Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Robroy’s occupation

Friday, October 28th, 2011

When Robroy arrived in Baltimore about 20 years ago, I had no occupation.  No one would buy the stories I was writing.  Late nights at Funks Democratic Coffee Spot in Fells Point, I made new friends who argued passionately that the wealthy corporations were corrupting the government, wiping out the arts and oppressing the masses.

So I think I understand where Occupy Baltimore is coming from.  It made me mad when I read yesterday that our Mayor said she wanted to avoid a “violent exchange” with them.  I decided to see for myself what’s going on.

First thing I noticed, walking among the tents downtown, was how much my vantage point has changed since Fells Point. Certain aspects of the protest made me feel confronted.

For example, a guy held a sign that said: “From my corner office, everyone looks so small.”

That’s weird.  You know, I actually have a corner office now.  My writing studio is near the top of the Bromo Seltzer Tower.  I’m right where he says I should not be, yet people don’t look small to me.  As a matter of fact, they are paramount.  I want to know their stories.

I asked him why he felt that way.

“It’s ridiculous that the big corporations get huge tax breaks and pocket the money,” he said.  “The government should force them to reinvest in jobs.  Unemployed people like me need help.”

These are hard times.  The job market changed fast.  It used to be that you owed your employer 40 years and in return they owed you a rewarding career, health insurance and a pension.

Now what do we owe each other?

For me, it does no good to blame others.  I discovered I am the author of my problems.  Just as I am the author of the solution.

It keeps me occupied.

Your take?

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Got any stories?

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

One of Robroy’s favorite things to ask a CEO is, “Got any stories?”

After a couple of decades of listening to their replies, I’ve finally made an important distinction about story-tellers.  The good ones teach us something about themselves.  And the great ones teach us something about ourselves.

Imagine having the ability to do this with your clients and employees.  To help them learn more about themselves by the stories that you tell.  Imagine the bond of trust, appreciation and loyalty you’d develop.

“Does that really work?” you ask?  Well, let’s see what we can learn from five Baltimore CEOs who, by Robroy’s definition, are great story-tellers:

1. Greg Cangialosi, CEO of Blue Sky Factory, never was a sales guy, and yet sold his business for millions of dollars.

2. Bernie Dancel, CEO of AscendOne, realized that, unless he helped others, they would never be free.

3. Marty Mintz, CEO of Northern Pharmacy, withstood large, faceless competition to keep the corner drug store open for its 70th year.

4. Myra Norton, CEO of CommunityAnalytics, had to experience great sorrow before coming to trust her team.

… and, finally, a lesson from the past on what not to do:

5. Captain Isaac Emerson, CEO of Bromo Selzter, advertised a headache remedy for troubled marriages, while building monuments to his own failed marriage around Baltimore.

As for me, I’d say I learned that I am human.  I’m afraid of being misunderstood.  I’m afraid of losing business and losing love.  I’m afraid of having my loved ones die.

But I’m not afraid to go for it all, anyway.

How about you, boss.  Got any stories?

See Robroy LIVE!  http://bit.ly/qhmqek

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A portrait of the writer as a young man

Friday, July 8th, 2011

At the Marketing Excellence Awards dinner last month, I met a rising senior from a local university who reminded me of me.  I’ll call him Ernie.

Ernie has no clue what he wants to do when he graduates. I asked what he’s passionate about, and he said writing short stories and falling in love. I asked why.

“To me, falling in love is like writing in dreams,” he said. “It’s so beautiful. It’s so true. Then you wake up, and it’s gone forever. And you realize you never really had it.”

I was impressed. When I was his age, I could not even have come to an event like this, due to the fact that my only tie still had ketchup on it from the last Valentine’s Day.

“Kid,” I said, “you should be a copywriter.”

“No way,” he said. “I only write from the heart.”

“That’s great,” I said. “Stay true to what you know. There’s no reason to give that up, ever. Keep writing from the heart, no matter what you’re writing.”

He said, “Right,” and looked away, bored.

Exactly as I would have done.

What about you?  What advice would you give a young person who reminded you of you?  Leave a comment below.

(And while you’re here, have another Robroy.)

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5 steps for guest bloggers

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Every now and then, someone notices how passionate you are about your topic, and asks you to submit a guest post to their blog.

You graciously accept.  After all, there’s nothing you love better than sharing your passion with others.  But what is the best way to structure a blog post?

1. Start with the Problem: For example, in this post, the problem is that it’s hard to write a guest post.

2. Dwell on the Consequence: If you don’t, you won’t be able to share what you are passionate about as clearly.

3. Find the Turning Point: What does it take to turn the problem around?  You know what to do.  You’ve lived it.

4. Share the Vision: Here you create the possibilities you have been imagining, so that others can see what you see.

5. Reap the Reward: Wrap your post with something that gives readers a reason to dream.

Be a proper guest.  Apply the 5-point structure to your topic, and you will make an imprint on the world.

That’s all we ask.

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Robroy’s writing roost

Friday, November 19th, 2010

All my life, from the top bunk to the treetops to the roof of my 4-story college dorm, I’ve always tried to get as far off the ground as possible.  Not sure why.  Reaching new heights has been even more important to me as a writer.  So, when it became time for Robroy to find new headquarters, I started thinking big.

