Yesterday I Waited Tables- Now I'm a Copywriter!

25 replies
Well, that is not true. I just read this little whimsy from
Denny Hatch I found had bearing here...

"What do you do?" a guy at a cocktail party was asked.


"I'm a brain surgeon," was the reply. "What do you do?"


"I'm a writer."


"Ah," said the brain surgeon. "I've often thought that
when I retire I'd like to try some writing."


"And when I retire," said the writer, "I plan try a little
brain surgery."
#copywriter #tables #waited #yesterday
  • Profile picture of the author AEC
    Ah, now I know why copy writing comes so hard for me. I have not spent as much time learning it and a brain surgeon does learning his trade.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      I was laughing - but then realized something.

      4 of the 5 books I've read in the past couple weeks were written by authors who are also doctors or lawyers or other professional people who have now "become writers".

      Clearly, not every professional person has the talent to be a writer - but many of them do and these books are on the fiction best seller lists.

      Being a writer (even a top end "copywriter") will never qualify you for a second career as a brain surgeon no matter how great your writing skills are.

      Could it be writing is not a "profession" you train for - but a "trade" you master? Just a thought.

      kay
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      • Profile picture of the author CrhisD
        Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

        I was laughing - but then realized something.

        4 of the 5 books I've read in the past couple weeks were written by authors who are also doctors or lawyers or other professional people who have now "become writers".

        Clearly, not every professional person has the talent to be a writer - but many of them do and these books are on the fiction best seller lists.

        Being a writer (even a top end "copywriter") will never qualify you for a second career as a brain surgeon no matter how great your writing skills are.

        Could it be writing is not a "profession" you train for - but a "trade" you master? Just a thought.

        kay
        IMHO, There's writing and then there's writing. A lot of people sell books because they are famous and have fans that want to collect memorabilia. In that sense a book is just like a photo album, or a souvenir program or whatever. That's also writing. Heck, this forum is full of writing lol

        But that's writing. I suppose there's a difference between this writing and Churchill's

        All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.

        (taken from Winston Churchill Quotes )


        Or Shakespeare's

        To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
        Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
        To the last syllable of recorded time;
        And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
        The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
        Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
        That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
        And then is heard no more. It is a tale
        Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
        Signifying nothing.

        Or James Joyce's Ulysses, people should read it just one time, it's scary how anyone can write that well.

        It used to be that writing was an art, but now it's just a commodity. Books are written to be sold these days, not because of entertainment, or to capture a moment in time or whatever.

        Writing was an art, and now it's just a trade. Painters and artists both paint, but only one is sure of getting paid for it
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      • Profile picture of the author CrhisD
        Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

        Clearly, not every professional person has the talent to be a writer - but many of them do and these books are on the fiction best seller lists.
        I think there's talent and then there's talent. George Orwell had talent. Aldous Huxley had talent. Terry Pratchett had talent. And all of them were writers when writing was an art and not a trade. Among professional people, the only person I know who has talent is James Herriot, and even then he was just describing what happened to him every day, it's not like he had to make up a whole world full of people and animals

        Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

        Being a writer (even a top end "copywriter") will never qualify you for a second career as a brain surgeon no matter how great your writing skills are.
        Just like being a brain surgeon will probably never qualify you to be a "top end" writer. "top end" writers rarely exist these days because well, if you're a top brain surgeon you make millions, if you're a top writer you'd be lucky to be able to survive.

        There are very few "top end" writers in this world today, maybe J K Rowling (and only the first book, it just got more and more commercial after that) and Terry Pratchett. I think that's about it.
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        • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
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          Originally Posted by CrhisD View Post

          being a brain surgeon will probably never qualify you to be a "top end" writer.
          Maybe not but at least you have the consolation of being a "top end" surgeon.
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          • Profile picture of the author DireStraits
            Originally Posted by Alexa Smith View Post

            Maybe not but at least you have the consolation of being a "top end" surgeon.


