So... I have Lupus (plus 3 easy tips for writing copy - without killing yourself. Literally.)

17 replies
Earlier this year, I got hit with a Lupus diagnoses. It was... and is... pretty rough honestly. My blood counts were so bad that the doc said I'd keep going downhill pretty fast -- if I didn't take their corporate drugs.

The symptoms are pretty gnarly. It feels like an annoying 3 year old is molding my brain -- as if it's silly putty; like having a 24/7 ice cream headache. That's what they call a "flare." Oh... and the fatigue and pain are mind-wrenching. There are times when it's hard to form a simple sentence... much less write a winning control. That's how scrambled my brain gets.

Now, in the copywriting business, a lack of cognitive clarity is the kiss of death. And after talking with a few other copywriters who are also dealing with (or previously dealt with) major health problems, I felt like it's something that needs to be discussed.

So the purpose of this thread is to act as a reminder for any copywriters or digital marketers -- who are dealing with health issues... even if it's just plain old, every day stress. (And how to actually write better copy -- just by embracing life's whirlwinds.)

Here's what I mean...

I've probably been dealing with Lupus since about '07. That's when all the "mystery" symptoms really started to gain steam. That's also when I started creating my own products and writing content (before transitioning into copy.)

First the docs said I had a heart attack... when in fact... the scare turned out to be caused by Pericarditis. Then they said I had high blood pressure... and that it could be the cause of all the inflammatory-based symptoms. But after getting the blood pressure back to normal, naturally, the docs just shrugged their shoulders.

"It must be in your head." Gee, thanks doc.

Over the last two years, there were nights when I'd be on the floor -- dealing with so much pain and inflammation that I could barely get up and go to the bathroom.

So when I finally got the Lupus diagnosis, it made the last handful of years, um... make sense... which was kind of relieving. But then they put me on the immune-suppressing Lupus meds... and man, it has taken a while for me (who is a naturalist to my core) to adjust to having these powerful, invasive chemicals in my body. It's sometimes just as gnarly as the actual Lupus symptoms.

Not exactly conducive to writing great copy, right?

Well...

I've had to play around with my writing schedule; I've had to figure out how much "me time" I needed to not just stay in the game, but become an even better copywriter and marketer.

I did it too... or at least, I'm doing it.

Out of my last handful of big projects, only a couple of them didn't perform well. And one of them, which took up a year of my time, was doomed from the beginning. Kind of a hindsight 20/20 thing. That's a whole other post.

The point is...

I've had to completely change how I do business -- from the way I collaborate and offer my time, to sitting down for hours-a-day writing the actual copy... and go back to what I've known all along.

Meaning, our bodies aren't made to just sit in front of the computer (or tablet) all day. If we don't get up and move... exercise... wander... spend present time with our families and work on our own stuff, our bodies fall apart. And quite frankly, what's the point of pushing to the point of breaking -- even if you're writing the best copy of your life? Making money? Staying relevant? Retiring at a young age?

I call BS.

Making money is easy. It is.

If you're even a decent copywriter, with some basic digital marketing skills, you WILL make money. Again, so what?

It's the "so what" that's been screwing with my head.

Now, as if Lupus wasn't enough...

I've also been watching my mom go through quickly advancing Alzheimers. It's humbling... and forces me to wonder what ANY of this is all about?

Here's a woman who dreamed big my whole life, yet never really got what she wanted... or anything close to it. It's weird to think that THIS is how her story ends.

It's another piece of the whole, "What's this all about?" existential pondering I'm going through.

Now, as copywriters, we have the chance to set pop culture trends; to influence people's actions... and the way they think. We sell possibility. That's powerful stuff.

But being able to come up with a surefire hook and write the copy to bring it life... isn't what life is all about. Life is about getting up in the morning and experiencing... well, life.

Because here's the reality. Well, reality as I see it:

Nothing can stop us, as copywriters to-the-bone, from creating. It's in our DNA. It's what turns us on and gets us off.

Which, from my perspective, is why we need to GET OUT THERE INTO THE WORLD and go through as much stuff; as much emotion... as much interaction... as possible.

What I mean is...

I can tell when I read my own copy... and it sounds like writing. I can spot the same thing in other people's copy.

Do all the research you want. Come up with hooks you think are money all day long. Deconstruct the competition's control until you're blue in the face. But nothing replaces genuinely feeling something... and being able to convey that feeling in just a few simple words.

So...

