In my article Dump Those Helping Verbs from Your Ads and Promotion Copy (Even if your teacher made you memorize all 23) I told you to not use helping verbs or passive verbs in your ads or promotion copy. They weaken your copy. Few will respond to what you say.
Those “few” are potential or new customers. Is that what you want?
No! You want lots of potential and new customers.
Probably the most powerful word which was included on this list is FREE. Nothing is cheaper than free.
Here are some other suggested words. I’ll bet you can squeeze in a few more:
So you’ve stumbled across an online writing competition / contest, or perhaps your favourite brand of cereal is offering you a chance to win a holiday around the world. All you have to do is tell them in 25 words or less why you want it. And you want to win, right?
Well believe it or not there are a small number of easy steps you can take to dramatically increase the odds in your favor. And here they are, free of charge just because I’m such a nice guy…
No Sob Stories!
This tip goes first on the list, because it is the most important. For some reason the first thing that seems to come to people’s minds with these contests and competitions is “how can I get them to pity me?” It sounds like a great plan as an entrant, but speaking from personal experience as a judge in these contests, I can tell you that it’s a complete turnoff.
Nonetheless people will try ever trick in the book…
We can’t pay the rent… our house burnt down… everybody in my family has cancer… I need 16 operations so that my dog stops being depressed and I can have my leg re-attached then pay the rent and burn the house down… well you get the point.
Let me make it very clear – this tactic does not work, even if you are telling the truth, because:
1. Judges can’t verify your claims, so anyone can make up any story they like.
2. After a while these entries become so numerous and laborious that they don’t stand out.
All that you will do is send the judge into a depression spiral. More to the point, you will end up highlighting your competitors’ entries because theirs are more enjoyable to read.
Be Creative and Make it Fun to Read
Depending on the number of entrants, judges can often have a lot of text to read. As their head slumps closer and closer to the desk and the coffee starts to wear off, your entry is going to need to have something special about it to get noticed. The best thing you can do is get creative. And I mean really thinking outside of the box (if you are thinking poetry right now, you are not thinking hard enough).
My advice to you here is simple. If you come up with something different and make it really stand out, and MAKE IT FUNNY, you will win. When I hear a fellow judge burst out into laughter at his or her desk, 9 times out of 10 he or she is reading the winner. I can usually even tell which entry they are reading because I had the same reaction when I first read it.
If you can manufacture a reaction like this, chances are you are on a winner. I suggest using your friends and family as test dummies here. If they end up in a ball rolling around the floor you’ve done your job. If the best you get is “not bad”, “(chuckle) very good” or even “looks good to me”, then you need to go back to the drawing board.
Now that’s not to say every winner will be comical or humorous, but your entry needs to stand out as somehow being impressive or interesting.
Stick to the Rules and Stay on Topic
If I had a penny for every time a “words or less” entry broke the rules, I would currently be Bahamas and you would be on your own with this one. Take the time to read the rules, terms and conditions before entering. And if you are provided with a quick-start guide to entering a competition, read it over at least 3 times and make sure you take the advice onboard.
In general, you should always:
· Stay within the word limit
· Write in direct response to the competition’s question or topic (really important!)
· Avoid coarse language
· Submit your entry in the language requested
Short, Sharp, Shiny
Just because you are allowed to use 25 words doesn’t mean you should. If your entry says what you want it to say, don’t fill up the rest of your word limit by repeating yourself or adding useless details. All you end up doing is diluting your message.
So it took you 5 minutes (or maybe 2 days) to create your entry. Would another 5 minutes of proofreading kill you? No, of course not, but it will definitely help you win. Check your grammar, check your punctuation, check your capitalization and check your spelling. Presentation makes your entry easier to read, and will greatly improve your chances.
It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But how many times have you seen a competition you would like to enter, only to let the due date slip by? As the saying goes, you’ve got to be in it to win it. And if you use the advice I’ve just given you, your chances of coming out on top will greatly improve.
Cell phones have become a necessity for many people throughout the world. The ability to keep in touch with family, business associates, and access to email are only a few of the reasons for the increasing importance of cell phones. Today’s technically advanced cell phones are capable of not only receiving and placing phone calls, but storing data, taking pictures, and can even be used as walkie talkies, to name just a few of the available options.
When cell phones were first introduced to the public, they were bulky, expensive, and some even required a base unit that had to be transported along with the phone. Good reception was a major problem and in general, early cell phones could only be used in certain locations were the signal was particularly strong. As cell phone technology advanced, the difficult in using them became less of a problem. Today, cell phone reception has improved greatly due to the use of satellites and wireless services. As cell phones improved and became simple to use, the importance of cell phones increased accordingly.
Cell phones are the perfect way to stay connected with others and provide the user with a sense of security. In the event of emergency, having a cell phone can allow help to reach you quickly and could possibly save lives. However, the importance of cell phones goes way beyond personal safety. Modern cell phones are capable of internet access, sending and receiving photos and files, and some cell phones are equipped with GPS technology, allowing for use in most locations around the world and allowing the cell phone to be found or the user located in the event of loss or emergency.
