My Vignettes

November 20, 2017 § Leave a comment

My poems are in a book. Three of them. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

The first, the most important, is Lonely Sound. It’s probably my favourite piece of writing and seeing it in print was a magical moment. It’s so personally evocative for me (God knows what a reader thinks) and it’s a really important thing that it’s out in the world.

Here’s how I explained Lonely Sound when I first wrote it:

Lonely Sound is an imaginary body of water that lives in the recesses of my mind.

It’s a desolate place. The sun never quite breaks through the cloud cover and it’s only ever warm and damp or damp and chill.

Looking out over the sound is a sad old cabin with a half-collapsed porch. It’s rotting from the outside in and it’s full of empty rooms that no one could be bothered to care for. The air is thick with melancholy and you wouldn’t want to be stuck there.

I started believing in Lonely Sound a long time ago, before I knew its name. Then I read about a place called Doubtful Sound in New Zealand and it gave me such a weird, creepy feeling – like I knew it somewhere in my memory.

Lonely Sound isn’t even really a sad place. It’s blank. You might feel sad reading about it but it’s worse than that; it’s depression and the kind of hunger that exists when you’re past wanting to eat. It’s where you go when you’ve done all the crying and you’re left stoney and still.

I find Lonely Sound comforting. I can go there when I need to feel more than what my life is. Do you keep a memory or an idea that helps you feel pain? Lonely Sound is my place for that. My unhappy place.

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The Mess Behind My #MeToo

October 17, 2017 § Leave a comment

Any single thing that seems to be empowering or educational or whatever – someone’s got to do a think-piece that explains otherwise.

Ugh.

If you were asleep yesterday, #MeToo was trending as women all over the world were brave enough to say ‘Yep, sexual assault. This is a thing that has happened to me.’

And now cometh the ‘Why #MeToo is problematic‘s. So here’s my two pennies’ worth.

I am usually pretty matter-of-fact about my own experiences of sexual assault but yesterday I had to steel myself to post #MeToo because I didn’t want to seem like I was somehow using it for attention or give the people I know an undesired impression of me.

How sick. I didn’t put it on Facebook because I don’t want those people judging me, guessing at who it was, discussing me, disbelieving me. Although I felt OK with posting it on Twitter, I did so in a way I hoped came across as unhysterical.

Why? Why shouldn’t I be hysterical about it? It’s something people must surely be expected to be hysterical about?

But I didn’t want to change people’s idea of me with something someone else did, that I couldn’t control. I didn’t want my brand tarnished by someone else’s behaviour.

Yes, ick.

After I’d posted my #MeToo, I filled in a survey about sexual assault that a lady I follow tweeted – she wants to write about women’s experiences. And my down-to-earth, matter-of-fact self went all to shit.

An experience I’d previously been fairly OK about suddenly had me #triggered. (Turns out that meme, that JOKE is a real thing.) I felt shaky and panicked and sick. A 10-years-old hurt I’d mentally put to bed came back and bit me in the ass.

Most of how I felt came from putting it into words – something I realised I’d never done, despite being a writer and oversharer in all the time since – and launching it into the public. I had to face up to how I’d deal with people I know being aware of it. I had to choose whether I gave identifying details. Then I had to wrestle with why I DIDN’T give identifying details, why I chose to protect someone who should have protected me from his selfishness and didn’t.

That’s a whole lot of shit for a Monday morning. Women (hey, anyone who experiences it) walk a tightrope when it comes to talking about sexual assault; both saying something and not saying something come with a whole lot of baggage. Posting this will be difficult because if I don’t, I’ll feel hypocritical and weak. If I do, I’ll make people sad and uncomfortable – selfish honesty.

What a mess.

So, y’know. When we DO manage to be honest, maybe don’t go and piss all over it with your think-pieces.

KEEP ‘EM.

How to Feel Better

September 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

Last week, a copybuddy said she was suffering with the old imposter syndrome malarkey. You know it, I’m sure. She asked Twitter for advice to quiet her traitorous mind, and I advised putting on a silk peignoir, smoking a candy pink Sobranie and reciting excellent lines from the silver screen to her reflection in the mirror.

The older I get, the more I find comfort in small things. Is that my life shrinking? I don’t care if it is. I’ve seen enough.

These are my ways to stop feeling like shit:

Make coffee in the stove-top percolator, then drink it from my Wedgwood cup and saucer. In the sunroom, preferably looking out at some rain and listening to it thrum on the roof. Pyjamas or silken robe must be involved.

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Check New Arrivals on Zara. I know, how awful. But it’s the truth that I am comforted and cheered by how Zara just GETS me. It’s like looking at the inside of my brain. Moss green velvet, puce silk and tiny glistering beads on a cashmere blend.

Put on a podcast about serial killers and lay down on my soft soft bed. Perhaps a smol dogcat will come and lightly jump onto the covers, pad across to my face for a snoot boop, and then settle down to tangle their claws in my hair.

