Do You Look like a Writer?

Naturally, I teach my students to write, but what gets more attention is inspiring them to look employable. Before job fairs and interviews, I’ve taught men to choose, tie, and wear a tie, and women to update their hair styles and choose modest, professional, flattering clothing. Want a real job? Then learn to look like a grown-up. If you’ve been an adult for a while, it could be time to update your hair style and the cut of your jackets.

This advice for male students reminded me to pass this idea along:

So let’s encourage writers to the same career success. Most of us were nerds in high school. Many hang onto that image, even priding themselves on not caring for their looks. For some, it’s a defense, either fearing rejection, not realizing how good they’d really look if they gave the picture the right frame, or not knowing they could ask for help with this. Some even hide under a mop of hair and shapeless clothes to avoid a social life. Some would do something more for their looks but assume it would take too much time.

Actually, a great hair cut and a planned wardrobe can be great timesavers. And sure, you can be sloppy and get away with it. People will only think you’re eccentric. Aren’t all writers a little nuts? But writers are artists, and many of us consider beauty a cardinal virtue. Why not wear that on our sleeves? Why not look our best and even learn public speaking skills?

So if you haven’t changed your appearance since high school, try an experiment. Get a makeover artist to design a real hairstyle and see how you like it. Learn to use makeup effectively. Find out how it feels to let your beauty shine on the outside. (I had help myself: editing for image consultants has been one of the perks of my job.) I think you’ll find it raises your confidence and encourages your creativity. It can become a career breakthrough to be noticed in a crowd and discovered to be brainy as well. Go ahead–have it all!


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All rights reserved.

Friday Flick: Real Beauty

Even if you’ve seen this classic commercial, it’s a great reminder that what we see in certain environments bears no resemblance to reality.

It’s also a reminder that some revisions go too far.

Dove Evolution of Beauty commercial

Dove Evolution of Beauty commercial


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Book Surgeon

“Book doctor” may be one of my roles, but you should meet The Book Surgeon! More than a typical altered book artist, Brian Dettmer literally carves books into new designs, adding nothing, exposing only words and images that were already there. It’s hard to choose a favorite. I’ll start with one that’s still obviously a book–not a bad thing, you know. You’ll want to see them all. Inspiring! I imagine long-gone original authors (and encyclopedia editors) smiling down on Brian for these dissections that bring new life.

Brian Dettmer, The Book Surgeon
Work by Brian Dettmer, The Book Surgeon

For more, see the My Modern Met blog post my son forwarded to me.

Their interview with Brian Dettmer.

Brian’s site 

His Flickr account.

A time-lapse video of one of his projects.

Recent comments and examples selected by other bloggers: 


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Photo lifted from for unsolicited publicity purposes.

If You Build It, They Will See It

Some people go to all the trouble of designing and producing buildings, only to make them ugly. Why not hire an architect who understands proportions? Select beautiful colors for the paint? Arrange landscaping that beautifies? Did they really save time and money by building ugly?

Birdhouse Among the Flowers

Beauty is one of my core values.

Even if beauty isn’t one of yours, consider how much advertisers spend to catch our visual attention, and remember that visual learners are in the majority. So whatever you make, you might as well make it beautiful.

I’m preparing for a new class. Therefore, I’m revising a PowerPoint ancillary beyond recognition, saving few textbook images and throwing the rest out. Not only do these slides need editorial improvements and additional content, they’re unbearably ugly. The color scheme lacks contrast, the fonts are small, and the text is dense; therefore, it’s unreadable. There’s no attention to the symbolism of color. The illustrations are cheap clip art–worse than none at all.

Beauty doesn’t always have to cost a penny more than ugliness. It does require time and caring. It’s only a little more time and caring, compared to the scope of the whole project. So as long as you’re building something, please make it beautiful.

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011

Photo © DM Baker, iStockPhoto #000001800069

Friday Flick: Arianna Huffington on the Secret to Success

Arianna Huffington at TED
Arianna Huffington at TED

If Arianna has time for this success secret, what’s the matter with the rest of us?