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  1. Heading to IKEA? Bring a Map and a Compass

    February 5, 2017 by Diane

    man box prefabricated parts designer
    I needed a new set of Pyrex. My old set broke in the kitchen sink because my trigger finger acts up at times, and things slip from my grasp. I had leftovers to freeze, and nothing to freeze them in, so I did the smart thing.

    I headed to IKEA.

    I’d heard they sell Pyrex, or something like Pyrex, cheap.

    I should have stayed home and glued the old set back together.

    In case you’ve never been to IKEA (and trust me, you never want to), let me enlighten you on the IKEA experience.

    First, the parking garage.

    If you enjoy driving around a concrete maze following signs that point to an entrance which never actually materializes, then you’ll love the parking garage at IKEA. The entrance, I concluded after twenty minutes of driving deeper and deeper into the bowels of the garage, is a mirage. Or a rumor. There is no entrance to IKEA. I was ready to follow the exit signs instead, exits leading NOWHERE, I might add, when lo and behold I spied a bank of glass windows, and what looked like an escalator, and people going up.

    At last, I had arrived.


    Miraculously, I found a parking spot nearby, before I lost sight of the entrance altogether. The parking spot may have been a loading zone. Or slotted for emergency vehicles. No matter. I calculated that I’d be in and out of the store in twenty minutes. No harm, no foul.

    Little did I know.

    Little did I know what awaited me inside the hell known as IKEA.

    I took the elevator. It was steps from my car, and seemed like a quick way in and out of the building. So I pushed the button to call it forth.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    Finally, the doors opened.

    A man emerged, pushing a flatbed longer than the New Jersey Turnpike, loaded with boxes and lumber and some kid riding on the back. Next was a woman with a modest-sized cart the size of a city block. A third cart, loaded so high I couldn’t make out whether there was a man or woman pushing it, nearly ran me over. I began to wonder about the size of the elevator, when at last it was empty.

    I got on, with a geeky-looking man. “Which button do I push?” I asked. He pointed to the one labeled “Main Floor/Showroom.” Up we went.

    The doors opened. I followed a line of people and found myself on an escalator, and stepped into what appeared to be a gigantic dollhouse.

    The Showroom.

    The Showroom is a series of model rooms, furnished with IKEA chairs and tables and bookcases and beds and couches and paraphernalia, made to look like real rooms in real homes in real neighborhoods. The Showroom is a fun place to browse.

    For about sixty seconds.

    After ten minutes of living rooms, it’s bedrooms. Then bathrooms. Then kitchens, kids’ rooms, family rooms, dining rooms, guest rooms, closets, cupboards, and IT NEVER ENDS! On and on it goes, a maze of showrooms, and there’s a fat guy in sweatpants lounging on a red couch looking dazed. In one of the fake bedrooms, I saw a man wearing pajama bottoms. I think he had moved in.

    The scary thing is, there’s no way out. You’re forced to follow the arrows which go left, then right, then left again, then right, then left, and left again, and right, and right again, and after thirty minutes of traipsing through The Showroom, everyone is shuffling like zombies, pushing big empty carts.

    And then it’s The Marketplace.

    The Marketplace is where you fill your big empty carts. By this time, you’ve been brainwashed into believing you actually need everything you’ve seen in those model showrooms, so you start grabbing. Wooden hangers, eight to a bundle, $4.99. A bamboo cutting board, $7.99. Aha! Pyrex! I loaded up. Sheets. Pillows. Lamps. A cart would have been handy.

    Staggering around, I looked for the registers. I asked a young fellow wearing a yellow IKEA shirt.

    “Take the shortcut,” he said, pointing the way.


    The shortcut led through a vast warehouse of cardboard boxes containing ready-to-assemble IKEA furniture designed to drive a sane person squirrelly. To find the right box you need to consult a computer screen, follow a map, and climb ten stories to balance something the size of Trump Tower on your shoulders as you make your way down the ladder to your cart.

