthropocentrism, she also critiques ecocentrism throughout Oryx and Crake. One way in which Atwood critiques an ecocentric perspective is that she questions the practicality of such a worldview. In a society in which the rich exploit the poor and the men exploit the women, how can humans recognize the intrinsic value of life to animals and plants if they cannot even do so for their fellow human beings? Crake, a character with the goal of enacting his ecocentric vision, decides that the only viable way to make ecocentrism a reality is to execute a mass genocide. Dunlap describes Atwood’s portrayal of the practicality of ecocentrism through the character of Crake:

However, in order to fulfill his ectopian vision—one in which the human reproductive habits responsible for psychological suffering and human-drive power struggles are eliminated and in which human-over-nature hierarchies are collapsed—Crake must first destroy humanity (3).

This is because according to Crake, what defines humanity is its continuous need to dominate. For example, the domination of people due to issues such as race, class, and gender, the consumption of animals, and the territoriality of land (Atwood 305). By getting rid of these “destructive features,” Crake creates a species of humans in which “Hierarchy could not exist among them, because they lacked the neural complexes that would have created it” (Atwood 305). Because Crake wants to destroy the tendency of humans to think in hierarchical terms, even extending to animals; Crake’s genetically modified humans, the “Crakers,” are forbidden to eat meat. Therefore, by leveling humans and animals in the hierarchy of life, Crake is inherently an ecocentric environmentalist. However, the Crakers, who Crake engineered to not have the “faults” of humans, still show the aspects of humanity that Crake sought to get rid of. In the end, the Crakers start becoming more and more human, showing the genocide Crake executed was for nothing. Oryx and Crake shows that while Crake wanted to get rid of the faults of humanity, these aspects of life are portrayed as intrinsically related to the beautiful aspects of human life: religion, art, curiosity, and love. While Atwood’s Oryx and Crake critiques the practicality of ecocentrism, it also criticizes the ethics behind it: readers are not supposed to be okay with Crake’s decision to murder the entire human race, and living in a world with no personal expression or feeling is clearly not the answer.

Crake’s ecocentric philosophy, as well as Atwood’s critique of ecocentrism, can also be seen in the ways in which Crake describes animals and humans in mechanical terms. Often criticized by ecocentrics, a key feature of anthropocentrism is the literary device of anthropomorphism, which is “attributing or recognizing human characteristics in animals” (Warkentin 86). Anthropomorphism is an aspect of anthropocentrism in which ecocentrics strongly reject. Edward Abbey, a famously recognized ecocentric environmentalist, describes his rejection of anthropomorphism:

The personification of the natural is exactly the tendency I wish to suppress in myself…I want to be able to look at and into a juniper tree, a piece of quartz, a vulture, a spider, and see it as it is in itself, devoid of all humanly ascribed qualities (6).

Abbey’s quote illustrates the fact that ecocentrics reject anthropomorphism because they believe it is selfish to ascribe human qualities to nature because it is done for the benefit of humans, not nature. Anthropocentrism is also seen as problematic because it is anthropocentric to believe that nature has human feelings, as well as the fact that humans only seem to care about nature if it is described in human terms. In Atwood’s novel, the character of Crake in Atwood’s novel rejects anthropomorphism, showing his ecocentric perspective, while the character of Jimmy continuously anthropomorphizes animals, revealing his anthropocentric worldview.

Atwood is exemplifying the fact that while ecocentrism is often seen as being a philosophy that elevates animals and plants to humans on the hierarchy of life, it can also be the opposite, which is the devaluation of all life.

The ecocentric Crake goes beyond simply rejecting the anthropomorphism to the point where he continuously illustrates “mechanomorphism.” Mechanomorphism is a phrase coined by Warkentin in the article “Dis/Integrating Animals: Ethical Dimensions of the Genetic Engineering of Animals for Human Consumption.” Warkentin defines mechanomorphism as “labeling animal bodies, and describing behavior, in mechanical terms” (86). Interestingly enough, an ecocentric character, Crake, often describes animals through mechanical terms, yet this method of mechanomorphizing animals often displayed by people who support very non-ecocentric practices, such as genetically engineering animals for human consumption, as exemplified through Warkentin’s article. By portraying the ecocentric Crake as caring less about and demeaning the lives of other animals, Atwood is exemplifying the fact that while ecocentrism is often seen as being a philosophy that elevates animals and plants to humans on the hierarchy of life, it can also be the opposite, which is the devaluation of all life.

Mechanomorphism is a term used to describe an author’s description of animals, but Atwood takes mechanomorphism a step further: Crake mechanomorphizes humans. This can be seen in the way in which Crake attributes every aspect of humanity to biology. Describing heartbreak, Crake asks: “how much needless despair has been caused by a series of biological mismatches, a misalignment of the hormones and pheromones?” (166). Similarly, Crake describes love mechanically: “Falling in love, although it resulted in altered body chemistry and was therefore real, was a hormonally induced delusional state” (193). Crake also describes the creation of art in mechanical terms by claiming that it serves a “biological purpose,” because by making art, a man is amplifying himself, which is “a stab at getting laid” (168). When Jimmy asks about female artists, Crake says that they are “biologically confused” (168). Crake’s continuous method of describing humanity in mechanical terms is supposed to leave the reader feeling uneasy, therefore Atwood’s critique of ecocentrism is clear.

Atwood is showing that although ecocentrism is problematic in ways, there are also positives associated with viewing the world in such a way.

Atwood also critiques ecocentrism by showing how unsettling an ecocentrism is through her portrayal of Crake’s creation of a world in which humans are like animals and animals are like humans. For example, the Crakers challenge the constructions of the human versus the animal (Dunlap 9). Dunlap describes this animal-like human species in Oryx and Crake: “like cats, the Crakers purr; like the rabbits of this world, they glow with the green from a jellyfish gene; like ‘the canids and mustelids,’ they mark their territory; and like various hares and rabbits, the Crakers eat leaves and grass” (9). The Crakers also are similar to animals in the way that they have sex solely to reproduce: “Crake had worked out the numbers, and had decreed that once every three years per female was more than enough” (164). However, while the absence of love is meant to unnerve the reader, Jimmy reflects on the effect of Crake’s creation of humans reproduce like animals: “No more prostitution, no sexual abuse of children, no haggling over the price, no pimps, no sex slaves. No more rape” (165). Clearly, Atwood is showing that although ecocentrism is problematic in ways, there are also positives associated with viewing the world in such a way.