Cell phone reception has become reliable and of high quality due to advances in wireless technology. Wireless service providers offer excellent packages and promotions for cell phone users. Finding a dependable service provider is no longer an issue for cell phone users. The expansion of the wireless service provider industry gives cell phone users a choice and the increased competition has caused a drop in prices of wireless cell phone service. The importance of cell phones goes way beyond the ability to make or receive phone calls. Cell phone users can instantly send data to the home or office, check for important email, use their cell phone as a PDA or calendar, and store photos which can be easily transferred to a PC or laptop computer.
Cell phone manufacturers have produced a wide range of cell phones, which sell for prices that range from very inexpensive to over one thousand dollars. The available options give users the choice of purchasing a basic cell phone to use simply for making calls, or choosing a complex, technologically advanced cell phone that can perform as many or even more tasks that a home computer. Over the past decade, the increasing importance of cell phones has made them almost a necessity for most people. Even remote and underdeveloped countries have some access to cell phone technology and wireless services.
The importance of cell phones has increased the competition in the wireless service provider industry, making cell phones very affordable and very easy to use. Cell phones have become almost a status symbol in addition to the convenience and security that comes from owning them.
I have discovered that there are many little things that make moving to a new home a rich experience. Simple changes such as finding a new place to get your groceries can be an amazing journey of discovery. This was the case for me when we moved just far enough away from my favorite grocer to require a back up store closer to my new home. Welcome to Weis Markets.
My welcome to Weis was an unforgettable experience. As I stepped out of my car for that first visit and my foot touched the parking lot it landed in chewing gum. Gum in a parking lot can really happen to any business, but this lot looked grimi. I guess with 157 stores though, that is a "lot" of parking lots to keep up with, and I am sure that Weis is too busy to care about one customer with gum on their shoes.
On my first and subsequent visits, I was amazed to find that all but one of the cashiers were bagging or teaching customers how to use the self-service scanning devices at every register coercing any customers not willing to wait for the one and only human cashier to check out their groceries themselves. I even asked a manager about this, but was told they could not find enough employees. I was really curious about the ones that were already working there, but this did not seem to go anywhere with the manager who seemed to have more important things to do than talk to customers. Perhaps I am old fashioned, but having a human at a register is one of the last few services left that I am ready to give up.
So, I wait in the long line with the one human who is paid to run the register. Opps, Can you help me? I forgot my "Weis Store Card." What? You can not ring it on a generic store card like my favorite old store use to do for me? I have to wait in line at customer service so they can look it up? You can not even call them on your phone for me? Oh, you do not have a phone at your register, do you? Gee that makes it a bit hard to help customers does not it?
As I wait for ten minutes in the "Customer Service line" staffed by one frazzled employee, who is providing a whole host of services, I realize that 9000 employees is far too many to train and besides they will not work for Weis long enough to make the investment in training worthwhile. What does it matter if you choose loose customers like me who drop an average of $ 120 per weekly visit into the one register staffed by a human. Who cares if I refuse, even in an emergency, to go to Weis and instead drive 12-15 minutes to the Oregon Dairy, where there are always humans who will ring me up on the "store card" and go out of their way to help me. Once they even sent me home with several bags of groceries and an IOU when I forgot to make a deposit and my bank card came up insufficient funds !! How does the Oregon Dairy do it anyway? They are a single store operation but charge the same prices as Weis and can actually afford to staff all those registrants with humans? And where do they find all those employees just 15 minutes away? Something sure is fishy here. It must be the shrimp sale at the Oregon Dairy. I think I will stop by seafood and pick up a few pounds.
When you use Google (or any other search engine) to search for a term, have you ever wondered how the websites in the first search results page got there, when there are probably thousands of other competing websites which match your search term? Well, the answer to that question is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Those first few websites had better SEO than their competitors. So, what is SEO? Simply, it is a marketing strategy used to increase the ranking of a website in search engines.
Some of those websites (such as Wikipedia, Facebook and Microsoft) got to the first search results page without much help from SEO because, their brand names are sufficiently famous to get them listed in the first page. The other websites rely on SEO to get them to the first or second search results page. You may wonder why SEO is so important. Well, users rarely go beyond the first few search result pages when searching for a term. When was the last time you clicked on the fifteenth search results page?
SEO can be done in many ways. The main (and effective) SEO methods are the following:
1) SEO titles, headers and URL addresses
3) Writing SEO content
4) The use of multimedia
5) Regular updates
This article will briefly touch on each of these SEO techniques. Each of these techniques will be described in detail in subsequent articles.
SEO titles, headers and URL addresses
The title of a webpage is different from its heading. The title is displayed on the ‘tab’ of that webpage while the heading is displayed in the webpage itself. When you enter a search term (known as the keyword), the search engine tries to find websites whose title, heading and URL address matches the given keyword. If the title, heading or the URL address of a website matches your keyword, then that website is given a higher ranking than others. For example, if the keyword you entered is “phoenix”, a website having the URL address: “http://www.phoenix.com” is given a higher ranking than a website having the URL address: “http://www.mystical_birds.com”.
