Freelance life, Maslen on Marketing

What to buy for the copywriter in your life

What do you give to the copywriter in your life? Well, unlike the man or woman who has everything, this person is likely to be a little more needy. And, it turns out, easy to buy for.

To round off this year of Maslen on Marketing, I thought I’d make a few suggestions. I have some of these myself, and wouldn’t mind the others. [Hint, hint.] There’s a range of prices, so whether you’re feeling Great Gatsby or Down and Out in Paris and London, you’ll find something to suit the budget.

Henri Matisse. Ernest Hemingway. Bruce Chatwin. They all used the Moleskine notebook. Board-backed, with a handy elastic strip to keep it closed, and a pocket at the back for bus tickets, Starbucks receipts and chocolate wrappers, this is the ultimate writer’s notebook. If you don’t know an ultimate writer, buy one for yourself instead.

And what are they going to write with? Yes, yes, I know they use a laptop, but how much more satisfying would it be to craft those AdWords and press releases with a proper fountain pen like this Lamy calligraphy pen? Ogilvy did it that way so it can’t be all bad.

If you want to be a great copywriter (or writer of any kind) you need to read great writing. I always recommend the New Yorker to people on my workshops. Whether you live in Manhattan or not doesn’t matter. It’s a constant source of fresh ideas on how to put your thoughts down in writing. Plus funny cartoons. I’ve been a subscriber for more than a decade and never, ever intend to let my subscription lapse.

Which leads me on to The Economist. The Economist Group is a client so full disclosure here. But as they’re not paying me commission I can recommend it with a clear conscience. (Which I would do even if they were.) Essential reading if you want to know what the C-suite and the intellectually curious are thinking about.

Of course, reading those two magazines, there is a slight chance your copywriter will come across an unfamiliar word. So every copywriter should have a decent dictionary on or near their desk. We use the Shorter Oxford but all Oxford dictionaries are good. (US members will no doubt prefer Webster’s.)

Spending long hours at the ol’ writer’s workstation can be a strain on the eyes, particularly at this time of year.That makes a good desk lamp a necessity (and a tax-deductible one, too). Jo and I both have an Anglepoise to light the way. This one from John Lewis uses low energy bulbs (though I’m not sure that’s an advance).

Your copywriter friend is almost certainly using a computer to produce their final drafts. But why not treat them, or yourself, to a pack of beautiful, simple, named pencils? I love writing with pencils. You can scribble stuff down and not feel it has to be perfect. Plus you can see what you crossed out.

We left the dark side back in April and swapped our clunky, agricultural PCs for a pair of gleaming, super-silent, all-round-droolable Macs. I prefer writing on a desktop machine but I’d still have a Macbook Air if I had a rich sugar mummy to pay for it.

Back to books now, the reference kind. Your beloved wordsmith may have all of Ogilvy’s books, a couple of Drayton Bird’s, maybe even one by you-know-who. But the grandaddy of them all is still The Elements of Style. Or Strunk and White as it’s familiarly known. Witty, concise and as relevant today as it was in the 1920s.

Does the copywriter in your life have a heated office? I think we do, but I still get cold fingers in mid-winter. Probably ought to take a screen break more often. I have been known to write copy wearing a pair of fingerless gloves. When I’m in the zone I don’t want to break even to get a sweater. These smart ones from Next would do the job nicely.

You know those pencils I mentioned? Well where is your scrivener-friend going to put them? A cool pen pot is the answer and they don’t come much cooler than this simple silver mesh number. I’m looking at mine as I write this piece and it has all my fave writing implements just clamouring for a turn.

To finish, something to drink coffee out of during those snatched breaks in between mailshots, landing pages and brochures. Penguin has licensed its brand for these great literary mugs and what better for a copywriter than my best friend Jane’s favourite book: Persuasion.

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