Similarly to the animal-like humans, Atwood also portrays human-like animals, such as the pigoons, a genetically modified pig. Atwood describes, “A brainy and omnivorous animal, the pigoon. Some of them may even have human neocortex tissue growing in their crafty, wicked heads” (235). Similarly, Atwood writes of pigoons, “if they’d had fingers they’d have ruled the world” (267). Atwood explicitly conveys this absence of a distinction between human and non-human in her post-apocalyptic world through Jimmy’s decision to name himself after the Abominable Snowman, the “apelike man or manlike ape” (8). Through Atwood’s depiction of a world in which the human and the non-human are more alike than different, her critique of ecocentrism is clear in that these aspects of the novel are meant to unnerve the reader.

Atwood is exemplifying the fact that sometimes perceiving the world in the way that characterizes anthropocentrism can help humans care more about the natural world.

While Crake is the epitome of an ecocentric environmentalist, the character of Jimmy is Atwood’s representation of anthropocentrism. A quote that illustrates this relationship between these two characters is when Crake tells Jimmy, “Don’t be so fucking sentimental” (344). The character of Jimmy often anthropomorphizes the animals throughout the novel, for example, Atwood writes of Jimmy’s interpretation of the pigoons, “They glanced up at him as if they saw him, really saw him, and might have plans for him later” (26). When Jimmy’s dad tells him the pigoons might eat him, Jimmy says: “No they won’t,” and he thinks, “Because I’m their friend” (26). Another example of Jimmy anthropomorphizing animals is when Crake and his coworker describe the “ChickieNobs,” which are essentially pieces of chicken meat, genetically engineered to have a brain with no function besides “digestion, assimilation, and brain growth” (203). Jimmy’s anthropomorphism of even animals that have been degraded to pieces of meat is clear when he asks, “But what’s it thinking?” (202). Through the character of Jimmy, Atwood is exemplifying the fact that sometimes perceiving the world in the way that characterizes anthropocentrism can help humans care more about the natural world.

Similarly to his anthropomorphism of animals, Jimmy also thinks of humans in a much more humanistic sense, as opposed to Crake’s mechanic way of perceiving humans. Atwood exemplifies this when Jimmy tells Crake, “In your plan we’d just be a bunch of hormone robots” (166). Crake responds, “we’re hormone robots anyways, just faulty ones” (166). We see Crake’s theory that humans are “hormone robots” disproven even through his own creation of the species of the Crakers: they kill fish for Jimmy even when they were told it is morally wrong to do so, they create art, they are curious and ask Jimmy many questions, leaders emerge in their species, and they idolize of Oryx and Crake in a religious way, which are all aspects of humanity that Crake attempted to destroy.

By critiquing both ecocentric and anthropocentric branches of environmental thought through the characters of Crake and Jimmy, Atwood is critiquing specialization.

Although readers are supposed to be weary of the ecocentric thought process that drove Crake to perform a mass genocide, Atwood also conveys that anthropocentrism can also be problematic at times. Jimmy’s character, the most anthropocentric character in the novel, has his own issues, even within his yearning for the continuation of humanity in an ecocentric world. For example, Jimmy looks at the Craker women and realizes that they don’t arouse him in “even the faintest stirrings of lust” (100). Atwood continues, “It was the thumbprint of human imperfection that used to move him” (100). However, while these might seem romantic at first, Atwood changes the reader’s perception Jimmy when she continues, “he’d preferred sad women, delicate and breakable, women who’d been messed up and needed him” (100). This is because Jimmy perceives a “payoff” in making sad women happier: “A grateful women would go the extra mile” (100). It’s clear that the “extra mile” is means that Jimmy would receive sexual favors from pretending he cared about these sad women. Similarly, Jimmy also shows his selfish use of women when he reflects on the fact that he’s told too many women he loves them: “he shouldn’t have used it up so much earlier in his life, he shouldn’t have treated it like a tool, a wedge, a key to open women” (114). Using women for sex is an extension of anthropocentrism, and Atwood’s Oryx and Crake critiques this branch of environmental thought by begging the reader to question the use of other lives for satisfaction, even if the character of Jimmy does seem more empathetic and personable than Crake.

By critiquing both ecocentric and anthropocentric branches of environmental thought through the characters of Crake and Jimmy, Atwood is critiquing specialization, another common critique of the world in environmental studies. Specialization is when a person is an expert in one field of study but fails to perceive the world in general terms. Even Crake, a very specialized character in the field of science, explains to Jimmy:

These people are specialists…They wouldn’t have the empathy to deal with the Paradice models, they wouldn’t be any good at it, they’d get impatient. Even I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t begin to get onto their wavelength. But you’re more of a generalist (321).

Atwood is explicitly illustrating her critique of specialization throughout this quote, but specialization can go even further than only being in one field of study; for example, an environmentalist can be specialized in either ecocentrism or anthropocentrism. By portraying both the ecocentric Crake and the anthropocentric Jimmy as problematic characters, Atwood is critiquing specialization within the branch of environmental studies. Although this novel is often recognized for criticizing the way in which our society degrades the environment, environmentalists who pride themselves on being in the minority who care about the natural world would never suspect that they too are being criticized in Oryx and Crake. Atwood’s novel reminds us that no one has all the answers, and that we should all question our own beliefs and keep an open mind when it comes to attempting to understand the world.

How to Cite this Publication in MLA

Palmer, Katherine. “Ecocentrism and Anthropocentrism: Atwood Critiques Specialization.” St.

            Lawrence Review, 2019. pp 62-74.  

Works Cited

Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire. 1st ed. New York: Touchstone, 1990. Print.

Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. New York: Anchor Books, 2003. Print.

