Maggie Frank-Hsu

Writing & Editing Tips

The Tab Can

I struggle with the Tape, which is my name for the voice in my head that basically screams WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE every time I write something that I intend to publish. I still deal with that voice every week when I’m writing this letter. It’s part of the process. I have a few coping mechanisms to get past the Tape. The Tab Can Method, which is a simple method for generating a lot of ideas, is one of my favorites. Once upon a time… Fifteen years ago, when I was 24 (!) and attending the Columbia School of Journalism pursuing my master’s degree, I took a core curriculum class called Reporting & Writing… One. “RW1,” as it was known. My hazy recollection is that RW1 was a dull, hours-long weekly seminar. Our professor was Steve Isaacs. He was nuttier than Cracker

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What if No One Listens?

I was listening to the radio in my car a year and a half ago. (I could have sworn it was December 2019, but the internet says 2018 which is… huh.) Anyway, I was listening to the radio in my car a year and a half ago when I came across an interview with N.K. Jemisin. I had just finished reading The Fifth Season so I listened. She said about the book, “What I wanted to play with was the concept of, ‘When do we consider an apocalypse to have begun and ended?’ Because in a lot of cases, what’s considered an apocalypse for some people is what other people have been living every day. It’s not the apocalypse, it’s just, it’s an apocalypse for you.” [Italics mine.] … Now, let’s move from the soothing sounds of NPR to the dumpster fires of Facebook. I have

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Let me draw you a picture.

My voice when I write for you is a combination of 3 things: My personality My expertise My experience Like this! Venn Diagram: (If you know me, you know that I actually believe the concept of voice is more complicated than this. Because I make EVERYTHING MORE COMPLICATED. See: personality.) But setting that aside! I’ve been kicking around ways to encapsulate and simplify explaining the work of writing for thought leadership. This Venn diagram has been in my head for a while. When I started writing publicly on my own platform, the Venn diagram looked more like this… Venn Diagram, Version 1: I held back my personality and I made it smaller because I was afraid people wouldn’t like me and that my personality would undermine my authority. I held back a lot of specifics about my life and work experience because I was terrified my

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She didn’t need guts

A few weeks ago, I shared about a 16-minute documentary, Ten Meter Tower. I know you didn’t watch it, OK? You should watch it. I mean, read this email first but then click on the link at the bottom to watch. ANYWHO, the filmmakers set up an experiment where they asked random people to jump off a… ten meter tower, into a pool. (Ten meters = 33 feet). They filmed those random people at the top of the tower, struggling with indecision about whether to jump. Nothing would happen if they decided not to jump. They got paid either way for participating in the film. …. About halfway in, a woman stands alone on the diving platform. Actually she is bending over, hands on her knees, breath ragged with fear. She stands up resolutely, and walks to the edge. Then, just as

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What’s next.

Very little is actually being asked of us, as white people. To start, we are being asked one thing, really: Sit through an entire conversation where we hear about and examine how we are benefiting from racist systems that were created to protect and serve us. Don’t stand up in the middle of the conversation screeching, “BUT I’M NOT A RACIST!!1!1!!” and run from the room like our hair is on fire. That’s the initial request. Here is a take on that request from Osheta Moore. And I will speak for myself when I say that that initial request scares me. It’s sad that it does, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel scary to engage in conversations where I will learn about the ways in which I, as a white woman, have benefited from the oppression of

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Oh, I thought you meant those other white people.

Hey, I have some resources to share with you, which I’ll link at the bottom. First, let me explain why I’m sharing them. … I have watched this Toni Morrison interview clip before, and I caught it again yesterday: View this post on Instagram If another non-Black person asks me “what should I do about it?” this is the face and the answer you’re gonna get. Toni Morrison said it 30 years ago, I said it 2 years ago.⁣ ⁣ DO YOU HEAR US THOUGH??⁣ ⁣ #YOUFIXIT ⁣ #YOUDOYOURPART #IVEBEENDOINGMINE A post shared by Bozoma Saint John (@badassboz) on Jun 1, 2020 at 7:54am PDT In it, she says, “If you can only be tall because somebody’s on their knees, then you have a serious problem. And my feeling is that white people have a very, very serious problem. And

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Personal Grudges

Story time! Every once in a while I see a business-y advice post or email like this: 1. First, make a list of all the things you find tedious, frustrating, or annoying but that you have to do to run your business. Accounting, scheduling, writing all those blogs/emails/newsletters, learning how to use new technologies that you’ve been putting off forever. … All of the above are things that you can hire out to do. Why are you waiting on getting your time back, so that you can focus on the work you love …and make more money? 2. It might be worth hiring someone to write for you vs spending money to learn a skill. You will end up spending about the same in terms of education (and time) as you would to outsource. I learned this the hard way. Outsourcing things that

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Scrappy

We’re all ambitious here. “I want to do things better than anyone has ever done them before!” For some of us, our ambition perverts itself into a perfection we can never reach. “I want to do things the absolutely right way.” If you wait until you’re ready you’re going to miss opportunities. Business opportunities and opportunities to make money, yes. But also opportunities to avoid your anxiety over what might go wrong. If you wait until you have all your ducks in a row and you’ve researched everything, and you are 100% confident in what you’re doing, you start to build the thing up in your mind. “This is going to come out REALLY WELL. It has to now, I’ve put so much time in.” I was in a group coaching session for entrepreneurs this morning. The leader said, “We have

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​What if it is OK to have fun?

