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#35: When Creativity Knocks, by Liz Mathews

Let us think about writers, for a moment. When you think of a writer, what picture comes to mind? Turtlenecks, perhaps. Browns and tans. Cigarettes, or if not cigarettes then definitely some kind of alcoholic beverage. Maybe a melancholic disposition. Dry sense of humor? Wittily self-deprecating? Willing to spend long hours alone, nurturing the craft.

Your picture may be different from mine. As it is, at the company where I work, the word ‘writer’ makes up 60% of my job title. I am the copywriter. Sometimes I like to joke that ‘copy’ makes up 40% of my job title, since it often feels like most of what I do is copying and pasting. When I say I like to joke about that, I guess what I mean is I like to tell the truth in a way that may strike others as a joke.

When I think of writers, and then I think of me being 60% a writer, I do wear turtlenecks sometimes to work, and brown and tan are currently my top two colors (other than black—black is really where it’s at). I don’t, however, smoke. I do occasionally carry a flask, and sometimes it can be found sitting on my desk at work (after hours, of course). I like to describe myself as “eternally hopeful for everyone that’s not me.” And I really like having my own office.

But since ‘copy’ is 40% of me at work, I have to admit that I rarely spend time nurturing anything I do. Rather, I like to hammer things out and get them as far from my desk as possible as soon as I can. Let us not waste time on being creative, since most of the time anything I am remotely creative with gets whittled down to “new from the New York Times bestselling author,” or “the latest stunning conclusion!” Declaring that Ender’s Game is “still a book” was too passive-aggressive for an ad we’re running when the DVD for that movie comes out. Though I suppose I can understand that criticism.

Yet, the other day I was assigned to write a landing page for a YA novel. There was little to no copy direction. I felt like I should feel like a writer for once—like I should want to put some time and effort into it, and make it as interesting as any webpage I’d have liked at the age of thirteen (did they exist then?). Like I should close my office door, cut off the outside world and really delve deep into my fifteen year old android self and…and….

And after two hours of staring blankly at my computer screen—including thirty minutes of complaining to a coworker about having no idea what to do—I sort of came up with something. Something I’d like to have work, and not changed to something like, “download these promotional items!”

We’ll see what happens. I’ve learned not to hold my breath for too long. But I have to say that I did like embracing that writer 60% of myself again, for once. She’s still in there. It’s just she’s gotten used to napping.


Liz Mathews composes ads for many things science fiction and fantasy. Her writing can be found in magazines, catalogs, newspapers, brochures, and books; and on bookmarks, postcards, cable television commercials, and even doorhangers all across the United States and in some parts of Canada. She lives in Brooklyn but considers the cornfields of Iowa home.

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