Cocks, Samuel and Steven Simpson. “Anthropocentric and Ecocentric.” Journal of

            Experiential Education, vol. 38, no. 3, Sept. 2015, pp. 216-227. EBSCOhost,

            doi:10.1177/1053825915571750.

Devall, Bill and George Sessions. Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered. Salt Lake

            City: Peregrine Smith Books, 1985, pp. 65-71.

Dunlap, Allison. “Eco-Dystopia: Reproduction and Destruction in Margaret Atwood’s

            Oryx and Crake.” Journal of Ecocriticism,vol. 5, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 1-15.

Kaida, Naoko and Kosuke Kaida. “Facilitating Pro-Environmental Behavior: The Role of

            Pessimism and Anthropocentric Environmental Values.” Social Indicators

            Research, vol. 126, no. 3, Apr. 2016, pp. 1243-1260. EBSCOhost,

            doi:10.1007/s11205-015-0943-4.

Warkentin, Traci. “Dis/Integrating Animals: Ethical Dimensions of the Genetic

            Engineering of Animals for Human Consumption.” AI & Society, vol. 20, no. 1,

            Jan. 2006, pp. 82-102. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s00146-005-0009-2.

Music & Climate Change

Published in University News in 2018.

St. Lawrence University’s Department of Music will host Dana Lyn and Kyle Sanna, who will perform their third album, “The Coral Suite,” at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11, in Peterson-Kermani Performance Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

The duo’s audiovisual performance explores environmental fragility through rich Irish melodies, with Lyn on the fiddle and Sanna on the guitar, combined with animated projections featuring Lyn’s artwork. “The Coral Suite” is an evocative sequence of Irish tunes that mirrors the life cycles and natural processes that occur within coral reef ecosystems. Their audiovisual poem pays tribute to the coral’s biodiversity while calling attention to the urgent need for its conservation.

According to the performers, the album is relevant and important because two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef has died due to climate change. Changing temperatures and ocean acidification causes bleaching of our corals, which means that the corals lose their vibrant color as they die, fading to a deathly white. While this problem might be happening far away from Canton, New York, Lyn and Sanna are known to traverse geographical boundaries through their music by connecting their experience as composers and improvisers in New York City’s musical community with their deep admiration for traditional Irish music.

Lyn and Sanna have been hailed as “ground-breaking” by folklorist and NEA-Award recipient Mick Moloney and “bursting with creativity” by renowned fiddler Kevil Burke. Visit their website at http://danalynkylesanna.com/.

Planting the Seeds of Connection Across Generations

Published in St. Lawrence University Magazine in 2019.
You can view this publication online here.

“Our concept of now is clouding how we think about the future,” says Rachael Jones, visiting assistant professor of ceramics and drawing. “We need to think about our impact on future generations.”

It is this philosophy that informs the merger of Jones’ artistic practice with the environmental consciousness she brings to the classroom at St. Lawrence. Along with fostering a respect for the materials and resources in the ceramics studio, students are learning about the overlap of art and environmentalism through their participation in The Seed Bank Project, a multidimensional and multigenerational environmental art effort founded by Jones in 2017. 

“A seed bank is a storage container (often made of clay) that is specially designed to create a controlled, interior climate so as to maximize the seed’s potential viability,” says Jones. She explains that although every seed’s ability to germinate is different depending on its DNA, one can encourage the maximum amount of time that a seed can genetically stay viable by storing it within a dark, dry, and cool place.

“There is a symbiotic sense of value to burying the seed banks, both to the local and global communities through the sharing of vital plant species information and the relationship they have with local cultures,” says Jones. “We begin to think about taking responsibility for the future of our food production locally and spark a dialogue of human stewardship towards the Earth and future generations of all species while learning about our local ecology.”

The first thing that Ceramics 1 students make in Jones’ course are little seed vessels based off of the ones made by the Pueblo and Hopi tribes of the Southwestern United States. “It’s a great introduction to the deep history between our species evolution and the use of clay,” says Jones. They then fired the vessel in a pit kiln in the ground.  

In collaboration with an environmental studies course taught by Visiting Assistant Professor Katherine Cleary, Jones buried a seed bank at St. Lawrence’s Living Lab (formerly the Ecological Sustainability Landscape). Students from the course interviewed local farmers and collected seeds acclimated to the North Country’s growing season to put into the bank. There is a marker on the trail where the bank of seeds is buried.

“​Although it is hard to have expectations with a project that could potentially exist beyond our generation,” says Jones, “the planting of the seed bank is an important aspect. The act is meant to focus on the local environments in the midst of an increasingly global outlook.” Even if a seed is found beyond its span of viability, Jones believes it can still provide important information about the location in which it was found. In addition to the students’ seed banks buried in Canton, the project has planted vessels on four continents, in seven countries, and in 25 states. 

The learning outcomes that Jones hopes her students walk away with range widely from strictly academic to more personal. “Clay has taught me a lot about myself,” she says. “The material can and will teach patience and a deeper understanding of motivations. These are soft skills that can apply to more areas of their lives than just making artwork.

“Clay can be a recalcitrant material,” she continues, “and failure is eminent when working with it. I expect my students to fail, as long as they are failing forward. I hope that they can continue to cultivate a positive association with failure.”

As for more conceptually environmental explorations, Jones says, “I don’t put ideas in their heads, and I am open to whatever they are passionate about.” However, Jones is not surprised that many of her students use her course to explore environmental issues further: global warming, the plight of bee colonies, black market trading, and poaching for ivory. “The list goes on,” she says. “It is exciting to see them exploring these issues sculpturally.”

Deborah Dudley contributed to this article.

Medical Philanthropy: A St. Lawrence Alumnus

Published in St. Lawrence University Magazine in 2019.
You can view this publication online here.

Surgeon Edward “Ted” Higgins ’71 creates a growing partnership with Haiti one visit at a time.

“St. Lawrence is my history. It’s who I am,” says Edward “Ted” Higgins ’71 about the place where he came in 1967 to explore his interests without being bound to a certain career path. Although Higgins was a history and government major at St. Lawrence, he went on to become a fourth-generation surgeon.

