I like writing to a brief. There is comfort in knowing your boundaries, and mental stimulation in ascertaining exactly what tone and approach a client wants and actually needs. They might not know that themselves. Copywriters are often creative types with too many ideas rather than too few; a brief reins you in.
Taking notes as you read a brief, knowing not to run with your first ideas … Not throwing out any ideas … ‘Talking’ to one reader, rather than everyone. Good practice.
As a writer, I tend to complicate things. As an artist I tend to complicate things; in fact, complicating things is what I do, full stop. I’m being truthful now: it comes from a desire to look clever. Wooo! You still with me?
Trying to look clever is usually disastrous in any form of writing, but the nice thing about copywriting is that occasionally smart-arsery is what’s called for. A bit of wit, a cultural reference thrown here and there, an oblique nod to something that’s like a secret between writer and reader. That’s what I enjoy about good copy. For a millisecond you contract to enter a joke together. I’m trying to find an example on the web right now to link to, but I keep getting bloody Bing coming up instead of google so all I get are ads! Too annoying!
Writing for someone else means throwing your creative ego out the window and running with your professional ego. Nothing wrong with taking pride in doing the best job possible; ego isn’t a dirty word when it’s in service to doing good work.
I wrote a whole play to a brief once. An elderly lady had an idea, she had a theatre booked, she’d gotten some funding and she had a team of actors ready to perform. What she didn’t have was a script! I was called in to write one for her. We put together a drama of sorts and she was pleased.
A good piece of copy is like a play – it performs, and after hooking you in and getting your imagination engaged, a bunch of words should take you on a wee trip, give you a wee thrill. If the writer’s been really smart, the work will make the reader feel smarter than the average bear.
Readers are your audience.