I didn’t go to journalism school.
I don’t have a formal degree in copywriting.
What I have is an undying love for the written word that goes beyond syntax and grammar. Hand on my heart; this is what has kept me going for the 8+ years I have been a copywriter. Or, as I like to put it, a Writer.
If you are reading this, then I assume so are you. Off the bat, let’s get an important fact straight – this is not a Neil Patel-style (god bless that man!) treatise on what you should do while you try wringing out that perfect headline from the depths of your imagination. There are no quick tips and tricks that I can claim to offer; because I believe we all have our pet peeves, and practices which help us wax eloquent. Mine is blasting old-school Bollywood on loud while drinking my favourite tea, or taking a WFH if I can because I always write better alone. This cannot be offered as a generalised advice, or a rule to follow, for obvious reasons. And God how I hate rules!
I won’t give you a to-do, but I can talk about the mantras I live by which have sustained me, and which I hope you find helpful. If you’re good with this, then let’s begin.
Mantra 1. Your heart knows best.
Sounds cliché? Bear with me.
As a writer, you are the voice of your brand. And you can’t half-ass this work. If there’s any doubt about projects or brands a writer is working with, it usually reflects in the writing. I have consciously tried to find work in industry verticals I have an innate affinity towards (and if any publishers are listening, hi there!). But I know we don’t all always have that choice.
This is not to say that you can’t work in an industry you have no love or academic understanding of. I have been working for a digital wealth firm Kristal.AI for about a year now, and I failed math and statistics in school. The reason I am able to put my whole heart into my work is because I find the brand’s vision aligns with the way I think wealth management should exist in the times of Netflix and chill.
And what if, despite much trying you still can’t find similar sustenance at your workplace? Read point 2.
Mantra 2. An outlet for your personal creativity = Air.
“Make it laymen proof.” I have heard this so many times. When I began working, this requirement to constantly dumb down written content used to eat at my skin. My first job was at a small ad agency in Bangalore, and I heard it there with clients screaming down our necks because they didn’t understand the pitch. I moved on to corporate jobs, and I have been hearing it there, too.
Bottomline: you just can’t escape the irony of being asked to dumb down wit. Over the years, I have made my peace with it. Thankfully, my current job offers me the liberty to play around with words (within official bounds, obviously). But when my work hours were more furnace than fuel for creativity, I had my own way of dealing with the problem. A mix of freelancing, and writing Murakami-sh posts on Instagram kept me going. With my freelance work, I chose projects that appealed to me creatively. With Instagram, I let loose. And found a tribe of writers and enthusiasts who appreciated the art for what it was, sans the restrictions of Grammarly and Hemmingway editors.
Which brings me to point 3.
Mantra 3. Find your tribe.
In the dark coal-like nuggets of our souls, we writers are attention seekers. Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh. But it’s still true that all we want is to be told that what we write made someone take notice. We do that with zingy ad copies. With radio jingles.
With stream-of-consciousness essays like this one.
~ We do it all the time. Accept. Breathe. Move on. There’s no need to take umbrage. ~
It only stands to reason then, that lack of appreciation would do to writers what lack of water does to the poor plants kept in dingy office corridors for the purpose of ‘brightening’. It kills us. Having your tribe at hand keeps you sane and flowering. Whether it is online, or in real life, a support system will stop you from going comatose at the next strategy meeting in office.
So, find one.
Mantra 4. Find your definition of creativity as well.
While you’re out seeking, it wouldn’t hurt to stop and ask yourself what is it that you really want to do with your creative gift. Everyone has a story to tell; the stories themselves don’t appeal to everyone though. Just like the brand you work for, you need to find your persona and TG. Trust me, it takes as much hard work and time to write boring static content as it does to write that one line that goes up on billboards.
With the online space becoming more finite every day, originality has become a farce. Almost. Websites need content; social pages need content; videos, blogs, reports, infographics are all content plays. And they all need writers who are willing to write their way out of that claustrophobia.
The next time someone tells you that you are not doing enough because your tagline hasn’t graced a billboard yet, tell them to take the fast route to ShutUpVille right away. As long as what you’re doing lines up with how you want to write. Because happy writers write from their heart – I explained it in point 1. Yes, yes. It’s all very meta. I am awesome, Thank You.
Mantra 5. Don’t ever lose sight of your reason.
I never went to journalism school, yes. But I did do 23 years of schooling nonetheless. I had dreams of doing other things but when I started writing, I knew I couldn’t go back. Once you have tasted virality, it is hard to adopt the banal life sans literary highs.
I write because I don’t think I would ever be as good at anything else; or rather, that nothing else would bring me as much creative pleasure as wordplay does. Early on in my career, I didn’t respond to criticism well. I sometimes still don’t. But I come back to the grind voluntarily because it is my raison d’être, my soif de vivre, and my ‘I don’t know much French but I hope you understand’.
Your motivations to write may differ. Or, you might feel the same ache to pen down genius wisecracks like I do. Whatever the spark, fan it every way you can and keep it alive.
Mantra 6. Read as much as you can. Write more. Listen double.
If there was one rule though that I would say all writers should follow, it is to read at every chance, and every genre. Build your skills and your craft irrespective of work demands, and reading is a great way to do that.
And as much as you read, and write – double your efforts to listen to those around you. Remember when I said everyone has a story to tell? You never know how listening to them and their stories will help you in the long run.
I’ll leave you with a quote by Anais Nin which beautifully sums up my approach towards the writing process. She says, “We write to taste twice; in the moment and in retrospect.” As writers, we all bleed ink. And if the taste of that bloodbath isn’t life itself, then are you even writing?
Mantra 7. Let yourself bleed. Ink, obviously.
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