As a student at St. Lawrence, Higgins was very active as a member of the football and tennis teams. He worked as a dorm counselor at Sykes Residence for two years, participated in student government, and was a member of the SAE fraternity. “I did just about everything but study,” he says, but comments that he feels his time still prepared him for building self-confidence and relationships after college.

“I had a wanderlust about me,” explains Higgins. He bicycled around Ireland with classmate Terry Slaven ’71 and worked on a farm for four months. He returned to complete pre-med courses at Syracuse University and subsequently completed medical school at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. 

During his fourth year of general surgery residency at Yale in 1981, Higgins and his wife Kim spent a three-month rotation at Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles, Haiti, his first introduction to the island nation.

By the early 1990s, Higgins began taking annual trips organized by his church in Kansas City to the Dominican Republic, where medical volunteers provided healthcare to sugarcane cutters and their families in the bateys, settlements that grew up around sugar mills in the Caribbean. This effort evolved into training local Dominican surgeons in vascular and general surgical techniques over the years.

In 2010, Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake which resulted in nearly 300,000 deaths and another 300,000 displaced or injured. His daughter, now training as a fifth-generation surgeon, had been in Haiti during the earthquake, and she reported a lack of operating rooms when Higgins wanted to assist in the aftermath. Later that year, he and a surgical team from Kansas City traveled to Haitian Christian Mission in Fond Parisien, Haiti, where they operated on the underserved people who were unable to receive surgical care. The small delivery room used by his team to perform large-scale surgeries was not sufficient, which inspired the idea of building new operating rooms. This idea led to the creation of Higgins Brothers Surgicenter for Hope, named in honor of his father and uncle, both surgeons who had practiced together in Upstate New York for 38 years.

The goal of the surgicenter, Higgins explains, is not only to care for the people of Haiti who have no surgical options without the surgicenter, but also to train surgical residents from the General Hospital, the government-run hospital in Port-au-Prince. Over the last year, several of the former surgical residents and medical students who worked with him and his colleagues are now full-time employees of the surgicenter.

“It’s been worth it,” Higgins says about investing in the Surgicenter. “I have a terrific respect for the work our Haitian team is doing with very few supplies and equipment. Their dedication to the underserved of Haiti is remarkable—no complaints when the power fails or late evenings operating. The Surgicenter has become a destination for many all over Haiti.”

Today, the center provides 24-hour emergency service, obstetric and general surgical emergencies, elective general and vascular surgeries, and OB-GYN cases as well as functions as a teaching and training hub for future Haitian medical professionals, with plans to expand services. The Haitian staff of 25 includes surgeons, anesthesiologists, emergency room physicians, nurses, nurse-midwives, custodians, administrators, and a medical director. In 2018, more than 600 procedures were performed and 500 deliveries, including quadruplets born in August 2018.

Although his commitment to Haiti is unwavering, Higgins also recognizes that there are needs closer to home in Kansas City where he volunteers at the Kansas City CARE Clinic. Higgins continuously asks himself, “Where can I help people?” However, he remains humble. 

“I mean, this is basic stuff,” he says when describing what motivates him. “I’m just another guy trying to help. I’ve got my health, and I’m grateful to be of service.”

This drive to be of service is what Higgins is looking to share with the next generation of students at St. Lawrence. “St. Lawrence has been good to me,” he says. “It’s an experience I wouldn’t change for the world.” He adds, “Maybe a St. Lawrence student would want to come see what we do and help out as well.” 

Deborah Dudley contributed to this article.

Descriptive Bibliography: Canoes in the Adirondacks

Published in ODY Special Collections in 2018. The Tanner Fellow Award supported this creative fellowship.

Introduction

What you’re about to read is descriptive bibliography is based on books written about canoes. Writing this bibliography, I got to flip through all kinds of old pages: some were fictional books that were falling apart, some were interesting manuals on how to build or paddle a canoe, some told you the necessities for camping, and some were yearbooks of rowing teams. Every book is about canoeing.

Another thing many of the books in this bibliography have in common is that they were written about the Adirondacks. The Adirondack Mountains are located in northern New York, a drive away from St. Lawrence University. The mountains have an interesting history regarding the formation of the Park, and I loved learning about the park in environmental studies classes. I also enjoyed hiking the various mountains, but before working on this bibliography this summer, I had never really considered canoeing along the clear waters of the Adirondacks.

My first experience canoeing was at Keuka Lake, with my friend and my brother. My brother sat in the middle and weighed us down, making it almost impossible to get anywhere with our paddles. When it started pouring rain while we were out there, my friend and I swam back, dragging the canoe with my lazy brother in it. He was yelling at us to hurry up the entire way.

Luckily, my family had a trip planned to come to the Adirondacks this summer. The day we arrived, I took out the canoe, and ever since, I’ve found myself yearning to go out every chance I get.

There’s something about floating in a canoe as the water bugs dance around you, forming patterns on the still water. The mountains never let you forget their presence, and every time you look up you’re reminded why this place has been the muse of so many artists. Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll see a turtle as you drift slowly by the shore.

My cousin Rob and I got really lucky this afternoon on our trip. Rob noticed a bird and since he was sitting in the back of the canoe, he easily steered us in the direction of the animal. I happily paddled away in the front, busy looking at all the lily pads to see the bird in front of us.

“What is it?” my mom called from across the lake. Her voice was surprisingly clear.

“Think it’s a duck,” Rob replied from behind me. His voice was low, but our family members on the shore heard us effortlessly.

My mom quickly realized that the bird that was letting us paddle so close to it was a loon. We had seen it the day before when we were paddling and we startled the loon, because he flew away quickly and sloppily. This time the loon stayed in place, and as we got closer, I noticed his pure black head made him devilishly handsome, and he was a very large bird. He seemed to know he was beautiful, just like the mountains that are his home.

When we paddled just a bit too close to the loon, he showed off his talent when he dove beneath the water and held his breath for minutes with no trace as to where he was, not even a bubble on the surface of the water. Finally he would pop up somewhere across the lake, staring at us from his new location. He would tauntingly pace in the water, showing us his ability to easily duck under the water at any given moment. He knew it was all a game.

