Kill your ego

The copywriter and the ego
Mike Reed
by Mike Reed

Ah, the ego. Gets a pretty bad rap, generally, doesn’t it?

But without it, our little life-bearing celestial anomaly would be some sort of weird, boiler suit-wearing dystopia. On the other hand, most of humanity’s evil can be rooted back to an inflated ego and sense of entitlement. Like John Terry.

As a writer, your ego is your best and worst friend. It pushes you forward. It makes you create things. But it becomes problematic when it wraps you up in your own self-confidence, convinced that you are smarter, and more brilliant than those around you.

So every now and then, it needs bringing down a peg or two. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

You are not an artist

This is commerce, not art.

Copywriting may be a creative job. But fundamentally, it’s still a job. You’re providing a service. Which means you’re answerable to a higher power: the client. The person who is buying the bread, and paying the bills.

Of course, part of your job is to challenge them. To give your professional opinion. It’s an honour to make the work as good as it can be.

But if the client ultimately chooses a different direction, there’s no point tying yourself in knots of frustration about it.

It’s not about you

It’s about the work.

It’s about ending up with something that will knock people’s socks off. Creative criticism is never a personal attack. It’s not an affront to your competence. It’s challenging an idea.

Sometimes, it doesn’t feel nice. Sometimes, you definitely won’t agree. But nine times out of ten, the end result will be better.

Which quite nicely leads on to the next point…

Being wrong is fine

Actually, scratch that. No ideas are ever wrong. They’re just not always right, either.

Producing brilliant creative work requires a willingness to take risks. Inevitably, some of the ideas you pitch just won’t land. But that’s fine – because they’ll point you to the ones that do.

When a brief comes in, and we’re floating around initial thoughts, some of the things I write are genuinely ludicrous. Like, complete nonsense. But that’s fine. Because it’s part of the process that helps me produce considered, original work.

I’ve realised I can produce whatever rubbish I like because only my colleagues and I will ever see it. Getting the 99 pieces of crap out of the way that leads to that one piece of gold is just part of the process. An indispensable part of the process.

I’m off to make some mistakes.

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