By Guest Author, David Bennett who blogs at Photograph Works.
When TT said she’d like me to write a guest post, I racked my brains for what I could write about. She writes about blogging tips and she’s good at it.
I could I suppose write about images and photography, because that is what I write about mostly.
But it wouldn’t come. I didn’t know what to write.
Which is comical because I have been reading about how to write. I’ve been reading about how to write sales copy.
I need to learn it, so I’ve been reading what professional copy writers can teach me.
The people I’ve been reading are direct response copy writers. Direct response is different from general advertising.
Take an advertisement on TV about the benefits of taking the train rather than going by car.
The train company doesn’t expect you to rush out there and then and buy a ticket.
No, the message smolders in your mind and then, springs from your sub-conscious the next time you are planning a journey.
Direct response, on the other hand, wants you to do something there and then. Without getting bogged down in examples, it might be something like sending off a reply coupon to get a free gift.
Well sales letters are fascinating if you need to write them – but less interesting if you don’t.
But reading what direct sales copy writers have to say about how they hone their craft is something else.
Do you have a picture in your mind of what these direct response copy writers are like?
Do you picture a second-hand car salesman stereotype? There was something of that in my imaginings.
Some might be, but some good ones are well read and thoughtful.
Now to the point of this.
To get good at their craft they read.
What do they read?
They read literature, and plays, and poetry. They read the Greats – from Homer to Shakespeare to Hemingway, to anything between and beyond.
They read with a craftsman’s eye. They watch how an argument develops; how a sentence answers an unasked question, and so on.
One suggestion from a copy writer was to read ‘Writers At Work‘. It’s a long-running series of books of interviews of famous writers.
I picked up a second-hand copy of Volume Two, published in 1963.
The idea is to get closer to how writers work. It closes the mental gap between you and great writers. It narrows the gap between what one thinks of one’s own capabilities and the impossible heights of the famous writers.
In other words, it demystifies the process. We need it because as we all know, self doubt saps a lot of energy that can be better spent on actually doing the job in hand.
Thus far I have read the Huxley interviews with Huxley, and with Hemingway, and I am now reading the interview with T.S. Elliot.
By chance I had just finished re-reading Aldous Huxley’s novel, Island and I was in a rare mood. Huxley’s book is a novel about being in the present moment and treating everything with compassion. And it is about how that comes up against the hard edge of the nasty things that people do on this planet.
Serendipitously, the interview with Huxley takes place when he was at the early stage of writing Island.
Sadly, I have failed to read the interviews like a trainee copy writer. I have failed to analyse the style. Oh, woe is me.
I am, however, enjoying reading the interviews a lot.
Visit David’s Photograph Works blog to find photography tips.