“Let us prove to the world that good taste, good art, and good writing can be good selling.”
I decided to get an MFA in poetry so that I could become a college professor, and when I graduated, I became … a copywriter. It isn’t exactly the life I’d imagined, but it’s one where I felt instantly comfortable, much to my own surprise. Though I’d been writing poems for years, I had no experience writing the brochures, catalogues, and emails that quickly became my livelihood. Still, those years of poetry writing and rewriting and workshopping and rewriting again came in handy on my first day and all the days following.
If you’re a poet (or do any creative writing), here are some reasons you might already be well suited for a career in copywriting:
You Know How to Condense Language
Sure, most poetry isn’t selling cans of soup or a fancy liquor. But it is selling its own ideas in the shortest form it can, so poets are used to saying a lot in a small space. Samuel Taylor Coleridge once said that “prose = words in their best order; poetry = the best words in their best order.” Copywriting, though its aim is different than poetry’s, follows the same principle of conveying a message in the least (and best) words possible.
You’re Already Used to Criticism
After multiple workshops, you just get used to the idea that your work is fallible. There’s no perfect poem, and there’s no perfect ad. If you try for that, you’ll make yourself crazy, and get offended when someone suggests a different phrase or concept. Better to try for good, and then expect that with feedback, it will get better.
And You Don’t Mind Rejection
Not all of your ideas will impress the client. But as a poet, you’re used to rejection. Of all the hundreds of poems you send out to various journals and magazines, only a very small percentage will be accepted for publication. Thanks to all those rejections, by the time your boss shoots down what you know is a great idea, you won’t feel discouraged. Instead, you’ll see it for what it is—a normal part of the creative process—and move on with your work.
You Multitask Well
The poet who lives off royalties from book sales alone is a rare bird indeed. (So rare, in fact, that I’m pretty sure none exist.) As a result, poets used to writing poetry between other things, and don’t require perfect conditions to come up with new ideas or write. That’s especially helpful when your copywriting career involves some administrative work, in addition to idea generation. Flexibility is also a lifesaver for freelancers, who often work on multiple unrelated projects at the same time.
You Know the Tricks to Inspiration
Most poets have faced writer’s block at one point or another in their careers, and come out the other side. Between writing prompts, brainstorming sessions, and soothing rituals, as a poet, you’ve come up with ways to find inspiration, and not just wait for it to hit you. Even with deadlines looming and clients needing your best work, you’ll always have your bag of tricks, and you’ll always be up to the challenge.
Do you have a passion you feel could never be your career? Think about exactly what you enjoy about it. You may find the skills you’ve gained could translate perfectly into an unexpected career path.