    I soldiered on, rounded a corner, and saw lines so long I knew I had found the registers. Undeterred, I stood at the end of what appeared to be the shortest line.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    The woman in front of me read Chinese on her smartphone.

    The man behind me napped on a pile of lumber.

    A kid jumped up and down on a mattress.

    We moved forward an inch.

    I thought about the book in my car, the one I read at stoplights. It would have been handy to have reading material to pass the time. But alas, the only reading material I had was the Chinese text on the smartphone, and the signs that displayed the food one could purchase beyond the registers. A cinnamon bun for a dollar. A hot dog for seventy-five cents. A Coca-Cola for fifty cents.

    We moved forward half an inch.

    I eyed other lines. Thought of switching. And then I counted heads. There were more heads in the other lines than in my line, and in my line there were FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY HEADS. And they were all imagining that cinnamon bun, hot from the oven, sticky on the fingers. They were imagining that hot dog for seventy-five cents, and that ice cold Coca-Cola, because nobody had seen food for thirty days, and I came to the awful realization that WE WERE NEVER GOING TO EMERGE FROM IKEA ALIVE!

    “That’s it. I’m out of here,” I announced, and stashed all my goodies—the bamboo cutting board, the eight-pack of wooden hangers, the Pyrex, the sheets, the pillows, the lamps, the make-it-yourself fifteen-foot bookcase, the entire bathroom display—on top of all the other IKEA goodies that had been discarded, and rushed for an exit.

    I found the elevator.

    I located my car.

    I headed for an exit.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    I’m still waiting. Writing this missive behind a long line of cars.

    I have one piece of advice to leave you with:

    Never go to IKEA.


    Unless you have eight weeks to kill. And a sherpa guide.

    Send food. Please.

  2. How Will You Spend Your Time This Year?

    January 29, 2017 by Diane

    Two coffee cups

    So, Diane. Here we are. A brand new year.


    Well, 2017 for me.

    You’re absolutely right.

    Tell me something good. Tell me I get more than one copywriting client.

    You get more than one copywriting client.

    YES! I knew I could do it! It’s the one-task-a-day routine. It’s working!

    It’s working.

    Did I give up the blog once and for all?

    What do you think?

    I think I’m having too much fun blogging. Jumping in mud puddles. When the puddles dry up or it’s no longer fun, I’ll stop. Do I have more than sixty-eight subscribers?

    You have more than sixty-eight subscribers.

    And I stopped watching The Bachelor. Tell me I stopped watching The Bachelor.

    Can you look me in the eye and honestly say you’ve stopped watching The Bachelor?

    Well, no. But I don’t turn it on until I’ve completed my copywriting task for the day.

    This is true. You even missed episodes, for that very reason.

    Thank GOD! And the short story? Did I send it out?

    You sent it out.

    Did it get published? Tell me it got published.

    We’re not here to talk about the short story.

    The novel? Did I rewrite the novel?

    About the novel—

    It was the logline. That’s what held everything up, back in 2016. You should talk to Holcomb about that. She blabbed on the blog about how to rewrite a novel. She got as far as step four: the logline. And that was it. Oh, she tried to convince herself that she’d chosen an acceptable logline, that she was ready to move on, but did she? Was there ever a step five? NO.

    2016 is over. We don’t need to revisit it.

    Oh, yeah. You’re right. Phfft! It’s gone. So, what about the novel?

    Overwhelmed. Sound familiar?

    I’ll say. It was Holcomb’s most-used word in 2016. I’m still overwhelmed.

    Watch out for that.

    What are you saying?

    You need to respect boundaries. The ones you decided to set. Like not blogging at midnight.

    Oh. Is that what time it is?

    Yes. The key is to focus on one thing at a time. One thing.

    And what is that one thing?

    You’ll know.

    Copywriting! That’s why I have more than one client. Or is it something else? Oh, I’ve got it. I finally pitch that reality show concept, the one the networks will be fighting over.


    Or I dig out that radio script and send it to NPR. You remember—The Family Nude Show.

