Friday, September 21, 2007

Who's Your Alter Ego?

I have a second life.

By day, I'm a mild-mannered freelance writer. I'm a clued-in business writer, cool and professional, working first and foremost for my ciients. Nobody would ever suspect that I have an alter ego: poet and novelist-in-progress. You can even see some of my literary stuff here [warning: slightly adult theme] and here. I'm getting involved in Philly's poetry and literary community. If you happen to be in town in December, you can catch one of my short stories showcased in Interact Theatre's Writing Aloud series.

I'm also an (aspiring) novelist, with about five unfinished novels kicking around my hard drive. Someday, I'd like to write YA fantasy like The Golden Compass or magical realism like The Lovely Bones. I'm even planning to make an attempt at a romance novel someday. I would love to be just like this lady.

For many freelance writers I know, creativity is the driving force behind our writing. Many of us are novelists, playwrights, screenwriters, and poets at heart. When we get into copywriting, it's out of a determination to be a working writer--come hell or high water. When I first started freelancing, it was my hope that owning my own writing business would step up my marketing game and teach me about the business side of being a writer. So far, I've learned a lot in a short amount of time--enough to know how much more there is to learn.

When I first got started, I talked to a few other people who were freelancers. The prevaiing advice was this: present yourself as a businessperson first, and a writer second. Clients want to get a sense that you are a rational, clearheaded businessperson with a solid understanding of how to sell their company. They don't care that you can look at plums and see bats; that you can write a killer line of poetry; that your characterization skills are intense. The "creative writer" label devalues you in your clients' eyes.

So for a while I hid it, never mentioning to my clients that I had another writing personality than the one I showed. Until I got a request from a new client: poetic descriptions of children's toys for their catalog. It occurred to me that in some instances, creative writing skills are a plus to clients.

Now, I'm starting to reject the idea that creativity and business savvy are mutually exclusive. There seems to be a stereotype about creative people: we're disheveled, disorganized geniuses who can't promote ourselves. But when I read about the lives of many successful creative people, I find that self-promotion is just another one of their talents. And I look around at all the other gifted copywriters out there, and I wonder how many of them have secret lives, too.

So for those of you who are copywriters by day--what are you by night? Do you labor over a screenplay, make the rounds at theatre auditions, or craft short stories? Who's your alter ego?

1 comment:

Amy Derby said...

Love your blog.

My alter ego? Poet and memoir writer. Hardly a blend with the corporate writing work I do, and when I used to work for lawyers (in my former life) people tended to gag. But that's me. If people want to stereotype, I feel like it's their loss.