When you're going toe-to-toe with life's circumstances, like me going through Lupus, pay attention to the way YOU FEEL. Dive into it. Experience it to your core. Tap into the raw emotion. Give yourself the time and space to really dwell in that space.

Because it's when you're going through your own stuff -- without trying to wear the hat of being a copywriter - that you can actually get your biggest and best money-making ideas. No joke.

Three things:

1) When you're working on a project -- whether it's your own... or a client/partner gig - go ahead and immerse yourself in it. Do all of the interviewing and researching you need to stockpile information. Jot down some notes... maybe some lead copy... some bullets.

2) Get up. Step away from the computer. Unplug. Get lost. Get found. Wander. Workout. Do something that's just about you being you... and living your life. Get healthy. Challenge yourself to work on... yourself.(There's a ton of back-processing going on.)

3) When you're going through your own challenges, don't look at them as getting in the way of work. They're not. (This is key.) They are giving you a bigger palette of raw emotion to draw from and reference. I'm talking about stuff like fighting with your spouse, dealing with health challenges, questioning the purpose of life, finding love, trying to be the best... whatever. This stuff is all fuel to write better copy; more authentic copy... if you let it.

At the end of the day...

People, in any market or niche, want to feel like somebody gets what WE'RE going through. Us. Not you. Not them. Us.

And pay close attention to step 2. Because if you're not getting up and living your life... or you think working/writing 8+ hours-a-day is gonna make you happy and healthy, think again. It ain't. It will catch up with you. (Even if you've got one of those fancy treadmill desks;-)

Mark Pescetti

P.S. Just watched the very last episode of Mad Men today on iTunes. In the final scene, as Don is meditating, the light bulb goes off... and they imply he came up with the idea for an iconic Coke commercial. This is after going toe-to-toe with his existential bout with not feeling like life has any meaning or purpose. He's sitting there... chanting... "Om"... on a grassy hill -- letting life guide him and experiencing it deeply.

Ding. Million dollar idea.

It is that simple.

P.P.S. Anyone else out there dealt with some heavy stuff that has changed how they do business?
#copy #easy #killing #literally #lupus #so… #tips #writing
  • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
    Woke up one morning wondered what struck me.

    There were no previous symptoms.

    I could hardly get myself out of bed
    as my energy was shot.

    I couldn't think straight.

    Hauled my sorry ass down to the doctor and the nurse took
    one look at me and said I had shingles.

    Then the electric shock like pains hit
    my temple.

    The doctor drove me to the hospital eye clinic because
    I had a spot on the eye by the affected temple.

    This took drugs and trips back to the hospital to clear it.
    Fortunately no lasting damage.

    Then the shingles caused tinnitus and partial deafness.

    The tinnitus and temple shocks couldn't allow me to sleep.

    So now I had sleep deprivation.

    I lost clients because I didn't have enough energy and some semblance
    of mind clarity before I found people to take care of them.

    Took me nearly a year before I could mentally function
    to work.

    When you have the dormant shingles 'bug' in you and
    get too stressed, that's the result.

    Now I keep myself out of stressful situations.

    A couple of months ago I spent 2 nights in hospital with Pericarditis.

    I thought I was having a heart attack.

    There was pain every time I breathed in or out.

    The shortness of breath was scary stuff.

    So another dump of antibiotics then I'll take lot's of
    friendly bacteria in capsule form to get my immune system up.

    It's all the human experience.

    Best,
    Doctor E. Vile
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  • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
    I'm sorry to hear about that, man.

    I bet a lot of things are starting to be a lot more clear now that you finally know what's going on and can plan accordingly. I hope you find something that works well for you.

    Personally, I'm learning to deal with the stress. Thankfully it hasn't yet caused much in the way of health problems except muscle spasms and the tendency to snap - but I'm finally doing what I need to do to take care of me.

    At work (still in the corporate job), I bought a door for my space in order to intentionally block people out when I need to be in GSD mode. I've spent a lot of my time here cultivating the "big idea girl" reputation - and now that I've got it, it's both a blessing and a curse.

    I get to spend a lot of my day doing research and dreaming up big schemes, but I also get a lot of people asking for my time and my opinion. Meetings, rush jobs, all kinds of shit.

    Add to that the fact that I'm in the beginning stages of buying a house in the Bay Area and well - super stress.

    I've had to invest in taking care of myself just to have the mental bandwidth to function. Minimum 7 solid hours of sleep a night, even if I have to take a sleep aid. De-stressing, slow-moving yoga routines where the only space I have for thought is to remember to breathe and be still. I even cut out any and all side projects while I prepare to launch a special offer.