            Not if your patients are so insane as to spend most of their time walking on their hands!
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            • Bruce,

              They were all masterpieces - but your favourite Steinbeck novel is...?


              (everyone else is welcome to vote as well)
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              • Profile picture of the author mrdomains
                See, when people work hard and grow old and tired doing it, they manage to keep going by dreaming of pleasant things they could be doing, and hopefully will have time to do.. someday. It's like wanting to learn golf, or photography, or painting with coal.. I am going to try all that one day. When I retire.. yes I will!

                So all of you writers - rejoice to the fact that your tedious job is someone's retirement wet dream
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            • Profile picture of the author sethczerepak
              Becoming a writer is one thing, it's really not that hard to do. All it takes is making the time to do it. However, becoming a good writer is a entirely new level that not anyone can reach and becoming a GREAT writer takes about as much practice, innate skill and determination as any other trade out there.

              Then you have copywriting, which is a whole different animal. Plenty of good writers are complete flops when it comes to selling with their writing...I know this cause I hire freelance writers on a consistent basis. A copywriter is a salesperson first, a writer second, and sales is one of the hardest life skills to master. It takes just as much character and emotional intelligence as it does raw skill.

              I love it when people hear that I make over six figures a year writing and they say: "Wow, I should start doing that." I have to laugh...it's just not that easy, but the fact that people believe it is just makes things easier for those who know the difference.
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          • Profile picture of the author CrhisD
            Originally Posted by Alexa Smith View Post

            Maybe not but at least you have the consolation of being a "top end" surgeon.
            And the money as well LOL
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      • Profile picture of the author Collette
        Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

        I was laughing - but then realized something.

        4 of the 5 books I've read in the past couple weeks were written by authors who are also doctors or lawyers or other professional people who have now "become writers".

        Clearly, not every professional person has the talent to be a writer - but many of them do and these books are on the fiction best seller lists.

        ...
        kay
        Ghostwriter.

        One of my friends just finished a book manuscript for a medical professional. She wrote it; he will approve it. Then the publisher's editor will edit it.

        Voila. Published "author".

        Her name will never appear anywhere in the published book.

        Also, check out James Patterson. He's been collaborating with other writers for several years now. He churns out a book about once every 10 months or so.

        Guaranteed, they're doing most of the writing. But his name is doing the selling.
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        • Profile picture of the author MikeHumphreys
          Originally Posted by Collette View Post

          Also, check out James Patterson. He's been collaborating with other writers for several years now. He churns out a book about once every 10 months or so.

          Guaranteed, they're doing most of the writing. But his name is doing the selling.
          He's been doing 3-4 books/year with "co-authors" (Alex Cross, Womens Murder Club, Maximum Ride, and something else each year) for years now. The quality has declined of course with the mass churning... after reading the 3rd ho-hum of his in the past year and half, I've taken him off my "must read" authors.

          Patterson's early stuff is pure gold but like you said, it's just the name selling ghostwritten dreck now.
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          • Profile picture of the author Collette
            Originally Posted by MikeHumphreys View Post

            ...after reading the 3rd ho-hum of his in the past year and half, I've taken him off my "must read" authors.

            Patterson's early stuff is pure gold but like you said, it's just the name selling ghostwritten dreck now.
            Word. If it's "James Patterson and Author X", I don't even bother picking it up anymore.

            For people writing for IM, though, I think good mystery writers are a great source for learning writing by osmosis.
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          • Profile picture of the author Bill Eliott
            Kay King
            I think writing is, in many ways, an art. This is often shown in the artistic temperaments if in nothing else. Artists of paint and canvas can spend hours describing their visions and their interpretations and explaining their work - and writers often do the same. Writing comes from within so is bound up in who and what you are rather than in what you "do".
            Writing is Art, an art form.
            Some of the most successful novelists of the 19th, 20th centuries were keen observers and listeners. Life absorption specialists.

            Bruce Wedding offered up Steinbeck. A man who observed humanity closely all his life, so evident in his works.

