With writing – variety is life, uniformity is death.

This variety quote sounds so much better in French, (Doesn’t everything?), as said originally by that famous chappie, Benjamin Constant –  “La variété, c’est la vie, l’uniformité, c’est la mort.” Even if he wasn’t talking about writing.

(Benjamin Constant? Can’t resist finding out who he is  – a Swiss-French political activist and writer on politics and religion.  And how ironic that somebody espousing the value of variety has the name Constant…)

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Uniformity? Well, it looks pretty deathly to me.

This is why I consider myself to be so lucky. The luckiest writer in…my study, if not the universe.

There is variety in my writing life, in abundance.

In the past few weeks, I have been commissioned to write (or edit) pieces about:

  • Gluten-free pasta
  • A new apartment block in Watford
  • Advanced foam technology
  • Holidays in Zanzibar and Kenya
  • Residential building surveys
  • A local volunteer centre
  • Human rights in Pakistan
  • A health food shop for animals
  • Pre-paid cash cards for holiday travel
  • Direct mailing campaigns

I could go on…

Did I know anything about these subjects before I started?

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Nothing,  or not very much. Therein lies the joy for me. I love, simply LOVE, finding out about things. A whole variety of things. Things that seem pretty dull until I’ve started researching into them. Things that ARE inherently dull so it’s a challenge to make them seem interesting, or interesting enough to ensure that other people will be delighted to read about them.

“Variety may be the spice of life, but consistency pays the bills,” said Doug Cooper. Yes, THAT Doug Cooper. The one I haven’t heard of.

Doug Cooper is:

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Except that consistency DOES pay my bills, in the sense of producing consistently good, sparkly copy for my clients, no matter what the subject.

But without the variety…

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The worries of a copywriter

Worries? Of a copywriter?

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You bet. Though shamefacedly first world problems. There – now I have to add to my worries: Appearing too shallow when there’s so much strife in the world.

Here’s an account of my worries. Consecutive days last week.

Day One

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No work is coming in. Some pending, waiting for full brief. Nothing much else on the horizon. What am I going to do? Try as I might to catch up on other things – like shampooing the front lawn, my own writing, teaching the chickens table manners, promoting Of Night and Light, making jams and chutneys like a Real Housewife and similar – my mind is full of worries about my career, the bank balance, the future, so I can’t concentrate…

And as John Ortberg Jnr. once said, believe me, “Worrisome thoughts reproduce faster than rabbits…”

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Don’t they just?

Day Two

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Oh my goodness! A sudden influx of work. Mostly urgent. Some quite challenging, much needing a lot of research and definitely requiring me to wear my sensible head. What am I going to do? There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. My head is already spinning and I’ve only had three cups of coffee. How am I going to find time to do all the other important things in my life?  – like shampooing the front lawn, my own writing, teaching the chickens table manners…and similar. My mind is full of worries, so I can’t concentrate…

And as Justin Halpern’s dad once said, believe me, “You worry too much. Eat some bacon…what? No, I got no idea if it’ll make you feel better, I just made too much bacon.” 

SO…

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OR, alternatively…think about this…

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Yeah, no worries…

A humblebrag from Caroline Coxon?

Humblebrag? This morning was the very first time I’d heard that word, yet it is being added to OxfordDictionaries.com (Not, apparently,  the ACTUAL Oxford English dictionary. Note to self: Does it still exist?)

Mind you, I hadn’t heard of YOLO or side-boob either – mainly, I expect because I’m not sufficiently down wiv da kidz, or whatever it is you have to be. I had to RESEARCH. In the case of side-boob, it wasn’t a particularly uplifting (see what I did there?) experience, but then I’m a girl.

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Lovely lady, but I’m just not in any hurry to try that look, thank you very much.

YOLO is okay.

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You Only Live Once – implying – go for it, carpe diem.

On the other hand, it could get a bit annoying.

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Now, humblebrag. I suppose its meaning is obvious. It’s a new portmanteau word, innit?

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A portmanteau word is a combination of two (or more) words or parts of words and their definitions, into one new word.

To humblebrag: To show off about something while simultaneously couching it in terms of self-deprecation; false modesty.

