Old habits in a new world: a meditation on copywriting and blogging.
October 28, 2011
One develops habits as a copywriter. For instance, I need to see what words look like in a layout to truly assess them properly. The art directors were right: a block of copy is a visual. It needs to look right. Losing a word or two in order to accommodate the visual is not compromise; it’s part of creating good copy. Seeing your words in a layout provides concrete proof that what you’ve written is right. The perfect paragraph on Word is almost never correct in situation.
This habit did not change when technology did. If anything it became more pronounced. Now I could see finished looking ads but for the grace of the advertising gods: produced! Ancient history, I know. It’s been years since anyone relied on marker comps to sell an ad. We all want to see the baby before its born.
Where it gets interesting for me is in other forms of writing, like this blog. While I write these words in Word, and edit the hell out of them in Word, I’ve really only created a first draft. The true test comes when I create a “new post.” Then I see the paragraphs as you would see them. Suddenly their flaws become manifest, almost like an allergic reaction. Lose this sentence. Change that word. Move the photograph down a peg. Why these things were never apparent on a white screen is a mystery to me.
Perhaps it is also a curse. Many bloggers crank out content because new content is the key to new readers. Like in a MASH unit, they sow up stories and send them to the front. The sentences bleed adverbs and are pockmarked with dot-dot-dots, suggesting the writer had no time to tie up the paragraph or suture a proper segue.
I can’t work that way. Whether it reflects in my writing or not (and it may very well not), I treat each story as if it were (or is it was?) being graded. It’s a habit I got into a long time ago.