When you visit a website, you will usually see several hyperlinks linking that website to other websites. These links are known as back-links. Wikipedia is a good example for back-links. All the reference websites are listed at the bottom of a Wikipedia article. These hyperlinks (at the bottom of an article) are back-links of the respective reference websites. Back-links help to increase the ranking of a website. Generally, the more back-links a website has, the higher its ranking.
Writing SEO content
Search engines try to match the entered keyword with the content of websites. For example, if your keyword is “golf player”, the search engine will search for articles having the term “golf player”. However, there will be millions of articles having the term “golf player” in them. The search engine will rank these articles according to the “keyword density” of the articles. Keyword density is calculated by dividing the number of keywords in the article by the total number of words and then multiplying the result by 100.
For example, if a hundred-worded article has the keyword “golf player” repeated twice in it, the article has a keyword density of 2%. Articles having a keyword density of 0.5-2% are generally given the highest ranking.
The use of multimedia
Everybody prefers graphical websites, compared to plain-text websites. The major search engines know this and therefore; they give websites containing multimedia (graphics, videos and flash applications) a higher ranking than other websites.
People have an unquenchable thirst for new information and facts. The major search engines address this need by giving the websites which are regularly updated a higher ranking than other websites.
We hope that we answered your question “What is SEO?” satisfactorily through this article.
Technical writing is a specialised form of writing.
Its goal is to help readers use a technology or to understand a process, product or concept. Often these processes, products or concepts are complex, but need to be expressed in a much simpler, reader-friendly form.
So within the technical writing genre, you will find: technical reports, installation and maintenance manuals, proposals, white papers, on-line help, process standards, work instructions and procedures.
While each discipline has its specific requirements, some basic elements are common. But before looking at those, the most important thing a technical writer must consider is the audience.
How familiar are readers with the subject and with the specialised terms and abbreviations you need to use?
What is the best way to explain those terms or shortened forms – footnotes, endnotes, glossary, table of abbreviations, appendix, links?
Do you need to accommodate secondary readers (e.g. the manager or financier who will make the decision about the proposal), and how will you do that?
Now for those all-important elements:
Clarity – The logical flow of the document will help readers understand the content. It can be useful to ask someone who is not familiar with the topic to review your writing before you finalise it. Using headings, illustrations, graphs or tables can be useful – your aim is to make it as easy as possible for your readers to understand what you’ve written. Consider how the way the text sits on the page or screen – another clue to maximising clarity for your readers.
Accuracy – The information and the interpretation of data that you present must be accurate. If it’s not, your readers will question the credibility of the content. Be careful to clearly differentiate between fact and opinion, and to accurately cite references to other works.
Brevity – Strive to find the balance between the amount of information presented and the time needed to read the document. Remember that you can use an appendix or link to provide supplementary or background information. Consider using an illustration, table or graph rather than words to explain a concept – but remember, if you use a ‘visual’, don’t give a long written explanation.
Sentence length – Generally, complex or unfamiliar concepts are best presented in shorter sentences. This will give readers time to digest small pieces of information before moving on to the next. While this can be difficult to achieve, try to aim for approximately 25 words per sentence. If you find you’ve written a series of long sentences, look for ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘however’ and similar words where you can break the sentence.
Paragraphs – The age-old rule about one topic per paragraph is a useful guide. That doesn’t mean that you can have only one paragraph for each topic, but it does mean that having only one topic in each paragraph makes for clear, logical writing.
Reader-centricity – You are writing for your readers. Make it as easy as possible for them to understand your work.
Keep these basic elements and other principles in mind as you undertake your technical writing tasks.
One of the most common questions asked by would-be self-publishers who are intent on designing and typesetting their book themselves is, “What font should I use?”
I’m always relieved when somebody asks the question. At least, it means they’re not just blindly going to use the ubiquitous default fonts found in most word processing programs.
However, there is almost no way to answer the question. It’s like asking, “What’s the best car model for commuting to work everyday?”
You’ll get a different answer from almost everyone you ask. And they might all be correct.
I am willing to offer one hard-and-fast rule, however: don’t use Times New Roman or Times Roman. That will brand your book as the work of an amateur at first glance. And there are other, very practical, reasons for not using it. Times Roman and Times New Roman were designed for the narrow columns of newspapers, originally for the London Times back in the 1930s. Today, almost no newspapers still use it. How, or why, it became a word processing standard, I have no idea. The font tends to set very tight, making the text block on the page dense and dark.
Here are two caveats before proceeding to few recommendations:
The typeface you choose may depend on how your book will be printed. If you look closely at most serif fonts (like Times), you will notice that there are thick and thin portions of each letter. If your book will be printed digitally, you should steer away from fonts with segments that are very thin. They tend to become too faint and affect readability.
Don’t get carried away with the thousands of font choices available. Most are specialty fonts suitable for titles, headlines, advertising, emotional impact, etc. And never use more than a very few fonts in a single book — we usually choose one serif font for the main text body, a sans serif for chapter titles and headings within the chapters. Depending on the book, we may select a third font for captions on photos, graphics, tables, etc. (or maybe just a different size, weight, or style of one of the other two). We may select a specialty font for use on the front cover for the title and subtitle.