Example:”How is it possible that a dimbo like me graduated from Cambridge with a double first?” or “Honestly, I’m such a ditz. Fancy tripping up in my Jimmy Choo’s on the red-carpet at the Oscars…”

(Yes, I made those up).

Now I’m going to try for my own humblebrag.

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Nope, can’t do it.

Nobody likes a show-off. People like EVEN LESS a person who’s a show off but pretending not to be.

It’s a tough one though, because, as you probably know, I’ve written a book.

Marketing…self-promoting…publicising?

It’s a fine line. Could be so very far from being adorbs.

(Do your OWN research!)

Copywriters do have a life

Do copywriters have a life? Some of us do. Honestly.

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I have a home, a family, horses, dogs, chickens.

I have interests – creative writing, walking in the countryside, reading, listening to crime drama on the radio…

I am not a machine.

NO!

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I have a life!

It may surprise you to know, sometimes I need to sleep, to relax, to have a break from copy-writing.

I LOVE MY CLIENTS.

They think I’m immortal.

On Saturday morning (SATURDAY! LIKE…THE WEEKEND!) I had an email from a dear client with an urgent job. (Urgent for whom?)

He added, ” Feel free to call me any time, including this weekend, to discuss. Need to have it ASAP.”

FEEL FREE TO CALL HIM?

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Yesterday, another lovely client asked what my availability was over the next six weeks because there was a new and exciting project involving copy-writing.

I replied – “I am about mostly EXCEPT from July 11th-19th when I am in Canada for my little grand-girlie’s first birthday.”

His reply? – “They have the internet over there don’t they ;-)? ”

I THINK he was joking. But not entirely.

I sent him this image to represent my work ethic.

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I have a life, I have a life…

If I say it often enough, I might even believe it myself.

 

 

Copywriting – the approval of others

“A truly strong person does not need the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep.” 
― Vernon Howard

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A copywriter, on the other hand, DOES need the approval of others – namely, the client, or clients.

This is fine and wonderful. It’s the client who commissions the work. It’s the client’s product or services that we’re promoting. It’s the client who pays the bills.

Yes, fine and wonderful…

EXCEPT, from the point of view of the copywriter, if the approval of others is approval by committee. And not a committee who sit together at one time and come to a consensus, but a SERIAL committee whose members look at the work one after another, with a time lapse, and everybody is compelled to put in their two pennies worth.

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(Oh very well – two cents worth, if you insist).

And they don’t agree. And what they say contradicts the original brief, which I’ve stuck to. Because I’m a professional.

You know what they say about a camel? Well, HE said – Sir Alec Issigonis.

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That’s a bit how I feel about a particular piece of work just now. I’m really not that precious but to have the sense and the tone and the continuity eroded, drip by painful drip, over several weeks…just a little demotivating, to be sure.

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Yay for approval of others! It makes the world go round (more slowly).

P.S. I still love my job!

 

 

Writing tired

Tired? Gelatinous with fatigue, is me, in the best 1984 tradition – but still working.

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by Topspinthefuzzy from DeviantArt

 

No explanation – simply that, for various reasons too unremarkable to bother mentioning – for the past two nights I’ve only had about three hours sleep. Seriously. Not one of those exaggerations.

Today, up at 5 a.m. for a breakfast meeting. Home feeling so tired I could have wept.

BUT

I had two pieces of work needed urgently by valued clients. (Well, ALL my clients are valued, she adds quickly!)

A case of weighing up my options:

  1. Let clients down by abandoning the idea of any work at all today
  2. Have a sleep and do the work later
  3. Generate something, do the work and THEN rest

Choose 1 or 2. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You know it makes sense. Clients can wait. The sky won’t fall down.

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Choose 3, Caroline! You know you can do it. Create something extraordinary. Don’t believe the little voice in your head telling you that your work will be sub-standard if you attempt it when you’re too tired. Remember that you work well when you’re hungry so…

I chose 3.

Generated vitality.

Completed the two pieces of work without even the application of extra caffeine. (Slightly helped by loud listening to Lana Del Ray).

Checked the work over. Hmmmm – seemed okay to me, but was I hallucinating?

Sent the work off.

Re-checked the work I’d just sent off, in case I really WAS hallucinating.

STILL seemed okay to me.