            Another.
            Alistair MacLean, the Scott. A man who through words could freeze human flesh even with the riveted reader lounged out, sweat beaded, bent umbrella drink set beside in 90 degree sand.

            Listen to this.
            ================================================== ===========
            "The cold was now intense: ice formed in cabins and mess decks: fresh-water systems froze solid: metal contracted, hatch covers jammed, door hinges locked in frozen immobility, the oil in the searchlight controls gummed up and made them useless. To keep a watch, especially a watch on the bridge, was torture: the first shock of that bitter wind seared the lungs, left a man fighting for breath: if he had forgotten to don gloves-first the silk gloves, then the woollen mittens, then the sheepskin gauntlets-and touched a handrail, the palms of the hands seared off, the skin burnt as by white-hot metal: on the bridge, if he forgot to duck when the bows smashed down into a trough, the flying spray, solidified in a second into hurtling slivers of ice, lanced cheek and forehead open to the bone: hands froze, the very marrow of the bones numbed, the deadly chill crept upwards from feet to calves to thighs, nose and chin turned white with frostbite and demanded immediate attention: and then, by far the worst of all, the end of the watch, the return below deck, the writhing, excruciating agony of returning circulation. But, for all this, words are useless things, pale shadows of reality. Some things lie beyond the knowledge and the experience of the majority of mankind, and here imagination finds itself in a world unknown.'' from H.M.S. Ulysses H.M.S.
            ================================================== ===
            Alistair would say often. "I'm not a novelist, I'm a storyteller. There's no art in what I do, no mystique."

            30 million books sold. He would take 35 days to write each book, just to get away from the writing process he so disliked.


            May I always remain a story teller.

            Thanks Alistair and for those in this thread that urged me to pull down a few old Novels this night.



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  • Profile picture of the author kimberly Aita
    well, at least this is an interesting thread... I love the shakespeare stuff
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      But isn't it arguing over semantics. You can talk writers as artists, etc but what I was referring to are writers who are capable of creating fiction that keeps me spellbound for hours.

      Isn't that what a good writer does? If you can capture the attention of a reader and make him want to keep reading - involve the reader in the story you are spinning and make him care about the plot and characters....how much better can you be as a writer than that?

      What is a copywriter's goal? To grab the attention and imagination of the reader and make him believe....

      I think writing is, in many ways, an art. This is often shown in the artistic temperaments if in nothing else. Artists of paint and canvas can spend hours describing their visions and their interpretations and explaining their work - and writers often do the same. Writing comes from within so is bound up in who and what you are rather than in what you "do".

      And I've just over-interpreted what was a funny comment

      kay
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      • Profile picture of the author Bruce Wedding
        For drawing mental pictures with words, it's hard to beat Steinbeck:

        Outside, a man walking along the edge of the highway crossed over and approached the truck. He walked slowly to the front of it, put his hand on the shiny fender, and looked at the No Riders sticker on the windshield. For a moment he was about to walk on down the road, but instead he sat on the running board on the side away from the restaurant. He was not over thirty. His eyes were very dark brown and there was a hint of brown pigment in his eyeballs. His cheek bones were high and wide, and strong deep lines cut down his cheeks, in curves beside his mouth. His upper lip was long, and since his teeth protruded, the lips stretched to cover them, for this man kept his lips closed. His hands were hard, with broad fingers and nails as thick and ridged as little clam shells. The space between thumb and forefinger and the hams of his hands were shiny with callus.

