Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

wet cat final

“Charleston in the summertime: Like breathing through a wet cat!”

How was your Charleston copywriting summer? Hot and sticky like mine? I’m thinking this Friday before Labor Day might be the most humid day of the year. As I often say, “Copywriting is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration – especially in Charleston!”

So what’s happening here at the Exchange?

Seems like a lot of existing client maintenance lately, and that’s just fine. But there’s always room for more at this party, so come on along! For web, print, video and social media copy and content, contact livelyexchange (at) gmail (dot) com!

Photo credits: Fine Art America (bridge), BuyCostumes.com (mask), Dreamz Time (cat)

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20638931_1587932687948153_447980582823745319_nIt’s National Book Lovers Day, because there is a day for everything!

I’m definitely having a reading year in twenty and seventeen, and heavy on the Dystopias for some reason! Started by re-reading Margaret Atwood’s Madaddam Trilogy – soon to be the next great HBO series. Then, a middling Atwood-lite called California by Edan Pelucki. Some speculative political fiction with Indian Country by Kurt Schlichter. More Atwood as I re-read Handmaid’s Tale for the 8th time. Even MORE Atwood with the more recent, and just-OK, The Heart Goes Last. Finally, this year’s winner so far, Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel.

What are YOU reading?

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Greetings, my fellow ink-stained wretches! Long weekend here. I’ve flown my mother into Charleston for her birthday. So it’s four days of touristy crap for the lady who not only cracked the whip tirelessly until I finished college, but who also bought me my first computer. It’s the least I can do…trust me, I checked!  L8R…

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What made you want to write? Was there a particular novel or film that inspired you? Or was it something less romantic than that?

I remember killing time in a grocery store thumbing through the paperbacks. Of course, there was the Harlequin type crap for the ladies. For the gents there was a bunch of serialized action-adventure nonsense with covers depicting some grimy, scarred-up mercenary clutching a shredded American flag silhouetted against a blood-red atomic twilight. A typical description on the back cover might read: “In the post-apocalyptic future a rag-tag band of special-ops assassins battles their zombie/mutant/space Nazi overlords!”

And I remember saying to myself, “I could write this crap!”

Believe me, I gave it hell. I thought I had a pretty interesting setting and some compelling characters. It was speculative fiction, which is what you say when you don’t want to admit to science fiction. I’d describe it for you, but you’d swear I stole it from The Matrix, even though I started writing it in 1990. Anyway, after fits and starts and long stretches of inactivity, I’ve got 200 pages in a binder somewhere that will never be completed. First of all, they went and made The Matrix. I suppose I could change some elements to make it less Matrix-y. But, truthfully, the story is very bleak and hopeless and, thank the Lord, that’s not who I am anymore.

But it was a lesson learned regarding the various divergent paths of writing. There’s always somebody who thinks they can do it better. Like some pine-head in the supermarket that thinks he can write post-apocalyptic pulp fiction better than the guys making a living at it. Or the client who’s willing to spend $5000 for website design, but decides he’s going to write the copy himself.

So, for better or worse, the Novel That Never Was is what first stoked the fires. It got me thinking about the possibility of a future of not spent lugging 300lbs of video for the rest of my life. And bit by bit I started taking the steps to transition out of full time video and into full time writing.

By the way, I am Matrix fan numero uno. Just the first one, though. Reloaded and Revolutions both have the dubious distinction, as Bart Simpson once observed, of both sucking and blowing at the same time.

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There are times I find myself impatiently, even nervously, Waiting for It. The inspiration, that is. I stare at my notes, at the client’s materials, at this pile of stuff, just waiting for the spark. And sometimes it’s slow in coming.

This can happen on my very first assignment with a new client, when that first impression is so crucial. For me, though, it’s more likely to be the seventh or eighth assignment, when I have said absolutely everything I can about their amazing product or service or patented process. When they change one detail, and expect a whole new animal.

So I have picked up a few tricks, fillers and time killers to occupy my brain and hopefully kick-start the creativity.

  • Change of scenery: Packing up and heading to the coffee shop, for a whole different set of distractions.
  • Shutting off the damn internet: sort of self-explanatory
  • Reading the job ticket: Sometimes I find a hidden morsel of previously overlooked info. “Oh, they want to SELL their product! That makes more sense!”
  • Thesaurus.com: I use this one all the time, on practically every job. “Ah, to garrote is to strangle! Good to know!”
  • Etymology: Studying the origins of words. In high school (Blackboard Jungle High ’82) I took two years of Latin, as well as Latin and Greek etymology. I’m like the dad in Big Fat Greek Wedding: “You give me word, I tell you Greek root.”
  • Reading the materials yet again: the client’s collateral stuff like their website, brochures, news clippings, or PR materials.
  • Imprinting: I don’t know a better word for it but, in severe cases, I will prop up their collateral stuff and start re-typing it word for word. The idea is to get their words in my head. I read that author Alexandra Ripley, having won the dubious honor of penning the sequel to Gone With the Wind, first copied the original novel in its entirety…by hand. The result, “Scarlett,” blew chunks, but I still like the idea.

When all else fails, just write. This is something I had to learn when I first started writing professionally. I used to think that if it wasn’t perfect on the first draft…I don’t know…that they would see what a FRAUD I was! I have since learned that you just need to give them something to react to. It’s just a first draft! It’s not meant to be perfect.

Besides, in the act of critiquing the first draft they just might actually, finally, tell you what they want.

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