    Maybe I need to go jump off a bridge again LOL. It's been almost six months since I've done something dangerous and crazy. That's an eternity in Angie Land.
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  • Profile picture of the author ChadHaynes
    Underrated post. Thanks for this.

    Expected to see a sea of thank yous. Not surprised that of all the posters here, Angie was among those who read and replied.

    It's nice to see something on this forum that isn't just another "well I made four billion dollars last month and my students each make a quagillion dollars per nanosecond so you should listen to my unnecessarily berating advice on your career and life even though you just wanted to know how your landing page flows" post.

    I'm a musician who writes copy for a living because it's engaging and fun. I've never really been concerned with making more money than I need to keep my car running, the drinks flowing, and the music pumpin'. I pass the time by playing video games, drinking with friends, and watching MMA. I meditate, try to eat well, and I'm thinkin' about taking up Jiu-Jitsu. I used to do Judo and I loved it.

    It's awesome to see some soul on this forum, is what I'm trying to say. I know I'm breaking every cardinal rule of copy there is by talking about myself and going off-topic, but hell, you inspired me.

    Cheers,

    - Chad
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    • Profile picture of the author ATCopywriting
      Very powerful post, Mark.

      It's nice to know a lot of us are not alone when dealing with issues regarding our health. I was diagnosed with a heart condition as a teenager. While there is a very rare chance that death may occur, I've always done my best to keep it in check.

      I usually don't talk about it, though. Yet being an optimist, I am looking ahead and considering my options. I know that someday, if not soon..my heart will be in better shape.

      Right now, I'm focusing on bettering myself. I'm starting a new workout plan, eating better, and even getting into the habit of meditation. Meditating and working out are usually great when you're trying to find a new idea. Perhaps an idea to write an awesome sales letter or landing page copy. It doesn't hurt to "incubate" (ah yes..the old Joe Sugarman term) while going for a run.

      That said, your post could not have come at a better time. This is more inspiration to get stuff done, no matter what challenge stands in the way. Thank you.
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    • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
      Originally Posted by ChadHaynes View Post

      I'm a musician who writes copy for a living because it's engaging and fun. I've never really been concerned with making more money than I need to keep my car running, the drinks flowing, and the music pumpin'. I pass the time by playing video games, drinking with friends, and watching MMA. I meditate, try to eat well, and I'm thinkin' about taking up Jiu-Jitsu. I used to do Judo and I loved it.

      It's awesome to see some soul on this forum, is what I'm trying to say. I know I'm breaking every cardinal rule of copy there is by talking about myself and going off-topic, but hell, you inspired me.

      Cheers,

      - Chad
      Love it dude! And a BIG thank you!
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  • Profile picture of the author MatthewRHallEsq
    When you're going through your own challenges, don't look at them as getting in the way of work. They're not. (This is key.) They are giving you a bigger palette of raw emotion to draw from and reference. I'm talking about stuff like fighting with your spouse, dealing with health challenges, questioning the purpose of life, finding love, trying to be the best... whatever. This stuff is all fuel to write better copy; more authentic copy... if you let it
    It has been a shitty weekend, but I really needed to hear this. Had a kid 7 weeks ago, and my wife had to have emergency surgery Friday related to post-maternity stuff. Got way stressed out, especially over my client's ebook (that was already behind schedule). Felt frustrated I couldn't just focus on my work.

    But what you wrote is right on. Sure, my brain is shot to hell at the moment, so I can't work. And between the kid and repacking flesh wounds, I don't have time to work, anyway.

    When this all passes, though, I can take this experience and do something special with it.

    Thanks Mark. Best of luck with this.
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    • Profile picture of the author Ross Bowring
      Originally Posted by MatthewRHallEsq View Post

      It has been a shitty weekend, but I really needed to hear this. Had a kid 7 weeks ago, and my wife had to have emergency surgery Friday related to post-maternity stuff. Got way stressed out, especially over my client's ebook (that was already behind schedule). Felt frustrated I couldn't just focus on my work.

      But what you wrote is right on. Sure, my brain is shot to hell at the moment, so I can't work. And between the kid and repacking flesh wounds, I don't have time to work, anyway.

      When this all passes, though, I can take this experience and do something special with it.

