I lost sleep because of Eleanor Roosevelt

One of my two dogs was snoring.

Distant lightning strobed through the window blinds, too far away for thunder.

And somewhere in the limbo between midnight and 2am, I began to dread the long, tired work day ahead after a sleepless night.

I was awake because of Eleanor Roosevelt.

After a dive into Ken Burns’ 2014 docuseries The Roosevelts, I couldn’t stop thinking of her terribly sad childhood:

  • both parents dead by the time she was ten

  • a vain, distracted mother who called her “Granny” and was vocally disappointed in her daughter’s looks

  • a depressive alcoholic father who promised happiness he couldn’t give

  • teenage years with a grim grandmother and unstable uncles

And yet, time and again—well before she was First Lady—she taught, she advocated, she led. She connected.

She believed the best thing she could do was to be of service. Of use.

So much writing would benefit from the same drive. But it’s hard to figure out how to be useful.

Don’t overthink it. Start where you are, with what you have.

I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do, provided he keeps doing them until he gets a record of successful experience behind him.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt and her father, Elliott (brother of Teddy Roosevelt)

You never learned to write persuasively in school.

You were taught to write with logic. To organize thoughts. To cram every argument possible into a term paper so it met its required word or page length. But that wasn’t persuasion.

Because persuasion is about emotions. Not logic.

Logic comes last—if at all.

And so if I had to pick one MOST USEFUL thing from among all my learning this year, it would be this:


You’re scratching your head now (don’t worry—they were news to me, too).

Fascinations are just persuasive bullet points. They’re a copywriting technique.

Like this:
(examples from Eddie Schleyner, Kieran Drew, and unknown)

  • How to find the most compelling and valuable tidbits in a sea of information. (And then use those tidbits to “fascinate” any type of content: audio, video, or writing)

  • Two questions that guarantee you'll become a personality in your niche (and 2 "little tricks" I use to do it right)

  • Are short subject lines really better than long ones? The answer may surprise you . . .

I’m learning them by studying Eddie Schleyner’s work—and you should too if you want to write more persuasively. He has a great periodic newsletter, and you get 6 free learning modules (including fascinations!) when you sign up.

It’s just excellent stories, writing, and learning.


Being useful means lists and frameworks, right? Wrong. Useful writing can simply open eyes or minds (or hearts) (5 min read)

What you struggle with could be exactly what someone else needs to hear. When you learn something, leave a map you can share. (tweet)


The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.

from “To Be of Use,” by Marge Piercy

What could your writing help someone do? (tweet)

30 quick ways to make your ChatGPT outputs more useful (tweet)

Feel intimidated by the idea of making your writing useful? Just think of it this way (slice it up) (tweet)

Surprise: readers will find meaning in your writing that you didn’t expect or intend (pay attention when that happens so you can do more of it!) (30 second watch)

🧠 and ❤️