One time, we hesitated in our canoe, unable to keep up with the loon. He dove under and popped up, floating on the water even closer to us. We tried to paddle after him a few more times, but the distances were too far, and our arms were too tired and sore. I hope that when we leave, he finds some new paddlers to play with.

Reading this bibliography, you are the paddler. You can only get so far, you can only see so much. If you want to be the loon, you’ll have to read, or better yet see, the books in person.

Why Are Descriptive Bibliographies Important?

Descriptive bibliographies are important because they give us notes about the physical condition of the book that can provide relevant insights into past cultures. Think of books as cultural artifacts, and descriptive bibliographers document the information.

Furthermore, it showcases the unique collection a certain library holds—in this case, St. Lawrence University’s Special Collections in Owen D. Young Library. Special Collections is a room in the library that holds the most valuable or vulnerable books. You’re not supposed to have food or water near the books, and visitors have to be monitored in the room if they want to use the books. You can’t even go back yourself into the shelves of books unless you had special access. I felt cool being able to go back there.

The old book binders were often so beautifully decorated, and their displays were so interesting and unique. Sometimes the books were falling apart. The books had clearly been loved. They also provided valuable cultural information that might have otherwise been lost or overlooked.

Sample Bibliographic Entry

Paul Doty, my wonderful mentor in ODY Special Collections, and I couldn’t decide if yearbooks should be included in my bibliography. This special note made us believe there was no way we could exclude yearbooks. It also deepened my understanding of books as valuable artifacts in history.

1921

Text. New York Canoe Club 50thAnniversary Yearbook.

Author. Timberman, O.J.

ODY Library Call Number. RBR/GV/781/.N49/1921

Title Page. 1871 Year Book 1921/New York Canoe Club/Issued in commemoration of our Fiftieth Anniversary and/containing a brief history of the Club from the date/of organization/also a copy of the Constitution,/By-Laws, and Club Roster./[N.Y.C.C. Burgee sy]/Incorporated 1893/CLUB HOUSE AND ANCHORAGE/Little Bay, Ft. Totten, Long Island, N.Y.

Collation/Contents. 11.5 x 17 cm; 38 leaves; P. 1: blank; P. 2: [front side] photograph, [back side] blank; P. 3: [front side] title page, [back side] photograph of club house and anchorage in Little Bay; P. 4-9: memoirs by W.P. Stephens; P. 10-11: photographs and summaries; P. 12-13: articles of incorporation; P. 14-19: club constitution and by-laws; P. 20-23: photographs and summaries; P. 24: entries for canoe regatta to be held in N.Y. bay; P. 25: international challenge cup; P. 26: international challenge cup rules; P. 27-28: photographs; P. 29: house rules; P. 30: boat house rules; P. 31: information for members; P. 32-36: list of members, officers, and committees; P. 37: [front side] photograph, [back side] explanation of symbols; p. 38: blank.

Paper. Made of plates.

Binding. Sewn signatures; calico-texture cloth, not embossed; gray-blue; [in gold near top of cover] New York Canoe Club/1871-1921.

Notes. Loose page in between cover and P.1 that describes an open regatta held by New York Canoe Club in 1881; note on P.1 written in ink that says “To LittleEvelyn—1929, whose mama was the first of her sex that ever spent a night in the old club house at Bensonhurst fronting the lower bay of New York—mama was then between ten and twelve years of age + she was adored of all the club members.” The note has leaked over to the inside cover and onto the back of P. 1; on P. 1 written in pencil “Paulene Bigelow”; on P. 1 written in red colored pencil “p. 38 + 42 + 63”; on P. 1 written in pencil “TRC Comstock”; on P. 3 the ODY Library Code is written in pencil; on P. 20 pink highlighter underlines “Captain John MacGregor”, “Mr. Poultney Bigelow”, and “years, the New York Canoe Club now”; on P. 22 pink highlighter underlines “Poultney Bigelow” and “Honorary Member Emeritus N.Y.C.C.”; binding is held together strongly; stains on back cover.

How Did This Fellowship Help Me?

Creating a descriptive bibliography was interesting and different from any writing I had ever done before. I always follow a formula for different types of writing, but in this case, the information that had to be included was so specific.

Also, the format has to be extremely consistent. I had the freedom to pick how I wanted to write the information, but after I made the initial decision, I had to stick to it for every entry. It increased my attention to detail exponentially. I made the decision on how to display my descriptive bibliography by reading tutorials, as well as other descriptive bibliographies. There’s no one right way to do it, but it is a very specific type of writing. You need to decide what conventions you want to follow, and which you want to break.

I had freedom and creativity in deciding which books and magazines I wanted to include in the bibliography. We decided to include every book relating to paddling, however we excluded all magazines. When it came to regional canoe yearbooks, instruction manuals, and textbooks, we decided to include them.

Not only did this fellowship greatly expand my writing skills, it also exposed me to more environmental knowledge. As half of my major, I was really interested in applying what I had learned from my previous environmental courses to further understand and learn from the books.

In learning about paddling in the Adirondacks, I learned about many legal issues regarding public property versus private land. A lot of the waterways in the Adirondacks are privatized, and paddlers have been sued for paddling on private water. Personally, I believe in protection of the commons: we all should have access to parks and beautiful land.

I also learned expanded my knowledge about environmental philosophy by reading books that were included in my fellowship. Overall, this fellowship contributed to my development as a writer, but also my knowledge and perspective as an environmentalist.

Thoreau’s Political Activism: The Construction of Unconventional Masculinity

Published in St. Lawrence Review in 2017. Pages 66-75.

In “Civil Disobedience,” Henry David Thoreau asks his audience: “How many men are there to a square thousand miles in this country? Hardly one” (70). This question forces us to ask in turn, what type of masculinity does Thoreau consider to be ideal? Since gender is a societal construct, people have equated different traits with “femininity” and “masculinity” depending on the time and place in which they lived. Since no characteristics are inherently feminine or masculine, Thoreau was able to construct his own unique unconventional ideal of masculinity throughout Walden and his political essays.