For 90% of books, any of the following fonts are excellent choices:
Book Antiqua (tends to set tight, so you may have to loosen it up a bit)
Goudy Old Style
Adobe Garamond Pro (tends to have a short x-height, so it might seem too small in typical sizes)
Bookman (the name sort of gives it away, doesn’t it?)
Century Schoolbook (tends to be a bit wide, creating extra pages)
You need to look at several paragraphs of each font to see what, if any, adjustments you may find necessary in things like character spacing and kerning. You want to avoid little confusions, like:
“vv” (double v) that looks like the letter “w”
“cl” (c l) that looks like the letter “d”
Such things can make the reading experience annoying.
If you ask other designers, you will likely get other suggestions, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least some of the above included in their recommendations.
You may run across some books with more unusual font choices, but there are often good reasons for it. Maybe the book is a humor book for which the designer chose a lighthearted font, for example. Such decisions should be made with care and thoughtful consideration for the effects on readability.
Never decide on your font or font size based only on viewing how it looks on your monitor. Most trade paperback books are printed in 10 or 11 point size, but some fonts require larger – or even smaller – sizes. If 12 points looks too big and 11 too small, you can try 11.5 – no need to stick with integer sizes. You might be surprised how much difference a half-point (or even a quarter-point) can make on the overall “feel” of the page.
You also have to decide on appropriate leading (pronounced like the metal), which is the distance from the baseline of one line of text to the baseline for the next line, measured in points. The result is usually expressed as a ratio of the font size in points to the selected leading in points. So, you might say you have set the body text in Georgia 11/14 or Bookman 10/12.5 (11-point size with 14 points leading and 10-point size with 12.5 points leading, respectively).
Word processing programs tend to work in decimal inches, forcing you to convert leading from points into inches. A standard point is equal to 0.0138 inches. Professional typesetting/layout programs (like Adobe InDesign) allow you to use points and picas to define all type measurements and settings. although you can also specify those settings in various other units (including inches).
Typically, book designers will develop more than one design for each book’s interior, using different fonts, sizes, and leadings. They should typeset a few pages of the actual manuscript and print them out with the same page settings they plan to use in the final book (e.g., 6″ x 9″ pages). This allows the client to compare them side-by-side and evaluate them for readability and overall look.
And don’t forget your target audience. Very young readers and very old readers do better with larger type. Books that are very textually dense with long paragraphs frequently need more leading and a wider font.
Ultimately, you have to choose based on what your gut reaction is to the typeset samples. It never hurts to ask other people to read it and tell you if one option is easier to read than another.
If you want to gain an appreciation for typography and how to make appropriate design decisions, I recommend the following excellent books:
The Complete Manual of Typography by James Felici
The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
Book Design and Production by Pete Masterson
For those who insist on using Microsoft Word to typeset books, you really should buy and study Perfect Pages by Aaron Shepard. He is the reigning guru of how to do it.
It is far better to buy professional layout software and then learn all you can about typography and how to apply those principles to book design…or to hire a professional to do for you. The latter course will leave you more time to develop a dynamic marketing plan for your latest book and start writing your next one!
“The greater the feeling of inferiority that has been experienced, the more powerful is the urge to conquest and the more violent the emotional agitation.” —Alfred Adler
Janice Joplin was born January 19, 1943 in Port Arthur Texas to Seth and Dorothy Joplin. Janice was the first born child in a family that would eventually include a sister Laura, who was born 6 years later, and a brother Michael, who was born 10 years later. Janice’s early family life was relatively normal, and as a child she was exceptionally curious and bright. Janice often made up stories as a child and began writing plays while in the first grade, and even at a very young age her creative talent seemed to be developing.
One early story recounted in Myra Friedman’s (1973) book on Janis, recounts how Seth would take the Janis and eventually her siblings down to the post office to look at the pictures of the wanted men as a form of entertainment. Given Janis’s later utter and total disregard for the law and conventionality in her life, one wonders if Janis didn’t develop some kind of sympathy for the “outlaw” from these early experiences, as she certainly began to view herself as existing outside of the bounds of normal society.
In Janis’s words, “The whole world turned on me” when she entered High School, and these years seemed to have an especially profound influence on Janis as well as her later work. Port Arthur was in many ways a rough and even violent city, and as a port town had a number of bars and houses of prostitution to service the men who came to work there. Janis witnessed extreme racism while growing up in Port Arthur, and her tolerance and acceptance of people from other races quickly earned her the nickname “nigger lover” which was one of many that she would eventually acquire in Port Arthur. During this period Janis also gained weight and developed bad skin, and she was often also called a “pig” by the other children in the school.
Following High School Janice enrolled at Lamar State College which she found was much like her High School in Port Arthur, as she again experienced a great deal of rejection here and eventually dropped out. With her parent’s blessing, Janis moved to Los Angeles to live with one of her aunts. Janis eventually moved out of her aunt’s home into a place of her own in Venice Beach and it was during this trip that she began to seriously use drugs including heroin. Having nearly died during her experiences in Venice Beach, Janice again returned to Port Arthur, and eventually decided to return to school, this time at the University of Texas in Austin.
