A Day in the Life of a Copywriter

People frequently ask me what it is that I do as a copywriter. They think I sit around and write jingles or squeeze stress balls. They think I “play” or make things pretty. They don’t mean to insult me but that last phrase grates on my nerves like people who run in the street adjacent to a SIDEWALK! They don’t quite understand all that goes into the job of being a creative person. In any given day, my job will look like this:

8 a.m.: read  and answer emails. Some are quick fixes and others turn into a three-month project.

8:15: pipeline meeting to discuss the 200+ jobs we have in queue. We individually go over each one, from our database. Spreadsheets in general give me the willies. Sometimes these meetings are loooong and daunting and I want to pull my hair out. But they are completely necessary or else we’d have no idea who was working on what job. They tell us the status, the deadlines, the clients. These are what keep us creative people in check.

9: meet with my interns. I have two this semester who are writing and editing students and want to learn AP style. They want to learn to be better writers. I critique their work, ask them about their weekends, try to be their mentor and friend. Ask them to write a speech with just a few guidelines. Proof their Facebook posting for the day. Ask them to retrieve analytics from Facebook postings and add to our tracking sheet. They tell me their stories about their classes, challenges they face. I listen and try to remember what it was like at their age. It wasn’t THAT long ago but sometimes it takes me a while to remember what it felt like to be 21 or 22 and thinking OHMYGOSH! My life has to really start when I graduate in six weeks! Their fear is endearing and I try to tell them that chances are, their first job is not going to be their last and it’s okay if you don’t have everything spelled out today for the rest of your life. My interns make me feel so pathetic when I think back to my college days. They are all amazing achievers. Not overacheivers but just amazing. They can juggle being president of a sorority, interning, working an afterschool job, having friends and making a 3.6. WOW!

10: have some type of banter with clients or teammates about whether or not something is a split infinitive. Argue that they are okay nowadays. Yes, they are. Define our bullet policy for the 100th time and tell someone that Clemson spells adviser with an “e” and not an “o.”

11: Go to a brainstorm/concept meeting with my team. This past year’s Annual Report spawned from one of these meetings. You can find it here: http://www.clemson.edu/administration/student-affairs/annual-reports/11-12/. It is a “game” theme and we created kind of a Candyland® feel to it as one would move throughout Clemson’s campus. This is a perfect project for a copywriter. It began with brainstorming the creative part. While the designer lays it out, the copywriter contributes significantly to the overall look and theme. I have to choose what content goes in every nook and cranny.

In this particular Annual Report, my interns and I sat down and wrote “game” cards, created a list of game-related phrases that would also tell the Student Affairs story. For the interactive version, I had to choose talent for the student videos. I had to write the scripts, coordinate the filming and even help direct the videos. I can be seen in one here as a last-minute prop: http://www.clemson.edu/administration/student-affairs/annual-reports/11-12/media/marielle.html. But she really was a student I worked with on that specific project. So we weren’t stretching the truth.

I had to analyze data from all of the various departments, who submitted their best of the best from the previous year. After hours and days of analyzing what deserved to go in the book, the entire content was decided by me! Kind of a scary task. Granted the VP would approve it in the end, but still!

Once the content was decided, it underwent rounds of proofing and editing. THEN it goes into the designer’s hands for a little while for layout. Typically we undergo several back and forth processes like this, “I have this one block of text and it doesn’t fit. Can you shorten/add to it to make it work.” And “hey I need just one more line to sound like the rest. What do you suggest?”

Once we feel it is the best it can be, we share it with others for feedback. Feedback regarding diversity among the photos, is the language inclusive enough, does it represent all of the departments within the division. Things like this that sometimes we need extra help with.

After several MORE rounds of proofing, we send it off to the printer. Then, my other job begins. As Webmaster I now create a “flip book” so that people in electronic-land can view it as well. Here we create new, dynamic content, such as the aforementioned video, to make it unique and not an electronic version of the printed one.

After clearing a hurdle like that, I will continue to answer emails in the day, usually have some type of last-minute-but-need-right-now request from someone higher up, and most frequent, meetings. People in colleges seem to enjoy meeting face to face. Most of the time I agree, that much can come out of meeting. But not all are so productive.

3: Begin speech for vice president. Research quotes for appropriate speech topic and update Web analytics worksheet with stats from most-visited websites.