Fun can’t wait until I get all the important stuff done because I never get it all done. If I try to get all the important, responsible stuff done then I maybe get more stuff done that day. But I’m dead inside. 💀 My impulse to withhold permission to have fun until after I’ve been responsible “enough” reminds of the pre-Covid craze over de-cluttering. I’ve attempted de-cluttering over the past few years. It’s pretty impossible to keep it up with little kids. Nothing personal against Marie Kondo, but now that we are all here all the time, de-cluttering has gone from impossible to laughable. If I wait until my house is de-cluttered to give myself permission to enjoy it, I’ll be waiting forevah. But! I do love a clutter-free space. So nowadays, I create temporary clutter-free spaces when I need them. In other words… I just

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Protesting the Tidal Wave

So this is hard, huh? I’m annoyed with everyone and tired of everything. Including myself. I turn judge-y when I feel deprived. “Why are those cyclists riding in a group? They’re going to get cycling banned.” “Why does she feel the need to buy that much rice? She’s the reason I couldn’t get rice last week. Compulsive hoarder.” Et cetera. And people are judging me, too. I know because they tell me. I’m not covering my face right. I’m accidentally too close to them. There’s a right way to do this catastrophe! Do it right because what you do affects me! Then I read about the people who protested last weekend. I don’t agree with them, to put it mildly. I think they’re advocating for a decision that could reverse our progress and re-ignite the spread of the Covid-19. But I also

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I can’t give you childcare. So I give you this.

If I’ve preached anything, I’ve preached, “Give yourself permission.” … Permission to think bigger. To have big ideas that take time and space to form. Give yourself permission to give them that time and space. I serve women in my business. Therefore, I’ve also found myself preaching, “Get a babysitter.” Feel like you have too much to do and there’s never enough time? Get an after school babysitter from 3:30 to 5:30. Feel like a shitty parent? Get a babysitter and take Saturday completely off so that on Sunday when your child starts literally every sentence with “I want,” you don’t scream in his face, “WE ALL WAAAAAANNNNNNNT. ” Go without something else – eating out, haircuts, a gym membership, WHATEVER. But get a babysitter. Nothing is wrong with you. You are not broken. You are not bad. You need

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Writing Is Not a Hobby You Need to Take Up

I’ve seen a debate ping-ponging around the internet that’s silly and interesting all at once. Silly because… Everything. Has. Stopped. I’m not saying that means we all have nothing to do now. We all have more to do now than ever. But I’m saying… the way it was/what we had/life as we knew it… has stopped. Yet! The momentum from our absurdly productive society B.C. (before corona) continues to feed our anxiety over productivity in our current reality. Honestly, when I look at the image above in the context of reality as I know it on April 8, 2020, the first thing I think is … WHO CARES? Who cares if I disappoint this rando guy on Twitter because I didn’t learn to play the guitar, or create a family game night tradition that my children remember for the rest of their

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I come with answers.

A couple of podcasters interviewed me last week for the EFF Perfect show. (Great chat. It’ll be out in June.) We talked all about how perfectionism erases us. I said things like, “While we sit on the sidelines waiting to create the perfect thing, we end up never saying anything at all.” You know. My shtick. Toward the end, one of the hosts asked me, “OK, so how DO YOU actually get over your perfectionism to write and publish something?” Now, if you’ve ever asked me a question about writing, you know I respond with something like, “Well it often—but not always—depends and there are exceptions to every rule and I will tell you what I think but I WOULD ACTUALLY LIKE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK YADDA ET CETERA. …What were we talking about again?” But I didn’t do that this time because, you

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Everything has changed. But some things have not.

Everything has changed. But some things have not. For example, perfectionism was a thing before this disaster and it’s a thing now. In some moments, I would like to acknowledge that I have needs,but that I can’t meet many of my needs right now because of this bat-shit, grueling, terrifying international emergency. But I get the feeling that acknowledging that I have needs makes me a woman who is not doing this disaster “perfectly.” Instead, they (Social Media? Culture? Pretty sure it’s patriarchy. Anyway,)… they assert that acting “perfect” during the pandemic means I should pretend I have no needs. I should pretend I have no needs because my needs – to process my grief, to feel safe, to have space – can’t all be met right now. So why acknowledge that I have them? And I am wondering… What

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Read This While in Line for Costco

What really matters. A biz buddy of mine is organizing a free, low-tech summit called “The New Normal.” (More details below in the PS.) Anyway, she asked for volunteers to share presentations on how we’re “surviving this thing as a self-employed mom.” I texted her back, “My topic—working title—would be ‘how to continue to assert your personhood separate from your kids when you’re suddenly with your kids all the time’. Let me know if that’s too esoteric.” Nope, she said. “Not too esoteric. So important.” Oh, that’s good, I thought. Now… to get busy on devising the answer. … I’ve had ups and downs, but overall life has gotten better, happier, and more successful as I’ve gotten older. I am grateful for it. I have often wondered, “What will happen the next time I fall on hard times? What will happen

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