It was during this period of her life where Janis began performing seriously as a musician. She had discovered the blues through listening to records by Odetta and Bessie Smith, and Janis showed an amazing ability to imitate these singers, which was a lifelong talent she had developed even as a young girl. Janis would often play in coffeehouses and other campus spots around Austin, and it was during these formative years where she was able to put together her blues, folk, and rock influences into her own integrated and unique sound. Janis’s favorite place to play was the legendary Threadgill’s where she became close friends with owner Ken Threadgill who was a very positive force in Janis’s life.
Although Austin included many more anti-establishment types than Port Arthur, Janis was still ridiculed and mocked at the University of Texas, and her sense of inferiority as a result of this reached its pinnacle when she was nominated for the “Ugliest Man on Campus” award while attending school in Austin. This was the final blow to Janis in Texas, and shortly after this even she packed her bags and moved to San Francisco to pursue a career as a singer.
Janis moved to Haight Ashbury in 1966 which at the time was the epicenter of the 1960’s. Bands such as the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane were also coming up at this time, and the music and freedom made the Haight in the 1960’s for many a magical time and place to be. Janis found an incredible sense of belonging with Big Brother during this time, and their early work as a band represented the raw energy and improvisational nature of rock and Roll that people were beginning to take notice of.
Janice soon began to outshine Big Brother however, and although they were a highly energetic live band, their improvisational style did not translate well in recording sessions. Janice on the other hand took a great interest in the recording sessions, and was committed to recording an album that demonstrated Big Brother’s and more importantly her own unique style. With Albert’s encouragement, Janice eventually left Big Brother, and this act was seen by many in the band, as well as many of Janice’s personal friends, as an act of selfish betrayal.
Janice next formed the Kosmic Blues Band, which she spelled with a K in honor of Franz Kafka, who was one of the many novelists that Janice loved to read. The band was supposed to mark a return to Janice’s blues roots, but her first gig in Memphis, a city rich in the blues tradition, was a disaster as the new band received a very lukewarm response from the Memphis crowd. During her time with Kosmic Blues, Janice, already a regular heavy drug user became more enamored of Heroin. Janice’s Heroin use continued to increase throughout her time with the Kosmic Blues band, and by the time it came to play at Woodstock in the summer of 1969 she was most likely addicted to the drug. In one particularly disgusting story, Janice’s friend and lover Peggy Caserta (who would later go on to write “Going down with Janis” recounts how Janis snuck into the portable toilets to shoot Heroin prior to her performance at Woodstock. In any case Janice’s performance at Woodstock was not thought to be one of her best, and it was at this juncture of her career where her Heroin abuse and continued heavy drinking seemed to adversely begin affecting her music.
Realizing that the Kosmic Blues band was not working, Janice also left this band, and in the last year of her life formed her final band that was known as Full Tilt Boogie. It was also during this period that Janice formed a friendship with Kris Kristopherson who would eventually become her lover, and who also wrote Janis’s seminal hit Me and Bobby McGee which is the song she is most known for today. During this last phase of her life, Janice began referring to herself as “Pearl” which to her represented the tough- talking highly sexed festive side of her nature.
One significant event that occurred at the end of her life was Janice’s ten year High-School reunion. Janis announced her plans to attend the reunion on the Dick Cavett show while also telling the host Dick Cavett that during her time at Port Arthur that her classmates “laughed me out of class, out of town and out of the state, man”. Janis wanted to return to Port Arthur to show those that had picked on her and ostracized her that she had made it after all, while also still craving acceptance from the town that she thought her fame would bring her. Janis was drunk most of the time during the reunion, and because she had made several negative remarks about the town in the national press, her visit did not achieve what she had hoped, and once again she left Port Arthur feeling rejected and unloved.
Upon returning to San Francisco Janice’s Heroin usage had increased significantly, and it was also during this time that she met and quickly became engaged to a man named Seth Morgan who was from a wealthy east coast family. By all accounts Seth was a dishonorable man, and his stormy relationship with Janis did not appear to be based on any kind of fidelity from either party. During Janis’s last months in San Francisco she also reconnected with Peggy Caserta whose appetite for Heroin nearly matched Janis’s. Peggy and many others of Janice’s friends continued to use Heroin with her in her last month, but Janice was using the drug alone in a seedy hotel when she eventually died from an overdose on October 4th 1970.
Janis’s death deeply saddened her friends as well as her fans, but many, including Janice herself, did not expect her to live a particularly long life. Her rampant alcohol and Heroin use had set her on a collision course with death that seemed inevitable, and with this in mind, many people considered the idea that Janice Joplin’s death was not in fact an accident but rather a suicide. While a coroner’s report showed that the Heroin Janice had used that night was especially pure, one can certainly speculate that Janis Joplin contributed greatly to her own demise. Despite the fact her death was eventually ruled an accident, it is clear that Janis Joplin’s sad and unhappy life ended as a direct result of her own actions.