4: Start winding down my day. Answer more Web requests, publish Web pages, respond to emails, plan activities and assignments for interns next day.

Twice a month my team of five goes to lunch. It’s nice to get out of the office. We have a creative director/graphic designer, an asst creative director/graphic designer, a part-time production manager, a full-time graphic designer and me, copywriter/editor/webmaster. We will do a creative exercise every now and again to keep our brains fresh. We take time to listen to one another and respect each other’s ideas. Rarely do things get heated. I’m pretty lucky to be a part of a team that is extremely talented and creative. We won the gingerbread contest and a lot of people said it was no fair, because we were the creative ones out of the 17 different departments. I say, too bad. You can be creative too. We made Peanuts characters for ourselves to hang on our doors. We have Magnadoodle boards outside our office to tell people when we are in meetings or at a different building on campus. Most people just say “out of office.” Instead of name plates, we have signs with our  office numbers on them and pictures of what we enjoy. For me, it is the outdoors and live music. Numbers people just don’t get me, and frankly, I don’t get them.

Me as a Peanuts Character. Pen in hair, pad in hand, AP-style Guru

Me as a Peanuts Character. Pen in hair, pad in hand, AP-style Guru


My office door sign

award-winning gingerbread house

award-winning gingerbread house

It takes all kinds of people to make this world run. My husband inspects parts for damage and is in quality control. To me, being stoned to death sounds more fun than that. My brother-in-law works an assembly line and loves his job. To me, I would probably suffer from insanity. But I know people who say they would never come to work if they had to argue over commas, point our gerunds or remember when a state is abbreviated for AP-style or postal.

I feel lucky that I come to work each day and am respected for what I do. Not everyone gets it and that’s okay, but at least my team appreciates the importance of having a writer. And as long as my boss’s boss’s boss, agrees, then I still have a job. However, ..she is a numbers person …

Oh Valentine

For many years, I never had a “Valentine” on Feb. 14. Like many single females I thought it was a Hallmark holiday and not something to really get all jazzed about. Today, I feel the same way for the most part, but enjoy a nice card or meal with my hubby.

But having kids seems to change one’s perspective on holidays and I found myself signed up for snacks at my son’s daycare and feeling pressured to bring cards and candy to school. My son is only 19 months with five teeth yet we were told to bring cards and candy or whatever and each kid would get a set of Valentines.

As someone who makes a living being creative and frugal, I figured I would do my usual gift giving, which is to make something (aren’t’ the best things homemade anyway) this Valentine’s season. My husband received a customized coupon book for all kinds of fun things he enjoys and a photo cube for his desk from our son. It contained family photos wrapped in one 4×4, six-sided cube. When my son was sick one day recently we pulled out some finger-paints and made a card to give to Daddy. And I found a website that would let you make your own card and mail it to someone, except it came three days early and my husband opened it thinking it was just something in the mail. (fail!) Using my go-to website for online coupons, I found that I could buy one and get one free, so I made another Valentine’s Day card for my sister from my son, since they are so close. Hers also arrived early L

All of this came together with about an hour of work but then; I was at a loss for what to do for my son’s classmates. I coach basketball and take a painting class so there is not much time for making 12 of anything. And in the same week I was babysitting my nephew. So I found printable, free, Valentine’s designs online and figured my husband could McGyver some wax paper into a pocket of some sorts with some Scotch tape. My nephew came over and it gave him great joy to help me bake some cookies for the wax-paper Valentines. Within 30 minutes, we made cookies, printed Valentines and assembled our little pockets of yummy delights!

I hoped these would be good enough for the classroom. I checked Facebook before going to bed and saw that apparently, Pinterest is now the go-to place for ideas, as it seems crafty-moms are fresh out of their own ideas. But I’m not knocking Pinterest as it has been nice for me to create a mood board for my bathroom remodel. As I perused Facebook, I saw four different moms who did the same thing for their kids’ classes. And lo and behold, my son received one of those same designs. Of course, they definitely trumped my wax-paper creation, but it started to make me wonder about what it will be like as my son gets older. Will I be expected to make these insane crafts just to be on par with everyone else? Does anyone NOT use Pinterest for something?

I had a friend talk about a class project her kindergarten student is expected to do and it certainly sounds like more of an adult project. Somewhere my mind began to race about what school will be like when my son is there. As his mother, will his projects be accepted if we DON’T make them for him? Will he receive a passing grade if the penmanship is third-grader-esque and not calligraphy? Will I be expected to have an art degree just to help him with his science project or diorama?