Drink something with my best friend. It needn’t be alcoholic but it is a totemic symbol, the chalice. It allows us to cup our hands around our subject and pour forth all the twisty stuff we’ve been storing. It’s easier to untangle with your best friend.

Write. It can take an effort, when you feel like a failure, but I always remember I’m pretty OK at life when I write. I also make money when I write so writing in any mood is a good plan.

Have a gin in a gold-rimmed champagne coupe. Stir with a small, glittery plastic spoon I keep solely for the purpose of stirring magic into cocktails. Probably smoke a fag, to be honest. I’ve stopped a thousand tears with a well-timed cigarette.

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Play fetch with my boycat. Scrubble his tummy every time he brings back the sodden mouse and say “You such a good bo-oy! You such a good BOY!” I always insist he SITS between throws, which he’s getting very good at. A pure joy.

Instagram. Yes. I’m sorry. It’s just Instagram’s algorithm knows me so well? I can go on Discover and see thousands upon thousands of pictures of 1950s dressing rooms, hand-shaped novelty jewellery and cat portraiture. I’m sure it’s terrible for my psyche but it’s an indulgence that never fails to bring me pleasure.

Send my workbuddy a dog to name. Just that: one of us will send a picture of an animal and the other names him. The original sender then usually derides the namer for their choice. “Are you BLIND? His name is obviously BRUISER, you idiot.”

Write down outfits (OK, fine, make full-on mood boards). So soothing. Now I have all my clothes on rails, I can flick through them easy pie. Getting dressed is probably my number one hobby. It brings me so much happiness and totally influences my day.

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The Expert Badge

September 7, 2017 § Leave a comment

I was worrying about something on my drive home last night.

They say (who, who is they?) it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything.

I was concerned, because I figured there’s no way I’ve spent that many hours copywriting – how could I look my boss in the face and happily collect my salary?

So today, it came up in conversation and I apologised to him for being such a rookie charlatan. And it played on my mind some more. It was time to do the maths.

I work 37.5 hours each week

There are 52 weeks in a year

I get 25 days of holiday plus 5 bank holidays each year, and probably have for my whole career

So I work 1,920 days each year – I’ll take 6 off for that weird flu I get every spring and the odd furbaby emergency

1,914 days a year for 6 years = 11,494 hours

And I freelance too.

Won a Thing, Didn’t I?

June 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

All of last week, I lived in dread. Absolute dread. You see, I was up for an award.

I love to win but I hate to lose far more. I would mostly rather not set myself up as a vulnerable, hopeful being if there’s a chance I might be cast asunder, beaten and bloodied by defeat. It’s just too humiliating.

Luckily, that didn’t happen. I won Young Marketer of the Year at the Insurance Marketing & PR Awards and did my first genuine smile of 2017.

Everyone was so kind and it was a definite highlight of my long, weary years.

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ingenie also won Brand of the Year which is pretty frickin’ sweet.

Female Copywriters Talking Pay Gap

May 24, 2017 § Leave a comment

There’s a vast gender pay gap in copywriting. That’s what the Pro Copywriters’ Network survey showed last year; this year it was still there but BIGGER.
There are conflicting views on why this is but it was one male view in particular that prompted my dear copybuddy, Kady, to ask around her network for our views. This is what she asked:

What’s your overall take on the ‘salaries/rates’ bit of this year’s survey results?

I’m in-house (with a smattering of freelance) and the pay gap has grown even more in that area since last year, which is quite terrifying. I dislike asking for more money but I do make myself do it, and it’s always been successful. Should I have asked for more each time? Perhaps. Would a man? Perhaps.
 
I do know this: money is the point of what you’re doing. I love writing with a burning fire of adoration. But I need money and it’s why I write. If you’re in the 41% of people who told PCN they want to earn more, I hope this year is your year. Only you can make it happen.

More women took the survey than men, and the gender pay gap’s still increased. Why do you suspect that is?

It’s a small sample. There are going to be wild fluctuations. Of course, the trend is worrying and upsetting but the numbers could be skewed by all sorts of things.
 
BUT. I do believe in the pay gap and I don’t believe it’s down to women not being ballsy enough to ask for more money or mentioning cupcakes too much. Men and women are different, and women shouldn’t have to sterilise their online selves in order to be taken seriously. If it exists, that’s an employer issue and we shouldn’t all just allow that to continue. 
 
Society has an ingrained problem with women. I’m not going to guess that this pay gap is down to ladies having babies but women generally have a care burden that gets in the way of everything else. From their own point of view and from an employer’s. Maybe when we stop hating women for working or even put them in hiring positions, female copywriters will ask for more and be given it. Or offered it, for God’s bloody sake. 
 
I’m being hyperbolic and childish but soz, between pay gaps and thigh gaps, that’s how this crap makes me feel. 

