Playing the waiting game

I’ve just sent off my recently completed novel to some delicious-sounding literary agents, carefully selected after lengthy research because I think they’ll be perfect partners in my journey to publication.  Someone, somewhere, someday  will, will, will, take it on.

Optimism. The only worthwhile state of being. So now…it’s time to play the waiting game, which may be as long as 8 weeks.

How am I going to occupy my time during this waiting game? Am I going to sit glued to my email in-box day and night, hoping against hope that I’ll receive a positive email? Nope.

Am I going to allow my optimism to morph into self-doubt and angst? Well, I’m aware that this could happen. It has been known. Especially when there are knockbacks…

But how constructive is it, allowing oneself to be plunged into debilitating self-sabotage activities? Not very. Not at all. It really is a question of synchronicity, as long as what I’ve written isn’t a total pile of doggy doo-doos. It comes down to my work coming to the attention of the right person, at the right moment on the right day. That’s all. Rejections don’t mean my work IS a pile of doggy doo-doos. They mean that the stars just don’t happen to be aligned.

So this waiting game is going to be just that – a game.

“The beauty of playing the waiting game is that anything is possible. In that moment when you’re waiting, despite your nerves, your wanting, and maybe even your doubts, a whole universe of possibility is before you,” says Maxie McCoy in How To Play The Waiting Game Without Going Totally Insane

“What we are waiting for is not as important as what happens to us while we are waiting,” says Mandy Hale.


What will happen to me while I’m waiting is that I’ll complete the picture book I started an age ago, and will start to transcribe my family letters which date back to 1845, so they’re forever preserved. And I’ll be going on a trip to Canada to see the Whistler part of my family. Me…Whistler’s Mother. Just thought of that.

N.B. There is NOTHING about Whistler’s Mother that in any way resembles me!

And all the tasks I’m going to undertake won’t be displacement activities to numb my mind, simply a joyful grasping of opportunities to further my creative life.

Hooray for creativity!

Now that is MUCH MORE like me!

Frequent flyers

Frequent flyers? Ha! That fooled you. No, I’m not going to write about air-miles, or people who spend a load of time travelling on aeroplanes. I’m going to write about flyers and how to write them. Flyers as in leaflets, not as in things with wings that zoom about in the sky.

Here’s the thing about flyers, admirably summed up by Mitch Hedberg, that famous American comedian I’ve never heard of—or, of whom I’ve never heard, if you’re having a pedantic moment. He says, ‘When someone hands you a flyer, it’s like they’re saying,  “Here you. Throw this away!” (I did correct his punctuation.)As a copywriter of many years’ experience, I know how to create flyers. Yes, I do. Even if my clients don’t always. How often have I been told, ‘Oh, just use the same copy you wrote for the website’? (That was a rhetorical question. But the answer is—a lot.)

Here are some top tips for flyers:

DON’T use too much text

Here’s a flyer I found at random on the internet. It’s from Finland, and no, I didn’t write it. Would I read it, assuming I was fluent in Finnish? No, I don’t think I could be bothered. Too many words. Font too small. Not to mention, unattractive to look at, but that’s not my domain of expertise. By the way, it’s information about courses and events for young photographers, which, to me, isn’t immediately apparent.

Any positives? An interesting image. Text, at least, is divided up into paragraphs.

Here’s another flyer about a photography course:

Less information, for sure, but I would be tempted to read this and find out more. Obvious what it’s about at first glance. Eye-catching. Clear. Good straplines. Not much text.

Interesting fact: it’s harder to write less than it is to write more. It takes longer to distil what you want to say into fewer words. Please note, potential clients.

DON’T use time-limiting phrases

That doesn’t matter on a website, because it can be changed in an instant – but if you’re doing a huge print run, DON’T say things like, ‘I’ve been self-employed for the last 13 years,’ or ‘I’m halfway through a course on augmentative communication,’ – because in a few short months, your leaflet will be past its use-by date.