Received the best ever thank you from one of the clients, which I’m tempted to frame:

Is there a ‘good writer pill’ that I can take to write like you? You’re amazing, thank you.

All I can say is…

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It IS possible.

Can write well when hungry. Can write well when tired.

Next?

(I don’t need any more challenges, thank you!)

 

Writing hungry

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m quite often hungry.

(Not REALLY hungry. I wouldn’t, in a million years, equate my mild stomach rumblings with what it’s like to be starving. I can only imagine. My heart goes out to those people, wherever they are).

I’m hungry because I’m doing the 5:2 thing – five days of eating as usual and two non-consecutive days of fasting, eating only up to 500 calories worth of food, which is about a quarter of a normal (privileged) Western intake. This is not so much because I need to lose weight, because I don’t – it’s more to do with a healthier life-style in general. I have lost weight too, incidentally, sensibly, slowly and sustainably, which is a bonus.

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On my starvy days, as I call them, I don’t eat anything at all, just take drinks – water, fruit juice, coffee, tea, herbal teas…whatever – until maybe 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon, which means I’ve fasted for about sixteen hours or so, since dinner on the previous evening.

I don’t actually feel hungry at all until I eat something – but that’s another story.

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What I HAVE noticed is that, without food, my brain is sharper. And when I’m hungry – or rather, when I’m fasting – I actually FEEL better.

I’ve been doing a little research about this, in a Google sort of way, and have come up with some interesting scientific information.

There’s an article on the Live Science website called Hunger Can Make You Happy

“Contrary to the moans of many dieters, being hungry may make you happy. Or, at least, it can be a serious motivator whose evolutionary intent was to help you find dinner instead of becoming dinner.”
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The researchers assert that when I fast and my body notices the dearth of calories, it increases production of a hormone called ghrelin which makes me more…well, alive and alert (my words). They believe that this is an adaptive measure, for survival. “Getting food, especially in the wild, requires concentration, clear-headed perception and often cooperation.” So, if I can avoid the urge to eat, which is what ghrelin is telling me to do, then I can harness the increased energy levels for something more creative.
Being a little bit  hungry has certainly, so far, made me noticeably more efficient and more focused.
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Yesterday morning, I completed a poem which, the previous night, was stuck fast in my brain with super-glue and would not be shifted.
I attribute the ease of flow yesterday morning to the power of…GHRELIN!
My new writing companion. My secret weapon.
Only not so secret.
Don’t tell anyone, will you?

 

Pay Per Click – a potential customer speaks out!

(A customer of products and services, not a customer of Pay Per Click!)

At a meeting yesterday, with a new client, website content, blog writing, SEO and Pay Per Click were discussed.

Pay Per Click? Not my area of expertise AT ALL.

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Let me tell you the effect is has on me, as a potential customer, when I’m searching for a product or service online, using Google:

I AVOID all the search results at the very top of the page with the little yellow icon telling me it’s an ad.

I AVOID the column of search results on the right hand side of the page which I assume are also ads.

I choose the sites at the top of the rankings that are NOT (apparently) driven by Pay Per Click.

My client, though he uses PPC campaigns sporadically – trying them out for a while then turning them off for a couple of months, then trying again – was of exactly the same opinion as me.

Don’t even get me started on Facebook ads…

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(I don’t!)

SO – out of my comprehensive poll of two people – that’s 100% completely ANTI pay per click, from a customer perspective.

The psychology of it? I’ve been trying to analyse it, from my own opinions. I think it’s because I object to being manipulated (ha ha ha in this day and age!) and I don’t like the idea that big players who can afford the allegedly outrageous costs for PPC seem to have an unfair advantage over the little people. This sort of search engine ranking, it seems to me, is nothing to do with the quality of the product or the service but simply a function of a marketing budget (or lack of one).

It’s like paying (or begging) for votes in a contest – so that the result is generated from a popularity contest not a reflection of merit.

Me and my innate love of the level playing field…

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But it must work for businesses, mustn’t it? Why else has it become a business in itself?

I began to wonder if I really understand PPC at all, from a business perspective, so I started reading up about it and I must say I glazed over in the first twenty seconds – until I found a website with a section entitled PPC University. NOW it begins to make sense!