Gender Role Preparation perceived through Gender Guiding Lines and Role Models
One of the ways a child makes his or her way in the world begins with an acceptance or a rejection of their gender guiding lines. In this regard, Janis Joplin’s relationship with her mother becomes fascinating to analyze, as Janice and her mother’s interactions were often characterized by a battle of wills and a great deal of turbulence. Janis’s mother, who was a Sunday school teacher, expected Janis to conform to the rules, wear dresses like the other little girls, while also making the family proud with her accomplishments. In this regard Mrs. Joplin had high expectations for her daughter concerning both conformity and accomplishment, and this seemed to send a mixed message to Janis that affected her future ambitions and desires.
Despite Janis’s rejection of the maternal guiding line, she did identify strongly with her father who was an intellectual man who enjoyed reading and was much more accepting and permissive of Janis than her mother. Janis seems to have strongly identified with her father instead of her mother, and this speaks directly to her eventual embrace of many more traditionally masculine qualities in her life.
Janis eventually almost totally and completely rejected her mother’s wishes that she be like the other girls, and therefore rejected the female guiding line in the family which also seemed to have an effect on her sexuality. Although Janis talked a few times of achieving married life with a “white picket fence” she found belonging by wearing pants and acting like one of the boys, and for Janis this included sleeping with by her own account “a couple of hundred” women throughout her life, including one in her High School years.
Much has been made of Janis’s sexuality, and one feminist writer attributed Janis’s drug use and lifelong pain as resulting from being unable to fully come out and experience life as her lesbian self. In essence she made Janis a martyr for lesbian causes, and this idea is provocative and interesting to consider with regard to Janis. It certainly must have been difficult for Janis to reject the feminine guiding line in the family without it having some affect on her sexuality, and therefore it seems highly plausible that Janis may have been predominantly attracted to other women. On the other hand Janis did also sleep with a great many more men than women in her life, but her inability to sustain lasting relationships with these men may speak directly to Janis’s confused and even tormented sexual feelings. Although she often bragged about her conquests with men, one could see this as a dramatic overcompensation for her lesbian feelings, as well as a compensation for her rejection by the boys of Port Arthur when she was young. As a star Janice spoke often about her increased access to “pretty young boys” and one wonders if her often false bravado when speaking about men may have simply been attempts to deal with feelings of childhood rejection and inferiority.
When children reject their parental guiding lines, they may often turn to role models to guide them. In Janis’s case because such a role model was not available in Port Arthur, she found this guidance through emulating and studying the music of Bessie Smith, who had died several years before Janis was born. Bessie Smith was and is one of the most influential Blues singers in American history and Janis felt a kinship with the blues where she was drawn not just to the music but also to the sadness and pathos that produced the music. Janis remarked often throughout her career that singing the blues required suffering, and Janis used this belief to justify and rationalize her Heroin abuse.
Janice did draw strength from visualizing the blues singers that had come before her however, and the anguish and pain in her voice while she was singing appeared to be a true representation of Janis’s often tortured life. Much like the Blues singers she was emulating, Janis did use music to make sense of painful feelings, and the power and influence of Blues singers like Bessie Smith provided for Janis a roadmap of how to process these feelings. Bessie Smith was in fact such a powerful influence on her, that Janis contributed half the money for Bessie Smith’s memorial so she could be properly honored and remembered.
Interpersonal Style perceived through Experience of Family Atmosphere
One thing that Janice seems to have inherited from her mother was a sense of frugality which Dorothy had developed from her experiences seeing her family farm lost to the depression. Janice was not particularly generous with money over the course of her career, and despite her blatant disregard for the rules, friends who went through Janice’s possessions (Friedman 1973) following her death found several “meticulously organized checkbooks, all balanced to the penny.” Janice also always scoured for the cheapest item when she was grocery shopping, and would spend extra time comparing differences in price on items although money was really no object in this instance. Considering Janice’s otherwise highly disruptive life, this seems almost miraculous, and certainly speaks to the fact that Janice respected at least some of her family’s established values.
Another instance where Janice seems to have rejected her mother’s guidance was in the area of spirituality, where Dorothy who was a Sunday school teacher, tried to instill in her children ideas consistent with conventional morality. Janice wildly rejected this idea, and adopted an extremely hedonistic attitude where if something felt good to her she was quick to do it. Janice often expressed this philosophy of the immediate throughout her life, and this ran directly opposed to the family’s religious convictions that there was a life after this one where we received our final rewards.
The family’s experiences with music are also important to consider with regard to Janis’s interpersonal style. At one time Dorothy was such a talented singer that she received a full scholarship for her musical abilities to Texas Christian University. Dorothy continued to sing in the church choir when Janis was little, and the family had a piano to celebrate Dorothy’s love of music. When Janis was young Dorothy had one of her vocal cords severed in an accident during a surgery, and Dorothy could no longer sing as a result of this experience. Seth then sold the piano and this seemed to convey an unusual message to Janis about music, and may have a relationship to Janis’s fear, repeated often throughout her career, that she would loose her voice and therefore her career.
