Article by Lee Shaw, current BIC student
As a professional writing major, I have signed on to be a literary mercenary in my future, to tackle every proposed composition yet un-scribbled, to eradicate every to be verb yet to be, and keep my MLA guidebook at my side like King James himself had orchestrated its assembly. When I am asked “What exactly is Professional Writing?,” I will usually spout the simple “An English major on steroids” (which truly speaks volumes as an English major is quite difficult in its own right). When I am asked “What do you do with a professional writing major?,” with respect to time, I might simply say that I could be an editor, an author, and publisher among many more careers. The truth, however, that my options for the future are practically limitless, would just take too long to explain. Although modern society becomes increasingly digitized every day, the demand for talented writers will survive, no matter the industry. Over the course of the summer I added one more potential career path to my growing list, namely copywriting.
This summer I worked for an advertising firm in Fort Worth, Texas called Pavlov. Named after the famed scientist, this agency aims to stimulate response from the general public that mirrors the desires of the client. Within the advertising field, any text present on an advertisement comprises the ad’s “copy.” As a copywriter, perhaps needless to say, I wrote anything from “Call 1-800-YOWATUP for more information” to radio and TV commercial scripts, and even the occasional brand slogan.
Although Pavlov did not exactly reflect my Mad Men inspired fantasies (only one person smoked and – if there were ever any alcohol present during the work day – it was tactfully hidden from me), I do not think I have ever learned so much in such a short time. While I cannot talk (or write) about the projects that I participated in during my time at Pavlov, I can divulge the inner workings of an ad agency. (That’s right, the moment you’ve been waiting for.) After a client hires the agency, the account director determines exactly what the client desires and relays the information to the creative director, who I answered to directly. With every new project, the creative director would assign each of us in the creative department to brainstorm. This process pushed me to my literary limits, trying to encapsulate an entire company, an entire legacy within a two-word phrase. More often than not, I would come up with dozens upon dozens for a single project – often no more than ten would make it through. Yet this process never involved personal jabs, insults, or tense emotions. Advertising, as I have come to understand it, consists of facts – some things work, other things don’t. This process would repeat over and over until we decided on an idea and presented it to the client, just to start all over again the next day with a new project.
Some days I would spend six hours straight just trying to find the perfect pun to satisfy a client. Other days I would spend an entire day on one 30-second radio script, trying to formulate that perfect message, that perfect use of such a short amount of time. Advertising truly is an art.
As a Professional Writing major, writing lies in my bones. MLA runs as deep as my marrow. My handwriting mirrors that of a toddler, but so does my incorruptible passion for expressing myself through ink and experience. Advertising, a ten-character Twitter post that lasts forever, a story where the letters are the characters who have 2 seconds to grab your attention, constitutes just one form of the art that we call writing. I am truly grateful for this opportunity to expand my skills and hope that other students are so lucky to receive equally beneficial experiences.
Lee Shaw is a sophomore BIC student majoring in professional writing.