However, even this site admits, “Essentially, it’s a way of buying visits to your site, rather than attempting to “earn” those visits organically.”

I’m sure this is why MY business isn’t busting out all over – doing well but could do weller!

But I’m comfortable with how I go about promoting myself.

And I’m not comfortable with the idea of PPC.

Good luck to me.

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It’s a jungle out there.

 

 

 

Fast work if you can get it

” Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast,” said Shakespeare, indubitably talking about me and the perils of fast work.

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Fast work (at least, trying to work TOO fast) probably doesn’t pay in the field of copywriting or proofreading. Accuracy is key. That’s not to say I work SLOWLY – it’s a balance between speed and efficiency, that’s all.

With creative writing? Another matter entirely.

Creative writing class on Monday. I’ve already blogged about speed writing assignments which somehow force my brain…no, ALLOW my brain… to pour forth some completely uninhibited stuff that sometimes seems to work.

The same applies to homework.

It’s 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon. I haven’t done my homework.

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I have lots of work-work to do between now and leaving for the class at 7 p.m. Fast work it’ll have to be!

I don’t like going to classes without having done my homework. First, I’m a goody-two-shoes teacher’s pet. Second, it’s a waste of an opportunity of having my work heard and assessed by other people.

Okay then, I’ll DO it. Quickly. Poems are quick. The subject? ‘The birthday present.’ NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! More slushy sentimentalism opportunities. (Remember, I DON’T DO NICE.)

Subvert, Caroline. Subvert. You have ten minutes.

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My title -‘The greatest gift of all’ – a gushing load of…gush…from Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. Find it on YouTube if you want gush.

Otherwise.

The greatest gift of all

The only noise is a soft…blip…blip… and the incessant gargling of in-out breathing through a tube.
White ceiling tiles, like slices of bread waiting to be sandwiches, form his sky.
He calls out to let them know he’s awake, but he can’t hear himself, his tongue a big, sticky glob.
She squeezes his hand. Tells him she loves him, through a veil of tears.
But he doesn’t know who she is.
Still, love can never be bad, wherever it finds you.
In to his line of vision, candles splutter on a cake he’ll never eat.
“Happy birthday, darling,” she says.
Why, is this the day he’ll be born again?
That would be happy.
The sound of the switch is soft.
His sky turns to thunder black
And lightning forks electricity through his chest.
His last thought. Thank you.
She clicks life into the switch again, blows out the candles.
Both they and he beyond reignition.

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Fast work if you can get it …and you can get it if you try.

Or don’t try?

(The poem was chosen to feature on the bournetowrite.co.uk website.)

The game of work-life balance

Work-life balance a game? No, it’s deadly serious.

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Really it is. Really, it has become so. It’s something which exercises so many of us. It’s also, certainly in the case of people like me, who work from home as freelancers, OUR responsibility.

In reality, we only have ourselves to thank, (see, I avoided the word ‘blame’) if we get it wrong.

Different, for sure, for people who have, as my husband delights in asserting, REAL jobs. By this he means out of the home, in a place of work  where there is a boss telling you what to do and when and how much and how high. Work-life balance is not so much in your own hands.

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(This could, in fact, be me talking to myself – see yesterday’s blog!)

In some countries, the government is taking on the situation. New labour laws in France protect workers from responding to emails after 6 pm. A trial in Sweden reduces working hours to just 30 hours a week –  6 hours per day for the same pay – on the basis that after 6 hours, people are too tired to be as productive. 

That’s taking work-life balance seriously, with legislation.

But it CAN be a game too. A real game. Real in the sense of virtual.

In my research, I came across THIS:

It’s a game. A game without exploding zombies and high-speed car chases and deadly weapons.

Players ‘ control a novelist struggling to balance the demands of work and family life.’ Apparently, many people have been inspired to look at their personal work-life balance and it’s changed their lives – for the better, that is.

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From www.thenovelistgame.com

Maybe worth a look? Here.

A comment underneath made me laugh.  Hollowly.

“Oh, the irony. While engaging in some world class procrastination, I discover this; a game in which I can be a virtual procrastinator.”

Another thing to add to the infinite list of Things To Do which makes every day seem too short, before I even begin to think about balancing work and life?

I’ll keep it in reserve…