DO proofread and proofread again and then get a proofreader to proofread

As above, if you have a typo or incorrect information on a website, it’s not really that much of an issue, but on a flyer…it could cost you Big Money if you have to withdraw,or are unable to hand out thousands of copies and have to re-print.

Well, that’s my Public Service Broadcast about flyers.

You’re welcome.

Resolutions, Schmesolutions!

Don’t some people say, ‘My New Year’s Resolution is not to make New Year’s Resolutions’?


Seems quite defeatist to me. However, the thing is with me, I’m a bit on the obsessive side, so when I DO make resolutions, I bloody well STICK to them. (And I say this without wishing to make myself sound great. Remember: IT IS AN OBSESSION. There is little choice in it for me.)

This level of self-flagellating persistence can be good. Yes, I did run the marathon. Yes, I did plunge into the sea on a freezing cold New Year’s Day to raise money for refugees. Yes, I did do the Masters at university. And so on…  And, of course, I felt good about myself when I’d achieved my aim. But sometimes, it’s quite sensible to give up on things if they’re not working out or it’s detrimental to your health. That, for me, is where resolutions can turn out to be far more of a burden than a joy and I curse them with every fibre of my being.

weight-of-the-world-775x350Does this stop me from making New Year’s Resolutions? No, it doesn’t. I like fresh starts, even if it’s finishing a packet of Special K Red Fruits (other cereals are available) and opening a new one.

To save on the angst, I endeavour to make resolutions into possibilities, now. And what, I hear you ask, is the difference?

Here are two resolutions I’ve made. These are temporary, measureable, simply for myself.

  1. I will drink no alcohol at all in January.


I will not be alone… A YouGov poll has revealed a stunning 3.1 million people in the UK are planning to do Dry January 2018. Why am I doing this? Not to raise money for a good cause, but because I know I drink too much and I want to break the pattern. Not excessive drinking, but consistent drinking—a couple of glasses of wine at least every day. EVERY day. It’s a habit. At 5.15, I stop work and pour myself a glass of wine…and then another…

2. I will do exercises to get rid of my flabby inner thighs.


I’m not by any means overweight and my outer thighs are trim with all the horse riding I do – but I don’t like my inner thighs, and I want to be leggy again. Flamingo-like.


Only perhaps less pink.

Now, here’s one of my possibilities for 2018. A world without plastic packaging.

The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity. What a statistic THAT is! Recycling initiatives are great but have failed to stem the eco-damaging flow, so envisioning a world without plastic packaging and taking steps to make that happen is a slightly different and more radical approach. From that, on top of what I already do by taking my own reusable bags when I go shopping, and collecting all litter wherever I see it, this is what I’ll be doing:

  • order a weekly vegetable box filled with local produce
  • no longer buy pre-packed vegetables from the supermarket (all too easy to pick up when in a hurry)
  • use the paper mushroom bags provided in supermarkets for ALL loose vegetables
  • lobby supermarkets about their use of packaging
  • instead of clingfilm, use the wonderful beeswax food wrapping given to me by my lovely daughter-in-law, Breanna, for Christmas
  • start using bars of soap instead of pump-action liquid
  • look into refillable detergent supplies
  • follow initiatives such as  and

In other words…


Well, that’s enough resolutions for January 1st, 2018, don’t you think?!

Pigeon Post not as by Arthur Ransome

Oh happy days, Pigeon Post days, when I read everything Arthur Ransome had ever written and Titty was still called Titty and hadn’t had her name changed to Tatty or Kitty for the sake of…something or other, I suppose political correctness.220px-Pigeon_Post_cover

And this is the RIGHT cover.

But this blog isn’t about Pigeon Post by Arthur Ransome. It’s not about Pigeon Post either, for your information. I can’t even say, ‘Those were the days!’ because, in all honesty, it WAS before my time. Honestly.Junge_Frau_mit_Taubenpost

(But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we still had pigeon post?)

