I took a hiatus from life to work a contract gig as a copywriter for a major corporation. With the exception of technical writing (or being a hugely famous author), copywriting is the most lucrative day job in the writing world. Travel writing appears to be the least lucrative so unless I want to be one of those hostel people (with dog? and husband? heck no), this is what I have to do.
There’s also video game writing, which I hear pays handsomely. I have no idea what that entails though.
If only I played Zelda more
I should stroll the bohemian stroll. I should be in Uruguay or something. I will be traveling again, once I figure out how to make travel journalism a fulltime job. That’s my goal this year and I am happy you’re aboard for the ride.
Thankfully, my current job is very creative and there’s free coffee. And because of all the stress and caffeine, I have an eye twitch. Maybe after my eye explodes, I’ll have to wear a patch and then I’ll become a super villainess — a corporate crime fighter in a pencil skirt.
8 writing lessons learned on the job:
- Passive voice is like periodontal disease. It seeps into your writing, right up underneath the gums and weakens the bones. Floss it out. (Get rid of am, is, are, were, be, being been).
- Put the ‘offer’ up front. Restructure your sentences so the most important piece stays strong up front. Start off strong, then get into the nitty gritty. In copywriting, I write to a message hierarchy. I figure out the key takeaways – every offer I craft goes back to the key takeaway, with the first of the message hierarchy on the top. This focus helped immensely.
- Pay attention. Typos don’t matter much on a blog (some of us don’t have editors, you know), but they matter when thousands of dollars have been spent on a campaign. I pay attention to everything I write to avoid a horrific embarrassment.
- Don’t be weird for weird’s sake. We’re talking weird names, exotic pets, too many scarves, failure to meet deadlines. Weird is fine. But don’t reinvent yourself as a kook. Creatives can be both the most brilliant and fun colleagues or the most obnoxious and pretentious. Be the former.
- Hunt down inspiration. I developed an incredible amount of discipline from my career in copywriting and journalism. All it takes is a fear of being fired, a diet coke, a few Swedish Fish and BLAMMO! the muse is standing in my cube. I no longer wait for inspiration; I hunt it down. My muse resembles Mr. T, circa 1980s.
- Don’t jam gigantic words into everything. Copywriters don’t have a ton of room, which is phenomenal because I avoid a big letter count in favor of a precise word. I don’t use the word cocophonus nearly enough. I don’t speak this way, why would I write this way? Maybe this is why I’ve always been drawn to tough guys, like Hemingway and Junot Diaz.
- Criticism is necessary. My work is projected onto a screen where it’s critiqued by my boss and team. I no longer freak out when someone tells me what I wrote isn’t right.
- Tell a story. I tend to focus on little details: how the sun looked like a lemon drop. I get lost there and forget the entire point – there’s a story. Words that don’t work to tell that story are wasted. The limited space in copywriting keeps me focused and on point.
January 22, 2013 at 5:32 am
Interesting that most copywriting rules can be applied to creative writing. A little discipline is a good thing. Good luck!
January 22, 2013 at 7:29 am
Very nice piece of writing and the good advice is a bonus Thanks
January 22, 2013 at 7:40 am
“Fear of Being Fired” is perhaps the most reliable muse there ever was.