        The man's clothes were new all of them, cheap and new. His gray cap was so new that the visor was still stiff and the button still on, not shapeless and bulged as it would be when it had served for a while all the various purposes of a cap- carrying sack, towel, handkerchief. His suit was of cheap gray hardcloth and so new that there were creases in the trousers. His blue chambray shirt was stiff and smooth with filler. The coat was too big, the trousers too short, for he was a tall man. The coat shoulder peaks hung down on his arms, and even then the sleeves were too short and the front of the coat flapped loosely over his stomach. He wore a pair of new tan shoes of the kind called "army last," hob- nailed and with half-circles like horseshoes to protect the edges of the heels from wear. This man sat on the running board and took off his cap and mopped his face with it. Then he put on the cap, and by pulling started the future ruin of the visor. His feet caught his attention. He leaned down and loosened the shoelaces, and did not tie the ends again. Over his head the exhaust of the Diesel engine whispered in quick puffs of blue smoke.
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        • Profile picture of the author CrhisD
          Originally Posted by Bruce Wedding View Post

          For drawing mental pictures with words, it's hard to beat Steinbeck:
          Yea, I still remember The Pearl, now that was a writer
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        • Profile picture of the author Collette
          Originally Posted by Bruce Wedding View Post

          For drawing mental pictures with words, it's hard to beat Steinbeck:
          It's not just the mental imagery. Check out how much information you get about this 'ordinary' man and his life from the selected details Steinbeck gives you. Not only can you see this man - you know him.

          No generalities. No vagueness. And not a single cliched word or phrase in the entire passage.

          Steinbeck didn't pull this out of his ass. And he sure as hell didn't swipe it.

          And, BTW would-be-copywriters - Steinbeck was a voracious reader.
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  • Profile picture of the author IMoptimizer
    Yeah, every major trade needs a little bit of studying to get down.
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  • Profile picture of the author jjoshua
    Many people had a career change by being a copywriter. Take for example John Carlton, who always tells his "gun to his head" story where he was struggling on his job, and was literally forced to become a copywriter in order to survive.

    It's the sell or die mentality that made him a successful copywriter.
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  • Profile picture of the author Starwind
    Haha

    I heard a quote the other day.. I think it was from the book "the art of non-conformity" and he defined an entrepreneur as someone willing to work 24hours/day for himself rather than 1 hour for someone else.

    I think that defined me as well as most here perfectly! Only few can appreciate that type of definition though
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  • Nice to see some literary writers mentioned here. I orignally went to school for fiction writing and ended up with an English degree. There are so many authors I love who have influenced my writing...and so many others I look up to and don't even dare to try to emulate.

    Raymond Carver was the master of the short story. And if you're a copywriter, studying his terse, compact style can really help your ability to create word pictures.

    Carver makes Steinbeck look verbose. He has an uncanny ability to communicate a massive amount of information about a character, situation, etc. with a brief sentence. And most of his stories are really short--10-20 pages. Some are 2-3 pages.

    The three I always recommend are:

    "A Small, Good Thing"

    "Cathedral"

    "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love"

    On the other hand, Jack Kerouac is fantastic too...for the opposite reason. His rolling, rhythmic, rambling prose pulls you in and takes you for a ride. But his sentences can go on for a page (or more--"On the Road" was originally one...long...sentence. As in 200 pages. Written on a single continous roll of teletype paper.)

    And of course there's always Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Magical realism at it's best. The only way I can describe his languge is...lush. It's alive. It leaps off the page and wraps you up in the story before you even know what's happening. "The General in His Labyrinth" and "One Hundred Years of Solitude" are favorites.

    Then you can get into the guys like Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. Just try to put one of his books down. Brilliant storytelling, and often overlooked by "literary" types.

    In fact, I'm also a big fan of reading popluar novels/non-fiction. Lots of our readers love those books...and if we overlook them, we can miss the chance to deepen our understanding of their motivations. Laugh if you will, but Oprah's Book Club will give you some serious insight into the motivations and desires of American women (and men, for that matter).

    Back to the original topic...yes, I think writing is an art. But like any art, it depends on skill to communicate it's message. And that skill is developed by repetition, practice, and constant refinement.

    I've spent as much time developing my writing skills--in and out of the classroom-- as my brother the doctor spent in college, med school and residency.

    But the two aren't comparable in any other way. Yes, it takes decades to master a craft like writing. But unlike my brother or our hypothetical brain surgeon, no one dies when my sales letter flops, or my short stories get rejected.

    Well, except for me. Just a little bit.
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