For many of us, AC/DC evokes memories of homecoming dance soundtracks and warm summer nights in a teenager's Camaro. However, the bad schoolboys of rock have some valuable lessons to impart to copywriters as well.
1: "I'm just making my play. Don't try to push your luck, just get out of my way…I'm back, back in black"
"A degree in English means you’ll be a high school teacher the rest of your life." "I guess you don’t ever want to earn enough money to support your family."
These very statements were told to me as I was contemplating a writing career. And they are bold-faced lies.
If your guidance counselor or girl/boyfriend or parents are trying to dissuade you from the career in writing you want, it is your responsibility to prove them wrong. Make your play in the world and then go back and tell them all about it.
2: "She wanted no applause, just another course…the earth was quaking, my mind was aching…and you shook me all night long"
There are generally two types of writers portrayed on television. You either have the Ginsberg-esque beatnik or the Mad Men type of highball swilling hack.
Like so many other things, the real world is not like that. Being a copywriter is fun, but plan to be on the roller coaster.
Copywriting is not a 9 to 5 job. It takes a lot of effort. You might actually sweat. It is mental activity that takes a physical toll. And it is truly spectacular. But be prepared to work all night long if you have to.
3: "I shoot from the hip. I was born with a stiff, a stiff upper lip"
You don't want to go off half-cocked (groan), but as with any creative endeavor, you are going to face criticism of your work. Sometimes you will agree with the subjective assessment, and sometimes you won't.
The best copywriters absorb the critique, compartmentalize it into the professional (not personal) part of their brains, and use it next time if it has any value. (Hint: it usually does.)
However, do not let any evaluation to permanently scar your confidence. Besides a good brain, a stiff upper lip is the most useful part of a writer's anatomy.
4: "Come on, come on, listen to the money talk"
Creatives tend to fear selling out. That fear has its uses. You won't find me writing ads for Philip Morris or BP any time soon.
On the other hand, remember that employers will only pay you what they must, not necessarily what you deserve. There is nothing honorable in allowing your family to starve. Sometimes that entails changing companies to get the money (and respect) you deserve.
5: "One of these days see me driving round town, in my rock 'n' Rolls Royce with the sun roof down…Ain't no fun waiting round to be a millionaire"
There are professions where instant stardom seems bestowed in a flash. NBA basketball players. Hollywood actors. Good for them.
Copywriting is not one of those professions. Most often, it takes a long time to build your writing career. But don't let that get you down.
In the meantime, enjoy the perks that other folks don't have. Writers are more likely to work at home, which makes childcare a whole lot easier. If you have to go to an office, it's more likely in jeans than a suit. It's no Rolls Royce, but it's still damn good.
Bonus: "It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n' roll"
Writing is a craft, not a destination. This continual process can be one of the most rewarding of your life, but must be approached with rigor. Just as lawyers say "I practice law," I recommended getting in the habit of saying "I practice writing."
Your path to the top may be difficult to see at times. There are all sorts of venues in business for your writing – direct mail, internal communication, advertising copy, etc. – so pursue what you love and excel at.
A career as a writer can seem daunting. While it is a challenge, it can also be the most fun you ever have. It can even be a little rock 'n' roll.
So, for those of you about to write, I salute you.
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