Thoreau’s constructed masculine ideal favors the politically active, independent, and virtuous man, which can be seen by analyzing Thoreau’s critique of conventionally masculine men and his idealization of John Brown. However, although Thoreau constructs this new ideal of masculinity in order to aid society in abolishing slavery, his texts reflect and perpetuate the racial biases that were held by society during his time.

Essentially, Thoreau’s constructed ideal of an unconventional masculinity is an ideal of “white masculinity.”

This is precisely why Thoreau constantly finds inspiration of his ideal of manliness in John Brown, yet he never finds examples of manhood in the slaves he so fiercely defends in his abolitionist essays or the Native Americans he admires throughout Walden. This exemplifies how within his construction of a new ideal of masculinity, Thoreau unintentionally excludes all of his non-white audience members. Thoreau’s constructed ideal of manhood was unattainable for non-white men, since they did not have the societal ability to conform to it. Essentially, Thoreau’s constructed ideal of an unconventional masculinity is an ideal of “white masculinity.”

Feminist analysis is often not the first critical methodology that comes to mind when analyzing Thoreau, simply due to the utter lack of female characters in throughout his texts. However, according to Hall in Literary and Cultural Theory, feminist analysis can also be applied by observing the ways in which gender is preformed throughout the text (199). In the case of Thoreau, although there are very few female characters throughout his writings, we can apply the feminist analysis in order to analyze the ways in which he constructs a new unconventional ideal of masculinity throughout Walden and his political essays. 

In order to avoid perpetuating the inherent racial blind spots within gender studies, it is important to apply the race and ethnicity analysis in combination with the feminist analysis while analyzing Thoreau’s texts.

However, feminist analysis should not be the sole critical methodology that is applied to a text. According to Hall, one of the major critiques of feminist analysis is the “inherent blind spots” in regards to racial oppression (200). Since implicit racial biases characterize the feminist analysis, Hall continues on to warn us that “social constructs of race and gender should not be analyzed in isolation from each other” (201). This is due to the concept of intersectionality: different people are oppressed to different extremes based on the intersection of their gender, race, class, and sexuality. In order to avoid perpetuating the inherent racial blind spots within gender studies, it is important to apply the race and ethnicity analysis in combination with the feminist analysis while analyzing Thoreau’s texts.

The race and ethnicity analysis is similar to the feminist analysis in that most critics often overlook this perspective when analyzing Thoreau’s texts. This is due to the fact that Thoreau was an avid abolitionist reformer who fiercely fought for the rights of the slaves, making him extremely politically progressive for his time. However, it is important to realize that racism and ethnocentrism have been “entrenched in language, literature art, and social institutions” (Hall 265). This means that although Thoreau was politically progressive and wrote numerous essays in defense of the slaves, his texts still hold the same implicit racial biases that were held by the rest of society at his time.

Rather than calling Thoreau a racist or a sexist, it is more useful to instead analyze the ways in which his texts both reflect and perpetuate the oppression of people based on race and gender.

According to the article “Implicit Bias: Scientific Foundations,” implicit biases are stereotypes or beliefs that people “do not always have conscious, intentional control over” (946). In contrast to the belief that people always make explicit decisions, the science behind implicit cognition suggests that people do not have control over their “social perception, impression formation, and judgment” (946). Therefore, the implicit racial biases throughout Thoreau’s texts tell us more about his social context, rather than his character. In other words, Thoreau was probably not even aware of the racial and gender biases he held. Rather than calling Thoreau a racist or a sexist, it is more useful to instead analyze the ways in which his texts both reflect and perpetuate the oppression of people based on race and gender.

Unfortunately, there is little scholarship analyzing Thoreau through the feminist analysis or the race and ethnicity lens, and the scholarship that does exist is often misguided. For example, through the feminist analysis, many scholars attempt to analyze Thoreau’s performance of gender. These articles debate over whether Thoreau is the epitome of a conventionally masculine man or if he is a gender-bending, feminist icon.

Shamir attempts to weigh in on this argument with the claim that Thoreau continuously “traverses the gender boundaries instituted by his own culture” (182). In a critique of the other scholars who argue Thoreau was solely masculine or feminine, Shamir argues, “Such critics admire the untamed Thoreau…and forget about the Thoreau who dreamed of owning a home” (182). However, to argue that Thoreau was feminine simply because he wanted to take care of his home is lacking in that the argument only takes into account the societal constructions of gender. This argument simultaneously completely ignores his unique construction of an unconventional masculinity. Shamir’s argument is also flawed because it is not reasonable to argue that Thoreau was a feminist icon, since he never once fought for the right for women to vote, and he scarcely mentions females at all throughout his texts. 

It is more useful to instead analyze Thoreau’s attempt at creating a new ideal of masculinity that did not conform to, and at times directly contrasted with, the societal ideal of manliness.

Similarly, Walls also develops a flawed argument based on the conventional constructed ideals of gender in society. Walls argues that Thoreau’s philosophy throughout Walden “turns the basis for gender conventions into rubble” and that he was a gender-bending character (523). However, Walls fails to note that although Thoreau might have displayed conventionally masculine and feminine qualities, he was not thinking about gender in the same way that the rest of society does.

The debates over Thoreau’s performance of gender are flawed in that they are thinking about femininity and masculinity strictly within the societal conventions of gender. Rather than looking at the ways in which Thoreau is “feminine” or “masculine” by societal standards, it is more useful to instead analyze Thoreau’s attempt at creating a new ideal of masculinity that did not conform to, and at times directly contrasted with, the societal ideal of manliness.

Similarly to the feminist analysis, there is not much scholarship analyzing Thoreau’s abolitionist essays through the race and ethnicity analysis. Previous scholarship analyzing his abolitionist essays are often inherently flawed and carry the same racial biases that Thoreau himself held. For example, Nichols argued that while Thoreau’s new basis for society was “optimistic,” it was also “clear cut and practical” (20). What he failed to realize is that Thoreau’s vision for an ideal society was only practical for a certain group of people: white men.

Although on the surface Thoreau may seem politically progressive in relation to the abolitionist movement, he unintentionally perpetuates the oppression of non-white men throughout his political reform essays.

