Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The write stuff

In our and/and world, definitions of all sorts are becoming blurred and no more so than the roles of writer and artist, filmmaker and ideas person. To me many people in advertising are stuck in the past, worrying about their ideas being taken seriously as creative contributions. I’ve heard frustrated advertising creatives and writers argue that what they do is just as smart, just as thoughtful, just as skilful and just as inspired as what artists do. My response? Get a grip! The visual arts have stopped policing the borders with commerce; the movie industry embraces ideas and talent whatever they’re labelled; screenwriters have stared down the mighty TV and movie industries; and the cult of the online amateur only shows that great stories well told are precious. Rock on writers and do your thing.

Ben Myers puts in an admiring word for the skill of copywriting in The Guardian. As Myers says, “Unless you’re John Grisham or JK Rowling, there’s little to be made from writing fiction. Journalism brings in an average part-time income and poetry pays – almost inevitably – nothing.” Fortunately, Myers went beyond the obvious and tested his corporate copywriting skills. Guess what? Not as easy as he had anticipated. “Coming up with a 10 word slogan to lure customers to spend is little different to writing a short poem about love. Both require the writer to be deft and convincing, to communicate as economically as possible.” Even better, he lists some well known writers who have done time as copywriters for a little inspiration. It’s an impressive line-up. Salman Rushdie, Fay Weldon (who was a player in the famous line “Go to work on an egg”), Don DeLillo, William Burroughs, Dashiell Hammett and Dorothy L Sayers.