I’ve told you what this blog is NOT so now I’d better tell you what it IS. It’s about my pigeons and doves. I say pigeons and doves as though they’re different beings. They’re not.

“There is no strict division between pigeons and doves, which share certain features, including small, rounded heads, small, slim bills with a small fleshy patch at the base, rounded bodies with dense, soft feathers, tapered wings and short, scaly legs, and cooing or crooning calls,” says the RSPB. Generally, people called those feral birds you see in cities pigeons and the white peace-type birds doves. Then there are wood pigeons and collared doves…

This is me: (ish)

I feed the birds, and I can tell you it costs more than tuppence a bag. At the moment, I’m hand-rearing a pair of doves whose mother was killed by a cat and whose dad gave up on them, quite understandably, on Day 2 of their tiny lives.  They (Fish and Chips) are now about three weeks old and doing well. I kept them warm in my bra when they were very, very small. Really. And, no, they didn’t poo when in residence in my lingerie.

I love my birds. They light up my life. It’s been hard coming to terms with the cruelty of Mother Nature, who gives joy and heartbreak in approximately equal measures.


Eggs are laid, eggs hatch, little birds grow, oh joy. Then along comes a sparrowhawk or the neighbours’ cat and kills one…or more…with such savagery, and sometimes for no reason apart from the sport.

By Greg Poole

                By Greg Poole

Heartbreak for me, at least, though I have learned stoicism from the pigeons, who regroup and carry on. What else is there to do?

Or, perhaps there’s this…

I certainly am at the moment. Being mother to pigeon twins.


Lost in Translation – Izgubljen v Prevodu

Writing copy using documents and website material in translation for reference? I am, at the moment—and while it’s cause for some amusement, it’s not always the easiest thing in the world.

Lost in Translation

To be noted:

  1. I’m not having to translate from Chinese (it’s an English translation of Slovenian.)
  2. I’m not pretending I can translate accurately (especially not from Slovenian!) or that translation is easy—it’s just that if you represent a company wanting to market something in another country, why not make sure that the words you use actually make sense in their language?

Just to illustrate my lack of linguistic ability, when my dear son, Laurie, was in hospital in Grenoble, after a catastrophic snowboarding accident (broken neck) – I caused some bemusement and amusement to the medical staff there, after the operation to fix his shattered vertebrae, by informing them that Laurie was also suffering from ‘douleur terrible dans sa poignée’… terrible pain in his doorhandle… What I MEANT to say, was ‘douleur terrible dans son poignet’… terrible pain in his wrist. See, lost in translation.

187962 Pain_Swallower






So – back to Slovenian. Some of the notable phrases used to entice us to buy the product (a sort of resin-based worksurface) were:


wala-eh“Warmly hugging your customers and never letting them indifferent.”


“Various stains of food and cleaners you can easily wipe.”


While I can make sense of some of it…errrm, disguise of modernity? DEFINITELY lost in translation.

In other work I’ve encountered, this time English from Italian, apparently one farmhouse had three bedrooms for guests to dispose of. That was comparitively easy to work out. And did you know that, in China, CocaCola in translation came out rather bizarrely as Bite The Wax Tadpole?

It can be appealing, and sometimes, when I’m editing copy, I let quirky syntax and off-beat translations remain, as long as the sense is clear.  It adds character, and makes for interesting reading when copy can sometimes be so very DULL. Not when I write it myself, of course, she adds hastily.

Let me finish with my favourite YouTube clip, to illustrate the point that SOMETIMES it’s important to translate accurately.

(Other language schools are available!)

Now, in my very best Slovenian, let me say, ‘Bodite previdni pri prevodih!’ which I THINK means ‘Be careful with translations!’

But it might not.

Blog writers – do as I say, not as I do.

The confession of a blog writer.

do as i say







Got it?

