COPYWRITERS AREN'T HARRY POTTER

COPYWRITERS AREN'T HARRY POTTER

I reckon half of being a copywriter is saying you're a copywriter.

Tell people you're a copywriter, and something strange happens.

They start to believe you can write.

They think you can do something magical. Something they can't do.

Everybody writes. But you're a copywriter.

Honestly, dozens of times, when people have asked me to write for them, they've said some variation of:

"Can you work your magic on this?"

Sorry. I'm not Philippe Coutinho, mate. I'm not a magician.

But that's what people think writing is. Magic.

 

Writing isn't like plumbing.

If you put pipes in the wrong place, water goes everywhere.

If you put words in the place wrong, fuck it, people might not even notice.

Want proof? Read that last sentence again.

They might even think you meant it.

It's because of that ambiguity that people think there's something ethereal about what you're doing.

 

Realistically, though, there's nothing that I'm doing that most of my clients couldn't do for themselves.

I hear people come out with really creative ideas in their speech.

But it falls apart when they try to commit it to writing.

Why is that? A mental block? They don't have the confidence?

Partly. Maybe.

But I believe it's more than that.

Writing is thinking.

Thinking takes time.

People just don't have the time.

 

Writing is thinking.

Forget the vocab, the grammar, the cadence.

They're important, sure, but they're not the message.

Writing is thinking.

Thinking about the reader.

Ever heard of Roland Barthes' essay, The Death of the Author?

I'm paraphrasing here, but it essentially says nobody gives two shits about what you meant to write.

Your writing only has meaning, only exists, when it's interpreted.

The reader's the only important person in any piece of writing.

From a Steinbeck novella to an email.

The main mistake I've seen people make is writing without thinking about the reader.

Think about the reader, and what things will mean to them.

Think whether things will be clear to the reader.

Think how you'll make the reader feel.

As long as your reader is a person, and you're a person, you can do that.

Anyone can.

 

So, writing is thinking.

But you can't see the thinking.

Which is why people think it's magic.

And it's why people can get others to think they can write by saying they're copywriters.

The thing is:

You can't get by just saying you're a copywriter.

You do need to think. You do need to empathise. And you need to know that you have to think and empathise.

So saying you're a writer when you're not wears off after a while.

The ephemeral Emperor's new clothes might last for the first few times the reader says, 'I don't get this, but it must be good – a copywriter did it'.

But eventually, you get found out.

"This bastard's naked, and their writing's boring as hell."

And the magic's worn off.

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