I have a confession to make. I didn’t go to copywriting school. I’m not even sure such a magical place exists. There are, however, copy courses available at portfolio schools or advertising schools. I didn’t attend those either.
You don’t have to go to copywriting (portfolio) school to make it as a copywriter.1 It certainly helps (I imagine). You’re in the industry at the jump, you learn actual things about advertising, real copywriters teach you about real copywriting, etc. etc.
A less direct route could be, for totally random example, attending a Journalism School at a prestigious B1G Ten University. A program like this, that bestows the tenants of storytelling, attention grabbing headlines, sentence structure, word choice, readability and grammar, and then lets you explore how to expertly break them, is equally worthwhile.
You’re also competing with other hungry writers for the professor’s attention, placed on insane deadlines to produce real work that (probably) won’t get published anywhere, forced to talk to people you normally wouldn’t, asked to endure tireless research and endless revisions, and required to make your eyes bleed transforming banal subject matter into award-winning prose. (Then you get to try that in the real world for a few years, and wish you’d gone to portfolio school.)
The point is, portfolio school isn’t everything or the only thing. Find a program, some classes, a series of experiences, a book or two; anything focused on relaying information in an interesting, relevant way via the written word. (And some images.)
(If you keep at it, and compile a body of almost semi-decent work, you may just land a gig working for a portfolio school alum who can produce an insightful gem like this seemingly on the spot.2)
Failing is valuable. In the copywriting school I didn’t attend, a failing grade meant disaster–even on a single assignment. Not only could it bust your GPA, but three failed assignments and you were out of the program. Not much value in that.
In creative advertising, failing is a big part (and an important part) of the process. It has to be if you value creating great work. And if you’re not afraid to fail, you’re not afraid to take risks. Take enough big risks and you’ll eventually reap big rewards.
I’m not sure they teach this in any school, but it’s vital: Gatorade comes in powder form. Besides the ability to scoop to your tastes, the benefits of this are plenty.
For instance, creative thinking and creative writing requires massive amounts of brain power. This causes energy depletion and, and therefore dehydration. And a dehydrated brain is a hindered brain. It’s science3. Replenishing with water, sugar, and electrolytes unlocks stymied grey matter.
There’s also the added bonus of increased shelf life, decreased plastic bottle waste and hiding the canister at your desk so the interns won’t steal it. The physical act of shaking your water bottle can even increase blood flow by giving you a small, but important, break from the computer screen.
I’ve often found this is when inspiration strikes.
What else don’t they teach in copywriting school? You tell me. I’d love to hear from you.
1 It’s debatable how one defines “make it” as a copywriter, but for the purposes of the article, it means having “copywriter” in your title while someone gives you money on purpose, for some reason.
2 Probably something he learned how to do in portfolio school.
3 Which they don’t offer as an elective at copywriting school.
This post was written by D. Sawmiller, Senior Copywriter at PUSH 22.