    I do.

    The game show where families play…in the nude.

    I remember.

    Because who’s going to know if the contestants are nude? It’s radio, fer cryin’ out loud!

    Diane, Diane! National Public Radio is not going to air The Family Nude Show.

    Oh. Well. You really know how to burst a girl’s bubble.

    I’m sorry.

    So what is the one thing? Do I publish The Best of Squirrels in the Doohickey? No, wait. I’ll bet I submit all those writing tips to magazines. Or I finally rewrite the ding-dang-darn novel once and for all. Is that it? Is it the novel?

    You’ll know.

    Oh, please, please, please tell me.

    See you in 2018.

  3. How Did You Spend Your Time Last Year?

    January 22, 2017 by Diane

    Two coffee cups
    So, Holcomb, here we are.


    A brand new year.


    For you. For me, it’s 2017. But you knew that. You’re a smarty.

    High praise, coming from you. I mean, from me. In the future. So, how’s the outlook?

    Well, a year ago you were dickering with that short story. Rewriting it.


    Still dickering.

    Oh, no.

    Oh, yes. A year ago, you were spreading it around you’re rewriting that novel.

    I’m planning to blog about it! I’m going to declare my commitment, to all thirty-eight of my followers!

    Sixty-eight now. And you dropped the commitment.

    Yow. Scary word, commitment.

    You’re good at making excuses, too. That copywriting business you started? The one puttering along with one client?

    One GREAT client. He keeps me hopping year-round. He wants me for the whole next season, too.

    Agreed. A great client. But your plan is to get more than one client.

    One GREAT client.

    The plan is to beef up your clientele.


    You’ve still got the one.

    No networking?


    No notifying my LinkedIn contacts?


    No cold-calling, cold-emailing, making a list of places to contact?


    What the hell have you been doing for a year!?

    Not me, YOU.

    Me? I haven’t even begun. You’ve already been. What the hell took up all of your time?

    YOUR time. The Bachelor.


    The Bachelor. That stupid reality show. On Monday nights. The one that highlights women in their worst possible behavior.

    Oh, that. But it’s only on for a season, right?

    Then The Voice.

    Okay, so there goes Monday nights. What about the rest of the week? Surely I did something the rest of the week.

    The Voice was on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, too.

    Listen, you. I’m not letting you hijack my dreams with your stupid reality shows.

    YOUR stupid reality shows. YOU’RE the one choosing to watch them, escaping your own reality. I’m in 2017, remember? Hello! The view’s swell from here. And I’m finishing up the short story.

    No more dickering?

    One last dicker. That’s it. I’m sending it off to journals.

    And the novel?

    It’s either the novel or the blog. I haven’t decided which one gets my attention.

    And the copywriting? Please tell me you’re not shelving the copywriting business.

    Nope. Actually, I had a brilliant insight: If I want to be a successful copywriter, I need to act like one. So I’m putting on my copywriting hat, I’m rolling up my sleeves, I’m snapping on my suspenders. And I’m asking myself: Do copywriters watch The Bachelor? No. Do copywriters futz around on Twitter? No. Not unless they’ve finished their work for the day. Do copywriters blog about rewriting a novel rather than rewriting it? Not likely. Now, every day (except Sundays, when I rest), I’m doing one task on my list of tasks to do to be a legitimate copywriter. I’m already writing a marketing plan. I’m scouting around for networking groups. I’m applying for that Tax ID number. I’m…well, you get the picture. So you know what that means, Holcomb. You’ve got one year to get The Bachelor and The Voice and Twitter and the blog and anything else you’re distracting yourself with, out of your system.


    Got it?


    Ah, cheer up. The year isn’t a complete loss. You do get a business license and business cards. You find mentors. You become a founding member of the Jerry Jenkins Writer’s Guild.


    And you win The Liebster Award for blogging.

    The what?

    And you manage to write some decent blog posts.


    You’ll find out.

    Ah, c’mon. Give me a hint.

    See you in 2017.