How and Why to Use a Swipe File

Woman working online on a laptop computer at homeIf imitation is a form a flattery then there are plenty of people I’ve flattered since I started blogging more than five years ago. Like most people, I created my first website and launched a blog with no real training or experience. I was already a professional writer so I figured I’d learn the rest on the job. And part of the learning process for me is studying what works well for others. That’s where my swipe files comes in handy.

A swipe file is a tool I learned about in my early career in public relations and marketing communications. I collected articles, headlines, direct mail postcards, advertisements, proposals and other materials for inspiration. It was kinda like Pinterest for writers. Only when I first started using a swipe file it was a paper accordion style folder with actual printed samples torn from newspapers and magazines.

I’d save anything I found interesting or compelling – even if it had nothing to do with my industry or current projects. Then, when it came time to work on a new piece, I’d flip through my swipe files for ideas. I’d find formulas for great headlines, templates for sales letters and even some clever photo captions that would trigger an idea.

I eventually went digital with my swipe file and now I use it to kick start my creativity on all sorts of new projects. Even if you’re not a writer, chances are you do a fair amount of writing for your business or ministry. So why not make your job a little bit easier and start a swipe file of your own? Collect anything you find interesting or effective so you can refer to it later. Start with a simple file folder on your desktop or try using Evernote to store your swipe file items. Evernote lets you bookmark webpages, add images or screenshots and tag your notes for easy sorting and retrieval. You can even share your swipe file with someone on Evernote.

Not sure what to collect? Here are a few ideas to get you started!

Seven Things to Add to Your Swipe File

1. Sales pages. Have you ever made a spontaneous online purchase? You may have stumbled across a compelling sales page and found yourself hitting the “buy now” button without even thinking about it. When that happens, take a screenshot of the sales page and file it for future reference. There is probably some language in there that will come in handy!

2. Facebook ads. If you’re on Facebook you’ve probably clicked on an ad in your newsfeed at some point. There are definitely tricks and tips to Facebook advertising, so capture screen shots of your favorite ads and study them to see what works well for others. When it comes time to do your own Facebook advertising, you’ll have a head start.

3. Bios. I always get a kick out of short, clever bios I read online. Not the ones that are stuffed full of credentials and accomplishments. But the ones that reveal addictions to Sharpie markers or a lifelong struggle to successfully grow a tomato plant. I’ve been swiping memorable bios for years and vowing to make my own humdrum narrative a little more intriguing. One. Of. These. Days. [Read more…]

Have an Imperfect Lent

How to have an imperfect lentI made my family chicken soup on Ash Wednesday. I don’t know what I was thinking – except that it was freezing cold outside and homemade soup sounded like a good idea. But it was Ash Wednesday. The very first day of Lent and I had already screwed up. I’m not sure how you observe Lent, but our fasting requires us to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent. Well, I typically don’t pay much attention to this requirement because I don’t eat meat anyway. But I do cook it for my family. #LentenFail

So what’s a mother to do when she’s gotten off to such an imperfect start? As W.C. Fields says, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

I admit, I don’t think I’ve ever had a “perfect Lent” – one in which I stuck to my promise of sacrifice or prayer without faltering. In fact, I shared my story with Inc. magazine this week when they profiled three entrepreneurs who use Lent to form highly effective habits. (And yes, I’m still pinching myself to see my name associated with a Christian message in a popular mainstream business publication!) But if you read closely, you’ll see me confess that I didn’t quite make it through 40 days of my Lenten practice last year. So I’m convicted to making it go better this year! Although, I’ve come to realize it will never be a perfect process.

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He knows we make mistakes. That’s why he sent his beloved son to save us from our sins. The only thing God expects is that when we fail, we try again. So here I am…trying again. [Read more…]

What a Navy SEAL Taught Me About Being a Fearless Mompreneur [Book Review]

You too can be aI don’t typically gravitate toward war stories and military biographies but when a friend recommended Fearless by Eric Bhelm, I decided to pick it up. After the first chapter, I couldn’t put it down. In fact, I devoured the book in two days, listening to parts of it on audio and reading some of it in print. (I’m a little intense that way!)

Despite the tragic fate of the main character, Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown left me feeling encouraged. I have little in common with Adam Brown, but his journey inspired me to be a better mom and entrepreneur. Here’s what I learned from the story of Adam Brown:

My job is important. Whenever Adam was home he told his wife Kelly that her job was so much harder than his. And I think he meant it. I believe he meant for all of us moms to know that raising children and keeping a home is an important job. That we each have a role to play in this life and that heroes live at home as well as in the war zones. He wanted us to know that we are warriors, too. That our husbands could not do their jobs without the love and support of their families.

And I think the same message holds true for our work – whatever that may be. We may not be tasked with protecting the country or saving lives, but our work is important. So we have to approach it with the kind of passion and persistence that Adam exhibited in his work.

Share the whole story. We’ve all read books and watched movies about military heroes. What I love about Fearless is that the writer told the whole story. We got to see Adam Brown’s struggles along with his rise to victory. We got to marvel at God’s power to bring this man out of addiction and incarceration through a spiritual and physical journey that led him to become a man of character and faith.

It was a reminder that when we share the most humbling parts of our past, we provide inspiration for others. It makes us better moms when our kids know we’re not perfect. And it can also make the difference in our business success. This is exactly why Jared was so effective as a Subway spokesperson. And it’s why Dave Ramsey’s financial failures give him credibility. It’s why Lysa TerKeurst touches the hearts of so many women – because she shares her failures and we relate to her humanity. [Read more…]