Meryl K. Evans is a writer who lives in Texas. Though we are all different, we are the same, and all connected, so while reading this week’s interview, look for ways that you are similar to Meryl. Meryl is hearing-impaired and she did not let that stop her from achieving professional success. We can all achieve our goals if we set our minds to them.
Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Meryl K. Evans: From a business perspective, I use the name “content maven” because I do more than writing and editing. I help clients with marketing, press releases, website content, email newsletters. I’m in the business of working with words.
While I don’t introduce myself as a person who is deaf upfront because that’s not the only thing I’m about, I’m mentioning it now because it has affected my business and life. Being deaf compelled me to be competitive; to show I’m just as good as or better than everyone in whatever I do. If it weren’t for this and I had heard, I may have lived a life where I would not have accomplished half as much as I have.
I’m a proud native Texan who has lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for all but six years. The non-Texas years were in Washington, D.C. where I graduated from American University, took the first steps of my career landing my first job with the U.S. government, and gave birth to the only daughter and non-Texan.
I grew up in Fort Worth and moved to Plano upon my return from D.C. because my husband and I believed Plano was the best place in the DFW area for our kids’ education. By choice, much of my life revolves around my husband, a daughter, two sons, and a dog with three personalities and two looks.
Avil Beckford: What’s a typical day like for you?
Meryl K. Evans: Every morning begins with reading the newspaper. I could go to my office for instant news on the Internet, but there’s no starting point. There’s no ending point to tell me to stop. A newspaper does that. A newspaper also encourages me to read about topics I wouldn’t look for on the Internet.
Next, I hit the road a few feet to my home office to check emails and Twitter. I schedule a few tweets to spread them throughout the day rather than have them go boom, boom, boom. People sign in at different times and it helps to reach them. Besides, folks don’t want to see one person dominating their Twitter stream.
The rest of the day varies based on the day of the week, current deadlines, and projects. I love the variety in my job. The only consistent thing is how I start the day and work out about an hour before or after lunch. In fact, I’m taking a break right here to go exercise. Back shortly.
Great workout. Thanks for excusing me.
Also important is a consistent bedtime to ensure I get seven to eight hours of sleep every night or else I don’t function well the next day.
Avil Beckford: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
Meryl K. Evans: Remember the competitive thing? It keeps me going to ensure I stay on top and competitive. The world waits for no one.
Habits are also a motivator. When something is a habit, you come to expect it and crave it. Think about how you start your day. It comes naturally to you. Bet you have a hankering for events, occasions, food items, and activities on certain days of the week, times of the day, and times of the year.
Sure, I have days when I feel like I can’t push myself to write an article. Deadlines help and I often stay ahead. Waiting until the last minute doesn’t work. For one, I might not be in the best writing frame of mind. Doing it a few days before when I’m in the mood ensures better results including time to “sit on it” so I can edit my drafts with fresh eyes.
Second, problems come up. What if in the middle of writing, I find a problem with a quote or fact? Putting off the work could mean deleting a paragraph with potential instead of spending time to fix the problem.
When I’m stuck or struggle with motivation, I do something else. It’s hard not to be motivated when you have bills to pay. Besides, I struggle with the concept of “Don’t do something, sit there.” I feel guilty if I do that.
Avil Beckford: If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
Meryl K. Evans: I have no regrets about how I managed my business and myself. Everything I learned along the way helped me today.
Avil Beckford: Describe a major business or another challenge you had and how you resolved it.
Meryl K. Evans: I noticed I kept putting off work for a client, something that was not the norm for me. I looked at the situation and realized I liked the client, but not the work. I needed to let go of the work. Although it wasn’t easy to break up with the client, it gave me the time and energy to focus on other things I enjoy.
Avil Beckford: What lessons did you learn in the process?
Meryl K. Evans: I became more aware of the work I do and how it affects me. I’m not going to dump every boring work or disliked assignment. Every job – including dream jobs – has dull moments. Dreading the work constantly and boredom are two different things. I’ve been doing some of the work I do for a long time that sometimes I get bored. Yet, I have moments of excitement and “WOW” for the same work.
Avil Beckford: Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to greater success?
Meryl K. Evans: I accepted a job on the spot instead of telling the company I will get back to them later. A few hours after accepting a job, I got another job offer that was a better fit. This taught me patience – at least, a little more of it. I still have room for more patience, which is important in being a better listener and thinking things through more.
Avil Beckford: How did mentors influence your life?
Meryl K. Evans: I’m hard on myself. Rarely what I do is good enough for me. My mentors helped me see I’m good at what I do.
Avil Beckford: What’s one core message you received from your mentors?
Meryl K. Evans: It’s OK – not arrogance – to know and admit you’re good at something.
Avil Beckford: How do you integrate your personal and professional life?
Meryl K. Evans: Working in a home office blurs the line. When my kids are at school, I avoid doing anything else except work, exercise, and walk the dog. Once in a while, I’ll throw in a load of laundry or unload the dishwasher. It’s only seven hours between the last kid leaving the house in the morning and the first one coming home. I need to make the most of that time.
I also volunteer, play mah-jongg and go to doctor’s appointments during the day. MahjonggGamee is a weekly one, but I only go once a month or less. I used to play on a daytime tennis team but dropped that because it took too much time. I look at the week as a whole when I decide what to do that’s outside of work, exercise, and doggy time.
Avil Beckford: What process do you use to generate great ideas?
Meryl K. Evans: When I’m working on an article, I look for the story. What’s the story that will captivate readers while connecting with the main point of the article?
Avil Beckford: How do you define success?
Meryl K. Evans: The definition is up to you. It’s about living your life the way you want to live it. While having a six-figure job is a dream for many, it doesn’t make you successful unless you love the job, live where you want to be, or have the time to do something you love outside of work as those six-figure jobs can consume your free time.
Avil Beckford: What are the steps you took to succeed in your field?
Meryl K. Evans: Lotsa, Lotsa reading. Lotsa, Lotsa writing. Study editors’ comments and learn from them.
Avil Beckford: What advice do you have for someone just starting in your field?
Meryl K. Evans: The Internet has many, many great resources for becoming a writer and managing a business. Do your research. Read lots. Take a class in writing or business. Many free or cheap classes are available online and locally. Also, don’t become attached to every word or fight the editor over cut words. Sometimes you have to cut a favorite line to make the article or story better.
Avil Beckford: Which one book had a profound impact on your life? What was it about this book that impacted you so deeply?
Meryl K. Evans: One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer. Many of us try to do something and fail, whether it’s to quit smoking or to start exercising. Maurer shows how starting small works better and how to apply it to everything in life.
Avil Beckford: If you had a personal genie and she gave you one wish, what would you wish for? Or, if I gave you a magic wand, what would you use it for?
Meryl K. Evans: No more wars or terrorism. (Hey, at least, I didn’t say “World peace.” Oops, I just did.) Seriously, we have enough problems to deal with and can do much more without the fighting.
Beyond the cliché response: I’d ask for all three kids to attend the college of their dreams without financial worries or if it has to be for me – I’d ask for a long trip that takes me to as many new places at once so I only have to deal with the “come home” thing once J, or at least double my energy so I can do more and live a long healthy life.