"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati, Date My Pet, South 85 Literary Journal and other award-winning sites.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

6 Things Every Professional Writer Can Learn From Dr. Phil...


Millions of Americans know him as the go-to guru for advice on love and relationships.
Others see him as the sage psychologist that pens best-selling self- help books on personal development, and Oprah‘s legal advisor.

Add one more title to his impressive resume: writing mentor.
That’s right. Though this may not be a role he professionally intended to assume, it’s one that I have identified and embraced in my creative career. And you should too.

As a faithful viewer of his show for many years, I’ve not only been entertained and enlightened by his no-nonsense approach to his guests‘ plaguing problems, I’ve also gleaned many lessons on how to be a more strategic, introspective, profitable writer as well.

Here are a few that will remedy your writing ills and provide for a more successful, (saner) career.

1. Dr. Phil is a unique communicator that dares to speak his own truths in his own language.
One reason that I’m a fan of Phil’s is that he can go from “geek speak” to “street speak” in a matter of minutes. In one sentence, he uses some deep medical terminology, and in the next, conveys his message like a common homeboy with southern charm.
He breaks all the rules: from frequently using informal words like y’all and ain’t, to clever, colorful expressions to make his point. Some of my favorites are “That dog just ain’t gon’ hunt” and “So how’s that workin’ out for ya’ pal?”

2. He shares effective anecdotes with universal appeal to connect with audiences. Two that stick out with me are his long-term marriage to his wife, Robin, and the struggles they’ve survived, and his dad being an alcoholic. In your writing, it’s important to apply anecdotes to illustrate important points, provide variety in techniques, and draw readers into your story.

3. He stresses the importance of introspection and personal accountability in diagnosing problems and devising a game plan for action.
In order to get where you’d like to be in your creative career, it’s crucial to take some inventory on where you’ve been, mistakes made in the past, and lessons learned. What clients or projects have been the most profitable? How can you manage your time better? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Where do you need to tweak your marketing plan to make more money? There’s great truth to the expression, “Those who fail to learn from the past are destined to repeat it.”

4. He aligns himself with the right people to open more doors.
There’s no disputing that his affiliation with Oprah made all the difference in his career. Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know. For the savvy scribe, this may mean tapping into social media outlets, networking through writers’ associations, and chatting others up via popular bulletin boards.

5. Dr. Phil is funny.
Even though his subject matter is often serious, he’s able to disarm people and make them feel more at ease by using humor and allowing them to sometimes look at the hilarity of the situation.
Savvy writers do as well. Humor is to writing what seasoning is to food. It adds flavor and appeal.

6. He walks the talk.
Though I don't agree with all his theories, assessments and recommendations in his "TV counseling sessions," his words do have merit. Here's a man who has been happily married to the same woman for decades. And I rarely if ever see any bad publicity about his personal or professional life. Wouldn't you agree? In writing, credibility is important to your image. If you give advice, why should readers value it? What qualifies you to speak on your subject matter? These are things to consider.


If you’re striving for “expert” status in your writing career, and the pay and perks that go with it, follow these six savvy tips. It’s just what the “doctor” ordered.

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10 comments:

  1. Great stuff, and I have to agree. Don't watch the Doc all that much, but what I've seen of him has impressed me. Never thought of breaking it down like this, so thanks for sharing this! :)

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  2. And this is why I read YOU. Love that line "humor is to writing what seasoning is to food".

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  3. Hey Karen,

    Glad you liked. I don't have regular hours with the Doc either...but when I visit, many times I take away something. Thanks for starting us off here.

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  4. Linda,

    You are truly a treasure! Much appreciation. :-)

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  5. Hi Jennifer.
    I love the doc and most agree with you.As you said when you watch it you always come away with something.

    I have been following your blog and am most inspired. I have a blog on literacy as I am trying to get our children more involved in reading and writing and also more parents aware. Any ideas on how to get my blog appealing.Visit me at literacyonmymingblogspot.
    Thanks for the advice. Keep up the wonderful work.

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  6. I love to hear from readers like you, Charmaine. Thanks so much for sharing your experience here; I'm glad to be an inspiration. :-)

    I applaud you in your efforts to increase awareness of literacy and the level of involvement.

    I did check out your site. You have interesting content and I enjoyed reading it.

    A few suggestions, as you have requested:

    1. I'd change the design to something more literacy-related like books, or pens and pencils, etc, or simply add graphics along those lines.

    2. I'd come up with a mission statement or statistics on literacy to tie readers in more, and place it in a visible section of the site.

    3. I'd include some book reviews of interesting reads for teens.

    Keep in mind that being relatable is important. Kids today (typically) have shorter attention spans and a seemingly greater need to be "entertained", no matter what the medium.

    Hope this helps. :-)

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  7. Hi Jenniifer

    Thanks for viewing my blog. It does help.

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  8. Thanks for letting me know. Glad to be of help. :-)

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  9. Great tips. I'm with you on having your own voice, having topics with universal appeal and aligning yourself with the right people. And credibiilty is extremely inportant in all you do.

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  10. Jennifer Brown BanksOctober 29, 2011 at 2:05 PM

    Thanks, Marcie.

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