Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Want to be a Writer? There's a Catch.

In 1953, Joseph Heller was employed as a copywriter at Merrill Anderson when he imagined a novel that, eight years later, would appear as Catch 22.

"Working on Catch, I’d become furious and despondent that I could only write a page a night," Heller once told an interviewer. "I’d say to myself, ‘Christ, I’m a mature adult with a master’s degree in English, why can’t I work faster?'”

Moxie isn't always included among the copywriter's traits, though it should be. One page a night for eight years takes a lot of moxie.

Hubspot contributor Matthew Kane says copywriters must have nine other traits to be any good. They must be:

Top-notch researchers and interviewers. "Copywriters will need to pivot from client to client and sometimes industry to industry," Kane says. "As such, they’ll need to get up to speed—quickly." Interviews with experts add context to samples and reading materials.

Knowledgeable about audiences. "We try to write in the vernacular," David Ogilvy once said. Ads, ebooks, case studies and blog posts only work when the writer knows "what the intended audience thinks, speaks, and searches for," Kane says.

Thirsty to learn. A copywriter should thirst for knowledgebut not turn insatiable. "Copywriters know their goal should be to learn as much information about the product and the audience as possible to write effective copyand nothing more."

Informed. "Bad copywriters often stuff their work with purple prose or other literary devices in an attempt to make some sort of high-minded art out of an innocuous project," Kane says. "Good copywriters, on the other hand, understand the modern world. They’re knowledgeable about how consumers skim and read, understand the importance of an attention-grabbing headline, can articulate the sales and marketing objectives, and know a thing or two about SEO and keyword optimization."

Thick-skinned. Rejecting feedback from others never works. "Good copywriters believe in their convictions but understand that they may not always be right."

Self-assured. Good copywriters can explain to critics why they took a particular approach and chose particular words.

Anti-perfectionist. “Art is never finished, only abandoned," da Vinci once said. "Good copywriters realize that the pursuit of perfectionwhile nobleis futile," Kanes says. "They know that they can go on tweaking forever, but understand that 'good enough' is exactly that."

Willing to seek help. Writing is a solitary pursuit. "As a result, many copywriters have the tendency to view themselves as a 'lone wolf,'” Kane says. But good copywriters seek out mentors, editors, teachers and advisors who will push them to do better work.

Always reading. "An exceptional copywriter is always aware of the latest industry trends," Kane says. "They cringe at coming across as out of touch."
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