Likewise, most of the scholarship analyzing Thoreau’s texts through the race and ethnicity lens is also flawed as well. For example, Walls analyzes Thoreau’s racism against the Irish, since he holds cruel opinions of them. Walls argues that Thoreau’s immense disappointment with the Irish throughout Walden was not due to racism, but rather due to his tendency to identify with them. However, she does not take into account his construction of white masculinity, and the fact that his disappointment with the Irish resonates around the fact that although they have the societal ability to conform to his ideal, they choose to remain laborers instead of politically active men.

This explains why he is never disappointed with the Native Americans or the slaves; how could he be disappointed with them for not conforming to his ideal if they did not have the societal ability to? Therefore, it is important to analyze Thoreau’s abolitionist essays through a race and ethnicity lens. Although on the surface Thoreau may seem politically progressive in relation to the abolitionist movement, he unintentionally perpetuates the oppression of non-white men throughout his political reform essays.

In the article “Thoreau, Manhood, and Race,” Nelson summarizes my argument particularly elegantly. It is one of the only articles in which Thoreau’s texts are analyzed through a combination of a feminist analysis and race and ethnicity lens. In the article, Nelson argues, “Analyzing the institution of slavery helped Thoreau make arguments about reforming manhood. But talking about black people never seemed to provide Thoreau with useful examples of manhood” (78). This demonstrates how although Thoreau was creating a new ideal of masculinity in order to aid society in abolishing slavery, Thoreau unintentionally perpetuates inherent racial biases throughout his abolitionist essays. This argument is intelligent and convincing in that Nelson acknowledges the fact that Thoreau was constructing his own ideal of masculinity, rather than conforming to or rebelling against the societal ideal, and analyzes the ways in which Thoreau demonstrates his racial biases within his construction of masculinity. 

To argue that Thoreau conforms to the conventional masculine ideal would be to completely ignore his critique of the “manly” working men, as well as the significance of his critique in regards to the historical context of gender constructs in his time.

Not only did Thoreau’s ideal of masculinity simply challenge the conventional societal ideal, it also directly contrasts with it. When Andrew Jackson became the President of the United States, the most masculine man was considered to be the common, working man (Nelson 74). In contrast with this Jacksonian ideal of masculinity, Thoreau critiques the laboring men. In Walden, he writes that laboring men “cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men” (7). Thoreau could not be more explicit in his emasculation of the laboring men, which clearly exemplifies how Thoreau was thinking about manliness outside of the societal gender constructs. Thoreau continues to emasculate the working men when he tells us that “men have become tools of their tools” (29). Similarly, Thoreau writes that when a man is too busy working, “he has no time to be anything but a machine” (7). By comparing the working men to tools and machines, Thoreau is emasculating them to the point of dehumanizing them, therefore shattering the conventional masculine ideal of the working man. To argue that Thoreau conforms to the conventional masculine ideal would be to completely ignore his critique of the “manly” working men, as well as the significance of his critique in regards to the historical context of gender constructs in his time.

Another way in which Thoreau’s ideal of masculinity contrasts with the conventional ideal is in his critique of soldiers. By conventional standards, masculine ideals often correlate with physical strength and aggressiveness, which means that many consider soldiers to be extremely masculine. However, Thoreau strongly disagrees. In “Slavery in Massachusetts,” he writes of marines, “They are just as much tools and as little men” (103). His issue with the soldiers lies in the fact that they do not serve the government as “men,” but rather as “machines, with their bodies” (“Civil” 66). Thoreau’s emasculation of the soldiers is similar to his critique of the laboring men in that he compares both to tools and machines. His critique of the laboring men and the soldiers is based on the fact that these men are using their bodies only to perpetuate labor and war, yet they are not independently thinking against the system. In contrast with the conventional ideal of masculinity, Thoreau does not believe that strength alone is enough to be considered masculine by his standards. 

However, although Thoreau critiques the mindless, machine-like work that the laboring men and soldiers perform, Thoreau does not consider the intellectual to be masculine either. In Walden,Thoreau states, “The success of great scholars and thinkers is commonly a courtier-like success, not kingly, not manly” (13). This is because the scholars are not contributing much to society by solving problems “theoretically” but not “practically” (13). In his essay, “The Last Days of John Brown,” Thoreau asks his audience, “What avail all your scholarly accomplishments and learning, compared with wisdom and manhood?” (150). Again, Thoreau could not be more explicit in his critique of the intellectuals’ manliness. However, in contrast with the laboring men and soldiers who do not think enough, Thoreau is critiquing the intellectuals for thinking too much. The intellectuals are thinking independently, but they are not transforming these independent thoughts into practical political action. By critiquing the laboring men, soldiers, and intellectuals, Thoreau is constructing a masculine ideal in which a man is both thoughtful and active. According to Thoreau, the masculine man will think independently against the government and will implement action in order to fight for what he believes in.

Unlike the laboring men, soldiers, and intellectuals, John Brown combined action and thought in a rebellious act against slavery, making him the manifestation of Thoreau’s constructed unconventional ideal of manliness.

John Brown, the subject of many of Thoreau’s political essays, was the manifestation of Thoreau’s ideal of masculinity. Brown is famous for attempting to lead a violent slave revolt in an effort to advance the abolitionist movement. W.E.B Du Bois, a famous abolitionist who worked alongside Thoreau, considered John Brown to be “bloody, relentless, and cruel” (Petrulionis 199). Although many believe Thoreau was against violence altogether, Thoreau considers Brown to be a “man of great common sense,” a “firmer and higher principled man,” and a “hero” (“A Plea” 112-119). This forces us to question, what makes Brown different from the other soldiers?

