In Praise of Place Holder, or Welcome to My Blog


FPO. TBD. Placeholder. Lorem Ipsum. Greek.

You can look at these words as signposts for what’s incomplete, unfinished, not fully baked or deficient.

Or you can look them as a starting place, a springboard, a guidepost, a treasure map.

After 5 years of being a free agent, freelancer, contract writer – however you want to name what I do – I have a rare moment to finally develop my professional website.

I’ve been steadily busy for all that time, but somehow planets aligned to give me some downtime to gather my samples, work up a logo, and hire a designer to create my site. One of my asks was for my developer to build in placeholder for a blog, should I get around to writing one.

|  Now, Not Later

But turns out, my designer needed actual content to build the template around. TBD content for my TBD blog. And it got me thinking about the power of holding a place – creating a framework. As a writer working solo from a home office, creating structure is crucial. Without on-site colleagues and the natural rhythms of water-cooler conversation and other daily diversions, it’s critical to get tactical with self-imposed deadlines, hourly goals and other tricks for coaxing work out of yourself.

|  Herd those Cats

Checklists and calendar reminders are essential, but my greatest asset is the ability to begin sketching out what my next project looks like. It’s a little like looking at a 2,000 piece puzzle depicting 200 calico cats. I could have nightmares about all those green eyes staring back at me from disembodied pieces, or I could calmly begin linking tails and whiskers along edge pieces. Once that periphery is defined, the picture looks a whole lot less grisly.

|  Penned In

Caging cats – that’s a poetic way of putting it, I suppose. But the reality is more like taking a blank word doc, and naming sections for placing content. I often use a simple combination of bold headlines, plus directional or strategic content in red type. It breaks my work down into bite-sized pieces that are manageable. At that point, my creative mind can take over and purr right along.

|  Explode Your Pen

Of course, as a creative thinker, there’s a time and a place to blow up your framework. Once I’ve imposed enough order to see patterns emerge, I often see themes crossing over those tidy edges, which I’m more than happy to blow up. It reminds me of how our family cat was obsessed with our gecko – staring at him seemed to define her days. We joked that she was in love, then one day we found Sticky dead at her claws. As a writer, it’s a good idea to never fall in love with your words to the point that you wouldn’t murder them.

|  Panic or Progress: I Choose

What defines you can sometimes be the death of you. And vice versa. My constant work meant that I could tell my clients, sorry, I’ve had the luxury of being too busy to create a website. And yet, being caught in that churn meant I was reacting instead of taking charge of where I wanted my work to go. Who knows what caused that lull in projects – delays in new calendar year budget approval? A great deal on that every one of my point people happened to spring for? A series of solar flares? – but I had a good 3 weeks with almost no work. That hasn’t happened in 5 years. I could have panicked, but thankfully I have learned how to calmly create a framework, then move forward one step at a time toward a goal even when my guideposts are in Greek.

 |  Put a Blog on It

Which brings me to my next endeavor. I got some branding done, and Leon, Inc. was born. Predictably, the work has flooded in once more, but I’m approaching it with a new framework. The placeholder copy is there, and I can’t wait to exchange it for at least partially baked thoughts on writing, freelancing, life and – perhaps – cats.