Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?
I started writing as soon as I stopped chewing wax crayons, so the die was cast pretty early on.
Then, in my early twenties I asked an editor if he’d explain his use of commas. He hesitated; I hectored. He divulged; I digested (his comments on commas, not more crayons obviously).
Then? Then we debated the value of writing just for yourself against the cost of not writing for other people. I remember it quite vividly: I was so inspired that I popped the question. No, no, no; not that question, the other one. I pitched for a commission on the spot – and haven’t stopped writing since.
What work are you most proud of?
Pride is such a self-aggrandizing sin, don’t you think? Ten years ago I’d have cited letters that went out to millions of people. A curve-ball speech for someone controversial (which, now I think about it, probably wasn’t my finest work but Definitely Did The Trick). Now I’m older. More pragmatic if not wiser. The work that makes me feel best is work that comes to life beyond the page.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
For my own gratification? The Lake Isle of Innisfree. For status? Anything by Ted Sorenson. Because I admire it? A unifying piece of poetry that promoted Bryanston Parallel Medium in South Africa (see below).
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
Walk; relax; drink; talk; research; stop worrying; start writing again. Not necessarily in that order.
What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?
Ah, my least favourite task. I abhor powder-puff battles about syntax: lengthy debates that are so contorted, so twisted, so self-serving and superfluous that I would prefer to pluck my nosehairs with a spoon. But my favourite task? It’s not a task. I like reading. And that’s essential for writing.
Any copywriting pet hates?
The phrase ‘near miss’. It’s either a hit or a miss.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Ooh – two pieces of advice: record conversations so that you can listen to the words and really hear them a second time around, and never talk yourself into a job that won’t pay you what you’re worth.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Read. Read everything. Write. Write until you fall asleep. Work to live, don’t live to work.
What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?
Knowing that, simply by scattering the alphabet across the page, I have the ability to change people’s lives.
Why do you find PCN membership useful?
The PCN gives me connections to views that help me become a more-informed writer.
Where can people find out more about you?