In “A Plea For Captain John Brown,” Thoreau tells us the answer himself: “a man of ideas and principles…that was what distinguished him” (115). In a direct comparison to the laboring men and the soldiers, Thoreau tells us of Brown, “an intelligent and conscientious man is superior to a machine” (119). Thoreau considered John Brown’s violence to be masculine because Brown was fighting a “war for liberty” (112). Brown committed a violent act, but his was for a moral war “against the condemnation and vengeance of mankind” that characterized slavery in the United States (125). Brown’s violence was characterized by his independent thought against the government, in contrast to the soldiers, who blindly followed the government’s orders. Unlike the laboring men, soldiers, and intellectuals, John Brown combined action and thought in a rebellious act against slavery, making him the manifestation of Thoreau’s constructed unconventional ideal of manliness.

Thoreau’s ideal of manliness closely aligns with political citizenship.

Thoreau’s critique of conventionally masculine men, alongside his idealization of John Brown, gives us a better understanding of his constructed ideal of masculinity. In “Civil Disobedience,” it is clear that Thoreau’s construction of masculinity is characterized by “wisdom,” “honesty,” and “self-reliance” (70-71). He believes that Americans should be “men first” and “subjects afterwards” (65). Throughout the entire essay, Thoreau was constructing this ideal of masculinity by urging his listeners to think independently, question the government, and act out of principles and morality.

Therefore, Thoreau’s ideal of manliness closely aligns with political citizenship. The laborers were not masculine because they were too busy working to question the government; the soldiers were not masculine because they were “tools” of the government and they never questioned their actions; and the intellectuals were not masculine because they were thinking too much, therefore not performing any action at all. Many critics try to argue that Thoreau supports only the principle or thought behind Brown’s violence, but Thoreau tells us that Brown’s “behavior and words” were “heroic and noble” (“The Last Days” 147). Clearly, Thoreau considers Brown to be masculine because he was thinking against society and transforming his thought into political action, regardless of the violence that ensued because of it.

Even though Thoreau is politically progressive for his time, he unintentionally perpetuates the oppression of non-white men.

Since Thoreau’s constructed ideal of masculinity equates with political activism, only white men had the societal ability to conform to his ideal. This is why Thoreau could only find a manifestation of his ideal in John Brown: Brown had the privilege in society to be politically active and independent, in contrast to the non-white men, who were constrained by society and were therefore unable to attain to Thoreau’s masculine ideal. Ironically, although Thoreau uses John Brown as an icon for the abolitionist movement, his construction of an unconventional ideal of masculinity excludes the slaves he was defending. Although he fiercely fights for the rights of the slaves and admires the Native American way of life throughout his texts, he unintentionally reflects the strong implicit racial biases that were held by society at his time. Therefore, Thoreau’s constructed ideal of manliness essentially correlates with an ideal of “white masculinity.” Even though Thoreau is politically progressive for his time, he unintentionally perpetuates the oppression of non-white men.

Another irony in Thoreau’s ideal of politically active manliness is that although he refers to the State of Massachusetts as “her,” women could not even vote at the time, let alone be responsible for the institution of slavery. In “Slavery in Massachusetts,” Thoreau famously says, “My thoughts are murder to the states, and involuntarily go plotting against her” (108). Throughout the entire essay, the only feminine pronoun Thoreau uses is in reference to the State. He writes on the issue of slavery, “every moment she now hesitates to atone for her crime, she is convicted” (96). Throughout the entire essay, the “masculine active self” is in contrast with “the feminine and acted-upon other,” the State (Walls 521). For example, according to Thoreau, “it is men who have to make the law free,” meaning men have to fight against the State, “her” (“Slavery” 98). This is ironic, because men are the ones who created the law in the first place, not women. He continues to write, “Let each inhabitant of the State dissolve his union with her, as long as she delays her duty” (104). Clearly, Thoreau was attempting to create the “masculine active self” in juxtaposition to the female State, but in doing so he takes the blame off of the men in society for creating the institution of slavery. His gendered female State also perpetuates the oppression of women, since it creates the allusion that females were even partly responsible for the institution slavery. This is in complete disregard to the fact that they did not even have the right to vote at the time, let alone have the societal ability to control the State.

Rather than glamorizing the politically progressive Thoreau, we should instead analyze the ways in which his texts both reflect and perpetuate the oppression of people based on race and gender.

This gendered female State is widely ignored by previous critics while analyzing Thoreau. In “Walden as a Feminist Manifesto,” Walls argued that although Thoreau uses conventionally masculine gendered pronouns primarily, he is not misogynistic. Her evidence is from an entry in his journal, “I love Nature partly because she’s not a man” (524). However, Walls never acknowledges that Thoreau genders the State as feminine in a similar way to his gendering of the feminine Nature. After examining the ways in which Thoreau refers to the State, it is clear that he does not love the State in the same way that he loves Nature, meaning that her evidence from his journal is essentially insubstantial. Thoreau’s gendered female State illustrates his attempt at creating a divide between the institution of slavery and the politically active man, yet Thoreau fails to recognize that solely men were in charge of the State. Rather than blaming the men who were at fault, Thoreau writes that “the State was half-witted” and that “it was timid as a lone woman with her silver spoons” (“Civil” 80). A reader must wonder why the worst insult Thoreau had the ability to come up with was comparing the State to a “lone woman.” Gendering the State of Massachusetts contributes to Thoreau’s construction of an active, independent masculine ideal and contributes to his argument to free the slaves, but it also perpetuates the oppression of women in society. 

In “Slavery in Massachusetts,” Thoreau wrote, “They persist in being the servants to the worst of men, and not the servants of humanity” (103). But couldn’t we argue that Thoreau himself was a servant to the worst of men through his perpetuation of the oppression of people based on race and gender? Ironically, although he was attempting to aid in abolishing slavery, his political essays perpetuate racism by excluding non-white men. Similarly, although he was glamorizing the politically active John Brown, he never once mentions his mother or his sisters, who founded the Concord Antislavery Society (Petrulionis 19). How could he overlook the participation of his own mother and sister in the abolitionist movement, yet never fight for their rights at all? So, rather than glamorizing the politically progressive Thoreau, we should instead analyze the ways in which his texts both reflect and perpetuate the oppression of people based on race and gender.

How to Cite this Publication in MLA

Palmer, Katherine. “Thoreau’s Political Activism: The Construction of Unconventional  

            Masculinity.” St. Lawrence Review, 2017. pp 66-75.  

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