Several business friends offered to share their offices with me, but I wanted a place that was distinctly my own.  A place from which I could write my powerful, positive stories about living and working in Baltimore.  A symbolic place.  A magical place.  And most of all, a tall place.

On a whim, I decided to apply to the Bromo Seltzer Tower.

“I thought they only accepted artists,” you say.  That’s what I thought too.  And like you, I wasn’t convinced I qualified.  Sure, Robroy’s business stories borrow a few literary elements.  They have plot, character, scene and story structure.  They sell.  But are they art?

I knew of another guy in town with my problem, a visual artist, Robert McClintock.  His commercial success threatened his status as an artist.  I was on my way to interview him for the Baltimore Business Journal (here’s the column), when I received an email on my Blackberry from the manager of the Bromo Seltzer Tower.

“Congratulations!” he wrote.  “You’re exactly what we’re looking for.”

I chose a studio on an upper floor.  It’s only 330 feet high.

But it sure feels good.

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Madman, craftsman, critic

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

With more and more businesses participating in social media, the pressure to be creative is getting intense.  Now every tweet needs to be interesting.  Every blog post, a ‘wow’.  And so everybody wants to know: Does Robroy have a process for that?

Hold on, let me check.  Why, yes, here’s something.  I call it the Madman, Craftsman, Critic process.  Catchy name, I know.  You can use Madman, Craftsman, Critic (or Madwoman, Craftswoman, Critic) to develop everything from business growth strategies to sales presentations to marketing content, tweets, blogs and more.  It also works for paintings and poems and love songs.  And Robroy posts.  Anything creative.  But only if you are willing to concede that you have three strong-willed personalities within you who all want to dominate the creative process, and it’s your job to keep them in line.  They are:

1. The Madman

His cheeks are tight and bright from holding back gales of laughter while dashing around the room goosing people.  The Madman is you at your irrepressible best.  Your passion, your spark, your zest for life.  He loves what he does and is inspired by finding original ways to express it, regardless of what anybody else is doing.

2. The Craftsman

After the wild hilarity has blown over, enter the Craftsman.  This is your technical side.  Fastidious, skillful and proud, the Craftsman makes logical sense of what the Madman has left behind, which he measures, cuts, joins and assembles into something structurally sound and useful.

3. The Critic

“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” says the Critic, peering over his glasses.  “Your masterpiece is stirring, indeed, but riddled with errors.  A detail is missing here and here.  And the surface must be rubbed, sealed and smoothly coated.  Really, gentlemen.   In the future, I insist we bring me in sooner.”

This is you and your high standards.  Ultimately accountable for whether the thing works or not, the Critic controls quality in matters large and small.  It would be a disaster to involve the Critic too soon in the creative process, as he would scold and nit-pick and criticize his brothers until they broke his glasses and made him cry.  Another common mistake is letting the Madman hang around so long that he burns it all down with his hair.  Finally, try not to allow the Craftsman to start or finish the project, as it will end up technically perfect, but emotionally stiff as a board.

Madman, Craftsman and Critic, in that order.

But, hey, you’re creative.  How does it happen for you?  Have your Madman/Madwoman leave a comment below.

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Thanksgiving blues

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

This Thanksgiving, Robroy (f/k/a Campus Scout) is especially thankful for my wonderful readers from the University of Illinois who are still with me after all these years.  To show my appreciation, I thought you might enjoy a flashback to the emotional experience of being a freshman and going home for the holidays for the first time.

Here’s an excerpt from Campus Scout’s “Thanksgiving Blues,” courtesy of the Daily Illini newspaper, November 25, 1987:

Do Scout a favor this weekend when you go home.  Try this experiment.

After sitting and chatting with the family, excuse yourself to go take a shower.  Halfway into the shower, pick up a bottle of shampoo and drop it at your feet.

Boom.

Listen.  Within seconds, someone will come running to see if you broke open your crazy head.

Someone still cares about you, even now that you’re a grown up, mature college kid.

So have a good Thanksgiving, paleface.

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Tender

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

As a hyper-sensitive writer, Robroy has to wear special equipment to protect his feelings.  And yet I still get stung.  Most recently, a former high school classmate and I reconnected via Facebook.  She recalled my sense of humor as “cruel.”

goalieThis surprised me.  I wondered if it came from assignments I read aloud in our English class, like the one about my favorite sport, hockey.  In that essay, I described the goaltender’s gear: He wears oversized leg pads.  Protection for his abdomen, chest and shoulders.  A large rectangular forearm blocker, and a padded catcher’s mitt.  He has a helmet, chin guard and facemask.  In fact, except for an inch and a half of neck, the goalie’s entire body is completely protected.

In my paper, I asked, What’s the object of hockey?  To hit the goalie in the neck.

That’s irony, right?  The opposite of what you’d expect, and (given that I played goalie) the opposite of how I really feel.  I’ve always preferred deflective irony to cruel sarcasm — but I should not be telling you this.

I don’t want you to know my weakness.

(Read more posts below.)

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