Janice’s eventual embrace of music could be interpreted a couple of different ways. First, that she carried on the family torch passed down from Dorothy, or second, that she took to music because it was something her mother could no longer do. Considering how stormy the relationship was between Janis and her mother, and the fact that Seth sold the piano because it was too painful to have around for Dorothy, it seems possible to speculate that Janis’s music was in some ways a reaction against her mother. The kind of music Janis did go on to produce was certainly far different than the music Dorothy studied in school and perhaps Janice’s embrace of music could be interpreted as both an ode to, as well as a reaction against, Dorothy’s love of music.
Perspective on the World perceived through Experience of Psychological Birth Order
Janis was the first born child in a family of three, and this also influenced her perspective on the world. First born children are often the responsible and conservative children in the family, and can become in many ways like second parents to the other children. In Janis’s first 6 years of life she behaved much like you would expect an oldest child to behave, as her mother reports she learned to sit and cut her food and eat and talk like an adult at a very early age with amused and surprised Dorothy. Janice was also very well-behaved and had excellent manners, and her mother reports that her behavior was nearly beyond correction in these early years.
Things changed when Laura was born when Janice was six, as not only was Janis now dethroned as the only child, but Laura had health complications which took up even more of her mother’s attention. Interestingly Janis did not at this time become a jealous and overbearing sibling, but instead became very attentive to Laura and cared for as a kind of surrogate parent.
A fascinating switch in the psychological birth order perspective did happen later however, when Janis began to get jealous that Laura appeared to do things that met her mother’s high expectations whereas Janis consistently let her down. Children often find belonging in families by engaging in behaviors that are different than their siblings. In the case of the Joplin’s this happened much later when Janis was in High School, where Janis was now finding belonging as the misbehaving child where Laura assumed the role of the responsible one. Normally this dynamic is exactly reversed, but in the Joplin’s case Laura now assumed the vantage point of the first born child and Janis as the reckless and wild second born.
This pattern continued throughout the rest of their lives, as during her periods of conservative behavior Janis would often ask for Laura’s assistance picking out the proper clothes and seek her advice on style and other matters. Although Laura was six years younger, she seemed to eventually surpass Janis emotionally as well, and her story is very much intertwined with Janis’s even today. Laura eventually earned a PHD in education and became a motivational speaker. She also wrote a book called Love, Janis which provided letters Janis had written home to the family throughout her career, and this book, which was later made into a Broadway production, helped a lot of people reach a greater understanding of Janis Joplin’s inner world.
Self Assessment perceived through Genetic Possibilities
It is impossible to talk about Janis Joplin without talking about her physical appearance, as this was at the root of a great deal of Janis’s inferiority and perhaps even a partial explanation for her extreme talent. Although Janis was by all accounts an average looking girl growing up, she went through a particularly awkward stage in High School where she gained weight and also developed skin problems. In Texas in the 1950’s this must have been particularly difficult, as beauty was certainly a cherished value for women in this time and place, and a person’s self-worth could easily become tied to their appearance which seems to have happened to Janice. Rather than attempt to play a game she felt she could not succeed at, Janice instead chose to respond in the exact opposite manner, and she made her personal appearance a very low priority.
This is classic safeguarding behavior where a person creates a sense of rejection themselves before others have a chance to reject them. In Janis’s case she would put on a brave front when others would call her a “pig” in High School, but then go home and cry about this rejection. It must have particularly painful for Janis to be nominated for “Ugliest Man on Campus” while at the University of Texas, as this was a place where she had finally found some belonging and had experienced some success as a singer.
Being constantly rejected for her appearance, Janis only felt beautiful in her life when she was performing. It was on the stage where her wild sexuality and charisma finally shined, and this for Janis meant the stage became the only place where she every truly felt accepted. Janice spent the rest of her life following High School chasing the “pretty boys” and this seems to be overcompensation for the rejection she felt from the popular boys both in High School as well as at the University of Texas. She made much of her one night stand with New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath, even announcing their affair over the microphone while doing a New York concert, and also bragged about sleeping with Jim Morrison, Dick Cavett, and many other men which may have been simply further attempts to prove that she was indeed wanted by the “popular” crowd.
This certainly seemed to be a large part of her motivation to return to her High School reunion where she hoped to show those that had rejected her how she had made it. When Janis was again rejected at her High School reunion it seemed to bring all of her intense feelings of inferiority back to the surface, and have at least some relationship to her final and fatal Heroin binge.
It is also interesting to consider Janis’s engagement to Seth Morgan with regard to the timing of her reunion. Seth, whose east coast pedigree led Janis to believe that he was in fact one of the “popular” boys she had always sought after had also assured Janis he did not want any of her money, and even signed an agreement that assured this. For Janis this may have been a last grasp at fitting in and dealing with the feelings of inferiority her reunion stirred up, and a final attempt at finding the belonging that she so desperately craved.