Anyone who’s had the (dubious?) pleasure of working with me will remember very clearly what I always say about blogs. I say, with such authority, ‘If you’re going to have a blog on your website, you MUST provide new blogs on a regular basis. Nothing looks worse, when you open up someone’s website, than to see a blog which is months or even years old.’

Or centuries.







SO – here we have my website. The date is April 5th, 2017. The two latest blogs are dated February 7th, 2017 (JUST about acceptable) and November 22nd, 2016.



How very embarrassing!

I could spend hours justifying this lapse in my own professional standards, in a ‘the dog ate my homework’ sort of way, but I won’t waste your time or mine. It’s rather the same as doctors not looking after their own health or builders being the last people on earth to finish those DIY projects at home.

In honesty, my blogs are for entertainment and to add fresh copy to my website, with the idea that I get plenty of Google brownie points and am bumped up the rankings. Is this last point true or is it one of those urban myths put about by…whoever? I suppose blog writers like me who want more business! It’s really a hiding to nothing to update simply for the sake of updating. The aim should be to update in a timely manner in a way which gives benefit to your users – more traffic, increased engagement and fresh links…


Here are the conclusions to some research I’ve done in relation to blog writing:

  • Initially, a web page can be given a “freshness” score based on its inception date, which decays over time.
  • The amount of change on your web page plays a role – the more you change content, the more likely Google is to notice it, especially if it’s in the body text.
  • The more often you change the content, the better.
  • Think about adding completely new pages rather than just refreshing old ones.
  • Go for as many relevant links as possible, especially from sites that are themselves fresh.

    blog, blog, blog - blogging concept on a napkin with cup of espresso coffee

    Blog, blog, blog…




Why do I blog?

Because I enjoy it. Because I like entertaining people. Because it’s a way of practising my writing skills. Because it’s a way people can see what I do and how I do it. I have been given work on the strength of my blogs – their style and tone is not for everyone but it IS for some people. I don’t blog to sell anything – except perhaps myself. (No double entendre intended!)

Why should YOU blog?

Here’s what the experts say:

1) To drive traffic to your website.

2) To convert that traffic into leads.

3) To help establish authority.

4) To drive long-term results.







And if you DON’T like doing it, then you could always ask me.


Yes, do as I say, not as I do…

The rest cure

Do you know what? I didn’t realise the rest cure was an actual thing? I imagined it was just a generic term for enforced taking it easy, which is what’s happened to me since early January, thanks to an operation. I say thanks and I really mean thanks. And no, I haven’t got Munchausen’s Syndrome, “a psychiatric factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves.”

(Factitious? A new adjective for Donald Trump? No, too kind.)

Here’s me at the moment:






Why the thanks for a (painful) operation? (Is there any other sort?) Because I am completely hopeless about stepping back and saying no to commitments. It’s harder for me, takes more discipline for me, to take a rest cure than it is to carry on. I’m always telling myself I should do it – but never quite seem to manage it.

I spend money on self-help books like:





…which I never quite seem to have the time to read…


For years, YEARS, I have been schedule-driven in a crazy way, thinking I must adhere to a timetable in order to get everything done. My alarm is set for the following times: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday: 6.15 am. Friday – 5.15 am. Sunday – the Big Lie In – 7.15 am.

I leap out of bed (or crawl out of bed) and start on a list of tasks too many and too mundane to mention here involving family, dogs, horses, chickens, pigeons and doves, work, domestic duties, networking, writing, university, seminars, activism of various sorts. Just a normal sort of schedule really BUT…

  • I’m tired all the time
  • Joy has gone out of my life
  • Creativity? What creativity?
  • Things I enjoy doing have become a chore
  • I can’t be that pleasant to be around

Here’s something Maya Angelou wrote in Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now:

“Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” 

Here’s something I wrote:

“One day is not enough.”