Hopefully my thoughts are exaggerated but one has to wonder how far people take schoolroom crafts and gift-giving. I used to like my homemade gifts and creative things because they were original and slightly imperfect. Now everything homemade looks like it came from Martha Stewart’s guidebook. I can’t cut worth a crap but I can write from the heart and sometimes a poem has to suffice as a Christmas gift or my song lyrics have made great Valentine’s Day presents.

I guess for now I’ll continue to make my own gifts and hope they provide enough pinterest [sic] for someone out there. But who knows if it will be enough for kindergarten.

My son's card we made for Daddy this year.

My son’s card we made for Daddy this year.

The photo cube for Daddy's desk, from C.

The photo cube for Daddy’s desk, from C.

Some cute, free, downloadble artwork for busy moms to use. I repeat, FREE!

Some cute, free, downloadble artwork for busy moms to use. I repeat, FREE!

Hubby helps make wax-paper pockets to hold the cookies

Hubby helps make wax-paper pockets to hold the cookies

In Defense of Daycare

I am a working mom. I have never wanted to be a stay at home mom and don’t feel bad for saying so. I have often wondered how stay at home mothers, who worked before, can go down to one income yet have a new mouth to feed (and clothe, change, etc). But that is really none of my business. I’ve always enjoyed working and have had a job since I was 15. I feel fulfilled at my current job and challenged on a regular basis. This is a rare thing, especially for a creative writer. I get to teach writing and speak about grammar with college students while also expanding my skills to include new media, video scripts, speeches for an upper-level administrator, brochures and booklets, and Web work. I actually enjoy going to work each day.

That is not to say I don’t miss my son every.single.day. But I also know he is in good hands. When shopping for daycares we found one that we loved, where several of our friends went and one that was close to our house. It was also at the top in price but you pay for what you get (I believe) with daycares. Because my husband worked 2nd shift for the first 10 months of my son’s life, I often relied on the daycare people to help me. THey would tell me things about his feeding habits, his sleeping, his preferences. Of course I knew a lot of these things as well, but it was nice knowing they paid attention to and kept track of his poopy diapers, bottles and naps.

As he is now in a toddler room, I love seeing the crafts he comes home with, reading about his day on a little worksheet (still recording diapers and naps and meals) and watching him through a window without his knowledge. He is learning valuable social skills that will help him when he goes to school. He is fine if we leave him with a babysitter or even stranger, because he has been without us all day. We can drop him off with minimal fuss because he always knows I’m coming back.

My one friend has told me when he gets older, the daycare will also help with potty training. I am sure this will be a big help as well to have some reinforcements of what is at home. Further, when it was time for him to transition from the infant room to the young toddlers, I was not thrilled. He could not walk or crawl yet but many of the kids were drinking out of sippy cups, sleeping on mats and sitting at table to eat. I thought, “he’ll fall out!” “He won’t lay down and nap!” But guess what, he sat there with his friends, drinking out of the sippy cup, eating at the table. He naps on the mat and sleeps like the rest of the kids. They have them all on a regimented schedule.

There are many days I wish I could stay home and snuggle with my son. But those days are often called Saturday and Sunday. On the weekends, we treasure our time together. we make up for the days during the week that we don’t get and often explore new places, play make believe, run around the yard, read books and spend quality time together. We go to church on Sundays, watch Baby Signing Time and Baby Animals and spend lots and lots of time hugging and kissing. I don’t feel as though I am missing out because my son is always so excited to see me at night and knows nothing else. And at the end of the day, I feel valued at work as well as at home.


Fun at Daycare


Fun at Home

I have nothing against stay at home mothers and I think it is a fabulous profession. It is definitely a full-time job and one that I admire. I just don’t think I’m up for it. I don’t think it makes me any less of a mother, I think, in fact it probably makes me a better mother than I would be if I stayed at home all day. BUt i have many friends who choose to stay at home and they are so fulfilled and happy. And that is wonderful. The one parenting thing I’ve learned or adopted is that you have to do what works for you. No two children are alike and no two parents are alike. Even within the same household. But for my family, we will always be working parents (unless the lottery or S’s inventions pay off!) and that’s the best we can be.