Holly Gonzalez Marketing & Copywriting

Smart, sophisticated copy that sells.

Category Archives: writing

Go Play Project: Day 14 | Book love


go play project, 30 days of collage, creativity challenge, bird by bird, books, Anne Lamott, Holly Gonzalez

Go Play Project – Day 14

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. 

–Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Go Play Project: Day 10 | Bird by Bird

go play project, 30 days of collage, creativity challenge, bird by bird, Anne Lamott, Holly Gonzalez

Go Play Project – Day 10

For my money, you won’t find a better book on writing than Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. My well-worn copy has been read and re-read countless times. She writes about the need for shitty first drafts, that perfectionism is the enemy of the people, and that if you want to turn someone in real life into a character in your fiction (and avoid getting sued for libel), the “best advice I can give you is to give him a teenie little penis so he will be less likely to come forth.”

As for today’s collage, it’s inspired by this passage, from which her book takes its title:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day… he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”



Go Play Project: Day 2 | On Killing the Butterfly

Go Play Project. Creativity. 30 days of collage

Go Play. Day 2. Killing the Butterfly

I’m reading Ann Patchett’s collection of her non-fiction works, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a gift from my ever-so-thoughtful friend Ellen Kanner. In “The Getaway Car,” Ann writes one of the most uncannily accurate descriptions of the writing process I’ve read, and since this Go Play Project about exercising those creative muscles in new, somewhat painful ways, this seemed particularly apt:

During the months (or years) it takes me to put my ideas together, I don’t take notes or make outlines; I’m figuring things out, and all the while the book makes a breeze around my head like an oversized butterfly whose wings were cut from the rose window in Notre Dame. This book I have not written one word of is a thing of indescribable beauty, unpredictable in its patterns, piercing in its color, so wild and loyal in its nature that my love for this book, and faith in it as I track its lazy flight, is the single perfect joy in my life. It is the greatest novel in the history of literature, and I have thought it up, and all I have to do is put it down on paper and then everyone can see this beauty that I see.

And so I do. When I can’t think of another stall, when putting it off has actually become more painful than doing it, I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air. I take it from the region of my head and I press it down on my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it. It’s not that I want to kill it, but it’s the only way I can get something that is so three-dimensional onto the flat page. Just to make sure that the job is done I stick it into place with a pin. Imagine running over a butterfly with an SUV. Everything that was beautiful about this living thing—all the color, the light and the movement—is gone. What I’m left with is the dry husk of my friend, the broken body chipped, dismantled, and poorly reassembled. Dead. That’s my book.

No wonder I was drawn to butterflies for today’s collage. Things of beauty, but ready to be killed off, one by one. For those of you who write, or paint, or draw—or any other creative pursuit— what’s your process like?





Open the Kimono and Run It Up the Flagpole

Let’s talk about business jargon. More specifically, let’s talk about how we can get rid of this blight on the language landscape. Business jargon doesn’t add anything to the conversation—whether it’s in person, online or in print. How corporate language ended up so garbled and meaningless is anyone’s guess, but, really, can’t we do better than “win-win,” “paradigm shift,” and my all-time favorite, “think outside of the box”? Here’s a nifty little site to help purge those bloated phrases from your business vocabulary: http://unsuck-it.com/. Just plug in your most hated office jargon, and poof, you’ll find the plain English translation. I personally pledge to obliterate “tweak” from my business-speak from this day forward.

Don’t Forget the Serpent

Diana Vreeland

Diana Vreeland was the legendary Vogue editor who shaped fashion history like no one else.  Influential, opinionated and original, she was the essence of fabulous. Visionaire recently published a series of her staff memos. Cryptic, brilliant, like little haiku jewels, these staff memos were dictated to her assistant from Mrs. Vreeland’s bathroom (how’s that for multi-tasking?). Some of my favorites:

The serpent should be on all fingers and all wrists and all everywhere…
The serpent is the motif of the hour in jewelry…

Nothing gives the luxury of pearls. Please keep them in mind.

Let’s promote grey.
For everything.

So often clients want to cram copy with every product feature, selling point and offer detail. If you ever wanted evidence that spare, elegant language trumps bloated, superlative-laden writing, just read Mrs. Vreeland’s memos.

I’ll be brief

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

That was supposedly what Hemingway penned when asked to write a story in six words. SMITH Magazine used the Hemingway anecdote to inspire its readers to come up with their own six-word memoirs. So far, writers both famous and obscure have submitted enough very (very) short stories to fill three books, with another in the works.  My favorite is Margaret Atwood’s: “Longed for him. Got him. Shit.”

But even more wonderful are those written by teens collected in I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets. Here are a few that I heart:

Hair’s pink to piss you off.

I fulfilled my awkwardness quota today.

My scars: Everybody stares. Nobody asks.

There’s something about paring your life down to six words that makes it more heartfelt and more honest. The exercise is challenging, yet liberating. It’s about making every word count and packing a punch in a small literary package. As for my story, here are a few thoughts:

Not exactly what I was expecting.

From Miami to Austin, so far.

Framed a picture. Changed my life.

Writing as fast as I can.

An anarchist in the knitting circle.

Everybody’s got a story to tell. What’s yours?