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Friday, 27 January 2012

Want to be a good writer? Amidst the oceans of drivel, some good sense.

I have been amused lately by the torrent of messages from crooks promising to make anyone a best-selling author in two shakes of a dog's tale.

I have not found it that easy. 

One of my books, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, has been selling steadily around the world since 1982, but it wasn't easy to write.

I spent a month trying to get going and failed completely. Then I had another go a year later and it took 6 weeks frantic typing followed by a couple of months of editing.

Revising it repeatedly has been a nightmare because it is fairly easy to write something long, then cut it, but very hard to write something short and expand it.

But I had no choice. In 1980 the computer was only used by clever people at places like The Readers Digest; the word database was rarely heard. And as for the Internet - what was that? Text marketing? There were no mobile phones.

So that explains why what was a slim volume has - like direct marketing - swollen until its fifth edition is excellent for propping up tables and keeping doors open

One of the few people who writes intelligently about writing is Ryan Healy.

I just read this in his blog: "Creativity thrives under limits, be they natural or imposed." It reminded me of the reasons why in 1985 I sold my agency to Ogilvy & Mather when we had been talking to no less than eight other big ad agencies.

David Ogilvy rang me up, which was vastly flattering. They had great clients and I thought we'd get business that way. They were nice people, which is as important as money. But a huge factor was their work, at that time the best in the world.

The guiding spirit was their worldwide creative director, Norman Berry, who had once offered me a job when he was creative director of Young & Rubicam. He said something I have never forgotten: “Give me the freedom of a tight brief”. Pretty much what Ryan says.

If I had written a brief for myself before I set about the great tome, I would have found it much easier. The title is often a brief. My second foray into business writing - How to write a salesletter that sells - was much easier for that reason. That, too, is still around after 25 years.

Bad work comes from bad briefs which is why in my seminars I talk a lot about the brief. It is hard to be entertaining on the subject, but I usually manage to raise a chortle or two.

The two books are available on Amazon at a sensible price, or autographed illegibly by me, for slightly more because I can't compete with Amazon. And if you want my jokes about briefing and other matters, you'll have to join me in Andalusia.

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