So – back to the rest cure. It was devised in the late 1800s by Silas Weir Mitchell, an American neurologist, to treat hysteria, neurasthenia and other nervous illnesses. (Yes, I often descend into hysteria.) Since my operation, until recently I’ve been (mostly) confined to bed; I’m not allowed to do anything at all strenuous, like lifting a kettle (ha!) and I’m not allowed to drive. If following Weir Mitchell’s rest cure regime to the letter, I would be fed “a fatty, milk-based diet, force-fed if necessary – effectively reduced to the dependency of an infant.” Thank goodness husband Peter didn’t read that bit! He’s been absolutely tremendous.

I HAVE RESTED. What’s more, my mind has rested, for the first time in forever. It was actually quite scary at first, not being able to do all those distraction activities that kept me from…thinking too much? There was a massive hole where chaotic mind used to live.


The Chaotic Mind by MDK-Fractal (Deviant Art)

Hello, zen-like calm. Hello creativity. Thank you, operation. Thank you, rest cure.

My final words:

“Stay alert at all times, alert to any opportunity for rest.” (As miaowed by Ulysses Brave in The Wit and Wisdom of Cats and Kittens)




Simple is really hard. Really, REALLY hard.

Oh, I do love a paradox. Except, to say ‘simple is really hard’ isn’t one when it comes to copywriting. Even if your clients disagree with you. Those clients who give you an A4 page of densely written text and ask you to make it into a three-word slogan for them…(this has happened to me).

Yeah, yeah – the physical act of writing three words only takes a few milliseconds. Actually CREATING three words which adequately and engagingly sum up three hundred words takes A Lot Of Time. As my mate Steve Jobs once said, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” So it’s not just me. You might not believe me, but surely Steve Jobs’ opinions have some credence?







It’s not a new idea, either. Good old Gustave Flaubert said, in a coffee break while writing Madame Bovary, “To be simple is no small matter.” That must have been before 1880, which is the year he died. Unless he channelled something through a spiritual medium at a later date.

There are some brilliant examples of simple copywriting out there, in my opinion – and don’t forget that Steve Jobs and I are practically joined at the mental hip.

Take innocent. Not even a capital letter there. Yes, it’s simple, clean, no-nonsense, uncluttered. All of which absolutely matches their philosophy and their product and it’s further mirrored in their branding and design.


Look at their site navigation too – and the font they use:


It must be something about healthy(ish) drinks because the other exemplar for simple copywriting I’d like to highlight is a company called Oatly.






They’re Swedish but their grasp of simple witty English is second-to-none (well, apart from mine, that is!)

“To say more while saying less is the secret of being simple,” says that world-famous fellow I’ve never heard of, Dejan Stojanovic, from Kosovo.



Take Oatly Creamy Oat Fraiche:

“So f***ing fraiche. Are we allowed to say that? I really hope so. Well actually you can’t say that word because *** are unpronounceable…”

“It’s a lot like crème fraiche, but we used oats instead of cream to give you a different take on one of the most flexible ingredients in the modern kitchen. Straight up Swedish grown oats that will make whatever you want to make taste great (whatever that tastes like these days).”

Love it. Simple rules okay. The trick is to make the result LOOK simple even if it’s taken your hours of blood, sweat and tears.

And, believe me, (or Steve Jobs if you must) – simple IS hard.



Tone of voice topicality

“Don’t you speak to me in that tone of voice, young lady!”

Anyone remember that from their childhood? (Well, that’s if you were a young lady ever). Every copywriter has to be pretty damn hot at different tones of voices if they want to be successful, because each job requires something unique.

Tone of voice? But you’re writing, not speaking.  Yes, but writing has just as much in the way of tone of voice as speaking. (Not that I’m talking to myself, you understand. Isn’t that the first sign of madness. Okay, I’m WRITING to myself).

Anyway, there’s what you write (the content) and how you write it (the tone of voice). Tone of voice can kill copy, especially if it’s boring, and kill the message you’re trying to convey and potentially destroy the brand, product or service you’re promoting. No pressure then.





What tone of voice should you use in your writing? (She’s writing to herself again…)

That’s one of those, ‘How long is a piece of string?’ questions.

