Copywriter’s Constipation

Sometimes it’s hard – even after being a copywriter for 14 years – I don’t have it easy all the time.

Often, when I’m tasked to write something, I can immediately get cracking. Words swiftly turn into sentences, which leads to paragraphs. Some jobs take minutes, other hours and the rest days, but the word-flow is constant and premeditated.

I know exactly where I’m heading, and I’m usually pretty confident that the client will appreciate my take on their product or service.

There are times however; I’m left staring at a blinking cursor. Minutes turn into hours before I write even a single line of copy, which I re-hash over and over again until I realise that I’ve actually been watching TED talks the whole day.

I curse myself for being an idiot. The client has trusted me and I can’t even string a couple of decent sentences together. Idiot!

Writer
... or watch TED talks

These are the days when self doubt creeps up stealthily and I conclude that I’m not really a good copywriter after all. Then I shut down for the day and grab a… errr… cool, refreshing beverage, pondering whether I should have become a word-challenged pilot instead.

Another day dawns and the struggle continues, despite the looming deadline.

Then I stop working on the copy and start looking at the product or service I am writing for, just to see if there’s any inspiration hidden within the brief, e-mail conversations or materials.

Nothing. Zero. Zilch.

Finally it hits me. Maybe it isn’t me; maybe it’s the product or service that’s flawed in some way that my internal sensors aren’t being activated.

A weak product or service is the antidote to inspiration. Even the world’s best copywriter can’t turn a Proton into a Toyota in the eyes of the consumer.

If I can’t write a reasonably good piece of communication that promises some decent benefits to the consumer, perhaps the product or service needs fixing.

But of course, I can’t tell that to the client. Can I?

One Year On

I never wanted to believe the little creatures that would keep whispering in my ears. “Go easy on your meds!”  I’d say.

This week marks my full year of being self-employed. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but holy crap how time flies!

MyCreatures
My fugly little inner voices, don't be fooled by their charm...

The little creatures are of course not real, they are more like my inner voices. Yes, I said voices, with an ‘S’. Seriously, the kind of baloney that goes on in my head will leave you gasping for air.

Anyway, these creatures have been insisting that I quit the rat race and plunge into the dog-eat-dog world of self-employment. I finally relented around 12 months ago, after years of annoying pressure. Damn you creatures!

Even when I did give in to the inner pressure, I gave myself 6 months. I figured I’d be scurrying back to the sanity of a fulltime copywriting  job in no time. Just like how a rat would sprint toward his hole in the wall at the first sign of trouble.

But it didn’t happen; though I’ve contemplated it during numerous lean periods over the past year.

This is no declaration of victory though. I am still only giving myself another 6 months. Thinking too far ahead only makes a person overconfident I’ve learned.

To my fugly little creatures, I’m sorry for not believing in you guys. And please, forget the meds and let’s bring out the bubbly.

New Year, Same Old…

(as the saying goes) …Shit.

So, after all the partying, hangovers, reminiscing and resolutions; we are greeted by the daily grind.

In advertising, that means more last minute rush jobs, late nights, over-the-weekend special bonuses and new business pitches. No one said it was going to be easy, but I think we addies somehow enjoy the pain.

Here’s to another year of adver-chaos, no matter where you are. But for us in Boleh-land, don’t worry, CNY is just round the corner. You just got to love Malaysia sometimes!

Possibly what you can expect all over again this year, thanks to Advergirl:

It starts
Suddenly, on a late Friday afternoon..
Panic
But, but... it's the weekend?
Peoples
All hands, heads, legs on deck!
Who's paying the pizza guy?
And they really believed that shit?
And they actually bought it; really?

Wasted effort, or strong initiative?

Whoa… What a Year!

This was the year that I took the biggest risk of my entire life – quitting my job. And dare I say it’s the best decision I’ve ever made?

The answer to that question a little bit later.

In the past 6 months, I’ve gone from determined to take on the world to the depths of self doubt. Becoming a self-employed copywriter after 13 years in the rat race was awesomely liberating yet most unsettling.

Copywriter Search Google
Am I really Top 4 for the keyword 'Copywriter'? Google sure knows how to flatter sometimes...

If just one year ago, someone told me I will go the final half of 2011 without a monthly paycheck, I’d probably ask him to go easy on the bubbly.

But it’s strange how the dots connect. How lady luck finally gives you a peek. How you’re inspired to do the unthinkable. How you realise all the things you missed in life. How you can actually enjoy a Monday morning. And how fast you forget about that monthly paycheck.

Yes, I am aware that it’s only been 6 short months. But I have to admit that it has not been bad. In fact, the world has been kind to me. Kinda eerie if you think about it actually.

So I think a huge thank you is in order. To my clients, colleagues, friends, family and readers of my ramblings – thank you for making my 2011 an eventful and unforgettable year.

I’ll leave you guys with this year’s Google Zeitgeist’s Year-in-Review video:

Oh yes, the answer to the question. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea. Just know this, in case the world does come to an end in 2012, I’ll go with no regrets.

Happy New Year guys… cheers!

Why I Quit My Job

Most people think I became self-employed to make more money. But trust me, if money was my only motivation, it would have been easier to just keep working. So why did I quit? Truth be told, I had absolutely no idea, until recently.

Okay, honestly I did have a general idea. Basically it was to have more time for myself, do things on my terms and do it well, and look forward to better things than weekends and paydays. I would be happy even if I made some money; more is of course a bonus.

Manual Labour
It often felt like I was doing hard labour, even when I wasn't

But I that was before I watched a TED video by Dan Pink, which offered a fascinating insight into the science of motivation. In the video, Dan talks about an important factual discovery:

That those working in jobs that require
cognitive skills (i.e. creativity), a larger reward (i.e. more money)
leads to poorer performance

No wonder I was so miserable even when I was earning a decent buck as a senior copywriter. And that “I deserve better” feeling at the end of the month wasn’t because I wanted more money; but because I wanted to satisfy the purpose of my existence.

I know, sounds philosophical, but Dan put down 3 desires us ‘creative’ folks yearn for:

Autonomy: The urge to direct our own lives

Mastery: The desire to get better and better at something that matters

Purpose: The yearning to do what we do in service of something larger than ourselves

So if you’re stuck in a well-paying job; but still can’t seem to figure out why you find it absolutely painful to wake up in the mornings, I suggest you watch Dan’s video on TED.

Just don’t quit your job too soon. I might call you for a loan in case my self-employment thing doesn’t work out… haha!

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