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?
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.
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.
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;-)
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?