I’m lucky, apparently.
I’m a full-time copywriter. I have a pretty good income, with super thrown in, plus a potential bonus at the end of the year. I’m permanent, too; so no contract negotiations, nothing like that.
But when I’m asked what I do, I usually don’t tell people “copywriter”. I used to, but most people I tell don’t know what a copywriter is. They could be forgiven for thinking that I process applications for securing intellectual property; that my nine-to-five consists mainly of stamping forms with a big red C stamp; that I have a line out my door of pleading artists and inventors and other writers desperately seeking to copyright their work. Nope. Not that.
To avoid this confusion, I started telling people that I write copy. Copies of what? No. I don’t make copies of writing. I write copy. ‘Copy’ being the written content found in magazines, advertising, company web sites… eh, forget it. I hate telling people what copy is. To me, if you don’t know what copy is, that’s fine. You only need to know what it is if you’re commissioning some, or if you’re the one being asked to write it. You don’t even have to know that it’s called ‘copy’ to be reading it. You’re actually reading copy now.
I decided to keep it simple. I just tell people I’m a writer. What do you write? Novels? Like Stephen King. Because being a published writer is that easy. Yes, I am writing a novel, I say; but, due to it being in the very-early-stages-of-anything-resembling-an-interesting-book, I’ve stopped telling people what it’s about. I don’t even know what it’s about, really. I’m still figuring that part out. I have an idea, but that’s it. Not wanting to dwell on my authorial uncertainty, I tell them I also blog on my site, review the odd book/film/comic book, and dabble in a bit of poetry. None of this I get paid for, mind, and I do it all in my own time.
My own time. Such a novel concept for parents. I forgot to mention that I have a one-year-old, and “my own time” is usually taken up by her. I’m writing this article in “my own time”. Well, not strictly. Today is Sunday, and this paragraph was just interrupted so I could applaud my daughter for eating a blueberry. Her mum has been gracious enough to feed her her lunch, so I can write a bit.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Now, it’s Monday. My alarm went off at 5am this morning. My train left 70 minutes later. After sleeping for most of the journey, and getting an “extra strong” coffee from the cafe downstairs, I’m at my desk and ready-to-go by around 7:30am. I check today’s schedule: two meetings, one of which has already been cancelled; five articles to update with changes and publish; plus some copy to review for an upcoming marketing campaign. I can already hear talk of “testing” and “code” and “iterations” and “stakeholders”. It’s a standard day. There’s no hint of bohemianism here.
I blog and write copy for a very large enterprise (that’s a fancy, grown-up way of saying ‘company’). When I’m not spending my day writing businessy stuff, I’m researching, editing, or strategising (another grown up word) the creation of other corporatey writings.
Lucky, they say.
I try not to complain about the lack of excitement with or overwhelmingly dry nature of my work. I actively encourage myself to pull back from my despair and look at my situation. Anyone with a pencil, pen or word processor can be a writer. We’re all writers if we want to be. But, being a writer and getting paid for it; I don’t have to tell you what a luxury that is. I get to exercise the connection between my brain and my fingers on a daily basis. I get to research, draft, edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite and publish works of (mostly) my own design–the subject matter isn’t what I prefer it to be, but this is a slight niggle, really. I get to write. That’s all that matters.
I’m not going to lie: this has a huge impact on my other work–the novel and the blog and the poetry and stuff. I spend all day writing corporate copy; and by the time I get home, I usually can’t bring myself to get back in front of a computer and nut out my observations of and commentary on the human condition. Usually, I just want to sleep.
I’d love to spend all day writing my own stuff. But, in reality, I have a family, a house, a car, and a pet rabbit. I like to go on holidays (not as many as I’d like to, but that’s normal), and I have a weekly comic book addiction to feed; I have my daughter’s future to think about, let alone the whole family’s; there’s my ongoing battle with anxiety to contend with, too; so, unfortunately or not, I can’t afford to be wishy-washy with my career. Sure, I freelance when I can, but it can’t be my bread-and-butter. It just can’t.
So, my life isn’t debauched or excessive or outrageous. No wild stories. No tales of making a single can of baked beans last for three weeks. No waking up when I wake up. And, whilst in a strange way I’d like to do all of these things, I have other priorities that far exceed my need to be a free-spirited artist. If I didn’t have the house or the family or the at-times crippling anxiety, maybe. But I need my nine-to-five to function. I work for a massive, multi-national company; so, in a way, it feeds my desire to meet different people (often of different cultures) and my obsession with understanding how the world works. Without it, I probably wouldn’t get out of bed or leave the house or operate as a human being. And, truth-be-told, I’ve written more in the years I’ve worked here than at any other time in my life.
I guess I am pretty lucky.
Richard Rosewall is a corporate copywriter/blogger and freelance journalist. He wrote Bat-family: a personal essay about being a new dad. He blogs his own stuff at richardrosewall.com and tweets via @richardthenerd.
Sam van Zweden was Writers Bloc’s Online Editor from 2013 - 2015. A Melbourne-based writer and blogger, her work has appeared in The Big Issue, Voiceworks, Tincture Journal, Page seventeen, and others. She’s passionate about creative nonfiction and cross stitch. She tweets @samvanzweden.