Openings for Advancement Perceived through Environmental Opportunities
It is impossible to attempt an understanding of Janis Joplin without also understanding the times she came of age in. The 1960’s was a period of great revolution and change, and provided the perfect backdrop for Janis to unharness her raw energy and power through her music. Prior to the 60’s women had no such opportunity, and the classic model of the Rosemary Clooney type lounge singer was a paradigm that Janis helped change and recreate for many future generations. The fact that Janis came along concurrently at the height of the woman’s movement was also significant, as she became for many a symbol for women’s sexual freedom and experimentation that had previously been taboo. Had Janis come along in another era, her brazen sexuality would not have been well received, and Janis was a direct benefactor of as well as a contributor to, the women’s movement.
Range of Social Interest perceived through Other Particularities
In Adlerian psychology, a person’s mental health can be measured by examining a person’s social interest in other human beings. In Janis Joplin’s case her early inferiority produced such violent insecurity that she had a very difficult time getting close to others and maintaining intimacy in her personal relationships. Although Janis was often taken advantage of by others in her life, she relished in thinking of herself as a victim as it confirmed her existing feelings about herself.
For Janis the circumstances of her life must have contributed greatly to her confusion about other people’s motives concerning their feelings for her. Before she was famous she was mocked and ridiculed by nearly everyone she came into contact with, excepting a few select friends she made along the way. She felt inferior in her home life and that she wasn’t living up to her mother’s expectations as to what a woman should be. Then when she became famous suddenly the whole world took an intense interest in her, and it is easy to see why she would doubt the motivations behind this interest given her prior experiences.
No where was this more evident than at Janis’s reunion where she wanted to show the people who had mocked her how important she had become, while also badly seeking their acceptance. For Janis the Thomas Wolfe axiom that “You can’t go home again” seemed especially appropriate, and all of these conflicting cognitions and emotions must have created a great deal of psychic turmoil in Janis which she numbed by using Heroin.
In this regard, Janis remarked to Myra Friedman (1973) that “her only true friends were the junkies she used to hang out with” and this is a telling statement that speaks directly to the fact that drug addicts often gravitate to each other in a kind of shared misery. The fact that Janis made this remark seems to confirm her low opinion of herself, and how this low opinion affected her interactions with others. Because Janis was so in need of love from others, she surrounded herself with sycophants who would often tell her whatever she wanted to hear, which was a fact Janis was well aware of.
Although many singers from this era including Janis’s one time lover Country Joe McDonald became very involved in political causes in the 60’s, Janice’s message seemed to be more about freedom through breaking off the shackles that society imposed. Perhaps because the 60’s were such a time of freedom, many serious addictions such as Janis’s were overlooked under the guise of free living. The dream of Timothy Leary and others like him that drugs could be a mind expanding tool has not been realized, and many such as Janis developed severe and pathological addictions as a result of this idea. This was the paradox of the pairing of drugs and freedom, as, although the drugs were meant to free a person’s mind, they often made them virtual slaves to their addictions as was the case in Janis Joplin’s life.
Janis Joplin’s life was clearly very sad, and demonstrates the pathology and sadness that exists in someone who, despite achieving considerable wealth and fame, never learns to overcome feelings of inferiority towards the self. Alfred Adler’s quote “The greater the feeling of inferiority that has been experienced, the more powerful is the urge to conquest and the more violent the emotional agitation” seems especially relevant to Janis’s life. In many ways Janis positively channeled and compensated for her feelings of inferiority through her work on the stage, but when the music was over Janis was always left with the same uncomfortable feelings. Several of the books on Janis’s life describe how despondent she would be following a performance, and this may be because the stage was the only place she truly found the love and acceptance she so desperately craved.
Many factors contributed to Janis’s inferiority, and the stars all aligned in a very unique way to create the life that was Janis Joplin’s. Her early and continued rejection by the other children, particularly in High School created a lifetime of negative feelings about her physical appearance, and these feelings were probably exacerbated through her interactions with her mother who wanted her to be more like the other children. Because Janis was not like the other girls, she assumed many masculine traits, and somewhere along the way her feelings about sexuality became very confused. Although there is significant evidence to demonstrate a genetic link to homosexuality, there are also almost certainly environmental factors which can contribute to this, and Janis Joplin’s life seemed to be an excellent example.
Despite Janis’s sexually ambivalent feelings, she many times remarked about a mythical “white picket fence” kind of life that she longed for that would bring her some consistency and stability. But Janice was also terrified of giving up her stardom, as this was also the only thing she had to cling to that gave her a sense of accomplishment in life. She had created the “Pearl” image and now she had to consistently live up to it, and this required a pace that no one could possibly maintain.
Janice was also a product of her times, as more than any other decade before or since, the 1960’s were a time of great change, paradigm shifts, and revolution, and Janis helped define these times while also being swept away by them. The music of the 60’s reflected a large break in society where kids were expected to “never trust anyone over 30” that never quite considered what happened when they reached 30. For Janis, her reckless lifestyle, intense feelings of self-loathing, and raging feelings of inferiority eventually overwhelmed her, and her death at the age of 27 was truly tragic considering the further contributions she may have gone on to make.
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