Digital tools and resources for creative people
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A note from Jane

I have a jacket pin I sometimes wear that looks like a miniature award. It says: "Picked my battles."

While it’s not a fashionable idea, I remain convinced of its wisdom, especially in my personal life, where early on I never picked my battles. I still feel bad for my ex, who I fought with on every bit of minutiae, like the surplus documentation and receipts he stored under his keyboard, where he thought I wouldn’t notice. I noticed.

But in my work, there are a handful of battles that I wish I’d fought harder to win and that I’m still fighting in my head.

When I took over as publisher of Writer’s Digest, I became newly responsible for the online education division. Back then, competition was light and our model focused on weeks-long classes, mainly driven by message boards, writing assignments, and emails between instructors and students. So my team launched a live webinar series: short classes, one hour, at a low price. I suggested $25 to maximize turnout and get people to try something new.

The executive team thought that was too low, so I reluctantly agreed to $49.

The webinars were an immediate success. This emboldened my superiors, whose business philosophy at the time was "charge more and serve fewer." The price went up to $79 over my objections. Students still enrolled at a rate to produce the same profit, and I ultimately had to give up the battle. We never even tested a lower price point.

When I started hosting my own webinars in late 2019, I could finally price the way I’d always wanted. And the results have been gratifyingly positive, both in terms of registration and student feedback.

Honestly, I don’t think I could have ever won that battle with my superiors, even if I had collected the evidence I wanted. We simply had different visions of the business. I wanted to serve the many; they wanted to serve the few. Once I realized that, it wasn’t about picking battles; it was about deciding to change teams.


P.S. Most popular post this week: Debuting at the Age of 66

P.P.S. There is more to this newsletter. Keep scrolling!

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Jane’s Electric Speed List
Here are some of the latest things I’ve discovered. (I have not been paid to mention any of these resources.)
How to make and accept international payments without the hassle or high fees
Not everyone is US-based and not everyone can use PayPal, which presents challenges for people working together across the globe. One possible solution is setting up an account with Wise, which facilitates payments to/from 80 countries. Yes, there are fees, but it’s likely less than what your average bank charges. Wise allows you to receive money like a local in the UK, Europe, US and other countries.
Generate custom illustrations for your project
Doodle Ipsum is an easy-to-use illustration generator where you choose a style (random, flat, hand drawn, abstract, etc), indicate a proportion, and specify a background color. Fun to experiment with!
A superlative resource for learning pronunciations
I regularly visit Google and ask, "How do I pronounce ....?" Sometimes the results are OK, but I’m left wondering if the information I found was accurate. Now I’ve found a better resource for checking pronunciations: Forvo. It claims to be the world’s biggest resource on the subject and includes 430 languages.
Create better infographics and worksheets
If you need to create a visual for your book, report, or website, Venngage looks quite appealing these days. A free account gives you five designs and six image uploads, with access to a library of icons, widgets, and templates. Consider it akin to Canva, only more oriented toward business documents. You can create timelines, worksheets, schedules, and more.
Find the Memoir Structure That Works for You with Lisa Cooper Ellison. $25 class. Wednesday, November 17, 2021. 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. Eastern.
Nov. 17: Find the Memoir Structure That Works for You with Lisa Cooper Ellison
Does your memoir stumble in and stumble out? Or perhaps your straightforward, chronological structure feels a little boring—but if you don’t start at the beginning, where do you start? In this class for beginning to intermediate memoirists, editor Lisa Cooper Ellison will explore the most common memoir structures, as well as a few nonstandard forms, and explain the skills required to capitalize on each. This class will help you avoid frustrating mistakes that can plague your project for years.
Your turn: At-the-desk exercises
In the last issue, I asked you to tell me your favorite at-the-desk exercise or stretch. Here’s what you said:

  • I find my eyes cause the biggest struggles for my writing recently. When I remember to implement it (and setting a timer helps), the 20-20-20 rule makes a huge difference. Every 20 minutes, look up for 20 seconds at something 20 feet away. —Deb Raney
  • I’ve been told repeatedly by experts: I’ve got to get up. One of my best gimmicks is to keep chugging water: my bladder insists on a short walk. —David Shapiro
  • Favorite desk exercise: Standing 7-minute workout published in the New York Times. —Valerie Harms
  • I enjoy a bit of yoga from time to time: I have just enough space to do a sun salutation or two between meetings. But I also keep a set of 5-pound hand weights on the desk so I can do random sets during the day. If I can see the weights, I use them. Otherwise, they end up collecting dust in a corner! —Mica Kennedy
  • I don’t exactly have an at-the-desk exercise or stretch, but I do have something called a "leaning seat" or Mogo Seat. It’s a one-legged seat with a ball at the end, which I sometimes use at my standing desk. It’s kind of like a persistent balancing exercise, which is great if you’re a fidgeter, and it prevents the problem of just locking your knees for hours on end, which can be an issue if you work at a standing desk all day. It also makes you look absolutely ridiculous, which appeals to me for some reason. —Len Epp
  • Not a stretch as such, but I do have an electric foot massager under my desk, which delivers 15 minutes of bliss twice a day when I’m writing! —Melissa Addey

Next question: Best gifts for writers? Share your ideas by replying to this email, or discuss on Discord.
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Electric Speed is a free newsletter by Jane Friedman that launched in 2009. More than 25,000 subscribers receive it. You can support it by (1) sponsoring an issue or (2) sharing it with friends and colleagues. "At electric speed, all forms are pushed to the limits of their potential." —Marshall McLuhan
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