Have your own rates changed since last year’s survey?

Yup. I have the luxury of not needing my freelance work to survive because it’s all done in my ‘spare’ time. I can weigh up price by how much or how little I want to do the project. A concept I’m sure would make Andy Maslen shudder, though I’ll qualify: the price only goes up, not down. 
 
I recently secured a 43% increase for a regular gig – basically because it was that or quit it. I couldn’t justify the time spent anymore, even though I really love the work. Luckily, the client went for it. If I didn’t have a long history with them and a secure day job taking up most of my time, I might have been slightly less bold. Or maybe more bold, more hungry. Can’t say for sure.
 
For freelancers, getting clients and charging money is your daily grind. You are running a business. You have no comfy salary cushion, you have no health care, gym discount or free coffee. You SHOULD be hustling, whether you’re male or female, and it takes many years of experimentation with pitching to get a feel for what to charge.
 
If you feel you’re not earning enough (hey, who doesn’t?), find out how to earn more. Pitch high a few times; it’s a risk but you NEED to take it to move forward. Don’t let your rates stagnate. The world is growing more expensive while you sit on your fees, getting poorer.

Is ‘put your rates up’ the catch-all answer?

Neeeeeeowwww. For a newish copywriter, pricing is as delicate as glass. When you have a small number of clients – probably small businesses, not Coca-Cola – and you’re trying to pay rent, saying straight out that you’re putting your rates up is not the answer to pulling in more money.
 
Certainly, put your rates up for new clients – bit by bit, not a hundredfold. And if you begin a new project for an existing client, pump up your quote a bit. They don’t have to be told straight out “I’ve increased my daily rate by X%, k thnx bye.” You shouldn’t be telling them what your every minute costs them, anyway. That’s not how this works. You’re not a therapist.
 
I’ll say this: at the very least, you should be adjusting your fees every year. Inflation, but also personal growth. You get better every year and your clients are paying you not just as a tradesperson; you’re a consultant. Every project you’ve done (every problem you’ve solved, every course you’ve attended, every brief you’ve agonised over) is worth a lot to them. It’s not just your output that costs dollar, my friend. 

What’s the best pay-related advice you’ve been given, and what tips do you have for other writers?

It’s the same tired, old drum I always beat: Chris Miller. Always taking a beating, poor chap. Poor old drum. He told me no one really knows what they’re doing when it comes to money. After many years as a copywriter for agencies and freelance, he pitched for a job and was later told he’d put in the lowest quote “by MILES.” 
 
Unless you’re Andy Maslen, who has an incredible capacity for the business side of copywriting (which – sorry, hun – is all of it, really), you probably don’t fully understand what your copy is worth. I guess it’s something that comes with experience but he’s right when he says your work could be worth millions to that ‘small business’ when they sell to Microsoft, even if it took you an hour to do and you reckon that hour of your life is worth £50. 
 
Chris said the same, with a very similar example:
Here’s a strapline for a few hundred quid. That’s yours to slap on every bleedin’ TV ad/item of stationery/T-shirt/novelty hat/website/banner ad/dirigible/200ft-high holographic squirrel you produce over the next 2,000 years.”

Folks, if you’re good, you’re worth good money. 

In-house, not freelance, but I was stiffed on my starting salary at my current company. I had an offer below what I wanted (a salary I was actually already earning) and I negotiated, asking for more once I’d passed my probation. That was agreed and I was proud. I later found the job specification with my boss’s salary estimate. It had taken me nearly two years to start earning what he’d set as the maximum for my starting salary. 

I still work for the company and took enough of a leap in both role and salary to make that OK – and that particular boss is no longer here, though I don’t blame him for my own mistake. But I certainly learned a little something from that.

You can’t pitch too high if they want you; they’ll come back with another offer and you don’t have to take that either. Once you know you’re good enough for a company to really, really need you, you’ll feel less scared about shooting for that shiny ol‘ moon. 

I Journal These Days

March 3, 2017 § Leave a comment

Hullo.

Yes, I’ve been missing. But missing in action. I’ve written millions of words, I’ve filled pages with pictures, I’ve worked a LOT, and – after a very long wait – I’ve adopted two children.

They’re five weeks old so there’s still eight weeks to go before we can bring them home. They’re so tiny and delicate right now but when we next see them (in three weeks) they’ll already be bouncy creeps who want to play. By the time they’re ready to leave their mam, they’ll be gangly, leggy dog-cats.

After so many years of wanting and nearly a year of waiting on a litter, I couldn’t quite process that they were real. I’ve never seen a kitten that small except in pictures. I held our boy and he was warm and soft and confused. A few minutes later, all six were a sleeping puddle on their blanket, with Bramble the show-winning knock-out laying protectively next to them.

Their names are Dio and Dime, and they’re going to change our lives.

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