The answer? Whichever tone of voice is required. That simple. And that challenging.

This blog is written as me. Yours truly. Caroline Coxon. It’s how my mind works. (Scary, eh?)  It has my personality stamped all over it. Now, what adjectives might you use to describe its tone of voice? Nothing offensive please. Errrm, jokey, random, quirky, flippant, a stream of consciousness (Yes, I know that’s not an adjective) readable, funny, insane…whatever…

That’s fine for me, but would it work for a will-writer, a mortgage adviser, an engineer, a web-designer, someone from a different culture?









When I say probably not, I mean, there just might be an insane will-writer out there…BUT, most people would say, for their own copy…







Here, I think this is where my history of writing screenplays, novels and theatre pieces helps me so much. I am completely used to writing – and thinking and speaking – in character. Characters who may be light years away from my own.

I am not a burly 30-something male engineer.







I’m not a diminutive financial adviser.






I’m not Scottish.






But it’s possible for me to write as though I am, using appropriate vocabulary and the right tone of voice. And all those things I have done. And being an Italian wine importer. A high-end caterer. A techie nerd. A business coach. A garage owner. A hairdresser in Newcastle. A ski expert. A global traveller. And a whole lot more.

Me and my multiple personalities, eh?








But it sure helps with tone of voice.








Pigeons’ Pride

Hot on the heels of Pride Brighton & Hove, my pigeons are celebrating in their own way in the garden. It’s official – well, has been for some time – Angel and Daemon, females, are in a loving partnership. It’s beautiful.










Pigeons are notoriously difficult to sex. Even experts will admit that. Young pigeons are pretty much impossible to sex, though I’m sure they know quite well themselves! For us mere mortals, we have to rely, largely, on observing their behaviour. Male pigeons tend – note the modifier – TEND – to strut about a lot, with chests puffed out, making what I can only describe as growly coo noises like avian Tarzans.

Hence, the pigeon who started life with me, fondly called Penelope, with pink ring on one leg in pure gender stereotyping, is now Mr. Penelope.







Except…who knows?

I very much want my pigeons to breed. I’ve always wanted to be a pigeon granny, she says without a hint of anthropomorphism. Imagine my delight when Angel and Daemon indulged in a lot of billing and cooing and then one of them laid two eggs. (Pigeons only ever lay two eggs, about 48 hours apart so when they hatch, after 17 days, the necessarily intense period of care is staggered).

They were devoted parents-to-be, never leaving the eggs unattended, taking it in turns to sit, one taking the day shift, the other taking the night shift. Time passed…much more than 17 days…

One day they were both out together and Daemon, the one I thought was the male, was displaying again. The eggs were abandoned. Infertile. “Ah well,” I thought. “Young birds. Perhaps this was a trial run? Maybe next time.”

Next time happened very quickly. Another two eggs. Then…ANOTHER two eggs as well. FOUR eggs. Whoaaaaaah!

Research revealed that this only happens when two females pair up and both lay.







It’s very sweet. They are devoted to each other but, sadly (for me?), their eggs will never be fertile.

It happens, apparently, when there is an odd number of pigeons in a group. My pigeons and doves have always been bought in pairs – which is to say, two at a time, not pairs as in a male and a female. Sadly, again, predators or other natural causes have meant that I’ve lost some. Which breaks my heart.

Interestingly, and I’m not sure what I feel about this, at Lancaster University scientists have managed to breed a strain of gay pigeons. This is in order to reduce the pigeon population. Less fertile eggs. Less pigeons.

Well, Angel and Daemon are happy. I have NOT, as pigeon breeders suggest, removed their eggs each time they lay. I just let them do what they do.

My white doves, Una, Paloma and Blanca (Faith disappeared – so three again)… Una and Paloma have paired up. I’m waiting for them to lay.

Then I’ll be waiting to see what happens next.






Life is so joyful.