      Thanks Mark. Best of luck with this.
      I did the packing the wound thing too. Not a bunch of fun for husband and especially for wife! Extra-tiring with a new baby for her to nurse aswell. Good luck with everything.

      To Mark, sorry to hear about your health issues. Glad to see you turning it into positive. I hope things improve.
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      • Who didn't get caught up in Mark's story. I know I did.

        For those of you looking for copy that draws in the reader, I suggest that you reread Mark's post.

        Mark, your true story makes for compelling and authentic copy.
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  • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod
    Hey Mark, man... sorry to hear about you going through these tough health/life challenges.

    Us Gen-X'ers are starting to get old and break...

    I know you'll make it out the other end of all this with a deep well of new insights and you know what to do with them better than most.

    These may not be your favorite days, but that's full-contact living...

    Breathe. Be.
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  • Hello Mark

    I understand perfectly, I also have an autoimmune disease and live with a life-saving drug ... you have to be strong, we are stronger than the disease, words are powerful medicine !!!

    I wish you all the best, Warrior!
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    Hey Mark,

    Sorry to hear about this health challenge. I sent you a PM.

    -Ray Edwards
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  • Profile picture of the author John Lloyd
    I don't post too often on the WF. But if there's a copywriter I've learned from the most here...it's Mark Pescetti.

    There's a genuineness in his writing that's rare amongst copywriters. He's constantly dropping pearls of wisdom whether it be related to the craft, or living life in general.

    So what I want to say is...get well soon, man.

    You're too good a guy to be weighed down with health problems. I read your bio, and you've overcome a lot. Consider this just another stumbling block that you'll get past.

    Best,

    John
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  • Hey Mark,

    Sorry to hear about the health troubles.

    I too have several nagging issues.

    But I'm older and maybe it's easier to cope with them.

    Something tells me that you have the power and the support to cope and get through it all.


    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
    Love you guys (and gals;-)! All your words are massively appreciated.
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  • Profile picture of the author mellymags
    You had me at Hello.

    A few years ago I started having numbing sensations in my fingers, hands, and legs. Then shooting pains in my lower back. Within a week my legs felt heavy and I had to heave myself up the stairs. My daughter was just 8 months old and I couldn't carry her, feed her, change her diaper or even really hold her. My son was 4 and didn't understand what was wrong with mommy. My husband had to do everything on top of his already stressful job.

    Spare you the details of what happened with the recruiting job I'd just started. Let's just say it's hard to be effective on the job when your doctors say "It's all in your head" and "it's stress." Doctors prescribed "atavan" (sp?) which made me loopy. Then I experienced facial paralysis and numbness in my tongue.

    Long story short - too late - 6 weeks later I was in unable to walk or move my arms and was in a wheelchair. I was diagnosed with Guillain Barre syndrome and treated just in time - they were about to put me on a respirator.

    Because of the late diagnosis I suffered severe nerve damage and underwent months of intense physical therapy. I experience hand tremors (aka "the shakes") and wobbly legs, which get worse when I'm under intense stress. Add to that a slight facial tick ("Hey, Sexy!) and I'm not exactly "a fit" for an office environment.

    Unable (or unwilling) to work in an office environment again... Life is too short for bullshit and putting up with office politics.

    Copywriting fell into my lap at exactly this time. The freedom I've found with a copywriting career is a true blessing. (which sprang from a curse.)

    Life is strange.

    Hang tough.

    Melissa Vasquez

    P.S. Thinking of writing a book/ebook about people undergoing delayed or false diagnoses. Thank you for pushing me one step closer...
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  • Profile picture of the author copyassassin
    Mark,

    So sorry to hear this.

    I know you're a natural type of guy, so having to take "pills" is a real bummer.

    Hopefully with time, perspective, you'll be greatful for this.

    Adam
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  • Profile picture of the author laurencewins
    Thanks for sharing, Mark. It's always nice to know that I am far from being alone with health problems. I have type 2 diabetes and some of the symptoms are very severe at times. I am blind in one eye (but am still an excellent proofreader as well as writer) and have severe, chronic pain in my neck and back all of the time.
    I have chronic insomnia, partly due to pain. I don't remember the last time I had a decent night's sleep.

    I do believe in the saying "whatever doesn't kill you - makes you stronger."

    I am fortunate that I can do my writing work when I am able to do it and rest when I need to.

    Take care, get well soon and keep doing what you do best, Mark. Thanks for sharing a bit of yourself with us.
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    Cheers, Laurence. Writer/Editor/Proofreader.
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